Speakers 2.0 – The Evolution of the Speaking Industry

Category under: Articles, Press, Speaking Industry

The business of speaking has evolved dramatically in the last five years — have you noticed?

It used to be event planners would spend quite a bit of time planning for next years annual conference. A committee would begin a slow, careful, and routine process of planning a program agenda, which would include finding a celebrity speaker or two to fill the agenda. Year in, year out, they’d carefully follow the same old process. Often, they’d end up with the same old conference.

Today, of course, faster is the new fast, and we’re witnessing a different role for both the speakers and the bureaus who represent them. Let’s call it “strategic knowledge delivery” — we’re helping organizations to get the right knowledge in the right place, at the right time, for the right purpose. Events have evolved from, well, events, to critical get-togethers that help a company, association or organization adapt to sudden new realities.

Today, a company might find itself in the midst of a rapid product launch — after all, product lifecycles are collapsing. (Just look at your iPod, and think of the rapid changes occurring in the consumer electronics industry!) There’s now a new requirement for fast knowledge — they need to pull together their sales force quickly, update them on the forthcoming marketing plans and sales strategy, and give them a strong motivational push out the door. They call a speakers bureau, and quickly line up a retail expert, an expert on selling strategies, and a top motivational speaker to boot.

Oh — and they need these people in two weeks!

That’s the new reality of the speaking business today. It has now evolved into a highly specialized industry, in which knowledge-brokers (formerly known as “speakers bureaus”) provide their highly specialized insight into who-knows-what, to provide their clients with the key knowledge-experts that they need. By doing so, they’re helping the client to quickly solve new business challenges, adapt to new markets, stay competitive, and deal with the reality of all the circumstances that come with our fast-paced world of today.

Every organization on the planet today is working hard to ensure that it can “keep-up.” I’ve certainly witnessed the trend first hand through the last five years, doing exactly this type of thing with some of the largest organizations in the world.

When you end up advising companies like Disney as to how to be creative, you get a different perspective of the world. Disney, for all of its vaunted reputation as a cauldron of creative genius, is like every other organization out there: it finds itself immersed in a whirlwind of rapid change, whether with its’ business model, product line, or rapidly changing consumer demand. (Anyone with pre-teen kids has seen the huge and sudden take-off of the hit High School Musical, or the explosive growth of the Hanna Montanna franchise, knows what I am talking about!)

Like any organization, Disney is constantly working to ensure that they can remain on top, by understanding the trends that will continue to impact them, and by ensuring they keep their creative spark fresh by seeking to learn what other innovative organizations are doing. For Disney, it’s almost as if they are beyond faster-is-the-new-fast : they’re in an industry in which tomorrow is simply today’s urgent problem. And that’s why they call in outside experts — someone like me.

The changes in the speaking industry — and the role that bureaus and speakers play — mirror the changes occurring in the fast paced world of business today. It’s all about just-in-time knowledge delivery. Understand that, and you’ll understand the context of the solutions that this industry and speakers bureaus can provide you.


THE FUTURE BELONGS TO THOSE WHO ARE FAST features the best of the insight from Jim Carroll’s blog, in which he
covers issues related to creativity, innovation and future trends.