How to Find the Right Keynote Speaker

how to find a keynote speaker

What draws attendees to your event? In short, the answer is good, relevant content that attendees want to see. The keynote speaker is perhaps the most important part of your content lineup. It’s imperative that you find a keynote speaker who makes your audience feel that their investment in the event has been well spent. 

Of course, for you as an event organizer, you have to consider other things, such as the cost of the keynote speaker and whether they can speak on the topics that will meet your goals for the event. 

Here’s how to balance it all, as you look for the best keynote speaker for your event.

What to Consider Before You Hire a Keynote Speaker

The first step to finding a keynote speaker is to decide what kind of speaker you’re looking for. You’ll also need to figure out a few practical details. These points may influence which speakers are available. Or, it’s simply information your potential keynote speakers would expect you to share with them.

Some things to consider before searching for and hiring a keynote speaker include:

Event Goals

This includes both your goals for the conference or event and those of the people who attend. The ideal keynote speaker is someone who helps you fulfill your event goals and who can inspire and engage attendees. That means your attendees’ goals must be considered too. 

Try to find the overlap between your event goals and attendees’ goals, and start your search there. For instance, if you’re running an in-house sales conference, that might mean looking for a corporate leadership speaker or a motivational speaker. At an industry trade show, you may be more interested in finding a thought-leader who can talk about new innovations or future trends in the industry.

Speaker Role 

What role will this speaker play at the event? For instance, is it to educate, inspire, motivate, or entertain? Will they open or close the event? 

Remember, public speaking is often quite specialized. A fantastic business motivational speaker might not be as talented on an informational topic. Healthcare speakers, who excel at informing a room full of doctors, might not be the marketing speakers you want to talk about selling medical devices, even when the topic overlaps. And a great marketing speaker might not be an innovation speaker. The more specialized a niche you need the speaker to speak to, the more time you should give yourself to finding a speaker.

Keynote speakers generally speak either at the start or end of an event. In both cases, the primary role of the speaker is to set the “key note” for the event. However, the opening and closing keynote speeches actually have two different functions. The opening keynote speech is all about setting the tone and expectations for the event to come. The closing keynote speech is more about wrapping it up and defining how you want people to remember the event. Whether you’re hiring an opening or closing keynote speaker should influence your final choice.

Scheduling Information

Determine the date, time, and location of the event, the speaker’s time slot, and how long they’re expected to speak for.

Your Speaker Budget

How much can you afford to spend on a speaker? This includes the speaker’s fee, but don’t forget that there will be other associated costs. Make sure to include accommodation, travel expenses, and food when deciding how much you can budget for a keynote speaker.

Technical Details

What A/V equipment do you have available for the speaker to use? And what presentation formats can they use for visual material? Different types of events have different needs here. There may be additional requirements for a virtual or hybrid event—for instance, access to livestreaming equipment.

It’s much better to decide these things in advance, if possible. It can save you a big chunk of time if you have all of this information accessible when you start your search. And the more you know about what you need in a speaker, the easier it is to eliminate options that aren’t a good fit for your event. It will also help your speaker determine if you’re a good fit for their abilities and interests.


How much time do you have to find a guest speaker? Note that if you want to secure a really top speaker, you’ll need to start working on it well in advance of your event. This is particularly important in a crowded industry or one where your speaker options are limited. Plan to start looking at least six months in advance, if possible.

Where to Find a Keynote Speaker for Your Next Event

Once you have the initial details ironed out, you can start looking for people who fit the bill. There are several different approaches you can take to find appropriate keynote speakers for an event. 

1. Speakers Bureaus

There are several websites that function as online speaker catalogs or agencies. Some of the biggest include the National Speakers Bureau, BigSpeak, Premiere Speakers Bureau, and speakerhub, all of which represent large stables of experienced speakers. These sites feature extensive lists of speakers in many industries, so you can take your pick of business speakers, celebrity speakers, and more. 

Each listed speaker is featured with a bio of their experience and speaking topics. Some also include how much the individual speaker costs; others give an estimate later on in an inquiry. To book speakers from these sites, you’ll typically need to make an inquiry via the website to check on availability and price range. 

2. Check Out Digital Media

In some industries, podcasts and other forms of digital media may furnish some options. This can be particularly advantageous for a virtual event. Your ideal keynote speaker at these events will be someone who’s experienced at communicating with an online audience. Choosing someone in digital media is a good way to find a keynote speaker with the right skillset.

3. Ask for Suggestions

Referrals from colleagues or other event organizers can also be a good place to start. You may be able to get referrals for specific speakers who have performed well at other events, with the bonus that they come with a reference you know and trust.

Alternatively, why not ask the people whose opinions matter the most? Your audience may have some ideas on who they’d like to hear from. This can also help get your audience engaged with your event and increase their interest in the content you’re offering.

In some highly niche industries, you may find it difficult to find suitable speakers. If all else fails, there’s always a search engine. Most professional speakers have their own websites, which should provide you with enough details to determine if they can speak on topics that are relevant to your audience. 

Choosing the Right Speaker

Once you have a good handful of options, you’ll need to investigate each one more thoroughly to decide if they’re a good fit. Note that if you hire a keynote speaker from an agency, the process may be different in some respects.

Watch Them in Action

The best way to decide if a speaker is good at what they do is just to watch them do it. If you can, watch one or two public speaking performances, so you can see how they interact with an audience. YouTube is generally a good place for this. Many experienced speakers also include clips or highlight reels on their websites. Most speaker profiles on Speakers Bureau and BigSpeak include one or two clips as well.

Check Out Their Social Media Presence

Taking a look at their social media channels can give you some more insight into how good of a fit they are for your event. Plus, speakers with sizable social media followings can be a big asset to event promotion. Most speakers are willing to promote their speaking engagements on their own channels, which means additional buzz for your event.

