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The Lavin Agency Speakers Bureau

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

Your Fall ‘24 Events: Speakers on the 2024 Election, Solidarity, Beating Polarization, and More

When We Face Inequality Together, We All Win

Heather McGhee traveled across the country, spotlighting stories of ordinary people coming together across divides to fight injustice and make change. The New York Times bestselling author of The Sum of Us, she offers a message of hope and community that has never been more crucial than in this election year.

Changing Minds Is the First Step to Changing Everything

Today, it feels harder than ever to unite for a common goal—but Anand Giridharadas says there’s still hope. The New York Times bestselling author of The Persuaders, he’s developed a practical playbook for reaching out to those who think differently from us, while still holding fast to what we believe.

Roe v. Wadeand What’s Next for Our Constitutional Rights

The landmark Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe has had repercussions far beyond abortion rights. Leading legal historian Mary Ziegler explains how it helps us understand so much of our social and political landscape: from racial justice to political polarization to our constitutional rights, and what comes next.

A Shared Passion for Equality Can Still Unite Us

Our nation is split into four narratives, says award-winning author George Packer: from “Free America” to “Smart America.” But our deep-rooted, shared passion for equality can still bring us together. In talks, he draws on his book Last Best Hope to show how we can work across party lines and save our democracy.

We Must Face the Past to Forge a More Equal Future

A long-time New Yorker staff writer and the Dean of Columbia Journalism School (the only journalism school in the Ivy League), Jelani Cobb has dedicated his career to investigating how today’s news has its roots in our complex past, and what we need to do to build a better world for tomorrow.

The World Is Not Divided Between Us and Them

In a polarized world, we can find common ground and look beyond the boundaries that divide us. Drawing on his vast body of work, including his books Cosmopolitanism and The Lies that BindKwame Anthony Appiah shows us how to celebrate our shared humanity while still embracing our differences.

Our Society Is Getting Better—Really!

Health, prosperity, safety, and happiness are on the rise worldwide. But we’re facing a wave of fatalism that threatens to undo our progress. Renowned public intellectual Steven Pinker makes the case for embracing reason, science, and humanism—the ideals we need if we want to continue making the world better.

Black Americans Are Foundational to Our Country’s History

“Our democracy’s founding ideals were false when they were written. Black Americans have fought to make them true,” writes Pulitzer Prize winner Nikole Hannah-Jones. As creator of The 1619 Project (now an Emmy-winning docuseries), she shows how we can live up to our ideals of freedom, justice, and equality.

Building Coalitions Is Hard. But There’s a Playbook

Charles Booker grew up in one of Kentucky’s poorest ZIP codes and worked his way up to become the youngest Black legislator for that state in almost 90 years. He draws on his career to offer a playbook for building trust across divides: “You find those common themes. You create a space of trust. And then you get to work.”

Our Road Towards a Better American Story

We’re in a moment of overlapping crises, but it’s not too late to set things right. In his urgent new book, What We’ve Become, psychiatrist Jonathan Metzl uses the lens of gun reform to show how our common desire for safety and freedom can help us come together in the pursuit of a just and equitable democracy.

Your Mental Health Awareness Month Event: The Top 10 Speakers on Meaning, Growth Mindset, and Rebuilding Trust

A photo of self-compassion speaker Kristin NeffSelf-Compassion Makes You Strong

Want to boost motivation, lead well, and dodge burnout? Try being kind to yourself, says Kristin Neff. The University of Texas, Austin professor who pioneered the fast-growing field of self-compassion, she shares simple and practical strategies to help you give yourself what you need and reach your full potential.

A photo of self-leadership speaker Ethan KrossLeading Others Starts With Leading Yourself

The voice inside your head can be your worst critic. But it can also be your best coach, says Ethan Kross, University of Michigan professor and bestselling author of Chatter. Take control of the conversations you have with yourself—and watch your motivation, self-leadership, and productivity soar.

A photo of mental health speaker Candy ChangOur Shared Spaces Can Bring Us Together

What do you want to do before you die? That was the question Candy Chang invited her neighbors to answer via a public chalkboard wall. Now a global phenomenon with Before I Die walls in over 70 countries, her project sparked a worldwide conversation about resilience, mental health, and the power of art.

A photo of growth mindset speaker Mary C. MurphyYou Can Build a Growth Mindset for Your Entire Organization

We tend to think of growth mindset as an individual trait. But Mary C. Murphy, protégé of growth mindset pioneer Carol Dweck, says it can also be an organizational one. Her revolutionary business book, Cultures of Growth (out next month!), marks an exciting and fundamental shift in our ability to implement this framework widely.

A photo of mental health speaker Tracy Dennis-TiwaryAnxiety Is Good for You (Even Though It Feels Bad)

Anxiety makes us feel uncomfortable. But it also helps us deal with uncertainty and plan for a hopeful future, says psychologist Tracy Dennis-Tiwary, author of Future Tense. Her new framework for understanding anxiety helps us see it as a tool we can use to increase grit and create the future we want.

A photo of meaning and purpose speaker Emily Esfahani SmithThe Four Pillars for Finding Meaning

How do you build a fulfilling life? Tap into the sources of meaning that are already all around you. Emily Esfahani Smith, author of The Power of Meaning, reveals four pillars that can help you live a life that mattersbelonging, purpose, storytelling, and transcendence—and offers simple ways to put them into practice.

A photo of climate anxiety speaker Britt WrayYour Climate Anxiety Can Help Save the Planet

Worries about the climate have never been more widespread. But Britt Wray, author of Generation Dread, has good news: Our “eco-distress” is the key to finding purpose and making real change. We must wrestle through our inertia and messy emotions if we want to take action and save our future.

