The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

A speakers bureau that represents the best original thinkers,
writers, and doers for speaking engagements.

About The Lavin Agency

THE LAVIN AGENCY is the world's largest intellectual talent agency, representing leading thinkers for speaking engagements, personal appearances, consulting, and endorsements.

Our Team

“We have a remarkable team here, and one reason is that the staff is very diverse, politically and intellectually. I like people who want to contribute to the debate. At The Lavin Agency, what we’re trying to do is add to the conversation, because great ideas often come from conflicting ideas that are looking for the truth. We’re never going to find the truth, of course, but if we’re trying to find it, chances are that things will be better today than they were last week. That’s the quality—a searching quality—that is present in everyone who works here.

One of the questions I ask potential employees is, Who do you think is underrated? I don’t necessarily care what the answer is, but I do want to know that someone has a critical faculty and a passion they can articulate. That they have the ability to say, ‘This idea is better than this idea—and here’s why.’ A key aspect of working at The Lavin Agency is being able to say that we have a speaker who is better than these other speakers, for these specific reasons. If you are willing to go out on a limb for one speaker over another, and be willing to admit that you have taste and judgement and the ability to use them, then you’re going to fit in here just fine!” — David Lavin 

David Lavin

David Lavin

Founder & CEO

David created The Lavin Agency committed to only representing original thinkers and unique practitioners. An avid collector of contemporary art, David sits on the boards of The Power Plant, MOCA, and The Contact Photography Festival. His favorite artist is Auguste Rodin, his favorite film is On the Waterfront, his favorite TV series is Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and his favorite book is The Brothers Karamazov.

Charles Yao

Charles Yao

Executive Vice President—Director of Intellectual Talent

Charles works closely with David to bring on new speakers, and is the point of contact—the relationships guy—for most of our exclusives. Outside of Lavin, he is the art director of Little Brother, the National Magazine Award-winning literary journal.

Tom Gagnon

Tom Gagnon

Executive Vice President

Tom joined the agency in 1998, and has enjoyed the challenging opportunity of working with, and representing, some of the Western world’s most influential figures. He lives in New Hampshire with his wife, son and the world’s most talented dog.

Kenneth Calway

Kenneth Calway

Executive Vice President

Ken Calway is paid to have thoughts. This bio was invented while drinking beer after a long day at work. Drew Dudley is partly to blame.

Cathy Hirst

Cathy Hirst

Executive Vice President

Cathy has been working in the speaking industry for 34 years and has seen an immense amount of change during that time. She is passionate about the industry and works closely with clients to identify the very best thought-leaders for their event needs. Her approach is consultative and conversational, tempered with a refreshing sense of humor and compassion.

Joy Kim

Joy Kim

Finance Manager

Joy has been part of The Lavin Agency since 2006. When not at the office, you can find Joy running after her 3 boys, baking a sweet treat, or reading a good book over a cup of coffee.

Mishika Kochar

Director of International Business

Mishika believes that words have the power to change the world. At Lavin, she’s curating meaningful learning experiences and helping you find the best conversations the world has to offer. Outside of work, you can find her learning from travels, animals, people and trees.

Alex Hamlyn

Intellectual Talent Agent

Besides working as an agent, Alex is also a musician who plays guitar, bass, and saxophone. He has recorded with several artists and has toured the country from coast to coast (sleeping on many floors along the way). In his spare time, he sometimes writes about pop culture and often goes to the movies.

Dylan Lavin

Dylan Lavin

Intellectual Talent Agent

Dylan is an avid Jays and Raptors fan who is never late, nor is he early—he arrives precisely when he means to. You can find him in the kitchen, devouring ice cream straight from the tub, or on the golf course (what he lacks in skill he makes up for in enthusiasm).

Eliot Lavin

Intellectual Talent Agent

If you have a problem and you worry about it, you have two problems

Adrianna Stadnyk

Adrianna Stadnyk

Intellectual Talent Agent

With a background in event coordination and sales, Adrianna likes the challenge of finding the perfect keynote speaker for your event. On her spare time, you’ll find her either hanging with her two rescue dogs Bowie and Derek, getting some R&R at the cottage, reading the first few chapters of a book (and never completing it), entertaining family and friends, or working on home improvements.

Jonathan Coward

Business Development

With a background in photography and production coordination, Jonathan enjoys music and film, and listens to too many podcasts. You can find him ordering DoorDash even when he knows he should be cooking.

