What Do Corporate Speaking Clients Want?

There are two speaking briefs that are easy for you to do. The one is when the corporate client asks for you specifically and wants their audience to hear your adventure story. 

The other is when the client says I saw you before, I want that same speech for my event.  Or alternatively you’ve come highly recommended, just do your thing!  

When your adventure is just completed and (hopefully) all over the media, you may get the first kind of brief. Or once your reputation as an adventurer is solidly established. And when you are well known on the corporate speaking circuit you may get the second kind. But if you want to make decent money on the corporate speaking circuit (corporates being the only clients that pay serious money for adventure speakers) you are going to have to succeed at the third and most common kind of brief. 

Related blog posts: How Much Are Adventure Speakers Paid?
How To Determine The Value Of A Speech

This is when the client wants an external speaker and you are trying to make the shortlist and then be the final choice. Your competition is not just other climbers or other cyclists, or even other adventurers. The client is probably casting a wide net. 

I collected some of the enquires I have received over the last two years. These are all real briefs sent out to me by companies, event planners and speaker bureaus. Some I got, some I didn't. But all were open to having an adventure speaker on their short-list. 

There are two kinds of value you can get from looking through motivational speaker client briefs. 

  1. Think about how you could pitch your adventure story to meet these briefs.
  2. Look at the language used and make sure you are using similar terms on your speaker website and in your pitches to clients and speaker bureaus. 
They are looking for an inspirational story, professionally presented, that will reinforce their event theme.

What does 'motivational speaker' actually mean? 

Bringing in a speaker unrelated to their field of business to deliver an inspirational address at a conference is a common practise.  Such speakers are routinely called ‘motivational speakers’. However, they are not actually expecting a Tony Robins style believe-in-yourself session to their staff. They are looking for an interesting and inspiring story that links back to ideas that matter to them. Those ideas may be the theme of the conference, they may be the core values of the company, or the targets they are pursuing in the next year. 

Who does the looking for a speaker? 

The person looking for a speaker may be the event planner within the company, or a member of the planning committee. They may be from the event planning company hired to execute the event for the client. Or they may be a speaker bureau approached by the client or the event planning company to help find the right speaker. Which means you may be several stages away from the key decision maker and the brief (what they want to speaker to do) may be fairly vague. 

If they have not asked for you specifically, then they are likely to be looking for a short-list of possibilities. The decision-maker wants half a dozen suggestions for a speaker. The fact that you have been asked if you are interested in the job, able to meet the brief, and available for the date does not mean you are close to closing the deal. 

I got asked if I was available. Why didn't I get the job?

It is not just that you are one of several candidates. At the next level up, the event planners may be short-listing several different event themes, so the entire idea of having an adventure inspirational speaker may be dumped in favour of a business futurist, or a politician or a corporate leader. The budget for the speaker may change, they may save money by using speakers from within the company, they may not have a speaker and spend more on the evening’s entertainers instead. They may change the date or the venue. There are so many things going on that are beyond your knowing or your control. 

Even at the level of your brief, the client may still be working out what they want. If you get the chance to pitch, you may persuade them to adapt their theme to your expertise. Or another speaker may persuade them to turn the theme in another direction. 

If I don't pitch in person, how do they decide?   

What you can work on is adapting your adventure experience to fit their event brief. Most of the time they won’t simply want to hear the story of your ascent of Everest or cycle round the world. They are looking for an inspirational story, professionally presented, that will reinforce their event theme or key messaging.  

Assuming you’ve been contacted by a third party, you may be given very little information. You may be asked to email over a brief explanation of how you would tackle the client theme. Or asked to send a PDF ‘one-sheet’ explaining your normal talk. You may be asked to do a no-obligation phone call with the client to discuss the brief. 

However, if you are approached by an event agency or speaker bureau, they may well not want to tell you who the end client is. You won’t get a chance to pitch your idea yourself before the decision is made. The company in the middle does not want to risk you pitching the client directly and cutting them out of the deal.  

Having made it onto a short-list, you’ll be judged by what is already out there in the world about you. Your speaking videos, your website, your presence on the internet, what the bureau has to say about you. And you’ll be judged against other speakers, without ever knowing who your competition was.

