Understanding What Decision Makers Want from Professional Keynote Speakers

By Jane Atkinson

As a professional speaker, you will spend a lot of time thinking about your speech, your business and how to perfect your craft. The truly successful speakers, those who are filling their calendar and consistently getting 5-figures for their speeches, are also great at thinking about what decision makers want from the keynote speaker. Here’s why that matters.

What Decision Makers Want from Professional Keynote Speakers

Before you can understand what an event decision maker wants from you – the keynote speaker candidate – you need to understand who they are and what their process is. Let me walk you through what that might look like for one event planner, so you have an idea.

Georgina works for a large association and oversees planning their annual conference. She sits down with her team, and they strategically decide together what their theme is for the event. They have seen a decline in membership, so they need to ensure the theme attracts the attention of their loyal members while also bringing in and some new members.

Once they have nailed their theme and they know the purpose and direction of the event, they start to map out ideas for each of the six keynote speaker slots they’ll have for their mainstage. This is when the ideas start to flow about what speakers might be a fit.

what decision makers want from professional keynote speakers

Georgina and her team may try to find each of the speakers themselves, or they may call a speaker’s bureau to help them find speakers who focus on specific topics. When all the research is done, each speaking slot might have 6-10 speaker options, which they’ll want to narrow down to the top three.

To get to the top three, they’ll be looking at some different aspects of each speaker, including:

  • Their website (does it establish credibility, what do groups similar to them say about the speaker, are they professional?)
  • Their thought leadership (e. is their blog relevant and up-to-date?)
  • Their social footprint (are there political posts or rants that may turn off their audience)
  • Their video (can they hold their own on a big stage)

To further help them decide, they may set up phone calls with each of the top three speakers. If two of the speakers come off equally well on the interview and one is out of their budget, that might make the lower cost speaker more desirable.

Aside from the main stage agenda, the conference is also running six concurrent sessions in the morning and another 6 in the afternoon. These slots may be filled using a Call for Proposals approach. And as Lori Pugh Marcum of MPI Meeting Professionals International said during our recent podcast, she’s looking for speakers who really understand who they are talking to and will customize their presentations for that audience.

what decision makers want from professional keynote speakers - customized presentation

When it comes to Georgina’s annual conference, she’s thinking about everything from the registration to the production and a/v to the agenda running on time and coffee breaks. As a speaker, you need to realize that you are just one small part of this well-oiled machine and process. Your sole focus should be on who the audience is and meeting their needs. That also means not running over your allotted speaking time.

You also need to realize that on any given day Georgina may have hundreds of emails, texts, phone calls, and social media pokes from speakers who want to get on her radar. Sometimes a speaker can luck out with his or her timing, but for the most part, Georgina’s either filing these away or deleting them.

Don’t be a speaker that turns the event planner off with a bad first impression by either sending them a ton of useless information or keeping them on the phone for too long when they are not really interested. Be conscious, and respectful, of their time and ensure that the information you provide is thorough, brief and fits what they are looking for. (Check out this great podcast with Jill Davis on how to use behavior tools to better understand how to communicate.)

The bottom line is that when it comes to booking an event, it’s not about us. The speaker is a small part of a much larger meeting organism. To find success, you need to understand that.

Ultimately what a decision maker wants is NOT to make a mistake. To NOT look bad. To have everyone rave about the program and the speakers and have a positive memory of the presentation that lasts for years to come. The more you can help them to reach that goal, the more success you’ll find as a professional speaker.

Want to learn more on how to build your speaking business and work towards getting to $1 Million? Join me for a free webinar on Thursday, February 7th.

See you soon Wealthy Speakers!