Looking for the right speaker to re-energize your next meeting? Find out the latest trends — and the speakers who deliverby Diana Rowe | Published in July 2009 Features | entertainment | speakers
Looking for the right speaker to re-energize your next meeting? Find out the latest trends — and the speakers who deliver
The speaker holds the football above his head and asks the audience: “Who wants the pigskin?” Dozens raise their hands. Again, he asks, “Who really wants this football?” More jump to their feet and shout — but one young man runs to the front of the auditorium. His reward is an autographed football from the speaker, Rudy Ruettiger, of Notre Dame football movie “Rudy” fame. Ruettiger tells him: “You get the reward, because you went after what you wanted.”
“Rudy is just one of many speakers who help drive the success of meetings and events by delivering a motivational message,” says Jaki Baskow of Las Vegas Speakers Bureau. “Attendees want to identify with the speaker who shows them if they persevere and follow their passion, they will be successful.”
Motivational speakers — always popular — are becoming even more sought-after in today’s economy, as businesses look to inspire their teams to greater results. To find out what to look for to re-energize your next meeting, and who can do it, we interviewed a panel of speaker experts across the country to get their take on current trends in speakers and suggestions for hot topics. Here’s what they told us.
trend motivating & inspiring
“Today, everything is about the bottom line,” says Don Epstein, CEO of the New York City-based Greater Talent Network Inc. “With all the downsizing and layoffs and crumbling of institutions, business are re-inventing themselves and taking stock in their future, and your attendees are doing the same. Meetings are still an integral part of doing business, and speakers are supplying a much-needed injection of life into the event, no matter the topic.”
“Today’s attendees are completely different than even last year,” says Baskow. “After living through the daily possibility of losing their job in today’s economy, they aren’t looking to be wowed; they are looking to be stirred. The speaker needs to be motivational, inspirational and deliver a message that ‘I can do it too.’”
trend speakers get interactive
“Gone are the ‘talking head’ speakers,” says Frank Candy, president and CEO of American Speakers Bureau Career Institute. “They can’t just stand behind a podium and tell a group of attendees to be excited, inspired and motivated — and send them to the same old job. Budget-conscious planners are getting the most out of their speaker fees, and successful speakers are stepping up to create a package.”
According to Candy, speakers no longer just show up, hide in their room until their 60-minute speech and then take the first flight home. “Speakers have partnered with technology to create customized packages and solutions in addition to their monologue,” he says.
“Those speaker packages can include networking and promotion through social media, pre- and post-meeting hype through articles, social media, online seminars, webinars and podcasts,” explains Candy.
“The role of the speaker has changed,” concludes Epstein. “Speakers are more interactive and willing to open conversation with individuals or audiences. This can be done by via ‘live’ open mic time or online interactive applications, such as Twitter to the virtual audience.”
Candy adds, “It used to be distracting for PDAs to go off during presentations, but now it’s encouraging to speakers or planners, as that means they are spreading the message to a bigger audience. The new speaker model can be baffling for the Boomer audience, but it really adds depth and value to the presentation.”
trend content is king
“Topics are the same as they’ve always been,” says Shawn Ellis, president of Nashville, Tenn.-based The Speakers Group.
“Meeting planners are more interested in the content. They still need a big name to draw, but it’s important to find value in the speaker and make sure every component ties in with the specific business objectives. There’s no room for fluff, although one exception is that there is still a need for humor and lightheartedness. These are all tough things to balance.”
Planners are focusing more closely on high-quality content, says Esther Eagles, owner of the New Jersey-based Eagles Talent Connection Inc. “It’s great to be motivated, but with today’s tight budgets, speaker content should also generate ideas,” she says. “That’s why speakers are offering more value-added components before and after the meeting to reinforce what is learned in face-to-face events and longevity to the message.”
trend speaking of business solutions
“Big names are not as important as industry-specific expertise,” says Conner. “The role of the speaker used to be just a crowd-pleaser, but now it’s as a coach. It’s no longer just about the buzz. Attendees want the content and the longevity of the message.”
trend green as inspiration
Green is still big, according to the experts. “Companies are realizing sustainability is a long-term goal they can’t ignore, and they need to lay the groundwork for the future,” says Conner. “Speakers that can offer ‘green’ tips are in hot demand.”
[Famous People Players] How can you not be inspired when the stage is filled with an entrancing puppeteer show that inspires and entertains? Yet, not until the end of the show are you told the rest of this motivational story by Diane Dupuy, the director of the Famous People Players troupe. Dupuy takes the stage to tell of the performers who are developmentally challenged, yet exceptionally talented, now appearing in theaters and in front of corporate audiences. Their message, according to Baskow, is a celebration of hope and love — and second chances. fpp.org
[Seth Godin] When people are feeling stressed out and worried about their future, Conner says, they want a different takeaway. She suggests Seth Godin, a world-renowned marketing guru, who is changing the way we understand our relationship with consumers and employees — a marketing revolution that applies to all businesses.
[Steven S. Little] A no-nonsense business growth expert, Steven S. Little uses a real-world approach to help organizations rise to the next level and build effective customer relationships and sustainable profitability (Eagles Talent Connection).
[Joseph Michelli] Author of “The Starbucks Experience,” speaker Joseph Michelli offers a rare blend of boardroom strategies, employee motivation tips, community involvement and customer satisfaction. Particularly impressive is his vision that the keynote is not an event but a process, points out Ellis (The Speakers Group).
[Kathy Cleveland Bull] Ellis notes a spike in “change management” as organizations go through changes that no other generation has seen. “Who Moved my Cheese” is a message Kathy Cleveland Bull delivered to an audience of over 7,000 people. She helps clients “Navigate the Art and Science of Change” (The Speakers Group).
[David W. Kralik] David W. Kralik is manager of the Silicon Valley office and director of Internet strategy at American Solutions, founded by former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. In 2008, he was honored as one of the “Top 10 Changing the World of Internet and Politics.” He’s the man largely responsible for mobilizing supporters for Obama’s campaign through social media tools (The Speakers Group).
[Marcus Luttrell] Sometimes, according to Conner, content blends with inspiration, such as with former Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell, available through Greater Talent Network. His story is about surviving multiple gunshots wounds to tell the story of his fallen brothers. His message is motivational, inspirational and patriotic, and always results in a standing ovation.
[Michael Treacy] Michael Treacy is a dynamic speaker who has over a quarter century expertise transforming businesses worldwide into market leaders by helping them overcome their greatest strategic challenges (Eagles Talent Connection).
[Tim Sanders] A passionate speaker, Tim Sanders is on a mission to get businesspeople around the world excited about participating in social responsibility by going green, employee development projects and sustainability, thus creating stronger brands, better sales and making a difference beyond making a profit (Eagles Talent Connection).
[Keith Harrell] Known across America for his energizing and innovative presentations, Keith Harrell motivates his audience into action with the perfect blend of content, practical application and humor (Eagles Talent Connection).