All of which is a very good reason to have your web presence up-to-date, professional and on-brand, even if you aren’t (yet) getting much speaking work. You also want the speaking information on your website to suggest what kinds of general themes your talks will reinforce. (And you can't say you'll talk about 'anything'. That makes it sound as if you lack expertise.) 

Related blog posts: Creating A Consistent Online Brand

What themes do clients want?   

One of the challenges for solo adventurers is the lack of a team or leadership element in your personal experience. As a generalisation, American companies are more open to stories of individual achievement but European clients tend to want insights into leadership and team performance. Other themes where adventurers do well are managing change, overcoming obstacles and a can-do mindset. 

I collected some of the enquires I have received over the last two years. These are all real briefs sent out to me by companies, event planners and speaker bureaus. Some I got, some I didn't. But all were open to having an adventure speaker on their short-list. 

There are two kinds of value you can get from looking through motivational speaker client briefs. 

  1. Think about how you could pitch your adventure story to meet these briefs.
  2. Look at the language used and make sure you are using similar terms on your speaker website and in your pitches to clients and speaker bureaus. 

motivational speaker briefs

they are looking for a 45 minutes talk, based on the theme of how a diverse team enabled you to unlock potential. As the world continues to change, our challenge is undoubtedly to look at how we can thrive within this evolving environment and maximise our potential as a diverse organisation. Our goal for the conference will be to explore how we can ensure that everyone in our EMEA business feels at home and comfortable enough to share their unique perspectives so that we can achieve our full potential together and drive innovation, growth and agility in our business.
* * *
 They want an external speaker who can address one or all of the themes:
- continuous improvement
- ownership (as in every single member of the team needs to feel responsible for the success and improvements)
- teamwork.
They love doers over talkers, preferably someone with hands on experience of which they speak.  They’ve loved presentations by a US Navy Captain (turned his ship into a high performance one by involving ALL on board in making it better), and F1 (the idea that there’s a whole background team that make the stars shine…as well as how incremental improvements mean difference between winning and coming second).
Audience is mostly male, entrepreneurial and senior level ±140 people from around the world. 
* * *
The challenges that our client have:
Innovating their F&B offering for the future when they are up against changing demands from the consumer which are being fulfilled by new kids on the block
Inspiring their leadership teams to drive innovation and change forward
Single session ‘Storytelling’ keynote speech. On overcoming obstacles to achieve success
* * * 
30-40min keynote speech at an event for 2500-3000 medical professionals. If possible, it should be a woman who is not active in science or medicine. The topic should be actual, something that moves the world, politics or environment or maybe something that will concern us in the future. 
* * *
 I’m currently working with a client on an internal campaign to celebrate International Women’s Day. The event is all around the idea of Game Changers for gender equality in all walks of life, people who have done something extraordinary that challenges stereotypes. 
* * *
 Someone who can inspire hard driving leaders of small elite teams in the financial sector - give them insights into leading their teams successfully through ups and downs.  We're in a business that's naturally volatile and we want our leaders to be the best they can be at inspiring their teams to persevere and thrive in all seasons.
Audience: 30-40 hedge fund portfolio managers
* * *
‘2 days intensive meeting with the theme ‘Strategy into Action’ for around 170 global colleagues.
They would like to invite one external speaker for a plenary session to inspire them before they go for dinner.
Ideally this would be someone who can offer practical tips, in a lively and energising manner around one or both of the below areas:
- how he/she has successfully implemented a strategy…it can also be someone who  tells the story of how others have done so
- how [the company] might make some quick wins in the area of ‘customer centricity’
* * *
 We are organising an event for the managers of the university (130). We want a dynamic person to collaborate performing a speech, with the aim of motivating and moving the audience, queremos emocionar.  We want to transmit a feeling of belonging, creativity, team work, horizontal alignement, empathy, resilience, recover esteem... 
* * *
Event: speaker series - inspirational and business speakers come in to their offices once every few months to speak to them and their clients
Theme: ’individuals who have challenged conventional thinking or taken risks in order to succeed by doing things differently’ 
* * *
We are looking for recommendations for an inspirational keynote speaker for conference event. Our theme is still a work in progress but directionally explore the 'power of possibilities' and how our leaders can achieve this with a 'constructive culture'.
Foundational Concepts
• ‘New perspectives’: seeing possibilities vs. obstacles
• Together, we can achieve anything
• What is a visionary / inspiring future for CPW?
• How do we get there? Catalyst for widespread culture transformation, starting with this team
1. Empower participants to grow the business through a constructive culture
2. Celebrate the values, behaviours and examples of this culture and a results-focused approach across the business
* * *
 our key topics again that would be Goal Achievement, Overcoming Obstacles, Risk Management and Leadership in Uncertainty which we would like to kind of link to our new product. As an investment into new products always brings some uncertainty we want to impart that with the new [company] products you can now feel safe during the whole event. 
* * *
The main topics to be commented during the event are competitive strategy and Customer Orientation. Our client also expects a story teller, someone that could, through an outstanding experience make the link between business and overcoming objectives under a 45 minute keynote + 15 minute Q&A and they are also considering a workshop with a short selection of CEOs from the sponsors companies. 
* * *
‘Event theme: They are in a  five years plan  and they are using  to climb a mountain  as a simile to achieve objectives
This year’s theme climbing - only way is to go forward, committed to succeed, to make it happen