Alethea Ng

Alethea Ng

Marketing Manager

Alethea is a Toronto-based writer and journalist. She’s passionate about telling stories that we haven’t traditionally heard. She has a soft spot for a good mystery novel (or even a vaguely mediocre mystery novel) and supplements her diet with a constant stream of bubble tea.

Laila Amer

Content Marketing Specialist

Laila is a Toronto-based writer, designer, and avid world traveler. If it’s on this planet, then she’s made (or is in the process of making) plans to visit. In her free time, you can find her illustrating, reading a graphic novel (or maybe a regular one, if she’s in the mood), watching a video essay, and scouting flight deals… all in 5-10 min increments.

Kshiteej Sawhney

Kshiteej Sawhney

Marketing Producer

Kshiteej has almost a decade of experience in advertising and creative production. In his free time, you can find him batting on the cricket pitch or catching the latest releases in movie theatres. He loves film, music, and all aspects of pop culture, and his to-watch list on Letterboxd is growing by the day.

Jessica Dolman

Jessica Dolman

Senior Event Coordinator

An English transplant in Toronto, who’s worked at Lavin since ’05.  When she’s not ensuring her speakers’ events are successful, she’s a TFC and Jays fan who loves travelling, seeing friends, curling, enjoying good food and wine. She’s even picked ice wine grapes in −12°C/10°F!

Laura Lehman

Events Manager

As a former sports broadcaster, TV host and MC, Laura knows firsthand what it takes for a speaking engagement to go off without a hitch. She’s been behind the mic at events with over 30,000 people, and, because of her experience, she will put herself in the speaker’s shoes every single time.

Viktorija Bacenaite

Viktorija Bacenaite

Event Coordinator and Office Administrator

Viktorija comes from a fine arts background, holds a BSW degree, and will never miss a chance to let everyone in the room know she has a minor in English. In her spare time, she enjoys taking her cat for walks (yes, on a leash), critiquing movies, and visiting new restaurants downtown.

Aleksandra Bakun

Event Coordinator

Aleks has been coordinating conference and workshop events for years. In her spare time, you’ll either find her traveling and collecting keychains from places she has visited or watching media analysis videos on YouTube detailing easter eggs found in various TV shows and movies.

Margaux Booth

Margaux Booth

Event Coordinator

Margaux loves when diverse elements come together to make something beautiful—she’s enthusiastic about interior design, her black cat (Bijoux), and movies. As an event planner she’s orchestrated everything from workshops to cocktail hours. On the weekends, you can find her questing for the best croissant in Toronto, or holding conversations with the neighborhood cats.

Samantha Sherman

Event Coordinator

With a background in Tourism and Hospitality and 6 years of experience in the event industry in Toronto’s Harbourfront, Samantha loves working with people. An avid concert goer, lover of all things travel and sour candy.

Carter Lavin


Carter is already planning next year’s parade celebrating the Toronto Raptors’ NBA Championship.

Join the Team

Vice President of Sales and Marketing

Help us shape the future performance and direction of the agency.

The Vice President of Sales and Marketing is a key senior management position at The Lavin Agency. Your primary purpose will be to create customer demand for our intellectual talent and generate revenue for the Agency. You will be a leader in your area of responsibility managing a team of sales and marketing professionals. You will also be an integral part of the Executive Management team that will help shape the future performance and direction of the agency.

Duties and Responsibilities

  • Responsible for delivery of revenue targets
  • Responsible for building Lavin brand equity
  • Develop sales and marketing plans with clear objectives and goals, writing key strategies that will deliver results
  • Oversee the execution of the plan monitoring the ongoing plan metrics and progress
  • Manage and enhance key customer relationships
  • Identify and secure new areas of growth including marketing the company’s extensive bank of existing content
  • Lead and direct your team deploying resources focused on revenue growth
  • Implement a performance management program for your team
  • Build a high performance and disciplined culture
  • Identify areas for improved process and procedures


  • 10+ years of Sales and Marketing leadership experience at a senior level
  • Proven track record of delivering sales growth and key marketing metrics
  • Proven track record of Marketing and Sales plan development and execution
  • A take-charge individual who is highly accountable
  • Extensive brand building experience
  • Product development and launch experience
  • Proven track record in executing key tactics
  • Deep knowledge in social media marketing
  • Experience in developing high performance teams
  • Working knowledge and experience with CRM programs
  • Conference, event and industry experience is an asset
  • Excellent written and oral communication skills
  • Exceptional customer management skills
  • Inspirational leadership skills


The Lavin Agency offers a competitive salary and extended benefit package in a very exciting industry. The company believes in the well being of its people and strives to provide opportunities for growth and development.

