Tips for Booking a Keynote Speaker

Exclusive Interview with:

By Michael Frick,

    Once you have found the perfect keynote speaker for your event (see “How to Select the Best keynote Speaker “), you are ready to engage him/her for your event date! These suggestions will help you negotiate a smooth booking and contracting process and, ultimately, will result in a successful event.


    Except for celebrity speakers who might require complicated riders or other contingencies, booking a professional keynote speaker is quite simple and straightforward. Above all, open communication about mutual expectations is crucial during the contracting stage. Be certain to brief your keynote speaker about all your event details, understand their requirements and be clear about your expectations.

    Include specific details in your contract, such as:

    • Length of presentation: 60 minute keynote, half or full day workshop, etc.
    • Topics to be covered in his/her presentation.
    • How travel will be coordinated: normally a speaker will book flights and ground in the home city and the client will book accommodations and ground transportation in the host city.
    • Speaking fee and travel expenses.
    • Recording the presentation: usually keynote speakers will allow recording for “client internal use only.” Now is the time to request any additional usage such as posting a few edited segments on a publicly accessible website or distributing the full presentation online or on a DVD.

    The contracting phase is also the time to request any additional time commitments, such as:

    • Attending meals.
    • Selling books on-site and/or doing a book signing.
    • Facilitating a break-out session in addition to a keynote.
    • Appearing at a VIP meet & greet and/or autograph session.
    • Helping to promote your event via social media.
    • Recording an invitation video for your event website.
    • Doing media interviews.
    • Writing an article for your organization’s newsletter.
    • Adding a webinar.

    It’s much better to negotiate the entire project’s scope up front and in writing, rather than trying to add additional work after the contract has been signed; moreover, a speaker is more likely to agree to additional work now instead of trying to add new tasks later.

    Travel expenses and who will be responsible for travel arrangements are also negotiated during the contracting process. As mentioned above, normally speakers will book their own flights and ground in the home city and clients will be expected to book ground in the host city and accommodations (commonly just one night, but sometimes two). Speakers maintain very busy travel schedules, so you might not receive a flight itinerary until a week or so before your event date. Once that information is available, you can make the necessary ground transportation reservations.

    In addition to the information above, your keynote speaker will also want to know:

    • Type of event and overall goals / purpose.
    • Other speakers presenting on the same date.
    • Estimated number of people in attendance.
    • Audience composition.
    • Specific event location and street address.
    • What attire is appropriate for the event? (formal, semi-formal, business, business-casual, etc.).
    • Is your event private or open to members of the public? If this event is open to the public, please indicate if tickets are free or if they must be purchased.
    • Past Keynote speakers for your group and/or this event.
    • Who their on-site contact will be, including their cell phone number and email address.
    • Brief descriptions of your organization’s mission and history.

    Preparing for Your keynote Speaker’s Visit

    Audio Visual

    You will need to plan for your keynote speaker’s AV requirements. Common requests include: wireless lavaliere microphone with fresh batteries hooked into the sound system, LCD Projector, large screen, glass of water and a clicker.

    Most speakers use PowerPoint slides and will either bring their own laptop to run their presentation (client will provide hookups) or will provide a slide deck ahead of time via a downloadable link. The client then loads the presentation into their AV system. .

    Speech Content
    Business topics (such as leadership, innovation, productivity and employee engagement) require thorough customization. Rather than delivering a canned or generic speech, your keynote speaker will be expected to address your organization’s unique circumstances and culture. This might include interviewing prospective audience members, holding a conference call with your programming team and/or sending an online survey to your personnel.

    Celebrity speakers and motivational speakers who focus on motivational, inspirational or entertaining content, will often do less customization.

    One Week Before Your Event
    There is not much speaker preparation needed the week before your event. Check in with your speakers bureau or speaker directly to make sure flights have been booked so that you can arrange ground transportation, accommodations (usually one night) and set an AV check time if needed. Provide the on-site contact name, title and his/her cell phone number to your keynote speaker.

    Day of the Event
    On the day of the event, confirm the PowerPoint slides have been loaded onto the AV system (if needed). Have your on-site contact greet your keynote speaker and escort him/her to the event room. Be sure to give the speaker’s introduction to the person introducing your speaker so they have a script to read.

    Your keynote speaker can generate beneficial, resounding effects on both your organization and audience members. All that attention to detail and hard work finding and booking the perfect keynote speaker pays off. Now just sit back and enjoy the compelling presentation that you made happen!

©, published on June 5, 2018

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