So you’re looking for leadership speakers for your next meeting or conference. No problem:

Turns out finding leadership speakers is easy. Finding the right leadership speaker for your people and your company — that’s a little more challenging.

After a while, all the videos and bios start to run together. But what if you could actually sit down with the speaker candidates and ask them point blank: Who is your ideal audience? What results can I expect when I hire you? Do you customize for our company and our people?

Of course you don’t have time to do that, but no worries — we’ll do it for you! We call it putting our speakers “In the Spotlight” — where we ask them some of the key questions on your mind (and then you can listen in).

Today, we’re shining the light on one of our leadership speakers, Scott Edinger, co-author of The Inspiring Leader and the The ASTD Leadership Handbook (along with Ken Blanchard, John Kotter, Jim Collins, Patrick Lencioni and others).

Below are some excerpts* from a conversation between Scott and Shawn Ellis, founder of The Speakers Group

Shawn: You’re a bit different from a lot of leadership speakers in that you don’t just talk about, say, “five keys to great leadership.” What you really talk about is how organizations can achieve their goals through their people, and of course that involves putting people in the right environment to succeed. 

Scott: Right. I think what’s important to recognize is that there is, I guess, what you’d call the classic motivational speaker. I sort of smile when I say that because when I first started doing this my friends would haze me a bit and say, “You’re kind of like Chris Farley, you know? You tell people that you’re living in a van down by the river or something.” That is the poor stereotype of the motivational speaker – which is essentially nothing but a bunch of rousing kind of cheerleading versus the way I approach things which is really to use my expertise in a few different areas.

The broad umbrella as you described is leadership. Within that there’s a very clear connection to the business outcomes and results an organization is trying to achieve and needs to achieve. Underneath that there are a handful of things that I really have great expertise in because of the background that I’ve had. I’ve spent a lot of time focused on sales organizations, specifically sales professionals who interact with clients and the sales leaders; those who manage them. That’s one area of leadership that I specialize in.

Then another area of leadership that is in the area of strategy formulation and implementation – vision and implementation being a critical element of leadership. How do you determine where the organization is going, and how do you get it there? Those would be two of the categories I guess, that I put under the broad topic of leadership, and of course in the overall sea of leadership there’s a handful of components to that. Whether it be how leaders inspire, how you get the most out of leaders at the front lines of your business or people who are individual contributors. Of course most importantly, individual leadership and how does one develop their unique strength, and develop those strengths in a way that is different than fixing weakness.

Shawn: I know the first time we spoke, you said that you’re a great speaker for a client who’s looking for someone not just to entertain the crowd, but to really move the needle and to make a real change. How do you move the needle, as you said, from the stage where you’re speaking to a large audience?

Scott: Well I think if you consider those topics — leadership or strategy or sales effectiveness, sales leadership – all of them can be spoken about in an entertaining and philosophical kind of way. Unfortunately, too many times that’s like the sugar doughnut of a motivational or conference speaker because it’s entertaining while it happens, but there’s no real benefit from it. Usually when I have seen that happen it is because the speaker has failed to make things pragmatic.

One of the things, regardless of what the topic is, is to understand what the organization is trying to accomplish. What’s the real change or difference they’d like to see following that event? Then to figure out connected to the message, what are the pragmatic things that people can immediately begin to do differently?

Sometimes it’s reorienting their thinking. Sometimes it’s a specific action, but I find it really important to provide people with practical, tactical things that they can do immediately that start to change the way they approach things. There’s limited things that you can do within an hour or an hour and a half, but certainly helping people with pragmatic things that they can begin to do differently, and a context for why they need to do it is a really powerful and a tremendous way to use that very valuable time.

Shawn: What types of organizations or industries are in the sweet spot for you? 

Scott: I’ve worked across 22 different industries between my individual consulting with specific clients or speaking. Hundreds of different clients from Fortune 10 companies to companies with 30 employees. I’ve seen a wide range and I’m able to relate many of those areas of expertise to how they specifically apply to a given company — because it’s hard to say that leadership or strategy or sales effectiveness isn’t important for “a company like this” or “in this industry.”

Figuring out how it applies — that’s my expertise. I take those bodies of work – stuff that I’ve written and worked on, and provided clients with – and translate them to a real clear way to apply it.

Shawn: So that covers the organizations and industries. What types of audiences do you typically speak to within those organizations?

Scott: I typically end up with three different types of audiences:

First would be… call it the sales meeting. National Sales Meeting or Sales Manager Meeting. A couple of years ago I did a huge sales meeting for a standard chartered bank in Singapore. Four hundred people from 18 different countries, and we had six different interpreters in the back. That’s one kind of audience, a sales meeting.

A second kind of meeting would be a managers meeting. Companies do this with all different levels. “Managers Meeting” — whether it be mid managers, senior leadership. Last year I was doing some work with Lenovo when I spoke to their top 100 leaders.

Then the third kind of meeting where I do a lot of speaking is conferences. That could be industry conferences representing a specific industry, and the leaders of the companies within that industry who share a common set of issues. That’s an interesting kind of audience to speak to as well because you don’t have the company examples for your content, but you have the industry examples and that’s kind of fun.

Edinger Consulting