Ben Saunders

Record-Breaking Polar Explorer, TED ‘Master Storyteller,’ and Climate Tech Investor
  • Completed the longest ever polar journey on foot
  • Third person in history to ski solo to both the North and South poles
  • Three-time main stage TED speaker and a TED “Master Storyteller," featured in the New York Times bestseller, TED Talks: The Official Guide to Public Speaking
  • 23 years of experience at the frontlines of climate change, and now an active investor in early-stage climate technology businesses
  • Engages and inspires through a journey that demonstrates that "No one else is the authority on your potential"

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The challenges of leading, performing, and executing at the highest level — and in uncertain and unpredictable climates — are familiar terrain to Ben Saunders. The ability to navigate and overcome fear, self-doubt, loneliness, and adversity in pursuit of unusually ambitious goals is what makes Saunders a record-breaking polar explorer, and a speaker whose story resonates with audiences around the world.

While the achievements of this world-leading adventurer are deeply inspiring, it is the hard-won life lessons etched within each voyage — and a career totalling nearly 5,000 miles on skis and more than a year spent in complete isolation in the harshest environments on the planet — that prove most valuable and applicable to his audiences. Faced with leading teams — and motivating both his people and himself — in some of the world’s most unforgiving and unpredictable conditions, Ben has learned the necessity of growing through failure, how to control the controllables, and that acting without certainty is the key to unlocking individual and collective self-belief.

Ben’s achievements are at the outer limits of human endeavour: he organised and led the longest human-powered polar journey in history; a 108-day return journey to the South Pole on foot that spanned 1,800 miles, the equivalent of 69 back-to-back marathons, dragging 440lbs (200kg) of food and supplies in his sled. Exclusively represented by Leading Authorities speakers bureau, Saunders describes this unprecedented journey as “a tough camping trip,” with humorous and understated reflection that make him a perennially well-received and engaging speaker.

In addition, Saunders is the youngest person to ski solo to the North Pole (spending 72 days alone on the Arctic Ocean in conditions recognised as “the worst in 25 years,” and holds the record for the longest solo Arctic journey by a Briton. He has also climbed in the Nepalese Himalayas, worked as an instructor at the John Ridgway School of Adventure, and continues to compete as a cyclist and marathon runner into his forties. He is a worldwide ambassador for the Scouts and works closely with the UK youth development charity British Exploring Society.

From the main stage at TED to small screens around the world, Ben is a sought-after and acclaimed keynote speaker. Labelled a ‘master storyteller’ by TED, his three main-stage appearances at the conference have been viewed more than five million times. Through his real-time journal entries, stunning visual content, and earnest reflection, he takes audiences into the unknown. Whether he’s speaking to global corporations or pioneering start-ups, in-person or online, his honesty, humour, and humility enable people to find often surprising parallels between his experiences and their own. (As Ben points out, he “spent more time in spreadsheets than on skis for twenty years”.)

With an intimate knowledge of both the wonder and the fragility of the natural world, Saunders is a powerful advocate for its future. It is a thread which runs through the expeditions he leads, the stories he tells, the future pioneers he mentors, and through his next chapter as founder of Kintanna Ventures, named after a remote Antarctic peak, and a business that identifies, invests in and accelerates pioneering climate technology start-ups.

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Speaker Video

Ben Saunders: Acting Without Certainty

Ben Saunders: How To Get Seemingly Impossible Things Done

Ben Saunders: Staying Positive in Times of Doubt

Storyteller and Polar Explorer: Ben Saunders

Ben Saunders: "Welcome to The Scott Expedition"

2018 London Showcase Recap

To The South Pole & Back—The Hardest 105 Days Of My Life

Thriving in the Toughest Conditions. Record-breaking polar explorer Ben Saunders’ story is ultimately one of achieving highly ambitious goals in the world’s most challenging, hostile, and unpredictable environments. For more than two decades he has built and led world-class teams selecting and managing individuals that he can trust with his life. He credits his survival  and his success  with some fundamental, hard-won lessons that are almost universally applicable, in business, in leadership and in life, which he shares in this hair-raising talk focusing on overcoming any challenge on the path to success.

The Importance of Honest Communication. When Ben Saunders looks back on the scariest, hardest, and bravest challenges he and his teammates have faced on daring expeditions to the world’s most unforgiving environments, he thinks about how communication has been the key to overcoming the obstacles in front of them. In this talk, Saunders offers business leaders and their people tangible examples for how to remove the barriers to open communication, streamline collaborative effectiveness, and create a culture in which asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness, but rather a vital hallmark of a high-performing team.

Controlling the Controllables. Operating and performing in the polar regions over two decades, Ben Saunders has learned the futility of expending his own precious and finite energy and attention on elements outside of his control. He gives audiences a compelling insight into the value of optimizing physical, emotional, and psychological energy  both individually and collectively through an immediately applicable masterclass on the vital importance of focus. During a period when emotional and psychological reserves are under greater strain than ever before, Saunders’ story has a unique capacity to motivate an audience to remain present, positive, and purposeful.

Investing in the Journey, Not the Destination. For most of his adult life, polar explorer Ben Saunders was driven by a singular ambition: to be the first to complete the Antarctic journey that had defeated Sir Ernest Shackleton and Captain Robert Scott 1,800 miles on foot to the South Pole and back. The achievement of this goal after more than a decade of focus and sacrifice forced a rewriting of his own definition of success. At a time when the inclination to yearn for a sunnier future is palpable, this remarkable story of the expectation and the reality of achievement is compelling, essential listening that will inspire any individual or team to achieve incredible goals.

Being the Only Authority on Your Potential. An acclaimed storyteller who wows audiences with captivating visuals, Ben Saunders takes groups on a journey from uncertainty, fear, and self-doubt as he navigated gruelling expeditions across some of the most unforgiving corners of the globe, eventually raising the bar in one of the most demanding fields imaginable. His own life journey gives evidence to the belief that “impossible is just someone else’s opinion.” Audience members remain at the edge of their seats as he unravels the mysterious roots of perseverance and delivers insights on how to make the best use of the traits and potential we all possess, but all-too-rarely employ to the fullest.

His story of self-belief is fused with practical and applicable lessons on getting difficult things done in difficult environments, building and managing teams, preparing meticulously, knowing when to pivot, and fulfilling individual and organizational potential no matter how steep the odds may appear.

A Unique Perspective on Climate Change. In 2004, Ben Saunders skied solo from Russia to the North Pole, a 600-mile, 72-day expedition on foot across the floating pack ice of the Arctic Ocean. No one has been able to repeat this journey since, largely because the Arctic lost nearly 10 billion tonnes of ice in the 19 years that followed. Saunders has spent more time in the polar regions than many career climate scientists, and has witnessed the decline of the places that have shaped him. He is a passionate advocate for sustainable business and the solutions that will tackle climate change and regenerate our damaged ecosystems, and is currently launching his first early-stage climate tech investment fund, Kintanna Ventures. In this talk, Saunders underscores the importance of sustainable business strategies and highlights the ways in which organizations can benefit when they operate for the good of the environment.

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