Published by Holly Ransom: Global leadership speaker, interviewer, event host and CEO of Emergent Leadership Development
In the ever-changing landscape of public speaking, keynote speakers play a pivotal role in inspiring, motivating, and educating audiences across various industries and events.
My journey as an interviewer, moderator, event host, and leadership speaker has granted me the remarkable opportunity to share the stage and engage with some of the world’s most prominent figures. From thought-provoking discussions with luminaries like Barack Obama to insightful conversations with business magnate Sir Richard Branson, I’ve delved into the minds of remarkable individuals such as Malcolm Gladwell, Billie Jean King, Condoleezza Rice, and First Lady Michelle Obama. It’s fair to say, I love my job!
Having witnessed firsthand the transformative power of an engaging and motivational keynote speaker, I’ve experienced how they can reshape the atmosphere at an event, kindle inspiration, and leave an indelible impact.
As the demand for compelling speakers continues to rise, join me on a journey to explore the outstanding power and influence of the top 10 leadership speakers in 2023.
Keynote speakers are catalysts for inspiration, sources of motivation, and bearers of expert knowledge and insights.
Bringing in the right keynote speaker can supercharge your event and create an experience your audience will never forget.
The top 10 global inspirational leadership keynote speakers include everyone from Tony Robbins and Simon Sinek to Brené Brown.
The emergence of virtual keynote speaking has revolutionised the landscape of public speaking, offering unique benefits and challenges that must be navigated with skill and innovation.
The Power of Keynote Speakers
An event’s success can significantly hinge on the impact of a keynote speaker. When they excel at their role, powerful and impactful keynote speeches by speakers possess the unique ability to:
Inspire, motivate, and educate their audiences
Shift perspectives, attitudes, and mindsets
Enable personal and professional growth
Excel at simplifying complex ideas and making them accessible
Top speakers worldwide have been successful in guiding teams and leaders to harness their potential, transforming outlooks, attitudes, and mindsets for the better.
The Top 10 Global Leadership Speakers
The individuals listed below are my top 10 picks for leadership speakers. Each one is a respected figure in their field, has made significant strides in their careers and is known for delivering powerful messages that incite positive change.
I’ve had the privilege of working with some of these distinguished individuals, and I’m excited for you to learn more about them and, hopefully, witness their wisdom at your own events.
Brené Brown, a renowned leadership expert and best-selling author with The New York Times, has significantly influenced our understanding of leadership and interpersonal relationships. Her insightful teachings on leadership, empathy, inclusion, trust, and purposeful leadership have established her as one of the most impactful voices in leadership in our era.
With her books “Dare to Lead” and “The Gifts of Imperfection” flying off the shelves worldwide, Brené has empowered millions of readers to embrace their authentic selves and embrace vulnerability as a strength, while Brené’s TED talks, viewed by tens of millions around the globe, have made her a household name.
Her renowned presentations, such as “The Call to Courage” (available on Netflix) and the legendary TED talk, “The Power of Vulnerability” (one of the top 5 most-viewed TED talks in the world), will take you on a transformative journey and invite you to explore her revolutionary ideas.
In her keynote presentations, Brené invites people from all walks of life, be it CEOs, teachers, parents, or those on a journey of self-improvement, to celebrate their individuality and lead with sincerity. She challenges conventional leadership paradigms, inspiring listeners to take brave steps and foster an environment that values vulnerability, courage, and empathy. This holistic approach is what sets her apart as a top keynote speaker.
Adam Grant, a renowned organisational psychologist and esteemed author, stands out as a beacon in the realm of leadership and workplace dynamics. As one of the world’s top thinkers in management, Grant has earned recognition for his contributions in areas including:
fulfillment and purpose in work.
What sets Grant apart is his unique knack for blending rigorous academic research with practical, real-world insights making his work not only intellectually enriching but also highly relevant and applicable in real-world settings.
As a sought-after leadership keynote speaker, Grant’s presentations are a masterclass in how to boost performance and drive success.