A photo of mental health speaker Vijay GuptaMusic Isn’t Just Entertainment. It’s a Lifeline

All art is a kind of “soul-metabolism,” says Vijay Gupta. It’s a way of transforming grief into healing. A MacArthur Genius and founder of Street Symphony, an organization bringing music and art to America’s most disadvantaged communities, he shows us creative ways to revitalize our mental health and sense of hope.

A photo of storytelling speaker Laurel BraitmanHow to Turn Loss Into Growth

How can you navigate change and come out stronger on the other side? Start by telling your story, says Laurel Braitman, author of What Looks Like Bravery. As Director of Writing and Storytelling at the Stanford School of Medicine, she proves that the power of storytelling can help us develop resilience and move forward.

A photo of cities speaker Charles MontgomeryOur Communities Can Bridge the “Trust Divide”

There’s nothing more important for human happiness than our trust in one another—but trust seems to be in short supply. The good news? Our cities can help us heal this divide. Charles Montgomery, author of Happy City, shows us how to redesign our communities, draw people together, and change our lives.

What is Mental Health Awareness Month?

An estimated one in five adults in the US live with a mental illness. Mental Health Awareness Month, which is observed every May, is an opportunity to discuss mental health issues openly and advocate for the mental wellbeing of everyone. Founded by Mental Health America in 1949, it offers us the chance to raise awareness, combat stigma, and learn from each other. This observance is recognized by organizations across the country, which often offer their own resources or even their own themefrom the National Alliance on Mental Illness to the US government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Why book a Mental Health Awareness Month speaker?

In today’s fast-paced world, prioritizing mental health is more important than ever. Booking a keynote speaker for your May event offers a unique opportunity to deepen understanding, break down stigma, and foster a supportive environment at work or on campus. These top Mental Health Awareness Month speakers offer powerful personal stories, invaluable research into mental health, and practical strategies for wellbeing. Whether your goal is to educate, inspire, or empower, our speakers offer a range of perspectives that can transform the way we think about mental health in your organization and beyond. Connect with us today to find the right thought leader for your next event!

The Top 10 AI Speakers for 2024: This Is How You Thrive in the AI Revolution

AJAY AGRAWAL

Photo of Ajay AgrawalEconomist and founder of The Creative Disruption Lab, the largest AI incubator in the world, Ajay Agrawal has accelerated over 1000 startups in the last decade. A true expert on AI, he has a unique understanding of how this technology will revolutionize the economy. AI will help the frontrunners in each industry consolidate power like never before, he says—you can’t afford to be 2nd in this race. Ajay will show you how to get ahead.

 

NICK THOMPSON

Photo of Nick ThompsonThe former editor-in-chief of WIRED and now the CEO of a 350-person media company, Nick Thompson knows what is at stake as he implements his own AI strategy. Theory meets practice, aided by unparalleled access to the senior players at Google, Microsoft, Meta, and Apple. His daily “most interesting thing in tech” videos, watched by his 1.5 million LinkedIn followers, have marked him as one of the sharpest minds in tech today.

 

KATE CRAWFORD

Photo of Kate CrawfordArtificial Intelligence is “neither artificial nor intelligent,” says Kate Crawford, author of Atlas of AI and one of the TIME100 AI: the 100 most influential people in Artificial Intelligence. Kate maps out the landscape of this fast-developing technology, exploring what really goes into the “magic” of generative AI and how we can lay the foundation today for a better tomorrow.

 

RADHIKA DIRKS

Generative AI isn’t just changing the tech and business landscapes. It’s revolutionizing how we view possibility itself. Your wildest moonshots—projects that used to take decades and billions of dollars to accomplish—are now within reach, says Radhika Dirks. As CEO of the world’s first AI moonshot factory and one of Forbes’s 30 Women in AI to Watch, Radhika knows how to use AI to take hold of our most ambitious dreams.

 

NITA FARAHANY

Photo of Nita Farahany“Today, we know and track virtually nothing that’s happening in our own brains,” says leading AI ethicist Nita Farahany. “But in a future that is coming much faster than you realize, all of that is about to change.” As the author of the brilliant book The Battle for Your Brain, a vital roadmap for navigating the emerging risks and opportunities of brain-sensing tech, Nita shows us how we can use this technology for everyone’s good.

 

DOUGLAS RUSHKOFF

Photo of Douglas RushkoffDouglas Rushkoff witnessed digital technology emerge from the most creative side of the California counterculture, only to get subsumed by Silicon Valley venture capitalists. He argues that we need to set the agenda on generative AI today, to ensure that it doesn’t run away with us but becomes a powerful tool. “Rather than repressing human agency,” he says, “AI can unleash the creative potential of our organizations, if we dare.”

 

SALMAN KHAN

Amidst the rampant questions around AI’s role in schools, Khan Academy founder Sal Khan offers a powerful (and hopeful) case for AI’s transformative potential. He argues that these tools can become a personal mentor for every student, capable of lifting the struggling to the proficient, and the proficient to the extraordinary. And the most powerful use case of AI? “To enhance HI: human intelligence, human potential, and human purpose.”

 

JEREMY GUTSCHE

“This is the year AI changes you,” says Jeremy Gutsche. As CEO of Trend Hunter, the world’s largest AI trend-spotting platform, he’s been at the cutting edge of AI strategy and innovation for over a decade. At this unprecedented inflection point, he shows us how to lean into the chaos rather than run from it, adapt faster than our competitors, and emerge as more powerful, AI-enabled versions of ourselves.

