November 1, 2021

How to Choose a Keynote Speaker for Your Kickoff Event

Selecting a keynote speaker for any event can be tricky and complex. Finding a speaker that embodies the theme of your kickoff event adds an extra layer of complexity to your planning. To pick the best keynote speaker for your mainstage during the kickoff event, you must first answer three questions that will guide you; and the speaker in the end.

(Looking for more strategies to design a virtual kickoff that drives connection, camaraderie and impact? Check out our guide with 6 Strategies for a High-Impact Virtual Kickoff.)

What do you want them to learn?

Kickoff events get the entire sales team on the same page, from new goals to learning new processes and tools. During the planning process, it's key to ask yourself the key elements you want the team to take in from a keynote speaker. You can ensure the speaker aligns with the theme by identifying what the team needs to learn. 

"When I'm talking to groups, I could choose to speak on a tool. 'They are friends of mine, I'm not affiliated with them, but I think you should go check them out.' Then people write that down so they can go check it out."
-Bryan Neale, Founder, Blind Zebra

What do you want them to do?

Having some action during a mainstage presentation keeps attendees engaged. Advise the speaker to have the audience do something on your behalf or an activity they have seen succeed. An example of an action for them is to take out their phones and book a meeting.

How do you want them to feel?

As the planner, you have to get direct with what you want people to learn and do before moving on. The last question you need to answer, which is the most important, is how you want your team to feel during the mainstage presentation. Your team must leave this presentation feeling inspired, uplifted and appreciated.

"There's a Maya Angelou quote that always sticks with me. 'I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.' So as the kickoff planner, you have to get really clear on what you want them to feel during the keynote's presentation."
-Bryan Neale, Founder, Blind Zebra

After you have the answers to these three questions, you share the information with the speaker of your choice. The speaker should then be open that they feel comfortable and correct for the job. In the right situations, the chosen speaker could also say, "I'm not the right person for this event."

Looking for more advice or strategies for your upcoming kickoff? Check out our Kickoff Resource Hub.