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Powerful keynotes on the need to embrace uncertainty to achieve success


Caspar Berry

travels from UK

Former poker player with an economic educational background now speaking on the importance of calculating and taking risks

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Keynote speaker Caspar Berry is one of the best-known business speakers in the UK. He is a catalyst for change and specializes in subjects of risk and decision making. With experience as a professional poker player, he gives up-beat and inspirational talks to businesses about the importance of calculating and taking risks.

Caspar Berry, a professional motivational and keynote speaker started his career early on as the lead in the first series of Byker Grove on BBC1 alongside Ant and Dec. He went on to read Economics and Anthropology at Cambridge and – after aiming to become a professional film writer – he was able to have his first screen play produced by Film Four in his final year.

At the young age of twenty-three, Caspar was writing for Columbia Tri Star and Miramax. Merely two years later, however, he decided he needed a change in his life, which led him to Las Vegas where he became a professional poker player.

Caspar spent three years playing professionally, and made a good living by using his wits against some of the best known poker players.  After his years in Vegas, he returned to the UK in 2002. Here he co-founded Twenty First Century Media and built it into the fastest growing audio visual media company in the North East of England.

While at twenty first century media he began his career as a speaker and catalyst for new thinking within business about risk-taking and decision-making. In 2008, he decided to sell Twenty First Century Media to Bob Geldof’s media giant, Ten Alps.

He became a trainer for a company called The Mind Gym in 2005 who schooled him in the essential skills of delivery and facilitation. He then went at it on his own to become one of the best-known business speakers in the UK. He has delivered over 600 speeches over the last six years for over 200 companies around the world.

His presentations focus on the need to embrace uncertainty and taking calculated risks in order to get ahead and achieve success. They are not sector specific and are therefore perfect for any training day or conference where new ideas need to be discussed or debated. He is very inspirational and stimulates change with his upbeat and energetic style.

See keynotes with Caspar Berry

    Keynote by Speaker Caspar Berry

    Risk Taking and Decision Making in Poker, Business and Life

    • The “original and genuine since 2005” in 45/60/90 minute forms.
    • It looks at the definition of a decision and the definition of a risk and asks how we make all our decisions and whether we could make them differently or better.
    • It identifies and defines the origins of fear of failure and concludes by advocating a technique to embrace this fear in order to motivate us to make more courageous decisions as a result.


    Keynote by Speaker Caspar Berry

    Lucky in Business, Lucky in Life

    • This new speech communicates a powerful and effective message about with a how we approach life and how lucky we all really are.
    • It references Steven Covey’s circles of influence and control and a whole host of other subject areas – from the lottery to the holocaust – to motivate people to change the focus of their thinking away from that which is disempowering towards that which is proactive and galvanizing.


    Keynote by Speaker Caspar Berry

    Innovation, Creativity and the Survival of the Fittest

    • The processes of both innovation and creativity require hundreds of failures in order to create each success. AND more importantly, companies that innovate in this way are better equipped to survive long term change than those that do not.
    • Caspar uses the metaphor of Darwinian evolution to show that most brilliant system of adaptation to change – evolution – fails millions of times in order to create, unwittingly, the one mutation that facilitates the survival of the species.
    • In a world of continual change, thriving is not enough, we must now constantly adapt to survive.


    Keynote by Speaker Caspar Berry

    Decisive Leadership: Courage, Bravery and Perspective 

    • What do great leaders do when they make decisions?
    • Caspar does not claim to be a great leader in fact he makes the point that it is very difficult to make truly great decisions because they must inevitably run the risk of personal sacrifice which is – by definition – terrifying for us all.
    • Ultimately, this speech looks at what courage and bravery are and uses material like the 7/7 testimonies (that is the extraordinary selflessness of a few random, normal people caught up in a disaster) to ask whether we all have courage within us and that in fact leaders are not born or made but the product of circumstance and humanity.


    Keynote by Speaker Caspar Berry

    Embracing Uncertainty: How to Step into the Unknown

    • In many ways, one of Caspars most  fascinating and emotional of all his new creations and – like all of them – highly relevant to business today.
    • It starts by examining the scientific source of uncertainty before looking at its effect on us all economically, psychologically and culturally.
    • It incorporates, Black Swans and principles of feedback and fractal mathematics before coming to a stunning conclusion: that a certain world would be a boring one! In fact, we realise when we conceive of this, that the decision making process itself is about the constant engagement with uncertainty and it is this which gives us our very meaning as human beings.
    • We understand that – self-actualisation itself, that is the fulfillment of our potential on this planet – can only come from exposure to the greatest uncertainty. It is the way in which we rise to the challenge of the unknown that defines who we are!