 

JUSTIN REILLY

Just like the internet brought businesses into the Digital First and then Mobile First models, rapid advances in AI are quickly bringing us into an “AI First” era. Justin Reilly is the CEO of Wavelo and former Head of Product at Verizon. He says that when you build AI into the heart of what you do, you’ll be able to trust your systems more, scale faster and better, and give your customers what they actually want.

 

ALEXANDRA SAMUEL

Photo of Alexandra SamuelAlexandra Samuel says that “we are the founding generation of the new workplace.” She’s a digital workplace expert and co-author of the book Remote, Inc., on the future of work. “The rise of AI and the explosion of hybrid work aren’t unrelated,” she says. “They’re just two different frontiers in the way digital tools have transformed how work gets done.”

 

Watch a short highlight reel featuring these top AI speakers and more:

What is Generative AI?

Generative Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the advanced algorithms and neural networks that enable machines to generate new content, from text and images to music and code, based on existing data. It goes beyond traditional AI’s analytical capabilities, entering a realm where AI can write, draw, create, and mimic other human abilities. Technologies like ChatGPT and DALL-E fall under the umbrella of generative AI tools. Generative AI is not just a technological breakthrough; it’s a gateway to a future where human creativity and machine intelligence collaborate, leading to unprecedented levels of innovation and efficiency.

What can AI do for your business?

Incorporating AI into your business strategy can revolutionize how you operate, compete, and thrive in today’s fast-paced market. AI offers a spectrum of benefits, from automating routine tasks to providing deep insights through data analysis, enhancing customer experiences, and driving innovation. AI’s ability to analyze large datasets can uncover hidden patterns, predict market trends, and personalize customer interactions, making your business more agile and responsive. Learning how to use AI in the workplace can open new avenues for growth, creativity, and competitive advantage, for leaders and employees alike.

Why book an AI speaker?

Booking an AI speaker is a strategic step towards understanding and harnessing the potential of Artificial Intelligence in your organization. The top AI speakers are both experts in their field and visionaries who can demystify the complexities of AI and present them in a relatable and actionable manner. They can provide valuable insights into the latest trends, ethical considerations, and practical applications, inspiring your team to think innovatively. Our roster of AI speakers includes the top editor of WIRED, the man behind Khan Academy, the founder of the world’s largest AI startup accelerator ever, and many other thought leaders who offer a diverse range of perspectives on AI’s impact on various industries. We’re proud to represent these dynamic and compelling AI speakers, who can spark new ideas, catalyze change, and position your organization at the forefront of the AI revolution.

The Top Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Speakers for 2024

Jeff Chang

How do we rebuild together? Solidarity is the key, says this renowned social historian. He’s a commentator for the PBS Asian Americans series and author of several books, including the highly anticipated Water Mirror Echo: Bruce Lee and the Making of Asian America. “Solidarity is the work of acting for each other. Solidarity is our shared past, and solidarity is our shared future,” he says.

 

Hua Hsu

This Pulitzer Prize winner’s memoir, Stay True, is “an evolutionary step for Asian American literature” (Vulture). It follows his university friendship with another Asian-American student, and was named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, TIME, The Washington Post, and more. In it, Hua explores identity, friendship, grief, pop culture, and the power of diverse stories.

 

Wajahat Ali

We can’t give in to cynicism, says this author and columnist—true diversity is still possible, even in an age of polarization. A hilarious and dynamic speaker, he’s the author of the memoir Go Back to Where You Came From: And Other Helpful Recommendations on How to Become American. In talks, he proves that when we invest in hope and share our stories, we can build the America we want to live in.

 

Laura Huang

Although Asian-Americans face systemic biases and inaccurate perceptions, you can use even that to your advantage, says this Northeastern professor. As the author of Edge, she explores the research that’s been done on AAPI experiences in the workplace and on campus, and proves that you can turn your unique background into a unique advantage by being your authentic self.

 

Anand Giridharadas

Today, it feels harder than ever to build a movement and come together for a common goal—but this internationally bestselling author says there’s still hope. As the author of The Persuaders, he’s developed a playbook with tried-and-true tactics for building solidarity and reaching out to those who think differently from us—while still holding fast to what we believe.

 

Eddie Huang

This director, producer, and celebrity chef has never hesitated to step outside the mainstream. He first broke onto the cultural scene with his Taiwanese restaurant Baohaus, which he opened to tell an underrepresented story through food, and his bestselling memoir Fresh Off the Boat was adapted into the longest running Asian-American sitcom ever. In talks, he reveals the secrets to this incredible creativity.

 

Candy Chang

What do you want to do before you die? That’s the question that this public space artist posed to her neighbors—with incredible results. In talks, she reveals how art can inspire communities, bring people together across division, and help us live better lives. We can make space for different voices, she says—and in doing so, prove to ourselves and each other that we’re not alone.

 

What is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?

Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, observed in May, is a celebration of the rich history and diverse cultures of Asians and Pacific Islanders in the United States. This month, we recognize the significant contributions and influence of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on the history, culture, and achievements of our country. AAPI Heritage Month events, which take place nationwide, help us dive into the stories and legacies of AAPI trailblazers, drawing inspiration from their experiences to forge a more inclusive future.

What’s the history of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month?

In 1978, a joint resolution was passed by the House and the Senate to commemorate “Asian/Pacific American Heritage Week.” It was initially a week-long celebration during the first 10 days in May, to commemorate the arrival of the first Japanese immigrants on May 7, 1843, and the completion of the transcontinental railroad (largely built by Chinese immigrants) on May 10, 1869. In 1990, the week was expanded into a month-long observance, officially designated as Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in 1992. This month serves as a reminder of the perseverance and strength of the AAPI community, recognizing their struggles and triumphs throughout American history and highlighting their enduring cultural impact.

