David Lavin: Why Some Top Speakers Shouldn’t Be Giving Keynotes
“There’s no shortage of people who want to make thousands of dollars an hour giving speeches,” David Lavin, the president of the Lavin Agency speakers bureau, told Post Media recently. However, he laments, “there’s a shortage of people who should.”
As the forthright CEO of a top speakers bureau who has worked in the business for over 20 years, David Lavin discussed the troubling “oversaturation” of the keynote speakers market. “It’s a function of the economy,” he said. “People have moved on from their jobs for whatever reason and they all want to consult or to speak.” (The unwritten rule here at Lavin is that our speakers—of which there are considerably fewer than at other bureaus—can’t be “professional speakers,” in the bad sense of the term.)
In her article, Post Media writer Misty Harris notes that one of the most sure-fire ways for speakers to boost their credentials and ensure a spot at a big conference is by writing a book. And, thanks to an increase in digital self-publication, it's possible for everyone and their uncle to quickly become a published author. While this is good news for some writers, Lavin explains that it ends up adding to the cultural white noise: it makes it more difficult to find people with something worthwhile to say. Companies who spend big money to bring in speakers are caught off guard, too. Many corporations continue to indiscriminately hire speakers whose main selling point is that they've written something—anything!—even if that book or article was written “purely to generate speaking engagements.”
A good writer can, of course, be a brilliant speaker. As David Lavin told Misha Glouberman in a recent interview, seeing an author’s ideas lift from the page during a live event can stimulate a “collective intellectual experience”—but only when those thoughts are worth sharing in the first place. The problem comes when a client is duped into thinking someone should be paid mega bucks to speak at their conference simply because they have a byline and a desire to earn a healthy hourly income. For more of David Lavin's candid thoughts on the good and bad of the speaking business, check out this long-form interview.