18 Aug 2014

Barry Markoff: Speakers and Entertainers – What’s Hot?

an image of a hot chilli

The Speaking Industry like any other industry is continually changing. However, one thing that never changes is the continual request for motivational and inspirational speakers who can help lift the spirit of a company and ensure that their people have more drive to succeed and are more engaged as a team.

Here are some emerging trends:

1. Wellness Speakers

At the top of our emerging trends is an increase in demand for ‘Wellness’ speakers. The ‘Wellness’ category encompasses Health, Lifestyle & Wellbeing, Mental Health and WHS speakers.
$41,000,000,000 in productivity is lost every year in Australia. Companies are looking for any advantage that might reduce productivity loss by decreasing both presenteeism (people at work who aren’t engaged) and absenteeism. As a result of this need, HR departments are playing an increasingly significant role in the solution. A big part of their portfolio is Work Health Safety with a focus on improving staff mental fitness while reducing anxiety and stress. The average stress leave claim is $250,000 and claim numbers are increasing by a minimum of 25% per year.
This is a very serious problem, which can be partly eliminated by having managers who understand the issues and have empathy with what is happening. Managers are currently overworked, and when this happens they lose the ability to manage their people as they should (and show real attention and care). It is interesting to note that if you neglect your staff, productivity will be reduced by 40%, and even if you only focus on improving their weaknesses, productivity improves to 22% below normal.
What this shows is that people prefer to be acknowledged for their weaknesses rather than not being acknowledged at all.

Mark McKeon, Graeme Cowan and Meiron Lees are amongst our Wellness Speakers.

Other trending categories of Speakers are 2. Successful Women and 3. Women in leadership roles.

Most of the speakers at conferences are men – and men make up the majority of most event programs – so the arrival of outstanding female business speakers such as Winter Olympic gold medalist and businesswoman Alisa Camplin OAM, former Police Commissioner Christine Nixon APM and Holly Ransom (now Australia’s hottest young speaker and coordinator of both the Y20 and B20 events), have given programs more diversity and better balance.

Mixed with the tried and true:

Futurist speakers are always popular and outstanding demographer Bernard Salt is kept busy. His diary is filled with 10-15 engagements per month. Economists such as Michael Pascoe are also in huge demand as is IBIS chief Phil Ruthven AM whose entertaining presentations on Economics and The Future ensure plenty of laughs mixed in with a serious message. Dr. Keith Suter is another futurist/strategist whose presentations are delivered in a simple, authoritative, convincing and challenging manner which ensures much food for thought once attendees leave his outstanding sessions.

Business Success speakers are also in high demand. Clients tend to want those who are currently running organizations that are enjoying success. The likes of Janine Allis (Boost Juice), Carolyn Creswell (Carman’s), Bernie Brookes (Myer), Glenn Cooper AM (Coopers Brewing) and Fred Harrison (Ritchies) are often requested, even though their time is extremely limited because of their business commitments. Former Myer, K Mart and David Jones chief Peter Wilkinson is a great speaker on business and retail, as are Thankyou founder Daniel Flynn and founder of Braaap, Brad Smith (winner of Four Australian Retailer of the Year Awards).

Rubbing shoulders with celebrities and having photos with them has always been a big winner at conferences and events. There is no better example of this than former Prime Minister John Howard OM AC whose incredible presentations (with no notes!) are usually followed by his socialising with clients, making each one of them feel very special. In this space he is exceptional. Just be sure when considering a celebrity for your event that you have done your research and that they “like mixing with people” and leave their egos at the front door. Former test cricketer Max Walker AM is a star in this area as is former TV presenter Andrew Daddo and Sports commentator Nicole Livingstone OAM.

Great stories will always be in demand

Motivational and Inspirational speakers leave their audiences on a high as they have usually overcome incredible odds, and in a lot of cases, have even defied death. For example, Victoria Cross medal winners Benjamin Roberts-Smith VC MG and Mark Donaldson VC, along with Darren Flanagan (one of the heroes of the Beaconsfield Mines rescue in 2005) and Theo Venter – the only man in the world to have survived 22,000 volts going through his body. These guys have incredible stories to tell and always leave their audiences wanting more.

So while companies will always have their own story to tell, they will always appreciate the support of an engaging speaker or entertainer who can captivate and enthrall their people. The demand for speakers and entertainers is high, so if you have an event to run make sure you move quickly to choose and retain your speaker.


Barry Markoff is the founder and Managing Director of ICMI. He has nearly 30 years’ experience in the Speakers and Entertainers industry, after a career as a sports psychologist which took him to the USA.

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