How to Apply

Please send a resume along with a cover letter expressing why you are drawn to working at Lavin, why you feel it would be a great fit. In the letter, include the last three books you’ve read and one cultural figure who you feel is underrated!

Only qualified applicants will be contacted.

Sales Agent

Brilliant misfits wanted!

Are you the right person in the wrong job?

Have you stayed up all night debating politics, music, civil rights and social justice, old philosophies, new technologies, the media, the economy—or, better yet, the intersection of them all? A real debate where minds get changed, including your own? Yes? Then maybe we’re the home you are looking for.

The Lavin Agency represents many of the world’s leading thinkers, writers, and doers for speaking engagements worldwide. We find, support, and collaborate with unique thinkers who strive to make the world a better place.

We are hiring brilliant misfits—passionate, resourceful, and resilient agents to book our community of keynote speakers. This is a great sales position, even and especially for people who’ve never considered a sales job. Under-qualified? The CEO took his college grant money, travelled the world, and never went back to school. Over-qualified? We’ve had our share of PhDs, MBAs, and LLBs. This job, simply put, is for the engaged and the engaging. The curious and the opinionated.

But it’s also a tough job. You must have a proven ability to deal with stress, work hard, and stay focused. You are a driven individual. Exceptional communication skills, written and verbal, are a minimum requirement. After all, your job will be to find, secure, and follow-through on new opportunities for our speakers—placing them at speaking engagements around the world through consistent, strategic, and proactive outreach to corporations, associations, educational institutions, and meeting and event planners. It is a position of solving problems and exploring ideas. It can be exciting. It can be frustrating. But so is anything worth doing.

We offer a competitive salary, comprehensive health insurance, boutique gym membership, exclusive weekly Zoom calls and in-person visits with top thinkers, and a work environment of continuous learning and support.

A final word about us. We’ve been around for over 30 years and have a well-earned reputation for only representing the world’s most interesting people and have been described as having an uncanny ability to anticipate the zeitgeist. You’ll be joining a team of 25+ and growing.

If you are a brilliant misfit who wants to challenge yourself, write to us at [email protected]! Please include your resume as well as an original cover letter that specifically, and persuasively, addresses why you’d like to work at The Lavin Agency. In that cover letter, please also tell us about one cultural figure who you think is underrated. (Submissions without cover letter will not be considered).

An Interview with David Lavin

Please enjoy this candid interview with David Lavin. I was interested in talking about the history and philosophy of the agency. At one point, I asked David about what motivates him, what keeps him going, even after more than two decades. He smiled, and said, “Why waste even an hour of your life?” Exactly.

—CHARLES YAO, Executive Vice President/Director of Intellectual Talent
How do you see The Lavin Agency in relation to other speaking agencies?

We are definitely the outsiders of the speakers business. When I go to the speaking industry association, I realize that we’re not in the same business as everybody else. Everybody else is in the business of giving their clients what they ask for. I’m in the business of trying to anticipate the zeitgeist. My job is to know who is hot next year, and why, and book that. That’s my job, that’s what makes it interesting to me.

Let’s face it, there are probably a hundred thousand speaking events booked in North America every year. We book 1,600 of them, which is not a lot. It’s a lot for us—and maybe we can book two thousand, or three thousand, but even with three thousand out of a hundred thousand, I can still just concentrate on working with good speakers. I don’t have to do the other 97%. I can work with the 3% of clients who really get it, who want to do something of fundamental value for their organization, and not the 97% who just want to fill a slot with a speaker and move on.

How did your early life inform what you do today?

Nobody grows up thinking, “I can hardly wait to be a lecture agent,” and I was no different. I didn’t know what I wanted to be, and I didn’t know what a speaking agent was. I spent my youth traveling around the world. I was Canada’s youngest chess master. I took my college grant money and went to California. I lived in Paris, San Francisco, Vancouver, London and Berlin. Even Ibiza. I talked to a lot of people, learned a lot of things, and I read thousands of books.

Then what?

I came back to Toronto, and settled down. I started thinking about what I was going to do with my life. Then I started thinking, “What am I going to do tonight?” Do I want to go to The Horseshoe [a local club] and see a band? Not really. Is there a movie I want to see? There wasn’t. I didn’t own a TV. I refused to own a TV set until I was 30. So, I looked at my bookshelf and thought, “I want to go see Hunter S. Thompson give a speech.” But he wasn’t giving a speech. So I decided to make it happen. Somehow, I contacted Hunter S. Thompson to come to Toronto. He was here for a week, and a few hours before he was scheduled to go on, he left town. We were completely sold out. 1,200 seats! I was standing in front of the theatre, telling people it was sold out, that he was not here, but people were still trying to buy tickets. They wanted a souvenir!

