Liz Bowyer, global co-head of brand and content strategy at Goldman Sachs and head of “Talks at GS,” said the bank is keen to hear from people about topics that go beyond business and include gender, race and climate change.
“Politics is highly polarizing and we do have political speakers occasionally, but we want people from across different fields,” Bowyer said.
Controversial topics, however, are not entirely on the outs. Numerous talent executives told NBC News that there has been a clamoring for women connected to the “Me Too” movement and a sharp turn towards speakers who can talk about diversity.
Epstein said that women involved in Me Too are in demand as are women who broke the through the “glass ceiling.” Jodi Kantor, one of the New York Times journalists who did some of the first reporting on sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein, is one of the most popular speakers on the circuit at the moment, Epstein added.
Diversity of speakers has also become a major factor. Peter Jacobs, head of the speaker department at talent firm Creative Artists Agency, said there has been a distinct effort in the speaker circuit to avoid contentious topics while also making sure more groups are represented.
“The corporate marketplace is steering away from controversy,” Jacobs said. “A huge trend in our business is for diverse speakers.”
Jacobs said that companies are trying to learn about changing demographics and are looking for help understanding what they should be doing. Among CAA’s in-demand speakers are Shiza Shahid, the co-founder of the Malala Fund, producer and actress Viola Davis, and actor Will Smith.
Some politicians remain hot on the booking circuit, particularly for college commencements. Former presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, spoke to graduates at Yale University earlier this week, and former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson gave a commencement address at the Virginia Military Institute this month. Arizona Senator Jeff Flake addressed Harvard Law School graduates.
Notably, all three speakers made negative allusions to Trump.