Every year, millions of professionals from all walks of life attend conferences and listen to a huge number of speakers, whether fabulous, good, bad or indifferent. As co-founder and CEO of the C-Suite Network — an online community where C-suite leaders can find information, resources and the opportunity to network with other business leaders across a number of industries — I am one of those conference-goers. I have listened to hundreds of speakers talking about customer service, how to increase sales, new business innovations and every other business topic imaginable.
It's no secret that some speakers stay with you – and hopefully for a good reason. Here's a list of my favorite speakers, women and men whom you should look for in the coming year.
1. Linda Kaplan-Thaler is one of those people who can inspire you to be greater than you already are. She is a powerful and entertaining speaker, and her lectures offer stories from the front lines of business on the impact that determination, hard work and focused attention have on getting ahead. Having grown up in the Bronx, N.Y., with no money or connections, Linda knows that perseverance and determination are what can make the difference and will help people excel beyond their wildest dreams, whether in their careers or personal lives. She is proof positive of the power of grit.
2. Jeffrey Hayzlett is a BIG personality (and has a big personality, too). He's bold and brassy and definitely stands out in a crowd. Full disclosure: He is a friend of mine, but that's not the reason he made the list. He is a Speaker Hall of Fame member of the National Speakers Association (NSA), so it's not just me singing his praises. Jeffrey talks about how, in order to succeed, you must think big and act bigger. How does one achieve that? By being authentic and true to who you are. Having bought and sold more than 250 businesses in his career, he encourages entrepreneurs to be bold, fearless and even a little pigheaded.
3. Shep Hyken is one of the most dynamic and engaging speakers on the circuit. His affable personality and insight into customer service makes him one of my favorite presenters. Shep explores the demanding and important world of customer service, and how stellar service can elevate a company from good to great. A member of the NSA's Speaker Hall of Fame, he works with organizations that want to build loyal relationships with their customers and employees.
4. Peter Shankman is known among many as one of the brightest minds in public relations, and I tend to agree. He's one of the most engaging speakers out there, with a firm grasp on what's happening in P.R. and media. His main speaking topics are customer service, marketing, advertising, publicity and how the economy of the next 50 years will be driven by a combination of the above. His sense of humor and his inspiring ideas have earned him a troop of loyal followers.
5. Ron Karr talks about how companies can design and implement positioning and sales strategies to accelerate both sales growth and overall profitability. Sales does not just require persuasive and effective communication, it requires sales leaders to raise the bar by finding new opportunities and creating new levels of performance for their customers. Ron is a past president (2013-2014) of the NSA and past president of its New York Tri-State Chapter. He holds the Certified Speaking Professional designation.
6. Scott McKain is someone you definitely need to know about, as he helps organizations create distinction in every phase of business and teaches the "ultimate customer experience." His presentations and best-selling books cover how to create more compelling connections between you and your customers, and how to stand out and move up — regardless of your industry's economic climate.
7. Gary Vaynerchuk is an entertaining, thought-provoking business practitioner who is not afraid to tell it like he sees it. He is rooted in the notion of marketing in the year we live in and betting on one's strengths to ensure a path to success and happiness. Gary shows that while communication is still key, context matters more than ever.
8. Dan Gregory and Kieran Flanagan are a dynamic speaking duo who possess a business acumen matched by their rapier wit and rare human insight. Dan earned his speaking stripes on a three-year world tour as a stand-up comedian in the United States, the United Kingdom, and throughout Europe and Asia, while Kieran took the more challenging route, dealing with the much tougher audiences found in corporate boardrooms and conference centers (not to mention the 20 years she's spend working with Dan).
9. Maribeth Kuzmeski has spoken at Barron's Top Independent Advisor Summit, the Million Dollar Round Table and in front of audiences filled with hundreds to thousands of professionals sharing immediate strategies for acquiring new business. Some of her most popular keynotes include: "Marketing Magnetism for Financial Advisors," "Uncovering the Hidden 1% for Continual High Performance," "3-D Messaging" and "Relationship Management Strategies."
10. Kevin Harrington is a very engaging speaking who talks about a wide range of relatable topics that include testing before you invest (and never jumping head-first) and how to approach every situations as an opportunity. He can even give tips on how to unveil your best qualities and use your inherent talents to reach success.
11. Jay Baer is a unique speaker who always looks to give a positive twist to a potential negative, like customer service. For example, he's famous for saying, "Haters aren't your problem... ignoring them is." You can't ignore your negative reviews, you must confront them, and Jay tackles this issue head-on. He is a dynamic keynote speaker and emcee who works with leading organizations worldwide to help them get more customers and keep the ones they've already earned.
12. David Bach has a fantastic keynote speech called "Start Over, Finish Rich," in which he explains how 2010, with the country still in an economic recovery, was the best opportunity to build wealth. It sounds contradictory, but listening to him speak will give you some perspective on investment basics, questions you need to ask and tips for hiring a financial advisor.
