What Is a Keynote Speaker and How Do I Find the Best One?

You want your event to be a lasting success, and part of making your webinar or conference truly memorable means finding the best keynote speaker you can. A lot rides on your decision, and success begins with understanding what a keynote speaker really is. In some cases, a guest speaker, emcee or panel moderator may be more appropriate. Understanding the different kinds of speakers and what they do helps you better plan your event while avoiding confusion and saving time and money. 

What is a keynote speaker?

In some ways, a keynote speaker plays the most important role in your event. Their address sets the tone and introduces the theme of your conference, seminar, webinar or symposium. In fact, the term “keynote” itself derives from music, referring to the key in which singers or other musicians will perform their musical number.

Similarly, a keynote speaker introduces the style, theme and major points that your event will address. As such, this speaker typically provides the first major speech following only their own introduction. In some cases, they may also provide the closing address as a summary of the proceedings.

Most importantly, keynote speakers are your main attraction. They provide exciting, motivational speeches that connect all areas of your event in a meaningful way. Professional keynote speakers bring name recognition and even celebrity status, raising interest and awareness for your event. By booking a top keynote speaker, you signal to prospective attendees that you are serious and that your event carries weight.

How does a keynote speaker differ from a guest speaker?

Guest speakers typically speak on a specific topic later in your event. That is, they provide an opinion or guidance for your guests but in narrower subject areas. Keynote speakers, on the other hand, may be specialists in a certain area, but they provide a broader, motivational overview. Many are top thought leaders and widely recognized achievers. As professionals, they bring an ability to tie all of the other speakers’ subtopics together thematically.

As an example, a guest speaker may discuss the latest trends in email marketing or how to build an effective personal brand. A keynote speaker, on the other hand, would offer a motivational speech covering transformative digital marketing trends overall.

How do I choose the best keynote speaker for my event?

Knowing how to choose the best keynote speaker helps you ensure the most successful event possible. Consider these three steps every event planner should take.

1. Consider the big-picture outcomes you want your event to achieve.

Planning an event can be stressful. It includes knowing all the details and logistics from catering to welcoming guests. But for the moment, step back from all that. Get in a workout, meditate or whatever it takes to clear your mind of daily stress. Then, look at your event from a mile-high vantage point. Consider the overall objective you wish to achieve and why. You may even consider using top goal-setting strategies and worksheets.

Once you’ve taken that time, consider what you need most from your keynote speaker—maybe it’s someone with the ability to inspire, empower and motivate every department and every attendee. The best speaker will leave your guests transformed and ready to engage with everything you have planned.


  • Who will inspire your guests not only tomorrow but for years to come?
  • Who can tie your event together in a way that every attendee regardless of department will understand?
  • And who has the engaging, dynamic presence to transform the leaders of tomorrow?

2. Spend some time looking at what top keynote speakers deliver.

Once you have a clear idea of theme and outcomes for your event, it’s time to begin investigating specific speakers. As you search, keep in mind the terms describing what you want from your keynote speaker. For instance, you may use “sales,” “motivational,” “personal finance,” “millennial” and “corporate culture” among other similar search terms and queries. And don’t be afraid to combine these words as many speakers fall under several categories.

Once a few prospects interest you, dig a bit deeper. Visit some top speaker websites. You’ll find speaker biographies and get a sense of their general message and tone as well as speaking topics. Most professional speakers have videos, including TED Talks, on their pages, or you can search for them on YouTube. Note their past clients and customer testimonials. One great place to start is the speakers page on the SUCCESS Speakers Bureau website. There you’ll find all of that information with easily searchable speaking topics.

3. Work only with a reputable booking agency.

With so much effort put into your event, you don’t want to leave booking to amateurs. Booking a keynote speaker through a reputable booking agency ensures that you have access to the most experienced and reliable professional speakers. These talent agencies can also guide you through the selection process, recommending speakers you may not have considered but who may be a perfect fit.

Reputable agencies can save you time and money, too. They will work with you to understand keynote speaker booking rates and negotiate the best price for your preferred keynote speaker. They even handle the booking logistics for you, freeing your time while also ensuring top professionalism and experience in the process.

Consider booking your speaker with the SUCCESS Speakers Bureau.

When it comes to reputation, the SUCCESS brand is unmatched with more than a century of history and experience. From founder Orison Swett Marden to author and publisher Napoleon Hill, SUCCESS continues its mission of connecting visionary professionals and empowering audiences.

The SUCCESS Speakers Bureau further expands this mission by providing top keynote speakers, guest speakers and motivational coaches for major corporate and institutional events. Explore our top motivational and business talent, including speakers such as Erin King, Anthony O’Neal, Anne Grady and dozens more.

Still not quite sure who you’re looking for? No problem. That’s where the vast experience of SUCCESS helps most. Along with handling negotiations and booking logistics, we can assist you in finding exactly the right keynote speaker for your event or cause. Simply contact the SUCCESS Speakers Bureau with your needs, and we’ll put our wealth of connection-building knowledge to work for you!