What a difference a year makes. Last year at this time, when the economy was still jumping rather than slumping, almost anyone who could entertain or motivate could find work as a speaker. Even before September 11, when it was obvious that the economy had become more than a campaign issue, people began choosing speakers more noted for their expertise than their ability to elicit a laugh. Then came September 11 — and everything changed.

“The popular speakers right now are people who deal with serious issues,” says Michele Lemmons Poscente, president of the Dallas-based International Speakers Bureau. She has seen growing demand for speakers with expertise in the Middle East, terrorism, national security, and international politics.

In addition to knowledge and information, attendees right now are looking for inspiration. “People need hope brought back,” says Kristina Van Doorn, a spokeswoman for the National Speakers Association, Tempe, Ariz., “and they need someone from outside to do it.”

The following 10 speakers have made a difference in the world — and will make a difference at your meeting. See the box on page 44 for information on how to find them.

  1. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani — Any list of in-demand speakers has to start with Time magazine's 2001 Person of the Year — and, unofficially, “America's Mayor.” New to the speaker circuit since his mayoral term ended, Giuliani likely will command an elite fee for his services. In early January, the Washington Speakers Bureau announced it had become his exclusive representative, but the bureau won't reveal a specific fee so soon after Giuliani's leaving office. A look at their Web site reveals a fee range of $40,000 and up. Given the $100,000-plus fees for big names such as retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf or former President Bill Clinton, Giuliani's fee will likely be comparable. (Fee — Undetermined, Washington Speakers Bureau)

  2. Bernard Kerik — Kerik, Rudy Giuliani's police commissioner, became well-known in his own right as a result of the World Trade Center attacks. He was omnipresent at Giuliani's press conferences in the days and weeks after September 11, and was a regular on various TV news programs. Kerik also became a best-selling author with the publication of his memoir, The Lost Son: A Life in Pursuit of Justice, in which he focuses on his search for the mother who abandoned him when he was 4. (Fee range — $25,000 to $40,000, Washington Speakers Bureau)

  3. Thomas Von Essen — Commissioner of the Fire Department of New York under Rudy Giuliani, Von Essen and his department lost more than 350 firefighters and emergency medical personnel to the terrorist attacks. His talks are titled “Rising to the Challenge,” in which he focuses on overcoming what may seem to be insurmountable odds, and “Leadership Lessons from September 11,” in which he applies his experience as FDNY commissioner to managing crises in the business world. (Fee range — $15,000 to $25,000, Washington Speakers Bureau)

  4. Bill Richardson — President Clinton's Secretary of Energy and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Richardson boasts a unique credential: He is the last American official to negotiate with the Taliban in Afghanistan. A three-time nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, Richardson may be best known for helping win the release of hostages, American servicemen, and prisoners in Iraq, North Korea, Cuba, and the Sudan. (Contact Leading Authorities, Inc. for fee range)

  5. Aaron Brown — Perhaps the fastest-rising star among TV broadcast journalists, Brown began covering the September 11 attacks from a New York rooftop less than an hour after the first plane hit the twin towers. Brown's ongoing live coverage from New York vantage points, including Ground Zero, made him a household face. (Contact Washington Speakers Bureau for fee range)

  6. Zbigniew Brzezinski — Brzezinski, who gained fame as National Security Advisor in the Carter Administration, is counselor for the Center for Strategic and International Studies and professor of American Foreign Policy at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. In 1981, Brzezinski was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his contributions to the formulation of policies on national security and human rights. (Contact Leading Authorities Inc. for fee range)

  7. Al Haynes — Haynes isn't close to being a household name, unless one recalls that he was the pilot of United Airlines Flight 232, the flight that crash-landed at the airport in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1989 after the plane's hydraulic control systems were wiped out. While 112 of those on board perished, 184 survived. Haynes speaks about the qualities needed to overcome adversity — communication, preparation, execution, cooperation and a lot of luck — as well as how to recognize the signs of post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from the events of 9/11. (Fee range — $5,000 to $10,000, Key Speakers Bureau)

  8. Judith Kipper — An internationally recognized authority on the Middle East, Kipper is a consultant to ABC News on international affairs and is director of the Middle East Studies program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. She contributes to many major newspapers, frequently serves as a TV and radio commentator, and is on the boards of Middle East Watch and Initiative for Peace and Cooperation in the Middle East. (Contact Leading Authorities Inc. for fee range)

  9. James Lee Witt — Director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency from 1993 until 2001, Witt is credited with transforming FEMA into a more effective organization. He is president of James Lee Witt Associates, a firm that provides organizations and governments with disaster-mitigation solutions. (Contact Leading Authorities Speakers Inc. for fee range)

  10. George Mitchell — A 2000 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, Mitchell served in the U.S. Senate, representing Maine, from 1980 until 1995, when he left after serving seven years as Senate majority leader. Since then, his efforts as chairman of the peace negotiations in Northern Ireland resulted in a historic accord that ended decades of strife. Mitchell also serves as the chairman of the International Crisis Group, a nonprofit organization that is dedicated to the prevention of crises in international affairs, and as chairman of the Sharm El-Sheikh Fact Finding Committee, an international commission exploring ways to end the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Contact Leading Authorities Inc. for fee range).


While speakers who specialize in inspiration and information pertinent to September 11's aftermath are in high demand, so are those who speak on the impact of the economic slowdown.

“For a lot of companies, there's been a renewed attitude of getting back to business, and they want to hear from people who can help them do that,” says Michele Lemmons Poscente, president of the International Speakers Bureau, Dallas.

She offers the following suggestions:

  1. Marcus Buckingham — A senior consultant with the Gallup Organization, Buckingham's expertise is in finding and retaining the best employees, and in maximizing their talent. Co-author of First, Break All the Rules, Buckingham's presentations explore the links between employee productivity, customer satisfaction, and profitability.

  2. Jim Pancero — A sales-management consultant with more than 30 years' experience in sales and training, Pancero focuses on the topics of advanced selling, sales management, negotiating skills, and corporate “nichemanship.” Over the past 20 years, he has presented more than 2,000 programs for 400 corporations in 80 different industries.

  3. Leonard Berry — A professor of marketing and director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M's Graduate School of Business, Berry has written several books on improving customer service, the most recent being 1999's Discovering the Soul of Service: The Nine Drivers of Sustainable Business Success.


Put the relationship firstConsider the speaker as an ally working toward a common goal. This will help you work through any problems or discrepancies that may arise.

Use simple languageKeep it simple, friendly, and nonthreatening (that's why the term “agreement” is preferable to “contract”).

Get legal adviceConsult a lawyer to review specifics such as payment procedures and cancellation policies.
SOURCE: National Speakers Association


American Speakers Bureau
(407) 826-4248

International Speakers Bureau
(214) 744-3885

Israel Speakers Bureau — Jerusalem
972 2 567 0031

Keppler Associates Inc.
(703) 516-4000

Key Speakers Bureau
(949) 675-7856

The Lavin Agency

Leading Authorities Inc.
(202) 783-0300

Nationwide Speakers Bureau
(310) 273-8807

Premiere Speakers Bureau
(615) 261-4000

Speaker Resource Center Inc.
(312) 641-6362

Speaker Services
(877) 773-2800 or (310) 822-4922

Washington Speakers Bureau
(703) 684-0555