06 Dec 2021

The difference between a keynote speaker and a guest speaker and what type of speaker does your conference need?

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When planning an event, the line-up of speakers will typically be front of mind for the organiser. Most events feature a variety of speakers with different perspectives, experiences or insights on the event’s theme or topic.


What is a guest speaker?

All event speakers are likely to be guest speakers, with the exception of speakers from the event organiser’s own staff. Many events also feature a keynote speaker, which also falls under the category of guests speaker. A keynote speaker’s address, however, is generally the most important item on the program.

The keynote address typically differs from the usual talk given by guest speakers in several ways: it is longer, it is delivered by someone whose presence at the event is a drawcard for potential attendees, and the keynote address is usually a microcosm of the event’s theme.

Given these speakers form the backbone of your event, choosing an impactful keynote speaker is critical. The perfect keynote speaker will hook your audience in, and their very presence will give your event an extra marketing boost.


Choosing an impactful keynote speaker

It’s also worth considering, when in your program the keynote speaker will deliver their address. You might choose to have the keynote address delivered first thing to set the tone of your event, or you might have it as a focal point in the middle of your program.

As well as being engaging and having a natural stage presence, your keynote speaker should have authority on the subject you’re engaging them to speak on. In some cases, that authority will come from their years of professional experience. In others, it will be through their lived experience.

If you’re considering engaging a keynote speaker for your next event, we’ve put together some helpful hints for how to choose the perfect candidate for this important role. Below you’ll find some ideas for the kinds of keynote speakers you might want to consider for your next event.


Motivating your audience

Here a celebrity speaker or motivational speaker could be a good fit. Ideally, you’d combine celebrity status with motivational experience. While it’s great to have a speaker with name recognition, the content of their talk is what your audience is paying to experience.

Even an A-list celebrity won’t be a good fit if their keynote address leaves your audience wondering what their talk has to do with the event’s theme. For a keynote address, content is king. If you can find a speaker who knows their stuff as well as being a drawcard for your audience based on who they are, that’s the perfect combination.

Browse Motivational SpeakersBrowse Celebrity speakers


Empowering strong mental health

If you’re hosting an event centred around mental health, there are a few options for keynote speakers. You can either choose someone with lived experience; that is someone who has experience dealing with challenging mental health situations themselves.

Alternatively, you could have a mental health expert speak to your audience, but ensure that they are an engaging speaker before you move ahead! Being an expert doesn’t necessarily make someone a good public speaker, and you’ll need a speaker who can do both to capture your audience’s attention.

Browse Mental Health & Wellness speakers


Sports legends & icons

There are many great options for keynote speakers on the topic of sports. Depending on the precise theme of your event, you could invite a former pro athlete to give the keynote address. An alternative could be a commentator, broadcaster, coach or trainer.

Your ideal keynote speaker will be someone who has real insight into what it takes to excel in the sporting world, who can bring your audience a taste of the drive and dedication required to make it in this highly competitive arena.

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Building Diversity and inclusion

When hosting an event on diversity and inclusion, it’s more important than ever that you don’t just talk the talk. Ensure your guest speakers are a mix of people with lived experience in this area.
Your keynote speaker should be someone whose authority comes not just from an academic or professional background, but who has real, lived experience in the diversity and inclusion space.

Browse Diversity and Inclusion speakers


Business experts

Business is such a broad topic that the pool of potential keynote speakers is huge. Depending on the angle of your event, a successful entrepreneur could leave your audience feeling both informed and inspired, as could a chairperson or chief executive officer.

Alternatively, a small business owner might give your audience more insight into the nitty-gritty of running a business. Your options here are broad, limited only by what it is you want to convey to your audience.

Browse Business speakers


Titans of successful Leadership

Another broad category for which the pool of potential keynote speakers is almost endless. Depending on the exact nature of your event and your target audience, a leadership event could benefit from a keynote speaker who operates outside of a classic leadership position.

Instead, you could consider a community leader, or people taking on a leadership capacity in a voluntary role. This depends on what kind of leadership your event is about.

Browse Leadership speakers


So, while all keynote speakers are guest speakers, not all guest speakers are keynote speakers. All your guest speakers are critical to your event’s success, but none more so than the keynote.

At ICMI we have a wide range of speakers with expertise in all of these areas and more. Contact us today to book the perfect keynote speaker for your next event.

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