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What’s Possible in Speaking with Shola Kaye

What’s Possible in Speaking with Jane Atkinson and Shola Kaye
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Quote: “In the beginning, I was too afraid to approach anyone, so if you’re afraid, just get someone to help you until you have that momentum.” Shola Kaye

Do you feel like something is holding you back in your speaking business, or do you have more of a “the sky’s the limit” mentality? I think most of us have felt like we could or should be doing more at one time or another. On this episode of The Wealthy Speaker Show, we welcome (from across the pond) Shola Kaye to share how she has scaled her speaking business over the past couple of years and that the possibilities really are endless.

Shola designs and runs programs on communication, leadership, DEI and workplace empathy. She’s the author of two books and is an award-winning speaker. She has a degree in Natural Sciences from Cambridge University, completed scientific research in the field of Neuroscience at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, and spent a number of years working in the United States in financial services.


Read Full Transcript

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Jane Atkinson: Welcome everyone to the wealthy speaker podcast today, we are going to start to expand our imagination of what's possible for our speaking business for this podcast we go out cross the pond to my friend and client show like hey welcome shoulder to the podcast.

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shola kaye: hi Jay so good to be with you year.

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Jane Atkinson: Ah, I have been wanting to have you on this podcast for quite some time now, I know, of course, because we work together, I know a fair amount about your business but tell everybody about your current business model, what do you do, who do you do it for.

00:00:40.680 --> 00:00:55.140
shola kaye: i'm a predominantly a keynote speaker, but I also do trainings leadership, training and my clients, I say 60% of them are in the USA predominantly in California, which can be interesting, since i'm.

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shola kaye: Like eight hours time difference and about.

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Jane Atkinson: know.

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shola kaye: it's an interesting one, but it means you know, sometimes i'm just working at night, and then I have my days free which can be really cool.

00:01:09.390 --> 00:01:23.490
shola kaye: And so, most of my clients are in the tech space, but they're across the board, I mean, I have some that are in the energy, space others that are you know fast moving consumer goods so kind of across the board, but mainly tech clients.

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Jane Atkinson: And so, because you speak in the D IP space diversity equity inclusion belonging.

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Jane Atkinson: It makes sense that tech because they're so high growth is a good market for you like they have grown probably without a lot of cultural.

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Jane Atkinson: You know ideas in place, they maybe didn't have a really clear understanding of what they wanted, as they were just growing so exponentially, would you say that that's true.

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shola kaye: yeah I definitely think it's true and and even though di bs is a big area, right now, and rightly so, because there's so much work to be done.

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shola kaye: And I do feel that there are a lot of organizations that are still very much at the beginning of their journey.

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shola kaye: And some of them might be, as you say Jane smaller tech companies who've grown very quickly and they don't have much in place.

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shola kaye: But then even some really large companies it's quite interesting to see where they are perhaps because they also larger have to move a bit slower than other smaller companies so they're still feeling my way getting things in place.

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Jane Atkinson: Right and i'm so happy for you, that you're on this wave because I don't see it going away anytime soon.

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Jane Atkinson: Do you.

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shola kaye: yeah it's it's it's a big area and and I speak on empathy and empathy intersects with diversity and inclusion intersects with leadership intersects with.

00:02:54.810 --> 00:03:15.300
shola kaye: Communication and even now, as we kind of teetering potentially on the verge of a recession i've had clients come to me saying we have to let people go, can we come and do some leadership sessions on empathy so that our leaders do this in a kind of humane way so it's quite interesting.

00:03:15.900 --> 00:03:20.760
Jane Atkinson: that's an interesting place that you're seeing people who are letting.

00:03:21.180 --> 00:03:29.340
Jane Atkinson: Employees go leading into which I think is kind of a fear based decision by the way, because we don't really know what the recession is going to bring.

00:03:29.700 --> 00:03:50.130
Jane Atkinson: But also we have the great resignation and so there's a lot of opportunity out there, I think, for people who do get let go, because there are still a lot of employee, a lot of employers who are scrambling to try to find enough people for their teams right.

00:03:51.060 --> 00:03:55.260
shola kaye: yeah I think it's a really unique situation at the moment because when I.

