Your event deserves the best: A world-class business speaker to electrify your audience and keep them talking for months. But how can you be sure you’re making the right choice?
At Aurum Speakers Bureau, we’ve compiled a list of the 5 top business speakers in the world. There are no also-rans or contenders here – only champions of business – and the top-tier consultants who’ve guided their success.
This list was first compiled in May 2020, making it the definitive guide to the top business speakers 2020. We’ll continue to update the list in the years ahead, to reflect the latest changes in this dynamic niche.
The 5 Best Business Speakers
1. Richard Branson
Leading our list of the top 5 business speakers is a man who needs no introduction. Sir Richard Branson is among the richest and most famous entrepreneurs in the world. This is a billionaire with a portfolio of over 400 companies, all held through the iconic Virgin Group!
Branson launched his very first business at 16. His first big success came just 4 years later, in 1970. Virgin Records started life as a tiny mail order business, but soon became the world’s largest independent record label.
The 1980’s proved a fruitful decade for Branson. Virgin Atlantic – founded in ‘84 – was a hugely disruptive business. The fledgling airline quickly broke British Airway’s stranglehold on UK-US flights. In the years since, this tireless entrepreneur has built 8 distinct billion-dollar business in 8 distinct sectors – a record-breaking feat.
Richard Branson became Sir Richard Branson in 2000, after being knighted for services to entrepreneurship. He’s also globally respected as a leading philanthropist and adventurer. Perhaps his best-known exploits are his series of epic ocean crossings, made by hot air balloon.
As the writer of several best-selling books, Branson is famously erudite. His way with words carries across onto the stage as well. That’s why we confidently rate him as the top business speaker in the world! As you might expect, Richard Branson’s speaking fees aren’t the lowest; this is a titan among keynote speakers, with the power to attract vast audiences like a magnet!
Learn more about top business speaker Richard Branson.
Are you a coffee drinker? If so, then it’s a safe bet that you’ve visited a Starbucks in the not-too-distant past. After all, it is the world’s largest coffeehouse. But did you know that this multinational, multi-billion-dollar business was launched by 3 business novices?
In 1971, Zev Siegl was teaching history at a high school in Seattle. He and two friends founded Starbucks as a single coffeehouse on the shore-front of the West Coast city. It was a humble way to begin, but by the end of the decade, Starbucks was the dominant player in the Seattle coffee scene.
The rest is history, and Starbucks went from strength to strength. Siegl served as Vice President through Starbuck’s formative first decade, but he moved on to pastures greener in 1980. Siegl went on to launch several notable businesses in the years that followed.
Perhaps his most worthwhile post-Starbucks achievement is his activity as a mentor and keynote speaker. In recent years, Siegl has mentored hundreds of consultancy clients and MBA students studying at Seattle and Washington Universities. Recent years have also seen Siegl establish himself among the top business speakers in the world, with appearances at events and conferences globally.
We’re proud to say that Zev Siegl can be booked exclusively through Aurum Speakers Bureau. Learn more about Zev Siegl.
3. Porter Erisman
Former Alibaba Vice President Porter Erisman takes the number-3 spot in our list of the 5 top business speakers in the world. Erisman is notably the only Westerner to be involved at the head of Alibaba during its ‘hyper-growth’ phase. His senior position saw him work closely alongside its visionary leader, Jack Ma.
Intriguingly, Erisman joined the tiny start-up in 2000 – just as the dot-com bubble was bursting in the US. That event might have seemed like a harbinger of doom for the little Chinese ecommerce firm, but nothing was further from the truth. Instead of collapsing, Alibaba’s position within China quickly grew to equal Amazon’s position in the West.
During that early growth phase, Alibaba also came through another crisis that has echoes in the present day: The 2002-2003 SARS epidemic. Amid factory closures and a sharp retail slump, Taobao was launched. This new, consumer-facing offshoot thrived as Chinese citizens turned to ecommerce as a safer means of shopping.
Alibaba didn’t simply survive the SARS pandemic; it prospered. Erisman was an integral part of the top team that guided the phoenix out of the fire. Today, he’s respected internationally for his understanding of how businesses can find opportunities during crises. As well as being among the world’s best business keynote speakers, Erisman is also a best-selling author and respected filmmaker. His best-known work is Crocodile in the Yangtze – which highlights Jack Ma’s rise to become China’s richest man.
4. Steve Wozniak
Together with business partner Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak made personal computing accessible to the masses. Wozniak and Jobs co-founded Apple Inc. in 1976. At that time, most people viewed computers as the playthings of social misfits; fortunately, these brave pioneers thought differently.
The Wozniak-Jobs partnership was a strong one, with Wozniak taking the lead on the tech front, while Jobs typically led on business management. The company’s first flagship product – the Apple I – was Wozniak’s own creation, but as the business grew, there were compromises ahead.
Apple took on additional engineers, and Wozniak was increasingly pulled into a managerial role. He later spoke of ‘missing the fun of the early days’. It’s a conflict that many inventor-entrepreneurs contend with, and it would ultimately lead to Wozniak ending his active role with Apple in 1985.
In the decades since, Steve Wozniak has become a leading philanthropist, with a passion for passing on his hard-won experience to the next generation. His role in the launch of Apple has also secured him a place in the Inventors Hall of Fame.
Wozniak may see himself as an inventor first and a businessman second, but his abilities in both fields are beyond doubt. Today, Steve Wozniak is unquestionably among the best technology speakers and the best business speakers in the world.
Why not wow your audience with a talk from the man who co-founded a $1-trillion business? Learn more about top business speaker Steve Wozniak.
5. Whitney Johnson
A place in the Thinkers50 list is one of the most coveted accolades a speaker can achieve. Whitney Johnson has achieved that ranking not once, but three times. Her most recent Thinkers50 position – number 14 in 2019 – is her highest yet. Little wonder that she’s considered among the best business transformation speakers in the industry!
Johnson cut her teeth as a leading stock analyst with Merrill Lynch. She developed a framework for identifying valuable investment opportunities – particularly among start-ups. More recently, Johnson has shifted her gaze from stocks to people. Today, she helps businesses develop ‘A teams’ to attain the highest possible performance.
Johnson’s passion for self-improvement shines through in all that she does. She regularly lectures at the renowned Harvard Business School, and has shared her wisdom through a series of award-winning books. Her best-known work is Disrupt Yourself – a guide to applying the techniques of disruptive innovation on a personal level. Meanwhile, her podcast (of the same name) sees Johnson interview a range of distinguished guests from the world of business.
Whitney Johnson’s innovative, trend-setting ideas on disruption and change management mean that she’s consistently among the most popular business speakers in the world. As CEO of WLJ Advisors, her business consultancy services are in high demand, and any event will be enriched by the presence of such a distinguished speaker.
Learn more about Whitney Johnson.
Choose from Our Top Business Speakers for Your Event
Aurum Speakers Bureau represents many of the best business speakers in the world. Our portfolio includes all 5 of the speakers listed above, plus a wealth of other highly respected orators.