Matthew Syed

Award-winning columnist at The Times, author and broadcaster

Matthew Syed | NMP Live

Matthew Syed is a columnist and feature writer for The Times. He writes a Monday column on Football, a Wednesday column on sport, as well as penning reviews, opinion and interviews. He has won numerous prizes for his writing including Sports Journalist of the Year at the British Press Awards and Sports Feature Writer of the Year at the Sports Journalist Association Awards. He makes authored features for the BBC current affairs programme Newsnight and regularly appears on CNN International and World Service TV.

Matthew was born to a Pakistani father and Welsh mother in south east England. After attending his local state school, he graduated from Oxford University in 1995 with a prize-winning first class degree in philosophy, politics and economics. His first book Bounce, published in 2010, has been described as “
one of the most intelligent and thought-provoking books about sport ever written”. His second book, Black Box Thinking, was published in 2015 to widespread praise.

In addition to writing, Matthew Syed is often booked by institutions, schools and corporations as a motivational keynote speaker at high profile events. The feedback from clients is overwhelmingly positive and almost all seek to rebook him for future events.

Before becoming a writer and broadcaster Matthew Syed was the British table tennis number one for almost a decade, three-times Commonwealth Champion, and twice competed for Great Britain in the Olympic Games (in Barcelona in 1992 and Sydney in 2000). His style was unusually defensive, playing strokes from the back of the court described as “spectacular roof threatening parabolas”.

Matthew also commentates on sport for the BBC and Eurosport and is a regular contributor to radio and television. His film for the BBC, China and Table Tennis, won bronze medal at the Olympic Golden Rings ceremony in Lausanne. Matthew was one of the co-founders of TTK Greenhouse, a charity which “empowers youngsters through sport” and which currently supports more than 10,000 young people on 31 full-time school programmes.

Speech Topics

Matthew Syed is an exceptional speaker and regularly presents at events for both corporate bodies and not-for-profit organisations. He is consistently rated among the top business and educational speakers in the UK. He delivers presentations on performance, strategy and mindset, as well as providing tailored events to businesses and organisations looking to get an edge in performance.

Black Box Thinking - Learning From Our Mistakes
What links the Mercedes Formula One team with Google? Dave Brailsford’s Team Sky and the aviation industry? And what’s the connection between inventor James Dyson and footballer David Beckham? They are all Black Box Thinkers.

Whether developing a new product, honing a core skill or just trying to get a critical decision right, Black Box Thinkers aren’t afraid to face up to mistakes. In fact, they see failure as the ultimate way to learn. Rather than denying their mistakes, blaming others or attempting to spin their way out of trouble, these institutions and individuals interrogate errors as part of their future strategy for success.

How many of us, hand on heart, can say that we have such a healthy relationship with failure? Learning from failure has the status of a cliché, however Black Box Thinking reveals the astonishing story behind the most powerful method of learning known to mankind; revealing the arsenal of techniques wielded by some of the world’s most innovative organisations. Their lessons can be applied across every field – from sport to education, from business to health. Using gripping case studies, exclusive interviews and really practical takeaways, Matthew Syed explores how to turn failure into success, and shows us how we can all become better ‘Black Box Thinkers’.

Over the last 12 months, Matthew has been booked by many of the most innovative and forward-thinking organisations in the world, including Goldman Sachs, Arsenal FC, Vodafone, Rolls Royce, BP, McKinsey, Alliance Bernstein, Oxford University, Saracens, McLaren, Deutsche Bank, Morrisons, T-Mobile, Genentech, Orange, the Premier League, United Bank of Switzerland, the England and Wales Cricket Board, Westminster School, Freshfields, and Proctor and Gamble.


A wonderful speech delivered to 1000 senior executives. Matthew's messages are powerful and thought-provoking – and they have become central to the strategy of our business.

Norman Pickavance - HR Director, Morrisons.

An outstanding speech that transformed the perspective of coaches and players alike. Our young players have been talking about it ever since.

Steve Bould, Arsenal FC.

Very good speaker – provocative and articulate. It forced me to reflect on how I approach development within my team. I have continued to think on this after the event which I think shows how impactful [sic] it was.

Hana Season - Director, Barclays.

Matthew Syed's messages were fantastic. He not only described clearly how champions are made, but could also give evidence based arguments that supported his bold assertions. His influence on our squad and management was an extremely positive one for which we are very grateful.

Mark McCall - Saracens Director of Rugby.

Matthew Syed is an extremely inspirational speaker. He succinctly and persuasively encapsulated the winning ethos during his presentation to Vodafone's Global Heads of Marketing. We departed feeling highly motivated.

Marcia Bellanca - Head of Group Sponsorship PR, Vodafone.

The superlatives I have heard from attendees is a reflection of the importance of your thesis. My clients were fascinated by all angels of your overview, it could not have gone any better.

Jason Doyle - Alliance Bernstein.

Matthew Syed was everything I had hoped for and more. He captivated the audience with material that he made directly relevant to our business. He was asked some thought provoking questions and came back with equally thought provoking answers. As a company we are on a journey of change and Matthew's presentation supported our strategy for the year ahead and beyond.

Alison Traversoni - Executive Director, E.Surv Chartered Surveyors.

Superb and engaging, Matthew Syed captivated an audience of global professionals who went away with a refreshed sense of what it means to identify and motivate talented people.

David Leigh - Chief Executive SHL Group.

Exclusive Interview

As part of our NMP Live Meets... interview series, Matthew Syed took time out of a busy schedule to sit down with us for an exclusive chat. Watch the video below and find out what he can bring to your event.

Books and DVDs

Clients often ask about purchasing books for giveaways and delegate packs. Below you’ll find a selection of products by Matthew Syed. Click the images to view on Amazon's website. For bulk orders, please speak with your Booking Agent.

To book Matthew Syed, please submit an online enquiry, send us an email or speak with one of our friendly booking agents on +44 (0)1372 361 004.

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Matthew Syed | NMP Live
Matthew Syed

Award-winning columnist at The Times, author and broadcaster

I was very pleased with the service I received from NMP Live, the agent was very helpful and professional. I will definitely look to NMP Live in the future.
Nicole Hardaker, EAIE Conference Programme Coordinator
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