While well-known futurist speakers like John Naisbitt, Arthur C. Clark, Alvin Toffler, and Ray Kurzweil have traditionally garnered much of the media spotlight, a new breed of tech-savvy futurists have emerged who understand the world of online media and have created their own web-based buzz machines. Today’s number one rated “futurist speaker” according to Google’s highly prized ranking system is Thomas Frey, Executive Director and Senior Futurist at the Colorado-based DaVinci Institute.
“As a professional speaker, Google’s ranking system is extremely important to pay attention to because it has a way of way of telling you what’s important and what topics are getting traction,” says Frey. “I’m very honored because this is the equivalent of winning American Idol online with people voting with their links, page views, and surfing habits.”
Other well-known futurists who are in close contention for Google top position include Bob Treadway, David Pearce Snyder, Don Reynolds, Jim Carroll, Ian Wagge, Daniel Burrus, Marlene B. Brown, and Glen Hiemstra.
Lest you think this was a quick manipulation of the Google ranking system, the sophisticated methods of search engine optimization are something that Frey has worked hard to avoid.
"Google is constantly on the lookout for people who are trying to game the system," says Frey. "People who use those techniques will often manage to gain a top ranking position momentarily, but in the end will get penalized for having tricked the system."
Frey’s busy speaking schedule has ramped up to around 50 speaking engagements a year for groups ranging from small library conferences to major corporations like Capital One, NASA, IBM, Bell Canada, and the American Chemical Society. His current “hot speaking topic” is the future of libraries, but he speaks on many other topics including future inventions, future of innovation, future of education, future of transportation, future of money, and the virtual country. Most talks are custom designed to fit the particular audience he’s speaking to.
The corporate world has begun to take notice. "Thomas Frey has a way of giving great vision and clarity to the confusing world of technology emerging around us,” says Martin Geoffroy, General Manager of Business Development for Bell Canada. “Our sales team has developed a radically new approach to doing business as a result of his insights,”
"Tom is an exceedingly bright guy, a humorous speaker and a person who is quick to challenge conventional wisdom,” says George Sharpe, Founder of the Greenwood Group and former Vice President of Product Development for Hunter Douglas. “He is a quick study who can develop an imaginative presentation around almost any conceivable topic."
The need to understand change has been a force that nearly all companies are now grappling with.
“I’ve found that businesses around the world are fighting hard to keep up with the changes ahead,” says Frey. “My approach has been to help them add clarity to their thinking and give them some new ways of anchoring their decision-making process.”
In addition to his demanding speaking schedule, Thomas spends his time producing events for the DaVinci Institute (around 40 per year), meeting with inventors and entrepreneurs, writing articles for local and national publications, and hosting a one-hour radio show on entrepreneurship in Atlanta each week.
Constantly pushing the envelope of understanding, Frey recently penned a book contract with Taylor and Francis on the future of nanotechnology.
“Nanotech is a field where many people have difficulty sorting out fact from fiction and hype from reality,” says Frey. “I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on nanotech yet, but I plan to go through a sharp learning curve as I apply trends and other futurist tools to the next generation of nano-thinking. And I most enjoy the challenge of venturing beyond the limits of today’s visionaries.”