Are You Finding the Best Keynote Speakers for Your Events?

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You Invest a Great Deal of Time and Energy in Professional Speaker Selection

Professional meeting and event planners and others who hire professional keynote speakers, many of whom are CMP’s (Certified Meeting Professional), invest a large component of their time in search of finding, hiring and working with the very best professional keynote speakers. These speakers run the gamut of business subject matter content experts to celebrities, pundits, former sports stars and high energy audience motivators…but all have one essential attribute in common, that their participation in your event, meeting, conference or convention should result in your attendees wanting to come back again and again.

Elite Meetings Speaker

Today, more varieties of professional keynote speakers are available to meeting professionals than ever before and the range of fees they command are similarly broad. There are those who speak for an honorarium, typically in the $2,500 and below range. These may include academics as well as professional speakers addressing not-for-profit audiences who cannot afford their normal corporate or business association fees. Then there are speakers who are just beginning their careers, who are simply seeking experience in speaking before a live audience, market exposure, testimonials for use in gaining future engagements and also, the harsh reality of needing cash flow just to survive. Fees for this group of speakers are generally below $5,000. And lastly, seasoned professional keynote speakers who earn their living, or at least a part of it, from highly paid speaking engagements. This latter group’s fees typically range from $7,500 to $50,000 or more.

The real question those responsible for hiring professional keynote speakers need to ask them self is first, are you finding the very best speakers for your events? And secondly, are you maximizing the investment your organization is making in them?

The Power of WOW & the Even Greater Danger

Rousing, high energy name recognition motivational keynote speakers who deliver a high ‘WOW’ factor can add excitement to your meeting or event. They can be powerful motivators for the moment, however, such highly emotional ‘motivation’ rarely lasts beyond the day. Within a week, it has typically has worn off.

The problem with the high ‘WOW’ motivational speakers is that they relate almost exclusively to the audience on the emotional level. Their extreme experience, exciting adventure, great sports victories…provide little that audiences can personally apply to their own lives and work. ‘Overcoming’ is a popular theme of these motivational speakers. But overcoming what? And how does it apply, if at all, to the individuals in your audience?

I am not in any way against motivational keynotes, as all keynote presentations should be designed to motivate the audience to take specific actions. However, in order to effect a lasting change in the audience’s behavior, motivational keynotes need to meet three criteria. First, it must incorporate usable content and insights gained from the speaker’s own firsthand, real world experience, not something he or she read in book or gleaned from someone else. Secondly, real world learning needs to take place, that is, the content must be highly applicable to the attendees at the present time. And lastly, to have an enduring impact on the audience, it must be delivered in a way that provides a direct application to the meeting attendees’ specific needs. The vast majority of keynotes are either ‘stock’ or ‘customized,’ the latter meaning they have been slightly altered by the speaker to include a few details specific to the company or industry, but in actuality are not in any way uniquely designed to address the needs of that specific audience.

DE-MOTIVATION - Half Empty Leaking Glass

The Risk of De-Motivation

When these three requirements are not met, the high energy WOW motivation can quickly become de-motivational, if the attendee can’t bridge the gap between their own life and that which the speaker portrays. If this great athlete, celebrity, hero…speaker accomplished something so amazing and I view myself as not having any outstanding special talent, then I must be just a schmuck who has never and will never accomplish anything fantastic. How de-motivational is that?

Therein lies the danger! The audience may be mesmerized by the motivational speaker’s stories of extraordinary experiences or accomplishments, but when they get back to work, they are still the same person they were beforehand. When they look in the mirror they are much more likely to see failure, not great success.

However, when high take-away value content and perceptive insights are the focus, then the audience is equipped to function with a new perspective and capabilities. When that attendee returns to work they have been empowered by the combination of content and insights coupled with motivation. Truly a winning combination! They are able to do something, to actually make a difference and that sustains motivation. Give someone a new skill or capability, then motivate them to put it to use and you have a formula for success. It’s the old adage of teaching someone how to fish and they can feed them self for the rest of their life. Events that accomplish this will long be remembered and valued by your attendees and they will want to keep returning to your future meetings and conferences.

How Do You Gauge Keynote Speaker Success?

Some meetings professionals gauge the success of their events by whether the speaker(s) receive a standing ovation. That is their prime measure of meeting success. However, often the most effective professional keynote speaker may leave the audience deep in thought or feeling uncomfortable, having been challenged to think and act differently than the norm. Provocative keynote speakers typically deliver much greater lasting value than those who merely entertain and emotionally motivate. Sometimes muted applause or even silence, is a better indication that the keynote speaker you selected has had a powerful and lasting impact upon your audience.

John Di Frances Speaking on Open Innovation Leadership

I remember one instance when following a keynote, the CEO of a company came to me and said that immediately following my presentation he had gone to his room, called his office and countermanded a financial directive he had given the previous day. Why? Because he had been convicted by something I said, that his prior instruction was unethical. To me this meant far more than any standing ovation ever could!

Finding the Best Keynote Speakers for Your Events Can Make All the Difference in Your Event Outcome

Today’s business climate is rapidly changing, highly competitive and ultra demanding of individuals’ time, talents and energies. A big dose of ‘Feel Good’ may indeed feel good for the moment, but it’s effect also wears off very quickly. Professional keynote speakers who have deep knowledge and experience which they know how to effectively communicate through word and application, will add far greater lasting benefit to your audience.

by John Di Frances

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