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  Akers Forecast Profitable Future
Business Wire

Copyright © 2000, Business Wire

Monday, January 10, 2000

akers Forecast Profitable Future

TEMPE, Ariz.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan. 10, 2000--Although the new millennium is upon us, it's not too late to start giving some thought to the future.

Cutting-edge corporate and organizational managers look to members of the National Speakers Association (NSA), an organization comprised of the most forward-thinking professional speakers in the industry.

"Professional speakers usually share the same objective: Making members of their audiences more successful," says NSA President Dave Gorden. "One way of accomplishing this is by enabling their clients to prepare for the unforeseen, helping them to avoid being left behind as their industry moves forward. Corporate strategists depend on those who can offer a glimpse of the future."

While predictions are not guarantees, these master forecasters offer a rock- solid track record. Leading executives who recently attended presentations find real value in business trends forecasting.

"So much has gone to my bottom line since seeing a professional speaker in 1994 who spoke about future trends," said Jim Thorpe, senior vice president of Technical Services at Bank United in Houston, referring to a presentation by NSA member Daniel Burrus, a certified speaking professional (CSP) and member of the CPAE Speakers Hall of Fame(R). "I have been able to save two companies tens of millions of dollars, while multiplying my salary six times in the process."

In 1994, Thorpe attended a presentation by Burrus, a leading technology forecaster, who earns between $20,000 and $25,000 per speech. Burrus' general message to audience members was to creatively apply tools of the 21st century to current business practices. Specifically, Burrus told audience members to consider new methodology for digital data storage and laser scanning, and to watch for quantum leaps in telecommunication bandwidths, which is a means of transporting data over phone lines. Burrus told the audience to consider new uses for emerging technology in these areas to improve their businesses.

Within six months of listening to Burrus, Thorpe implemented a new storage system at the bank to save copies of checks (banks are required by law to store checks for a minimum of seven years). The new high-tech storage system digitally photographs checks, then stores the images on an optical platter. If a customer asks a teller to retrieve a check cashed anytime in the last seven years, the teller can provide a copy through his or her computer in about eight seconds. Previously, Thorpe said that photographs of the checks were stored on 400 foot rolls of microfilm, and bank employees would have to spend hours searching for the pictures of the requested check. Today, this high-tech process saves the bank about 19,000 hours of labor per year, and it earns Thorpe a very comfortable living.

One other trend Burrus highlighted in his presentation was the use of laser eye scanning. Today, Thorpe's bank is the first in the United States to use laser scanning to identify customers at ATM machines. So instead of using a four-digit code in conjunction with an ATM card, customers simply stand in front of the ATM machine, while it analyzes their retina and matches it to the banks records, and their account. About 1,500 Bank United customers are currently part of this pilot program, while the remainder continue to use ATM cards.

"I would not have done any of this if I had not seen the presentation on future trends," Thorpe said. "It was a direct result of his advice. I paid attention when Dan Burrus said these are things you need to consider in order to make yourself more successful. Listening to Dan has also kept me young and excited about working and one step ahead of the people just coming out of school."

It's not only the big banks and the bustling IBMs, Microsofts and AT&Ts of this world that look to professional speakers for forecasts. The so-called "mature industries" also rely on prescient advice from members of NSA as change is a fact of life for all companies and organizations.

Among the areas in which NSA member Bob Treadway, CSP, holds expertise is the area of "mature industries." Treadway's professional mission is to provide a strategic "heads-up" to those in industries like farming and manufacturing. Among Treadway's clients are those in major corn growers associations, crop protection companies and farm equipment manufacturers.

"I'd say Bob has played a very important role for us," said Ken Gordon, of Greensboro-based Novartis Crop Protection Inc. "He's able to speak about trends in global farming, such as what's happening in China with commodities production, and what kinds of strategies American farmers might want to consider to become more competitive and successful. Bob has provided some eye- opening information."

So how do professional speakers do it? Where do they get their insights?

NSA member Richard Thieme says he looks to contacts in the defense and aeronautics industries, noting high-tech military developments often foreshadow what's to come in other industries. Microprocessors and robotics are two such examples. For Burrus, conducting research is simply part of his other job. When he's not traveling the world giving speeches, Burrus is CEO of his own research company.

NSA members Roger Herman, CSP, and Joyce Gioia say they conduct research too, but also read trade journals voraciously as well as a wide variety of other publications.

"For most of us, it's really a combination of those things," says Herman. "It all adds up to being very well informed. Being a professional speaker and futurist means analyzing every piece of information on a particular subject, because no matter how minor or narrow this information may seem today, it often plays a large role in the future of our clients."

As evidenced by Treadway's comments on China, professional speakers and futurists often need a global perspective to offer audiences the best advice. Burrus has given speeches in more than five countries, Treadway has presented in eight countries and Gioia recently returned from a speech in Mexico City. An international travel itinerary is now commonplace in the profession.

"Companies and organizations cannot afford to be at the mercy of change," says Gioia. "The world is changing at an unprecedented pace. With advances in technology and faster and better travel the global village is shrinking. The future and change is something all companies and all organizations must embrace. The old saying 'the only constant is change' is more appropriate than ever."

The National Speakers Association (NSA) is the premiere association for experts who speak professionally. NSA members include experts in a variety of industries and disciplines, who reach audiences as trainers, educators, humorists, motivators, consultants and authors. Since 1973, NSA has provided resources and education designed to enhance the business acumen and platform performance of professional speakers. Please visit NSA's Web site at NSA: The Voice of the Speaking Profession(R).                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

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