The Mt. Rushmore of Speaker Agents: Four Agents Who Changed the Industry (Part Two)

Posted: February 19, 2015 in Finding Your Speaker Bureau
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The feedback on Part I of our President’s Day Post was, for the most part, very positive and as you might imagine supportive of our first 2 selections for the Mt. Rushmore of Lecture Agents inductees.There are a couple of wiseacres out there who reached out to The Speaker Experts so we will respond to their comments before completing the monument.

  • Yes, the Speaker Agents can be bought but it’s going to take more than that!
  • Yes, we are sure there are some great lecture agents in other parts of the world but this is an American Holiday and monument.

Now back to the final two selections who will complete the Lecture Agent Mt. Rushmore.

FosterIf I am a Washington, DC Association Executive or Meeting Planner, the person I call to discuss speakers is Rainey Foster. (A note of disclosure here: one Speaker Expert went to Langley High School located on the mean streets of McLean, VA with Rainey while the other Speaker Expert’s father was part of that same class).

Rainey joined Leading Authorities International in 1996 she can be found there today as Partner and Executive Vice President. The Washington DC Association community is one of the most competitive markets in the lecture industry (see post on ASAE President John Graham) and Rainey is the number one agent in this landscape. To be successful here you need a certain set of skills; a set of skills that makes Rainey our Abraham Lincoln of the Lecture Agent Mt. Rushmore. She has the ability to work with both sides of the political spectrum, communicate at the highest levels of organizations as well as entry levels, and brings ethics and integrity to an industry that sometimes lacks in this area. In short, if Rainey tells you it is going to rain, you better get the umbrella out!

GunnerOkay, so what if aliens were heading toward earth intent on destroying the world and only thing that will stop them (Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Ghostbusters are not coming through the door) will be hearing the perfect speaker address the perfect audience resulting in tears, laughs and a spontaneous standing ovation. Yea, it sounds a little farfetched but we are Speaker Experts not Hollywood script experts. The lecture agent we would call in this situation is Eliot Gunner.

After serving in the US Army, Eliot joined American Program Bureau in 1980 and then became one of the founding employees at Keppler Speakers in 1983. It was at Keppler that The Speaker Experts, one for the better part of three decades, worked alongside Eliot. It gave us the opportunity to hear Eliot talk to clients on an hourly basis, day after day, month after month, and year after year. Eliot invented and perfected the “Keppler Speaker Needs Analysis”. The goal of the Speaker Needs Analysis was to determine the perfect speaker for every audience. When executed properly the lecture agent says very little and listens a lot. Eliot would be on the phone with clients for close to an hour at a time and might only ask a half-dozen open-ended questions. The end result was typically not a long list of speakers for the client to choose from but one or two speaker suggestions, that if the client accepted always resulted in a great outcome for the speaker and the client.

Where is he now? Eliot retired from Keppler Speakers in 2014, after a 30 plus year career in the Speaker Bureau Industry. He can be found at the Gulfstream, Santa Anita or Saratoga picking winners at the Racetrack just like he picked winning speakers. He still works with a few select speakers and clients and can be reached at

Our Theodore Roosevelt of the Lecture Agent Mt. Rushmore is Eliot Gunner. He spoke softly and asked a lot of questions and would be the guy to call if you were going to book one speaker to save the world.

Gary McManis & Jay Conklin

  1. randypennington says:

    A great post and excellent selections. Rainey and Eliot are two of the very best.


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