7 Qualities of Professional Keynote Speakers

7 Qualities of Professional Keynote Speakers.

After many years as a Professional Keynote Speaker, I have seen hundreds, if not thousands, of other Speakers. And while there is as much variety in their styles as there are in the people speaking, there are a few qualities that the best all share.

The following is a list of seven qualities that I believe the best Professional Keynote Speakers share.

The purpose of this article is to share the qualities of the best Keynote Speakers so you can make a more informed decision when comparing Speakers to hire one at your next corporate event.


Character Before Content.

First things first: what turns an average Speaker into a great Speaker is not the topic of their speech. It is how they deliver the topic of their speech. The impact of a speech is not about what a Speaker says but about how they made the audience feel.


The content of a speech is not the most important thing.


Yet it is still common practice to hire a speaker based on their topic rather than their qualities. So it is essential that you choose a Keynote Speaker based on the right qualities, rather than on the content of their speech. Always choose character over content when hiring a Professional Keynote Speaker. (For more see our article: Four questions to ask a Keynote Speaker before your book them.)


Choose character over the content when hiring a Professional Keynote Speaker.


Consider the following seven qualities that all Professional Keynote Speakers have in common:

1. All Professional Keynote Speakers are Empathic.
The foundational quality of a Professional Keynote Speaker is empathy. Without it, they will not be able to resonate with you and your audience. Indeed, without empathy, a Speaker would talk ‘at’ the audience instead of ‘with’ the audience.

Empathy is often felt in what I call 'professional warmth': an emphatic understanding that remains strong and determined. This also means a Professional Keynote Speaker will never use their knowledge to create a feeling of superiority.

2. All Professional Keynote Speakers are Holistic.
A Professional Keynote Speaker is holistic in their perspective and their content. Whatever they are talking about is placed within the current frame of your organisation, the wider frame of your industry, and finally within the comprehensive global framework. This enables them to be relevant while reorienting perspectives towards wholeness.

3. All Professional Keynote Speakers are Flexible.
Flexibility is one of the qualities that makes a Keynote Speaker professional. They are able to adapt to possible changes in your program before the event. And during the event, what really shows their mastery is their ability to adapt to the reactions of the audience at the moment. All events are upgraded when the Speaker responds live to the reactions of the audience. (For more see our article: What are the Options & Extras I should consider when booking a Keynote Speech?)

4. All Professional Keynote Speakers are Clear.
A confused mind does not act. Hence, a Professional Keynote Speaker always offers clarity. I regularly state, ‘Business is not complicated, it is complex’. Complicated means it is difficult to understand. Complex means it has many connecting parts. The goal of every Speaker is to make the complex clear. Clarity refocuses energies. It guides the audience to a concise realisation. It offers what I call ‘profound simplicity’.


A Professional Keynote Speaker makes the complex clear.


5. All Professional Keynote Speakers are Provocative.
A Professional Keynote Speaker will challenge assumptions. As the foundation of all thinking, and hence action, assumptions are all too often invisible influencers. Therefore, woven within a great Keynote Speech is a language that brings to the surface hidden assumptions. A Professional Keynote Speaker will use this provocative quality of their speech to stimulate new mindsets, new ideas, and drive forward the process of innovation.

6. All Professional Keynote Speakers are Positive.
By definition, it is impossible for a Professional Keynote Speaker to sustain a negative attitude. While every Speaker can be negative towards certain ideas, or practices, they cannot operate with an overall attitude of negativity. Instead, to create a shared vision, and stimulate collective action towards a common goal, they must reflect a positive attitude.

This does not mean that they ignore difficult situations, rather they constructively address them. Similarly, a Professional Keynote Speaker will not use fear to motivate. Fear has limited momentum, creates a toxic work environment, and restricts full engagement.

7. All Professional Keynote Speakers are Curious.
Due to their extensive experience, Professional Keynote Speakers have many answers. However, the quality that shines through more than having an answer is their ability to ask questions. Answers are static while questions are dynamic.

A Professional Keynote Speaker is curious and they encourage you to be curious. They encourage you to ask more questions, get better at asking questions, and to find questions that are not to be answered but to be held. The quality of your questions defines the quality of your success.


So the next time you are considering hiring a Professional Keynote Speaker for your internal corporate event do not start by looking at their topic. Instead, hire them based on their qualities. And remember never hire a Speaker that creates a sense of fear or makes you feel inferior. Start by asking if they are empathic, holistic, and flexible. Then consider how clear, provocative, positive, and curious they are.


To learn more about how Paul Hughes’ Keynote Speeches can help your organisation grow Request a Quote now.

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