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shola kaye: You know, really double down on empathy and a couple of think last year I did a White Paper and did some roundtables and spoke to lots of HR leaders.

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shola kaye: And they were really talking about well how do we retain people, and then you know you've got some people who are letting stuff go others who are still trying to retain and recruit so it's a really interesting kind of mix of of things that.

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Jane Atkinson: are going on right now in the marketplace yeah there's a lot of problems to be solved.

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shola kaye: yeah.

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Jane Atkinson: A lot of problems to be solved well okay so let's talk about.

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Jane Atkinson: kind of where your business has come from where did you how many years ago, did you start into the speaking business.

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shola kaye: I started in the speaking business i'd say sort of five six years ago, but just very much on a part time basis so just doing a little bit alongside other work.

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shola kaye: yeah and it was really mainly in the lockdown lockdown forced me to really double down on my speaking business and obviously i'm very glad that I did.

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Jane Atkinson: Yes, yes i'm glad that you did too because, would you ever imagine, so you started out by doing contracts locally in the UK in your backyard, maybe where and the rest of Europe, perhaps, and now have seen like just this massive growth to the rest of the world.

00:05:17.880 --> 00:05:29.100
shola kaye: yeah I mean it's interesting because years ago I spy lived in the USA for about seven years and I went to graduate school and worked for a few years and then came back to the UK and.

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shola kaye: i'd wanted to kind of break into the US speaking market for a while and it was hard because clients may not want to fly you over to the states, etc, because of the expense and then, when look down here, suddenly, it becomes a level playing field, because wherever you're from.

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Jane Atkinson: world is.

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Jane Atkinson: A beautiful thing and that really allowed you virtually to cross the pond and get and start to gather momentum with us clients.

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Jane Atkinson: Okay, so five or six years ago, could you have imagined the types of deals that you're booking today because I think the UK is similar to Canada.

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Jane Atkinson: In that we kind of had some limitations in our mindset in terms of what's possible with our fees and how high, we can go, would you say five years ago, you could have imagined, you know, last month contracts.

00:06:34.410 --> 00:06:40.380
shola kaye: Love no way no way and I remember thinking gosh you know sort of.

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shola kaye: Looking at some of these speakers who are really big in the States and sort of knowing the kind of fees that they command just thinking well there's no way.

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shola kaye: Especially being here in Europe there's no way that you know I could ever come on any of those sorts of fees and then looking at bigger deals so not just the keynote but the leadership training or the.

00:06:58.440 --> 00:07:08.730
shola kaye: 10 session package of the 20 session package or whatever it might be just never I just it was just like a kind of black box what's in there, how how to get in.

00:07:11.580 --> 00:07:16.260
Jane Atkinson: And then, once we kind of turn the key and opened up the black box is like.

00:07:17.400 --> 00:07:26.880
Jane Atkinson: there's a lot of opportunity in here not only can I do some virtual things to make my self available for bigger contracts.

00:07:27.360 --> 00:07:38.850
Jane Atkinson: But I can also charge more you know flying flying from the UK to California obviously that's a big deal, and of course we want to charge appropriately for that.

00:07:39.450 --> 00:07:49.200
Jane Atkinson: The reason I I really wanted to do this session with you is because I just want to ask our listeners, are you putting any barriers on yourself.

00:07:49.740 --> 00:07:56.580
Jane Atkinson: Are you putting any limits on what you think is possible because shola and I are here to tell you that.

00:07:57.060 --> 00:08:06.630
Jane Atkinson: We actually know where the where the top end lies, right now, and even here in Canada, I have seen one of my other clients candle.

00:08:07.320 --> 00:08:19.860
Jane Atkinson: Just blow through what I thought were the limits on Canadian speakers and keynote fees, unless you have some sort of you know if you went to the moon if you're Chris Hatfield then you're in good shape.

00:08:20.370 --> 00:08:30.630
Jane Atkinson: Other than that, I thought there were some limits and there aren't and i'm here to tell you that they're on it so Charlotte talk a little bit about so i'm just getting.

