Dreaming of having former first lady and “The Light We Carry” author Michelle Obama take the stage at your next event to share her practical wisdom? You might consider:

woman wearing pink sport coat and black dress shirt in front of pink backgrounJudi Holler

Profile: Author of “Fear is My Homeboy”, host of the “Yes, And” podcast and alum of Second City Chicago’s Conservatory

Agency: Not exclusive with any specific bureau

Topics: Accountability, change, creativity, peak performance, corporate culture, sales, women, hospitality

One thing you hope attendees take away from your time on stage?

That nothing good ever comes from the comfort zone! When we begin to fear our fear less, we can actually do more. On the other side of my talk, the most significant shift clients tell me they see in their teams is that people feel empowered to start taking more confident action, which equals results, sales, innovation, increased performance and a better culture.

How did Covid change your approach to connecting with audiences?

It made me value it even more! My keynotes have always been highly interactive as I use the ideas from the improv theatre to help leaders, teams, and organizations get more comfortable being uncomfortable. Yet, now, on the other side of Covid, I realize that while we all loved to talk about “pivoting,” what we were really doing was “improvising.” So, it’s been fun to connect the dots in this way with teams and leaders helping them understand that they are natural-born improvisers, already doing uncomfortable things every day and thriving, so imagine what you could accomplish if you started doing more of that, on purpose!

What do you want meeting planners to know about working with you?

First, I would never recommend “winging” anything! The big misnomer about improv theater is that we just wing it, ditch the script, and don’t need to be prepared, and actually that couldn’t be any further from the truth. Improvisers are some of the most prepared people, and our preparation allows us to improvise when needed. I do not advise teams or leaders to wing it; I believe how prepared you are is how pro you look because our preparation allows us to reach our desired results.

Second, I started my career in the meetings industry, even serving as a Past President of MPI Chicago, sitting on industry boards, including doing work for Meetings Mean Business; all that to say, the meetings industry is near and dear to my heart!

Last, I know that the stakes are high at your event, and when you bring in a speaker, you trust that they will deliver. Nothing makes me happier than when the event organizers who bring me in look like the real star because participants keep coming up to them saying, “OMG, that was spectacular; where did you find that girl!”

woman wearing red dress, leaning on bannister Jade Simmons

Profile: The world-class concert artist and author has been called a “musical force of nature” and uses her insight and talent to help audiences find 360-degree personal development and strategic transformation.

Agency: N/A

Topics: Purpose, purpose-fueled leadership, innovation, change mastery

One thing you hope attendees take away from your time on stage?

I promise transformation on the spot. I want you understanding something anew, hearing something new, doing things more boldly, and seeing things differently than you did before, about your work and about you! If my audiences had to choose one thing to remember form my time with them, I’d want it to be my purpose statement that says purpose is not the thing you do. It’s the things that happen in others when you do what you do.

How did Covid change your approach to connecting with audiences? Covid fast-forwarded my team and me into offering virtual presentations. It was something we had talked about creating in the past, but the demand was not there at a level that made sense to pivot before the pandemic. Once covid hit, we learned that our real job is to think of solutions in advance that people do not even know they yet need. Today, I speak from the stage about this kind of maverick readiness which includes thinking of solutions and positioning for breakthroughs in advance.

We also had more time to become obsessed with overdelivering for the client. Different from how other speakers and bureaus think, we don’t think of the speaker as a product on a shelf that decision-makers choose between based on certain ingredients. We think of ourselves as the collaborator coming in to cook up a whole new recipe for impact with their people, topics, and pain points in mind. It delights me when an audience member thinks I work in their industry because of how hard I’ve worked to speak directly to where they are in life and business. Covid stretched us to ask: How can we serve even more?

What do you want meeting planners to know about working with you?

I sincerely care. My team sincerely cares. We care about your attendees and want them impacted in an indelible way. I absolutely plan to be the best speaker they’ve ever heard, not because of the virtuoso music, or the impressive deep-dive customization, or even the fun dazzling shoes and wow factor, but because they feel like they can do anything set before them. We want your audience talking for days not about what they saw, but about what they felt and are still feeling. Inspiration shouldn’t stop as they leave the room, it should precede them home and remind them of the bigger, bolder person they’ve just committed to becoming. My team is eager to meet with yours about all the ways we can power up our world’s greatest resource—its people.

woman wearing turquoise sport coat with hand on chestVera Jones

Profile: Vera Jones was best known as a Women’s Basketball Commentator for ESPN, and the Big Ten Network, until October 27, 2017 when a Goalcast video instantly went viral. With over 47 million views and counting, she has gained global recognition and demand by sharing her inspirational message crafted from her own life challenges of helping her 12-year old son through a brain tumor and blindness

Topics: Resiliency, perseverance, empathetic leadership

Agency: Talent Concierge® Artists Agency

One thing you hope attendees take away from your time on stage?

My greatest takeaway is making an impact. I always ask people…what does that look like? We throw around words like leadership or impactful leadership—what does that look like? My heart is full when I hear the attendee’s feedback such as, “I Got It…”

The attendees get a picture of what leadership is all about. It’s just not words from a talking head. I appeal to the empathy of people. People become more empathic leaders when they get it. I have received feedback from audience members sharing how my message has greatly impacted their lives. That is what I wish for the attendees to take away from my time on stage.

How did Covid change your approach to connecting with audiences?

Covid was the first time I realized the power of virtual. The biggest pivot I made was creating the Perseverance Speakers Academy. Initially, like many others, we took a step back to see what and where we would go next. Perseverance is in my nature, and I see this as an opportunity to do just that. I would stop looking inward and discover that if I have a story, other people have stories too. People who needed help to craft their stories and gain confidence. I had the tools to help them persevere. The Perseverance Speakers Academy is a strong program today.

What do you want meeting planners to know about working with you?

I am as results-oriented as meeting planners are. It is important that my deliverables are what they want and need and the ROI they expect. I will always ask, what do you want?

My guarantees are inspirational, funny and relatable. I am the empathy queen—in this space. I know I did my job when I receive feedback from the attendees such as,” I experience every emotion I didn’t even know I had listening to Vera Jones.” That is what I will deliver every time, and the meeting planner will be the hero of the conference. That is always my goal as a speaker and a teacher.

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