Walk into any corporate meeting or incentive event and you’re bound to see a diverse group of individuals. From suit-donning executives carrying leather-bound portfolios, to sandal-wearing 30-somethings with iPads in hand, to middle-age leaders lugging their laptops from meeting to meeting. You are also likely to see and hear something else — professional speakers who are addressing these diverse audience groups and delivering powerful messages that both motivate and excite. In fact, finding the ideal speaker is part art, part science and requires due diligence on the part of meeting planners. The professional women speakers we are highlighting below are exceptional individuals; subject-matter experts who use a variety of delivery formats to connect with audiences of all ages, backgrounds and experiences.
As a serial entrepreneur and vocal advocate for women, Cindy Eckert’s professional path has defied convention and delivered big returns. Her business results have been a globally covered business success story with Fortune magazine dubbing Eckert as a “tireless force of nature,” Entrepreneur magazine putting her on their cover of Women to Watch, Triangle Business Journal awarding her CEO of the Year and the National Association of Women Business Owners electing Eckert to the Women in Business Hall of Fame.
Eckert also is a highly regarded business owner, a strong advocate for female entrepreneurship, a pharmaceutical leader and one of the few women to have ever sold a company for a billion dollars.
“My work today continues to break barriers as I invest in and mentor other women to get to my same outcomes,” Eckert says.
Today, Eckert is focused on mentoring, launching and building other women-led or focused businesses. In recent years, she founded The Pink Ceiling, a consulting enterprise where Eckert is CEO. At The Pink Ceiling, she has invested $15 million across 10 different health tech companies at various stages of development.
In her role as a professional speaker, Eckert has had the privilege to stand on the stages of global corporations to chambers of commerce to SXSW to Fortune’s Most Powerful Women.
“I’m passionate about discussing the choices you must make to be successful, how to find opportunity in the overlooked people or projects and building a culture of ownership,” Eckert says.
When speaking, Eckert loves the moment the first hand in the audience goes up with a question and she knows she’s connected.
“There are too few women that have this opportunity,” Eckert says. “And while it is an honor to have others listen to my story, it is magical when others see themselves in it.”
Having spent her whole career in rooms where she wasn’t expected, Eckert has perfected her sense of humor.
“Humor has a way of setting the stage for hard-hitting truths,” Eckert says. “Between putting the room at ease, insisting on time for questions and prepping in advance with organizers so that I can tailor my messages with challenges and catchphrases important to those listening, I take pride in audience engagement.”
When professional speaker Julia Landauer was a senior at Stanford University, she was asked to give a talk at their TEDx Stanford event. The title of her talk was “Can Nice Girls Win Races?” and was focused around negative stereotypes that women face and how they can push past them.
“I found my voice in that talk and loved that my personal experiences and stories could make people laugh, could start discussions and could be inspiring,” Landauer says. “From there I started pitching myself and over the last four years have spoken to all types of audiences, such as AIG, Accenture and BlueCrossNC, universities, various associations and trade shows.”
Landauer typically discusses motivational topics, such as self-awareness and taking ownership, building relationships and leadership and perseverance and dealing with fear. She also discusses gender dynamics and women’s empowerment.
“I feel lucky that my talks are relatable and entertaining to a wide variety of audiences — from millennials to corporate executives to students to women’s groups, etc.,” Landauer says. “With that being the case, I speak with corporate clients, universities and colleges and various other organizations.” Landauer loves that she can be vulnerable; be herself on stage and tell stories that are entertaining and informative.
“I’m very honest with my audiences and my style on stage is very similar to my one-on-one discussions with people,” Landauer says. “It’s really rewarding to engage with an audience, especially with Q&A’s after my talks and hear their perspectives and questions.”
In fact, Landauer speaks to audiences the way she would speak to her friends. Her goal in doing so is to have a conversation with the group, rather than speaking at them.
“I strive to make them laugh, to sometimes give the kick-in-the-butt we all need from time to time and leave them with something to think about,” Landauer says. “I share videos; ask questions to my audiences. I give them a glimpse into my life and I love hearing their questions afterwards.”
Whether she’s in her role as an in-demand motivational speaker and author or as the owner and driving force behind the hugely successful direct-sales company, Traci Lynn Fashion Jewelry, entrepreneur, Dr. Traci Lynn has the same mission. “I call it ‘passing the MIC,’” Lynn says. “MIC: Motivate, Inspire, Change. My goal is to motivate people to step out of their comfort zone, inspire them to greatness and to change their lives. It’s about letting people know that they can do anything they set their mind to if they see the bigger picture. We have the power to change our own financial future and our destiny.”
