When I was a 21 year old missionary walking the streets of Chile, trying my very best to speak to groups of people in a language that was so very foreign to me, I discovered something about myself that I never anticipated nor realized—I have a passion for communication. Furthermore, I love the art of public speaking, so much so that by the time I was age 24, I had my first book published on the subject.
This passion of mine took a back-seat to running my swimming pool company from 2002-2010, but gratefully over the past 3 years I’ve had the opportunity to get back to my roots and speak at many social media/marketing conferences, workshops, and company events. Even better, over this time period, I’ve had the tremendous opportunity of listening to some pretty amazing speakers—all with unique styles and strengths—and all with their own story to tell.
The Best Social Media Speakers of 2013
As someone that adores the art of communication so much, I typically find myself analyzing a speaker’s skills, habits, and techniques more than I actually listen to the content itself. I don’t say this to brag, as in some ways it’s a curse, but I literally can’t help myself. And anyone that considers themselves an aspiring or professional speaker likely knows exactly what I’m talking about.
Knowing that I’m going to be in this business for a long time, I’ve decided to start a tradition here at The Sales Lion of annually announcing who, in my opinion, are the best Social Media Speakers in the world. Although some folks may not find value in list or “best of” posts such as this one, I’ve always benefited from them personally as it’s great to learn about new talents, voices, and places of learning—which is exactly what I hope this post will do as it shines light on what I feel are great teachers and communicators in this industry.
That being said, when I say “Social Media,” I’m lumping in most of the marketing phrases and fields we all hear so much about. Whether it’s content marketing, blogging, social, etc.—I’m putting them all under this umbrella, so please understand the semantics here are broad and loosely interpreted. Also, during this process, it has been my goal to find speakers of different styles and subject matter, as you’ll see with each of the speaker descriptions.
Finally, bear in mind that these are my opinions based on my observations. I’ve literally studied all of these speakers, how audiences react to them, and watched each in action. Furthermore, just because someone isn’t on this list doesn’t mean they aren’t great at what they do nor a phenomenal speaker. The longer I spent researching this post, the more difficult it was for me to have to eliminate speakers that I truly respect and admire from the top 10. In the coming years, it is my hope that I’ll be able to identify more and more “up and comers” as well with this post.
All that being said, let’s get to it.
Tom Webster (Wit and Numbers Collide)
Tom Webster far and away is one of the most unique speakers I’ve ever heard. Although he may be most well-known for his position of Vice President of Strategy at Edison Research, he has this magical way of interweaving deep numbers and statistics with a witty sense of humor and sarcasm that requires one to fully pay attention when he’s giving a presentation. More than once I have found myself listening to Tom and after repeating what he just said in my head a few times (my brain works just a tad bit slower than his) I’ve laughed out loud at his unique sense of humor. A wordsmith with unlimited depth, Tom Webster will make you laugh, think deeply, and look at social media statistics in an entire new light.
Mitch Joel (Digital Visionary)
Mitch Joel of Twist Image is one of those people that make the rest of us look really dang lazy. Not only does he manage to write in-depth observations about what he sees in the world of social and digital on his blog every day, but he also has one of the best and longest running podcasts on the web as well.
Although Mitch might disagree with my thoughts here about him being a visionary in the digital realm, there is no question the guy simply has a magical way of distilling on a screen and on stage a view of where all of this social media stuff is going, and what it means for each of us on a personal and professional level.
Mari Smith (Presence and Style)
Have you ever met someone that, whenever they entered the room, they seemed to have a glow about them that was simply too hard to explain yet clearly present? Mari Smith is without question one of those special types of people that has an unexplainable “It Factor” that makes her a joy to be around, listen to, and learn from.
With an unrelenting smile and unforgettable style, Mari in many ways is the essence of what social media is supposed to be. Whether it branding, community building, or Facebook advice—she manages to help individuals and companies strive to be better and work harder whenever she graces a stage or gives one of her popular webinars.
Jay Baer (Depth, Breadth, and Strategy)
Author of the Now Revolution and the upcoming Youtility, Jay Baer is easily one of the most popular social media speakers in the world today and it’s for good reason—the guy knows what the heck he is talking about and can literally riff away on just about anything that falls under the word “marketing.”
