by Kaylee Hultgren | March 01, 2008

B. Joseph Pine II, Frans Johansson, Patrick Lencioni and Chris Luebkeman

Four who command the floor (left to right): B. Joseph Pine II,
Frans Johansson, Patrick Lencioni and Chris Luebkeman

The right speaker can educate, inspire and create a lasting impact on a group and, by extension, a company; finding this person is what speakers bureaus are all about.

There are several advantages to using a bureau, as opposed to approaching a speaker directly, according to Jim Montoya, executive vice president of the Indianapolis-based International Association of Speakers Bureaus ( “It helps to minimize surprises,” he says. If your speaker cancels at the last minute, for example, a bureau will try to find a replacement. Bureaus also can provide useful information about a speaker that a snapshot bio found on the Internet might fail to mention.

“A speaker might typically show up five minutes before the event and leave right afterward,” Montoya notes, “while another might be happy to join in on a cocktail hour the night before. Someone else might charge for autographs, which is something you might want to know beforehand.”

M&C spoke with several bureaus that specialize in presenters well-versed in today’s hot business topics. Note that individual speakers mentioned are generally not the exclusive clients of any one bureau.

BigSpeak Speakers Bureau
Santa Barbara, Calif.
(805) 965-1400

“Some speakers pump you up, but they don’t necessarily give anything back to the workplace,” says Chris Johnson, marketing director for the BigSpeak Speakers Bureau. “We look to instill long-lasting, permanent change in organizations.” To that end, Johnson says, the bureau’s presenters tend to specialize in topics such as leadership, innovative thinking and environmental sustainability.

And effecting change might require more than a 45-minute presentation. As a follow-up to many of its keynoters, the company offers training, management consulting and coaching via its Leadership Excellence University, which resembles a mobile business school and works on site with clients.

“We often know what it is we need to do to improve, but it’s not always easy,” notes BigSpeak president and founder Jonathan Wygant. “Our university comes in to support making that change.” The staff includes business experts who have worked closely with the bureau’s keynote speakers and can work with groups to implement concepts presented in the initial talk.

For example, Patrick Lencioni, founder and president of the Lafayette, Calif.-based executive consulting firm The Table Group and author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team (Jossey-Bass), will present a keynote on organizational health and executive team building. In the weeks that follow, his senior consulting partner, Pat Richie, also president of the Danville, Calif.-based Sports Leadership Group, will work with the group to bring the lessons home.

BigSpeak aims to promote experiential learning whenever possible, as with presenter Shaun Tomson, a former professional surfer and currently a busy environmentalist and successful entrepreneur. His inspirational talks apply the principles that helped him succeed in the surfing world to overcoming obstacles in life and business. And if the meeting happens to take place at a coastal location, planners can arrange for private surfing lessons from the world champion himself.