What Professional Speakers Want To Tell You In Private (Before They Speak In Public For Your Event)

If you’re thinking of hiring keynote speakers or other professional speakers, if you’re selecting one right now, if you’re an event planner, if you’re preparing for an upcoming occasion and want to get the best results, even if you’re simply an audience member, I’m hoping to give you a little insight here from my perspective on the podium as a professional keynote speaker. (I speak at about 35 business events and conferences each year, around the U.S. and the world.)

After I offer my thoughts, communications expert Dr. Nick Morgan provides additional pointers to round out this article from a truly expert perspective.

1 A keynote speech is a distillation, sort of a highlights reel. If we’re good, we’ll be sure to get in the most important, most inspiring, most change-provoking items, but there’s still a lot of detail that’s inevitably left unsaid in the time available. If you want more, we’re here to help (most of us are, anyway).


-Email us after the show and we’ll likely be happy to expand our discussion of a particular topic


– Read our books. In fact”¦

2 One of the best ways to ensure the keynote speaker’s message lasts within your organization is to consider purchasing books for everyone in your audience. Heavens, yes, of course we will sign them. Even though we make an absurdly small amount of money from book sales, books are important ambassadors for our message and insight.

3 We may be happy to help you with promotion ahead of time. It’s quite possible, actually, that we are better at promotion than you are. And by helping promote the event (brief teaser webinars, mentioning you in tweets, and more creative ideas even) we keep our promotional chops fresh.

4 You probably don’t need to see our slides ahead of time. Micro-analyzing our slide deck is counterproductive. For one thing, the greatest speakers have the most obscure slides. Consider Seth Godin’s slides without Seth. They would make no sense. The reason this is is true is that good speakers don’t have much text on their slides. No bullet point after bullet point.

–In other words–

5 You hire us because we aren’t boring. We don’t do our presentations the way you would do them. And that is the point. As the first CEO who hired me (you know who you are –thank you!-) told me, “I have plenty of employees who can go up there and be boring. I have you as the keynote because you’re not.” And part of that “not boring” is the part that doesn’t translate to paper.

By the way:

6 We’re pretty sure you can afford our fee. A good keynote speaker costs less than the bagel platters you paid the convention hall to put out. (And is probably less stale.)

7 We also know there are exceptions to this “you can afford our fee” generalization, and we may be happy to help. If you’re Operation Smile, if it’s a very small audience, if you’re in Bora Bora, if you’re our kid’s school. You get the idea.


Professional communications specialist (which means he coaches professional speakers, CEOs, and all sorts of other people, out in the real world, at Harvard, and in his renowned books) Dr. Nick Morgan was kind enough to add the following points for this article:8

Some speakers get a great deal of energy from mixing with the audience in some way before the speech. Other speakers need the quiet of the green room to prepare. Either answer works; be prepared to work with your speaker to make it happen. (Micah returns with this comment: It sounds improbable, but quite a few professional speakers are actually introverts, changing from wallflowers to life of the party the moment we step up onto that podium.)

9 For best results, plan spend an hour on the phone before the speech with your speaker so that he/she can ask questions about the audience. For even better results, put the speaker in touch with a small group of potential audience members to have that discussion. That way, you can get some perspectives besides your own “inside” one. Your speaker will learn something; you might even learn something.

10 Don’t insist on slides, just because every other speaker you’ve worked with has them. Some of the most notable speakers never use them – Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, you get the idea.

11 Insisting on re-branding the speaker’s slides to match your company’s is just tacky. Your speaker has his/her own brand, and part of the experience that you’re paying for is to get someone outside of the company to speak to your employees. Don’t re-brand them to be insiders; the result is at least inconsistent and sometimes incoherent.

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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.


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“One of the very few keynote speakers who are enjoyable and informative at the same time.” – Eric Kline, The Payroll Group Conference
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