It's a rare meeting that doesn't include someone with a microphone in his or her hand talking to a group. So we decided to learn who's out there saying what--and for how much. We were struck by the sheer variety of speakers available on seemingly every topic, from politicians to talk show hosts to CEOs to comedians to people who are combinations of the above.

An initial Web search netted many general and some specialized speakers' bureaus. Need a multicultural Buddhist for peace? Check out www.RainbowDharma.com. An animal activist? There's www.SpeakingOut.org.

We dug even deeper, chose 25 speakers we bet you've never thought of, and then arranged them in logical categories (sort of).

The Empower Rangers: I Did It, So Can You! Make millions in real estate with no money down! Lose weight without dieting! Self-improvement seminars are all the rage, promising huge returns in exchange for a few hours of your time--and a hefty registration fee. Appearance is everything on the self-improvement circuit. These charismatic speakers positively ooze success and infectious

enthusiasm.

Admit it, she scared us at first. Who was this woman with the blond crewcut, screaming at us to "Stop the Insanity!"? Susan Powter's ($10,000 to 20,000) take-no-prisoners approach and can-do attitude have made her one of the country's most popular motivational speakers on health, dieting, and fitness. She is, in a word, memorable--and not likely to get lost in a crowd.

The irrepressible Richard Simmons (inquiries only) brings his unique perspective and personality to proper diet, exercise, and fitness. He describes himself as the "court jester of health," and although he's parlayed his message into a multimillion-dollar industry, he hasn't lost the human touch--he still continues his visits to schools, hospitals, and nursing homes.

On the Home Front Perhaps in response to our high-tech, wired lifestyles, there is a marked renewed interest in the domestic sciences. At home, we strive to create a safe haven, a respite from the trials of modern life.

Domestic dominatrix Martha Stewart (inquiries only) is the self-appointed arbiter of American taste, re-inventing the home and garden in her flawless image (which, she assures us, is a good thing). Her "omnimedia" influence--from magazines to radio to television and the Internet--is omnipresent, and she's thrown open the (French) doors to other designers and home

experts.

Television host B. Smith (inquiries only) is affectionately referred to as "the black Martha Stewart." A successful restaurateur and magazine publisher of B. Smith Style, the former fashion model is the first African-American woman ever to be elected to the Board of Trustees of the renowned Culinary Institute of America--and she's not a even a professional chef! What she is, however, is an engaging, intelligent, fresh voice in the lifestyle industry.

The Discovery Channel's Christopher Lowell ($10,0000 to 20,000), an unabashedly flamboyant interior decorator, delivers a profound depth of decorating know-how in a breathless, gossipy format. The antidote to condescending decorators, Lowell makes it all look easy, so no one feels inferior and everyone has fun. His signature phrase is "You can do it!"

On the cooking front, the venerable Julia Child (inquiries only) continues to stir us as she enters her fourth television decade. Graham Kerr (inquiries only), once known to millions of television viewers as "The Galloping Gourmet," has returned his career to the front burner. After his wife suffered a heart attack in 1986, Kerr started presenting low-fat cuisine in his cookbooks, "Wellness on the Web" site, appearances on PBS and The Discovery Channel--and public speaking.

Getting Down to Business "You don't have to be crazy to work here, but it helps." Sound familiar? Whether you're a "one-minute manager," thanks to Ken Blanchard ($30,000 to $50,000), learning to "swim with the sharks" with Harvey Mackay ($20,000 to 30,000), or developing the "seven habits of highly effective people" with Stephen R. Covey's advice ($75,000 and up), you know there's a plethora of good business advice out there.

Ken Adelman's ($5,000 to $10,000) "Movers and Shakespeares" programs bring the Bard into the boardroom, using wisdom from Shakespeare's works to illustrate business concepts and skills. Author of Shakespeare in Charge: How to Lead and Succeed on the Business Stage, Adelman uses rehearsals and a customized, collaborative production to teach teambuilding and communication, relationship and leadership skills, ethics, and goal-setting.

Wally Amos ($7,500 to $12,500) has the recipe for business and personal success. After he turned a chocolate-chip cookie hobby into an industry and put his name and face in every house in America, he lost it all--including his product's name. His subsequent story of triumph over adversity is as rich and satisfying as his signature cookies.

You've heard it before: It's not what you know, but who you know. Susan RoAne ($5,000 to $10,000), author of How to Work a Room, The Secrets of Savvy Networking, and What Do I Say Next? shows audiences how to sell their most important product: themselves.

Politically Speaking Politicians have already attained celebrity status, with all its perks--including hefty speakers' fees once they leave office.

