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Episode 64: See Her To Be Her - Allison Howard

Allison Howard was named the first-ever President of KC Current on May 24, 2022. Howard joined the club after a ten-year career with the Los Angeles Lakers. She spent the previous five years serving as Vice President of Corporate Partnerships, where she was instrumental in closing the Lakers’ most successful partnerships and led the organization’s corporate partnership strategy that surpassed $350 million in revenue.

Prior to her time with the Lakers, Howard was Vice President at Premier Partnerships where she sold and managed naming rights partnerships all over the country. She was also recognized as a “Woman of Inspiration” from WISE LA (Women in Sports and Events, Los Angeles) and served on the WISE LA board for 10 years.

KC Current and Kansas City Bank of America have just announced their community partnership – congratulations!

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Hey, it’s Jen Vellenga. JRT and I are so excited to bring this interview with Allison Howard to you. She is the president of KC Current. It’s the Kansas City team in the National Women’s Soccer League. This episode releases on May 9th, the very day that KC Current. And Kansas City Bank of America announced their partnership.

We are so excited about this because the president of the Kansas City Bank of America, Matt Linski, has been a great supporter of our work and United We and all things Kansas City-centric. Welcome or welcome back to the Speak with Presence podcast. This is where perfection is overrated, leaders listen, and we all speak up to influence change.

I’m Jen Vellenga. I’m here with my cohost, Jennifer Rettele Thomas. We’re the co-founders of Voice First World, a communication coaching company. While you’re listening and checking out the show notes for today’s guest. Take a moment to rate and review the Speak with Presence podcast. It really helps people just like you find us.

We’ve got a message for you all from Matt Linski, the president of the Kansas City Bank of America, and then an intro by Wendy Doyle, the CEO of United We. Here’s Matt. Yeah, we’re so excited about the opportunity to partner with the KC Current, with the owners, with Allison. Their vision on the community, our vision on the community, our vision on one Kansas City, investing in downtown, investing in women.

This is just the perfect match. No soccer pun intended. So super excited about the future, and just thank you for letting me be a part of this, and congratulations. Thanks, Matt. We’re so excited to be some small part of sharing your news. Here’s Wendy. Allison is an exceptional leader in the sports world and beyond.

She is a brilliant businesswoman and an important asset to the Kansas City community. United We has had the pleasure of partnering with the KC Current. Allison is truly elevating gender equity in sports, and we’re honored to have her here in Kansas City.

With Allison Howard, president of KC Current. We are on location today in Kansas City, Missouri, at the KC Current training complex on Teal Rising Way. We are interviewing Allison Howard, the president of the KC Current professional women’s soccer team. She was named the first president on May 24th of 2022. And let’s just say that Kansas City pulled her away from the LA Lakers in Los Angeles.

They did, JRT, and what a good find Kansas City got. Allison, we’re here because of your leadership in the women’s sports arena. You are spearheading the world’s first ever women’s professional soccer stadium right here on the Missouri River. And we honor you today for using your voice not only to champion professional women’s soccer but as an advocate for advancing and hiring women in the sports industry.

You help women navigate and accelerate their careers. You help them understand their collective value, and you foster peer connections, which are all things we care deeply about since we started our business two years ago. So we just want to say thank you for inviting us here and welcome to the Speak with Presence podcast.

Thank you so much for having me. This is really an honor for me, and I always love showing the training center to new fans. So it’s really our pleasure to have you. For those who are listening in, we are sitting in a conference room that overlooks the pitch. Is it a, is it a pitch when it’s a training facility?

Oh yeah. Oh yeah. So we have three behind us right now. Two are dedicated, the two closest to the training center are dedicated to our players. And then pitch number three. Is empty right now because, uh, school is in session, but otherwise, from four to nine, Monday through Friday, it is booked straight. And on Saturday and Sunday, seven to seven, it is booked straight.

And then you can see, we have a little bit of dirt moving, uh, behind us where we are. We’ve already paved the parking lot, um, the academy building where our, um, youth girls team, uh, which will be the best. players in the country that will be playing here. Um, that is almost completed. That will be done next month.

And then behind that will be four more pitches that will also be for rent and that will be completed by July. So we are really, really clicking over here. Wow. That’s, that’s amazing. You know, we were doing our research about you, and we learned. If we got this right, that you have a background in civil engineering.

