Vusi Thembekwayo, from Wattville in Benoni, was 19 years old when he addressed the Black Management Forum in Johannesburg. The other speakers included Malusi Gigaba and former President Thabo Mbeki.

Thembekwayo received the only standing ovation of the night. The young man, who’d been named best public speaker in Africa by the South African Guild of Speech in high school, started to see his talent develop into a career. 

He travelled internationally to motivate businesses through speaking engagements. He would tell his life story, but as he invested in and started businesses of his own, he incorporated his professional experience into his presentations.

He was executive director at Uciko Advisory, South Africa’s first black-owned forensic marketing agency. He was also director of new markets at Metcash and chief executive officer of Watermark Afrika.

Thembekwayo’s public-speaking profile has grown alongside his entrepreneurial one. He’s delivered keynote speeches to the Australian Houses of Parliament, the World Bank and the British House of Commons.

Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard called him the “rock star of public speaking” and he was one of MeetingsNet’s Top 12 speakers in the world for 2015. At present, he runs Motiv8 Advisory, a high-level corporate consultancy he founded.

Find Vusi on Twitter: @vusispeaker