When he was mayor of New York City, Ed Koch ($10,000 to $20,000) used to ask citizens on the street, "How am I doing?" in his distinctive nasal tone. Today, "Hizzoner" is a respected law firm partner, author, weekly columnist, and adjunct professor at New York University. Now he tells us how the movies are doing, writing reviews for local newspapers, and provides commentaries for Bloomberg TV on CNN's "Headline News."

Nationally syndicated author, presidential candidate, and far right standard-bearer Pat Buchanan (inquiries only) is a former host of CNN's "Crossfire" and a highly visible political spokesman. Confidant to former president Richard Nixon and director of communications for Ronald Reagan, he brings an insider's view to the table.

In the 1980s, it seemed as though former Vice President Dan Quayle (inquiries only) was deliberately feeding material to the late-night comics. Today, out of the firing line, he shares his successes, many of which might surprise his former critics.

With music, humor, insight and a deep understanding of the game, Mark Russell ($20,000 to $30,000) shows us the fouls and fumbles on both sides of the political playing field.

Jock Talk: Sports Celebrities Athletes have attained near-heroic stature in our society. Even in the office, the sports metaphors abound: We work in "teams" and have "coaches" as managers.

As managers become coaches in today's business parlance, coaches and managers from the sports world are in increasing demand. Pat Riley ($50,000 to $75,000); Vince Lombardi Jr. ($1,000 to $5,000); Tommy Lasorda ($30,000 to $50,000); and Mike Ditka ($20,000 to $30,000) can impart some words of wisdom about teamwork and pulling diverse personalities together.

What better way to motivate your star players than to bring in some sports legends with real star appeal? Peter Vidmar ($5,000 to $10,000), Steve Garvey ($10,000 to $20,000), Billie Jean King ($30,000 to $50,000), Jim Palmer ($10,000 to $20,000), or Earvin "Magic" Johnson ($50,000 to $75,000) are all on the lecture circuit, eager to spend time with their fans.

Mea Culpa: The Shame Game Whatever happened to shame? Today, even convicted felons are in demand as speakers. Consider these:

G. Gordon Liddy (inquiries only), convicted Watergate felon, hosts a radio show. He also does speaking gigs.

Also hitting the speaker circuit is former Los Angeles police officer Mark Furhman (inquiries only), who was sentenced for perjury during the O.J. Simpson trial. O.J. himself is unavailable for speaking gigs, since his earnings are earmarked for the Brown family as part of his civil trial settlement.

On the East Coast, Marion Barry (inquiries only) successfully ran for a fifth term as mayor of Washington, D.C., after taking a term off to deal with a felony drug bust and subsequent jail time. Who said crime doesn't pay?

On-Stage Psychobabble One of television's most popular comedies is Frasier, featuring Kelsey Grammer's brilliant portrayal of fictional radio psychologist Dr. Frasier Crane. Wonder what Dr. Crane would charge as a motivational speaker?

Despite questionable credentials, Dr. Laura Schlessinger's ($50,000 to $75,000) nationally syndicated radio show pulls in millions of listeners daily. She's opinionated, intolerant, incendiary, homophobic, and hypercritical--but she's gotten people's attention.

Diminutive psychosexual therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer (inquiries only) dispenses advice on what she has labeled "good sex." She strives to promote sexual literacy via speaking

engagements, her Web site, her private practice, and as an adjunct associate professor at NYU.

Matthew Randall is the former Media & Communications Manager for PGI. He can be reached at (703) 333-5384, or by e-mail at allrand@aol.com

Comedy Troupes Worth Checking Out

It seems inevitable that the burgeoning self-help and motivational speaking industry should be parodied, and who better to do it than The MotiFAKEtional Speakers ($1,000 to $5,000), improvisational comedians who use music, sketches, and customized material to skewer the industry. Their seminar addresses such topics as "How to Use Those You Love to Get Power and Stuff."

In a little more than a dozen years, The Capitol Steps ($10,000 to $20,000) has become one of political Washington's most beloved institutions. The "politically correct, hygienic, bipartisan" troupe of current and former Congressional staff members performs musical political satire, and has 11 CD-ROMs available.

Former Capitol Stepper Alan Friedman created Southern Discomfort ($5,000 to $10,000) in 1996 to satire politics, current events, corporate America, and life in the South.

Famous for its alumni, including John Belushi, Dan Akroyd, Alan Arkin, and Joan Rivers, a live performance by The Second City (inquiries only) is a guaranteed hit. The undisputed masters of improvisation and sketch comedy, the troupe can blend political satire, news topics, and your organization's history and sacred cows into an unforgettable, customized performance.