Why book an AAPI Heritage Month speaker?

The right Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month speaker can have a powerful impact on your May event. The top AAPI Heritage Month speakers bring a wealth of knowledge, personal stories, and insights that can enlighten and inspire your audience. Whether your goal is to foster diversity and inclusion, gain a deeper understanding of AAPI history, or spark meaningful discussions about racial justice and cultural identity, our AAPI speakers offer invaluable perspectives for any audience.

Lavin is proud to exclusively represent the world’s top AAPI Heritage Month speakers. Their compelling stories and practical advice are essential for anyone looking to embrace diversity, promote solidarity, and build a more inclusive community. Contact us today to bring one of our speakers to your May event!

Watch an exclusive highlight reel of just a few of our AAPI Heritage Month speakers:

The Top 12 International Women’s Day Speakers for 2024: True Gender Equality, Learning From the Past, and More

Margaret Atwood

The world-renowned author of The Handmaid’s Tale, this literary icon presents a chilling look into a potential future where women’s rights are trampled—and inspires us to speak out and fight for the future we want to see. Drawing on 400 years of women’s history, her work has never been more prescient or essential than today.

 

Minnijean Brown-Trickey

At only 15, this civil rights legend faced down angry mobs and armed guards to make history by desegregating public schools. As one of the historic Little Rock Nine, she transformed education nationwide—and she didn’t stop there. She’s dedicated her life to fighting for social justice and solidarity, challenging us to participate in the battle for freedom and true equality.

 

Ellen Ochoa

A lack of women of color role models didn’t stop this STEM pioneer from climbing the ranks to become the first Latina in space, and later director of the Johnson Space Center. Her groundbreaking career has inspired generations of girls and Latinx children, and today, she empowers audiences to break barriers, overcome adversity, champion diversity, and make the world better for those who come after us.

 

Margot Lee Shetterly

Through her #1 New York Times bestseller Hidden Figures—which became a #1 hit film—this author and entrepreneur revealed the untold stories of the Black women mathematicians who helped NASA get to the moon. In talks, she offers us practical ways to promote equity in STEM fields (and every other area), and gives us a greater understanding of how the history of this country belongs to all of us.

 

Isabel Allende

The most widely read Spanish-language author in the world, this feminist icon has sold over 77 million books translated into more than 40 languages—including The House of the Spirits—and was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor. She speaks passionately on the path to true equality, the beauty of the human condition, and the importance of lifting up future generations.

 

Katy Hessel

The story of art has always excluded women, says this “feminist dynamo” (LA Times). But revealing their contributions today can help us write a better story for the future of art—and every other field. The instant New York Times bestselling author of The Story of Art Without Men, she was named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 for her work championing marginalized communities and telling forgotten stories.

 

Ashton Applewhite

Everyone is aging. So why are we so afraid of it? Ashton is a leading voice of the emerging anti-ageism movement, and was recognized by the UN and the WHO as one of the Healthy Ageing 50—leaders transforming the world to be a better place to grow older. In talks, she shows why ageism affects women disproportionately, and how we can create a better world for all ages and genders.

 

Kristin Neff

Women are often afraid that being kind to themselves is selfish, says this self-compassion pioneer—but in fact, giving yourself what you need actually means you have more to give to everyone else. Drawing on her pioneering research and bestselling books, she shares a simple and actionable guide to succeeding in the workplace, breaking through unjust barriers, and creating necessary change.

 

Laura Huang

How do we get a competitive “edge” at work and in life? This star business professor says we don’t need to change ourselves—we just need to make the most of who we already are. As director of the Women’s Entrepreneurship Center at Northeastern University, she shows us how to use everything about ourselves—even perceived flaws and systemic biases—to our advantage.

 

Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman

A better world for Black women is a better world for all of us, Anna says. A system that works for our most marginalized communities will work for everyone. As co-founder of the only non-profit addressing the pipeline and pathway problem for Black women in economics, finance, and policy, she is dedicated to intervening in discrimination and ensuring that our solutions lift everyone up.

 

Jessica Nordell

The most successful organizations have a superpower: they know how to fight bias. As the author of The End of Bias: A Beginning, Jessica offers unique examples from her research—like the law firm that reduced gender bias and saw a 70% growth in revenue. Her “no-blame” approach and practical strategies empower us to create environments where everyone is free to fully contribute.

 

Sarah Kaplan

We treat innovation as an investment: something difficult but ultimately worthwhile. We could treat diversity, equity, and inclusion the same ways, says this premier MBA professor. As the founding director of the Institute for Gender and the Economy, she shows us how to reposition our social challenges—like gender equality—into innovation challenges that can transform our organization for the better.

 

What is International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day (IWD) takes place on March 8 every year, and serves to celebrate women’s social, economic, cultural, and political achievements. Through talks and events all month long, we shine a light on the women of the past, and draw inspiration from them to ensure a more equitable world for the women of the future. IWD events are an opportunity for us to reflect on these untold stories and commit to creating a better world for everyone.

What’s the history of International Women’s Day?

International Women’s Day has been observed since the early 1900s. The first National Women’s Day was observed across the United States on February 28, 1909. In 1910, Clara Zetkin raised the idea of an International Women’s Day at the International Conference of Working Women in Copenhagen. Over 100 attendees at the conference approved Zetkin’s suggestion. IWD was observed for the first time the following year, as more than a million people attended IWD rallies in Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland on March 19, 1911, campaigning for women’s rights to work, vote, and hold public office. The United Nations commemorated International Women’s Day for the first time in 1975, and announced their first annual theme in 1996.