Have a Conversation

The next step is to talk to them in person or on Zoom, Google Meet, or your preferred online calling tool. This lets you find out what they’re like off-the-cuff, and you can then make a decision that’s based on first-hand information as well as your research.

Check Their References 

Ask each speaker you talk to for references, and then follow up to find out from past event organizers what it’s like to work with them. A speaker who’s a demanding nightmare may be someone you prefer to avoid, even if they’re popular with audiences.

how much does a speaker cost

How Much Does a Keynote Speaker Cost?

How much keynote speakers charge can vary a lot. It can depend on a wide range of factors, but mostly it’s about the speaker themselves, and their professional and personal history.

  • At the bottom end of the scale, keynote speaker fees may run from $1,000 to $5,000.
  • On the upper end, experienced speakers who are major industry figures or celebrities command fees of $30,000 to $50,000 per engagement—and sometimes even more.

That’s why you’ll need to know your speaker budget before you start your search. Determine whether you’re looking for a low-end, mid-range, or high-end speaker.

However, as noted earlier, when you consider how much a given speaker will cost, think also about all the other additional costs: travel expenses, accommodation, and a food budget. A celebrity speaker might have different expectations for accommodation and food than an up-and-coming athlete.

Find a Keynote Speaker

Whether your event is live, virtual, or a hybrid, great event content is a vital piece of the puzzle. Hire a keynote speaker for your event who can connect with your audience and inspire them, and you’ll be well on the way to a successful event.

Jack Connolly

Executive Creative Director

As an experiential creative director, Jack prefers to draw outside the lines. He tells stories with original content and impactful design to ignite meaningful conversation.


Jack brings 20 years of event industry knowledge to ProGlobalEvents. He specializes in building live & virtual platforms for audiences to connect, engage and immerse themselves in the power of a shared experience. His skills range from ideation and concept development to defining an attendee journey through storytelling and design.

Jack understands the creative process is not linear, but a collaborative process between agency and client. He manages teams of designers and technology developers to pioneer impactful brand experiences. His diverse skillset and leadership ensure for award-winning results and memorable impressions.


In 2019, BizBash named Jack one of the top event designers in North America. SXSW awarded his work the “People’s Choice in Innovation” in 2021.

Jerome Nadel

Chief Marketing Officer

Jerome Nadel is Internationally experienced design-led marketing executive (CMO and GM) with a track record of improved market position, revenue growth, and M&A. He is an advance degreed psychologist and user experience product/service design expert, board member and advisor.


Prior to joining ProGlobalEvents |ProExhibits |XtendLive, he has had a variety of chief marketing officer and chief user experience officer roles at companies including Rambus, BrainChip, Human Factors International, SLP InfoWare, Gemplus, and Sagem. He started his career in the IBM Human Factors Labs.


He is also an avid cyclist with National and multiple California State Champion titles.

Ivan Fujihara

Chief Financial Officer

Ivan brings 25+ years in senior level management experience from a variety of technology industries.  His background includes accounting management, analytics and audit management for technology companies.  He has worked with companies such as THX, Ltd, Recruitology , Double Click, Creative Labs and more.  Ivan has also served on the board of Lincoln Families, a non-profit that supports East Bay children with the objective of disrupting the cycle of trauma and poverty.

Matt Rulis

Vice President of Sales

Matt is a marketing professional and has been managing marketing strategies, campaigns and environments for a diverse client base for over 15 years. From a service perspective, Matt and his team of Account Executives focus on fostering relationships to uphold a greater than 99% customer satisfaction rating year-over-year. Additionally, with extensive experience on the client-side of the industry, he understands that alignment between expectation and budget is paramount to a successful project. As a result, ProGlobalEvents' clients can expect a competitive advantage paired with top quality products and services. Matt is an avid fly-fisherman, enjoys most outdoor activities and is a true college football fanatic.

Tom Foley

VP of Operations

Heading the fabrication side of ProGlobalEvents is exhibit and event industry veteran, Tom Foley. For over 35 years he has been responsible for building amazing exhibits and environments for clients. Tom started out in the production area and has broad experience in project and operations management. He currently oversees production, warehouse, graphics and project management departments. Tom studied machine tool technology and welding before entering the industry. As a true "builder" he also enjoys restoring and modifying classic American cars.

Dick Wheeler


Dick serves as President of ProGlobalEvents and President of ProExhibits and is a board member of CEMA (Corporate Event Marketing Association). At ProExhibits he has been nationally recognized as an innovator and driving force in the fast-growing trade show exhibit and event industry. Under his leadership in 1997, the firm received INC magazine’s INC 500 award as one of America’s fastest-growing companies. His informative articles on developments and innovations in the trade show exhibit and event industry have appeared in national trade publications. Dick has a B.S. degree from Wittemore School of Business & Economics at the University of New Hampshire and has completed the Entrepreneurial Executive Leadership Program sponsored by MIT, YEO and INC. He is actively involved in Vistage, an interactive group of over 20,000 CEO’s and presidents worldwide and is a member of CEMA and EDPA.

Jody Tatro

Chief Executive Officer

In addition to being CEO of ProGlobalEvents, Jody is also the CEO of ProExhibits. With Jody at the helm, the company has been recognized repeatedly as one of the Top 50 Women Owned Businesses in Silicon Valley. She has set the outstanding client service standards for which the firm’s account management team is noted. Jody is a recipient of the YWCA’s Tribute to Women Award, the Junior League Community Volunteer Award and is listed in Who’s Who of Women in Business. Following her graduation from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, Jody held various sales positions in several technology companies.