Best Keynote Speakers: Planner's Recent Favorites

In August 2012, M&C polled meeting professionals about how they find keynote speakers for their events, what they spend and many other factors (read the article here). Among top priorities in the speaker selection process, more than half (54 percent) of respondents cited recommendations of others. Because planners value the opinions of their peers, we also asked the 114 respondents to name the best keynote speakers they've heard in the past two years. Following is an alphabetical compilation of their answers, along with a brief description and contact information, as researched by M&C. (For a similar list compiled in 2010, click here.)

ARTS AND CULTUREKent Nagano, music director of the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, reflects on art and culture in modern or International Classic Artists (

Jean Renoux, a French interior designer, leads tours to Europe to explore architecture, décor, furniture, art and culture, and speaks about the history of art and architecture;

BUSINESS SKILLSKristin Arnold is an author, facilitator and speaker on how to make a presentation more facilitative, engaging and interactive.

Gregory Balestrero, former CEO of the Project Management Institute, talks about the importance of project management in achieving success, corporate consciousness, leadership and sustainability.

Elaine Biech, president of Ebb Associates Inc., helps organizations work through large-scale change.

Joe Calloway, author, business consultant and presenter, helps companies build customer-focused teams to compete in the marketplace.

Sandy Costa, attorney and international business leader, is the author of Humanity at Work: Encouraging Spirit, Achievement and Truth to Flourish in the Workplace.

Warren Evans discusses trends and strategies that successful organizations are using to gain a competitive

Mark Faus, founder, Echelon Management International, talks on fostering sales growth and maximizing team effectiveness.

Steve Forbes serves as chairman, CEO and editor in chief at Forbes Media, and is an internationally respected authority on economics, finance, and corporate leadership.

Malcolm Gladwell is a staff writer for The New Yorker and the author of the best sellers The Tipping Point, Blink and Outliers.

Jeremy Gutsche, Canadian innovation expert, author, co-host of Trend Hunter TV and founder of, teaches how to spark innovation during times of change.

Marianne Jennings is an emeritus professor of legal and ethical studies in business from Arizona State University.

Patrick McGaughey is a certified meeting facilitator who talks about energizing teams and other topics.

Scott Schilling, sales speaker, trainer, consultant, coach and implementation specialist, talks about improving profitability and developing an inspired work force.

Laura Schwartz, White House director of events during the Clinton Administration and author of Eat, Drink and Succeed, talks about using the power of networking and social events for professional advancement.

Peter Shankman, an author and entrepreneur, is known for presenting new ways of thinking about social media, public relations, marketing, advertising and customer service.

Vickie Thomas, a branding, marketing and leadership executive, focuses on corporate brand identity and image enhancement.

Steven B. Wiley, entrepreneur, author and president of the Lincoln Leadership Institute at Gettysburg (Va.), speaks on negotiation, sales leadership and wellness.

CHILDREN'S CAUSESSteve Gross is executive director and "chief playmaker" of the Life Is Good Kids Foundation, a nonprofit organization that uses play to strengthen and heal children whose lives have been deeply impacted by trauma.

John Hunter, founder of the World Peace Game Foundation, is a teacher and educational consultant who helps children realize their full potential.

Jaiya John, Ph.D., founder of Soul Water Rising, a "global human mission," is a poet, author, and youth mentor/advocate.

Craig Kielburger is a Canadian children's-rights activist, founder of Free the Children and co-founder of Me to We.

Salome Thomas-El, author and educator, was raised in the projects of Philadelphia and returned to the inner city as a principal; he stresses that with promise and determination, any student can be inspired to succeed.

EDUCATIONDr. John Hodge, president and co-founder of the Urban Learning and Leadership Center, focuses on student achievement.

Dr. Abe Korn is a retired college professor, tutor and lecturer on many academic topics, along with meeting planning.

Diane Ravitch, research professor of education at New York University, is an educational historian and policy analyst.

HEALTH/SCIENCESJeff Arnold is chairman and CEO of Sharecare, an interactive platform launched with Dr. Mehmet Oz, founder of WebMD.

Dick Beardsley speaks about the dangers of chemical dependency.

Rich Bluni, author of Inspired Nurse and Inspired Journal, co-author of The Nurse Leader Handbook, is a popular health-care presenter.

Nancy Brinker, founder of the Susan G. Komen for the Cure, is dedicated to finding a cure for breast cancer.

Juan Enriquez, life sciences expert and co-founder of Synthetic Genomics, talks about developing genomic-driven solutions for major global issues.

Rip Esselstyn, former triathlete and firefighter, promotes the benefits of eating a plant-strong diet.

J. Stephen Lewis is a humanitarian and former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Craig Venter, American biologist and entrepreneur, is a pioneer of genomic research.

HUMOR/ENTERTAINMENTJoão Doria Jr. is a Brazilian journalist, publicist, tourism official and entrepreneur.ão-doria-jr/15/3b6/101

Mike Rayburn uses guitar skills, humorous songs and speaking presentations to encourage, challenge and inspire.

Alan Zweibel is a producer and comedy writer whose credits include Saturday Night Live, It's Garry Shandling's Show and Curb Your Enthusiasm; he's also a frequent guest on The Late Show With David Letterman.

MEDIADavid Pogue is technology writer for The New York Times and Scientific American and a CBS News correspondent, performs tech-industry song parodies at the end of his talks.

