15 invaluable traits of top keynote speakers that engage audiences

When it comes to finding the best keynote speaker for your conference or event, it can feel impossible.

You have a dozen other obligations you need to take care of right now, but you still need to scour the internet for a keynote speaker that fits your event theme and message.

You may spend an hour or two searching through YouTube or typing “leadership speaker” into Google.

You may decide to work with a speakers agency to delegate the task of finding your event a speaker.

The question then becomes: how do you know if a speaker is any good if you’ve never booked them before?

15 Invaluable Traits of Top Keynote Speakers

What you’ll find in this article is X invaluable traits you ought to look for in your speakers before you book them.

#1. Understand the Conference

First and foremost, you want to make sure the speakers you’ve chosen to potentially book grasp the theme and message fueling your conference.

You wouldn’t want to bring on a keynote speaker who is there to simply sell themselves to the audience.

You want a speaker that will engage the audience, impact their lives, and motivate them to take action.

#2. Understand the Audience

A great keynote speaker will work closely with you to better understand the audience. This means pouring over any information like psychographics and demographics to really dial in the speech to fit their needs as a whole.

If a speaker comes in at too high of a level, the audience gets confused.

If a speaker comes in at too low of a level, the audience gets bored.

You want a speaker who will work to connect with the audience, build rapport, and make a difference in their lives.

#3. Uses Humor

Great speakers know how to utilize humor at just the right moment.

What’s more, the top keynote speakers understand points number one and two so well that they can align their humor to reel the audience.

An ill-timed joke can be deadly.

However, well-timed humor can be the difference between audience attendance and audience engagement.

#4. Keep It Simple

Have you ever sat through a board meeting where the 172-slide presentation had three novels worth of information in it? It’s an absolutely mood killer.

Keynote speakers understand it’s their job to keep their audience’s attention from moment to moment. This means that props, complicated slides, and moving parts tend to dull the presentation too much.

Granted, there are some exceptions to this rule, but you want the speaker who can build off the first three points and really drive the message home while keeping the experience simple and impactful.

#5. Pace the Presentation

One monotone voice that speaks eventually gets ignored.

You want a keynote speaker that paces their presentation in different ways.

For example, when it’s time to be excited, the speaker may get a little louder and make more bodily movements. When it’s time to focus and pay attention, the speaker may slow their speaking pace so that the audience can follow along closely.

You want a speaker who gets why pacing is so important to keep the audience hooked from the intro to the Q & A.

#6. Personalize the Speech

A sure way to connect with an audience is to share personal stories that relate to the theme and message of the speech.

Those in the audience simply want to know that they speaker is one of them.

Great keynote speakers know how to personalize their speech and align it with your audience so that you can give your audience maximum impact.

#7. Deliver Practical, Actionable Information

The goal is to book a keynote speaker that impacts your audience.

What better way to make a difference in people’s lives than to give them practical, actionable knowledge they can use as soon as they leave the talk, get back to their lives, or return to the office?

For most, they run a portion of their business from their phones. What if your audience could put into play the practical advice that your keynote speaker gave them only minutes prior?

True impact is helping people get results in their lives, business, and/or careers.

#8. Leverage Their Experience

The keynote speakers who have been in the trenches with or alongside like those in your audience are much more valuable to the audience.

A speaker discussing leadership from the perspective of being a leader in business at some point is a huge connection point.

Look for speakers who have wide industry or life experience that they can use to connect, engage, and impact you audience.

#9. Offer a Unique Message

A unique message that aligns with the theme of your conference is a gold mine.

Keynote speakers who have career experience, a major life event, or both can be an extremely valuable asset to your audience.

You want a speaker that can deliver a message that’s not been heard anywhere else, and deliver practical, actionable information that has not been shared anywhere else.

You may think that everything under the sun has been shared before, but how the speaker shares the content is what connects with audiences.

Look for a keynote speaker that can share their message in a unique, entertaining way.

#10. Provides Follow-Up Information

Want your audience to rave about your conference for months after it’s over? Find a keynote speaker that offers follow-up content to their speech.

Lessons, strategies, tactics, and stories can all be shared in less than most 60 minute keynotes. However, those that provide post-speech material, information, and opportunities tend to get higher engagement ratings than those who do not.

What’s more, your conference will be tied to those who do follow-up with the speaker, which adds even more social proof that you deliver impactful experiences as an organizer.

#11. Combine Presentation and Facilitation

For most speakers, an entertaining presentation is enough to make a mark on a person’s life.

Do you know what makes a keynote speaker really special?

A speaker who can keep the attention of the audience and facilitate an ongoing discussion.

A speaker who can do both is powerful and impactful.

#12. Welcomes Questions

Most speakers have a script, outline, or flow to their presentation. However, some speakers dread the idea of answering questions around the topic of their speech.

If you want to truly engage your audience, find a keynote speaker that welcomes questions.

Whether you offer a Q & A session after the talk or not, it’s engaging to have a speaker who is open to the idea of having public conversations with your audience.

Not only does this increase the chance of engagement, but it improves the opportunity for audience impact.

#13. Focuses on the Sharing

Unless you have agreements to allow your speakers to sell from the stage, you want to find a keynote speaker who is focused on sharing their story, message, or advice without putting pressure on your audience to buy anything.

A sales pitch in the middle of a keynote speech can be jarring for the audience; it can pull them out of the experience and prompt them to put up some walls.

You want your audience fully engaged, not defending from a potential sales pitch.

#14. Tells a Story

A straight info dump can be helpful, but you want your audience to connect with your keynote speaker.

The oldest connection tool in human history is story.

A speaker with a unique story that can lend itself to the theme and message of your conference is a beautiful thing.

Find a keynote speaker that has a story to tell, and then see if that story fits your conference and audience.

#15. Adapts to the Audience

A great keynote speaker will adapt their message or story to fit the audience.

This doesn’t mean they tell their story differently, but this does mean they can align the meaning of their story to fit what may resonate with the audience.

For example, a woman who survived a Bosnian civil war and fought alongside 60,000 people for survival can lend her story to leadership, motivation, survival, perseverance, and more.

Find speakers that can adapt their story to fit the audience.


Here are the 15 invaluable traits that you can start searching for in your speakers:

  1. Understand the Conference
  2. Understand the Audience
  3. Uses Humor
  4. Keep It Simple
  5. Pace the Presentation
  6. Personalize the Speech
  7. Deliver Practical, Actionable Information
  8. Leverage Their Experience
  9. Offer a Unique Message
  10. Provides Follow-Up Information
  11. Combine Presentation and Facilitation
  12. Welcomes Questions
  13. Focuses on the Sharing
  14. Tells a Story
  15. Adapts to the Audience

Are you ready to book a speaker for your next event? Platinum Speakers Agency is here to help you find the best speaker. Contact us today to start the conversation, or take a look at our roster of speakers.

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