00:08:31.680 --> 00:08:49.950
Jane Atkinson: i'm getting ready to publish the wealthy speaker 3.0 this fall, and so we have flashpoint stories in there talk a little bit about what some of the Flash points were some of the moments when you saw acceleration in your business.

00:08:50.460 --> 00:08:57.000
shola kaye: Well, well, first of all I think during lockdown once I realized that it was really time for me to.

00:08:58.260 --> 00:09:10.740
shola kaye: expand rather than try and wait things out, the first thing that I did is I thought okay well how do I expand to another market, and so I was using linkedin quite heavily.

00:09:10.980 --> 00:09:15.150
shola kaye: And he thought well, let me engaged engaged a couple of agencies to see what they would do.

00:09:15.330 --> 00:09:24.570
shola kaye: Because I had quite some some fears like who am I, how can I get these big name household name clients there's no way, and so I thought well if I use them.

00:09:24.900 --> 00:09:35.880
shola kaye: Then you know I won't be stopping myself, so they were out there just picturing connecting with whomever and they didn't they weren't big enough shoulders shoulders thinking quite small let's just do the small companies, they didn't think.

00:09:36.630 --> 00:09:41.460
shola kaye: So when I started getting some you know some of the big tech companies and big.

00:09:42.120 --> 00:09:47.850
shola kaye: Global companies interested in me it's quite scary either way like how on earth.

00:09:48.540 --> 00:09:59.880
shola kaye: But I think what I found is sometimes when you put limits in your own way, what can be better is just find somebody who can help you whether it's even that you have a barter arrangement or you've got some extra cash to.

00:10:00.330 --> 00:10:09.690
shola kaye: hire someone and you haven't got the same fears, so that really helped me hugely to trade, you know where I would never have trouble, but other ones.

00:10:10.230 --> 00:10:22.200
Jane Atkinson: hiring other people can often help you explore a bigger vision for yourself, I have coaches that tell me all the time, you know you're a rock star blah blah blah and i'm like.

00:10:22.620 --> 00:10:38.130
Jane Atkinson: yeah you know i've probably needed to hear that today because don't we sometimes start to move into like an imposter syndrome or any any version of self doubt, have you battled with self doubt throughout your business.

00:10:39.060 --> 00:10:43.920
shola kaye: Oh hugely so yeah and you know you know this thing because you occurred to me but i'd come in.

00:10:45.030 --> 00:10:51.540
shola kaye: I think I do this straight or oh that i've got a quote, for this is that enough, and you say no double.

00:10:55.290 --> 00:10:57.030
Jane Atkinson: emails me and says.

00:10:57.930 --> 00:11:04.380
Jane Atkinson: i've got this client, and this is the situation, what should I charge and Jane writes back charge your fee.

00:11:06.780 --> 00:11:21.990
Jane Atkinson: charge a fee, we have an international fee, we have a corporate fee and actually that same fee of life's to nonprofit so charging a fee is often the answer, but I think sometimes having someone in your back pocket to just say.

00:11:22.380 --> 00:11:32.520
Jane Atkinson: Of course you can do this you're a badass look at all the things that you've done already, sometimes I think we just need to hear that from somebody else to kind of go oh yeah you're right.

00:11:34.110 --> 00:11:42.810
shola kaye: Absolutely absolutely and something else that you, you kind of really worked on was just this idea that vision and intention to.

00:11:43.230 --> 00:11:49.440
shola kaye: Because once I sort of had my foot in the door, a bit more with the keynotes and I was thinking well.

00:11:49.860 --> 00:11:56.730
shola kaye: The thing with keynotes is you're constantly having to get the next one, and the next one, so I was thinking well how about the bigger.

00:11:57.180 --> 00:12:02.280
shola kaye: deals where you've got four keynotes or you're doing a big leadership training.

00:12:03.270 --> 00:12:08.430
shola kaye: And so, then it was then I started to think well how can I package working together to create a program.

00:12:08.910 --> 00:12:19.680
shola kaye: And then, when somebody comes to me and says, can I have the keynote I say, well, actually i've got the there's four parts of this program why don't we discussed that instead, so that was another big moment for me.

00:12:20.130 --> 00:12:26.250
Jane Atkinson: Okay, so hiring out intentional packaging is the second one what's the third one.

