January 10, 2014 by Speakers' Spotlight

Staff Spotlight On: Farah & Martin Perelmuter, Co-Founders & CEOs

Welcome to the first installment of our Staff “Spotlight On” at Speakers’ Spotlight. Obviously, we had to kick it off with Farah and Martin Perelmuter, the co-founders (and co-pilots in life) of the bureau. Enjoy!


Did you always want to work in the speaking industry? If not, what other careers did you consider?

To be honest, when I started Speakers’ Spotlight (at the ripe old age of 24) I’m not even sure I knew exactly what a speaker did…so, no, I didn’t grow up thinking I would work in this industry. I always knew I wanted to build a business, but my first “real” job was in advertising/marketing.

Any advice for people getting started in the industry?

My advice for this industry would be the same for any career choice–be sure you really love what you’re doing and concentrate on your strengths (I know you have heard that a million times, but it’s true).  If you want to be a speaker, you must be a leading expert in your field. We are approached by thousands, so you must stand out from the rest. To get to that level, there are no short cuts–it’s simply practice, practice, practice.

Of all the speakers on our roster, are there any who particularly inspire you personally?

Oh that’s a hard one! My answer would change depending on my mood, my stage in life, the changing needs of the business. I know that having spent nearly twenty years working with, and learning from, the most extraordinary speakers has had a massive impact on me as a business owner, a wife, a mother…too many speakers to name.

Do you have any great stories from events you’ve attended featuring Speakers’ Spotlight speakers?

We always have the best speakers at our annual Showcases. I remember one year we had Innovations and Trends Expert Max Valiquette present his keynote. The venue was packed with our clients and he was off to a fantastic start when all of a sudden his multimedia stopped. It was my personal nightmare, but like the true pro Max is, he started to improvise (he was hilarious), then when it became apparent that his A/V was not going to work, he got back on track on his own. His reviews were outstanding.

What’s your favourite thing about working with clients?

I love to go to the events to meet the clients, see the speakers, and also to watch the audience. Each type of speaker has a different effect on the crowd. I remember once Margaret Trudeau was telling her personal and emotional story, and the crowd was mesmerized. Quite a few people came over afterwards to share their own stories with her. The client and I spoke about the powerful connection made that day. I love those moments with clients.

Is there a charitable cause that you feel passionate about? Why?

I feel passionate about all of our causes, but perhaps the one I would signal out is Free The Children. Craig Kielburger and Marc Kielburger have created an outstanding social enterprise with over 1.7 million young people involved in its programs. We started represented the brothers many years ago and have been involved with the organization along the way. I’m proud that we have built a school, a well, sent medical supplies, and more. I think I’m even more proud that our daughter is now volunteering at their office.

Desert island album?

I think I better let Martin handle the music.

Best subject in school?


Last book you read?

Jack of Diamonds by Bryce Courtenay.

Last film you saw?

The Wolf of Wall Street.

Celebrity crush?

My husband, Martin. (But also John Travolta, as “Vinnie Barbarino“).

What risk did you take to get Speakers’ Spotlight of the ground?

There were a few! In the early days, Martin and I had nothing to lose and a lot of nerve! We should really write a book. One time, a client wanted a recommendation, and we were determined to get our speaker recommendation to them before any of our competitors did (this was before e-mail!). We couldn’t afford a courier, and when we arrived the building was locked, but we made our way inside, delivered our package and got out–fast. Still not sure if that alarm–and police car–was for us.


Did you always want to work in the speaking industry? If not, what other careers did you consider?

No. In fact, I didn’t even know there was a speaking industry stumbling into it in my early 20s. I practiced law for a very short time prior to co-founding Speakers’ Spotlight. Before that, I had thought about a career in sports journalism, but that dream was squashed early on during a radio broadcast of a Western Mustangs basketball game in London, Ontario. It’s a long story, but completely unbeknownst to him, Dan Shulman (who is now a play-by-play man with ESPN), set me on a different course. If I ever have the chance to meet him, I’d like to thank him for that. I think he saved me a great deal of heartbreak and disappointment.

Any advice for people getting started in the industry?

Every day, there is an opportunity to learn from and be inspired by thought leaders from pretty much every field or discipline. My advice would be to soak up as much from these people as you possibly can.

Of all the speakers on our roster, are there any who particularly inspire you personally?

