Within the events industry, speaking professionals generally fall into two categories: keynote speakers or, simply, guest speakers. Although we’ve broken down the differences between these two roles in the past – and each undoubtedly has its merits in the speaking space – one thing we haven’t touched on in detail is how to become a keynote speaker.
To put it plainly, keynote speakers are often considered the “cream of the crop” among speakers. When event organizers are considering keynote speakers, they usually look for someone with experience and a solid reputation. They can also tend to be exceptionally particular, as the keynote speaker sets the tone for their entire event and, consequently, has to be skilled in speaking on top of their primary area of expertise.
On the flip side, this also enables the speaker to charge a higher fee. After all, in speaking like most professions, you pay for what you get, and the most renowned speakers don’t work for free. This leads many aspiring speakers to ask the question “How do I become a keynote speaker as quickly and efficiently as possible?”
In this guide, we’ll tackle that topic thoroughly and break down the basics of keynote speaking. We’ll also break down five ways for you to become a keynote speaker. That way, you can leave this article knowing exactly how to move forward. 👍
What is a keynote speaker?
Before we jump into how to become a keynote speaker, what exactly do keynote speakers do? Essentially, keynote speakers are intended to be the most impactful speakers for an event. Although events can feature more than one keynote speaker, many only opt for a single speaker to kick off the festivities in style.
In this case, the job of a keynote speaker is to:
- Explain: As I mentioned before, keynote speeches set the tone for the rest of the event. This means that, as a keynote speaker, your first job is to explain what the event is all about and what the audience will gain (and/or how they will feel) by the time it’s over.
- Excite: The second job of a keynote speaker is to get the audience excited about upcoming speeches, activities, and networking opportunities. Ideally, by the end of a keynote, the audience should be as pumped about the event as the speaker is.
- Empower: Finally, after a keynote speech, event attendees should feel empowered to tackle the theme of the event with confidence. If the event is about sales, for instance, they should be confident that, through this event, their sales skills will grow.
Does the keynote speaker speak first or last?
In addition to the opening keynote speaker, some events also feature a closing keynote. For these events, the closing keynote is intended to solidify the theme of the event and inspire audience members to act on what they’ve learned. For large events with many speakers, a closing keynote also allows the speaker responsible to unify the event, as a whole. That way, attendees leave with a concrete understanding of the event’s overarching message, even if the variety of speakers diluted that message at times.
How long does a keynote speaker speak?
Moving on from the “what” of keynoting, the second piece of how to become a keynote speaker is the speech itself. Compared to information-based speaking presentations, keynote speeches tend to be much shorter with the average keynote clocking in at about 20 minutes.
That said, depending on the audience in question, the exact length of a keynote can vary. In some cases, more information has to be shared in order to effectively start the event, resulting in a speech closer to 45 minutes. In others, the keynote is primary about creating an enthusiastic audience, in which case keeping it short and sweet can be more impactful.
When in doubt – and especially if you’re a new keynote speaker – touch base with the event organizer when planning your keynote. What are their goals from the keynote and the event, as a whole? Do they already have a time limit in mind? Make it about them first, and your keynote will be sure to succeed.
What is the average keynote speaking fee?
The final component to touch on before diving into how to become a keynote speaker is money. In other words, how much does the average keynote speaker make? Overall, even among qualified speakers, the range of keynote fees is massive. In fact, while some speakers may charge only $1000 per keynote, others may charge upwards of $20,000. Crazy, right?
To determine your keynote speaking fee, start with your experience, both in speaking and in your field. Below are some common fee ranges and what generally qualifies speakers within each range.
- $500 – $1,000: New, part-time speakers with little experience; usually have no official brand
- $1,000 – $5,000: Speakers with growing experience and branding; usually part-time but have an up-and-coming speaking business
- $5,000 – $10,000: Intermediate speakers who have a growing brand and business; usually full-time speakers (or close to it)
- $10,000 – $15,000: Intermediate full-time speakers who have a solid brand and business; usually just working on expanding their client list and reputation
- $15,000 – $20,000: Advanced, full-time speakers with extensive experience; have a rock-solid brand with predictable revenue each month and a glowing reputation
- $20,000+: Advanced full-time speakers with extensive experience, products, and services; also includes celebrity speakers
For each of these ranges, keep in mind that these are only examples. Part of selling your services as a professional speaker is knowing your worth and arguing for it. With that in mind, if you fall one of the above ranges now but want to jump to the next level, don’t solely focus on your level of experience (although that’s important). Pay attention to your mindset, too, and on improving your sales skills. That way, you can present your services and/or products with confidence and command the fees you deserve.
How to Become a Keynote Speaker
Now that we covered the basics of keynote speaking, let’s talk about how to become a keynote speaker. Whether you’re currently a professional speaker or not, becoming a keynote speaker is largely about building. This includes building your speaking business, your reputation, your additional product and service offerings, and your list of noteworthy accomplishments and clients.
Additionally, it’s about mastering your speaking brand and solidifying your approach to both speaking and your primary message. Below are five key ways to do this, regardless of your experience so far.
Master your speaking skills.
The first step of how to become a keynote speaker is simple: master the “speaking” part! We’ve all sat through presentations in which it was clear the speaker didn’t want to be there. Maybe they were nervous about speaking in front of others. Maybe they didn’t know the audience well and struggled to connect with them. Or, worst of all, maybe they didn’t have a firm grasp of their material and weren’t able to effectively communicate the topic of their talk.