Why book an International Women’s Day speaker?

The right International Women’s Day speaker can not only inspire audiences, but also spark real change and action. Whether you’re trying to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, deepen your understanding of our history, or start an open conversation about gender, International Women’s Day speakers can complement and drive the changes you want to see in your organization.

Lavin is proud to represent the world’s leading International Women’s Day speakers. Our top IWD speakers offer powerful stories and actionable strategies that you can put into practice today. Get in touch with us today to bring one of our incredible speakers to your 2024 event.

Watch an exclusive highlight reel of just a few of our International Women’s Day speakers:

The Top 12 Women’s History Month Speakers for 2024: An Exclusive Video on Solidarity, Gender Equality, and More

There are hundreds of Women’s History Month speakers you could book, but only one will be the right fit for your event. To help you plan your WHM programming, we’ve put together a 3-minute highlight reel of just a few of the incredible speakers we represent. Watch it below, and read on to learn more about WHM!

What is Women’s History Month?

Women’s History Month (WHM) takes place every March to commemorate and celebrate the vital role of women in our country’s history. Events across the nation, often featuring powerful Women’s History Month speakers, serve to remind us of the overlooked contributions that women have made to our politics, culture, sciences, and more—and to help us build a better future for the generations who will come after us.

What’s the history of Women’s History Month?

Women’s History Month began as a local celebration in Santa Rosa, California. The first “Women’s History Week” celebration was carried out in 1978 by the Education Task Force of the Sonoma County (California) Commission on the Status of Women. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter issued the first Presidential Proclamation to recognize Women’s History Week. In 1987, after being petitioned by the National Women’s History Project, Congress passed a resolution designating the month of March 1987 as “Women’s History Month.” Since 1995, presidents have issued annual proclamations designating March as Women’s History Month.

Why book a Women’s History Month speaker?

The right Women’s History Month speaker can spark real change in your audience, equipping them with practical tools and strategies to join the push for a better future. Whether you’re hoping to increase support for diversity, equity, and inclusion measures, learn more about women’s past contributions, or inspire your audience to embrace everyone in our common search for equality, International Women’s Day speakers can drive the changes you want to see in 2024.

Lavin is proud to exclusively represent the world’s leading Women’s History Month speakers, from #1 New York Times bestselling authors to civil rights legends to pioneering scientists, and many more. Learn more about our speakers, and then get in touch with us to book them for your 2024 event.

Top 10 AI Speaker Ajay Agrawal: Why You Can’t Afford to Be 2nd in the AI Future

What does Ajay speak about?

It’s not good enough to be second in the AI race, Ajay says. As the bestselling co-author of Prediction Machines and Power and Prediction, he knows that whoever gains an advantage in AI first will maintain that advantage while everybody else scrambles to catch up.

“In many technological revolutions, it’s smart to be the fast follower. The leader is the one who’s paying for all the mistakes—and once they’ve figured that out, you can come in as a fast follower,” he says. “That’s a lot harder to do when the core technology improves with use. Let’s take the autonomous car industry: who’s going to want to drive in a car with the second-best AI?”

Ajay has spent over a decade at the cutting edge of AI business applications. A top AI leadership speaker and thought leader that other experts turn to, he knows how you can gain an edge and consolidate power in this fast-paced landscape. In his presentations, which are grounded by his practical insights and insightful examples, he gives you the tools you need to develop an AI strategy that works amidst the breakneck technological advancements of today.

Who is Ajay?

When business leaders and heads of state need an expert for their AI strategy, Lavin speaker Ajay Agrawal is the person they seek out. Ajay has served as advisor to the U.S. and Japanese governments on boards for innovation, leadership, and technology. He’s also the bestselling co-author of two books—his most recent, Power and Prediction, is “the best book yet that considers what AI will mean for all who participate in the economy” (Lawrence H. Summers, former World Bank Chief Economist).

As founder of the Creative Destruction Lab, which has expanded to 13 cities worldwide, Ajay has accelerated over 1000 AI startups in fields like biotech, healthcare, manufacturing, space, and more. He’s also the Geoffrey Taber Chair in Entrepreneurship and Innovation and Professor of Strategic Management at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. He was named to the Order of Canada in 2022.

How do I learn more about Ajay?

Interested in learning more about this top AI leadership speaker? Get in touch with us at our Contact Us page, read more about Ajay and our other top AI speakers, or watch a short video about the outsized advantages of being first in the AI race:

Generative AI Has Brought Your Most Ambitious “Moonshots” Within Reach. AI Entrepreneur Radhika Dirks

If you’re still thinking of ChatGPT as a simple tool for productivity, you’re thinking too small, says Radhika Dirks. The power of generative AI has brought our wildest and most ambitious projects within reach—in half the time and at a fraction of the budget.

Radhika is one of the world’s foremost voices on the human implications of AI—what this technology means for us, and how we can turn it to our advantage. In powerfully hopeful talks, she illuminates the limitless possibilities of generative AI in every field, then breaks down the strategy and tactics that every business leader needs to gain an edge in the AI future.

Every moonshot needs stepping-stones, Radhika says—you don’t get to Mars in one leap. You have to try different paths and pick up expertise in different fields, which can be an expensive and time-consuming process. But with generative AI, which draws from diverse sources of information across the internet, you can achieve these stepping-stones almost for free.

“What used to take billions of dollars now takes thousands of dollars, or even hundreds,” Radhika says. “And most people don’t realize that. They’re still looking at what productivity tools they can use. But generative AI is so much bigger than that.”

Watch Radhika explain the “first big wave” of generative AI, and what this explosion of creativity means for leaders and innovators.

