what is a keynote speaker

What is a Keynote Speaker and How to Find One

Whether you are planning an event or simply curious about what a keynote speaker is, this post is for you.

In this guide, we’ll share what a keynote speaker is and their roles. We will also talk about the qualities of an effective keynote speaker, where you can search for one and how to select the right keynote speaker for your event.

Let’s get started.


What is a keynote speaker?

A keynote speaker is a professional speaker who gives the keynote address at an event. They set the underlying tone and summarise the core message or most important revelation for a large meeting, conference, or convention. Their keynote address helps tie together all aspects of the event while captivating, motivating, and inspiring the audience.


Keynote speaker vs host (emcee)

A keynote speaker differs from the emcee of the event. A keynote speaker is typically an expert or well-known figure who delivers the keynote address, aiming to inspire and impart knowledge to the audience. They use their experience or expertise in their speech.

On the other hand, the host or emcee oversees the smooth running of the entire event. From introducing speakers to facilitating transitions between different segments, they maintain the event’s flow and handle audience engagement. The host sets the overall mood, ensures audience interaction, and manages any unexpected issues during the event.


Why you need a keynote speaker

A keynote speaker is vital to an event for several reasons. They can set the tone for the event, drive engagement, and energise the audience, ultimately shaping their overall experience. Their unique perspectives, expertise, and experience can inspire the audience and generate fresh ideas. A compelling keynote speaker effectively conveys the central theme and leaves a lasting impression beyond the event itself.


What is the role of a keynote speaker?

Understanding the role of a keynote speaker is necessary to make the best choice for your event. Below are the key functions of a keynote speaker:


1. Set the tone for the event

The keynote speaker shapes the atmosphere of your event. With their opening words, they provide a context that immerses the audience in the theme of the event. A well-delivered keynote can captivate attendees, generate excitement, and create an engaging environment.


2. Deliver a compelling and memorable message

A keynote address isn’t just about imparting information; it’s about crafting a story that resonates with the listeners. The speaker’s job is to deliver a strong, persuasive message that strikes an emotional chord. They may share personal experiences, tell stories, or use other means to make their message relatable and unforgettable. This powerful narrative sticks with the audience even after the event ends.


3. Provide insights, knowledge, and actionable takeaways for the audience

Beyond storytelling, effective keynote speakers offer deep insights anchored in professional expertise and life experiences. These insights should be embedded within their message so that the audience walks away with clear takeaways they can apply in their lives or work scenarios. From fresh ideas to practical strategies, these takeaways are tangible benefits attendees receive from listening to your chosen speaker’s keynote address.


What should be in a keynote address?

A keynote address can set the tone and mood of an event, inspiring and giving insights to the audience. Below are the key elements that an effective keynote speech should contain:


1. Engaging introduction

The introduction should immediately draw in the audience. It could start with a powerful statement, a thought-provoking question, a notable quote or even a short story to set the tone and context for the keynote address.


2. Clear theme or message

Your keynote address should have an overarching theme or central message that is directly aligned with the goal of the event. This serves as the backbone of the speech.


3. Personal stories/anecdotes

Incorporating personal experiences can make a keynote speech more relatable and authentic. They help emotionally connect with the audience by fostering empathy and understanding.


4. Relevant data and facts

Using relevant data and facts can reinforce the points and add credibility to what the speaker is saying. Statistics, research findings, or historical facts must be accurate and sourced from reputable references.


5. Engaging visuals

These could be slides, videos, or props that accompany the speech. They aid understanding, especially when explaining complex concepts or processes.


6. Interactive elements

Encourage participation from the audience to keep them interested throughout the keynote address. The speaker can achieve this by posing questions, conducting polls, or asking for feedback during certain sections of the speech.


7. Strong conclusion

The conclusion summarises key points from the speech, ensuring they leave a lasting impression on the audience.


8. Call-to-action (CTA)

Finally, the speaker must be able to inspire action about what has been discussed in the address. This gives listeners direction on how they can apply what they’ve learned from the speaker once they leave.


When does a keynote speaker talk?

A keynote speaker usually takes the stage at the beginning of an event to set the tone and theme. But, they can also speak during a high point in the middle or close to wrap up. These are vital times when attendees are most attentive and energised. Delivering a keynote address during this time ensures maximum impact on your audience.


What are the qualities of an effective keynote speaker?

Having an effective keynote speaker can create an impact on your event. Let’s explore the key characteristics that make a keynote speaker effective so you will know what to look for.


