How to Choose (or be) a Great Speaker

How to Choose (or be) a Great Speaker

I spend a lot of time speaking at corporate conferences and events. In 2018 alone I’ve already spoken in San Diego, Mexico, San Francisco (twice), Maui, New Orleans, Seattle, Naples, Miami, and Ft. Lauderdale. And this month I’m heading to Phoenix, Albuquerque, Amelia Island, South Beach, and Tempe.

So it’s no surprise that people are always asking me two questions:

  1. How do I choose a great speaker for my event? Or,
  2. How do I get chosen as a speaker for events?

Image of mouth and the text: How to choose or be a great guest speaker.Believe it or not, the answer is essentially the same: Figure out what matters most to your audience and provide it or find someone who can.

In today’s interconnected world, consumers have virtually instantaneous access to whatever amusement they want. Therefore being good on stage is not enough. Whether you tell jokes, juggle, stand on your head, do magic tricks or paint historically accurate portraits while being hung upside down, you’re just a momentary diversion. Booking an “entertainment speaker” is not a great way to create a meaningful event. And being an “entertainment speaker” is not a great way to get booked.

At the same time, those same meeting professionals and audiences have access to almost all the information they want and need. Being an “information speaker” and showing up with knowledge – no matter how relevant – is not good enough either. These “information speakers” are the folks who remind you of your most pedantic college instructor – and give you the feeling that whatever the subject – Sarbanes Oxley regulations, diversity training, work-life balance – they’re just a page ahead of you in the book. No one wants to book an “information speaker” and fewer people want to listen to them.

You shouldn’t want to hire one or be one either.

Instead, what meeting professionals want, and what the best speakers provide, is a seamless combination of both insight and information AND entertainment. Just like the spoonful of sugar that helps the medicine go down, having your audiences laughing while they’re learning is the best way to make sure that they appreciate both the speaker and the meeting professional who booked them.

Once you’ve accomplished that, the next thing to do is to make sure that you – or the speaker you hire – transforms their audience. If the people in the seats leave the room feeling they have somehow been changed – by what they saw, what they heard, what they learned or what they felt – you can rest assured that they will appreciate and remember your hard work. And that they will ask you back to work for them again.

These practices are simple but not simplistic. Easy to say but not easy to do. But if you simultaneously entertain and enlighten your audience while you transform their thinking, you have figured out exactly how to successfully choose a speaker AND exactly how to be a successful speaker.

By |2018-04-10T13:07:58+00:00April 10th, 2018|6 Comments


  1. Charlie Rathburn April 12, 2018 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    This was great, Bruce. Thank you.

  2. Richard Stollenwerck April 14, 2018 at 3:45 pm - Reply

    Bruce – Are you working with Tony???

  3. Bill Mahoney April 14, 2018 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    Thanks Bruce…right on point!

    Bill Mahoney

  4. Bill Werther April 14, 2018 at 6:12 pm - Reply

    Bruce, your post is a both ‘spot on’ and a succinct summary of hiring and being a good speaker. Being informative in an entertaining manner is the minimum necessary condition. Effectiveness involves moving the audience from information to new understanding.

  5. Jo Kling April 15, 2018 at 4:10 pm - Reply

    Brilliant, Bruce. and so concise! Thanks for simpifying — easily memorable.,

  6. Jim Fried April 18, 2018 at 9:06 pm - Reply

    you were great when you spoke with our group The Bergstrom Center for Real Estate Studies – Annual Trends Conf. in Orlando- you had the dreaded last speaking slot – and those that stayed had a great time and learned something too –

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