How to choose the right guest speakers for your event

  • Choose a guest speaker that will be the right fit for your audience
  • Clearly define the budget and the main goal of the event
  • What makes a good speaker and how do you find one?
  • Do your research and interview potential candidates

Choosing a guest speaker is one of the most important decisions you have to make when organising an event, one that can often mean the difference between success and failure. Make the right choice, and you can expect your event to become the talk of the town. Suitable speakers will add credibility to your event and make it seem more important, boost your registration numbers, and keep the audience engaged throughout. Choose wrong, on the other hand, and you risk alienating your audience and making them rethink coming back to one of your future events. So, how exactly do you make sure that you pick the right person for the task?

A table containing a list of things to do when choosing the right speaker for your event
When choosing a speaker, you should start preparing early, know your audience and budget, define the main goal of the event, and research and interview the speaker.

The answer to this question may be obvious, but often gets overlooked: planning and preparation. Organising an event involves a number of important considerations, including picking the right venue, choosing a theme, mapping out the event, setting a budget, getting to know your audience, and, finally, inviting the speakers. With so many things to think about, it’s important to give yourself enough time to do proper research and evaluate as many options as possible before making your final choice, which is why you should start your preparations at least six months in advance.

Choose a guest speaker that will be the right fit for your audience

People often make the mistake of picking a popular name in the hope of bringing attention to their event, without taking into account the demographics of their audience. However, just because someone is popular, with a large, dedicated following, doesn’t make them appropriate for you or your audience. A guest speaker who’s a hit with a particular demographic could prove to be a complete failure with another. For example, an audience composed mainly of young entrepreneurs will most likely respond differently to a dynamic speaker with innovative ideas and an edgy personality than an audience that consists of older, more conservative gentlemen. To ensure that the speaker you choose is a good fit for your audience and can meet their expectations, you also need to find out as much as you can about the people who will be attending the event, such as their age, gender, interests, and occupation. Once you know these things, you should also have a pretty good idea of what to look for in a guest speaker.

Clearly define the budget and the main goal of the event

Another important consideration is the budget. You need to think carefully about how much you’re willing to spend and adjust your expectations accordingly. In the United States, for example, guest speakers can cost anywhere between $2,000 and $30,000. Celebrity speakers are even more expensive, with prices starting at $50,000. You should also keep in mind that these costs often don’t include travel expenses and accommodation, while some speakers also have special audio and visual requirements, which could further eat into your budget. It’s often said that you get what you pay for, but that doesn’t always have to be the case. Everybody has to start somewhere, and you may be able to uncover a hidden gem, a future star speaker who hasn’t become a household name just yet.

You also need to clearly define the main goal and theme of your event. Are you looking to entertain your audience? Or do you perhaps want to educate or inspire them? Depending on what you aim to accomplish with your event, the exact type of guest speaker you need to achieve that goal will also vary. Sometimes, a well-informed industry insider will be a much better choice than a celebrity speaker, and vice versa. A clearly outlined objective and theme will help you narrow down the list of available candidates and choose a speaker with the type of personality, presentation style, and content that’s the right fit for your event. Make sure to let the speaker know ahead of time what exactly will be expected of them, how long the speech needs to be, and whether there will also be a Q&A session afterwards.

What makes a good speaker and how do you find one?

An ideal guest speaker should be able to captivate the audience, keep them engaged and entertained throughout the event, educate them, inspire them to make a positive change, present novel ideas and perspectives, and reinforce the event’s main themes. They also need to have considerable expertise and knowledge in the field relevant to your event, which will allow them to convey your message with conviction and achieve the event’s main objective.

 An infographic showing the characteristic of an ideal guest speaker
An ideal guest speaker should be able to captivate and engage the audience, inspire the audience to make a positive change, educate, present novel ideas, and reinforce the main themes of the event they’re speaking at.

Now that you know what to look for, the question is where do you go to find someone who matches that description? Personal experience is always a good place to start. You should think about previous events you’ve attended and try to remember speakers who grabbed your attention. You can also ask your friends and associates to recommend someone they’ve seen or worked with in the past, or research other upcoming events and conferences that are similar to your own and inquire about the speakers they have lined up. Last, but not least, you should also check out organisations like the Global Speakers Federation or the International Association of Speakers Bureaus. While working with an organisation may cost more, it should help you find someone who’s the perfect match for your wishes more easily.

Do your research and interview potential candidates

Once you’ve narrowed down the list of potential candidates, you need to do some research on them as well. First, you need to watch them speak, which should give you a pretty good indication of whether they’ll be a good match for your event. Ideally, you should be able to see them in person, but if that’s not possible, a YouTube video of their performance will have to suffice. You should also check out their website and social media profiles to learn more about their personality, tone, and expertise. Speakers with a large social media presence can also help you advertise your event and attract a bigger audience. Most importantly, you need to speak with them, either face-to-face or over the internet. This will help you get to know them better and work out the details of their performance. You should also take your time to follow up on the references they provide and speak with event organisers who have worked with them in the past. That way, you will be able to verify whether they truly are as professional as they say and avoid any unwelcome surprises.

The success of an event can rest almost entirely on the choice of a guest speaker, which is why it’s not a decision to be taken lightly. You need to do your research and choose a speaker that’s the right fit for your event and the audience that will attend it, rather than just picking the most popular names off a list. It needs to be someone with considerable knowledge and experience on the topic your event will be focusing on. They also need to be able to connect with your audience and keep them engaged throughout the event. Whether it’s an industry leader, a comedian, or a local celebrity, a good guest speaker can ensure that your audience will leave the event satisfied and willing to come back for more.

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This article is written by Richard van Hooijdonk

This article is written by Richard van Hooijdonk

Trendwatcher, futurist and international keynote speaker Richard van Hooijdonk takes you to an inspiring future that will dramatically change the way we live, work and do business.

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