Finding a Gen Z Keynote Speaker

How to Select a Gen Z Speaker Your Audience Raves About

“How do I find the right Gen Z keynote speaker for my event?” “What should I know before booking?” “How can I be sure the speaker will customize their message for my audience?”

These are great questions that meeting planners, event organizers, CEOs, and speaker selection committees often ask themselves.

And then once they start researching speakers, they ask me great questions such as, “How do I know if you’re the right speaker on Gen Z?” Or my favorite, and a question I ask when hosting speakers at an event, “If I bring you in to speak, how do I know your presentation is going to be a home run with my audience?”

These are important and valid questions that you should ask when planning an event. Speakers are an investment, particularly if you need them to drive an outcome like Gen Z marketing, sales, leadership, or innovation. In addition to the cost of hiring a speaker, renting a facility, and then producing the event, there is the cost associated with everyone missing work in order to attend the event.

In other words, when you’re evaluating speakers, the cost is much more than simply what you’re paying them to speak—it’s the cost of the event, everyone’s time, and whether or not you achieve your desired outcome. Putting on an event is a major undertaking, which is why it’s so important to select the right Gen Z speaker.

As a keynote speaker on Gen Z, my mission is always to make the audience say, “That was a phenomenal event. I’m so glad that we came! I can’t wait to come to the next one.”

When it comes to finding the perfect keynote speaker for your audience and event, there are a few factors I think are important to consider. These factors are based on my experience as a keynote speaker at 2,000+ events around the world and for audiences ranging from 10 executives in a boardroom to 15,000 cheering people in an arena with fireworks.

These factors are also based on my experience helping put on events, planning hundreds of events, and personally paying speakers to present on topics critically important to my company for achieving its goals.

Below are five factors I believe you should consider when you’re looking for your next keynote speaker, particularly a keynote speaker on Gen Z.

#1 How much experience do they have?

This is incredibly important. Events are complicated and occasionally unpredictable. There are many moving parts:

  • Audience dynamics
  • Last-minute agenda changes
  • Unexpected events happening in the world or within the company
  • AV or technical snafus
  • Engaging an audience on the last day of their conference, first thing in the morning in Vegas, or right after a buffet lunch

At the same time, you need someone who understands not only their speech topic but also how it applies to your business or organization. Understanding your business or organization is critical for the speaker to connect each and every point of their presentation back to the audience and show them how they can personally put it into to action.

In addition, being able to recognize and navigate the behind-the-scenes dynamics is key to delivering a presentation that engages, inspires, and educates—and all at the same time. You want your speaker to draw people into the topic and get more immersed in the meeting and learning.

Delivering an inspiring, engaging keynote for a sophisticated audience is more complex than showing up, getting a microphone, and clicking next on your slides. You’ve got to steer clear of topics that are inappropriate, be respectful of the time allotted, and represent your client in the way they expect to be represented. A strong foundation for a consistently successful presentation is experience and lots of it. It’s the experience that helps you navigate the unexpected at events and make sure that you’ll get a phenomenal presentation every time.

#2 Can the speaker customize their message to your audience and event?

Customization is critical for engaging, building trust, and driving audience action after the event. You want a keynote speaker that has the ability to extensively customize their Gen Z message to your exact audience, organization, challenges, regulations, culture, and more—not just say your company name and event theme.

This is really important, and I don’t think it’s talked about enough, especially when it comes to Gen Z keynote speakers. Your keynote speaker’s customization should cut through the clutter and deliver accurate, original research-based insights targeted to your exact audience, goals, challenges, and opportunities.

To me, customization doesn’t mean replacing a slide or two and saying the client’s name throughout my talk. All too often I think that’s what happens. When I customize a presentation, it means:

  • Talking with key stakeholders in advance of the event to understand what is going on behind the scenes with the organization, its operations, and what is on the minds of attendees
  • Understanding the most important outcomes event organizers must drive from my speech and the expectations for implementation
  • Planning my presentation style and approach to match the room setup, stage setup, audience seating, and my place on the overall event agenda

Going deeper, I think it’s critically important for speakers to know about any limitations attendees are facing:

  • Regulations in their industry that affect implementation of your recommended actions
  • Identifying what is happening, not just within the company, but within their larger market and industry
  • Tying everything to key, measurable outcomes that match the client’s vision or strategic plan so everything aligns seamlessly

Taking the time to understand the backstory as well as the vision is so important. From there, digging into data to add numbers to the conversation is really valuable. This can range from industry research to client data.

