My UnResolution!


This blog is about letting go of what sometimes works but could be better!

Last week I did the opening day keynote for THLA (Texas Hotel & Lodging Association). I have been the opening keynoter for this particular event for the past 11 years.  Lucky for me, each year the audience is totally different except for the association administrators.  This year, after some great coaching, I tried several new pieces adding new stories, a game and a totally new closing. Honestly, I was very nervous hoping the new stuff would “land”. During the program one of the association’s administrators stood up and announced to  the audience that she has head me for 11 years and each year the keynote different but this year it was remarkable. Phew…what a relief. Letting go of my tried and true material was hard, but creating fresh and new is exciting, even thrilling!

What are you holding onto that is holding you back?

The Secret to Giving a Great Presentation – Focus on the Audience

I started teaching professionals how to transition from their current position or career in professional speaking, November of 2012.  At the time, I never dreamed that this workshop would become a part of my business model.  But, after the first session a core of about 15 people asked me if I could provide monthly workshops and continue giving them the tools, education and the inspiration to succeed in the arena of professional speaking.

So  in addition to my keynoting,  I have been doing a series of speaker trainings (Killer Keynote)  and I love it. I have watched people grow as their confidence soars.  We are now working on a stage with cool lighting and the use of a hand held microphone. I can’t tell you what a huge difference that has made in the quality of their presentations.  Our group keeps evolving as some leave and others join.

They say that teaching/coaching is a two way street and that a good teacher can also learn a great deal from her students.  The thing that keeps coming up for me as I watch and listen to these emerging speakers, is how important it is today for a speaker to be focused on the audience- audience-centric. Many of us (keynote speakers) are presenting new ideas that involve our audiences having to make a change – and in some cases a BIG change.  For most, change is not an easy task.   When we speakers get wrapped up in  content and perspectives we can  lose sight of the struggle that audience members may be feeling. We need to practice empathy.

I first heard the concept of empathy and vulnerability listening to Dr. Brene’ Brown speak here in Houston way back in 2008.  I have been a big fan ever since. After reading Brene’ s Book The Gifts of Imperfection, and doing her online workshop with Oprah, I have come to the conclusion that  be successful a speaker today, you must have to have empathy for your audience. They have to walk in the listener’s shoes so to speak.  You have to let our audience know that you too have been there and you know what it’s like to be stuck,or challenged, or what’s it’s like working with a difficult customer.  Speakers need to make a connection with their audiences.

My advice to speakers and presenters  is to stop being the star of your stories. Imagine how great it would be if speakers  put the spotlight on their audience. As Nancy Duarte has said, the speaker need to shift from being the hero of their presentation to the guide and mentor of the presentation giving the audience a magical gift or special helping them get unstuck.

You have to think of it as, “The speaker needs the audience more than the audience needs the speaker.” (Nancy Duarte) Then you’ll start to approach a material with your audience in mind.

Authenticity – Just Be YOU!

“Be Yourself – Everyone else is taken” Oscar Wilde

Over the past few years I have been coaching many talented individuals who are working towards becoming professional keynote speakers. One of the most challenging parts of the speaker-puzzle is the authenticity piece. The ability to be you on the stage, and bring the parts of you that are uniquely you into your presentation will differentiate you from the pack and make a real difference. Authenticity is the secret ingredient and it  has become an important presentation attribute. When speakers have it, they can inspire their audiences to make positive changes, keep learning, and change the world. That said, it’s hard to teach someone how to be authentic.

Jimmy Fallon can help!

Last week Jimmy Fallon took the reins of the Tonight Show and brought his authentic self along.  Jimmy does not play it cool! He plays it like Jimmy Fallon – He’s appears a little nervous, giggling, gushing and saying a lot of, So great! So great.” He talks about his childhood, wife Nancy, their new baby girl Winnie, and on the opening night of the show, he waved to his parents in the audience and told them that he loved them. The viewers seem to love him not to mention he has the most impish grin and exudes tons of infectious energy.

Besides authenticity there are other lessons we can learn from Jimmy.

Authenticity happens when we give ourselves the freedom to see our strengths and our value. When we are truly authentic we are comfortable in our own skin, giving us the ability connect with others in a meaningful way.

Thanks for the lessons, Jimmy and here’s to seeing you for the next 22 years on late night.

And we love how you collaborated with JT.

Women, It’s Our Time to Speak!

It’s really great when women speakers are showcased, honored, and praised.  I have presented at many conferences where I am the only female speaker and I am excited to see that Kelly Swanson put the time into sharing 12 diverse and successful FEMALE motivational and business speakers journey’s to success.Women, it’s our time! It’s time for us to bring our spirit, energy,wisdom and new perspective onto the stage and change the world!

Take the time to read Kelly’s blog post and get some great advice.


If you are looking for a truly gifted speaker, comedian, storyteller, and motivational speaker be sure and look at Kelly’s website.



Taking a Risk Paid Off – Playing it safe is the most dangerous place to be!