Later, I managed to track Hunter down, and he came back three weeks later and did two shows. It was also the worst storm of the year, so he was an hour and a half late. As soon as he stepped onto the stage I collapsed in sheer joy. I was just so glad he was actually there. I swore I would never do something like that again. There was a journalist covering it, who came up to me and said, “You have no idea what you’ve pulled off. I’ve never seen anyone deal with pressure the way you have.” I had no idea at the time that it was going to turn into a 20-year career. It’s turned out okay, though.

So, with one event behind you, what happened next?

I put together a lecture series and went to the Toronto Star and said, “How would you like to sponsor me?” I was twenty-seven, I’d never done anything like this before, and the Star was the biggest paper in the country. They came back and said, “Yes, we’re going to sponsor your speaking series.” Over three years, they gave me $1 million in ad space, and I thought, “Oh, I guess people just give ambitious 27 year-olds a million dollars.” They gave me complete editorial control. We brought in people like Noam Chomsky, Abbie Hoffman, Timothy Leary, and Eldridge Cleaver. We had great events and got between 1,200 and 1,700 people for every one.

How did that series turn into an actual full-fledged speaking agency?

Well, being a promoter is great. But you make $10,000 one day and lose $10,000 the next. It wears thin. You can only do so many events. We were doing ten events a year, and that was the limit of what we could do. I had been doing it for three years and the person I was working with at the Toronto Star passed away, tragically. He completely understood what we were trying to do, and was happy to sit back and watch us go. With a kid on the way, I decided I needed to move on. That was the beginning of The Lavin Agency.

What was year one of The Lavin Agency like?

The first year was tough. I made the mistake of doing what everyone else was doing. I said, “We have ten thousand speakers, tell me who you want and I’ll get them for you.” After a while I realized that was just a stupid way to do business. It made no sense. All of my assumptions were terrible, and I realized that all of the other business models that the other agencies were using didn’t work for me. I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing; it wasn’t very intellectually stimulating. So I just started doing what I wanted to do, crossed my fingers, and hoped it would work. I started to look for speakers I believed in. I went out and found people that I thought were interesting—incredible people who, sometimes, had never given a speech before. Since nobody else thought to represent them, they were happy to be represented by us. So that’s what I did: I found interesting people and called up organizations and said, “These people are interesting, here’s why, and here’s what they’ll do for you. Here’s the fit.” Over a few years, we went from zero events to over 450 a year.

That first year was lean, but year two was okay, and year three was amazing. In fact, we’ve literally grown every year we’ve been in business.

What was the landscape of public speaking in those first few years of business?

The public speaking scene was limited—not just here, but everywhere. I think what I did was I recognized something in lectures that others didn’t: that thinking is fun. That people who used to go to school and stay up until 5 o’clock in the morning to talk about philosophy and economics and politics miss those days. They love that sense of engagement. They love being able to go out to a lecture with friends, and then go away and talk about it. That’s what I think I picked up on—that people miss thinking.

Do you think you’ve had an influence on the public speaking world?

We’ve been told that we revolutionized the industry, yes. I think that’s true. We changed all the rules. People now don’t even realize that the rules got changed. There’s still a lot to be done. This is a very fragmented industry and there are far too many speakers. 95% of the people who give speeches shouldn’t be giving speeches. Those people are doing it because they want to make money, not because they have ideas that are worth sharing. That’s one of the sad things about the speaking industry.

It’s one of my pet peeves, too. Why does this persist?

Some of the event organizers simply don’t have the time to discern quality vs. the not-quality stuff. It’s not their fault. They’re busy people. It’s not their job. It’s our job. I read so many of these bogus resumes of popular speakers. If you look at their accomplishments from before they were speakers, it’s nothing. They’re just okay speakers who’ve written an okay book. And that book is just a rehash of 37 other books. They don’t have a single original idea, yet they make money speaking. I think that’s just sad.

Okay, then: what makes for a great keynote speaker?

What makes a great speaker is actually pretty interesting. People always say they want a great speaker, but I think they have the wrong adjective. What they want is “compelling.” You want a speaker who is going to move an audience—who’s compelling. People too often want a speaker that jumps up and down, yelling, “You can be all you can be,” or they want a speaker who can tell a joke. They don’t recognize that the most compelling speakers genuinely have the most interesting ideas.