1. Strong communication skills and stage presence

Strong communication skills and stage presence refer to your speaker’s ability to articulate thoughts clearly, persuasively, and with conviction. Stage presence involves exuding confidence and magnetism that captivate the audience. With these skills, your speaker can effectively deliver the keynote address to your audience.


2. Expertise in a specific field or topic

Having expertise in a specific field or topic means having in-depth knowledge or proficiency in a particular area. This quality offers validity and credibility to the message, potentially providing listeners with eye-opening insights or novel perspectives.


3. Ability to inspire, motivate, and engage the audience

The speaker’s ability to inspire, motivate, and engage the audience is important to keep the audience interested and participative. The speaker must be able to instil optimism, encourage self-reflection, inspire behavioural change, or stimulate action among attendees.

The above qualities not only make the keynote speech and the event unforgettable but also ensure it resonates meaningfully with the audience.


Where can you search for keynote speakers?

You can search for keynote speakers in several ways, including the following:


1. Speakers’ network and agencies

Speakers networks and speakers agencies link you and other event organisers to professional speakers. They have extensive speaker databases, each with unique areas of expertise. You need to provide your requirements, like your topic and budget, and they can give you a list of suitable candidates.


2. Professional events or conferences

Attending corporate events and professional conferences can introduce you to potential speakers in person, allowing for a firsthand assessment of their knowledge, delivery style, and audience interaction. Joining these conferences also offers networking opportunities to build connections for future events.


3. Social media platforms

Professionals often use platforms like LinkedIn or Twitter to share insights, create content related to their field, and interact with their followers. By observing these interactions, you can gauge how well they might engage an audience.


4. Online platforms

Websites like TED Talks or YouTube are fantastic sources for finding experienced speakers on a wide range of topics. You can watch past presentations to assess their communication skills and expertise in particular fields.


5. Friends or colleagues

Using your existing professional relationships is another valid approach in your search. Sometimes, people around you may recommend a good speaker for your event. These recommendations from colleagues or industry peers could lead you towards undiscovered talent who may be an ideal match for your event needs.


How to choose the right keynote speaker for your event

Now that you know more about keynote speakers, the next step would be to select the best one for your event. Follow these steps:


1. Define your event’s purpose

It’s important to define the objectives of your event before you find keynote speakers and choose the right one. Understand what you want to achieve. Is it to educate, inspire, or introduce new concepts?


2. Identify Your Audience

Consider your audience’s age, profession, interests and cultural background when choosing your keynote speaker. What are their demographics, interests, needs, and preferences? What qualities would they appreciate in a speaker? The right speaker must resonate with them.


3. Determine the topic

Determining your topic will help you select the right keynote speaker.

Look for keynote speakers with experience and expertise on your theme can deliver the speech you desire. They can relate with your audience and get their interest and attention, contributing to a successful event.


4. Budget considerations

Consider what you can afford when planning your keynote speaker. These include the speaker fees, accommodation, travel expenses, and logistical arrangements.


5. Create a shortlist

Based on steps 1-4, shortlist potential speakers who meet these criteria. You can find an agency for speakers and search based on your topic or theme. Then, list possible speakers who fit your needs based on purpose, audience compatibility, topic relevance, and budget parameters.


6. Search for guest speakers and experts

Learn more about the prospects by searching for them online. Look at their past videos and engagements and assess their speaking style and ability to engage an audience.


7. Check references and reviews

Always check on reviews and references. Past testimonials can give you insights into the speaker’s performance and impact on past audiences.


8. Interview prospective speakers

Contact the shortlisted speakers directly or through the speakers’ agency to know more about your prospects. Learn more about their expertise and presentation style to help ensure they align well with your event’s purpose, theme, and audience demographics, thus maximising your event’s overall success and impact.


9. Discuss content details

It is also essential to confirm whether the speaker will tailor their content to match your audience’s needs or specific event theme.


10. Booking and agreement

Once you’ve decided on a speaker, ensure all arrangements are stated in the contract. These include fees, schedules, logistics, and all other details.

Remember, the best keynote speakers inspire audiences while reinforcing messages relevant to your event themes or goals.



A keynote speaker is more than just any guest speaker giving a welcome address or a talk in the middle of the event or even towards the end. The keynote speaker is very vital in setting the tone of the event, as well as motivating and inspiring your audience. Their role is crucial in delivering the right message you want to impart to your audience through your event.

By learning what you need to know about a keynote speaker, as we have provided above, we hope you find the right professional to help your event succeed.