Does that feel like forever ago? It feels like decades and decades and decades ago, a whole lifetime ago. But does that training impact what you understand about the build that’s happening behind us? You know, what’s funny is David Young at J. E. Dunn. Um, when I was over at the stadium site, this was several months ago, and I just started kind of casually asking some questions about it.

And he kind of gave me a puzzled look like, how do you know so much about this stuff? And so I did share that, um, I graduated with my civil engineering degree and, and did that for a couple of years until I was fortunate enough to, uh, stumble into the business of sports. And that’s where, that’s where my love lays now.

Well, you’re amazing at it, and I think an engineering degree serves you in lots of different ways, so it didn’t hurt you to do that. No, it didn’t. And in fact, I actually struggled with it. And, um, I was the type of kid that school came super easy for me up until I got to college and picked civil engineering degree and had to do calculus four and just crazy calculations.

The way that I survived was going to my professors literally every day and like, I’m not getting this. I don’t get this. And asking for help. And using your voice, using my voice, and also swallowing the pride, right? Like recognizing that I needed help if I was going to make this happen. And, um, and I also had two voices in the back of my head that were naysayers.

That when I had told two different people what I was going to be doing, they said, oh, well, good luck graduating. That’s never going to happen. And that was kind of all I needed to say, oh, really? Watch me. Watch me. So, there’s still a little bit of that chip on my shoulder at 46 years old. So, um, You know, that it did serve me well though, but I did, you did have to learn how to use your voice, and you had to learn to recognize where your strengths are, but also where your weaknesses are and how to grow those weaknesses into strengths.

Good message for our listeners. I’m curious because, I mean, I’m known for stalking people. All right. I’m just going to be very honest with you. I am a stalker. I will own it. So that feels less personal. Okay. So, I was trying to do the math. So you got the civil engineering, you transitioned into women’s sports. About how many years were you doing the civil engineering thing before you made the transition? I worked, um, Shell recruited me out of school. I accepted a job, um, while I was still in school for Shell. Um, and so I graduated in 2000. So, I moved out to Los Angeles in the fall of 2000. From where?

From, um, University of Dayton in Ohio. Okay. And, um, And did that for two years. And then Shell actually wanted me to move to Houston and run an ADA program for them. And so I was, gosh, however old I was, I don’t know, 25 years old. And I had been in Los Angeles, I grew up in the Midwest. I’m from Michigan.

Went to school in Ohio. Um, and. And I’d only been in Los Angeles less than two years, and I’m like, I’m not ready to give this place up. Cause I knew at the time when I was going to whenever I left Los Angeles, I was going to be done with it, and I probably wouldn’t move back. And so, and I didn’t feel done with it after less than two years.

And so then I did some other work in the petroleum industry, super, super sexy, um, hard hat. I mean, I literally was hard hat. Um, but I really enjoyed it. I mean, you’re my kind of gal, but I loved the project management of it. I loved seeing things through to completion. I loved being, coming up with solutions, um, and you know, California is a leading state for our country for environmental concerns.

I loved feeling like I was making an impact there with the environment. But then I, so then I worked for, um, a construction company kind of doing the same thing, but just fell out of love with it. And, um, and that was really my first look-in-the-mirror career moment. Um, and there was, there’s been three in my life, and that was my first where I just said, this is not it.

And I was newly married, and my husband… I actually found the job opening for this small sports marketing agency called Premier Partnerships and said, I think you’d be great at this. Like you were a young athlete. You know the power of sports, especially for young girls. And I think that this, you would be great at this.

Um, so I went in and met the president, Randy Bernstein. I think I went in even on like, a Saturday, um, to interview for it, and we just hit it off, and I was employee number five, and he took me under his wing and brought me all over the country. Um, I just had some tremendous experiences, but I was never shy.

I mean, I was never shy about introducing myself to, and that was never a problem with me. Like, I was just a kid that was born with confidence, um, and, and I mean, going up to Jerry Jones, introducing myself, going up to Adam Silver, introducing myself, Don Gartner, like all huge names in the sports world and, um, and speaking, you know, with confidence and conviction and having something of purpose, though, to say, which I think it’s not just, hi, I’m Allison Howard. Here’s my resume. Can you maybe one day hire me? Right?