Don Yaeger, a sports writer, talks about his personal battle with cancer, first-hand experiences with some of the world's greatest sports legends and how to achieve greatness.

MILITARY Timothy K. Adams is a management consultant and former commanding general at United States Army Public Health Command.

Paul William Bucha, an American Vietnam War veteran and recipient of the Medal of Honor, served as foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

Kirk Lippold, commander of the USS Cole, is author of Front Burner: Al Qaeda's Attack on the USS Cole.

Colin Powell, retired four-star general in the U.S. Army, was the 65th United States Secretary of State and served under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005;

Ricardo Sanchez is a retired United States Army Lieutenant General, candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for the Senate in 2012 and author of the memoir, Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's

MOTIVATIONALBrian Boyle nearly died in a car crash and then defeated all odds to become a marathoner and triathlon competitor; he is the author of Iron Heart.

Jamie Clarke, Canadian adventurer, author, filmmaker, entrepreneur and inspirational speaker, talks about his four Mt. Everest expeditions, crossing the desert in Arabia and overcoming adversity.

Juliet Funt has a humorous, high-energy approach to work/life balance.

Hill Harper, actor, author, graduate of Brown University and Harvard Law School, is best known for his portrayal of Dr. Sheldon Hawkes in the CBS drama CSI: NY; he encourages audiences to "take your biggest dream, and double it."

Jeff Henderson, who transformed himself from prison dishwasher to award-winning chef, talks about tapping natural talents to transform the workplace.

Daniel Hernandez Jr. is a former congressional intern credited with saving Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.

Gene Kranz  led the NASA flight directors who guided the crippled Apollo 13 spacecraft safely back to Earth.

Allison Massari, an artist and entrepreneur who overcame a tragic fire and then brain injury, now is known as the "Ambassador of Happiness" and speaks about employee engagement and well-being.

Mike Mullane, a retired USAF officer and former NASA astronaut, flew on three Space Shuttle missions and talks about teamwork, safety and some humorous aspects of space flight.

Tom Sullivan, blind entertainer, actor and athlete, talks about turning adversity into opportunity and fear into strength.

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENTEligio Stephen Gallegos, Ph.D., a trainer in personal growth strategies, often using deep imagery techniques.

Bob Gray has a humorous, entertaining approach to improving memory and other business skills.

Evelyn Gray offers humorous and helpful strategies for being more organized at work and in life.

Jim "The Rookie" Morris, whose personal life story inspired the movie, The Rookie, talks about following your dreams and having a game plan for success.

Jeanne Robertson, a former Miss North Carolina, discusses humor as a strategy for professional success.

Tommy Spaulding tells how to achieve professional and personal success by forming deeper, more authentic relationships with customers, employees, clients and other key stakeholders.

Joe Stout provides ideas and concepts that allow individuals to recognize their own gifts and apply them.

Dan Thurman is an entertaining motivational speaker and life-balance expert.

Ron Williams talks about creating a life of your own design, rather than by default.

Larry Winget markets himself as the "Pitbull of Personal Development," speaks on personal development, business and financial success.

PHILANTHROPIC Stuart Hickox is the founder and president of One Change, a nonprofit organization whose community-based social marketing campaigns aim to substantially reduce energy use.

Bill Strickland is a community leader, author of Make the Impossible Possible, and president and CEO of the nonprofit Manchester Bidwell Corp., which aims to help the disadvantaged build a better future.

POLITICALDavid Brooks, political commentator and op-ed columnist for The New York Times, speaks on the 2012 elections.

Laura Bush, first lady from 2001-2009 as wife of President George W. Bush, advocates for many issues of national and global concern.

Rick Perry is the Republican governor of Texas.

Condoleezza Rice, former Secretary of State and national security advisor, talks about foreign affairs, education and empowering women.

Rick Snyder, Republican governor of Michigan, also is a business executive and venture capitalist.

RELIGIOUSPastor Kevin Dieckilman is CEO of One Heart for Israel, a nonprofit organization active in promoting Christian support for Israel worldwide.

John Maxwell is an evangelical Christian author, speaker, and pastor who has written more than 60 books, primarily focusing on leadership.

SOCIAL JUSTICEStarhawk is the author of works celebrating ecofeminism, global justice, social activism and paganism.

Lilly Ledbetter is a women's equality activist and plaintiff in the American employment discrimination case of Ledbetter vs. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.

SPORTSJim Abbott, former Major League Baseball pitcher (1989-1999) who was born without a right hand, talks about how we must adapt to meet life's obstacles and the benefits of overcoming adversity.

Jim Craig, a former American ice hockey player and goaltender for the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team that won gold at the Lake Placid Winter Games, today is a motivational speaker and sales trainer.

Tricia Downing, a competitive cyclist who became a paraplegic and is now a world-class physically challenged triathlete, shares her message of strength and perseverance.

David Feherty, a former professional golfer and now a writer and broadcaster, discusses life as a golfer and some of the more comical moments from the PGA Tour.

Roy Firestone is a sports commentator and journalist, performer, humorist, musician and impressionist.

TECHNOLOGYAndrew Hunt, co-founder of The Pragmatic Programmers LLC, is a programmer turned consultant, author and publisher.

Lee Rainie, founder and director of the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, is co-author of Networked: The New Social Operating System and Up for Grabs: The Future of the Internet.

James Spellos is the creator of Way Cool Tools and other social media and technology sessions for conferences, meetings and businesses.