Christian Boo Boucousis speaking on stage

How to Pick the Right Guest Speaker for Your Event


Christian Boo Boucousis speaking on stage

Let’s set the scene: It’s the night before your next company event. As you turn off the lights to go to sleep, you’re feeling excited for your team to have the opportunity to get aligned around your strategy and pumped up to execute on it. You start thinking about the guest speaker you booked for the event. At first, you’re feeling good – you were able to schedule a speaker who was within budget, aligned with your industry, and available on the big day.

But then, right as you’re drifting off to sleep, your eyes shoot open as a frightening thought occurs to you for the first time:

Are they actually, you know…any good?

Too often, companies get so caught up in the budgetary and scheduling logistics of booking guest speakers that they forget to thoroughly consider whether someone is, in fact, the right speaker for their team. Finding your dream speaker is never a completely sure thing – especially with someone you’ve never booked before. But the good news is that there are ways to evaluate an individual speaker and determine if they’re the best fit for advancing the goals of your particular event.

Top qualities of a great guest speaker

Whatever your goals are for your team’s next event, here are some key things to consider when evaluating a potential guest speaker.

1. Their talk is results-oriented

If you’re reading this, you’re probably the kind of person who has seen their fair share of speaking sessions at conferences or other corporate events. If so, you’ve probably noticed a few patterns in their subject matter. Many center around a personal anecdote from the presenter’s life. Others take the form of high-level thought leadership, diving into a subject of importance to your industry without going too deep. Some contain more jokes than serious insights – or, depending on the guest speaker, are literal comedy routines.

What’s missing: actionable, instructive insights that can empower the people in attendance to meaningfully advance their business goals after the event has ended.

For results-focused business leaders, it’s not enough for a speaker simply to entertain or lightly touch on matters of importance to the host company. Instead, they should impart specific strategies and tactics geared toward achieving tangible results that align with the host company’s objectives. Whoever you decide to book, it’s critical to first make sure they’re able to deliver on that imperative.

2. They’re doing something you haven’t seen before

For most people at your company, your next event will not likely be their first. Many of us attend gatherings like sales kickoffs and quarterly team-building events once a year, if not more. 

Most of the time, these events have a guest speaker who is aligned with the host company’s industry. This, of course, makes sense – you want someone who has walked the walk before they step on stage to talk the talk. 

But what if you could find someone who has the expertise to share insights that will drive results on your team, but who comes from a different background? After all, your team might enjoy a bit of escapism, and if you can deliver that without sacrificing the business value your speaker brings to the table, it’s a win-win. 

For example, the speakers Afterburner sends to our clients’ company events have military backgrounds – most of them are former fighter pilots. But when they present, they share the ways their military skills translate to business scenarios, so that teams still walk away from the event better equipped to execute on their goals. The fighter pilot energy they bring to their sessions makes for an exciting, unique, and memorable experience for attendees who are used to more traditional corporate event presentations.

Learn More: How a one-day company event led by fighter pilots will energize and empower your team.

3. They have a strong speaking resume

There’s nothing worse than booking a guest speaker and discovering, during your event, that they’re not all that great at the job. A bad speaker can sap the energy from the room: Your team disengages, your event planner has their tail between their legs, and you can’t shake the feeling that you could have gotten more bang for your buck with someone else.

To avoid this pitfall, drill down into the experience of the person you’re booking. Make sure they’ve done a good number of speaking events in the past, and that they’ve been doing it for a long time. Look for testimonials. See if you can find video footage of their past speaking slots. Are they charismatic? Can they hold the attention of the room for a sustained period?

There are a lot of people out there who have built successful careers as writers or social media stars and are now advertising themselves as conference speakers. But being great at writing or creating digital content doesn’t automatically make someone a great event speaker. Presenting to a live audience requires certain skills, and too many people assume those skills will come naturally to anyone who has built success elsewhere or holds expertise in the right industry. That’s a flawed assumption – don’t let yourself be the next person to make it.

You’ve got to do your homework!

It doesn’t matter how much the event speaker costs, how charming they look in their speaker photo, or how professional their website looks. Ultimately, none of that guarantees they’re the right person for your event.

To make sure you book a guest speaker who can bring the house down, drive results for your team, and create a new and fresh experience, you’ve got to do your homework. Evaluating speakers based on the questions discussed in this article is the best way to gain the confidence you need to sleep like a baby the night before your event.

Get in touch to learn what kind of event speakers you can book through Afterburner.