Choosing a keynote speaker for your conference

Posted by Jo Kelly

A major part of attending a conference is to get information and inspiration from different speakers. These are people who work within an industry or represent key service providers who provide information and insight to delegates.

These experts can cover a variety of topics throughout the conference, but there will usually be a main speaker. They deliver the keynote speech that ties all of the other speeches together, relaying the unifying theme of a conference to your audience with confidence and authority.

Qualities of a keynote speaker

A keynote speech is often a major component used to open and close a conference, setting the tone or bringing a fitting send-off to your event. The perfect keynote speech and the perfect speaker have three important qualities:

  • They are relevant
  • They are engaging
  • They are entertaining

We’ve highlighted what you should be looking for in these areas when selecting the perfect keynote speaker for your conference.


The most important factor when selecting a keynote speaker is that they have relevance to the topic of your conference. For instance, they could be a major figure in the sector, an expert, or a high-ranking member of a leading company.

This should be someone who is well known to your audience and has something to say that will be of use to them. If the speech doesn’t add anything to proceedings it can leave your attendees disappointed, which doesn’t really help your conference start or end on a strong note.

Relevance is also key as the keynote speech helps tie the conference together. Failure to do that can leave your whole event feeling disjointed.

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Keynote speeches are supposed to inspire and motivate. You should want the speech to energise a crowd and make them excited to return to work with a renewed sense of productivity. They should also have a willingness to put into practice the ideas given to them, such as being better at leadership or more positive in the workplace.

If the speech isn’t engaging, and falls flat because it doesn’t engage with any of the issues your audience face in their industry, then it probably won’t accomplish this.

It should also be delivered by someone with authority, reinforcing the right way to accomplish goals in a specific industry, such as IT, sales or technology, depending on your audience.

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The message of the speech should be engaging, but its delivery should also keep people entertained to hold their attention. This could include being humorous or including videos.

As we’ve already mentioned, a keynote speech also needs to inspire an audience. If an audience is bored this is unlikely to happen. A speech that is delivered flatly is also unlikely to be as successful or well received as one that is delivered with enthusiasm, humour and passion.

This is why choosing a keynote speaker with a proven track record is important. Someone who has built a career from delivering these sorts of speeches, such as bloggers, thought leaders, company heads, creators of resources, can all be great choices.

Any speaker you choose, and the speech they give, should deliver on the three key areas mentioned to really benefit your audience.

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Jo has worked at CR Worldwide as Events Operations Director since 2004. She is responsible for scoping and delivering all types of events, for clients of all sizes, globally. She manages the division’s team who organise and execute award-winning events – ranging from one-off sales floor days, corporate hospitality events and incentive travel trips, to annual conferences and partner summits.