Sometimes motivational speakers have to take a risk on stage by using all of themselves-by tapping into their own passion, their humor, knowledge, energy, style and making unconventional choices.  All it takes is courage, and a great audience.  Here’s what happened to me.

A few weeks ago I opened the 2013 Connect Marketplace Sports conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with my keynote, Change is Good-YOU Go First. In this keynote I touch on  how conferences are using social media to engage and interact with their attendees. Many of those attending work in sports related industries and because I always try and customize my programs, I wanted to add a sports reference to the keynote…

which was a challenge, because I’m just not that into sports.

Several weeks before the event in Milwaukee, I was home watching The Twitter Revolution on CNBC.  And as luck would have it, the program had on a segment “How Twitter has changed the way NBA fans watch basketball.”  I learned a lot including, two-thirds of the NBA players are on Twitter making the NBA the No. 1 sports league on social media.

Was I lucky or what?

Immediately a light bulb went off… and I remembered a Jimmy Kimmel show about Tweets and the NBA… I Googled it, watched the video, got a little scared, took a risk, and put the piece in my keynote.

I was so nervous that they wouldn’t get it… They got it! They were the best audience! They were in it! They were laughing so hard and I felt the energy  in the room go  higher  and higher. We speakers dream of moments like this one!

Energy is an amazing thing when it spreads and becomes contagious.  We started having fun together. By the time I got to the closing ( Name that Generation game) we were in the zone-together.

It’s amazing how even after 12 years of professional speaking I continue to learn, grow and push myself to try new things and take some risks.  Not everyone is going to like you, but today staying in the middle and playing it safe is the most dangerous place to be.

If you are a speaker or you are giving a presentation, remember tap into your own passion, your strengths, knowledge and content, your style, and even your quirkiness. The more aspects you show of yourself, the easier the audience will connect with you and your message.

5 Steps to Mastering Your Pitch – Rachel Parker’s Pitch that Won!

Last November  I created a workshop called Killer Keynote and miraculously it filled itself with some pretty talented emerging speakers.  Each month many of the “Killers” gather for a group coaching day. Watching them grow into speakers/thought leaders has become the highlight of my year. It is a joy when students graciously take in what you give them, do the work, and reap the rewards!

Let me give you an example.  A few sessions back we had a full day of learning how to do “The Pitch”.  The Killers were working on and completing their presentation and now they had to sell it or PITCH it!   I gave them the 5 steps in pitching (above) gave some examples, and had them do a little role playing. Then it was up to them…

Here’s what Rachel Parker created

She created this and sent the video pitch to the speaker selection at the Houston AMA 2013 EDGE conference.  She is now speaking at the conference! Rachel Rocks!!

Let’s examine what she did:

1. She got their attention with the statistic that blew her mind…that you are more likely to complete a Navy Seal training than you re to click on a banner ad. OUCH!!!!

2.  They felt the need to listen when she said that the Mad Men Marketing approach doesn’t work today. We don’t trust advertising and we go out of our way to avoid it. Sorry Don Draper, you still are very handsome.

3. Her solution is that there is a better way… stop talking at the customer and start talking with them.

4.  Great visualization when she said the magic word IMAGINE having customers look forward to hearing from you.

5.  Then she throws you into action telling you that you are going to get her 6-step process… WE want more! We want her… she got the gig!

You can hear Rachel Parker along with the other great speakers at the AMA Houston Marketing Edge – Read all About it and go see Rachel!

BTW the next Killer Keynote Workshop will have a guest appearance from Houston’s very own comic and master of thinking on her feet… Rice University’s  Kim McGaw… the entire day will focus on Humor. Wanna get funnier??? then save the date – Sat. November 23 and send me an email – I’ll get you on the LIST!

Want to be a great marketer? Become a great presenter. My 6 Tips

This summer I’ve been coaching entrepreneurs and business owners who want to use “public speaking” as a marketing tool to attract clients and customers to use their services.

Initially we focus our time on writing the speech. After the speech is crafted we design a “speaker’s marketing piece” that will get the attention of meeting planners, and event program directors.


They get booked to speak at a networking luncheon or even a local conference…terrific!

Things are going great- they are up in front of sixty or so people giving their presentation and they start to stray off the prepared speech and dive into making sales pitch (yuck!)

The hard truth is that no one comes to a networking luncheon or a conference to hear a speaker market to them. If your talk is really a “HIRE ME” to solve your problems, sprinkled here and there with a few tips, you are going to turn off your audience and never be asked to speak.

Here are some of my secrets that will help you get what you want! For me it’s to get booked to speak again and again, for you it might be to sell your services, your book, or your products.

Just Remember- Don’t Sell or Marker from the Platform!

1. Know your audience and make your program relevant to their needs. One speech doesn’t fit all audiences. Change it up! If you are talking to realtors find examples that reflect their challenges.  Present your material as though you were one of them. That works better in these situations opposed to you telling them the 10 things they need to be doing.

2. Give-Give- Give. Give away some of your best information (I give them my slides) and stop worrying that they are going to go off and DIY or steal your talk.  Here’s a little secret-very few people actually go and do what you suggest.  Eventually, if you made a great impression, they will hire you to help them get where they need to be.