What really motivates people is a solution to a problem that they’re having, not somebody yelling at an audience that, “You can sell!” People look for solutions. People look for content. One of the unfortunate things about the speaking industry is we’ve been in the placebo business for too long. Some other bureaus sell people crap, call it content, and hope it’ll make an organization more effective.

What’s the worst part about booking a bad keynote speaker?

The most aggravating thing about seeing a bad speaker is knowing it was so unnecessary. You don’t need bad speakers. In 2008, I was at our speaking industry conference and everyone was saying “times are tough.” But, at that time, our business was going up. One speaker got up and said he dropped his fee by half. I said, look, he didn’t drop his fee by half. If anything, he wasn’t worth what he was originally getting paid. The only reason he’d get $20,000 to give a speech was because all the good speakers were already booked. I liken it to those champagne towers you see in Las Vegas: these huge towers made up of glasses that get filled from the top. Well, in 2005, 2006, 2007, and even now, when times are better, there’s an unlimited amount of champagne, and all the glasses are getting filled—but they shouldn’t be. During the economic slump, the good speakers were getting booked as much as ever, but the bad ones disappeared. And I think it’s unfortunate that they’re back.

Where do you find good new speakers?

Finding new speakers is incredibly difficult—and too easy. Because, first of all, there’s no lack of people who want to make $10,000 for a keynote. However, there is a lack of people who should make $10,000 a keynote. So we actually have to say “no” more often than we say “yes.” A lot more often. We might look at someone and say, “This is amazing, this is interesting.” But we have to ask if there are dozens of organizations that can benefit from this idea. If the answer is yes, we sign them. If a speaker has a great message, you, as an agent, are constantly trying to think, “Is this a great message I like personally, or a great message that can be expanded to fit different groups?”

A good speaker can come from all kinds of backgrounds: the arts, business, science, the humanitarian world. So you have to be aware of all kinds of things—you have to be culturally aware. You have to be a polymath. That’s what I like about this job. It plays to my strength—that I’m reasonably good at many things. I know enough about economics that I can listen to a speech and say whether something is on the cutting edge or not. I don’t know enough about economics to write a paper, but I know enough to be a highly educated consumer. That’s what’s exciting, but it requires a lot of work. You have to read a lot, and talk to a lot of people, and get a lot of opinions.

One of the best ways to get new speakers is to ask people, “Who have you read or heard of lately that’s interesting.”

How many event and meeting planners—the people who book speakers—do you try to talk to every day?

I talk to dozens of people a day—it’s one of my favourite parts of the job. But I don’t talk to as many as I’d like to because everyone likes to use email. The only reasonable way to learn anything is to talk to someone. The best thing to do if you’re an organizer or an agent is to talk to each other. Email is a terrible form of communication. If email were invented first, we’d all be ecstatic that we had this new invention called the telephone, so we could talk to each other and accomplish in 5 minutes over the phone something that would take us three weeks over email.

What are event and meeting planners telling you today that’s different from 20 years ago?

The questions always stay the same, but the answers are different. “How do you run a great company?” “How do you lead?” “How do you change?” “How do you help your community?” “How do you get other people to take the intrinsic talent in each of them, and go out and make a difference in the world?” All of these questions have been asked for dozens or even hundreds of years. It’s just the answers that change.

What motivates you to come into work every morning?

What excites me during the day is knowing that even though I’ve done this job now for 23 years, I have no idea what’s going to happen on any given day. No idea who I’m going to talk to, what kind of fires I’m going to have to put out, no idea what things I’m going to build. Those bizarre little calls. Like a few years ago, I picked up the phone, and someone asked, “Is this David Lavin?” I said, “Yes.” The person said, “This is John. John Cleese. How are you?” Those are the magical moments. And they happen constantly throughout the week.

What’s on the horizon for the next decade of The Lavin Agency?

There are fundamental problems in North America that need to be solved. I think education is a huge issue. The idea that people bankrupt themselves for an education for a job that pays them $30,000 a year is unsustainable. The healthcare debate, the energy debate—these are all discussions I think we need to be a part of. I look for keynote speakers who can provide solutions to those things, because we have severe problems that need advanced thinking. We’re not going to solve these problems with the same thinking that got us here. So that’s what’s exciting—looking for people who actually have solutions, and working with them to get their solutions in front of as many people as possible.

More questions?

Call us at 1-800-265-4870. We’ll take as much time as needed to make you an expert on booking speakers.