Holly Duckworth of ‘Leadership Solutions International’: “Do what you love”

The most important tip for any person seeking a career as an effective and empowering speaker is be you fully. Share your story authentically and often. Do what you love — working as a professional speaker/entrepreneur is hard work. You have to truly love it to give it all you got. Pick a message and offering that inspires […]

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The most important tip for any person seeking a career as an effective and empowering speaker is be you fully. Share your story authentically and often.

Do what you love — working as a professional speaker/entrepreneur is hard work. You have to truly love it to give it all you got. Pick a message and offering that inspires you it will make you better on stage.

Rally your community — Before and during your career you are going to want and need a community around you. Get them behind you even before you put up your shingle

As a part of our series about Inspirational Women of the Speaking Circuit, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Holly Duckworth, CAE, CMP, LSP, CWMF

Holly unleashes human potential through mindfulness techniques applied in employee relations, business culture, sales, and customer experience. As a trainer, speaker, and coach, Leadership Solutions International, her company improves business results in real estate, financial services, and health care industries. Holly is the host/producer of the Everyday Mindfulness Show and author of four award winning books. www.LeadershipSolutionsIntl.com

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?

Where you start is not where you end up. No part of my journey did I think I would be a professional speaker. I grew up in quite the opposite scenario. I grew up in a double wide trailer park in a small town just south of Portland Oregon. My first job was at 16, I was “Holly Hallmark” selling cards and gifts at our local Hallmark store. As a proud Linfield Wildcat I am first in my family to graduate college. I worked all thru schools with Bank of America. Keep saying “yes” and new people, experiences and careers show up.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Finding my career path as a professional speaker was equal parts planning and luck. Post college I worked at Travel Portland Oregon the visitor’s association for Portland, Oregon. In that role I learned my passion for people, events and planning. After 8years in convention services it became clear that that path had reached a dead end. At that time my volunteer pursuits for Meeting Professionals International lead to a job. As the Chapter Business Manager, I was teaching leadership and business planning for an industry that had watched me grow. In 2010 that still small voice inside me said “The skills you have need to be offered to a larger audience.” With that I quit my job and started what was then Event & Meeting Solutions. Event planning behind the scenes revealed my love of speaking and teaching. I transferred that to Leadership Solutions International and public speaking/authorship. Curiosity and discovery lead me to this career.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Oh my, there are so many. Most of them are about meeting people and finding yourself in places you never dreamed you would be in, and it’s fun.

As a proud past-chapter president for the National Speakers Association (NSA) I’ve had the honor of attending many NSA conventions and meeting many of our world’s great thought leaders. One of them was Nido Qubein, the president of High Pointe University. As my speaking travels would have it I would have a speaking engagement near the university. Some would call it bold; I was just being me. I reached out to him for a tour. When I arrived, my name was in lights on my reserved parking place. I would find out that day was Martin Luther King Jr, day. Nido quickly invited me to be his guest at the campus prayer celebration. It felt so amazing to be in that place on that day. After the ceremony Nido hosted us for an incredible lunch in his private dining room. He answered questions, gifts and shared his energy so generously.

I have many stories of meeting amazing people in amazing places doing amazing things. This is just one. Keep asking.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Funny how your brain helps you to forget these things.

Oh, here is one. Off stage but illuminates how as a professional speaker there is no on stage and off. Early in my leadership career I had to host event dignitaries, often for meals. In one experience I was hosting an etiquette expert for a training the next day. We went to dinner. Completely not thinking I ordered a barbeque chicken sandwich. You see where I am going? A sandwich with soft bread, piles of chicken and sauce everywhere. The second the waiter put it in front of me I realized the challenge before me. How do you eat this in front of Ms. Etiquette? After a few awkward moments of hands, forks, napkins. She generously laughed; my face must have been white with terror. She proceeded to tell me business meal etiquette number one, order what you can eat easily not what you want. To this day I am still embarrassed, and she still remembers me.

As a professional you will have lots of meals with clients. How you present yourself at these meals is a reflection of how you are on stage. Choose wisely.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

So many people have supported me on my path from small town to success. One early and unsung hero was my co-worker at what is now Travel Portland, Jackie Harper, CMP. Jackie saw my potential early and encouraged me strongly to attain my Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) designation. Knowing that Jackie saw my potential and supported my education led me to go on to work for many organizations and attain other designations. I am forever grateful for her belief in me.

You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?

Accept it. You will fail. You will mess up and you will get better. I say from my own experience, leap and the net will appear.

