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Home > Keep Up with the Speed of Change: Future Trends in the Speaking Industry

Keep Up with the Speed of Change: Future Trends in the Speaking Industry

I work with many of the world’s leading bureaus, one of who is the Washington Speakers Bureau. They represent such people as Condoleeza Rice, George W. Bush, Tony Blair, John Kerry, Magic Johnson, Terry Bradshaw — global political, sports and other leaders. They’ve just run a blog post that I wrote on trends in the speaking industry. (Many of the worlds leading bureaus book me ; not only Washington Speakers, but also National Speakers Bureau / Global Speakers; Gail Davis & Associates; Leading Authorities; the Harry Walker Agency; Keppler Speakers ; Executive Speakers and many more!)


You can’t open a newspaper without seeing an article on the impact of ‘disruption.’  We now live in a period of unprecedented change in which your business model and the assumptions by which you operate are set to be forever disrupted.

In my own case, I spend a tremendous amount of time with different organizations in a vast range of different industries and professions, helping executives to understand and respond to the disruptive forces around them. And in the last several years, I’ve noticed some pretty significant changes in the speaking industry as organizations struggle with disruption.

If you are someone on your team responsible for organizing corporate or association meetings, you need to think about and react to the trends and forces at work. Quite simply, change is occurring several ways: with the speed with which speakers and topic experts are being booked, the topic areas that insight is being sought for, and the short time frames that everyone is working within.

As a speaker who focuses on how to link trends and innovation, my tag-line has become ‘the future belongs to those who are fast.”

The world is speeding up – and organizations need to respond faster

Consider the changes that everyone is impacted by today. Business model disruption. The rapid emergence of new competitors. The challenging impact of social media. Products that are almost out of date by the time they are brought to market. The digitization of everything and the impact of the Internet of Things.  All of these trends — and more — require that organizations pick up the pace when it comes to their strategies, actions and innovation efforts.

I’m seeing that within my global client base, where I am being engaged more frequently by senior executives in companies to help them assess and identify strategic plans in the light of these high velocity trends.

The theme of faster innovation is an undercurrent for events. The guiding cry seems to be, ‘we know we need to change — and we know we need to change faster!”

Organizations are booking speakers faster

These rapid changes are leading to some absolutely fascinating booking cycles in my speaking career — with an increasing number of my events booking just a few weeks or a month out. That’s a big change. It used to be that speakers were booked a year or more in advance. That still happens, but it is an increasingly uncommon occurrence.

Consider the old, traditional booking cycles. In the past, the typical speaker was booked by someone with MPI or other event industry credentials – an association or corporate event planner. They would work on a long, elaborate timeline, often a year in advance, for an annual conference of meeting. In addition to the speaker selection the process would involve a detailed site selection, a comprehensive RFP process, site visits, and lots of committee discussions around the tone, direction and theme of the meeting.

This is no longer the case.

In the new high-velocity economy, in which organizations are suddenly confronted with new challenges and opportunities at an increasing pace, organizations must challenge themselves from a leadership and strategic perspective faster.

This involves finding a content or subject effort fast, and bringing that individual in quickly. That’s because rapid market, business, industry, and skills change leads to a need for faster “knowledge delivery”.

The result? Corporate and association events take on a more strategic role, with a resulting shorter planning cycles and smaller, more tightly focused events with a specific strategic purpose.

New strategic meetings need to serve a very specific purpose – not a broad ‘theme’

Organizations don’t just want inspiration any more — they need specific ideas with specific action plans. In a world of fast change, speakers can’t just provide inspiration: they need to provide real solutions.

Audiences are looking not only for detailed trends analysis that are specific to them, but real solutions that they can pursue right out of the gate. Insight on how to develop a relentless focus on growth, or opportunities in solving customer problems before the customer knows it’s a problem. They want to concentrate on ingesting fast ideas; checking their speed and focusing on corporate agility; or focusing on long term wins through constant incremental improvements. They know that skills partnerships are a key success factor. They know that right now is a great time to made bold decisions, and to take decisive advantage to forge aggressive new paths against their competitors.

Whatever the case may be, these new strategic meetings are all about real solutions to real challenges and opportunities.

The shifting role of the event professional

Traditionally, speakers have been booked by meeting professionals, event planners, or others who bear responsibility for their events. That’s no longer the case.

When meetings and events come together with an entirely new, fast and specific strategic purpose, the person charged with the responsibility of organizing the content is someone entirely different. Usually an executive assistant, senior vice president or someone else with many other responsibilities.

Some research indicates that today, only 17% of meeting planners have “meeting planner” in their job titles; and less than 20% of meeting planners spend over 50% of their work time planning meetings!

Connecting with the right speaker

My experience has shown that event professionals often feel overwhelmed by the vast number of speakers available to them and the massive range of potential optics. It’s confusing, overwhelming, and intimidating.

Here’s the most interesting thing: they might not necessarily be aware of the role that a speakers bureau can play in helping them to make their way through the vast number of options that are out there. That’s why I continue to invest a lot of time in ensuring that my friends at the Washington Speakers Bureau understand what I do and how I do it; how I customize; how I work with the client to help them achieve their very specific strategic objectives. In that way, WSB is better positioned to help potential clients understand the very unique role in can play in this highly specialized world.

In other words, if disruption is happening, it’s better to lead the disruption through innovative thinking and actions!

Jim Carroll is one of the world’s leading international futurists, trends and innovation experts, with a client list that ranges from Northrop Grumman to Johnson & Johnson, the Swiss Innovation Forum to the National Australia Bank; the Walt Disney Organization to NASA. His focus is on helping to transform growth oriented organizations into high-velocity innovation heroes.

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