Conferences, events and meetings are a multibillion-dollar industry in the United States. A recent calculation by Meeting Professionals International estimated the sector’s total value at close to $280 billion dollars. With so much money riding on the success of such events, and so much more competition for attendees, media attention, and sponsorship dollars, it’s essential for meeting planners to develop the most compelling programming possible. Increasingly that means picking the best possible event speakers.
Finding great speakers can help event organizers “check all the boxes” for a successful event, including boosting ticket sales, attracting interest from the media and generating social media mentions that boost attention to their conferences online. But even though meeting planners recognize the important role speakers play in the success of their events, picking the right people is getting more complicated. Genre-defying events like TED, SXSW, and C2 are upending long-held notions about the role speakers should play at events, creating a new expectation for interdisciplinary, idea-driven event content, and turning unknown individuals into celebrity performers overnight. Meanwhile, event tools like social media, and a new crop of younger attendees, are putting more pressure on event organizers to rethink the types of speakers they bring to their own conferences.
With all these questions in mind, Skift is today launching a new initiative called the Meeting Planners Guide To Best Keynote Speakers 2017. The list features an inter-disciplinary, cross-industry selection of some of the most interesting speakers picked from a shortlist of several thousand nominees who participated in one of several dozen of the world’s top events in 2016 and 2017. It also takes a closer look at the best practices used to identify and select great speakers, drawing upon interviews with some of the top event executives from organizations like SXSW, CES, and more.