Lynn has an unwavering commitment to offer women a chance to own their own businesses and achieve financial independence. This has also enabled her to grow her Fort Lauderdale-based business, launched with $200, into a multimillion-dollar enterprise with nearly 35,000 sales consultants in 47 states, Canada and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Lynn has received several honors, including the Madam CJ Walker Award, 2017 Woman of Distinction Award, 2018 Mother of the Year Award and the 2018 Jim Moran African American Achiever Award. In 2017, Lynn was recognized by Direct Selling News as one of the most influential women in the industry. She continues to mentor and encourage young professionals to follow their dreams. “The topics I cover when speaking vary based on the audience, but I’m all about inspiring people to be the best at whatever it is that they were put on this earth to do,” Lynn says. “I speak internationally, at corporate events, award ceremonies, seminars, summits, trainings conventions, you name it. You hand me a microphone and I’m ready.”
Giving back also is something Lynn feels strongly about and for the last six years her nonprofit organization, Traci Lynn Cares, has raised more than $300,000 for the American Cancer Society. “I enjoy inspiring others to greatness and reminding the audience of the power they possess inside,” Lynn says. “I speak with an authentic heart and make sure I know exactly who my audience is so I can meet their needs.”
Alison Levine is represented by one of the world’s largest speakers bureaus — Keppler Speakers — and has been their top speaker in terms of bookings and demand for eight years. Levine delivers more than 100 keynotes a year and considers it a privilege to do what she does.
“I am incredibly humbled by the number of audiences who invite me to speak year after year,” Levine says.
Last year Levine was named by Huffington Post as one of their “Top 7 Business Speakers to Hire and See.” She also had the honor of being invited to speak at the World Economic Forum at Davos and the Milken Institute Global Conference.
“It’s always a little surreal to be speaking at the same events with world leaders,” Levine says. Most recently, Levine received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, presented annually to Americans whose accomplishments in their field and service to the United States are cause for celebration. Past medalists include seven U.S. presidents, two Nobel Prize winners and leaders of industry, education, the arts, sports and government.
Levine has two very different keynote speeches. One is based on her experience as the team captain of the American Women’s Everest Expedition and focuses on leading teams in extreme environments. Her other speech, new this year, is based on her journey of skiing 600 miles across Antarctica to the South Pole and focuses on the importance of reframing the way we view people’s strengths and weaknesses and helping people become the best possible version of themselves.
“I have spoken at global events such as the World Economic Forum at Davos and for thousands of Fortune 500 companies here in the U.S. and overseas and for professional sports teams,” Levin says. “I have spoken for an audience of 20,000 and an audience of 8.”
What Levine enjoys most is the chance to influence people positively in their careers and personal lives. “I want them to lean into the challenges that lie ahead, even when they know they might fail. And most of all I want them to know what they do and who they are matters — a lot.”
Levine is very cognizant of the fact that time is our most valuable resource, and if people are giving her an hour, she feels like she better make sure that she delivers something that will make them say, “There’s nowhere else I would have rather been than in that room listening to that keynote today.”
“In order to have maximum impact, I want people to go through a range of emotions as I am speaking to them,” Levine says. “There’s a lot of material in my keynotes that is very, very intense. And there are parts that are very, very funny. I figure if I can make an audience think a lot and also make them laugh a lot — then I’ve hit the mark.”
When Siri Lindley, a two-time world champion, retired as No. 1 in the world in triathlon, she began coaching a very select group of athletes — athletes who won multiple world championship crowns and Olympic medals. As a longtime athlete, the only speaking Lindley did was in front of her athletes by sharing stories, lessons and training.
But in 2016, her professional experience changed significantly when we was asked to do the Tony Robbins podcast.
“I thought they must be contacting me to get in touch with one of my champion athletes. When I asked which athlete they were looking for, they said, ‘We want you on the podcast,’” Lindley says. “I was so excited because Tony Robbins literally changed my life at age 20, through his book, Unlimited Power. I couldn’t believe I was going to be on his podcast.”
That same year Lindley was provided the opportunity to offer a keynote speech at Robbins’ Leadership Academy in San Diego.
“I got up and gave a 90-minute keynote, which ended up being a huge success,” Lindley says. “I was so nervous beforehand, but once I stepped out on that stage in front of 2,000 people, it’s like I was being guided. I spoke from my heart. All I knew is that I wanted to serve these beautiful humans in front of me. I wanted to give them something of value, something that would touch their lives in some way. I wanted to be a blessing. In wanting to give, wanting to serve, wanting to share my story in a way that would resonate with them, I was able to deliver exactly what they hoped for. I had never felt more aligned with my calling than in that moment.”