What drives you to get up every day and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?

People are hurting mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, supporting them at home and work inspires me to get up each day.

Can you share with our readers a few of your most important tips about how to be an effective and empowering speaker? Can you please share some examples or stories?

The most important tip for any person seeking a career as an effective and empowering speaker is be you fully. Share your story authentically and often.

Do what you love — working as a professional speaker/entrepreneur is hard work. You have to truly love it to give it all you got. Pick a message and offering that inspires you it will make you better on stage.

Rally your community — Before and during your career you are going to want and need a community around you. Get them behind you even before you put up your shingle.

As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?

I can’t really speak authentically to this because I don’t have the fear of speaking. Yeah, I might get a few butterflies before as speaking engagement but that more out of my desire to serve with the right message than fear of the stage.

If you have the fear of speaking in public maybe grow your audiences over time. There is no shame in speaking to small groups and slowly growing audience size over time.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

  1. Get paid –

It’s super easy in this social enabled world for people to ask you — Hey I have this meeting and I need a speaker for just 10 minutes can you do it for free.

Honor yourself and your craft, all the money, education and experience you have put into earning the right to be on stage and get paid.

2. Ask for help –

Oh boy do I wish I was told this one. Women are conditioned by society that we have to do it all. The longer you do this work the more you realize that the most successful speakers ask for help. They don’t do it themselves.

3. Allow yourself to receive –

There is so much focus in our world about giving. We must remember there is no giving without the equal and opposite energy — receiving. To be a successful speaker/business owner you must also be willing to receive. Be willing to receive help, support, ideas, feedback, and financial support. Receive all these forms of love knowing that you are always giving. And you can’t give from an empty tank.

4. Go for the big thing you never think you could do –

On day one of my company, I did something I never had any idea would be so powerful. I printed out blank contracts then I proceeded to fill in each contract as if I was working for those dream clients. I wrote out 5 of these with the company names, project definitions, and payment. Then I put them away in a drawer. Years later I found them. More profound, I had worked with all 5 organizations in the way I had contracted or something even better.

5. Give your projects a lifeline (some think of it as a deadline)

My first book got stuck in labor and delivery for 4 years. It made it incredibly difficult to consider writing books 2, 3 and 4. To be successful give every project you undertake a lifeline. A life line vs a deadline gives you more positive energy for the work you are trying to complete. You actually get excited to see your project take life.

You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?

Humans are exhausted right now. My experience and intuition say less is more. My 2020 phrase was “do less better”. In that energy I’m excited about my 2021 Chaos to Calm Mindful Leadership Challenges these 5-day micro-classes are for the mindful curious. The first week of very month we offer the challenges. We teach personal practices to mindfulness the first days and then transition to show people how the practices support business. Each day the sessions close with a mindful practice so leaders learn they can meditate and see/feel the results.

Can you share with our readers any self-care routines, practices or treatments that you do to help your body, mind or heart to thrive? Please share a story for each one if you can.

I teach mindfulness, the practice of being present in the moment for better business results. Therefore, I must live the brand.

Reading — always be learning and love what you read.

Bath time — taking care of your body by reducing stress and having self-time is key for you to give yourself from the stage.

Manicures — Many are surprised to learn I have my real nails and I do my own manicures for the most part. This self care practice lets me be me, focus and creative at the same time.

Time with friends keeps me grounded, authentic, and real.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

“Do what you love, and you never work a day in your life.” While these words are often attributed to many different people, I know them as the words of my dad who shared them while we built my sixth-grade catapult for science class. In that moment I knew my dad was doing a job he endured, for the sake of our family. In the energy of these words, he planted the seeds that would become many of the chapters of my career that I have loved.

You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?

I hope that the work I am doing now is inspiring a movement. In the world of 24/7/365 technology the power of human-to-human connection and mindfulness is more important now than ever. I will keep providing leadership solutions thru mindfulness.

Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!

Love the question, and I’ve never been asked it before. While in a post pandemic world lunch with anyone outside my household would be welcomed, I would love to have a mini-lunch with a small group of women to observe, watch and listen to what’s on their heart. I love bringing people from various walks of life and perspectives together. Women that come to mind would be Sharon Salzberg (mindfulness), Sheryl Sandberg (Facebook), Kamala Harris (politics), Tara Brach (mindfulness), Brene Brown (education), Melinda Gates (philanthropy). I would love to match them with younger professionals in complimentary fields and see where the conversations would go.

Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?


This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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