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Kelly MacDonald

March 13, 2014 by Speakers' Spotlight

Staff Spotlight On: Kelly MacDonald, Partner and Senior Vice President

Kelly MacDonald has acquired more than 25 years of experience in the meetings industry. While her career began on the logistical side of meeting planning, it was in content development and programming that she found her passion. Kelly became a speaker agent in 1994, and in 2003 joined Speakers’ Spotlight as a partner and senior vice-president. Kelly is inspired by the challenge of finding the perfect fit to match each event objective–the variety of audiences and types of events, the changing trends and issues of import, and the fact that in this business, the perfect fit is represented by many of the brightest minds and most fascinating individuals on the planet! We’ve put Kelly in the spotlight today:

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

I moved to the big city at a very young age and my plan was that someone would come along and notice how amazing I was.  So, no…but then–hey, I guess my plan worked!

I started in hotels because I thought it had a certain glamour to it, and it did, on top of all the hard work and long hours! The meetings industry was, and still is, a vibrant community, filled with lots of young people and lots of opportunity. I’ve never needed a resume and have always been well-employed, intrigued, fulfilled, and growing.

Any advice for people getting started in the industry?

My advice is to do what interests you…work hard, be curious, and you’ll find a path. I always see life as designing a room around a favourite piece of furniture.  You have a sense of your style, likes and dislikes, budget, and other current realities, and you figure it out. My sensibility fits well with the work we do as agents, matching different clients’ interests and objectives with speakers, whose stories, style, message, and expertise fits. It’s endlessly interesting to me.

I enjoy being a part of an entrepreneurial company and contributing to its  success.  At Speakers’ Spotlight, it has been fascinating to see how our services have grown along with the development of different strengths and specialties within our team. We have a Celebrity Division, Learning & Development Division, and we’re just building our Digital Division.  It’s wonderful to be in a business for so many years and to still feel at the beginning in so many ways.

On the speaker side? 

It’s a speaker’s job to stand out as the “go to” person in a particular field or topic. It’s something that happens quite organically for the most part, as we represent passionate, unique achievers from Olympians to renowned leaders and experts in a variety of fields. It’s said, “an agent isn’t interested in you until you don’t need them anymore,” and there’s some truth to that. When you consider our expertise and marketing reach and, most importantly, our reputation as a discerning resource, the relationships we’ve built as trusted advisors–we are a powerful catalyst. It’s a symbiotic relationship–each doing what we do best. So my advice is, if we’re not knocking on your door, keep honing your craft, building your brand, and our paths are sure to cross.

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

I have so many great stories!  My role at Speakers’ Spotlight has a lot to do with supporting our own industry associations such as the Canadian Society of Association Executives (CSAE), Meeting Professionals International (MPI), FICP, PCMA, and CanSPEP, so I am often on organizing committees and/or a sponsor. I experience the work of coming to a speaker decision and the slight trepidation of hoping all will come together as envisioned, and then am in the audience to bask in the glory! It’s a lovely thing!

What’s your favourite thing about working with clients?

It’s really rewarding when you have earned a client’s trust and can work together toward choosing the perfect speaker. It might begin as, “I need someone on teamwork for $10,000,” but when it becomes a conversation filled with background on the audience, the industry, the meeting objectives, the event’s history…all the nuance and intel that leads to an inspired solution–that’s interesting!

Desert island album?

I think it would be more plausible on a desert island to have a radio than a record player,  so I would be good as Toronto has the best 24 hour jazz station on the planet!

…Which brings us to the Celebrity Crush question that I was going to skip, but I’ve got it! I have a crush on guitarist John Pizzarelli (son of Bucky) and his wife, singer Jessica Molaskey, well.. more on their wonderfully designed life! They host “Radio Deluxe,” a two hour show aired from their living room high atop Lexington Avenue in New York City.  Not only do they choose music across the genre, playing with different themes and including  stories and curious asides, they are visited by jazz greats–from current jazz vocalist, Kurt Elling, to the very charming and accomplished jazz pianist (who recently passed away) Marion McPartland…How cool is that?!

I wonder if they speak…