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December 18, 2014
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Sub-Saharan Africa: South Africa’s Top 10 Speakers


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Photo via deborapatta.co.za

The highlight of any event or conference is often its speaker line-up. These range from sports heroes to tech buffs, but each come with the simple objective of educating or informing attendees in a particular subject. A speaker can often make or break an event, which is why it’s imperative to ensure the speaker matches the event, says Paul McConnon of Unique Speaker Bureau (USB). “It’s a hard-learned reality that the right speaker will provide the impetus for action, be the catalyst for change and motivator for progress,” he explains, “With a unique understanding of the markets it serves, and based on knowledge and experience, USB has developed the ability to creatively pair the right speakers with the right event, making it relevant, aligned with the client objectives and within budget.”

Booking a speaker can also be somewhat of a process for event planners, especially since they will need to take a number of items into account including a detailed brief of the conference objectives and the cultural fit of the speaker. This is why it helps working with a speaker bureau with the expertise to lighten the load. Mc Connon says that some of this expertise includes an in depth understanding of the sales and marketing industry, a hands-on approach and a long term vision for the future. In terms of speakers, USB has found that those with a strong sense of professionalism and the ability to stay relevant in a changing world are winning qualities. Without further ado, here are ten of the continent’s most sought-after conference and business event speakers.

1.    Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson – no relation to the King of Pop – is a stalwart in the speaking industry with over 15 years of experience under his belt. He’s worked with many Fortune 500 companies and has an ability to weave his materials directly into a client’s event theme. He is also a Master of Ceremonies and has a DVD called Challenge of Change: Understanding Today’s Business World, while his new book Presentation Skills Masterclass has helped boost his demand as a speaker.

2.    Justin Cohen
One of Unique Speaker Bureau’s founding speakers, Justin Cohen is a South African Speaker Hall of Fame Inductee. His keynotes What’s Your Story? and The Psychology of Success have consistently been booked by top companies, which in turn has allowed him to speak in 14 countries to 8,000 people annually. 

3.    Ryan Hogarth
Another one of USB’s top speakers, Ryan Hogarth is the author of How to Win Influence and Friend People. He focuses on topics like change, communication and social business, writing and speaking about the new connected world of consumers and workers. In addition to his role as a keynote speaker, he has also emerged as a popular Master of Ceremonies and oversees interventions, workshops and seminars. 

4.    Alex Granger
Alex Granger has over 18 years of experience in sales and marketing, business strategy, travel and tourism, and conferencing. The motivational speaker, MC and facilitator brings new insights to business and is a champion of relevant change. 

5.    Vusi Thembekwayo
Vusi Thembekwayo is known as ‘the rock star of public speaking’. As the youngest JSE director in South Africa, his expertise in sales, strategy and human resources has him influencing over R4.27bn in capital through board appointments. Vusi is also one of the Dragons on the popular Mzansi Magic Channel’s Dragon’s Den in South Africa. As a business speaker, he is comfortable with those in the top tier of their companies as well as the ordinary workers at the factory floor. He also easily relates with most South Africans thanks to his background and education.

6.    Kevin Gaskell
Kevin Gaskell speaks on leadership, high-performance teams, building a brand and achieving the extraordinary. He became Managing Director of Porsche at the age of 32, turning a failing company into the UK’s most profitable car brand. As one of the ‘Top 40 Managers Under 40’ he led BMW to a 500% performance improvement, founded a dotcom which became the market standard and built a global online data company among other achievements.

7.    René Carayol
Specialising in leadership, culture and business transformation, René Carayol has a compelling philosophy built on his own board level experience in the UK and the States with the likes of Marks & Spencer, Pepsi, IPC Media and the Inland Revenue. He has also enjoyed the privilege of working with some of the world’s most esteemed leaders, from former US president Bill Clinton and Sir Richard Branson to former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan

8.    Pieter-Dirk Uys
South African icon and recipient of the prestigious Truth and Reconciliation Award in 2001, Pieter-Dirk Uys has been a powerhouse of communication since 1972. Better known as Evita Bezuidenhout, he tackles South African issues in a funny, inspiring way that encourages reflection. 

9.    Justice Malala
Justice Malala is one of South Africa’s most respected political analysts and newspaper columnists. As an award-winning former paper editor, Malala currently heads up Avusa’s stable of 56 magazines. Aside from this, he also writes for The Times and Financial Mail, presents a weekly political talk show – The Justice Factor on eNews – and is a resident analyst for eTV and eNews. On top of this, Malala has still managed to give talks and act as a political advisory for international and local institutions like JP Morgan, Liberty, Lehman Brothers and Edcon.

10.    Debora Patta
Former host and executive producer of Third Degree, Deborah Patta is a hard-hitting current affairs journalist with a penchant for probing interviews and putting those in power in the hot seat. A motivational speaker and media trainer of note, Patta has facilitated dozens of international and local workshops given her 20 years’ experience in broadcasting. Her skills as a speaker have been in demand across the board - from summits on white collar crime to womens’ conferences, medical companies and more. Patta is smart, well-researched, and able to ad-lib if necessary, as well as ask questions and moderate debates skilfully. 


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