> mastHERclass

Mastering The Art And Business Of Event Speaking

mastHERclass is an 8-week workshop for women of color on mastering the art and business of event speaking. Six weeks of online preparation are followed by 10 days of one-on-one phone calls, culminating in a 1-day conference at which participants deliver their own keynote address.

Keisha Mabry didn’t set out to teach others how to be high-powered speakers. She wanted to be one herself. And she succeeded—within two short years, Mabry was speaking at events held by Fortune 100 and 500 companies, not to mention colleges, universities and conferences.

She noticed right away though that there weren’t a lot of women speaking—she would often be the only one. And she was almost always the only woman of color.  “I started asking myself, is it that women of color aren’t interested in speaking?” says Mabry. “Or are we not creating space for them to get into this industry?”

Mabry became pretty vocal on LinkedIn about it, and quickly got a substantial following. “So many women and women of color started reaching out to me,” she says. They would tell her they’d been trying to get into speaking, but it was really hard, or they weren’t getting paid like she was (Mabry regularly commands $5,000-$10,000 per corporate engagement).

With a background in teaching—with Teach For America, at the collegiate level, and improv classes—Mabry was perfectly suited to help others get what she had achieved. “I know how to choose my words, and I know how to get a message across to an audience regardless of the type of talk it is. Whether it’s a panel or a keynote or a fireside chat.” Most importantly— Mabry used to coach speakers of TEDx Talks—who are professionals at the top of their field.  “I use that same coaching method to coach the women of mastHERclass,” Mabry says.

Women of color, says Mabry, struggle to get into the speaking space for three main reasons: they haven’t had practice and therefore aren’t comfortable or confident on the stage, they don’t know where to start or have the tools they need to get started and they don’t have the networks or the “credible” stage experience to get noticed. mastHERclass provides an opportunity that solves for all three.

“I provide them with a lesson planning template to figure out their exact topic and techniques for having the most possible impact,” says Mabry. “I show them how their talk can be both bold and inspirational, but also provide the tangible takeaways their audience can implement immediately.”

Speakers get a chance to deliver a 60-minute keynote followed by 15-minutes of Q&A in front of a supportive audience of 250-300 women. Topics are centered on things that can help other women build their brands and businesses, and topics for the inaugural 2019 mastHERclass ranged from event production and sponsorship to brand building, finding one’s voice, content creation and getting into speaking which was led by Mabry herself.

Mabry notes that St. Louis leads the nation in women-led businesses (according to a 2019 article by the Riverfront Times), but there aren’t a lot of programs focusing on educating women in business, especially women of color, or getting the investment they need to start. And of the ones that do exist in our region and beyond, most, says Mabry, are merely inspirational. “You don’t get any tangible takeaways,” says Mabry, who made sure hers was different.

In addition to an edited video of their keynote, speakers come away with a network they’ll have for life. Mabry regularly checks in, trades gigs, shares contacts and information with her speakers. “You can’t get this anywhere else,” says Mabry. “Bureau websites are not user friendly making it uber hard for event planners to sort and filter for women of color, distribution lists are just that—lists and agents book gigs for you without addressing the confidence piece which is necessary. mastHERclass is looking at the holistic problem and solving for it accordingly.”

Mabry says she was blown away by the response to mastHERclass’s first year and is excited to see the initiative grow, develop and have an even bigger impact in the coming years. In addition to considering expanding beyond St. Louis, she’s even thinking of offering a digital version.

“Most people said mastHERclass was life-changing for them,” says Mabry and she agrees because mastHERclass was life-changing for her too. But her goal is to not only change lives but to change the industry. Keynote speaking needs more diversity, says Mabry, and she and her team— Joyce Bogan, Stacey Pugh, Naretha Hopson, and Timothy Moore—are committed to changing the face of the industry one  speakHER at a time.

If you want to get involved, visit www.themastherclass.com or email Keisha at [email protected].


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