A snapshot into the lives of people who hire speakers
Speaking of Women
For more than 60 years, the American Business Women’s Association (ABWA) has pro- vided professional development and networking opportunities for women
in business—both entrepreneurs and
employees. Executive director René
Street, who also has served as ABWA’s
marketing director and chief operations officer after working in the
business side of health care, hires
speakers for 15 to 20 events each
year, including regional and national
In addition to heavier content,
we offer lighter topics with a less
serious tone. For example, we have
addressed leadership through “Leading
with Integrity” on one track, and
“Motivation by Chocolate” on the
How do you like to receive
materials from speakers?
I’m visual, so I like hard-copy packets,
not links to a website. I prefer to receive
materials by postal mail, not email.
Janet Bailey: What drew you
to ABWA from the health care
René Street: The mission. ABWA’s
purpose is to mentor working
women, to help them maintain and
develop their professional skills and
business acumen. I have had great
opportunities and many mentors in
my career and, hopefully, I can pay
What should speakers know
Speakers should encourage ABWA audiences to take risks. Our members keep
trying new things, whether it’s interpreting a P&L sheet or adopting a new
technology. We’re saying, “You have
to move forward or you’ll be obsolete.
This is no longer a time when you can
Do you prefer to hire
I hire as many males as females to
speak. The important questions are:
Can the speaker relate to an all-female audience? Does this person
feel comfortable with an audience of
women? Do the speaker’s message
and personality fit our association?
After you deliver a speech, audience
members like to come over and talk
with you, so the speaker also needs to
be social and gracious with members.
What else do you look for in
It’s nice to put smiles on people’s faces,
but audiences also need learning that
is directly transferable to their job,
business or community. They need to
walk away saying, “That was worth my
I look for speakers who present on
key areas of business in a way that is
unique and tailored to the adult learner.
We offer MBA-level instruction on
subjects, such as strategic planning, mar-
keting, communication, finance, HR,
management and social media. Many
of our members have advanced degrees
and want to hear those topics presented
in a way that is not dry or academic.
René Street is executive director of the American Business Women’s Association. Street has collaborated with the U.S. State Department in
supporting women’s organizations abroad
and recently led the creation of a new ABWA
program, “Women as 21st Century Leaders,”
taught by a team of university educators. She
serves on the board of advisors for the
University of Kansas School of Management.
Janet Bailey helps organiza- tions improve focus and engagement through Precision Questioning & Answering, clear communication, and
mindfulness training. Learn more at www.