21 Feb 2024

Keynote Speaker vs Guest Speaker: What’s the Difference?

Keynote Speaker VS Guest Speaker

When planning a conference style event, considering your lineup of keynote and speakers is one of the most important jobs as an organiser. At ICMI, our roster includes a range of highly experienced and reputable keynote speakers and guest speakers capable of elevating your next event into an engaging and memorable experience. 

Below, we look at the difference between a keynote speaker and guest speaker and how to find the right fit for your event.


Comparing a Keynote vs Guest Speaker


Depending on the event, you may have a combination of speakers from your own staff along with guest speakers and a keynote speaker. While your keynote speaker is also most likely to be a guest speaker, the distinction is that the keynote speaker’s address is typically the highlight of the program. 

The keynote speaker is generally someone whose involvement at the event is a drawcard for attendees. This may be due to notoriety or celebrity status or due to their experience or expertise in the relevant industry or theme of the event. 

Keynote speakers are responsible for setting the tone of the event and usually speak at the start following an introduction or opening address. Guest speakers, on the other hand, generally play more of a supporting role. For example, they might focus on a particular subtopic or be there to break up more serious segments of an event.


What is the Role of a Keynote Speaker?


The keynote speaker is essentially the lead speaker for your event. Sometimes, there can be two keynote speakers, one at the start and another at the end. Most events opt for a single keynote speech towards the beginning of the event to set the tone for the rest of the proceedings. 

They may do this in a number of ways depending on the event, the individual and their presentation style. They may opt for a motivational or inspirational tone, a storytelling approach, a theatrical performance or any combination of the above. 


What is a Keynote Speech?


The keynote speech is generally the longest presentation but the exact content varies depending on the event. An industry-specific conference, for example, may include a state-of-the-industry style speech that focuses on relevant industry news, product developments, trends, shifts and innovations. 

Other events may be focused on a particular theme or subject matter, such as mental health, diversity and inclusion, entrepreneurship, customer service or female leaders in business. In these cases, the keynote speaker will often share their own relevant stories and experiences while tying it into any overt or subtle messaging for that particular event. 


What About a Master of Ceremonies?


The Master of Ceremonies (MC) may also be a guest speaker but their role is to host the event rather than provide any long form speeches. Instead, their role is to introduce speakers, guests, panels and entertainers while facilitating a consistent and appropriate tone for your event, whether formal or humorous.


Tips for Choosing the Right Keynote Speaker


Since the keynote speaker is often the headlining attraction for your event, choosing an impactful speaker is key. The perfect keynote speaker is there to hook your audience, create anticipation for the rest of the proceedings while providing a marketing boost to the event itself. 

While some organisers may provide a brief for what they are looking for in the keynote, many reputable keynote speakers take their own approach, especially if their goal is to be motivational, moving or inspiring. After all, keynote speakers are usually chosen because of their high level of visibility in the industry or subject matter and ability to offer a unique level of expertise. This gives them the authority to provide insight while approaching the keynote with their own style and flair.


Who are Some of Australia’s Top Motivational Keynote Speakers?


Organisers looking to create excitement about their event often look into hiring a top motivational speaker or celebrity keynote speakers. Remember that while it’s great to have a speaker with name recognition, the content of their talk is what matters most. 

An A-list celebrity or top motivational speaker may not be the best fit if their keynote speech leaves audiences wondering what their presentation has to do with the event theme. The goal is finding a speaker who knows their stuff while being a drawcard for your audience based on who they are. Explore our expansive roster of keynote speakers here.


Interested in booking one of our speakers? Call us now on 1800 334 625 or make an enquiry online.



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