Read This Before You Hire Keynote Speakers or other Professional Public Speakers

Are you planning on hiring a keynote speaker for a corporate event, industrywide conference, or executive summit? I’ve scored you some helpful advice for you here, because I know that hiring someone to speak can be disorienting.

It isn’t something most buyers do every day, as the process is for those of us who speak professionally.

(My personal interest in this is pretty direct. I myself serve as the keynote speaker for some 30 corporate and industry events a year, on topics of customer service and company culture, hospitality, entrepreneurial leadership, and the changing expectations of customers, including Millennials.)

The process can be a bit bewildering, and the fear of making mistakes pretty high.

Let’s clear up that bewilderment and reduce the risks of mistakes by checking in with Dr. Nick Morgan, arguably the most prominent coach of professional speakers in the world. Here’s what I asked him, and how he responded.

1. Micah Solomon: What mistakes do meeting planners and talent buyers make regarding keynote speakers?

Dr. Nick Morgan, Professional Speaking Coach:

– Scheduling keynotes during breakfast, lunch, or dinner ”” or right after lunch or dinner. If you’re paying for a keynote, don’t make it compete with food! (or digestion)

–Insisting that speakers modify their graphics to fit a particular event template for all slides. Keynote speakers’ brands should be respected ”” that’s part of what you hire them for.

– Demanding to see the slides ahead of time (the best speakers are tweaking them on the plane until final touchdown) and then distributing those slides to audiences beforehand. Don’t “scoop” your keynotes! Maintain some suspense!

2. Solomon: Can you give me a conference-planning best practice or three?


– Get your keynoters to send in 30 – 60- second video clips beforehand talking up the speech. This helps with internal and external promotion.

– If it’s a lengthy program, add an emcee or host who’s lively and interactive to help the audience through the day, create opportunities for interaction, and ensure that things don’t fall between the cracks. (Note: this is someone other than the keynote speaker, and can sometimes be pulled from your own organization.)

– Build in some breaks. Conferences try to pack too much in, and you’ll accomplish more if you create networking moments besides at lunch or dinner. Don’t offer 6 concurrent sessions; people will just feel paralyzed by the choices, and disappointed at what they miss.

3. Solomon: How should the room be arranged? And does it matter?

Morgan: Round tables (“rounds” in industry parlance) are the most common kind of seating at conferences ”” and the worst for speaking audiences. (An aside from Micah Solomon: The reason you want to avoid seating your audience at round tables is that rounds ensure a lot of the audience has its back to the speaker. Plus, they put distance between people, which can reduce the synergistic effect of humor on a crowd.)

4. Solomon: How far in advance are keynote speakers usually booked? How far in advance should you book them?

Morgan: The norm for booking used to be a year. Now it can be as short as 2-3 months. Buyers will do even better for themselves if they try booking 6 months. This way you can book the best speakers and get the most out of them in terms of promotion and preparation.

5. Solomon: What about keynote speaker fees?

Morgan: For a good speaker who has a book out, 10-15-20K and up. [An aside from Micah Solomon: I myself ask $15K domestically for a keynote speech.] Travel is additional. [Micah: Indeed: Plus travel. I have to get there to speak.] For a New York Times bestselling author, you can expect to pay 40K and up.

Meeting planners tend to try to squeeze the speakers, but it’s a mistake. If you’re running a conference with 500 people, think of what you’re spending on the venue, food and drinks, rooms, etc.: trying to chisel the speaker down is counterproductive.

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“Micah Solomon conveys an up-to-the minute and deeply practical take on customer service, business success, and the twin importance of people and technology.”Steve Wozniak, Apple co-founder

Micah Solomon Ӣ Helping you enchant the customer of today.


Customer service – Company Culture – Loyalty – Leadership

“One of the very few keynote speakers who are enjoyable and informative at the same time.” – Eric Kline, The Payroll Group Conference
“Bring Micah to your organization to hear what he has to say. It will change your business. He has written the book on customer service, literally. ” – Jon Mueller, 800-CEO-READ – Website, blog, and free chapter of Micah’s latest business bestseller, High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service (American Management Association/AMACOM Books)