It’s having some form of connection where I think that especially a lot of older established people, and I feel this now myself, are more than happy to help young people, right? And help make connections. There has to be something tangible there. You have to show me you’ve put some effort in, not just coming up and handing me a resume or saying you’d really like to come and work for me.

That’s not, that’s not going to quite do it. And, um, and I was very fortunate that Randy gave me that platform to go to New York, go to these sports business awards, go to these different conventions and, um, And speak on panels and so people could see who I was and, but I do all the research for it, right?

You have to put your own work in. Um, and then I had a very successful career there. Uh, but then I had two babies back to back and was tired of breastfeeding in random airports all over the country and without really breastfeeding, pumping, um, and dumping and traveling everywhere and, you know, just, it wasn’t working.

So then fast forward to, um, fall of 2011, and the NBA had just gone into a lockout with the players in the league, and I had made really strong connections at the NBA, and one of my friends there called and said, I think you need to look at this sales job with the Lakers. And actually, my first reaction was, oh, the Lakers, they just win, and they dominate.

Do they really need any help? And cause they had just come back of, they had won, and then they had made it all the way to the finals. And, and the year before, but it had lost. And she said, I think you’d like it. And so I went in, and I met the team president, who’s still there, Tim Harris. And literally within two minutes, he said, I know you’re a mom, and I can make this job work for you.

And that was It’s all I needed. His dad did three kids, three boys, very involved, still to this day. Um, and in fact, he had just texted me last week, um, because this kid was admitted, um, and admitted to a basketball program for a school. And um, he’s just, he’s a super involved dad, and he got it. Right. And that was really kind of all I needed.

Um, because I couldn’t do the agency work anymore. I couldn’t travel back and forth, right? So that was my second look-in-the-mirror moment. And, um, because it was a little bit risky, right? To go to the Lakers. They were obviously, you know, an established brand, and that was over a decade ago. Um, and like, gosh, do they really need me?

Am I going to be successful here? Am I going to have an impact here? Am I going to be able to change anything? Do they need me to change anything? What is there to sell? Haven’t they sold everything? All of those good questions. But, um. But I believed in what Tim was sharing with me and, um, took a chance on that and had a very successful career there as well.

Got to have some amazing experiences. And the league really changed a lot in those 10 years that I was there. They opened up international rates. I got to travel internationally, um, the Jersey patch was huge. We um, and then the Lakers, nobody would believe it now, but, um, you know, the Lakers opened up their training center 2017.

But before then, they were in three different locations. It was really discombobulated. The training center where they were working, like, where Kobe worked out, where Shaq worked out, where Robert Horry worked out, right, was one-and-a-half basketball courts. And that, you know, and that was that section over there.

And then the business side was over across, uh, the parking lot in a different building. And Tim would even say, as we would bring people in to pitch them, you know, big deals, um, you would never know this was the Lakers training complex if not for the pictures on the walls. And that’s why they spent 100 million on their training complex, um, still in El Segundo.

Um, not just, gosh, like a block and a half away from the old place. And, um, so then that was another opportunity that was presented to, to me. And we found just the perfect partner there with UCLA Health. And that was just such a great relationship. They’re still partners. In fact, they extended it. Um, they are wonderful partners for the Lakers.

Um, and so, there was a, there ended up being a lot of opportunity for me to really work with a tremendous group of individuals and, and doing some really valuable partnerships that, um, were good for everybody. Good for the community, good for the team, good for the brand. Um, and really got a chance to grow there.

So when you say you weren’t sure what you could contribute to a very successful team like the L.A. Lakers, what do you feel your biggest contribution was? What’s your legacy there now that, now that we stole you away here in Kansas City, what was your legacy there? I think there’s, there’s, uh, breadcrumbs in evidence of past.

Yeah, I think the depth and the relationships, I really think of myself as a relationship person. And in fact, I was talking about it with my husband this morning on, you know, we are so close. Well, today is a very exciting day for us as we have a huge partnership announcement. And there’s more to come. I think what I really pride myself on is at the Lakers, they had 30 to 35 different partners.

It’s really pretty small for the NBA. The NBA average is over 100. And at the Lakers, when I was there, we really prided ourselves on a small number but a really large voice. Every single one of those contracts is wildly different. Right. So there’s three bank partners, at least, you know, when I was there, there were three bank partners that we had, but those three bank partners could, couldn’t be more opposite.

