BUSINESS SPEAKERS ARE once again in high demand, and new corporate themes are the focus at many financial services and insurance events across the country. This transformation means that the old “rah-rah” motivational message often doesn't work, even if the message is delivered by one of the great motivational speakers of all time.

The new themes are a direct result of big shake-ups in politics and business that have rocked our world over the last few years. While 9/11 had a direct impact on our economy, the financial and insurance markets have likewise undergone a metamorphosis because of more downsizing, “right-sizing,” mergers, and acquisitions than ever before. These events have caused a shift in both corporate and personal values, and business speakers have had to step up to the plate to deliver new messages that inspire top-performing sales reps and managers to change for the better.

Meeting planners today are looking for speakers who reflect these new values as well as speakers who have credibility. This new breed of business speaker has either been in the corporate trenches or has worked alongside our nation's most successful CEOs. Many have written best-selling business books and teach at top business schools. Jim Collins, a best-selling business author, has coined the new phrase we hear most on the podium. It is all about taking your company and employees from “good to great.” While Collins accepts very few speaking engagements because of his writing and research schedule, many of today's top business speakers use the Collins way of thinking to impart their messages about succeeding in business.

Most CEOs cannot accept an honorarium, sign a speaking contract, or confirm a date to speak for another company unless the speech will directly benefit the company for which they are serving. Many top-performing CEOs would lose their top-performing status if they spent their days traveling the globe delivering speeches for other companies. An alternative we often suggest is to hire a CEO who is retired. Many former Fortune 500 CEOs are on the speaker circuit; if a “name” CEO is requested, this is a good solution.

Another trend we are seeing in the financial and insurance industry is more business speakers who talk from the heart. Before 9/11, most meeting planners would have laughed at the idea of a business speaker who addressed the topic of love. But along with the shift in values that we have seen post-9/11, companies are engaging business speakers who convey messages about love in the workplace. Such was the case at ICPA's 2004 Annual Meeting, which featured keynote speaker and Yahoo genius, Tim Sanders, author of the book Love Is the Killer App.

A final change in the speaker marketplace: Insurance and financial services planners are hiring speakers whose messages reflect the value of heroism at home as well as in the workplace. The message here is that the most successful companies are the ones being run by CEOs who are also great mothers and fathers and who value their families. Sales reps and managers are being taught that to be successful in their jobs, they must also be heroes at home.

The roster of our country's top business speakers has come a long way since Tom Peters introduced the 1980s classic, In Search of Excellence. According to the hot business speakers of 2005, the search appears to have reached a new level, and meeting planners are looking to this new breed of business speaker to inspire audiences with fresh secrets of excellence and achievement.

Ruth Levine is founder of Speak Inc., a speakers bureau based in San Diego with offices in Chicago and Kansas City. Reach her at (858) 457-9880 or at