7 Critical Questions Meeting Planners Must Ask Their Keynote Speakers

It's conference planning time and your job is to vet and hire the keynote speakers. When you find a great keynote speaker, you'll look like a rock star to your boss and everyone in the audience. Miss the mark and not only will you hear those negative comments in the hall but you risk people not coming back next year.

Hiring speakers is more than getting a warm bod, or even someone with credentials to show up and speak. You need the content to give people a tangible ROI on their attendance and for it to build the bottom line of the company. If behavior doesn't change once audience members get back to work, everyone's time and money has been wasted.

But how are you going to do that? You need a speaker who not only holds the audience's attention but truly engages them, makes them think -- and gets them talking about the session in the hallways. This will lead to event success.

Oh, and you don't want to hire someone who's hard to work with, either. Many times the headaches of hiring a self-important diva just aren't worth it.

So once you've got an idea of the content you want for the group, have watched a few videos and are interviewing and getting quotes, be sure you ask these seven questions every meeting planner should ask potential speakers.

You'll eliminate your risk when you ask:

  1. What key points do your audiences leave with?
  2. What types of audience engagement do you use?
  3. What actions will your participants take when they leave the session?
  4. Do you have supplemental follow up materials for the audience? Books, videos, etc.
  5. Can you help market the event ahead of time? If so, how?
  6. What else can you bring to my conference? I.E. master of ceremonies, breakouts, books, etc.
  7. How flexible is your timing and content for last minute shifts in our agenda?

A couple of final notes:

1. Remember hiring a 'big name' celebrity does not necessarily guarantee a great speech. Often these folks are some of the worst out there. Studies have proven that celeb speakers don't increase attendance. You simply write them a bigger check with limited ROI for you and your organization.

2. Pay your speakers. You want someone committed to their profession who takes the time to polish their skills and have cutting edge content. If you want a 2nd rate conference, go ahead and use free speakers. You might get lucky, but 99 percent of the time you'll get speakers who are not pros and you risk leaving your audience cold.

Make speaker selection a fun process and know that when you have the right mindset and ask the right questions, you'll have a better chance of picking the best speaker for your group, and showing that you're really the hero planner that you are.