We're not in the business of brokering keynote speakers, generally. But after attending hundreds of events that use keynote speakers, we know what works and what doesn't, and can give some good recommendations. (In the events business, you know you have a great keynote speaker when the AV crew pays attention.)
The keynote speaker can be a critical piece of your event--they're there to motivate your audience, to tell a story and to inspire action. They should fit into your event plan seamlessly and strategically--becoming a part of your overall message instead of just a novelty.
The things that make a great keynote speaker can vary, but the things that make a bad keynote speaker are pretty much the same across the board.
Here are some things you should watch out for when looking at a keynote speaker:
1. Lack of Customization. This is the number one failing of keynote speakers. We've all heard speeches that sound practically like recordings with a space left blank to "insert company name here". Your keynote speaker should take the time to get to know YOUR message, your company's unique challenges and attributes--and be willing to tailor their speech accordingly. In the case of keynote speakers, one size does not fit all.
2. An Amazing Story...But Not Much Else. There are keynote speakers who have done genuinely amazing, awe-inspiring things...but that doesn't mean that it translates into a keynote speech. Be wary of stories that don't have a deeper message and take-away. The goal for your attendees will not be to climb Mount Everest (usually), but, rather, to overcome THEIR obstacles.
3. An Amazing Speech...But Not and Amazing Speaker. Believe it or not, there are great keynote stories and messages that get lost, quite literally, on the floor of your event. We once saw a keynote speaker who had a great message, but only his lapel got to hear it--he was just cutting his teeth on the keynote circuit, and didn't quite have the whole, you know, *speaking* thing down yet. It's critical that the keynote speaker be able to connect with your audience.
4. It's All About Them. We've seen many good speeches that have been polluted by the litter of the speaker's own ego. When every point at the end of the story or anecdote is, "You'll find this in my book," it gets tiresome for the audience. Additionally, great keynote speakers are all about the people in the room--not necessarily their own achievements. Their story should be a frame for their speech--not the entirety of the message.
5. Basic Presentation Mistakes. Most keynote speakers rank pretty highly on the professional-looking presentation spectrum compared to most internal presenters. However, they can still occasionally fall prey to mistakes like having too much on their PowerPoint (using them as speaking notes instead of visual aids, or making them hard to read). A lot of the time, companies won't proof or spend much energy on the keynote speaker's presentation--they just plug it into the master slide deck and go. That's when basic mistakes happen; a clip fails to play, the formatting becomes messed up, etc. Having rehearsal helps mitigate this, but we find that the keynote speaker doesn't always come in for rehearsal beforehand--either because they're too busy, or the company doesn't have the budget for the extra time.