The criteria for choosing the right keynote speaker

Posted by

Barry Siskind

Community Manager

We all understand the value a high-profile keynote speaker can bring to our conferences and trade fairs but choosing the right speaker can sometimes be a challenge.

Here are a few suggestions worth considering:


The speaker should understand your industry. Generic topics are often interesting and fun but the overwhelming need of your audience is information that is specific and related directly to their issues. For example, check out  UFI’s 77th congress lineup,, what they have created is a program that draws from both academic and industry speakers to create a great balance of information.


The speaker should be willing to tweak the presentation to current and relevant trends and issues that your attendees are facing.

Track record.

Ask where the speaker has spoken and what were the results.


The speaker should understand the specific nuances of a country and culture. Ask if the speaker is willing to adjust to the audience.

Motivations and inspirational

Will the speaker leave the audience inspired to take on new challenges?


Is the speaker affordable? This includes the speaker’s fee plus all the related costs such as transportation and hotels.

If you have gone through the process of finding good keynotes perhaps you will add some additional criteria. Also, who have you used and who would you recommend?

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  1. Koen Bogaert September 27, 2010 at 9:05 am - Reply

    Hello Barry
    Wat ifes we had last year a fantastic keynote speaker:
    Ifes AGM 2009 25 – 26 – 27 juni PARIJS

    Hereby more information from our AGM
    His fee was € 6000
    Johnathan Story

    “IFES is delighted to welcome Prof. Jonathan Story, Emeritus Professor of International Political Economy at INSEAD, as our Keynote Speaker on Friday 26 June.

    Prof. Story will provide expert insight and opinion, reviewing how, since 1971–when the dollar standard currency was introduce–the world economy has enjoyed unprecedented growth and the global economy has been in “party” mode, consuming now with financial mechanisms using the future as a place to locate debt. This financial system has been extraordinarily resilient and flexible enough to absorb major crises, until this mother of all meltdowns came along.

    The following key points will be examined:
    o What the US is doing
    o What China is doing
    o What the EU cannot do
    o Influence of oil and politics in the Middle East
    o How long will the crisis last?

    For all of us focused on the impact on our Exhibit industry, Prof. Story will also provide input on how the location and success of future exhibitions and trade shows could be influenced by:
    o potential shifts in import / export flows
    o internal market development in China and India
    o the pace of infrastructure developments in emerging markets
    o the ease of doing business in key countries

    Driven by expert economic thinking and with an industry-specific focus, this is certain to be a session not to be missed for all senior managers in the Exhibit industry.

    Jonathan Story is Emeritus Professor of International Political Economy at INSEAD where he has taught since 1974. He also holds the Marusi Chair of Global Business at The Lally School of Management at the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York and is faculty member at ESMT-Berlin. His books include: China, The Race to Market; The frontiers of Fortune and The Political Economy of Financial Integration in Europe: The Battle of the Systems. These books deal with the transformation of Europe, China and the world, and what this spells for business, this being the theme of his consulting work with governments, international organizations and multinational corporations.”

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