00:12:27.420 --> 00:12:36.750
shola kaye: And another thing that was really helpful for me was upgrading my and I know a lot of people had to do this when they went virtual but.

00:12:37.530 --> 00:12:44.880
shola kaye: Really upgrading my my keynote and also my software that I was using already started using crazy video.

00:12:45.300 --> 00:12:50.070
shola kaye: And not if it's not it's not like green screen it's you know it's not particularly complex at all.

00:12:50.400 --> 00:12:55.350
shola kaye: But a lot of the big enterprises because they have to be really careful about the software that they bring in.

00:12:55.650 --> 00:13:08.400
shola kaye: They haven't been exposed to to certain software, so one client now who i've got a very big leadership project with when I came in with praise video, which is like $9 a month or something.

00:13:08.730 --> 00:13:24.030
shola kaye: To us, they were like wow we love your keynote and your software is amazing, and then they booked me to do a very big leadership training, I said Oh, you are bringing that software on the set of copy if you won't see it, of course, if.

00:13:24.960 --> 00:13:37.290
Jane Atkinson: I have to tell you pamela Barnum was the first one who use press the video for us, we demonstrated it we had her in the school showing everybody how she used it and.

00:13:37.710 --> 00:13:54.570
Jane Atkinson: It she also got booked a lot, because she had and pres he is not like you said it's not a big huge expensive software and I think once you go comfortable with it, it just allows you to in a very easy way.

00:13:54.840 --> 00:14:02.220
Jane Atkinson: Change screens and show slides side by side, or whatever way you want to do it, and I think that.

00:14:02.880 --> 00:14:21.720
Jane Atkinson: Just it in my mind your intention was to level up, so it wouldn't matter what tools you use to level up it just matters that you cared about leveling up and taking your presentation to the next place and I think virtually people really saw that and they loved it.

00:14:22.500 --> 00:14:29.850
shola kaye: yeah definitely and I think another thing with the virtual is I made sure that my talks of super interactive.

00:14:30.270 --> 00:14:37.560
shola kaye: And for me it's it fires me up as well, because you never know with any audience what they're going to put in the chat box or.

00:14:38.100 --> 00:14:44.580
shola kaye: What what's the flavor going on their organization, so it kept me on my toes so that was the keynotes words fail.

00:14:44.850 --> 00:14:52.440
shola kaye: But also, they love the fact that they could put something in the chat and I would immediately address it in my keynote and say oh yeah Jane I totally agree with you, oh yeah.

00:14:53.010 --> 00:15:08.310
shola kaye: Well, and but really people come came away energized and feeling like they were closer to me and I felt like I was close to them and that really made a huge difference to me in terms of just that connection with the audience.

00:15:08.490 --> 00:15:16.710
Jane Atkinson: So, Nice and so imagine you go in and you do a keynote to kind of launch, whatever the event is live in person.

00:15:17.160 --> 00:15:30.150
Jane Atkinson: Then you can do these virtual events feeling like you already have some relationship with this audience Now let me ask you a little site question because it's about empathy and things like that.

00:15:30.510 --> 00:15:44.550
Jane Atkinson: Are people able to communicate with you anonymously and and i'm just wondering if people feel more comfortable saying difficult things in honestly in a corporate setting.

00:15:45.180 --> 00:15:55.470
shola kaye: um I think sometimes what happens is if there's an opportunity for them to connect with me, without having to share with everybody I see some comments come in and then I always.

00:15:56.160 --> 00:16:04.530
shola kaye: encourage people at the end to connect with me on linkedin and because I say well i've been talking for the last hour, but I want to hear from you, let me know what you're.

00:16:04.830 --> 00:16:12.960
shola kaye: What you're up for next and i've had people connect and say Oh, thank you, this topic of empathy you know i'm having struggles, with my with my wife.

00:16:13.290 --> 00:16:22.770
shola kaye: i'm going home right now to this keynote we're going to talk and this has given me the courage to have a conversation, so those little comments are really rewarding.

00:16:23.100 --> 00:16:37.050
Jane Atkinson: fuzzy for sure, and this business is rewarding I mean let's remind ourselves number one, the fact that anybody would even give us $500 for an hour of our time is crazy right.

