Guest Blog: Keynote & Motivational Speakers – There’s nothing like word of mouth


By Jonathan Izzard, Strategy Director at Wonder

There’s nothing like word of mouth.

For both IRL and virtual events, keynote sessions – and the speakers that deliver them – still play a vital role in creating engaging B2B experiences.

Whether a speaker is the bait to get your audiences through the door, or the surprise and delight (*shudder*) icing on the cake, selecting the right individuals matters – now more than ever.

B2B Redefined

The longtail effect of lockdown living and the inescapable merging of personal and professional lives has been profound for B2B. The accelerated reframing of individual expectations and shifts in the value exchange between businesses and their employees, customers and prospects, has changed the dynamics of communications and experiences for the better.

Instead of leaving their personalities at the door, individuals are now freer than ever to attend and connect with experiences as their ‘whole selves’ – as people rather than ‘guests’, ‘delegates’, or ‘attendees’.

Open-Source Creativity

This breaking down of the walls between worlds of work and life has helped reshape what we can consider fair game for a business experience. And selection of speaker talent embodies this newfound freedom to rethink formats and programming to more adequately meet guests’ evolved expectations.

The proliferation of social content from athletes, celebrities and business people – both carefully curated and wilfully candid – has helped add both depth and dimension to these public personalities, reminding us that they’re not just one thing, and reflecting our own, very human aversion to being pigeon-holed.

The emergence of increasingly polymathic and passionate personalities across the cultural context provide fresh pools to draw from for engaging speakers.

Whether it’s a Premier League footballer fighting food poverty, a Hollywood A-lister educating us on water stewardship or a TV presenter happy to bare their soul on depression – unexpected connections can be the catalyst for fresh thinking and increased audience engagement, thanks to the passion, interest and expertise of people about whom you already care.

Critical Criteria I spent a lifetime working in Sports Marketing, with a robust approach to brand ambassador selection a vital part of my work for clients. Whilst evaluating these longer-term relationships required an incredibly careful and deliberate process, there’s an argument that with B2B keynote and motivational speakers, the pressure is on to get selection right first time. There’s no soft-launch or slow-burn campaign build: a speaker has to hit hard and hit home from the off.

In simplest terms, we need to consider three factors:

  1. Reach – Are they really right for the attending audience? Does this group of people know them as well as we think they do? Will they represent the draw we think they will?
  1. Relevance – Have they got something of value or interest to say in the context of the event? Will their presence add value to the occasion, or create a moment of WTF dissonance?
  1. Rigour – Do they share the values and beliefs of the brand they are (momentarily) representing? Are there any skeletons in the closet that might undermine their presence at this event – public criticism of the brand, work for a competitor, controversial opinions, etc.?

It’s a minefield to be picked through carefully and – inevitably – quickly. And this is of particular importance given the more expansive speaker options that an open-source mindset empowers us to consider.

Ask Me Anything

For B2B events the stakes are always high when it comes to the audience: this is the moment when a brand/business gets up-close-and-personal with the people that matter to it most – whether they’re its prospects, its partners or its people.

On that basis, there really are no daft questions, but a raft of vital ones.

Will they be receptive to a brief? Do they know what not to mention? Are they going to take questions? Do they need a compere? Is this really a Q&A? Do they need an autocue? Can they ad-lib? Could they cope with a tech meltdown? Have they done this presentation/speech before? The list goes on.

In Summary

When all’s said and done, a more human-centric world of work creates new opportunities for brands using speakers at their B2B experiences.

Offering them the chance to be brave, to say something different (or differently), to create an engaging moment of contrast within the confines of an event – to stretch beyond their perceived boundaries and connect with the people that matter to them in a different way.

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