What do you look for in a speaker?

As an international keynote business speaker, with over two decades of experience under the belt I’ve seen the good, the bad and the ugly when it comes to speakers.

I thought it would be useful if I shared some of my findings regarding what I believe one should look for in a speaker.

A great speaker is an absolute pleasure to work with. A primadonna is a nightmare. Tweet this!

What they do

  • An expert in their topic – expertise should be proclaimed by others (not by their own marketing)
  • Testimonials – genuine, authenticated testimonials from names you recognise
  • Case Studies – examples of how they have worked and added value to an event
  • Professional – everything from the website and up-to-date showreel to the first contact to the engagement and contracting process should be professional.
  • Clear process – they have an internal process for capturing data, getting briefed, contracting, A/V requirements and so on
  • Clear message and expertise – you want someone who is ‘on message’ talking with confidence and adding value to your audience experience
  • Great credentials – experience, author, academic or business credentials
  • Impeccable social media footprint – on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter as appropriate
  • Can describe expertise in one line – ie is clear about what the subject is and why people should listen
  • Listens – it is vital that the speaker is a great listener as they have to fast-track their understanding and knowledge
  • Understands what is required and why.


How they do what they do

  • Accessible and available – you can reach them and/or their office easily. No games of telephone tag
  • Easy to work with – friendly, relaxed and adaptable. A team player
  • Interested – curious and hungry to understand the scenario, the audience and purpose of the event. Eager to be briefed by the event planner and relevant directors
  • Energetic and enthusiastic – keen to work on the project and with you
  • Generous – with their time, complimentary books, about other people
  • Reliable – 100% dependable. 100% good to their word
  • Consistent – everything from the website, to showreels, to phone calls make you believe that they will deliver
  • Understands their role – recognise that the audience experience is what matters.


On the day

  • Turns up early, leaves late
  • Works well with A/V team and everyone they encounter
  • Belt and braces – backups in place for slides, etc
  • No overt selling or product promotion – unless agreed
  • Behaviour of a trusted professional – can say no more
  • ‘Delivers’ when on stage – no habits of the rank amateur
  • Works to the brief


After the event

  • Checks in for feedback – with event planner and relevant directors
  • Checks on progress – continues to be interested in how the event helped the audience


The word that underpins every single action of the speaker is the simple word, engage. They engage you… their content engages you… you become engaged in what they do. (Thanks to Rob Hook for pointing this out!)

At the end of the day your reputation is on the line when you hire a speaker. Makes sure you hire someone who will do you proud.