00:16:38.280 --> 00:16:42.300
Jane Atkinson: These that we're talking about here are quite.

00:16:43.200 --> 00:16:52.380
Jane Atkinson: You know advanced and we're so lucky and grateful to be a part of this industry but also think about every one of you listening.

00:16:52.680 --> 00:17:10.920
Jane Atkinson: you're out there, changing people's lives and shola you your topic really goes right to the heart of what's going on in the workplace and being more empathetic in the workplace is such an important topic right now don't you think.

00:17:11.970 --> 00:17:21.060
shola kaye: yeah I mean, to be perfectly honest, I mean I started speaking about this probably four or five years ago with a tedx tool that I was lucky enough to get and.

00:17:21.660 --> 00:17:33.570
shola kaye: I remember thinking what, what can I speak on and I just ended up doing this topic, because it touched me in a connected with my own personal story, and he I was never to learn that years later, now empathy is.

00:17:34.230 --> 00:17:40.140
shola kaye: blowing up as a topic and it's it's it's a really big one, for many reasons, so yeah i'm super grateful.

00:17:40.410 --> 00:17:48.300
Jane Atkinson: That actually leads me to a point that I really just want to make on your behalf, and the fact that you've been brave enough.

00:17:48.600 --> 00:18:04.020
Jane Atkinson: To put your flag at the top of the mountain of empathy and say this is what i'm speaking on because really when we met you had a lot a larger repertoire of potential topics.

00:18:04.440 --> 00:18:14.790
Jane Atkinson: And you have been very brave about narrowing down your topics kind of to this one space and that can be a little bit scary sometimes.

00:18:15.870 --> 00:18:25.290
shola kaye: yeah absolutely and I remember when we went through my website and I had you know four or five different keynotes will definitely hedging my bets and I have a wonderful news of what.

00:18:25.920 --> 00:18:29.880
shola kaye: You said look try and tie them all together so that there's some kind of theme.

00:18:30.300 --> 00:18:44.550
shola kaye: going on and i'd already written a couple of books menial communication, so it felt really risky for me to move away even though empathy and communication costs are related it's not quite risky to move away.

00:18:45.420 --> 00:18:54.030
shola kaye: But one thing I found that helped, which is not the same extent of commitment as a full book was doing the White Paper, because.

00:18:54.810 --> 00:18:59.820
shola kaye: I found that I get quite a few leads from the White Paper, because people are interested in empathy.

00:19:00.240 --> 00:19:15.240
shola kaye: and obviously the time commitment is less, but it can be more in depth in a in a way, so if you're a bit intimidated out there by doing a whole book then maybe a White Paper, or you know something like that special report could be a way forward.

00:19:15.510 --> 00:19:30.120
Jane Atkinson: yeah any way to document kind of an and claim that stake in the ground that says, this is what I am an expert in I think that's a great way to go, it can also be an excellent lead magnet.

00:19:30.390 --> 00:19:38.490
Jane Atkinson: a White Paper, and so, how if people are curious about that, and would like to get a hold of the White Paper i'm totally putting you on the spot here.

00:19:39.750 --> 00:19:43.140
Jane Atkinson: Do you know the link off hand, or should we share it in the show notes.

00:19:43.590 --> 00:19:56.790
shola kaye: yeah if they go to my website shana just sort of underneath the image of me there's a banner there, and you can actually click and get hold of the White Paper, and I can give you the link later on for the show notes to Jane.

00:19:57.120 --> 00:20:05.850
Jane Atkinson: So shoulders s H O l a K is K Ay y

00:20:06.390 --> 00:20:07.230
shola kaye: it's dot com.

00:20:07.350 --> 00:20:08.730
Jane Atkinson: I think you have both but okay.

00:20:09.330 --> 00:20:10.110
shola kaye: I do yeah.

00:20:10.320 --> 00:20:24.000
Jane Atkinson: Perfect all right shola i'm incredible I really love talking to you if you had any advice for a speaker let's say who was just getting started like you were five or six years ago.

