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Listening to the Great Ones….Celebrity Speakers


As a columnist for Speaker Magazine, I decide on my content based on what I wanted to know and felt my fellow speakers also wanted to know.

These are the questions I run thru my head:
•    Who is already doing this?
•    Who seems to be successful in this space?
•    Who would I pay to find out this information from?
•    Who would I like at least 15 minutes with?

I also look at the individuals online footprint, reputation, past big moves and the list goes on…

One big question I asked in one of my feature articles was, “what strategies do you use to create celebrity impact”. The kind of impact that sells clothes, cars and movies. The billion dollar impact.

I wanted to speak with individuals with a level of celebrity influence. Some I chose are known in our industry and actually became celebrities in our industry.

Some are not a part of our industry but leverage speaking in their business.

Alan Weiss, someone I’ve followed for years and always had a bit of curiosity about the inside of his business. What I find interesting about Mr. Weiss is the different perceptions of him. He’s either really loved or really not liked and he does not care. There’s very few in-between opinions. I respect how the word consulting in the speaking industry brings to mind Alan Weiss. He’s also known for having a million dollar brand. He’s not shy about getting in front of his fancy cars or his fancy suites and sharing his lifestyle. It also doesn’t hurt that my business coach of five years, now coaches with him.

I  have to say I was nervous interviewing him, I wanted him to like me and love my story. I can say he likes me and loved my write up! Yeah. What did he share that I found valuable for speakers? Really owning a niche and killing it. Working smart and not hard. Stop being focused on fitting in and titles. Instead focus on doing YOU!

Another speaker with a similar reputation of not caring what others think, is the famous Larry Wingett. Wow! He’s known for being in your face and telling you to stop whining and start doing. If I’m being honest here, that’s my communication style. I will tell a friend or family member and a client in a NY minute to stop whining and let’s find a solution. My mom wishes I was a bit softer but it’s not my nature. Larry’s mindset early on was getting out of the “sea of sameness” he was a sales speaker and hated looking and sounding like every one else. He made a bold decision years ago as a member of NSA to step away and go Big and bold. He told a few of his speaker buddies about his plan to go bold and they thought he was nuts. But, he did it anyway and this created a brand and a following for him.

I was on pins and needles in anticipation of interviewing Jeanne Robertson, wow, talk about a big and funny personality. She’s living the speakers dream. She literally speakers in large theaters all over the country every month to crowds of hundreds. Folks do not hear her at traditional education based conferences they hear her at her own show. She’s the headliner. That’s big. What’s more exciting is how she got there. It was a mixture of her humorous chops, XM/Sirius Radio publicity and social media. Also, she truly leveraged her membership within NSA. A person within NSA noticed her and helped her make important connections and now – we have Jeanne Robertson, the speaker, the star!!

My final interview slot for Part 1 of my series, was for a person that has created amazing influence in the speaking industry. He’s often compared to Les Brown, even tours with him. He has his own show on XM/Sirius and he’s a powerhouse and well respected, Willie Jolley. Of all the speakers in this segment, I know him the most. I’ve even collaborated on projects with him and his team. He has a big heart and wants to change the world. I love that when I interviewed  him he was so open with everything he does. He didn’t hide a thing. He likes to share, he doesn’t feel like we are competing but instead all working together to make the world a better place. He also introduced me to a few folks to help me with this story.

In Part 2, of my interview series, I wanted to go after a different type of speaking celebrity. The type that got their influence outside of speaking but now leverages speaking in their business.

One person that comes to mind when you say the words, motivational speaker is,  you guessed it, Les Brown. I have a long history with him, when I first came into the industry, he approached me at an NSA conference and asked me if I needed his help. I gave him a look, thinking who are you! After all I knew I had skills. He showed me a five figure check for one gig. My next question was when can we talk,I begin to work with him later that year and after my time was done, I stayed in touch. He certainly had impact with my speaking success.

I brought him to NYC to speak for the NSA-NYC chapter, the highest attended event ever in our chapter. I can say he knows me and respects me and has hired me to assist his team. My interview with him was priceless, I was sad that it was only by phone, but, it was still good and so sincere. He was having a hard time with his health and really broke things down and asked for prayers. I guess you can say, he’s famous for a reason, he likes putting it all out there. I’ve rarely met a speaker that has not been touched in some way by him!