Obviously, these explanations are part of the worst-case scenario. However, if you want to be a keynote speaker, you have to be sure you can avoid all of them. That means practicing your material ahead of time and making sure you know it backward and forward.
It also means that you must – and I mean must – nail down the best practices of public speaking. From your cadence to your tone to your movement across the stage, you should be confident in how each tenant of your speech communicates your message. Below are a few speaking resources to help you get started:
- “How To Overcome Your Fear Of Public Speaking In 8 Steps” from SpeakerFlow
- “7 Tips On How To Practice Public Speaking: The Beginner’s Guide” from SpeakerFlow
- “12 Tips For Public Speaking” from Forbes
Refine your focus – and your content – to a few industries.
Second, if you want to become a successful keynote speaker, narrow your focus. Among the SpeakerFlow team, one of the sayings we mention most to clients is “niches lead to riches.” In other words, the more specific your focus, the better you can tailor your speaking programs, products, and services to fit people within that niche. From there, when you speak to event planners in that niche, they’ll hire you almost immediately because your content is already designed for them. It’s a win, win!
From a personal standpoint, narrowing your focus to a few key industries also removes the stress of trying to sell to a dozen different people at the same time. As an entrepreneur, you have enough going on. Shouldn’t knowing your niche be one thing you don’t have to worry about constantly? We definitely think so.
To refine your area of focus, if you haven’t already, ask yourself the following questions. Then, based on your answers, structure your programs and content accordingly. All should demonstrate, “I understand the problems you’re facing in this niche, and I can help you solve them.”
- In what industries do I already have personal and professional experience?
- What message am I most passionate about sharing? Which industries, job positions, or groups can benefit from hearing that message?
- Looking at my past clients, are there any industries I’ve overlooked that are already hiring me?
Expand your personal brand.
The third step of how to become a keynote speaker is, as I mentioned above, building your speaking brand. Besides “niches lead to riches,” another thing you’ll hear me and my colleagues say is “You’re an expert first and a speaker second.” This means that, rather than positioning yourself solely as a valuable speaker, present yourself as a thought leader.
To put it another way, everything about your brand should focus on your expertise. For example, instead of saying you’re an impactful keynote speaker, explain what message you share. Then, add “through compelling keynotes.” Kindra Hall does this well on her website where she mentions, “Capture Attention, Close Sales, Increase Influence Through the Art of Strategic Storytelling.”
Another simple adjustment might be your title, where instead of saying “keynote speaker,” you can say “[Your Area of Expertise] Expert & Keynote Speaker.” A real-world example of this can be seen on the social media profiles of Brittany Hodak, who describes herself as a “Keynote Speaker & Superfan Strategist.”
In both of these instances, the speakers in question definitely mention their speaking services. But, more importantly, they position themselves as experts in their respective fields. This makes their speaking all the more desirable and their fees all the more justified. By positioning your speaking brand – including your website, social profiles, program descriptions, and sales language – in the same way, you can achieve the same outcome.
Establish your authority in your niche.
The fourth step of how to become a keynote speaker is building your credibility and authority in your focus industry(ies). You may already have extensive professional and personal experience in your niche. However, that experience may not be immediately visible online. This makes it difficult for event organizers to see evidence of your skills and, by extension, justify the costs of hiring you.
For example, my mother has been a practicing veterinarian and veterinary educator for over 30 years. In that time, she’s received countless awards, including ones from the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Society for Theriogenology, and the American College of Theriogenologists. Yet, if she wanted to launch a speaking career, none of this experience is immediately visible online. Consequently, even though she’s highly qualified, event planners wouldn’t be able to find her!
To avoid this in your own speaking business – especially if you already have a lot of experience – broaden your collaboration efforts within your niche. Reach out to other industry professionals and ask to contribute to their content. It can be a guest blog post, an appearance on their podcast, or a video for their social media channels.
Whatever your preferred content channel, the goals are to (A) show that you’re an expert and (B) demonstrate your dedication to your niche. In the long run, the more guidance and content you’ve shared to help improve it, the more event planners will find you organically. Don’t let your experience and your knowledge go to waste when it could get you hired.
Sell, sell, sell.
Finally, the last and most time-consuming step to becoming a keynote speaker is selling. The cliche “practice makes perfect” might be overused, but in the case of speaker sales, it’s undeniably true.
If you’re not yet confident in your speaking fees, for example, you likely just need practice arguing for them. If you’re consistently underselling yourself and not earning the fees you deserve, you probably need to practice and, in doing so, build confidence enough to defend yourself when event organizers try to talk down your fees. Most importantly, if you’re unsure how to articulate your value, you absolutely need to practice. I promise, the more you repeat your value proposition, the more you’ll believe it yourself, and the more easily you’ll be able to convey that value to others.
Ultimately, learning how to become a keynote speaker is a long road. Depending on your speaking experience – and your experience in your focus industry(ies) – you may already be well on your way! Regardless, I hope this guide helps you speed up the process and achieve your goal of becoming a keynote speaker in the near future.
For more detailed steps to keynote speaking, check out our previous guide, “13 Tips On How To Become A Keynote Speaker.”
Additionally, for niche-specific speaking guides, see the following resources or shoot us an email at [email protected].