I’m excited to share that next year I’ll be joining Adam on his Australian tour as he unveils his new book “Hidden Potential”. I’ll be taking on the roles of event host and moderator, and I’m eagerly looking forward to another opportunity to share the stage with him.
Les Brown is a highly renowned motivational speaker, author, and former radio host, known for his powerful and inspirational speeches that have motivated and inspired millions of people worldwide. His captivating and engaging presentations have earned him recognition by Toastmasters International as one of the Top Five Outstanding Speakers Worldwide, as well as numerous accolades from the National Speakers Association.
With his powerful storytelling abilities and charismatic stage presence, Les Brown has captivated audiences on various topics, including personal development, overcoming adversity, and achieving greatness.
Brown’s speeches are filled with powerful anecdotes, humour, and practical strategies that empower individuals to realise their full potential and live their dreams making him a top inspirational speaker and keynote speaker.
Jim Collins is a highly acclaimed American author, leadership keynote speaker, and researcher in the field of business leadership and management. With a career spanning over three decades, Collins has become a respected authority in the business world, known for his insightful analysis and practical advice.
His work primarily focuses on corporate sustainability and growth, and he has authored or co-authored six books that have sold in total more than ten million copies worldwide. Among these, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t” and “Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies” are considered business classics.
As a top leadership keynote speaker, Collins is known for his dynamic and engaging style, delivering thought-provoking keynotes that inspire leaders and teams to strive for excellence. His research-based insights have proven invaluable to countless organisations, helping them to navigate the challenges of the modern business landscape.
Bozoma St. John
Bozoma St. John is a dynamic force in the business and marketing sectors, with an impressive career in the tech industry that includes roles such as Global CMO of Netflix, CM0 of Endeavor, CBO of Uber, and Head of Marketing for Apple Music and iTunes.
St. John’s achievements are numerous and impressive. She has been inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame, featured on Forbes’ list of 100 Most Powerful Women, received the Billboard Women in Music Executive of the Year award, and has been listed in Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People.
Forbes also crowned her as the world’s most influential CMO and her influence in the industry has been so significant that it’s been studied in a Harvard Business School case study titled “Leading with Authenticity and Urgency.” If that doesn’t scream ‘impressive’, I don’t know what does!
St. John’s remarkable career trajectory and her ability to break barriers in male-dominated industries has made her an inspiration for many aspiring female business leaders. She is a powerful advocate for diversity and inclusion in the workplace, and her innovative strategies have led to significant growth and success for the companies she has worked with.
With her vibrant personality and engaging presentations, Bozoma St. John is a highly sought-after keynote speaker. Her compelling speeches delve into topics such as:
diversity and inclusion
cultural trends and consumer behaviours
I had the privilege of experiencing Bozoma’s powerful stage presence when I interviewed her at PCMA Convening Leaders in 2020 and it was evident to me, and everyone in the audience, that she is a force to be reckoned with, a true leader who inspires others with her passion, wisdom, and authenticity.
Gary Vaynerchuk, commonly known as GaryVee, is a prominent entrepreneur, author, and speaker. He first gained recognition through his extensive knowledge and successful implementation of digital marketing strategies, particularly in the wine and e-commerce industries.
Vaynerchuk’s insights on entrepreneurship, social media, and personal branding have garnered a significant following making him a highly sought-after entrepreneur keynote speaker. His ability to motivate and inspire, coupled with his deep understanding of digital marketing and entrepreneurship, makes him a force to be reckoned with in the keynote speaking circuit.
My collaboration with Gary at the Mindset Matters conference in Australia this year was a memorable experience. What truly makes Gary exceptional is his ability to share raw, unfiltered wisdom. He doesn’t sugarcoat things, but rather presents ideas in a way that resonates with his audience. But be prepared – he’s not afraid to use some colourful language!
David Goggins, a former member of the Navy SEALs, an ultra-marathon runner, and now a best-selling author and motivational speaker, has captivated audiences around the globe with his incredible story of resilience and determination.
