Keynote Speaker Vs. Guest Speaker

Keynote Speaker vs Guest Speaker: Who to Hire

Keynote speaker and guest speaker – what’s the difference between the two? Who should you hire for your event?

Putting on a great event requires the help of speakers. These people know a lot about a particular subject and have important stories to tell. They share their ideas with those attending the event, helping them learn and feel excited.
You’ll often hear about two types of speakers: keynote and guest speakers. While they seem the same, they have different roles during an event.

In this blog post, we will explain these differences in easy terms. We will help you understand what keynote and guest speakers do, the skills they need to possess, how to choose between them, and where you can search for keynote speakers or guest speakers.

Let’s get started.

What is a keynote speaker?

So, what is a keynote speaker? Think of them as the star of the show at an event. They are often experts in their field or well-known personalities.

Keynote speaker defined

A keynote speaker is a person who delivers the principal speech at an event, usually setting the underlying tone and summarising the core message or most important revelation of the event. They are often recognised figures in a specific field whose role primarily inspires and motivates the audience. They combine their knowledge with motivational elements to convey a compelling argument or reveal significant trends related to the event’s theme.

Here is an in-depth post about it: WHAT IS A KEYNOTE SPEAKER AND HOW TO FIND ONE.

What is the role of a keynote speaker in an event?

The job of a keynote speaker is to give a speech that sets the tone (that’s why they’re called “keynote” speakers) and theme for the entire event. Say you’re hosting a conference about technology. Your keynote speaker might be someone famous in the tech world whose speech inspires everyone and excites them about what’s to come.

What are the characteristics of an effective keynote speaker?

Now, what makes a good keynote speaker? First, they must grab people’s attention immediately and keep it. A compelling keynote speaker can tell incredible stories, bringing ideas to life with passion, humour, and/or moving personal experiences.

These speakers don’t just talk; they perform and fascinate their audience – like watching your favourite movie or TV show. Also, effective keynote speakers know their audience well and tailor their speeches accordingly – making everyone feel understood and connected to what they say.

What is a guest speaker?

A guest speaker is invited to speak at an event for their expertise or experience in a specific subject matter. Unlike a keynote speaker, who usually sets the tone for the event, a guest speaker supports the central theme with their unique perspective.

What is the role of a guest speaker in an event?

In an event, a guest speaker has a significant role. They offer valuable insights on particular topics, share personal experiences, or provide educational information that aligns with the theme. Their presence adds diversity to the content by bringing fresh ideas and perspectives outside the host organisation.

What are the characteristics of an effective keynote speaker?

Successful guest speakers often possess some common traits. They are knowledgeable and engaging communicators, capable of captivating audiences with fascinating stories and thought-provoking insights. They master timing as they must efficiently convey their message within time limits. Additionally, they are flexible enough to adjust to varying audience dynamics and can respond effectively during Q&A sessions. Persistence and passion characterise these speakers since they continuously learn and grow to maintain relevance in their industry.

Keynote speaker vs guest speaker: what’s the difference

Keynote and guest speakers add value to an event but differ in various aspects.

Position in the event’s agenda

Firstly, the time they speak within the event’s schedule differs. Keynote speakers typically say at the start or end of an event to set the tone or conclude with final thoughts. Guest speakers usually talk throughout the schedule. They are typically included to provide a variety of content from different viewpoints.

Level of expertise

Regarding expertise, keynote speakers are usually regarded as thought leaders or influencers in their fields. In contrast, guest speakers are often recognised for their specific insights and experiences that align with the event’s theme.

Duration and nature of speech or presentation

Lastly, there is a difference in both the duration and nature of their presentations. Keynote speeches tend to last longer, usually ranging from 45 minutes to an hour. The speech duration allows time for deep content narratives. The purpose is often inspirational or motivational, offering high-level insight into industry trends or comprehensive topics.

Guest speaker sessions, on the other hand, are usually shorter. They focus on more specific subjects based on their unique experiences and perspectives.

Making the Right Choice: When to Choose a Keynote Speaker vs a Guest Speaker

Choosing the correct speaker, whether keynote or guest, can significantly affect the success of your event.