    Keynote by Speaker Caspar Berry

    Judgement and Intuition: How Much We Really Know Without Even Knowing

    • Caspar uses this speech to see just how powerful our intuition is before applying that concept to all sorts of other areas of life most notably, obviously, poker and business.
    • It references Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink but takes the principles further by placing “judgement” – into the context of the decision making process as a whole.
    • It shows people how to when intuition is good – like when Fangio uses it to avoid death – and when it is bad – like when we make very bad assessments of how safe it is to sunbathe. Crucially, like all the speeches, it shows us how we can make better decisions in the future, through anecdote, finding and fact.


    Keynote by Speaker Caspar Berry

    Rationality and Expert Expertise: How What We Think We Know Can Kill Us

    • This speech looks in more detail at all the other emotional distortions to which we fall victim all the time.
    • We’re scared of flying when the most dangerous part of any flight is the car journey to the airport and we’re all terrified of terrorist attack when we’re 1000 times more likely to die of stroke.
    • This speech not only exposes many of the decisions we rationalise in business to be bunkum but it touches on the decisions that we make in life all time which don’t serve any of us very well at all.
    • Based on the science of behavioural economics, there is a health component to this (about how reckless apparently “risk averse” people are when it comes to diet) which ties in very neatly with other wellness concepts.


    Keynote by Speaker Caspar Berry

    Motivating, Nudging, Influencing and Persuading

    • This speech is about why we do what we do.
    • Specifically, this speech is aimed at people who have to motivate and influence others (sales people and managers) in order to communicate the kinds of things which stimulate our subconscious mind to do things differently.
    • Why does the addition of mint chocolates with a bill increase the size of the tip?
    • Why are we more inclined to believe a man in a white coat?
    • What on earth is it that motivates people even more than money?
    • What does a bluffer do to make themselves more convincing? And how can we guard against them?
    • Drawing on a popular body of work at the moment which is known by many (but read by few) this speech makes the subject funny and engaging.


Caspar Berry - video

Dealing with uncertainty by Caspar Berry at TEDxAcademy

Watch speaker Caspar Berry in action!

Watch speaker Caspar Berry in action!

Part 1 - Watch Vistage Speaker Caspar Berry Performing his Keynote on Risk Taking

Watch speaker Caspar Berry in action!

Dealing with uncertainty | Caspar Berry | TEDxAcademy

See keynotes with Caspar Berry

Interview with Caspar Berry

What is your message?

Over the 8 years that I have been speaking, I have discovered a deeper and deeper “message” behind what I am really saying. When I first started, I spoke as a former professional poker player and I used poker as my unique metaphor to talk about the risks that people took in their personal and professional lives. My key message was simply “take more risks”!

After a few years, however, it became clear to me that what I was really talking about were the decisions that we took every day: some very risky, some less so. My provocation to audiences became a question: “are the decisions that you are making really the best decisions to get you where it is you want to get to?”

After more time, it emerged that behind this question was the fact that ALL decisions are actually investment decisions – allocations of scarce resources (money, time, energy, reputation) – under conditions of uncertainty. Considered in this way, we are all – whether we think so or not – investors trying desperately to maximise the returns on our investments of scarce and precious resources.

This realisation – made in association with my many audiences – related directly back to my first message: the need to take risk. Why should we take risk? Not for its own sake but because risky opportunities are often those which maximise the returns on our investments if only we have the courage to take them.

This message relates through the gamut of personal and business decisions and has implications for leadership, strategy, adaptation, innovation, dealing with change and judgement.

How are your keynotes unique?

As is probably clear from the answer above, what I try and do is to use the principles of economics to answer very real questions that confront us everyday. What makes me keynotes unique therefore is that while I come to similar to answers to other speakers but what I try and do is show WHY those often well-worn conclusions are true. This gives the overall messages much more impact and intellectual weight than when delivered as conclusions in themselves.

What I also do that makes me different is use both right and left brain arguments and reasoning. Stories are a really important and necessary part of the speaker’s armoury but I place just as much emphasis on logic and reason for some audiences – particularly those who feel quite storied-out these days!

Unlike many speakers I do NOT prescribe answers to these challenges. Decision making will always be a very personal matter for the individual or the team concerned. What I try and do is provoke with a question and give them the tools to answer that question in order to achieve their personal and professional objectives.

