Creating a memorable youth conference hinges significantly on selecting a great motivational speaker. The right speaker can energize, inspire, and profoundly influence the ‘vibe’ of your event. From the perspective of a veteran event speaker and event planner, here are some key steps to identify and choose a speaker who can make your event a resounding success.

Understand Your Audience

Know Your Students: Before you start your search, make a 6 bullet point list. Make the first 3 bullets what you think your students would like most in a speaker. Make the last three bullets what you believe your students need to hear. The reason for this? An magician ‘go for your dreams’ speaker who resonates well with middle school students might not have the same impact on college students.

Set Clear Objectives

Define Your Purpose: Don’t just bring a speaker because you think you’re supposed to. What do you want to achieve with this conference? Are you aiming to motivate, educate, build skills, or raise awareness about specific issues? Your speaker’s message should align with your event’s goals. If you need help with this, the team at TYS Speakers can help you with your process in a no-obligation phone call.

Dates and Rates

Availability: Before making inquiries, know the dates and general time ranges when you’ll need your speakers. No sense having a drawn out conversation if the speaker isn’t available.

Cost: While it’s true that you generally get what you pay for, it’s also true that your budget will constrict who you can bring in. Whatever your maximum budget, add $1k-$2k extra when searching because speakers will often have creative ways to lower their prices. As an example, if a client provides me with the video footage from my keynote, I’ll lower my rate by $1000.

Also remember, a higher fee doesn’t always mean a better fit for your audience.

Technical Requirements: Know your logistical setup. Some speakers are media-heavy and can’t present with half an audience to their backs. Know your setup so that you can know whether you’re able to accommodate speakers when you learn their technical needs.

Research Potential Speakers

Now that you’re clear about what YOU want, now it’s time to find a speaker who fits the bill.

Look for Expertise: A great speaker should not only be an expert in their field. Many speakers will speak on subjects simply because they are popular subjects. Find the actual credentials of those who you’re interested in by researching their backgrounds, achievements, and ask yourself, “what makes this person qualified to talk to my students about this topic?” If you can’t answer those questions, they probably aren’t qualified to speak on their subject.

Check Past Performances: Here’s where it gets tough… just because someone is qualified, doesn’t mean they’re also great on stage. Your two best ways of vetting a speaker’s stage skills are to a) Watch longer videos of their speeches. Anyone can put together a 60 second sizzle reel. But can they keep attention and deliver their message for 10 minutes? You’re probably hiring them for 35-75 minutes, so they’d better! Play longer length videos and pay attention to the your students’ reaction while they watch.

Evaluate Options

Engagement Over Eloquence: While eloquence is a plus, engagement is crucial. A speaker who can interact with the audience, ask questions, and provoke thought will have a more lasting impact than one who simply delivers a monologue.

Adaptability: Youth audiences are diverse and dynamic. A great speaker should be able to read the room and adjust their delivery as needed.

Assess Messages

Positive and Empowering: The message should be positive, empowering, and appropriate for the age group. It should inspire the youth to take action, think differently, or feel more confident about their futures.

Authenticity: Authenticity resonates with young people. Speakers who share personal stories and real-life experiences often have a greater impact.

Chat with Your Top 3 Speakers

Pre-event Communication: Once you have a shortlist, communicate with the potential speakers. Discuss your event objectives, audience demographics, and the message you want to convey.

Customization: A speaker willing to customize their talk to better fit your audience and objectives can make a significant difference.

Leverage Social Proof

Testimonials and References: Look for testimonials from other event organizers. References can give you a better idea of the speaker’s impact and professionalism.

Social Media Presence: A speaker’s social media presence can provide insights into their current interests, recent works, and how they interact with their audience.

Making the Decision

Group Decision: Involve your team in the decision-making process. Different perspectives can help in choosing a speaker who appeals to a broader audience.

Trust Your Gut: Sometimes, it’s not just about the credentials but also about who feels like the right fit for your event. Trust your instincts.


Selecting the right motivational speaker for a youth conference is a nuanced and critical process. It requires understanding your audience, setting clear objectives, and thorough research. The ideal speaker should not only be knowledgeable and engaging but also resonate with the youth on a personal level, inspiring them to think, feel, and act.

Remember, the right speaker can transform your event from a mere gathering into a life-changing experience for its young attendees. Take the time to choose someone who can ignite passion, provoke thought, and leave a lasting impression. With these guidelines, you’re well on your way to finding a speaker who can elevate your youth conference to new heights.