Last updated on October 16th, 2018 at 10:05 am
Top motivational keynote Speaker, Karen McCullough thinks employee engagement and transformational change are today’s top business issues. Karen believes when people work in a culture of engagement they feel connected, protected, and respected.
Is your big dream to be a top motivational speaker like Karen McCullough?
This article is professional speaker interview number eight of my series “11 Top Women Motivational Speakers Share Their Best Advice” featuring motivational speaker, Karen McCullough.
For my “what it takes to be a motivational speaker” series, I cornered eleven of the most powerful women speakers, and I got them to share their best secrets on what catapulted them into public speaking stardom.
Each speechmaker in this series shares their best speaker business success advice. It’s important to learn the new rules of speaker success.
Today’s interview is about the journey on the road to becoming a highly sought-after motivational keynote speaker.
I asked my speaker interviewees to each answer ten questions. Since their answers are so informative, I’ve broken each speaker and their responses down into individual pages because once I put their answers together here, it was too large of an article (10,000 words) to load on a device like a smartphone.
This 8th interview is with keynote speaker, Karen McCullough.
Karen McCullough is a nationally known keynote speaker and expert on change, generational opportunities and workforce trends. Karen is also an author, Branding Expert, Social Media Enthusiast, and a Gen X and Y Evangelist. You can read Karen’s full bio on her website, here.
The Top Motivational Speaker Interviews – Interview #8 of 11:
Q-1: What made you want to be a motivational speaker?
A-1: In 1999 I closed down my retail stores, and I needed a new career.
I went to a National Speakers Association meeting with a girlfriend and saw their Speaker Protrack graduation. Ten speakers were doing their bit, and I told my friend that I wanted to do what they did. I joined NSA Houston and signed up to be in the 2000 Protrack Group.
My first program was a public keynote.
I rented the Junior League ballroom and invited all my friends and customers. 300 people showed up to see The Seven Women Inside You- How to Live, Love and Dress All of you! It was a runway show featuring seven fashion personalities, and I had all sizes of women–real women on the runway–it worked!
But there were very little profits.
Q-2: From the time you decided to become a motivational speaker, how long did it take for you to start making a living at it?
A-2: Right away. I was broke and needed the money. I guess you could call me a scrapper. I remember I made 40,000 the first year GROSS–but I never thought about not doing this career. I just called every group I knew and then got lists from networking and corporate peeps.
I started doing “Lunch and Learns” for the oil companies and one thing lead to another.
My big break came with the British Petroleum Company. BP hired me to do a Lunch and Learn about the casual dress code. This Lunch and Learn lead to women and leadership workshops, which in turn lead to communications workshops for both men and women.
My second year in speaking, BP gave me over 12 gigs–it was the beginning. In 2001, I booked Enron and then Arthur Anderson. I thought I was heading to easy street, then 9/11 happened and the fall of Enron.
In 2002, I found myself starting over.
Q-3: Name 3 things you are really great at as a motivational speaker.
A-3: 1. I am a creative thinker, and I love putting cool things into my speeches–video, music, stories.
2. I am a life learner and embrace technology.
3. I am a fantastic grandma and mother.
Q-4: What was your biggest mistake in the business of being a paid public speaker?
A-4: Not getting involved in National Speaker’s Association and making national friends.
Not growing my brand is a huge one.
Q-5: What was the one thing you did right when you started as a motivational speaker?
A-5: 1. I have an in-house videographer, so I do a lot of videos. I put the right talented people into my life–graphics, web, video, ideas, creative thoughts. I am an extrovert, and I need a community to help me, i.g., a dog walker, a house sitter, etc. It has helped.
2 I keep learning and adding new and relevant material to my speaking programs.
3. I tapped into what I love (music and dancing like Ellen DeGeneres with the audience) and added it to my keynote. Now I have something uniquely mine.
Q-6: What do you think is the hardest thing about having a motivational speaking career?
A-6: It’s very isolating. Not a lot of people to talk to and discuss challenges and joys. I live alone, office alone–sounds scary!
Also for me, this line of work is all-consuming. I am always thinking about what’s next.
To quote the best-selling author of The Amazement Revolution and speaker, Shep Hyken:
“I find it easier to DO the gig than it is to GET the gig!”
Finding the right audience is key.
Q-7: What is your favorite type of audience?
A-7: Men and women all ages, but I love Gen X–they get me!
1000 or more people who want to succeed: sales teams, executives, career-driven women–they are my favorite!
Q-8: The motivational speaker business can be stressful. What do you do to stay sane?
A-8: I have lots of interests, gym, swimming, yoga, Zumba, painting, cooking, movies, walking the dog, and I am an extrovert, so I make sure I am busy.
I belong to a breakfast club of 200 women, and I have lots of friends. I am in a variety show coming up in September, and that’s fun. I am close to my kids, all my nieces live in town, my nephew Mike is my videographer, so I am connected to people who love and care about me. I need that!
Q-9: Motivational speaking takes a tremendous amount of work; how do you balance your personal life with your speaking career?
A-9: I believe in NO balance. This philosophy works best for me. I love my work, and it comes first unless a baby is involved.
I do stop for grandkids. I have four under the age of 4.
Critics might say I am a workaholic. I say I am so blessed to have a career and a life that work together and I am passionate about both!
Q-10: What advice would you give to women who have decided their big dream is to be a motivational speaker?
A-10: She needs to have TALENT; after that she needs:
Unless you’ve got a lot of passion for this, you’re not going to survive. You’re going to give it up. And success doesn’t usually happen overnight. Time allows you to grow!
To paraphrase the founder of Apple, Steve Jobs:
“Passion won’t protect you against setbacks, but it will ensure that no failure is ever final. Passion is the emotional fuel that drives your vision. It’s what you hold onto when your ideas are challenged and people turn you down when you are rejected by ‘experts’ and the people closest to you. It’s the fuel that keeps you going when there is no outside validation for your dream.”
I believe that women motivational speakers are worthy of recognition and celebration. I much appreciate Karen’s time and assistance in getting her answers to me about her public speaking business and her work-life balance advice.
Thanks again, Karen!
Kelly Swanson is an award-winning storyteller, motivational speaker, published author and TV personality who is passionate about helping women harness the power of their stories to connect, influence, and get the results they dream of accomplishing. Laughing the whole way, Kelly teaches women how to master the art of connection through the power of strategic storytelling. You can find her on The Fashion Hero show airing Fall of 2017 on Amazon Prime or on her website MotivationalSpeakerKellySwanson.com.
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