Interview with Jennifer McClure Part 1: What it takes to be a Successful Speaker within the World of Work

HRchat podcast host Bill Banham recently interviewed Jennifer McClure. Jennifer is a keynote speaker, social media influencer, executive coach, President of Unbridled Talent LLC and CEO of the awesome DisruptHR series. Jennifer has over 25 years of experience leading human resources and talent acquisition efforts, studying industry best practices, and partnering with senior executives to improve their skills and increase their impact.

Ahead of the podcast release, read part one of the edited transcription:

Bill Banham: Welcome to another episode of the HRchat podcast. I’m your host Bill Banham. Today we are joined by the amazing, the awesome, the wonderful Jennifer McClure. Jennifer, it’s an absolute honor to have you on the show today. Welcome to HRchat.

JenniferMcClure: Thank you. It’s actually my honor to be here. Thanks, Bill.

Bill Banham: Let’s jump straight in with a first question because I could be here with you all day, and we don’t have that long. Starting off, tell us a bit about yourself. Your career history and how you came to be in your current roles.

Jennifer McClure

Jennifer McClure

Jennifer McClure: I spent about 20 years in HR practitioner roles in the corporate world, so leadership and executives roles there, everything from starting as an HR department of one to my last role as a VP of HR for a consumer products company here in the US. When we sold the company, which was actually the goal, so that was a good thing, I found myself without a job at that time after almost 20 years. At that time, felt I wanted to start my own business, but I got a lot of great advice from people that I wasn’t ready, so went into executive recruiting instead and learned more of the business development and how to live within the 100% commission kind of world.

The biggest challenge that people said I would face is going from the corporate regular salary to having my own business, but being a part of a team and learning that side of the business from some great people. Spent about four years doing that. Then in 2010, went out of my own. I primarily do speaking and training. That’s about 80% of what I do. The other 20% or so with Unbridled Talent is coaching and writing and consulting with companies in talent strategies, leadership development, or personal branding. In 2015, I added .. DisruptHR to those responsibilities, so my days are pretty full.

Bill Banham: You’re a very busy lady. We’re going to get to DisruptHR later. Our readers will probably be very aware that we absolutely love the whole DisruptHR series. We write about it. We talk about it all the time. We try and attend and partner with different events, but we’ll get to that later. Before we do, tell me a bit more about Unbridled Talent and what it does.

Jennifer McClure: I speak probably 50, 60 times a year at events, whether that’s conferences or associations or corporate events. Again, on the topics of talent strategy, leadership development, career development. From that again, turns into some opportunities to work with companies maybe in those areas and then also work with some executives on improving their skills and continuing to grow in their careers. I do write for publications like Career Builder and some other industry online publications as well as my own blog and the DisruptHR blog. Kind of a real student of the talent acquisition and leadership spaces and try to teach and share what I know. That’s the bulk of what I do is really doing everything I can to stay current with what’s going on in the industry and the trends that are out there and be connected to the people who are really doing things, so that I can highlight their work and also learn from them.

Bill Banham: What does an average work week look like for you, Jennifer, if there’s such a thing?

Jennifer McClure: Yeah, I can guess the question before it was average. I guess my work really goes in seasons. It’s maybe a little bit different than somebody who has a traditional corporate day job. The seasons for me are really spring and fall are very heavy travel and speaking. Everyone wants to hold a conference in April/May or October/November, it seems. Usually, about three months in the spring and fall, I’m on the road and maybe speaking sometimes three, four times a week at events all over the world. That’s really the piece that I love and wish that that was a 12-month a year thing because I love to travel. I love to meet people. I love to learn at the events that I’m honored to be able to speak at.

In the wintertime and heavy summertime, not a lot of people are having those type of events, so that might be work with corporate clients, which is again, not as much travel. A lot of it is then going back and both working on new talks or improving the talks that I have or flushing out trading programs, looking at my collateral and my marketing and what needs to be redone or refreshed there and creating new things, so that I’ll have those to share in the spring and fall.

It’s a little bit seasonal like right now, I finished up my last travel for 2016 last week. Right now, I don’t have anything in terms of travel for another month or so. That will be time during the holidays to really spend reflecting and looking into preparing for 2017.

Bill Banham: Tell me a bit more about you in terms of your personal loves and interests. I understand, for example, that you’re a bit of an equestrian. What gives you the most pleasure outside of work?

Jennifer McClure: It’s definitely the horses. Yeah. A bit of an equestrian. That’s probably the best way to describe me. All passion, very little talent. I do have three horses. Two horses and a foal. They’re where I spend my time when I’m in town and would love to be able to … I say if you could work in your passion, it would be something with horses, but that definitely doesn’t pay. It costs money, so I have to work to fund my passions.

I love to travel and thankfully I get to do that as part of my job. Even before I started working for myself, I’ve always been kind of the master of I extend the business trip. If I go somewhere to speak, I might stay on a couple of extra days to be able to see the world or explore something new. That’s something that I really enjoy and am blessed to be able to do in my work.

Horses and travel and work. That’s pretty much what describes me and how I spend my days.

Bill Banham: If they were going to make a movie about your life, Jennifer, who would play you?

JenniferMcClure: Sandra Bullock. I like her a lot. For some reason, people have said over the years that I look like her. I have never seen that, but that is a huge honor. I’ll take it even if it’s just the dark hair, I’ll take that.

Bill Banham: You’re obviously a very well-known speaker. What do you think makes for a powerful and impactful presentation?

JenniferMcClure: I think it’s someone who, first of all, really cares about the messages that they’re giving. That it’s not just that I want to stand up here and talk, so that you’ll look at me or that it’s anything about me. I really feel like the best speakers are those who have something to share and they just can’t wait to share it. Usually, that means that the message is much more than just here’s a bunch of slides with some information that you can read, and I’m going to talk to you about me and what I’ve done for an hour. It’s more about what stories can you share that help really make people be able to see what you’re trying to tell them and make it memorable, but also that it’s really important, I think, to have some takeaways.

Even in a keynote, people want to have something that they can write down. I’ve learned that over the years, you just don’t want to see a presentation where nobody .. picks up that pencil and starts writing something down or typing it in their computer. People want to learn. They want to be inspired. They want to leave there with some action that they can take. I think the best talks really incorporate stories, action steps, a little bit of inspiration, and some how-to for people to take away.

Bill Banham: Are there unique challenges when you’re addressing an HR or talent audience compared to, say, a group of marketing people, C-level, or business owners?

JenniferMcClure: That’s a good question. I think there are challenges with any audience. Any time that I’m speaking, let’s say at SHRM conference or an HR conference or event, the challenge is always that people want high-level content that they can aspire to, but the audience is a mix of everyone from entry-level professionals to generalists to maybe even some executives or people who focus more on strategy. Trying to craft a message that all of those different types of people with various experience can relate to and feel like they learned something, that’s always a bit of a challenge. You’re either giving something that’s over the heads of a lot of people, and they can’t relate to that because they may never be someone who’s interested in or wanting to work on strategy or it may be too low level if you just talk about the day-to-day tasks of HR. It’s always a bit of a dance to make sure that you’re crafting something that everyone feels like they’re getting something and can take away something from.

Part 2 will be published exclusively in The HR Gazette next week.'

Author: Editor

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