In my case, I run a Gen Z and Millennials research firm, The Center for Generational Kinetics (The Center), that leads generational research across virtually every industry and on four continents. This gives me access to a tremendous amount of data on Gen Z. I incorporate this data into my Gen Z presentations in smart, quick, relevant ways to bring trust to the insights and conversation. In addition, I also offer to review client data to customize my presentation, which delivers extra value to the presentation.

Customization really impacts connection and results.

#3 Do they share data and insights based on their original Gen Z research?

Revealing original, primary Gen Z data is key for revealing new perspectives, solutions, ideas, and action. A lot of speakers will say they “do research,” yet they’re actually just sharing information they’ve found through a Google search. To me, that is not research.

Primary data to my team and I at The Center is original, national or international Gen Z research that you’ve personally led in-house. Original research enables you to discover and reveal never-before-seen insights to the audience that they cannot find anywhere else. To me, this is what separates a true Gen Z expert or researcher from someone who just talks about Gen Z and quotes other people’s work.

I’m lucky in that I’m able to draw upon large amounts of original, primary data, as we’ve led up to 17 studies on 4 continents at the same time. This is why I always encourage meeting planners and event organizers to ask a speaker who says they’re a Gen Z or generations researcher:

  • Where is your data from?
  • How did you collect your data?
  • What was your sample?

These are basic, core questions to ask any researcher. If someone cannot answer them, it should catch your attention because they’re going to be speaking to your audience and trying to drive action, but the information they are presenting may not be statistically accurate.

This is especially important when you’re speaking at high profile events, board meetings, investment conferences, and any event with a sophisticated or experienced audience. That or you have Gen X in your audience because they always want to see your data!

#4 Does the speaker have the right combination of energy and excitement?

You want a Gen Z keynote speaker that brings energy, inspiration, humor—and engages your audience from the very first minute. There is nothing worse for a meeting planner than hiring a speaker who has good content but puts your audience to sleep by slide 12. However, it’s also not good when you bring in someone who is too high energy for the meeting and has no real content. Yikes!

For me, I want to always deliver:

  • The right amount of energy and excitement for each event I speak at
  • An approach that matches the organization’s culture and the meeting’s tempo
  • A presentation that complements the speeches or activities before and after my presentation

In some situations, having a lot of energy and firing up a crowd of 10,000 people in an arena is exactly what’s called for—and what people want. This is definitely my style when I keynote large events —and why I often keynote them first thing in the morning (like in Vegas) or right after the big buffet lunch.

You need energy to wake people up and get them excited about the rest of the day and the event, along with great content. The right amount of energy for opening or closing the event will ensure the audience leaves inspired and ready to take action.

On the flip side, I keynote for many exclusive small group events, such as board meetings, CEO forums, and formal international gatherings. In these settings, it’s really important to understand the audience, cultural norms, and expectations about presentations. Once you do, you can deliver a presentation with an appropriate amount of energy that also fits event protocol. This is particularly true for executive briefings. The smaller the audience, the less it’s a presentation. Instead, it becomes more of a dialogue or conversation that’s grounded in the key topics.

Bottomline: You want a speaker who is thoughtful and strategic about making sure they have the right energy and presentation style for your specific event, especially around a topic as important as Gen Z.

#5 Is the speaker funny? Can they make your audience laugh?

Humor is the glue that holds great content together for audiences. And because a headline keynote sets the tempo for the rest of the day or event, it’s particularly important that your speaker adds humor and makes the audience laugh throughout their presentation.

Being funny at the right time and sharing stories draws people in, gets them open to the conversation, and pulls them into the larger conversation.

I love making audiences laugh with jokes, stories, and playing off the crowd. I want the audience to leave thinking, “Wow, that really opened my eyes and it was entertaining.”

As you’re considering Gen Z keynote speakers for your event, ask, “Do they deliver humor that keeps my audience interested, nodding in agreement, and excited about what’s next?”

Final Thought on Finding the Right Gen Z Keynote Speaker

If understanding and acting on Gen Z’s emergence is important to you, whether that is Gen Z as customers, employees, trendsetters, or simply a generation about to change everything, bringing in a Gen Z speaker is a great idea. I’ve learned to look for a Gen Z keynote speaker has experience, shares primary data, offers deep customization, delivers the right amount of entertainment, and presents specific solutions that drive measurable results.

As a Gen Z keynote speaker, and someone who has been a speaker since age 18(!), I want to thank you for taking the time to read to the end of this post.  Gen Z is counting on us to get it right! Contact our friendly office for more information or to set up a call to see if I’m the right Gen Z speaker for your event.

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