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Finding the Right Tech Speaker

As a speaking agency, one of the most common yet difficult requests we get is for “technology speakers”. Clients understandably have a few prominent speakers in mind: Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg. More recently, Jensen Huang of NVIDIA has been at the top of everyone’s speaker wishlist. 

We would love to book speakers of this stature for your event. However, it is hard to incentivise them. There is no realistic speaking fee that would make a material difference to their wealth. Instead, you will need an audience they want to reach. It may be you have a group of influential investors and these speakers have a new product they wish to publicise. Or perhaps these speakers have a philanthropic cause close to their hearts and your event can help promote this. These avenues are sometimes worth exploring but the chance of success will always be small. 

If you cannot secure these household names, how do you find experts who actually know what they are talking about? At CWG Speakers, we have a simple checklist to help you refine your options: 

1) Be wary of “futurists” 

There are fantastic speakers out there who are sometimes classified as “futurists”. For instance, David Rowan is one of the most insightful speakers on technology trends. He is a bestselling author and the former UK Editor of influential technology magazine, Wired. David’s material is constantly updated and he has a brilliant network meaning he can bring insights from some of the most innovative technology companies around the world. 

But other self-proclaimed futurist speakers lack the deep journalistic network of a David Rowan. Their material is too abstract and their presentations could be put together by one of your talented analysts given several hours and internet access. With some of these “futurists”, you end up paying for charisma rather than insight. 

You can normally spot one of these “futurists” because they have quickly become an expert on today’s hot topic. At the start of 2023, a lot of Generative AI speakers suddenly cropped up. Given the game-changing predictions they made about the subject, it was curiously absent from their past presentation materials. 

2) Define what your audience want 

Speakers jumped on the Generative AI bandwagon because at the start of 2023, it was suddenly the thing people meant by “technology”. For the investor audiences we work with, it was the pertinent topic. What does Microsoft’s OpenAI investment mean for the company? How will Google respond? More broadly, how will this change the value we attach to white-collar workers? 

A year previously, we saw the same thing with the metaverse. Everyone was looking for speakers on virtual reality who could explain how Meta’s new pivot was going to fundamentally change how we interact. The topic practically vanished this year but now seems to be creeping back while the noise around Generative AI quietens. 

Matt Ridley is a speaker who often refers to Amara’s Law. This states that, “We tend to overestimate the effect of a technology in the short run and underestimate the effect in the long run.” Event organisers are obliged to respond to hype cycles because their audiences demand it. However, at CWG Speakers we pride ourselves on digging a little deeper and providing experts on topics currently out of the limelight that are about to explode. For instance, we predict that Michio Kaku’s recent work on quantum computing may soon make him a speaker in even greater demand. 

3) Look for speaker credentials 

Do you want a speaker who can talk more about the business case or more about the technology? If the former, then we advise you look for speakers with impressive business backgrounds behind them. Sebastian Thrun and Mo Gawdat served as CEO and CBO respectively at Google X. Both have the authority to talk eruditely about the work Google is doing and about what importance the company attaches to new technologies coming down the line. Marrisa Mayer is a speaker who can draw on experience at both Yahoo and Google to predict what the future holds for the sector more generally. 

If your audience is interested in the technology and its wider implications, we work with some of the brightest academics in this space. While the innate meritocracy of the tech industry means great autodidacts are available, impressive academic backgrounds provide some reassurance. Jonnie Penn of Cambridge University and MIT knows what he is talking about when it comes to the coming AI regulatory framework. Anima Anandkumar of CIT and NVIDIA can talk in depth about the technological underpinnings of machine learning. 

We hope this speaker checklist makes it a little easier next time you are tasked with finding a great technology speaker. We are always available to talk through your brief in depth to make sure we find you the right speaker for your event.

 

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