David Goggins isn’t your average motivational speaker. His commanding presence and steadfast determination ignite a fire within people, urging them to push their limits and surpass their perceived capabilities – a philosophy he lives by. A quick glance at his Instagram account is like stepping into a whole new world of motivation, dedication, and relentless pursuit of greatness.
Goggins’ electrifying speeches are an experience like no other. From the very moment he takes the stage, he unleashes a tidal wave of inspiration and motivation, leaving audiences feeling empowered, invigorated, and ready to embark on their own personal journeys of transformation.
Whether it’s through overcoming mental barriers, pushing physical limits, or finding the resilience to conquer challenges, Goggins’ message is one that compels individuals to strive for greatness in all aspects of their lives.
Mel Robbins is a celebrated motivational speaker and author, famed for her “5 Second Rule” that assists individuals in overcoming self-doubt, procrastination, and fear. Robbins has been a game-changer in the realm of self-help, providing a simple yet effective tool that people can easily incorporate into their daily lives.
Renowned for her expertise, Mel Robbins has been featured in prestigious publications like Forbes, Fast Company, and Harvard Business Review. She also hosts a highly successful podcast called ‘The Mel Robbins Podcast’.
Robbins’ speeches are not only informative but also inspiring, motivating listeners to take action and make positive changes in their lives. Robbins’ keynote speeches on leadership revolve around:
transforming thought patterns and habits
overcoming imposter syndrome
Her practical, no-nonsense approach to personal development and leadership has been praised for its effectiveness and accessibility, positioning Robbins as one of the best speakers for a wide range of events and conferences.
Simon Sinek, a renowned leadership keynote speaker, has made waves in the world of leadership and business with his insightful presentations on:
“Finding your element”
His background includes work as a prominent figure in advertising, marketing, and public relations, as well as being a New York Times bestselling author and one of the most highly sought-after speakers in the world.
Sinek’s leadership philosophy urges individuals to question the status quo and strive for clarity and purpose in their leadership. His talks emphasise motivation, effective communication, and leadership principles and problem-solving strategies, providing attendees with valuable insights and tools to improve their leadership skills and achieve success in their personal and professional lives.
Having the opportunity to share the stage with Simon and collaborate with him on various events has been a tremendous honour. His captivating and insightful presentations have earned him a well-deserved reputation in the realm of leadership, inspiring people all over the world to tap into their full potential.
His concept of discovering and embracing your “Why” has had a personal impact on me and has motivated thousands to live and lead with purpose.
Chris Voss, a name that resonates in the realm of negotiation and conflict resolution, is a former FBI hostage negotiator with over two decades of experience in high-stakes negotiations. Voss has gained widespread recognition for his unique approach, often referred to as “tactical empathy,” which combines empathy, active listening, and strategic communication techniques to achieve successful outcomes in negotiations.
Voss’s methods have been lauded for their effectiveness and have been used in a wide range of scenarios, from business negotiations to resolving personal disputes. His keynote speeches are packed with actionable advice and insights, making them a must-see for anyone looking to enhance their negotiation skills.
Not long ago, I had the pleasure of talking with Chris Voss on the Energy Trailblazers podcast. During our discussion, he revealed some of his top negotiation tactics that can give anyone an edge in any form of negotiation.
What sets Voss apart is not only his extensive experience as a former FBI hostage negotiator but also his ability to provide practical, real-world examples that vividly illustrate the principles he teaches.
Emerging Keynote Speakers to Watch Out For
With the ever-evolving world of keynote and motivational speaking now, a fresh batch of speakers is coming to the fore, carving their niche in various industries and topics.
I’ve been taking the stage as a keynote speaker for 15 years now, and know rising talent when I see it.
Some of the emerging keynote speakers to watch out for include:
Jane Chen: co-founder and CEO of Embrace, a social enterprise dedicated to aiding premature and low birth weight babies with cost-effective infant warmers. Jane’s passion and commitment to making a difference in the world are truly inspiring.