Right. And that’s what I really prided myself on is let’s create unique opportunities for each of these partners to shine in. I always wanted to have the brand feel like my team was an extension of them. I want to know. Everything about this brand, as much as I can, without being an employee of UCLA Health, of Verizon, of American Express, of the different partners, right?

Educate me so that when I’m looking at these partnerships, I’m creating and crafting. Bespoke partnerships that feel authentic to the brand. Cause that’s, what’s going to keep you renewing at a hundred percent rate and make whoever our advocate is inside of those brands. Make it easy for them to go to their board or go to their boss or go to their CEO and say, absolutely, we need to continue this relationship, and that’s what we’re trying to do here, right?

Really sit down, but it’s time-consuming, and if you haven’t noticed, we had a lot of stuff going on here in Kansas City. It’s a really good time for Kansas City. And so we are releasing this podcast. We are recording it on Thursday, May 4th, but we’re releasing it on the very day. Tell us what’s happening on May 9th.

We are so excited to announce a multi-year commitment with Bank of America. And what makes me so thrilled about this deal is it really was driven. Matt Linski, the president here, who so many people know because he is such a tremendous human being. He really has been working on this. He was one of the first people that I met.

Um, when I, so I, I’m just shy of a year. I cannot believe it. Um, but I’m just shy of my year anniversary here. He was one of the first people that I met here, and he just has been cultivating and working on this. Um, really, since even before I got here, he just, he believes so much in what we are doing, And he has been it being an internal advocate for it. And you’re right, today is the fourth. And from here, I’m gonna go to our stadium site and meet some people from the headquarters that are flying in to take a look at our training center as well as our stadium.

Because this, while this is really controlled by Matt and his team here, this has national eyeballs on it. So we feel so fortunate that so many people at very high levels all over the country in Bank of America have our eyeballs, have their eyeballs on here. Global too, right, Allison? Yeah. I mean, maybe not today, but this is global future.

Well, we have global aspirations for sure, not only for our team but with our partners. And there are a couple in the works, knock on wood, that are global in nature, are global organizations, very, very global organizations, that we hope to be announcing soon. Um, very large partnerships, um, because we do want to take over the world.

We want to be the best women’s football club on the planet, hands down, right? And we want agents and players to know about it, but we want brands because we want this message to spread, right? I mean, Angie Long has a long time said, We might be the first, but there’s no way we want to be the last. We want to open up our playbook for everything that has worked here and help replicate it around the globe.

I mean, I’m just excited for us to watch that happen here in Kansas City. Now, for you listeners, you may be hearing some music in the background, but this is the beauty of going on location that the, the women football or soccer players are practicing right below us. And they’ve got their music on because, you know, who doesn’t practice well with music?

So if you’re hearing that, that’s where we are. We’re truly on location. Well, hopefully, if we get lucky, we’ll hear a little karaoke down there, too. Some of our more vocal players have a tendency to just start belting things out. But it really is, you know, speaking of this place, it’s a huge competitive advantage, like, let’s make no mistake.

Kansas City Current is about bringing championships home to Kansas City. Everything we do has that end goal in mind. Kansas City is a city of champions, Allison. That’s true. It’s very true, and we want to continue to add to that. But that goes, I mean, obviously for everything that we’ve been able to do for the players, but also that’s our mindset when we go into looking at partnerships.

Who is going to be with us long term? Who is going to be here to commit with us for what this team needs? What the players need? This is not just about local slaps. This is what are we doing in the community? What are we doing downstairs for our individual players? What are we doing for them collectively as a group?

We really, really try to make almost every decision possible. A 361. Love that. It’s why you’re gonna be sustainable. You had many opportunities. You were doing great in LA, but what I’ve heard from you, what I have read, is the commitment by the owners. And that’s what made the difference for you. And What you just said is their mindset is about building out champions here in Kansas City and globally.

Kansas City is the home, the heart, in many things. And you get to be a part of leading that. Yeah, that was, that was my third look-in-the-mirror moment for my career. Um, there, we, I was fortunate enough to be a part of, um, finding the New Jersey Patch partner for the Lakers. Um, with Bibigo, just a tremendously amazing Korean food company.