Today, Lindley speaks about how what we focus on, the meaning we give things and what we do about it, can change our entire lives.
“I talk about being fearlessly authentic and how this is what leads to us tapping into our fullest potential and truly allowing us to have a positive impact on the world around us,” Lindley says. “I also talk about gratitude and the gift in the struggle. And I talk about failure and how we must be willing to fail — as it is in our failures and disappointments that we learn and we grow the most.”
Lindley says that when she speaks, she is able to offer up alternative ways of managing the struggles in our lives. “I show people that in changing our ‘stories’ we can change our lives for the better,” Lindley says. “Knowing that I can truly impact someone’s life in a beautiful and powerful way is the most humbling, beautiful gift. If I can help others free themselves from what causes them pain or holds them back from achieving their goals, this is the ultimate for me. This is what I dream of — being able to touch lives, make a difference and empower others to see the beauty in themselves.”
As the first female to serve as White House chief information officer and named Enterprising Woman of the Year from Women in Business for two years in a row, Theresa Payton is one of America’s most respected authorities on Internet security, data breaches and fraud mitigation. With real-world strategies and solutions, she identifies emerging trends and techniques to help combat cyber threats.
“I am very blessed to be able to evangelize to the business person, the consumer, the fellow geek and others about the threats that are facing us,” Payton says.
Today Payton pulls from her experiences on the front lines within her company, Fortalice Solutions, of defending against “bad guys,” from her previous work in the financial services industry, her time at the White House working for President George W. Bush and her two books.
Prior to her time serving at the White House, Payton spent more than 16 years as an executive in banking technology fighting cybercrime and fraudsters at some of the largest financial institutions in the world.
“The CIO job at the White House, and really anywhere, can be a little overwhelming because it is a massive undertaking in today’s day and age,” Payton says. “I had the honor of making the operations work, while protecting the technology and the mission, for a very vast and diverse set of objectives at the White House.”
Payton has talked at events from the VIP breakfast for 10 people to the thousands in an enormous room in Las Vegas.
A side benefit at events is that Payton often gets asked to speak to women in a closed-door session.
“Those side events have always been very meaningful for me,” Payton says. “I am honored to spend time with other women to offer support and advice — to encourage them to push for their personal goals.”
There are several things Payton thoroughly enjoys by being a speaker, but what she enjoys most involves being with people and winning the war against cybercrime.
“Speaking affords me the opportunity to meet amazing, talented and smart people. I learn so much from the question- and-answer sessions and from the event sponsors and organizers,” Payton says. “I have traveled to locations and I have met people that I doubt I would have had the chance to do on my own. Many of the people I meet become friends and even clients.”
Prior to a meeting or event, Payton requests a pre-conference call to hear from the event planners. This allows her to study the purpose of the event and determine what’s one thing she wants them to take from this event and do differently when they get back home or to their office?
“If I can’t start a movement with each speech, I am not doing my job,” Payton says. “I’m not just on stage to frighten or entertain, I’m there to make everyone safer. I hate it when the ‘bad guys’ such as cybercriminals, human traffickers, child pornographers and fraudsters win. I want the ‘good guys’ to win. I focus on providing pragmatic advice so the audience can win.”
When Sarah Thomas, the NFL’s first female official, addresses an audience, she rarely stands behind a podium. Rather she lets audiences know that her speech will be interactive.
“Right off the start, I survey the audience and ask them a question about loving football,” Thomas says. “And when almost everyone raises their hands, then I tell them to leave them up that we are going to take an oath. It’s a simple, funny oath about promising they will not boo the officials. Everyone laughs about it. This just disarms the ‘stiffness’ in the room.”
With a degree in communications with an emphasis on PR, Thomas, who has been speaking for almost 13 years, never thought she would be able to use her background as a platform about her journey.
“The topics I typically cover are about things that motivate — real stories about everyday life that have molded me and things I’ve learned along the way,” Thomas says. She typically speaks at national sales meetings, white- and blue-collar groups, Girl Scouts, churches, commencements, women’s groups, men’s groups and to students.
“There’s not an audience that my story cannot impact,” Thomas says. “I like being able to inspire and motivate others by being real, authentic and sharing who I am; things I’ve learned from not only successes, but failures too. But most of all having fun, laughing and allowing the audience to feel what I’m sharing. I’ve had mothers come up to me with tears saying how much they needed to hear this, students saying how inspired they are by knowing they can do anything they put their mind to, men saying they wish their daughters or wives were there. The joy I have in sharing with others about never giving up, believe in yourself, no matter what, is so rewarding for me.”C&IT