Nothing's worse than attending an event with a weak speaker lineup. Instead of being entertained and informed, you end up bored and distracted.

When I speak at an event, I'm regularly asked who is another keynote speaker that I respect and recommend. My speaking style is all about the audience and what I can do to help them. Some speakers are all about selling, which is the worst type of speaker to book. My advice to event planners is to find speakers who not only inspire, but also share actionable steps that audience members can use to be better at what they do.

Here are 12 people who are knowledgeable about the latest content marketing trends and are worth hearing speak this year:

1. Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose, Founder and Chief Strategy Officer, Respectively, of Content Marketing Institute

Joe and Robert are based in Cleveland, Ohio, and their Midwestern personalities make them likeable speakers. It's no secret that Joe and Robert have been leading the content marketing industry for years. They're known for their foresight. While many speakers make claims without any evidence, Joe and Robert have the data and information to back up their valuable insights.

2. Andrew Davis, Author of 'Brandscaping' and Professional Speaker at Monumental Shift

I actually never saw Andrew speak until recently, but he always came highly recommended as one of the best marketing speakers out there. He has a natural ability to entertain, but his content flows so naturally that people are laughing and learning at the same time. He has a solid foundation of "the best of Andrew classic speeches" everybody loves, but he also has new material that has been less talked about that will help inspire you to dominate future marketing trends.

3. Shane Snow, Co-Founder and Chief Creative Officer at Contently

Shane has been described as the next Malcolm Gladwell. It could just be the big hair, but I think it's more than that. I've always been impressed with Shane's storytelling ability and how naturally he relates to his audiences. Many companies get caught up in hard data or ROI and forget that storytelling is a vital part of content marketing. Hearing Shane speak reminds you of the power of a good story.

4. Marcus Sheridan, Founder of The Sales Lion and Partner at River Pools and Spas

Of all the content marketers turned speakers, Marcus is one of the best examples of the maxim "do before you teach." He proved that even the pool industry can use content marketing to fuel business success. He used content marketing to turn River Pools and Spas into one of the largest companies of its kind. If you think your company doesn't need content marketing, you need to hear what Marcus has to say.

5. Paul Roetzer, Founder and CEO of PR 20/20

Paul gained a lot of influence when he came out with his book "The Marketing Agency Blueprint." Paul is forthcoming about the word that a lot of marketers won't say: ROI. He focuses on strategies and technologies that will increase marketing performance.

6. Matt Cronin, Founding Partner of House of Kaizen

We have worked with Matt, and he's one of the best experts in the content marketing space. Matt has developed social strategies for the largest brands in the world. Many on the list are professional speakers but aren't executing as much these days. Matt is still very involved in developing leading strategies and applying them to his speeches. He's become one of the pioneers of digital marketing and can help companies think outside of the box or see what will separate them from the competition.

7. Ann Handley, Chief Content Officer at MarketingProfs

Ann, like Robert and Joe, is a content marketing mogul. Her website claims she was the world's first chief content officer, and I'm not sure anyone could counter that claim. She's a writer first and a marketer second in an industry that usually emphasizes those roles in the reverse order. Ann's experience with content creation and strategy is extremely valuable for all marketers.

8. Holly Hamann, Co-Founder and Chief Marketing Officer at TapInfluence

For many large brands, especially in B2C marketing, influencer marketing is a crucial component of their content marketing plan. We currently work with Holly, so I know she has a lot of knowledge to share. She's not only a dynamic speaker and likeable person, but she can also provide unique insight into the influencer marketing space.

9. Michael Brenner, Head of Strategy at NewsCred

I saw Michael speak a few weeks ago at the B2B Content2Conversion Conference, which was a phenomenal marketing conference. I have to admit that I enjoyed his memes--especially the one with Carly Rae Jepsen. But aside from the jokes, he has gained serious experience leading SAP's content efforts and growing NewsCred.

10. John Jantsch, Founder at Duct Tape Marketing

John created the Duct Tape Marketing System and Duct Tape Marketing Consulting Network, which trains and licenses consultants. He has a natural ability to connect with the small business audience. His blog was chosen as a Forbes favorite, and Fast Company deemed his podcast a must-listen.

11. Shama Hyder, Founder and CEO of The Marketing Zen Group

Shama Hyder is one of the most passionate people you'll ever meet. She was selected for Inc.'s 30 Under 30 list, and she speaks on digital marketing, marketing to Millennials, and sales and growth strategy for the digital age to diverse audiences across the globe. Shama's keen understanding of how to authentically connect with audiences is one of her biggest draws.

12. William Aruda, Founder of Reach Personal Branding

William has been in the personal branding game for almost 20 years and has experienced the evolution to content marketing firsthand. He tries to avoid the cookie-cutter mentality and tailors each speech to the specific audience. His strong take on authenticity being the cornerstone of personal branding is a vital lesson in fueling content marketing.

I'm sure I left out many worthy content marketing speakers, and there are several thought leadership speakers you won't want to miss this year. If you have any recommendations of other speakers who should be on my radar, please let me know in the comments.

Published on: Mar 9, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.