When You Get very litte Detail  

  •  "WINNING 2.0: Reaching and Staying at the Summit" (last years theme was  WINNING ). This company meeting is to celebrate their success for last year, and prepare for the next successful year. 
  • Be able to speak on topics like  inspiring change ,  turnaround ,  action vs inaction / decisiveness  / Truly inspirational / Considerable speaking experience of talking to huge organisations 
  •  Motivational speech - an out of the box topic which should show the young guests, what is possible in life, if you keep the focus on your goals, even if there are setbacks 
  • The topics would be:  What is the impossible? How can we achieve the impossible? What prevents us to see the possibilities?
  • someone dynamic, inspirational and a bit of fun for their Annual Young Leaders conference
  • THEME -  Lead the Future  and we are particularly interested in how to manage change and stay motivated.
  •  Lecture topic: Change, leadership in difficult times, internationalization   
  •  Brief: Keynote - speak around teams, challenges, collaborations or technologies. 
  •  Overcoming adversity / inspirational / leaving them all with positive ‘can do’ mindset. 
  •  Tema fundamental: la importancia del trabajo en equipo y el liderazgo, para conseguir resultados. 
  •  Brief:  Motivational speech on unlocking potential and working as a team
  •  The theme is ‘Overcoming adversity’ 
  •  Brief:            1 hour inspirational speech – a story of chance and embracing challenge
  •  Topic: Team and team-building
  •  The theme is ‘Elevating your business’, 
  •  Brief:  To inspire women and members of LGBT+ to break through barriers they place in front of themselves
  •  Brief: A motivational speech around teamwork
  •  Topic: Motivation, risk management (mountain climbing) 
  •  It must be inspirational
  •  In need of a powerful keynote speaker on leadership and/or motivation for company regional European convention  
  •  The main topic of the conference is "pioneering" and the speech should be motivational and funny with a climbing background. 
  •  Brief: to deliver an inspiring closing keynote address of approx. 45 minutes
  •  Requirement:-  To present a 40 Minute After Dinner Business keynote
  • Theme:-  Working Better Together, Partnerships, Achieving Your Goals
  •  We are looking for post dinner entertainment, in a "lessons of life" approach.  About how they tackled adversity / challenge or kept on going to achieve their goal(s). 
  •  The theme of the event is Winning; Reaching and Staying at the Summit. 
  •  Sales Meeting ‘Commit to Win’ - keynote
  • They'd like someone from outside to come an inspire the 50 or so 'new' managers around the theme of leadership (personal and organisational). 
  • Slogan of our meeting is 'One Team, One Impact' and to reach this goal, we are looking for an appropriate speaker/team coach who can help us in going to the next level.   
  •  Speaker brief: an inspiring and thought-provoking speech
  •  Subject for a talk would be looking at the transferrable skills between top-flight sport and business. Topics such as Leadership, Teamwork, Decision Making, Goal Setting, Handling Failure etc.  
  •  Brief: a session on innovation or teamwork
  •  Brief: a motivational speaker to boost the participants engagement and moral for challenges ahead. 
  •  Theme: Working Together, Partnerships, Teamwork and Achieving Goals