Rubin “Hurricane” Carter has been one of the great inspirations for me, personally. I met Rubin shortly after we started Speakers’ Spotlight, and he believed in us, and gave us the opportunity to work with him, when not a lot of other people did. His example of “going the distance” and overcoming the incredibly adversities he’s faced in his life make the daily struggles of running a business pale in comparison. Whenever I’m having a rough day, or feel a little sorry for myself, all I need to do is think of Rubin, and suddenly I have a new perspective on my so called problems.

Do you have any great stories from events you’ve attended featuring Speakers’ Spotlight speakers?

There are so many. One that comes to mind took place during the Northeast Blackout of 2003. Our speaker, Alvin Law, was scheduled to deliver the closing keynote a conference taking place at the Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto. The title of his presentation was There’s No Such Word As Can’t, but ironically it didn’t look like he would be able to make it, as the airport was shut down. We had a back-up plan in place, but miraculously Alvin was able to parachute in at the last minute (I’m still not 100% sure how he made it). The hotel had power through a generator, but halfway through his presentation there was (another) power outage in the hotel. Alvin kept going, hardly missing a beat, and the 500+ people in attendance just leaned forward a bit, and were able to hear him (fortunately, Alvin has a very loud voice!). The presentation culminated in one of the longest, sustained standing ovations I’ve experienced. It was truly a memorable day.

What’s your favourite thing about working with clients?

Working with our clients allows me to hear first-hand what topics and themes they are most interested in, what issues and opportunities are most significant for them, and what they are looking for their speakers to deliver. This really allows me to help them find the best speakers for their events, and anticipate what the trends are going forward. Also, there are few things that give me more satisfaction than helping a client find the speaker who perfectly fits their objectives and event.

Is there a charitable cause that you feel passionate about? Why?

We support four incredible charitable causes: charity: water, Free The Children, and Pathways to Education Canada, all of which I’m feel incredibly passionate about. I’m especially passionate about Pathways, as I’ve seen firsthand the impact they have on the young people and communities they serve.

Desert island album?

Anyone who knows me, knows that I’m a bit of a music fanatic, making this is a very difficult question for me to answer. I’ll need to provide a thorough explanation of my thought process, considerations, and the rationale that led me to my selection.

First off, I am one of those people who (for some inexplicable reason) walks around with a desert (or is it deserted?) island album list in my head. At any given moment, it usually includes some fairly obvious choices , including:

1.             Abbey Road by the Beatles;

2.             Dark Side of the Moon by Pink Floyd; and

3.             Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan.

As well as some more obscure selections, including:

1.             Forever Changes by Love;

2.             Bryter Layter by Nick Drake; and

3.             Stormcock by Roy Harper.

And some newer discoveries, including:

1.             Once I Was An Eagle by Laura Marling;

2.             Queen of Denmark by John Grant; and

3.             The Wild Hunt by The Tallest Man on Earth.

As I pondered this question more seriously, I began to think that maybe a live album was the way to go. Being isolated on a desert island would no doubt be lonely, and hearing the interaction between the artist and audience, along with the spontaneity of the performance, might create a sense of connection and community between me and the music. So I decided this was the way to go, and immediately thought of three live albums to shortlist:

1.             Live at Leeds by The Who;

2.             At Fillmore East by The Allman Brothers Band; and

3.             Live At Massey Hall by Neil Young.

I was leaning toward Live at Massey Hall. It was recorded at one of my favourite music venues, in my home town of Toronto, and would give me a strong sense of connection to home.

And then it occurred to me. If I could only take one album with me, there  was an obvious choice I hadn’t thought of previously: The Last Waltz.

The Last Waltz was The Band’s  farewell concert, held on American Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1976, at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco. They were joined by more than a dozen special guests, including Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Dr. John, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, Muddy Waters, The Staple Singers, Eric Clapton, and even Neil Diamond (I used to be a closet Neil Diamond fan, until I read David Wild’s excellent book; He Is…I Say: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Neil Diamond, which I’d highly recommend!).

Van the Man’s version of “Caravan” is a show-stopper, and The Band’s performance of “The Weight” with The Staple Singers is pure magic. “I Shall Be Released”, which The Band and all its guests (with the exception of Muddy Waters), and with the addition of Ringo Starr on drums and Ronnie Wood on guitar, is the perfect closing number.

I can sleep well tonight knowing that if I ever happen to take a proverbial three hour tour on the S.S. Minnow, I’ll be sure to bring a copy of The Last Waltz with me, just in case.

Best subject in school?


Last book you read?

The Fortress of Solitude by Jonathan Lethem.

Last film you saw?

Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues (with my son).

Celebrity crush?

If 18 years of working with my wife has taught be anything, it’s this: Do not answer this question under any circumstances. Next question please!