Some years ago, I wrote an article for one of my representatives, the Washington Speakers Bureau. They represent such people as Condoleeza Rice, George W. Bush, Tony Blair, John Kerry, Magic Johnson, and Terry Bradshaw — global political, sports, and other leaders – and have been booking me into a variety of events since 2001. (Many of the world’s leading bureaus book me; not only Washington Speakers but also National Speakers Bureau / Global Speakers; Leading Authorities; the Harry Walker Agency; Keppler Speakers; and many more!)
The article covered one of the key trends that I’ve seen in over 30 years in the speaking industry – and that is both an increase in the of CEO or CxO-related meetings and events pulled together in order to address some sudden new strategic purpose and a general collapse in the time leading up to such events. 30 years ago, I was often booked a year or more in advance; these days, it is not unusual to be booked for some sort of corporate offsite leadership meeting just a few months or even weeks in advance.
Why? It goes to the heart of one of my business mantras – “the future belongs to those who are fast!” Organizations are finding BIG issues that impact them faster and need to pull their team together faster to upgrade their knowledge about the issue – and come up with a strategy around the issue.
Part 2 of this post will take a look at what has happened with the sophistication of the vents that are being put in place.
Keeping Up with the Speed of Change: Future Trends in the Speaking Industry
October 2017, Special to the Washington Speakers Bureau
by Futurist Jim Carroll
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 in 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 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, resulting in 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 anymore — 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 is 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 make 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 it 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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