Topics and themes

Our speakers range in expertise and backgrounds, all reputable and influential in their field or industry. As an assembly-style talk followed by a student Q&A, the talks themselves are a chance to share insights, personal and professional, as someone from the top of their profession who can make their journey or work transferable, relevant and accessible for young people, while still broadening horizons. Below you can see how speakers channel their expertise into helpful themes for students based on what they think is helpful to speak about and what a school/college thinks will be highest impact for their students. Schools and speakers are always introduced after they are paired for an event to discuss what combination of topics and themes will make for the best talk for their students.

S4S Talk Themes

Speakers range in topics and expertise, but address these through broad themes such as transferable life advice, modern social issues, deep subject insights and more.

Our talks fall into 5 basic strands or themes (or are sometimes combined):

  • Challenging the Status Quo – Social change in a key area, i.e breaking down barriers to ambitions, gender equality in STEM, how students can harness democracy.

  • Expert Insights – One particular topic of expertise, i.e. the 2008 Financial Crisis, Freedom of Speech or Recent Innovation in Bio-Engineering, Impact of Global Warming, rather than broad personal journey or general industry advice. 

  • Future CitizensA focus on how students fit into the modern world and UK so they feel a part of it, usually personally linked to the speaker or an issue; it could be how to be involved in the world around them (democracy, volunteering),  discussions on identity, serving ones’ community, their role in the UK today, etc. to help them to feel confident, included and see the wider place they have in society. 

  • Industry workings – The wider context of a sector, its future and impact, their own experience within the industry– and how this affects young people or their opportunities, whether advertising or engineering.

  • Life Lessons & Advice -Reflections on personal journeys, transferable advice and how speakers got to where they are today.

These are umbrella categories that can be used to focus and frame the conversations with the speaker about what your students would benefit from, and how they can channel their expertise. Be sure to see the Speaker Themes & Preparing briefing document to understand how these can work for you.

For more about practicalities and timings please see Plan a Talk.

Speaker Topics: Fields of Expertise

When a school or college applies, we ask them what specific topics they might be particularly interested — we can’t always pair speakers based on this explicitly but it is useful in helping us address your needs and find potential speakers. See below for an idea of how S4S speakers fit in various topical categories for an idea of how these apply and whom your application might be paired with. These can be moulded into the themes above.

Art, Media and Communications

Speakers in this category include gallery owners, PR Directors and journalists. Schools selecting these topics should expect a speaker with a background in anything from theatre directing to global marketing.

Example speakers:  Hugh Dennis, Nick HytnerMichael Obiora

Business and Economics

Speakers in this category range from CEOs of charities and FTSE 250 companies, to statisticians.  Schools selecting these topics should expect a speaker with a background in anything from online retail to international trade and fiscal policy, or not-for-profit.

Example speakers:  Carolyn McCall, Andy Haldane, Dame Dido Harding, Professor Jonathan Haskel, Baroness Lane Fox, Stephen King

Cultures, History and Language

Speakers in this category range from authors and academics to cultural festival organisers or military personnel. Schools applying for topics in this category should expect to be matched with an academic or industry professional whose knowledge in these areas is closely integrated with their job role- such as foreign diplomats with multiple Modern Foreign Languages.

Example speakers: Nick Barley, Mishal Husain, Professor Matthew Leigh, Dan Snow, Major General Peter Williams 

Sciences, Engineering and Technology

Speakers in this category include research scientists, chemical engineers and computer programmers. Schools applying for speakers in this area should expect a speaker with background in applied sciences or maths, public infrastructure projects or commercial manufacturing.

Example speakersProfessor Brian Cox, Lord (Martin) Rees, Professor Adam Timmis

Politics and Society

Speakers in this category include politicians, philosophers and policy advisors. Schools applying for topics in this category should expect someone with a background ranging from social research to political campaign planning.

Example speakers: Margaret Cole, Ian Hislop, Tristram Hunt, Jasmine Whitbread

Sports, Leisure and Health

Speakers in this topic range from founders of health and well-being companies to CEOs of sporting bodies. Schools applying in this area should expect someone with a background in anything from restaurateurs to NHS figures.

Example Speakers: David Dein, Baroness Grey-Thompson, Nick Lander


To see how speakers with a wide range of backgrounds talk about their experience and expertise on the above topics by having a look at our Case Studies page.