That “Flaw” Holding You Back? It’s the Key to Your Competitive Edge. “40 Under 40” Business Prof Laura Huang

You don’t need to change yourself in order to succeed, says Laura Huang. You can use everything about yourself (even the things you think are flaws!) to get a competitive advantage. A star business professor at Northeastern (previously at Harvard and Wharton), Laura has developed a unique four-step process to make your hard work work harder for you:

  1. Enrich: Providing value to others—and communicating that value to them too;
  2. Delight: Convincing others to take a step back and actually listen to you;
  3. Guide: Understanding and redirecting the perceptions that others have of you;
  4. Effort: Working hard—and putting that hard work into the right things.

In talks, she uses real-life examples from her own research to show you how you can flip negative perceptions and other obstacles on their head. For instance, she teaches you how to map your own “trajectory” instead of letting others assume your future potential, using examples like the non-native speaker who rose from receptionist to analyst at Goldman Sachs and the entrepreneur whose time spent in prison became the heart behind his business’s story.

“Guide the perceptions that others have of you. Make your own privilege,” Laura says. “That is ultimately how you get more out of your hard work.”

Fighting Bias is Your Organization’s Superpower: Jessica Nordell, Author of The End of Bias

Even the most well-intentioned teams and leaders have “unexamined bias,” says Jessica Nordell. It makes us treat others in unfair ways on the basis of gender, race, and more, and it keeps us from unlocking our full potential as an organization. “People behave in discriminatory ways all the time,” Jessica says. “But it’s important to remember that they want to do the right thing.” And when we recognize our bias, we can work on eliminating it—and propel ourselves and our companies to greater heights.

In her talks and workshops, Jessica draws on her decade of research for her book, showing you how to identify and fight bias in your workplace to increase productivity, teamwork, and performance. Among many other things, she discusses:

  • Multiple case studies, including a law firm that saw a 70% growth in revenue after reducing gender bias.
  • How working against bias creates an environment where employees are more engaged, happier, and have greater trust within their teams—directly improving client relationships.
  • Why leadership buy-in is essential for long-term positive change.

A well-respected speaker on diversity, organizational culture, and of course bias, Jessica speaks without blame or shame, focusing on the practical steps you can take today to reduce bias and find success. “If we want to have better employee engagement, less turnover, more dynamic and productive employees,” she says, “then we need to think about this seriously and take steps to combat it.”

The Best Outcome for Black Women Is the Best for Us All: Anna Gifty, Editor of The Black Agenda

Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman is the editor of the seminal The Black Agenda, the first book to feature Black experts highlighting injustices, and their solutions, in different policy areas (like climate, technology, healthcare, and more). It’s an essential guidebook for social justice that Kirkus called “an inclusive, edifying, often fiery assembly of voices articulating the way forward for Black America—and America in general.” She’s also the co-founder of the renowned Sadie Collective, where Black women in STEM can share resources, network, and advocate for broader visibility in the field.

A leading voice in social justice, she believes that crafting policies that center our most vulnerable is key to creating a more just society for everyone. In talks, Anna translates her studies and experiences into actionable strategies for the workplace and beyond.

“We have a chance still to uplift one another without leaving anyone behind,” says Anna. “But that requires that we break from the lockstep of inaction and enter a new dance floor, perhapsone characterized by progress, promise, and preparation for a future that includes all of us, regardless of where we come from, and where we decide to go.”

Turn Collaboration Into “Creative Chemistry”: Fmr. Nike Chief Marketing Officer Greg Hoffman

Two all-important questions are the key to breakthrough innovation and unlocking your company’s full potential, says Greg Hoffman: “What if? And why not?” During his three decades at Nike, Greg worked his way up from intern to Chief Marketing Officer, fostering a space that allowed for groundbreaking ideas to flourish. How? By encouraging imagination, treating creativity “as a team sport,” and recognizing that “innovation happens in the intersections.”

“Diversity is the oxygen that breathes life into the creative process, and curiosity is the rocket fuel,” says Greg. But to build diverse and curious dream teams, you need to create the right environment. You must embrace everyone’s creative capacity. Only when employees can freely share their ideas can you build a culture like Nike’sa culture that innovates.

In talks, Greg empowers you and your team to achieve your creative potential and dare to be remembered. “You need to connect what you sell with what the world needs,” Greg says. He offers real examples and practical lessons from his groundbreaking career, showing you how to develop your creative leadership and build teams that make a real impact.

“Talent” Doesn’t Predict Performance. Grit Does. Psychologist Dr. Danny Southwick

Talent doesn’t predict world-class performance. But the mundane daily struggle of training, working on your weaknesses, finding a coach who can help you be the best you can become? That’s what enables people to unlock their potential.” Danny Southwick

Do you want the people you lead to become more resilient, more persistent, and better at taking risks? Then stop using the word “talent,” says Danny Southwick. He’s worked closely with fellow Lavin speaker Angela Duckworth, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Grit and the pioneer of the field, to understand what actually predicts high performance. In a recent paper with Angela, he proved that simply referring to someone’s ability as skill instead of talent helps them develop a growth mindset, achieve more, and work better on a team.Practice and perseverance allowed Danny to break state records in high school, and, after an adventurous college career, sign with the Oakland Raiders. His passion for high performance prompted him to earn an MBA and then a PhD at the University of Pennsylvania, investigating how we can adjust the way we talk about ability to get the most out of ourselves and our teams.In talks, Danny draws on his career as a star quarterback and as a psychologist to show you the best way to practice in order to increase your skills quickly (not all practice is equally effective!), how to instill a growth mindset in your whole organization, and how to ditch the vague buzzwords and avoid the “talent trap.”