Um, and DWS, an investment financial firm out of Germany. They became an international partner for the Lakers. And we announced both of those in September of ‘21. And… I, you know, again, there was a team of people that made, made that happen. Um, but I just kind of looked in the mirror and like, okay, what’s next?

What is this? How is this impacting the things that I’m ready to really impact? How am I impacting the team at the Lakers? How am I impacting more employees at the Lakers? How am I impacting my employees, my community? And the impact for the brands is, is obvious. But what about the employees at those brands?

What am I, what, how is my contribution leaking out into them? And that’s when I knew that. You know, the Lakers run clearly as, you know, never been better. They’re moving. They moved on to the second round of the playoffs. The team is looking amazing, but the brand will just never sour. So what more can I add to that?

And, you know, and again, it’s my husband and I are both from the Midwest. I think we kind of felt the Midwest calling back. We have two boys, 11 and 13. We’re at that pivotal moment where it’s time to make a move, or you’re settled, right? I’m not, I know kids can be adaptable, and this is nothing against anybody who moves their kids around, you know, all the time. But we really felt like the Midwest was calling.

Um, and so actually, Julie Ehrlman, who is the president of Angel City and a co-founder, I met her through a mutual friend of mine. And, um, you know, she and I had breakfast, and she was talking about the league, and I was just kind of explained, what do I want to do? And I love the NBA. I feel so, so, so strongly about Adam Silver, and I’m fortunate enough, I’ve worked in sports for 20 years, and so I kind of have my fingers on the pulse of all the leagues and who’s doing things right, and the teams, and who, blah, blah, and I was just kind of like throwing different ideas out, and, um, and I had explored soccer, um, and then when Julie and I sat down, I think she literally said, Oh my God, we need you.

You need to come over here. And she said, you have to meet Angie and Chris Long. You have to meet them. They are doing some incredible things in Kansas City. And so she told me a little bit, um, and then, so then I set up a call with Angie and Chris and I, I kid you not, within five minutes, I’m like, all right, I’m in love.

Like, I’m sold. I’m sold. And, um, so the call continues for over an hour. We go over time. And I was at home in Los Angeles because we were still in shutdown. Um, and so I’m at home. I’m in my home office. My husband knew about the call. Um, he was up in the kitchen, also working home office. Um, but in our, he had moved his laptop into the, into the kitchen.

And, um, I walk out, and he goes, so how did it go? And I said, how do you feel about Kansas City? So this just gives you a little bit: we’ve been married 19 years this year. And this just gives you a little bit of insight into my marriage, right? I’m like, let’s pack up and go. And he’s like, hold up. Wait a minute.

What’s the culture like? What are the, what are the people like? What is the art scene like? What’s the music scene like? What are the schools like? What are, you know, what are our homes like? What are the neighborhoods like? And I’m like, oh, I don’t know. What do you, what do you think now about all those things?

Right. Well, um, it’s a, it is, it is too well of a hidden secret in this country for how great Kansas City is. Right. And how we think about the stadium is if somebody from 24 hours.

and they can come to a Kansas City current game. They are going to get a taste of everything. We are going to have local restaurants that are only in Kansas City have permanent locations inside of our stadium to serve food and drink. We are putting together an art committee with all of the top leaders here in Kansas City to have a collection of indoor and outdoor art that will be seen by everybody, not just in the premium entry for the sweet holders.

And the pitch club, but everybody, and that was super important to us, right? The other thing that was huge with design that you don’t get in soccer stadiums for some reason is the 360. For whatever reason, they’re designed where you can’t do, you can’t walk around the whole stadium. That was really important to us.

And can I plug in, it’s a women’s design team. I mean, we’re so fortunate. Oh my gosh, Courtney Conkle from Monarch Build is helping us. Um, J.E. Dunn is the lead, but you know, Courtney built this amazing training facility here. And then at Dimensional Innovations, they have a female leading our project, um, Generator Studios.

We have the females over there leading our project and Henderson Engineers. All of the females that are leading that. So we, it’s either female-owned or female-led team for our entire. project. In fact, for our topping out that we’re going to have at the end of June, we are going to bring up all of the tradeswomen that have worked on our site to honor them.

I’ll give you that date as soon as I can publicly. Okay. We just, you know, and, and on that. It was intentional, but it wasn’t hard. And that’s, I think, one of the biggest messages that we want to get out. It’s not hard. Look, look beyond your typical people, which just happened to be men. What on earth? It’s just not that hard.

