Leadership Speakers - Blog post by Thom SingerA former client called me on a Saturday morning. She was working on her agenda for her employee engagement conference, and was having a hard time finding the right leadership speaker. She had a limited budget and needed a speaker who is experienced and can “wow” her audience (and her boss).

I had been the keynote speaker at this event two years ago. While I tried to see if she would have me back (my new content “The Paradox of Potential” would be perfect for here meeting). She was clear with me that she always waits 4-5 years before repeating a speakers.

This is a wonderful company and the meeting planner was awesome to work with. She remembered that immediately after the conference, and in my follow up correspondence I always offered to help her identify keynote speakers (even if I was not who she was looking to hire).

This event is has about 500 attendees and includes all the leadership and management of the company. It is important to this meeting planner that the motivational speakers who she hires are very experiences, but she cannot afford the top leadership speakers in the world.

This company has become accustomed to only having high energy presentations from leadership experts, but they do it on a modest (but fair) budget.

During out chat she told me that her CEO is interested in customer service and sales topics for this years meetings. They need someone who has experience in business, and they were not seeking a bestselling author or anyone else with a fancy title. Their company is over having high paid gurus who give them canned presentations.

She was seeking someone with the speaking skills of a famous speaker, and the hands on experience from a consulting firm or other leadership institute. For this keynote they needed a normal person who has real world company experience.

Her list of what she needed was very specific. The speakers they had over the past few years that had resonated the most (myself included) were not famous and did not brag on any TV worthy experiences. They had tried Olympic athletes and adventure racing world champions, and that was not the right fit.

This phone call was fun. She was fired up to ensure this year’s conference was remarkable, and she was clear that a lot of what she needs was tied to discovering the right speaker.

This experienced meeting professional said she had tried a Google Search of Leadership Speakers, only to find pages of paid ads from speakers and speakers bureaus, and more marketing lists of the “Top Leadership Speakers in the World”. None of them helped her with her highly unique search.

I accepted her challenge and promised to help her vet leadership speakers over the coming month. To begin with I sent her to a page I created that lists the professional speakers who I recommend regularly. This list is made up of about 25 speakers who I know always knock it out of the park for their clients.

The issue at hand was her budget. She needs someone willing to meet her price, and she was clear with me there was no negotiation. This eliminated many of the people who first came to my mind. While her budget is a good one, it is lower than some speakers will accept.

I also suggested she call one or two speakers bureaus and I sent her some names of people I know would be excited to work with her in finding the right speaker. While my own experience with bureaus is limited, I have worked with several and all of them are amazing people who will help her identify one or more candidates.

It is hard to find the right speakers for an event. Leadership speakers are all so different. No speaker is a commodity and you cannot just plug anyone into the agenda.

This is an exciting project for me, helping her find the right speaker. I have always thought that if I was not a speaker, I would want to work for a speakers bureau or manage other speakers. This business is so much fun.

As a leadership speaker, I love talking like this with meeting planners. It is easy to view the meetings business through your own lens, and miss the bigger picture. She also appreciated the conversation, as she can only see the world through her planners eyes (she did not know she could negotiate a fee with a speaker).

Take a look at that page of Recommended Professional Speakers that I linked to above. Do you know these speakers? Who are the Top 10 Leadership Speakers you would recommend?


Thom Singer is a business motivational speaker and emcee.  He is the host of the Cool Things Entrepreneurs Do podcast and the author of 12 books.  To book Thom to speak at your next event, visit www.ThomSinger.com