3. Get Good! Just because you wrote a great presentation doesn’t mean you can deliver a great presentation.  Speaking is an art and practice is a huge part of the deal. Today audiences want to hear presentations where the speaker is comfortable and as ease rather than someone reading scripted materials or delivering memorized speech. Practice so that your words flow, have some animation, and remember that your energy (good or bad)  is contagious.

4. Leave Time for a Q and A. Here’s where we separate the novice from the pro.  How you sound in the Q and A quickly establishes your expertise- or not. Do your homework and keep on reading and doing research on your topic.

5. Make it fun and make it easy for the audience to connect with you. After I warm the audience up I say, “Here are the rules, Open your phone or laptop and Tweet about this presentation. And I hope you tweet good things about me.” (hopefully I get a laugh!)   Everyone starts to buzz!  Then on the screen is a slide with my Twitter handle K_McCullough and my email address [email protected] ! Again on my last slide I say, “Stay connected and I again give my email, Twitter handle and my Facebook and Linkedin name.  It works!  Some connect immediately while others drop an email when they need me.

6. Stick around. This is something that I have learned from the top pros. I get more inquiries for my speaking services after I have presented.  Right after the speech there is usually a group of people that swarm wanted my card, asking questions and giving me their cards and information.  I try to stay a few hours after my presentation and talk with people in the halls and hotel lobby. My goal is not to nail a booking right then and there, but to created the space for a relationship to grow.

In Closing…

Want to be a great marketer? Become a great presenter. When people discover that you really know what you are talking about you will attract business.  Your are leaving your listeners with the thought that they should get your  card and check our you or your business.

Today your audience is savvy…they will find you on line. It’s not that hard.

As a speaker I would love your opinions-

What annoys you about speakers?

What makes you want to learn more about a speaker and give them your business?

Dreams Do Come True-Start Dreaming!

I have been a member of National Speakers Association for over 13 years and only missed one National Conference.  Every year I beg my Houston NSA friends to join me…it happened once 2008 in San Diego. My reoccurring dream over the years is to come to a National NSA convention with a group of girlfriends…have fun, learn a ton and then spend the rest of the year discussing a few of the concepts and  ideas learned at the conference.

Well this year it happened. Crystal Washington, Bambi McCullough and Cecilia Rose are not only now members of NSA National they are here at the Marriott Anaheim the Disneyland row, with me and 1500 other speakers.  For the next 4 days I will keep you posted on our adventure!

We miss you Danielle and know that you are here in our heats!

Lesson from Comedian Louis C.K. – When do you practice?

One of my favorite comics is a guy named Louis CK.  He’s very raw and very funny and I laugh really hard at his humor. I love his bit about technology and  Gen Y- Here’s a taste!

Back to the post…
When he’s not doing huge concerts he hangs out in comedy clubs. That’s where he tries out new material.  The comedy clubs are small and very intimate and he gets a more honest audience response.  He tries out new material and he is sure that being fresh and new is what fills the seats at his concerts.
Stage time is where he practices – in small comedy clubs that do not pay him. He drops in and gives his time away and practices!  He creates fresh and new material and that is what fills the house!

I love this information. I hear so many speakers say that they speak once a month or so…How do they stay sharp? Where are they practicing?  I have a lot of humor in my programs and I know that timing is everything. If I am not on stage I also get shaky and almost neurotic!  I have to create opportunities where I am continually getting in front of audiences some small and some for a small fee to PRACTICE and try out  new material. It’s part of the job.

I believe that no matter what business you are in there is a need to practice and sharpen your skills.
Where do you practice?
I would love to know? Please answer and start the conversation!

Live Your Dreams – Step One

I made the decision to Live My Dream and become a professional speaker in 1999.  I was doing some retail consulting work for an upscale fashion store in the Galleria area of Houston, and the store’s owner and my good friend Beverly asked me to do a few “in-store presentations.”  I did, and they were a big hit; and soon Beverly pushed me out the door encouraging me to start speaking…I went on a part-time contract with her and began a new career ~ as a public speaker.  (I say ‘public’ because  in the beginning I spoke for free.)

After typing that and reading the paragraph,  I realize that I made it sound so simple.
When you do what you love, it is simple.  Well, kind of….

And now here is the truth! I have never focused on the steps, the work or the money that it has required to become a national keynote speaker.  I just started. I started reading, taking seminars, workshops, attending conferences and lectures. I just started writing, developing an expertise, a point of view and a following.  If I sat down and added up all of the hours and money that I spent becoming a speaker and presented it to me back in 1999,  I might have made another career choice!

Living the Dream , for me, took what Malcolm Gladwell calculated as 10,000 hours;  it took sacrifice, and it took focus.  If you are starting a business or a new career, start with step one and keep on taking one step at a time. Every day do something big or small to help you get to your dream.  Every day read one article or blog post and every week read a new book and grow your expertise. Don’t look ahead to the whole picture…It might scare you and it will keep you from starting.