It’s not that hard. Many of our listeners are in the, live in Kansas, in the Kansas City area. Any last things you want to say? Come and join us. Is there a specific game they should, I mean, there’s, we’re going to, we need to fill the stadium. Yes, we do. It’s called Pack the Park. It’s on 514. It’s for Mother’s Day.

Come and spend your Mother’s Day with us. We have special gifts. We are literally rolling out a red carpet. Um, we’re going to have a diaper drive. Because for anybody that knows, diapers, um, are very expensive and they’re hard to get and they, you go through a gazillion of them. Um, so we are going to have a diaper drive for those that need a little bit of extra help.

Brilliant. Yeah. And, um, we’ve got a lot, a lot of, uh, of things planned for, um, the 14th, but we, and we’re going to have a veteran’s appreciation, um, for the 14th, as well as, uh, the 20th. Um, but you know, the biggest finding that we have uncovered is if we get people to games, they immediately, and I literally mean immediately.

They become fans, and they sign up to be season ticket members. We get them to one game. They’ve never come to a game before. Right. And we’re at Children’s Mercy Park. This isn’t at Legends anymore. This is a soccer-specific stadium, right? We had just over 11,300 come to our, um, one of our last games that we had this season when we asked people to show up for our home opener.

We want to sell out. We want 18,000 people and we want to show you how amazing these players are and how dedicated my upstairs staff is to make it just this morning. I got the most amazing note on one of my season ticket member staff of how above and beyond Katie went for everybody. And that like, that’s how I feel about this stuff up here.

Like they have such a can-do attitude. So let us prove to you why you should come and spend your time with us. Come on on the 14th, on the 20th. Those are two big games that are coming up. Buy a ticket. You can get in the door less than 20 bucks. Or, if you want to have a little bit more of an elevated experience and have brunch with us in the Field Club, we have tickets for you there, too.

Our mission is to help you sell out. We’re on the JOB. I don’t think we can overemphasize. Your work, the team owner’s work is this, it is about community by what you showcased about creating community around here. It’s about community by what you’re doing for the youth and for the best young girls to be here and to see what’s possible.

But it’s also putting us on the map from a global perspective. And we thank you and all the people that are part of this initiative. And we’re proud to say we’re from Kansas City and to help you and everyone get this message out. Oh, thank you so much. Well, you know, there is a saying you have to see her to be her, and you guys are helping get that message out.

You have to be able to see these young girls have to be able to see all sorts of women in these positions so that they know they that is attainable. I didn’t get a sports business degree. I kind of stumbled into this. I worked my tail off. Anybody can do this. Really? Some of us had confidence at a young age.

Yeah. And had it, but there’s so many that don’t. I’m looking at these women on the field that some of them are badasses. Yeah, yeah. Uhhuh, let’s just say they’re badasses. Totally badasses. They’re badasses. Yeah. They’re, yeah. All of them are. You guys have to remember I worked around seven-foot tall, amazing athletes.

These athletes motivate me more than any other male athlete I have ever come into contact with, honestly. And they’re so approachable, and they’re so real, and they work so hard, and they’re just great human beings. There is no bad attitude out there, and that’s, that’s really something for us to be proud of.

Allison, we are so honored to speak with you. Thank you for inviting us, and we will be seeing you around because you’ve made us fans for sure. Thank you so much. Thank you. More to come. Yes. Much more to come. Thanks for listening to the Speak with Presence podcast. If you or your team need to gain speaking presence or build communication skills without being perfect, I can get you there. I use actor training tools, but revamped for the professional. So don’t be nervous. Go to forward slash chat to book a free call. Until next time, JRT and I are wishing you a great week. I mean, their thighs, I’m embarrassed. I mean, do not look at my thighs right now because I would.

Nothing moves on them. I worked around 7-foot tall amazing athletes. These athletes motivate me more.


Jen V. & JRT

Jen Vellenga and Jennifer Rettele-Thomas are the co-founders of Voice First World®, a communication and executive coaching company. They train executives and leaders on the Presence Paradigm™, a communication technique created from Jen V’s decades of training actors to perform authentically, with presence, on stages, on audio, and video. If you want to learn more about how to speak and lead confidently, book a discovery call at

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