Not everybody can be a Thought Leader – Sorry!

– By Hanah Van Borek


The term Thought Leader is arguably the quintessential industry buzzword of our time. Do a little research on what a Thought Leader is, or what it takes to be one; and you’ll find thousands who claim to be just that – the Thought Leader on Thought Leadership. How quaint.

Through my own research I’ve come across a number of definitions and qualifications, but what I think matters the most to those who want to be labeled as such in the business realm is the bottom line – the ROI. It’s not only a question of sales or market value, it’s the value of your contribution. Here’s one way to quantify this value, ask yourself this: would people pay to hear what you have to say? People are willing to pay good money for good ideas.

You might have heard that the internationally renowned TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference is moving from Long Beach, California to Vancouver. TED, in case you didn’t know, is the mother of all Thought Leadership conventions. Each speaker has 18 minutes to present their idea, usually in the form of a story. That’s 18 minutes to mystify. Since it began in 1984, the conference has garnered a massive following and has featured some of the most influential people of our lifetime. Their speaker’s list boasts such luminaries as Bill Clinton, Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Jane Goodall. While there are now many thousands of TEDx Events (smaller, community planned and coordinated TED style events) around the world, there are only two annual conferences, one in Edinburgh, Scotland and now one in Vancouver.

There is tons of buzz around this announcement in Vancouver but what’s really got everybody talking is the cost of admission – $7,500 US. Oh, and shelling out that money doesn’t guarantee entry, there’s a comprehensive application process involved. Whether or not you think the price tag is worth it, the conference will likely sell out fast.

I’m not saying that if people aren’t willing to pay that much for your ideas that you should give up. Rather, I’m demonstrating a way to judge whether or not you are on the right track. If you honestly think people probably wouldn’t pay, say even $20.00, then take some time to evaluate the reasons for that and make your own list of what it would take. You’ll then have your own original definition of Thought Leader, defining it for yourself.

On that note, what do you think makes a Thought Leader? Who would you pay to see talk?  We’d love to know!

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