The most traditional way speakers build their platform (their reach, online and face-to-face presence, following, and sphere of influence) is through keynote speaking.

The term ‘keynote’ has evolved over the last few centuries. It originally referred to the first note of a musical key, which was a note sounded at the beginning of a performance to set the proper tone for the performers – as well as give the audience a taste of what the prevailing tone would be throughout the performance, leading to a similar theme to be resolved at the end.

Today, in a similar way, the Keynote is a developed talk, speech, or address that is centered on and tailored to a basic underlying theme dictated by those organizing the conference / convention / exposition / etcetera. The keynote is designed to set the stage for upcoming talks, close out an event or series of talks, or segue into some kind of break or format change.

Your keynote is typically a story-based presentation with strong action items to share based on your area of expertise and life experiences. The more dynamic, engaging, entertaining, impactful, inspirational, motivating, memorable, and polished your keynote is, the more you will get asked to speak, and the more you will get paid to do it.

How do you develop your keynote, and then get seen by those who book keynote speakers?

The most common people who will book a keynote speaker are Meeting Planners, Corporate Event Coordinators, General Event Planners, and Conference Organizers. Sometimes they will do a general Google search to begin their hunt for a qualified keynote speaker, but many times they will turn to speaker’s bureaus who have already vetted their speakers and categorized them into easy-to-find segments for those looking to book a speaker.

However, to get found, booked, and paid, you have to have a solid reputation as a speaker, and have some type of online presence showing your best work. At bare minimum, you need a website that has pictures – and a preview video – of you speaking on stage, so that the booking agents can get a taste of who you are and what you can do for them.

Here are some ideas to get you started as a speaker, so you can build your platform as well as the credibility you need to become a highly paid keynote speaker:

  • Begin working locally and independently by contacting rotary clubs, Meet Up groups (, associations, chambers of commerce, and anywhere that has regular weekly or monthly meetings in which a speaker is given time to present their talk (with the talk being anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes long). These will not be paid engagements. Give your talk, evaluate yourself, practice, and update your talk and performance each time.
  • Join your local Toastmasters group to begin polishing your presentation with group insight and feedback.
  • Practice, practice, practice. Video yourself giving your talk, review it, and continue to improve your stage presence, your tie-ins, action points, stories, etc.
  • While you are improving your keynote presentation, continue building your online presence through content – like articles, blogs, assessments, and special reports, or like writing a book or series of books that you will then have available once you start keynote speaking on bigger stages to larger audiences.

It is important to TRACK and get copies of meeting agendas that will list your name, as well as a list of those in attendance if you can. This is because you will need proof of your speaker experience when you are ready to submit your speaking resume & video to a speaker’s bureau.

What types of events book keynote speakers, and who typically hires them?

Any organized event that gathers a group of people together for a common cause or theme will typically hire a keynote speaker. This includes Conventions, Conferences, Expositions and Events as such (but not limited to):

  • Political Conventions
  • Industrial and Trade Organizations
  • Open Training Events for Human Resources, Executives, Management, Project Managers, etc. for multiple organizations to attend
  • Closed Corporate events tailored for their organization
  • Network Marketing Events
  • Conferences for Entrepreneurs
  • Self-Help, Motivational, and Inspirational Events
  • Faith-Based Conferences
  • Academic Conventions
  • Topical Events like Home Improvement, Healthy Living, and Entertainment
  • Commencement Ceremonies

Developing your Keynote is only half the battle. You also have to know how to get seen by those who do the actual booking of speakers for keynotes.

Here are some tips for connecting with people who can get you booked:

  • Generally, the people who book keynote speaker are Meeting Planners, Corporate Event Coordinators, General Event Planners, and Conference Organizers. Knowing WHO they are will make them easier to find. (BIG TIPUse LinkedIn to reach out and make a personal connection with them!)
  • Locate Meeting Planner and Event Coordinator groups that meet together (either in online social media groups or physical local groups) to network, and get industry tips ( is a good resource for this!).
  • Work on your Google search rankings by implementing a Domain Keyword Strategy, in conjunction with your Digital Website Strategy to provide value and produce leads.
  • Research Speakers Bureaus (like the National Speakers Association) and get familiar with their criteria so you will know if and when you are eligible. Also check to see if they represent the same caliber of people you are looking to be associated with, and book the kind of speaking engagements you want to capture. Many meeting planners use Speakers Bureaus because they have already vetted their speakers and categorized them into easy-to-find segments (like Comedian, Inspirational, Leadership, Sales, etc.) for those looking to book a speaker.
  • Research Booking Websites for speakers and entertainers, and you may find several that fit your niche and geographical area.
  • You can also hire an organization (or virtual assistant) to contact meeting planners and organizers on your behalf and offer a commission for any events they are able to secure for you.

It takes time to build a good reputation as a speaker, so Always Be Communicating your Message! It will be worth it – for you, and those who you are able to impact with your story!

soar-2-success-as-a-public-speaker-6As Featured In:

“Soar 2 Success As a Public Speaker: 60 Tips to Sharing your Message” [Amazon Link]

Coauthored by Elizabeth McCormick and Tonya Hofmann

Click here to view the Soar 2 Success book description page.




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