Having the advantage of working in the online space since the advent of the medium, Jay Baer has the unique ability to hear a company’s issues, quickly assess the situation, and cut to the chase when it comes to strategy and getting results.
As a speaker, Baer was the highest ranked presenter of Content Marketing World 2012 and will somehow find a way to deliver this same value to over 100 companies and conferences in his 2013 presentations—all while managing a great blog, podcast, and consulting schedule. I don’t know how he does it, but I do know Jay Baer is a special talent that gives the audience value each and every time he’s on stage.
Pat Flynn (Teaching the World about Making a Living Online)
Founder of Smart Passive Income, what Pat Flynn has been able to achieve with his business and brand online since he lost his “normal” job about 5 years ago is absolutely astounding. Sporting an incredibly popular podcast and legion of fans/readers to his blog, Pat has been hitting the speaking circuit more and more over the last year with great success.
What makes Pat so special is his transparency. Between his monthly income reports and his powerful “How To” articles, the guy is a master of giving it all away, and then reaping the benefits through a mix of affiliate marketing, niche sites, and other income streams.
As a speaker, Pat carries this same “teacher’s mentality” on stage and whenever he speaks, it’s obvious he has one goal in mind—delivering the audience value based on his personal experiences, successes, and lessons learned.
Ann Handley (Witty Truths Combined with Masterful Strategy)
When it comes to giving advice and strategy on social media and content marketing, few are better than Ann Handley. The co-author of Content Rules and Chief Content Officer of Marketing Profs, Ann is always a very appreciated and respected speaker at any event she attends because of the value-driven information she’s willing and able to consistently deliver.
I know every time I hear her speak, despite the fact that I think, talk, and write about Content Marketing hours upon hours a week, I learn something new and helpful from Ann Handley.
Jason Falls (Frank Talk)
One of the problems we sometimes see with thought leaders in social media is the lack of gutsy opinions and the willingness to take a stand on controversial topics. Jason Falls of Social Media Explorer clearly does not have this problem. In fact, the first time I ever heard him speak it felt like he slapped me in the forehead and then proceeded to give me frank-talk for the next 60 minutes—something that immediately garnered my respect and appreciation.
Never one to mince words, Jason is as real as it gets. He has worked with brands of all shapes and sizes to formulate his opinions and is constantly pushing the envelope in the world of social media—all of which makes Jason one of the most enjoyable speakers in the industry.
Amy Porterfield (Incredible Application and Teaching)
Whereas Jason Falls might bring the occasional fire and brimstone to a social media conference, Amy Porterfield has the style and voice that seems to take everyone back to their favorite teacher in primary school.
As one of the premier leaders in the realm of Facebook and Pinterest marketing for business, Amy Porterfield has a masterful way of giving her audience members actionable and applicable advice that can truly enhance their company’s social media strategy. Her soothing style and tone engenders audience trust while her deep experience allows her to deliver tremendous value. If you’re ever in one of Amy’s sessions at an event you’re sure to make 3 observations:
1. The room is always full
2. Everyone seems to have a smile on their face
3. Heads are constantly nodding in affirmation
Yep, Amy Porterfield is one of the best social media speakers in the world today.
Scott Stratten (Renegade Story-Teller)
Scott Stratten of Unmarketing is the type of speaker that is polarizing, unforgettable, and clearly one of a kind. Specializing in helping companies truly understand how to use social media the right way (or the “awesome” way), Scott has a mixture of wild, impromptu comedy and social media stories that make his presentations a truly memorable and thought-provoking experience.
Gini Dietrich (Mixing PR and Social)
Maybe more than anyone else on this list Gini Dietrich of Spins Sucks seems to be good at everything when it comes to social media. As an observer of her astounding blog, Facebook, and Twitter community, I sit in awe as she seems to get the work done of 3 people with an unmatched zeal and determination that shows itself day in and day out.
As someone who has successfully managed to merge PR and Marketing on a personal level and then with her many clients, Dietrich travels the world speaking to businesses and conferences with a schedule that is mind-boggling and a style that engenders her to all she comes in contact with.
I know there are at least 10 more names that I’d really like to add to this list, but I had to stop at some point, hoping others would chime in and add your thoughts in the comment section. Who are some of the top speakers you’ve seen at events and conferences? What was it about their style and message that resonated with you? What were you able to apply to your business?
Jump in folks, I’d love to hear your thoughts.