How To Avoid Hiring A Bad Guest Speaker

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Even if every other element of your event is planned out flawlessly, a bad keynote speaker could ruin the whole experience for your attendees. Maybe their delivery is boring as watching paint dry. Maybe they’re shamelessly plugging a business or brand the audience doesn’t care about, or peppering their presentation with awful-poorly designed slides. Maybe they’re late – or don’t show up at all.

Regardless of why, a guest speaker who isn’t good at their job can become a dark, foreboding cloud over an otherwise fantastic event. It goes without saying that you want to do everything you can to avoid hiring a sub-par speaker. To that end, here are a few questions you should ask.

I would also suggest reading my piece on dealing with guest speakers for a few tips on how to relate to a speaker once you do decide to hire them.

What Are The Objectives Of The Speech?

First and most importantly, what sort of mood do you want the speaker to bring about in their audience? Are they to be motivated? Inspired? Fascinated? Do you need an expert who can provide them with specific knowledge or one who can persuade them to take a particular course of action? Maybe none of that matters – maybe you just want your audience to be entertained.

Whatever you’re looking for, the objective of a keynote will inform who you hire to present it. A comedian might be fantastic guest speaker if you’re looking to keep them entertained, but don’t hire them to carry out a seminar on the security vulnerabilities of MySQL.

(See: What the Late Steve Jobs Can Teach Us About Guest Speaking)

Who Is The Speech For?

Equally as important as your objective for the speaker is who that speaker is presenting to. You need to hire someone who is appropriate for the people attending your event, meaning it’s effectively impossible to hire a guest speaker if you don’t know the demographic details of your attendees. Failure to consider this point could lead to an otherwise-qualified speaker coming across as offensive, boring, or ignorant.

Who Is The Speaker?

Before you even think about contacting a speaker, you need to do a background check on them. Who are they? Do they have a history with events in your industry? Are they a member of any professional organizations within your field, or a known and published authority? Whenever you’re considering a speaker for your event, you must first search for them online, with particular attention given to seeking out negative reviews.

Is The Speaker Engaging?

Not every industry authority is made for public speaking. Even if a speaker seems great on paper, I’d recommend meeting them before making your final decision. If they come across as awkward or strange in person, then they probably won’t do particularly well on-stage. They need to be charismatic, or it simply won’t work.

After all, even the most knowledgeable man or woman in the world can come across as a complete rube if they’ve no idea how to present their knowledge.

Are They Available?

Lastly, make sure the speaker’s available to speak on the day you want to schedule them. It’s a simple yet important detail, and one which is too-often overlooked. It’s no good finding a great speaker if they can’t attend your event, after all.