00:20:24.600 --> 00:20:32.100
Jane Atkinson: What would you tell them what advice, do you wish, you would have had five or six years ago, when you were first beginning.

00:20:33.990 --> 00:20:37.110
shola kaye: um I would say that it, although.

00:20:38.640 --> 00:20:51.510
shola kaye: Speaking business from the outside, can seem really hard to get into I think you've got to work on your skills you've got to work on being a good speaker solid speaker with a topic that people are interested in.

00:20:52.260 --> 00:20:59.010
shola kaye: But it also has to fire, you want to because i've had people come to me and say shoulder which picture I speak of it a hobby no you.

00:20:59.700 --> 00:21:14.580
shola kaye: Go you right so it's gonna come from it's going to resonate with you as an individual, but also be something that others are interested in so it's it's that working on two things at the same time, make sure that you're a solid.

00:21:15.240 --> 00:21:18.720
shola kaye: speaker but also you've got to work on the business side of things.

00:21:19.140 --> 00:21:27.840
shola kaye: So, and as I said, to Jane you know I got someone to help me initially and i've had people help me do a little bit of PR even when I had.

00:21:28.140 --> 00:21:40.110
shola kaye: almost no money i'd find someone you could do two hours a week, because I was too afraid to approach anyone right so you're afraid then just get someone to help you in the beginning, until you have that momentum.

00:21:40.860 --> 00:21:47.340
Jane Atkinson: And I love that they said we're going to pitch you to IBM and you're like nope okay.

00:21:48.510 --> 00:21:55.440
Jane Atkinson: let's do it, and then all of a sudden, IBM is interested and I will say that is exact but.

00:21:56.040 --> 00:22:05.550
Jane Atkinson: Something like that I know actually has happened, and your your client list is like the who's who so congratulations you've been.

00:22:05.880 --> 00:22:15.930
Jane Atkinson: I know there's been a little trepidation along the way, but you have been fearless in narrowing your lane, and I think that the market is really, really lucky that you to have you.

00:22:18.840 --> 00:22:23.190
shola kaye: Thank you day you've been so helpful i've really, really enjoyed our relationship and.

00:22:23.550 --> 00:22:27.000
shola kaye: Looking forward to it, continuing and doing even better and better stuff.

00:22:27.240 --> 00:22:33.540
Jane Atkinson: Yes, yes for sure now if people want to get in touch with you, would you say linkedin is the best way to do that.

00:22:34.590 --> 00:22:39.750
shola kaye: yeah connect with me on linkedin show the K, I have the what's it called the Creator.

00:22:40.980 --> 00:22:49.230
shola kaye: profile, so it looks it's easier to follow me then to connect but don't go through connect because i'd rather connect and just be followed, quite honestly.

00:22:49.680 --> 00:22:50.070
Jane Atkinson: awesome.

00:22:50.340 --> 00:23:02.850
Jane Atkinson: Well, thank you so much shola if you're listening in I hope that this is allowed you to think a little bit bigger in this is like the summer of possibility for me.

00:23:04.080 --> 00:23:14.520
Jane Atkinson: And i'm glad that has been that for you as well shola you're listening in I hope it is for you as well, and with that will say see you soon wealthy speakers bye for now.

Highlights you won’t want to miss:

  • Shola is into DEI and tech. [1:00]
  • Doubling down on speaking. [4:30]
  • Commanding larger fees & making big deals. [6:30]
  • Accelerating through COVID. [9:00]
  • Scaling up your software. [12:30]
  • Empathy is a hot topic. [17:30]
  • A narrow lane works wonders. [18:00]
  • Advice for new speakers. [20:30]

Shola has performed on four continents as a professional entertainer, which is why she values creating engaging and effective programs. Shola’s writing has appeared in industry publications such as Management Today and HR Zone, and she has been featured in Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar and on the BBC. Clients include Deloitte, American Express and The United Nations.

If you would like some great advice that may help you grow and scale, you simply can’t afford to miss this episode!

I hope you’ll download and learn.


Shola’s website
White Paper link
Shola’s books:  US  Canada  UK
Shola’s LinkedIn profile
Jane’s LinkedIn profile
The Wealthy Speaker School

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