An events speaker, or keynote speaker, is an individual who is invited to speak at an event based on his or her expertise in a particular area. Planning committees for events such as conventions, conferences, and graduation ceremonies will often choose to invite a public figure, ideally one who is a recognized expert in the theme of the event. Events speakers usually speak for up to an hour, and are often compensated with an honorarium. There are also organizations which act as agencies for event speakers, sometimes handling several public figures as clients and arranging speaking events for which they take a percentage of the payment. The type of speech that an events speaker delivers depends largely on the type of event; for example, whether it’s a graduation ceremony, corporate event, or fund-raiser.
Large and well-recognized universities often have the pull to secure high-profile celebrities as speakers, such as Penn State University which featured actress, Jodie Foster as their 2006 commencement speaker. However, smaller academic institutions can sometimes also secure popular public figures for their commencement ceremonies. For example, California’s smallest public university, the University of California at Merced, featured First Lady Michelle Obama as their Class of 2009 commencement speaker due to their efforts in campaigning for her participation. Some of the most common themes covered by graduation commencement speakers include securing employment as a recent graduate, giving back to the community, and following one’s dreams.
An events speaker hired for a corporate event such as a business convention or conference will often speak about a subject that is ultimately related to improving work performance. Some popular themes include effective communication, team building, entrepreneurship, customer service, and motivation. Corporate events speakers don’t necessarily need to have expertise in the industry hosting the event, and are sometimes recognized experts in the skills which the event is promoting. For example, motivational speaker Tony Robbins is often hired to speak to a wide variety of industries, including real estate, medicine, and professional sports, on the topic of goal achievement.
As a fund-raising or charitable event relies on ticket sales more than other events, their first priority in choosing an events speaker is to find one who will draw a crowd. Unlike a corporate event’s audience, a fund-raiser’s audience is not attending primarily to improve their career skills but rather to be entertained. For this reason, an events speaker for a charitable event needs to be a dynamic presence whom audiences will enjoy listening to. A fund-raising events speaker may or may not have some connection to the event’s cause, and will usually speak more seriously about the cause near the end of the speech.