 

Mental Fitness Is Your Superpower: Five Perspectives on Unlocking the Best Version of Yourself and Your Team

Why Anxiety Is Actually Good for You

“Anxiety exists in the space between where we are now and where we want to be,” says Tracy Dennis-Tiwary. A psychology and neuroscience professor and author of Future Tense, Tracy proves that although anxiety may feel bad, it’s actually a normal response to an uncertain (but hopeful) future—and an essential tool for prioritizing what really matters in life.

Watch an exclusive Lavin video where Tracy speaks about how anxiety is really a sign of hope.

Unleash Your Inner Ted Lasso—By Talking to Yourself

If you want to lead others, you first need to lead yourself. And the voice inside your head can be your greatest asset and best coach—if you know how to use it. Ethan Kross, an award-winning psychologist and author of Chatter, calls your inner voice “the Swiss Army knife of the mind” and shows you how to use it to avoid burnout, lead others, and tap into high performance.

Watch Ethan explain what your inner voice is, and why it matters.

Art and Creativity: Your Greatest Tools for Belonging

Art isn’t just aesthetic. Vijay Gupta says it’s a powerful way to help everyone at your organization belong. Vijay is a “visionary violinist” (The New Yorker) and the founder of Street Symphony, an organization bringing music and art to America’s most disadvantaged communities. He shows us creative ways to cultivate beauty and connection at work—and everywhere else.

Watch a PBS interview with Vijay where he discusses the link between art and community.

Self-Compassion Doesn’t Make You Soft. It Makes You Strong

Being kind to yourself doesn’t mean your standards are low, says Kristin Neff. As the first person to empirically study self-compassion, Kristin shows that self-compassionate people and self-critical people have equally high standards—but being kind to yourself actually makes you more resilient, a stronger performer, and better at overcoming challenges.

Watch an exclusive Lavin video where Kristin explains why self-compassionate people rebound more quickly from failure.

Happiness Comes from the Story You Tell About Yourself

What story are you telling about your life? Are you the victim, or the hero? Psychotherapist Lori GottliebNew York Times bestselling author of Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, says you get to shape the narrative—and change your life. “There’s nothing more important to the quality of our lives than the stories we tell ourselves about them.”

Watch an exclusive Lavin interview with Lori where she explains why mental fitness is your company’s superpower.

The Art and Science (and Everything Else!) of Creativity: Five Perspectives from Lavin Speakers to Help You Unlock Innovation

Want to Make Your Brain More Creative? Try Being Bored

Letting your mind wander is how you start generating your best ideas, says neuroscientist Heather Berlin. As host of PBS Nova’s Your Brain—which broke the live viewership record for any Nova premiere on YouTube—Heather explains how you can change your environment to “hack” your brain, become more creative, and get the most out of yourself and your team.

Watch Heather explain why trying to force creativity never works.

“Don’t Chase Cool”

The most creative brands don’t pursue flashy ideas, says Greg Hoffman, but rather stay true to themselves and their vision. Greg draws from his almost 30 years at Nike, during which he rose through the ranks from intern to Chief Marketing Officer. He shows how to encourage creativity in your teams and help the daydreamers propel your organization to radical innovation.

Watch Greg explain why a Dream Team needs everyone’s ideas.

Keep Your Ideas Fluid for as Long as Possible

During her 20 fast-paced years as Cirque du Soleil’s Artistic Director, Caitlan Maggs helped countless massive and diverse productions produce their best work. Your ideas may be good, she says, but don’t freeze them too early—because they could be great. With fascinating anecdotes, she explains how you can develop a framework of creativity in any organization

Watch Caitlan speak about the Cirque’s creative collaboration.

Your Most Creative Ideas Come After You Get Stuck

Running into creative roadblocks can be discouraging. But Adam Alter says the ideas that come easily aren’t as good as we think—we get our best ideas after we meet (and overcome) obstacles. And there are ways to speed up that process. Adam’s new book, Anatomy of a Breakthrough, is a practical guide for individuals and teams on unleashing your full creative potential.

Watch Adam discuss Pixar’s “Black Sheep” strategy for building diverse, creative teams.

The Secret to Creativity? It’s About Discipline

Eddie Huang has never hesitated to break the mold. He’s a celebrity chef who changed the NYC food scene forever, the bestselling author of the memoir-turned-sitcom Fresh Off the Boat, and the writer and director of multiple feature films. But the secret to this explosive creativity isn’t simply defying the rules, he says. It’s about having the discipline to create your own rules and stay true to yourself.

Watch Eddie explain the only valid reason to do creative work.

Finding Purpose in a World on Fire: Lavin’s Climate Speakers on Winning the Fight for the Future of Our Planet

The Future of Our Planet Is Still Under Our Control—For Now

The climate crisis isn’t on the horizon anymore. It’s already transforming everything from where we live to what we eat, faster than we could have anticipated. “This is a story of a scale that we only used to understand in mythology,” says David Wallace-Wells. David is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Uninhabitable Earth and an NYT columnist whose newsletter explores the many facets of climate and the future, from billowing wildfire smoke to the rising bipartisan support for clean energy. The climate crisis has already changed our world forever, he says, but we can still salvage our future—if we act now.

Read David’s article on the rising bipartisan support for clean energy for The New York Times: “I don’t want to be naïve. But the partisan landscape may be finally changing, indeed somewhat significantly.”

Watch an exclusive Lavin video of David on the three things we get wrong about the climate crisis: “Everything we know about human civilization, human culture, has been built and developed in a climate system that we have now left behind.”

