B-School Profs With Highest Speaking Fees

Rita McGrath of Columbia Business School is one of the few female thought leaders on the speaking circuit

Rita McGrath of Columbia Business School is one of the few female thought leaders on the speaking circuit

‘AUDIENCES WANT TO SEE MORE FEMALE THOUGHT LEADERS’

However, the need to ensure workers with different backgrounds and skills work productively together remains current, says BigSpeak’s Johnson. Today, issues of concern in that area revolve around the many tech-savvy employees who lack the human skills to operate harmoniously in silos or teams, Johnson says. “People really need to know how to deal with a disparate range of personality types,” he says.

The topic of change has also undergone evolution. “Managing change” had been a much-in-demand speech theme for corporations operating in dynamic environments, but lately, the notion of change-management is seen as static, promoting the status quo, Johnson says. “Leading change” has become the more popular speaking topic, as companies endeavor to push themselves ahead rather than merely cope with rapid advancements in their industries and markets, he says.

In the top echelon of speakers, Harvard Business School professor emeritus John Kotter, whose speeches cost up to $85,000, has formulated an eight-step process for leading – rather than just managing – change. Columbia Business School professor Rita McGrath provides sought-after knowledge on leading change, and her increasing popularity as a speaker also derives from her gender, Johnson says. “Audiences want to see more leading female thought leaders,” he says.

Outside of Harvard’s Rosabeth Moss Kanter, the veteran female B-school prof who gets as much as $40,000 per speech, McGrath has come on as one of the few female academics who is much in demand. An engaging speaker, she tackles such things as what questions keep company leaders up at right. The answer: Do we have the right talent in the right place? How can we get better at managing innovation and growth? Do I have the right line of sight to what is going on in my operations to be able to make smart decisions – in time?

SPEAKING TOPICS CHANGE WITH THE TIMES

Popularity of certain subjects reflects shifts within the business world and the requirement for companies to respond to new realities, Executive Speakers’ Schelp says. “Changes within the business environment itself cause topic selection,” he says. “The business problems people are facing, the solutions they’re coming up with, are what generates the need.”

Influential new voices also guide organizations’ choices of speakers and speaking topics, Schelp says. Books such as Jim Collins’ Good to Great put a spotlight on organizational culture, prodding companies to look toward speakers with expertise in that area, he says. Peter Senge, a senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management and founder of the Society for Organizational Learning, promotes decentralized leadership for enhancing productivity, and applies systems theory to organizational culture. Fees for Senge’s talks top $40,000.

Speakers’ fees are usually negotiable, based on location, timing and speech content.

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