Jim Harris: renowned business strategist offering presentations on strategic planning amid complexity and disruptive innovation. His expertise in navigating the ever-changing business landscape is invaluable in today’s fast-paced world.
Laura Putnam: founder and CEO of Motion Infusion, and leading expert in wellbeing, motivation, innovation and human performance. Laura’s approach to wellbeing is holistic, innovative and deeply impactful.
Priya Parker: acclaimed author of ‘The Art of Gathering’ and host of the New Yorks Times podcast Together Apart. Priya’s insights on how we gather and connect are both thought-provoking and transformative.
As their careers progress, these leadership speakers are poised to make a significant impact in their respective fields, inspiring change and transformation in the lives of their audience members.
Industry-Specific Keynote Speakers
In addition to the top keynote speakers on leadership and emerging talents, there are also many other industry-specific keynote speakers who provide tailored insights and expertise for their audiences. These speakers are invaluable assets for events and gatherings that require in-depth knowledge and understanding of a particular field.
Industry-specific keynote speakers worth noting include:
James Clear, (who I recently had the pleasure of accompanying on his tour across Australia and New Zealand as host moderator), is the acclaimed author of the bestseller, Atomic Habits, and is considered a leading authority on the science of habit formation. James’ teachings and insightful quotes have had a profound impact on me, and I am a huge admirer of his work.
Jessica O. Matthews, is a celebrated inventor, entrepreneur, and social scientist who motivates audiences worldwide to leverage tech disruption and innovation to fulfil the needs of people, businesses, and communities around the globe.
Colin James, is master communicator and award-winning speaker, James’ eponymous method is the relied on by some of the world’s leading companies.
Amy Mahjoory, an expert real estate investor, educator and global authority in procurement, logistics, and operations management
Simon Anderson, a futurist who specialises in equipping executives and organisations prepare for the future.
Erica Dhawan, a leading authority, speaker and advisor on 21st century teamwork, collaboration and innovation
Dr Christian Conte, an accomplished specialist in compassionate leadership and communications
Dr Jan Owen AM, award-winning social entrepreneur and educational change agent renowned for her visionary thinking and collaborative approach to driving systems change.
- Amy Edmondson, higher education speaker, the Novartis Professor of Leadership and Management at the Harvard Business School and bestselling author who first coined the term ‘Psychological Safety’. Amy’s contributions have had a profound impact on my perspective and the broader educational community.
These speakers bring a wealth of knowledge and experience to their presentations, making them valuable additions to any industry-focused event.
Female Keynote Speakers Making Waves
In recent times, we’ve seen a surge in powerful female keynote speakers who are breaking down barriers and driving change across a variety of fields. It’s a truly remarkable phenomenon to witness, and as a female speaker myself, I’m proud to be part of this movement.
Some of the female keynote speakers making waves include:
Allyson Felix, widely recognised as America’s most successful track and field athlete, boasting an impressive collection of 11 Olympic medals. She has now transitioned into entrepreneurship as the founder and CEO of Saysh, a brand focused on women’s apparel. (You can watch my 2023 interview with Allyson here)
Tan Le, a groundbreaking entrepreneur and neuroscientist
Susan Ershler, a record-breaking mountain climber and author on sales and leadership performance
Barbara Corcoran, a renowned real estate mogul and television personality
Rachel Botsman, world-renowned expert on trust and technology and what this means for life, work and how we do business.
As these women continue to excel in their fields, they pave the way for future generations of female leaders and inspire audiences with their unique perspectives and successes.
Unlocking Insights Through Interviews
Mastering the skill of insightful interviewing is essential to tap into the full potential of these influential figures, enabling us to gain a deeper understanding of leadership and motivation. In a forthcoming blog, I’ll dive into the captivating realm of interviewing and offer insights on how to choose the most impactful subjects to discuss, which can significantly enhance the impact of a keynote speaker.
Tips for Choosing the Right Keynote Speaker
Selecting the perfect keynote speaker for your conference or event can be a daunting task, with numerous factors to consider and a seemingly endless list of potential candidates.
