Q: What’s with the marketing
and business speaker? We see you and lots of them on marketing, HR and
life-related subjects. Is this a new-tribe? And is there money here to make?
And what’s the value they deliver?
-Ravneet Bala, Mumbai
A: Ouch! Ravneet, you strike a
raw chord when you call this a “new-tribe”. Because I happen to be one of them.
And we are no tribals.
This is really not a new tribe at
all. The business speaker has been around for a long-long while now. The only
difference is that in the old days the business speaker was largely of foreign
origin, whereas today we have a whole host of Indians who live in India, emerging
on the world stage as business speakers of repute. I can count at least 6 in
this list from India. Good speakers asked to deliver keynotes on diverse sets
The Business and key-note speaker
fulfils a need. The key need is that of corporate organizations for a start.
Corporate organizations tend to call in speakers of every ilk to their formal
board meeting break-outs, senior management get-aways as well as for internal
Open House sessions that are organized periodically to keep the corporate flag
flying higher and higher in terms of motivation, business insight and
re-gearing of teams to achievement.
And then there are special
occasions when the business key note speaker is called in. These are moments of
celebration and launches. When the brand has tired of doing the usual song and
dance numbers at the brand launches, in comes the corporate key note speaker
who speaks on a subject and keeps the audience enthralled and educated at the
same time. The key note speaker is thrown in as a value-add on these occasions.
Is there money in it? And is this
a business all on its own?
I do it differently. I do not
treat this as a part of my business. I treat this as an avocation that pays,
and not the basic vocation itself. This helps. In this manner, you typically
wait to be called in. You don’t focus on it as a part of your business revenue
stream. It’s good to customize every talk in this sphere. Adds bigger and
bigger value, both to yourself and the client, in that order.
I have done talks of every kind.
Board sessions where a strategy is wanting and waited to be vetted by you,
motivational group sessions with senior management, the “rah rah” sessions at
brand launches and annual get-togethers, and simultaneously sessions that are
done for sets of key consumer groups. I personally enjoy the strategy sessions.
The market and demand for
business speakers has however peaked in recent years. To give you a personal
example, I used to do an average of 6 talks a year over the last 15 years. In
the last year itself, I have done a total of 31 talks and have had to refuse as
many as 20 more, due to reasons of time pressures. What does this mean? This is
a good market to be in. If you have something to give, you will be chased to
give just that and more.
Is there money in it? Plenty. You
charge as per your delivery in business terms. There are really two types of
speakers. One is the overt motivational speaking version. Here, the money is
scant and low. This is all about creating a gung-ho feel and leaving it there.
In many ways, the moment lasts only as long as the speaker is on stage, and
maybe a few hours thereafter as an after-glow. The other is the strategy
centric business speaking where you deliver not only style and motivation, but
strategy as well. This is stuff that can change the way people work and live.
Here, the money is deep and exciting.
The business speaker ‘avatar’ has
its perquisites as well. You get to travel to the most exotic locations your
other formal business involvements would have never taken you to. I cannot
imagine going to Cebu islands in the Phillipines on work. Or Las Vegas for that
matter. Or the Isle of Wight. But my ‘business speaker’ avatar has taken me all
over. On work. Try it.
Q: I am a business management
student in Warangal. I got into this field thinking that the way I think will
change. Instead I find it throttling who I really am. There is some problem
here, isn’t it?
-Shylaja Reddi, Warangal
A: Shylaja, from the long queue
of questions I have waiting to be answered, I have fast-tracked yours. I do
believe you make for a sensitive point.
Business education in the country
has a problem as of now. We are too text-book driven. We have copied every
model that works in the West. In the bargain, we do not learn enough of how to
tackle problems in our back-yard. Most business education in the country today
is all about a teacher teaching a set of students largely in a class-room
situation. Add to this a sprinkling of an industry speaker dropping in for a
guest lecture. This adds a live dimension to a lot of what is learnt. Apart from
that, there is very little of experimentation in this space.
the teacher teaches from the pulpit and the student imbibes. There is very
little of experimentation in teaching design that looks at peer-to-peer
learning where one student teaches another. There are three models of teaching
and learning. One is top down from teacher to willing and waiting student. The
other is peer-to-peer where one student teaches another and the teacher is but
a facilitator. The third model is one where the student teaches the teacher,
and in the bargain learns himself. While the third may be a bit far away and
utopian for now, I think we really need to try the second peer to peer model
for sure. It should help open up new ways of thinking and new ways of acting. Something
very essential in your corporate tool-kit of tomorrow.
The author is a brand-strategy specialist & CEO,
Harish Bijoor Consults Inc.