In short I would say that I make people think more than the average speaker. And hopefully laugh much more than the average… But it’s hard to be objective about yourself!

Can you briefly explain the importance of taking risks?

I find it difficult to describe anything briefly! That’s why I became a speaker. But here is what I teach in a nutshell:

The human being is a goal oriented mechanism. So is business. Sometimes those goals and objectives are set consciously and deliberately, officially and collaboratively. Examples of such goals might be to lose 5 kgs or increase turnover by 10%. Sometimes, however, our goals and objectives are set subconsciously and unofficially or implicitly within our processes and procedures. These goals might include eating out at least once a week, keeping a red light off our feedback card, avoiding difficult or new situations.

The key is that often the goals that we set subconsciously are at odds with those that we set consciously. It is often the case that, in order to achieve that goals and objectives that we say we want to achieve it may be necessary to do things that are challenging, dangerous, different or risky. It MAY mean failing more often in the short term or investing more than we have ever done before in order to achieve success – which isn’t even guaranteed whatever lengths we go to!

We all have things that we say we want. But there are lots of things we “want” that we don’t actually do much to get. The truth is that the only wants that matter are those that we’re prepared to pay the necessary price in order to achieve.

The reality of business is that – as in poker – there are a lot of people who would really like to have what you have and win the business that you win. In the long run at a poker table, the cards break even. So what makes the difference between one player and another? What gives one person, team or company the edge? It must ultimately be doing something different: different from the pack and different from the past. That usually involves taking a risk… and begs the question “how much do you want it and what are you prepared to give/invest/do in order to achieve it?”

Risk taking is usually doing the difficult thing, doing the new thing, stepping outside of the comfort zone, doing the thing more likely to fail but which – if done repeatedly and often enough – will make the difference that makes the difference. It is NOT something to do for the sake of it or even the thrill (unless thrill seeking is one of your desired outcomes). It is something that has often defined who you are right now and which will continue to define you if your goals are to stand out and adapt to a rapidly changing world.

What type of audience benefits most from your keynotes?

This is a really good question which is always difficult for a speaker to answer because of course:

  • he wants to say “everyone” and
  • not being a member of my audience it’s reasonably difficult to say.

With these limitations I have learnt that the best kind of audience for me is one that is inquisitive. I will make them laugh and give them a good time but ultimately I am concerned with pushing an audience to think: think about themselves and their business. If they don’t enjoy that then they probably won’t enjoy my presentation.

This tends to mean that my best audience is relatively senior and driven because they’re accepting responsibility for their life and their company – though this needn’t be the case obviously. It is just as likely to be really junior people in a company that promotes responsibility and autonomy.

I have a problem with junior operatives in a company where they are constrained by process and procedure. They may enjoy my presentation but they will tend to come out and say that they wish their boss has seen it. This is always a shame.

I therefore work well with senior people that like to think (I have worked with the boards of some of the biggest companies in the world) and also audiences where there are numerous tiers from the company who are mingling and talking. In fact these very mixed sessions work the best as I give that group of people a very calibrated language to discuss risk and achieve some really breakthrough conversations that often reveal more similarities in their desires than they previously imagined.

How has your career in poker influenced your keynotes?

In simple terms I would not be speaking now were it not for my experience playing poker professionally. Playing poker taught me an enormous amount about the ways that people react to uncertainty (largely irrationally and with superstition) and it laid the basis for the body of knowledge that I now teach.

However I think it’s important to realise that what I now speak about has very little to do with poker per se. If I was banned from ever using the word again I wouldn’t be too disappointed. It’s a fascinating world but what interests me is what it inspired me to go away and learn and what I now teach to businesses around the world. What I teach extends wayyyyy beyond the confines of the poker table.

If (and when) a client says they want a speech without any poker references, that is a pleasure for me. But of course, poker will always provide a great metaphor for the decision making and risk taking process and I will always be happy to use it and reference it for the rest of my career.

What is the most amazing experience you have had as a speaker?

That was undoubtedly a speech I delivered in Las Vegas for 3,000 people. It was like my life had somehow come full circle – speaking to so many people in one of the main conference rooms at Caesar’s Palace is something that I never would have dreamed I would be doing as a poker player all those years ago. But it felt so natural and got such a great response… I look forward to the day when that is a much more normal occurrence.

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Keynote topics with Caspar Berry