To make the process easier, I have compiled a list of tips and guidelines to help event organisers choose the right keynote speaker for their event.
Define the purpose of the event
Decide your event theme
Identify the target audience, as this will help determine the most appropriate speaker for the occasion
Establish a budget for the speaker, taking into account their fee, travel expenses, and any other related costs.
Research potential speakers, assessing their qualifications, experience, and availability. When evaluating speaker recommendations, consider factors such as the speaker’s fee, travel expenses, and any other related costs.
Negotiate with the speaker or their agent and establish a contract outlining all necessary details, including logistics and expectations.
Considering the use of a speakers bureau or an agency could also be beneficial when looking for the perfect keynote speaker. I’ve compiled a list of some incredible speakers bureaus to help make your search for a speaker much easier. These entities are experts in the industry and can provide assistance throughout the entire process. They handle the coordination of event logistics, negotiate contracts, and provide an additional layer of protection in case any issues arise with the speaker you’ve hired.
The Future of Speaking
As we look ahead, the future of speaking is evolving rapidly, and it’s an exciting time to be a part of this industry. The traditional concept of keynote speaking is expanding beyond the stage, with new platforms and technologies paving the way for innovative modes of communication.
Virtual and augmented reality, AI, and other digital technologies are creating new opportunities for speakers to engage with their audiences. These advancements allow for more immersive and interactive experiences, transforming the way we share and receive information.
The emergence of social media and content sharing platforms has completely transformed the landscape of the speaking industry. Speakers are no longer limited to physical stages; instead, they can engage with global audiences through live streams, podcasts, webinars, online courses – even holograms!
I’ve had the opportunity to conduct two interviews using hologram technology, one with Indra Nooyi and another with Erin Brockovich and I must say, the quality of the technology was impressively high. This shift in accessibility has democratised the industry, making knowledge and inspiration more readily available to people around the world.
As we gaze into the future, we can anticipate a significant evolution in the public speaking sphere towards more diversity and representation – a change that is both necessary and welcomed. As society becomes more inclusive, there is a growing demand for speakers from various backgrounds, cultures, and industries. This diversity enriches the discourse, providing audiences with a broader range of perspectives and experiences.
The future of speaking is bright and dynamic. As technology continues to advance and society progresses, we can anticipate a vibrant and inclusive speaking industry that inspires, educates, and connects people like never before.
The Impact of Virtual Keynote Speaking
As previously discussed, the future of keynote speaking is increasingly shifting towards digital platforms. The recent rise of virtual keynote speaking has transformed the landscape of public speaking, offering a multitude of benefits to speakers and event organisers alike. Virtual platforms enable speakers to engage with a wider audience, while also minimising expenses related to travel and accommodation.
For event organisers, virtual events offer greater flexibility and cost-efficiency, making them a popular choice for various events including conferences, meetings, and seminars.
I’ve had the opportunity to participate in numerous virtual events that have effectively engaged audiences, sparking thought-provoking discussions that extend beyond the scheduled time-frame.
The influence of a powerful keynote speaker is immense and enduring. They do more than just deliver a talk; they question established beliefs, spark debates, and introduce innovative viewpoints on intricate subjects. These individuals are more than just speakers; they are narrators of stories, thought leaders, pioneers, teachers, motivators, and influencers.
Each of the top keynote speakers I’ve selected for this list embodies these qualities and more. They are the voices of the present, the innovators of the future, and advocates for diversity and inclusion. Get ready to be enlightened and invigorated as you get to know these extraordinary speakers who are molding the future of leadership and inspiring a new wave of change-makers.
Read more from Holly Ransom
- Love Mondays 131: How to flip imposter syndrome
- Love Mondays 130: Why Learning is the Key to Leadership
- Speakers Bureaus: Making Event Planning a Breeze
- Conference Planning: A Comprehensive Checklist for Success in 2024
- Harness the Power of Leadership Development