A good keynote speaker can make or break your conference. But what is a perfect keynote speaker for one conference may not be perfect for another one.

Choose the right keynote speaker

So how do you choose the right keynote speaker for your event? If you’re like most organizations you start off with a basic meeting to decide on the location and theme for the conference. The topics may be decided by feedback from your previous conference and what the audience wants to hear about. It could be based on current events, new regulations in your industry, or other disruptions that members of your audience need to know about. That will help to set the tone of the conference.


Immediately after 9-11 the tone in the country in general was quite different than it was before then. The tone of your conference sets the mood. And it’s important to pick the right keynote speaker to fit that mood. This could be set by current world events or what’s happening in your industry at the moment. Your organization in general might be a more serious group that likes charts and graphs and strictly scientific research. Or it may be a silly, goofy group that wants more humor than charts and graphs. You have to know your audience and what they like. Part of this you probably already know. But you can also get an idea of what they want at future events by taking a survey.

I would never fit into the charts and graphs, serious, lecture type of events. It’s just not me. This should be obvious from a speaker’s website and video. If you want to choose the right keynote speaker for your event, make sure they fit into the tone of your conference and the personality of the audience.


The theme of your event lets your attendees know what to expect from your event and what the main idea of it will be. This helps to keep your message consistent. It also helps you to choose the right keynote speaker for your event. Before deciding on your theme, figure out what you want your attendees to learn from the conference. Why are you having the conference? What are the takeaways going to be? What is important to them right now?

As soon as you have this figured out you can start looking for keynote speakers and breakout speakers who will fit into this theme. Make sure the conference speakers fit into the tone also.


Once you have the tone and theme figured out you can choose the right keynote speaker to fit into that theme and tone. Is the keynote speaker interactive with the audience? Are they more of an entertainer, like a magician or musician? Do they lecture behind a podium? Is their style more serious or humorous? Do they have a more subdued style or high energy?

Another thing to consider is whether your audience likes an interactive keynote speaker or breakout speaker. My keynote speech can go either way. It’s important to find out which one your audience wants and find a keynote speaker that fits their preferred style.


Doing some research and writing a speech isn’t the same as having the credibility behind it? Would your audience rather listen to a speaker who did research on climbing Mt. Everest or a speaker who had actually climbed it? I personally have a hard time listening to and believing a speaker who doesn’t have first-hand knowledge on what they are speaking about. Maybe that’s just me.

The right keynote speaker

But you don’t want your audience to be sitting there wondering why a speaker is there as an expert who doesn’t have firsthand knowledge. I personally think it lowers their credibility. Keep that in mind when you choose the right keynote speaker.

The right keynote speaker for your event is the one that fits all of the elements you are looking for for your audience. After all, it’s all about them!