How to find a Keynote Speaker and avoid speaker bureau fees

One of the biggest challenges when it comes to finding a keynote speaker for your next event is getting a speaker that everyone can agree on and one that fits your needs and your budget. Do you go with someone with experience in your industry or someone from outside who can bring a new perspective? Do you go with the tried and true speaker from a speaker bureau or an agency that will cost you an arm and a leg, or do you go online, research and hire on your own?

Both of these methods work, but I think you will find you get what you pay for... or do you?

Have you ever asked the waiter at a restaurant, "what's good today?" only to hear him proceed to tell you everything on the menu. It's not often they will honestly tell you if a meal isn't really very good. The same is true when you get a speaker through a speaker bureau or agency. They aren't going to tell you that one of their speakers isn't very good. They don't get paid unless they sell you one of their clients, so rest assured they will all be great.

I have never worked through a speaker bureau or an agency. I did have a manager who was supposed to help me early in my career to book speaking gigs. Truth be told, all he did was help me get my book published. (which I was grateful.) As far as speaking and training, I booked all my own engagements on my own and paid him his 20% commission for nothing. That lasted about a year, and then I went solo.

So how do you find a good speaker for your next event?

Now understand I am a keynote speaker and have provided this information as a way to help you find someone, with the hopes that that someone you find is me. I am not ashamed to say it. That being said, here are a few ways to find a keynote speaker:


You could just start googling "keynote speaker" or "professional speaker" or many other search terms to find one. Most of what you are going to see on the first few pages are the speaking bureaus and various speaker agencies with a few actual websites sprinkled in the searches. The keywords and pay-per-click advertising is costing these companies thousands of dollars per week. I have looked into Google-ad-words and know this to be true. How do you think they cover these costs? In their speaker fees of course! This is why I recommend that you look past the agency websites and go to the individual speaker websites first and try to read through some of the information and then watch some video. They should have some videos embedded on their site for you to see them in action. Also, be sure to look at the website itself. How does it look? Is it clean and fresh? A website will give you an idea of the type of person you will be dealing with.


What has quickly become the 2nd largest search engine, Youtube is a great way to quickly watch videos from many different speakers. Go into the Youtube search bar and enter "keynote speaker consultant" and see what comes up. You will also quickly find out that just because someone says they are a professional speaker… it doesn't mean they are. They might "think" they are, but you will quickly see there are numerous people, both men and women, that are clearly not professionals. There are thousands of videos of keynotes. Don't get too caught up with the number of views on a video either. I would look for videos in the 5 minutes or less range and start watching some of them.


As I said above, you will probably be able to find a good speaker from one of the many organizations out there. You will of course pay for this service, upwards of 20% more than finding a speaker direct. Depending on your organization or convention you are looking for and your budget, you could be paying thousands of dollars more for this speaker service. You will also find that the speakers they are trying to sell you in your price range are available for much less if you go direct.

Some speakers will have their fees posted on their website for all to see. Some are harder to find than others, but a few of them put that information out there. Learn more about how much you should pay for a keynote speaker here.


It never hurts to ask a friend or colleague you know who has hired or booked a speaker for an event. Remember that everyone is unique, and someone might think someone was great when you thought the opposite. It is like when someone tells you how great a movie is; and then when you go to go see it you can't wait for it to get over.

Remember too that a good speaker can customize their presentations to your organization or audience. If they only have one canned speech, you can probably save yourself a lot of money and just watch it online. A professional speaker can and will customize their keynote presentations.

I hope you found this information helpful in your search for a keynote speaker. If you have any questions, please contact me to discuss your next event. Good Luck!