 

 

Your Climate Anxiety Is the Key to Real Change

Worries about the climate have never been more widespread, but Britt Wray has good news: your “eco-distress” is actually the key to finding purpose and fighting for the planet. This dynamic speaker and author of Generation Dread was just named Director of Stanford’s Special Initiative for Climate Change and Mental Health, and has spoken alongside the likes of Yuval Noah Harari, Al Gore, and Jane Goodall. She shows us how embracing our anxiety and wrestling through our messy emotions—”rolling up your sleeves, getting clear-eyed, being convicted and courageous”—is how we create the conditions to have real hope.

Read this TIME article where Britt is interviewed about the mental and physical effects of heatwaves: “We have a mental health crisis within the climate crisis that we need to get ahead of before too many of these events add up.”

Watch an exclusive Lavin interview with Britt: “It’s possible to develop more flexible ways of relating to the crisis that aren’t about splitting it off into doom vs. naively optimistic. That gray zone is where the most strength can be mined from”

What Does ChatGPT Mean for Democracy and the Future of Creativity? Kate Crawford and Stephen Marche Explain

ChatGPT Isn’t Magic. We Can—and Must—Understand It

ChatGPT is “an exponential disruption,” says Kate Crawford. As a leading researcher and the author of Atlas of AI—which Nature called “meticulously researched and superbly written”—Kate has been on the cutting edge of AI for two decades. Her incisive and timely perspective has made her a go-to voice across the media. She says that generative AI is going to mark a fundamental shift in the way we see the world: it will revolutionize how we view not only tech, but everything from media to democracy. But it’s not magic. We have to understand how it works today if we want to tap into its massive potential and build the future we want.

Listen to Kate on Why Is This Happening? The Chris Hayes Podcast: “We get so impressed by the ‘magic’ of the system that we don’t look at what it takes to make these things work: data at scale, an enormous amount of natural resources, and a lot of labor.”

Listen to Kate on Pivot, with Kara Swisher and Scott Galloway: “We need a rapid increase in literacy, and it’s not just going to be about focusing narrowly on the tech. It’s going to be about looking at what this does to the public sphere, to the media, to democracy.”

 

The First Generative AI Novel—and the Future of Creativity

If you ask ChatGPT to write a novel, are you the creator or the consumer? Stephen Marche says you’re both. He was profiled in The New York Times last month for “writing” the first ever fully-AI-generated novella, Death of an Author, by extensively prompting three different generative AI programs. Stephen is a novelist with a PhD in Shakespeare who’s been following and writing about AI for years in outlets like The New Yorker and The Atlantic. He has a unique understanding of how the line between human and machine is blurring, and why the arts, the humanities, and human creativity are more important now than ever before.

Read about Stephen in The New York Times: “I am the creator of this work, 100 percent. But, on the other hand, I didn’t create the words.”

Watch an exclusive Lavin interview with Stephen: “The Big Blur is coming: where the line between human and machine, and the line between creating and consuming, will blur. We’re going to start to figure out where human beings are actually required.”

Five Ways to Use ChatGPT (Effectively!) Today—Plus, the Speaker Who Can Help Your Company Become “AI First”

Becoming an “AI-First” Company

Just like the internet brought businesses into the Digital First and then Mobile First models, rapid advances in AI are quickly bringing us into an “AI First” era. Lavin’s newest speaker Justin Reilly is the CEO of Wavelo and former Head of Product at Verizon, where he led a multi-billion-dollar digital transformation with machine learning at its core. When you build AI into the heart of what you do, Justin says, you’ll be able to trust your systems more, scale faster and better, and give your customers what they actually want.

 

The Five Steps to Using ChatGPT Effectively at Work

You can transform your organization into a more efficient, creative, and innovative version of itself through the power of generative AI—and it only takes five steps. But the trick is: you have to do all fiveRadhika Dirks is a visionary AI expert, one of Forbes’s 30 Women in AI to Watch and CEO of the world’s first AI moonshot factory. Her Five Step Method to introducing generative AI into your organization (any organization) will give you a peek into this rapidly developing world, and help you build an organization that thrives today and well into the future.

How Can Retailers Win the AI Revolution? With “Beautifully Human” Creativity. Lavin’s Doug Stephens, Retail Futurist

Generative AI will be no less game-changing for society in general—and retailers in particular—than the internet itself, says Doug Stephens. As the founder of the global consultancy Retail Prophet and the bestselling author of The Retail Revival and Resurrecting Retail, Doug has unparalleled insight into how AI is going to transform every industry, including yours. More than that, he proves that in an age of AI, investing in “deliciously irrational, beautifully human, and insanely inventive creativity” will give us the edge we need for success.

“Companies today sit on the frontier of a technology revolution that will make them the beneficiaries of billions of dollars in savings in their workforce costs,” Doug tells us. “Some of those companies will be predictably nearsighted and push those savings directly to their bottom line or their shareholders’ pockets. Smart companies, however, will invest in creative and dynamic human beings who bring innovative thinking, empathy and creative energy to the brand and its customer experience. Because the world is going to need a lot fewer lawyers, consultants, engineers and accountants and a lot more dreamers, makers and born risk-takers.”

Doug also sat down with Lavin recently to give us a preview of his new talk on the forgotten backbone of our economy: the global supply chain system that affects every company, whether retail or otherwise. Our current supply chain system hasn’t changed in decades—and Doug argues that today is the perfect time to reimagine what’s possible and unlock a new, unprecedented competitive advantage.

Watch our exclusive full-length interview with Doug, in which he explains how we can rebuild our supply chains to create a sustainable and successful future. (37 min)