Another household name in the speaking industry overall – Lisa Nichols.
I remember rushing thru traffic coming from an appointment trying to hurry up and get to her interview. I’ve watched her evolve for years. I first met her in NYC at a book fair in my early years here in NYC. She wasn’t known then. I then saw her in ”The Secret” the movie and from there she was featured in two Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Next thing you know she’s on Steve Harvey’s show at least once per month. She’s also speaking all over the world. My time with her was special and everything I expected. We actually became friends out of this experience. She’s exactly like she is on stage, a powerful and giving spirit. Her biggest lesson was, look your fear in the eye and tell it to kiss your butt! That’s what’s she did and that’s what I do every day!

Speaking of friends, Kim Coles, from the TV show “Living Single”, has become a close friend in the last year or so. We actually worked together about 7 years ago, she was client, and she stayed in touch. We are both part of a speakers association and I featured her there and it just took off and now we touch base a couple times per month. She has become an expert in her own right. She helps experts tell their story and she interviewed me as an expert for her series! She contributed to my article by sharing how she was able to go from actor to speaker and how speaking saved her life after her show got cancelled. She is such an angel and nothing like you may expect a Hollywood actress to be, she loves helping others!

Speaking of Hollywood, Rhonda Britten, has been everywhere, on Oprah, Starting Over TV show with Iylana Vanzant, several TV shows featuring experts and life coaches. She actually told me she was the first Life coach to ever appear on TV.  She’s also an Emmy winner! Wowza!! She had major energy as I interviewed her, she was so much fun and such a brilliant story teller. Her life is shocking, she actually witnessed her father shoot and kill her mother and himself and almost kill her as child. She openly shares that trying to get over that led to alcoholism and so much drama in her life. Her becoming a life coach and a speaker allowed her to help others and save herself.

Another person, that was hard to nail down but did not disappoint was George Frazier. Wow! He really shared it! OMG! He got his fame from appearing on the cover of Black Enterprise and creating a Power Network just for people of color. He’s a billionaire and so generous. Talking with him felt like speaking to a genius with great advice. He shared the importance of building a network and being resourceful. I’m a fan for sure!

Speaking of Billionaires, I was pumped to speak with Daymond John, yep the Shark tank guy. That was also a phone interview. I shared the stage with him a women’s conference about 3 years ago and remember being blown away by his keynote. I was also the emcee and introduced him. He had a little hip hop in the mix and blew all of us away. I couldn’t believe this was the same guy from Shark Tank. You see a different side on stage, more open and endearing. Daymond believes we all have a message inside of us and no matter our background, we all bring value if we’re willing to do the work.

Someone who has a strong work ethic that’s rather impressive, Judge Alex. Remember his TV show, “Judge Alex” that’s now syndicated. The hard work got him there. He started off by being the youngest elected judge in his county and he went to law school during the evenings when he was a police officer. His family came here from Cuba when he was a kid which led him to make it a mission to live the American dream. Part of that dream is helping others live their dreams and he does that by speaking. He’s new on the professional speaking scene but not new to making things happen.

Another, Make it happen kind of person, is Jeffrey Hazlett. I first met him as a judge on Celebrity Apprentice. He was a corporate superstar and wanted to leverage that brilliance as a speaker. Boy has he, he was inducted into the Speaker Hall of Fame in 2015 and continues to do big things with his big brand – The C Suite with Jeffrey Hazlett. I see him often here in NYC, we are active in some of the same circles. He generously let me interview him in his NY office recently to promote this feature! He’s a good guy that’s well connected and is inspiring to watch in action. He teaches others how to build a big brand which attracts a tribe and clients in droves!

Being connected is an asset as a celebrity speaker, Darren Kavinoky, was introduced to me by Jeffrey. Darren is the host of the TV show “The Seven Deadly Sins” he was one of my first interviews and shared great tips for leveraging tv as a speaker. He shared how one small interview turned into a tv host career because he became instantly resourceful to TV producers. In my interview he breaks down how to move from an interview into a much bigger spot in TV land.

So now you have it! My snapshot of my time with speakers that have successfully created major impact in the speaking industry. Guess what? I have more, click here to access my 13 video/audio interviews with these amazing folks. Click here, part 1, here, Part 2, to get access to both Speaker Magazine features.

One more thing! Would you love to know the biggest takeaways from each interview which made all the difference in their business? Click here to sign up for a special webinar, where I break it down, you don’t want to miss this!

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