3 Types of Keynote Speakers and When to Use Them

In our last post we talked about the three considerations when choosing a keynote speaker.

  • Key Message
  • Audience Demographics and Psychographics
  • Audience Attitudes and beliefs

There are hundreds of Keynote speakers out there, and to lump them into three categories is a little generalized and broad, we realize that, but come with us here.

For the benefit of our conversation we will use “motivational” to mean the high-energy speaker that challenges the audience to get up and DO something. “Inspirational” speakers speak more to the attendee’s heart, guiding them to be more introspective. “Industry Experts” share valuable industry specific insights. Here are three examples of putting the right speaker with the right audience:

Motivational Speakerm_approach2

Let’s say that in this example, sales are down, leadership has changed, and there is uncertainty in the business. On Day One of the sales meeting, the new president casts the vision of the company’s direction, then the sales leader communicates the tactical benefits of this direction. He dismisses the group for specific training. That evening they may have an Awards Ceremony to celebrate the achievers, effectively bringing the energy up after a full day of study. The next day for the closing session a motivational speaker delves into principles of open mindedness and perseverance. He/She issues a tactical challenge, something that the group can DO tomorrow to help them in their sales efforts.

The type of positioning and choice of speaker will help move an audience with negative attitude prior to the event to a better outlook as a result of the event experience. Additionally, they will be armed with some practical applications to breed success.

Inspirational Speaker

shutterstock_325170179Inspiration is different from motivation. Motivation is active, external. “What am I going to DO?” Inspiration is more internal, more introspective, “What am I going to BELIEVE?”

Deciding between motivational and inspirational is dependent not only upon the key message but also upon the demographics and psychographics of the audience. For this example, let’s look at an audience of franchise owners. They will have a deeper ‘why’ to thier business than say, the IT professional coming to a software conference. – More on the IT guy in a minute.

The franchise owner is running his own business with his own money, usually is paying his own way to the meeting, and is in business with his family. His reason for being at the conference is different than the sales team at the sales meeting where the motivational speaker was present. The Franchise Owner needs a reason to believe. This is the exact right time to use an inspirational speaker. It would be most compelling if this inspirational speaker was also an industry expert, one of them, someone who had walked in their shoes, met adversity, and triumphed. Find that person and you have struck keynote gold!

Industry Expert

1229-cm2d8689We’ve talked about high energy emotion and quiet introspective belief building, now let’s talk about feeding the intellect. Maybe the reason you’re hosting the meeting is to establish your company as the thought leader within the industry. Having an ace industry expert is perfect! We mentioned the difference between the company sales person, the franchise owner and the IT professional.

The IT Professional is a great example of the right fit for the industry expert. When you are hosting an event that is positioned as THE place for learning and education then, you are almost obligated to provide the industry’s top experts offering their experience and predictions for the industry’s direction.   This is what the people came for, give them what they want. And they will thank you for it.


When deciding what kind of keynote speaker you want to showcase, remember to pass your decision through the lens of your key message, your audience demographics and psychographics which include their current attitudes and beliefs about the organization. When you make your decision using these as your guide you’re sure to get the right speaker, every time.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the subject. How do you decide on your keynote speaker?