If you’ve been speaking for a while, are particularly known for a specific hot topic, or have gained a bit of fame in your career, chances are good you’ll be asked to be a keynote speaker at some point. If it’s your first time (or you simply want to be prepared—extra points for you!), you’ll need to know the different between being a keynote speaker and being a guest speaker in order to deliver to your audience.
You may be a phenomenal guest speaker, and while that will certainly help you as a keynoter, keynoting is a bird of a slightly different feather. Let’s take a look, shall we?
What’s a Guest Speaker?
As a guest speaker, you are typically the featured speaker for an ongoing meeting (a monthly club, for example), or you’re one of dozens of guest speakers for a larger event (festival, conference, flower and garden show, trade show, etc.). Common traits of guest speaking?
- Usually speaks for about an hour
- Often uses a slide presentation or includes a demonstration
- Speaks on a specific agreed-upon topic
- Commands a smaller fee than keynote speakers
Ok, Now How Is That Different from Being a Keynote Speaker?
Keynote speakers, on the other hand, are the “main speaker” for a larger event. Sometimes an event will have two keynote speakers (one to “open” the event and another at the end to “close” it), but if there is only one keynote speaker, they are typically featured at the beginning of the event on the first day/evening. A successful keynote speaker:
- Sets the tone for the event
- Speaks to much larger audiences than guest speakers
- Speaks for 45–60 minutes minimum, often up to 90 minutes
- Often commands a much higher fee
- Can employ a slideshow, but also speaks directly to the audience without any visuals
- Is very planned, prepared, and specific to the event theme
- Can be a “state of the industry” speech, but usually has a broader topic than those of guest speaker presentations
- Is known to be motivating, humorous, or inspiring
What Can I Do to Add “Keynote Speaker” to My Resumé?
Few speakers start out with keynoting—it’s much more usual to start as a guest speaker and become experienced being in front of an audience for a few years. If you have your eye on being known as a keynoter, we suggest doing the following:
- Establish (or modernize) your personal brand.
- Make sure your speaking business is extremely visible via sales/marketing tactics, updated website, and social media.
- Be a masterful communicator—not just with your audience, but with the event planners and program managers. Impressive keynote speakers do the research to deeply understand the industry, the specific event, and what the planners/managers hope to gain for their audiences.
- Pay attention to other keynote speakers and make notes—attend events in person, or review popular TEDx talks on YouTube, for example. The TED talks don’t even need to be in the horticulture industry for you to learn from them—what you’re studying is how they move, how they connect with an audience, what their body language is like, the cadence of their speech, how they tell stories. Some of our favorites include Brené Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” and Malcolm Gladwell’s “Choice, Happiness, and the Spaghetti Sauce.”
- Practice, practice, practice. Always be in learning mode, because there is always something to improve.
- Make sure your Great Garden Speakers profile indicates that you offer keynote addresses.
If you’re a keynote speaker, do you have any other words of wisdom for your colleagues? We’d love it if you left a comment!