Deciding factors for choosing keynote or guest

Here are a few deciding factors in choosing between a keynote speaker and a guest speaker:

Event purpose

If the event concerns setting a specific tone or theme, go for keynote speakers. They can provide inspirational speeches, invoke thought, and present direction. On the other hand, choose guest speakers if your event aims to draw attention to specific topics, offer varied viewpoints, or bring expertise on niche subjects.

Session timing

Keynote speakers are typically placed at strategic points in the event’s agenda – mainly at the start or end. Guest speakers can be scheduled anytime throughout the event based on topic relevance.

Audience expectation

Opt for a keynote speaker if your audience expects high-profile expertise or inspiration. For more focused and diverse insights, selecting guest speakers would be appropriate.

Topic depth

Keynote speeches are broad and thematic, whereas guest speakers often go deeper into specific areas of interest.

Budget constraints

Usually, keynote speakers cost more than guest speakers due to their notability and demand.

Presentation style

Keynote speakers primarily deliver monologues that are motivational or insightful. Guest speakers, on the other hand, can be more interactive, participating in panel discussions and interactive sessions.

Carefully looking at these factors can help you choose between having a keynote speaker or a guest speaker that aligns with your event’s objectives and audience expectations.

How to hire the right speaker for your event

After identifying the type of speaker you need for your event, the next step would be to find the right keynote speaker or guest speaker for your event.

Hiring the right speaker for your event involves these steps:

Understand your audience

The first step would be to understand your event guests and participants. Know their preferences, interests, and demographics to ensure the speaker will resonate with them.

Define event goals

Are you seeking to motivate, educate, or entertain your audience during the event? The nature of your occasion influences the type of speaker you need.

Identify potential speakers

Next, search for keynote speakers or guest speakers with expertise related to your event’s theme and aligning with your audience’s interest. Learn more about where to find the best speaker for your event in the next section.

Check speaker reviews & ratings

Once you have a list of prospects, look for feedback from past performances. Watching their videos can also give you a sense of their presentation style and audience interaction.

Assess availability & budget

You must also check if potential speakers are available on your dates and if they fall within your budget parameters.

Contact speakers or speakers’ agency

After asking for potential speakers’ availability, remember to share event details like the date, location, topic, audience size, diversity, and expectations.

Interview shortlisted candidates

Next, ask about their strategy to engage audiences, how they tailor their content for different audiences, and their prior experiences similar to your event.

Finalise and sign your contract

Once you have decided on the speaker, finalise all logistical details in writing as part of a formal contract. These details include payment terms, travel arrangements, accommodation, and more.
By following these steps, you can hire the right speaker to contribute significantly to making your event successful.

Where to find keynote speakers and guest speakers

You can find keynote speakers and guest speakers through the following methods:

Professional speakers bureaus

These agencies maintain a roster of speakers in various fields. They can connect you to potential candidates and help you look for keynote speakers or guest speakers suited to your event’s needs.

Conferences and events

Notice who’s speaking at industry events or conferences. If they are impactful, consider inviting them to your event.


Use your professional connections or social networks like LinkedIn to ask for recommendations.

Industry publications/blogs/podcasts

Those who contribute actively to publications or host influential blogs/podcasts often make engaging speakers. You can scout for potential speakers through this avenue.

Online platforms

Websites like TED Talks, SpeakerHub, etc., are also great platforms to search for guest speakers and experts as they showcase a wide array of potential talents from which you can choose.

Direct outreach

If there’s an expert in the field who fits your event theme, reaching out directly to them can also be effective.

Research each candidate thoroughly and follow the steps above in hiring the right speaker for your event. These will help ensure your chosen keynote or guest speaker aligns with your audience and event goals.

The bottom line

To give you a short recap, a keynote speaker sets the whole theme of an event, typically drawing on their expertise to motivate and inspire attendees. They are usually industry leaders or well-known personalities. On the other hand, a guest speaker contributes specific knowledge or perspective to one segment of your event. They offer unique insights but don’t necessarily have to be famous or highly experienced in public speaking.

The choice of opting for a keynote speaker or a guest speaker depends significantly on the desired impact you want to make for the speech, the type of event, and the purpose of your event. You also need to look for experts based on the proficiency your audience seeks and the time allotted for the speaker.

The bottom line is that to hire the right speaker. You need to define your event goals clearly and understand who can best deliver those goals.
Remember that words have power; picking the right speaker with impactful ones can transform your event from ordinary to extraordinary.


One Comment

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