Keynotes: The Holy Grail?

Many consultants, coaches and advisors trying to build their business have decided they need to be at the podium to increase their visibility. They chase keynote opportunities—often unpaid—and spend countless non-billable hours crafting their speeches.

A worthy investment if being a professional speaker is part of your revenue strategy or you are hawking your (profitable) new book. But what if your real goal is to grow your core consulting, coaching, advisory business?

Then there may be an easier way. It’s not about how many keynotes you make. It’s about how you connect with the clients who will “buy” you and the professionals who will refer you. Consider some alternatives:

Attend as a participant. Come pre-loaded with questions/a point of view on the agenda topics so you can engage your new contacts one-on-one. Be clear on your brand (who am I, what do I uniquely do and why does it matter) and link it to the key topics. If the link isn’t obvious, take a pass.

Lead a workshop for a group rich with clients and prospects (or referral sources). You’ll touch fewer people, but your impact on each can be huge. And, chances are high they’re attending because they have a strong interest in the subject. The payoff: they experience you in action and hiring you becomes a simpler next step.

Moderate a panel of experts on a compelling topic related to your expertise or industry. The agenda is yours to lead and you can have a major impact with a lot less prep than a full-blown keynote. Great moderators are memorable–if one of your talents is bringing diverse opinions to the table, you can score big.

Keynotes are impressive. But they may not be key to your growth.


  • J.Scott

    Excellent post, Ms. Moulton.

  • Mike Van Horn

    I agree, Rochelle

    Another factor: keynote gigs are harder to get. Much easier to lead breakout sessions or be a panelist.

    Yet another possibility: be a sponsor or exhibitor at a conference. At most conferences you pay to attend (perhaps even if you are a speaker). The incremental cost to be an exhibitor may be quite moderate. Then you get a table in the traffic flow, get a chance to talk with those most interested, and collect business cards.

  • carleen mackay

    On a positive note about keynoting; it offers the best opportunity to ensure that people know you rather than having to rely upon your knowing them!

    And….of course, for some of us, it's just plain fun!

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Good addition, Mike. Being an exhibitor tends to also give you admission into special events–added bonus.

    Carleen, you are a special case: you were born to be on a podium!

  • talkpropeller

    I absolutely agree with your views and will start to do so now rather than trying to gt more speaking engagements.

  • Katy

    Great post. I love the idea of moderating or leading breakout sessions. Do you have any recommendations for how to create those opportunities?

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Hi Katy,
    The key is to come up with a topic that is both highly compelling and resonant with your expertise. Then you need to work your network. Call the program chair for a local/regional association/organization and pitch your idea. They are often thrilled–filling programs isn't easy.

    Assuming your practice is national or industry-specific, you might also check the on-line submissions calendars for various national organizations–most have posted guidelines/deadlines for their meetings. While you probably won't get paid, they may pick up your travel expenses. Your network can come in handy here also–a recommendation goes a long way…..

  • tlmaurer

    Keynotes, and any other type of speaking (seminars, panel discussions, webinars) go a long way in establishing credibility. If you are there, some level of unspoken endorsement from the event planners goes along with it. These venues also 1)place you in front of people interested in hearing what you have to offer, 2) get potential customers in to see or hear you for little or no out of pocket costs, and 3) establish your credibility to a group, not one person at a time like cold calling for an appointment.

    Is it for everyone? No. Can 'anyone' do it? Probably not. But, as a marketing channel, it can be quite useful.


  • Ed Rosenbaum, The Customer Service Rainmaker

    Well said Rochelle. I have taken some moderator slots that can lead to speaking engagements. We will see how that strategy works.

    Ed Rosenbaum, The Customer Service Rainmaker

  • Association of Management Consulting Firms (AMCF)

    Great read, Rochelle. Thanks for posting it to our LinkedIn discussion page.

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Excellent points–keynoting can be incredibly useful as a marketing channel. The caveats? We must be good at it (or practice diligently until we are), it should fit with our revenue/PR strategy and we must do the work required–before and after–to leverage our efforts. Looks like you've mastered this for your practice!

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Hi Ed,
    Good strategy–will you let me know how it works for you?

  • Rhona Bronson

    The point is simply to put yourself in front of people, and quality vs. quantity. One great lead from a workshop or one on one meeting is worth more than a keynote. But, that said, any speak is great for honing and testing your point of view.

  • Rochelle Moulton

    Well said Rhona.

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