I’ve heard this comment from so many meeting planners recently I wanted to dig in a little deeper about it. Some meeting planners are complaining that their audiences aren’t happy with speakers who don’t really understand their industry. They’re not getting the hard skills they need to excel in their fields.

Speakers, especially keynote speakers, also need to convey soft skills, which are also important in the workplace. So, what is a speaker to do?

Speaker hard skills vs. soft skills

The comparison between speaker hard skills vs soft skills is not a matter of one being universally better than the other. Both types of skills play essential roles in personal and professional development. Their value depends on the context and the specific requirements of a situation.

Hard Skills:

  • Hard skills are specific, measurable abilities that are often learned through formal education, training programs, or on-the-job experience.
  • They are typically job-specific and are easy to quantify and test. Examples include technical skills like programming, accounting, data analysis, language proficiency, etc.
  • Hard skills are crucial for tasks that require technical expertise, precision, and specific knowledge.
  • In certain professions, having the right hard skills may be a prerequisite for getting hired or advancing in a career.
  • However, relying solely on hard skills may not be sufficient for long-term career success as industries and technologies evolve rapidly.

Soft Skills:

  • Soft skills, on the other hand, refer to a person’s interpersonal abilities, emotional intelligence, communication, adaptability, problem-solving, leadership, teamwork, etc.
  • They are less tangible and harder to quantify but are vital for effective communication, collaboration, and building strong relationships with others.
  • Soft skills are essential in almost every professional setting, as they contribute to personal growth, teamwork, leadership effectiveness, and overall career advancement.
  • Individuals with strong soft skills often excel in leadership positions, as they can inspire and influence others positively.

Here is some insight from those in the meeting and event industry:

“Event and meeting planners are looking for speakers who are experienced and professional along with some type of alignment with the event’s audience. In some cases, this is that the speaker is an authority in the field, and in others, it is a speaker who can delight, entertain, motivate, or inspire an audience in any field. Choosing which direction to go is truly made on a case-by-case basis depending on the client and their overall goal of the session, but more often than not, meeting planners are always looking for speakers who will resonate, experienced in their field or not.”

Jennifer Best

VP Marketing

All American Speakers

Knowledgable expert

“As the CEO of Event Solutions, with more than 35 years of experience planning meetings and corporate events, I can tell you that choosing the right keynote speaker is a crucial task for us. We aim to find a speaker who excels in both hard skills and soft skills, creating a memorable and impactful experience for our clients and their audiences (see ourĀ featured past events here).

Hard skills are vital because we want a speaker who is knowledgeable and an expert in their field. This ensures that the content they deliver is valuable, informative, and aligns with the theme and objectives of the event.

Equally important are the soft skills of the speaker, which include their ability to engage, connect, and inspire the audience. We look for speakers who have charisma, excellent communication skills, and can capture the attention of attendees from the beginning to the end of their presentation.

Relevant experience

In addition to these skills, we also seek speakers with relevant experience that resonates with the audience. When a speaker shares stories and insights that align with the challenges and interests of the attendees, it creates a stronger connection and adds authenticity to the overall presentation.

Throughout my career in event planning, I’ve seen the positive impact that a well-chosen keynote speaker can have on an event. They have the power to elevate the experience and leave a lasting impression on everyone involved.

At Event Solutions, our team works diligently to find speakers who possess the right mix of hard and soft skills, along with relevant experience. We strive to create exceptional events that inspire, educate, and leave a positive mark on our clients and their audiences. Together, we can make your event a success with a keynote speaker who brings knowledge, charm, and inspiration to the stage.

Brad Lipshy

Event Solutions

Entertaining and inspiring

When meeting planners want a speaker who is going to be more engaging with a big personality (like a motivational speaker) then they will focus more on soft skills. They will book these speakers because they want to focus more on entertaining or inspiring their audience. But when we work with organizations who are looking to train their employees on a specific topic (leadership, customers service, DEI, etc.), or event planners who are managing a specific type of conference, then they focus more on hard skills. But at the end of the day, it’s usually a mixture of both with an 80/20 rule (hard/soft or vice versa).

Sergio Diaz


Balanced skill sets

Hard and soft skills are valuable and serve different purposes depending on what an audience is looking for. For certain speaking jobs, hard skills are the primary requirement. This is especially true for breakouts and workshops. While for others, soft skills may be equally or even more critical if the audience is looking to be entertained. The best approach is to aim for a balanced skill set that includes a mix of hard and soft skills. This will make you more adaptable and effective in various situations.

In today’s dynamic speaking market, many meeting planners look for speakers who not only possess the necessary hard skills but also exhibit strong soft skills to entertain an audience. As a speaker focus on developing a well-rounded skill set that encompasses both hard and soft skills to enhance your overall employability. And focus on those industries where you have a background that you can relate to a meeting planner’s audience. This increases your chances of connecting with them and leaving a good impression.


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