13. Bruce Turkel is a fellow member of the C-suite who has created and worked with a number of top brands throughout his more than 25-year career. As a noted speaker, Bruce has addressed some of the following topics: building brand value, the care and feeding of creativity, presentation skills and defining your brand essence.
14. Mark Thompson, an expert on executive leadership, business strategy and innovation, has spent more than 25 years leading teams and building companies from the ground up. He has been named by Forbes as one of America's Top Venture Investors with the "Midas touch." He has been featured as one of the "World's Top Executive Coaches" by the American Management Association, and named one of the Top 30 Communications Professionals in 2015 by Global Gurus.
15. Mike Abrashoff's story is completely different from any of the other speakers. Mark is a Navy man who took command of a sinking ship — literally. The USS Benfold's performance was ranked rock-bottom, so instead of a change in personnel, he decided to change the ship's culture instead. From that experience, he went on to become a prolific speaker challenging companies to be accountable for turning their organizations around using every asset at their disposal to survive and thrive in the global marketplace.
16. Jay Samit is a dynamic entrepreneur and "intrapreneur" (dictionary.com: "an employee of a large corporation who is given freedom and financial support to create new products, services, systems, etc., and does not have to follow the corporation's usual routines or protocols"), who is widely recognized as one of the world's leading experts on disruption and innovation. His speaking engagements have taken him around the globe, from Berlin to Tokyo, and he has spoken at a number of high-profile events such as CES Las Vegas, Comdex, AdTech Tokyo, E3, AdTech San Francisco and AppsWorld London, to name a few.
17. Dr. Willie Jolley is a world-class, award-winning speaker and singer, best-selling author and media personality. He has spoken to a wide range of corporate audiences that include Walmart, GM, Comcast, Verizon, Marriott, the Million Dollar Round Table and more. His high energy, enthusiasm and useful life advice will put pep in your step!
18. Randy Gage goes beyond "live long and prosper," wanting you to live rich and prosper. Randy is known for helping audiences create a prosperity mindset and harness the power of thought into becoming financially solid and yes, rich. Who doesn't want to be the next Bill Gates?
19. Dr. Tony Alessandra's energy is endless! Listening to him is like having two speakers in one -- equal parts professor and performer. He's been known to deliver "college lectures in a comedy-store format." Tony wants his audience to enjoy themselves while learning practical, applicable skills that have a positive impact on relationships, prospects, customers and co-workers.
20. Jim Cathcart, an NSA Speaker Hall of Fame member, has traveled the world bringing his immeasurable knowledge about sales and marketing with him. Jim has delivered more than 3,000 presentations to audiences in the U.S., Canada, Scotland and Singapore.
21. Mari Smith is an internationally renowned, seasoned public speaker with deep expertise on social media marketing, particularly Facebook marketing. She has spoken to audiences around the world. With her six-foot stature, Scottish-Canadian-Californian accent, sense of humor and unique style of simplifying the complex, Mari is frequently one of the top-rated speakers at major conferences both online and offline.
22. Mark Sanborn is a top-notch motivational speaker who has given more than 2,400 presentations that hit the mark every single time. His topics on leadership are relevant and relatable to everyday circumstances. What I like most about him is that his topics are so original. As result, he's one of the youngest speakers ever inducted into the NSA's Speaker Hall of Fame.
23. Sally Hogshead's energetic style and research-based content immediately command the audience's attention with topics like professional development, sales and leadership, as well as marketing and business trends. Since we are all connected at all times, Sally teaches audiences how to communicate effectively and add value in the first nine seconds.
24. Harvey Mackay is one of the most sought-after and quoted public speakers by Fortune 1,000 companies and corporate leaders. His wit, wisdom and real-life stories make any talk relatable with advice people can use in their daily lives. Harvey shares his secret for developing more productive relationships, surviving the ever-changing job market and outselling, out-negotiating and out-motivating the competition. His business success as founder of a $100 million corporation, a best-selling author and a columnist makes him a can't-miss speaker in 2016.
25. Daymond John is known for the hit TV series Shark Tank, but what many don't know is that he is also a gifted speaker. His keynote speeches are enthralling, relating how a man, with no formal business training whatsoever, went from driving cabs and waiting tables at Red Lobster to creating a global fashion empire with retail sales exceeding $4 billion to date. Daymond entertains and awes audience members with true-life tales of his incredible successes — and numerous failures. Equally important, however, he motivates, inspires, and teaches attendees how to set and go after their own goals with newfound focus and determination.
Now that I've given you my list of can’t-miss speakers, who's on your list? Let us know in the comments below.
Thomas White is a co-founder and the CEO of C-Suite Network, an online community of C-suite leaders. In his professional life, White has started 10 companies in the fields of technology, publishing, market research and corporate consulting. He also holds four patents and is co-author of a book on business process technology, the executive producer of a syndicated radio program and a professional speaker himself.