Keep it Real Keynotes

Oh my goodness. I have to share this testimony. Yesterday I was honored to be the closing keynote speaker at the Propel Summit hosted by the fabulous Andrea Amir of Smart Money Chicks here in Atlanta.

When Andrea asked me, I immediately said yes. She didn’t have to convince or sell me on it. I loved the concept and what she was trying to do. I eventually got around to picking a topic that would round out the agenda and started working on what I’d say. I hate Powerpoints and scripts, but I sat myself down to at least do an outline so I can keep it on point. She had given me 45 minutes and I had to figure a way to fill that time. Shoot, when I’m on panel and have someone or a few someones to play off of, it’s easy breezy. But when I need to do a stand alone keynote, it’s not as fun for me.

First let me say the ladies who spoke were amazing. They kept the energy going all day long. Angela StalcupAllison Babb PhillipsJoyce BrewerKyle YoungLatoicha Phillips Givens, and Suzanne Forte were all fabulous (hope I didn’t forget anyone!).

I got there and was fired up. I had my notes and presentation all ready to talk to the ladies about growth strategies. We all want to know what we can do to grow, especially in this economy. But as the day went on, something in my spirit told me that wasn’t what they wanted or needed to hear. It didn’t feel right to me. I could see and hear that as the day went on they wanted to be fulfilled to the core. So at the last minute, when Andrea introduced me, I took a risk and asked her if it was OK to go off script and do something different. She said do your thing, then stepped back and let me do my thing. I asked the ladies could I talk to them, be real, like have an honest heart to heart. And they allowed me too. At first, as I looked over the crowd of faces I thought what the hell are you doing? You better come with it. They were expecting to hear strategies of how to grow their businesses. Would they be open to my brutal honesty?

Well honey, that spirit came over me and I just hit them with the real. No notes, no powerpoints, no script.

As I went on, I felt more comfortable and felt the need to reveal more to them. I wanted them to get it. I wanted them to get that we have to play bigger, expect bigger and don’t let any obstacles stand in our way if we want to be big players. I wanted them to understand that we can’t play like girls. We have to put on the big girl stilettos and stomp with the big boys. As entrepreneurs, we have to take a No Bullshit stance if we are to grow our businesses and become members of the millionaire (or even billionaires) club. We can’t hide behind perceived limitations or fear. They had to get it that as entrepreneurs, we can’t half ass it, dumb down or be afraid to ask for, no, demand our worth and know our value. It was important that they got it that there is no protective cocoon or kumbaya place. It was important that they got it that they need to set the tone and boundaries for themselves, businesses and brands before other people did it for them. And the most important thing was that they ask for and get what they are owed without making apologies or asking permission.

I could see my Mom out the corner of my eye. I could feel her encouragement and support being transferred through the air. It’s as if silently she was saying do the damn thing and don’t apologize!

I was humbled by the amount of people who came up to me after to tell me my words hit them hard to their core. The email and tweets I’ve gotten have been phenomenal. It made me think. We go to conferences and gatherings and we hear the same “do it this way”, “live life that way”, “look, it worked for me so it can work for you if you work with/hire me”, “6 steps to do XYZ”. But people just want to have it straight from the hip. It was the most honest and liberating keynote I have ever given. It touched them, but it humbled and touched me deeply. I can think of very few keynotes I’ve heard that have come with the real. You usually get some big named celebrity or business leader or someone with something to sell, leaving you a little impressed, but unfulfilled in a real way. We need more refreshing keynoters who can light that fire within and move people to action. Am I there? Who knows. But I do know that I am equipped and will continue speaking from the heart whenever I am privileged to be asked to deliver a keynote.

I thank you Andrea for letting me let loose and share some real talk.

If you want to see a quick overview, check out Angela Stalcup’s video. And if anyone recorded my keynote PLEASE let me know. I’d love to see it.

Til next time,

Adrienne Graham
Anointed to bring the truth!


Check out my new book Get Recruited: Secrets from a Top Recruiter on Using Unconventional Tactics to Get Noticed in an Inconvenient Economy in paperback or on Kindle! While you’re at it, order your paperback copy of No, You Can’t Pick My Brain. Or if you can’t wait, get it on Amazon Kindle


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Adrienne Graham is the Founder & CEO of Empower Me! Corporation ( She is a strategist that helps people grow their career, business or network in any economy. She is the voice behind Views from the Top Radio Show, and the creative visionary behind Empower Me! Institute and Empower Me! Magazine. Her writing and shows focus on Career Management, Networking Strategies, Entrepreneurial Success and Small Business Management. You can also find her causing a ruckus on


  1. Lisa R. 5 years ago


    I loved your Propel! keynote! Your velvet boot was still kicking me this morning – and had me completely revamp the way I am launching our newest revenue stream. My billionaire idea crystallized this morning, and I had to put all my other projects aside to get to it right away. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    Another sista from the BX,

    Dr. Lisa Richardson

    • admin 5 years ago

      Hi Lisa!

      Aww thank you. I’m glad it inspired you. And you are very welcome.

      The velvet boot is Angela’s (I don’t want to infringe on her

      I wish you much success on your business idea. Remember to keep the momentum going. That’s the only way to make it happen. If you need a strategy session, reach out any time.

      Be blessed!

  2. Tamara 5 years ago

    Wow! I wasn’t at the event, but your keynote sounds like it was on point! I agree 100% that people don’t need or want fluff or to be sold to and that cookie cutter ways of doing business don’t work. I hope to hear you speak in the near future.

  3. Oana Hogrefe 5 years ago

    I knew your talk would be inspiring even before you did, Adrienne! A wonderfully fresh talk about struggle and honesty and uncertainty, and an authentic spirit. Thank you!

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