If you want an inspirational speaker that is clearly the definition of THE ‘Youth Motivational Speaker’ and ‘Youth Leadership Trainer’ of this world…Harriet Turk is the woman for you!
I have yet to meet Harriet in person, however, we have numerous mutual friends; they all rave about her ‘down to Earth’ personality and dynamic character! She has been very helpful with answering questions I have and giving me advice about Professional Speaking as a career.
Please find Harriet’s answers below with my questions (in bold):
When & how did you first realize you wanted to become a Youth Motivational Speaker? I realized I wanted to be a speaker when I was hiring speakers for youth conferences and I couldn’t find any women speakers for the programs. I was the youth programs coordinator for the Mississippi Office of Highway Safety—I was in charge of alcohol/drug prevention programming and programs like SADD/seatbelt safety/safe driving. I was speaking in all the high schools around the state of Mississippi, but when I was hiring speakers for the conferences, I could only find a couple of women…and, they were very niched with their presentations. I was always the emcee for “my” conferences, and the male speakers would say that they thought I could make it as a national speaker if I was interested. I was…but, I was scared. And, then…I started being asked more and more to present at SADD conferences and highway safety conferences…and, then one day…I just took the leap! Since I’d been doing it part-time, I thought, “why not?” That was in 1996…and, I’ve been a professional speaker ever since.
What do you love about speaking? I love hearing what touches a teenager after they hear my program. Sometimes, I’m pretty floored—as what meant the most to them wasn’t a “goal” of my program. I’ve learned that I need to concentrate on every word, idea and thought that goes into my speech…because no story is less important than another.
How long have you been speaking? Since 1996.
Share one occasion when a youth really inspired you after they heard you speak? Two years ago, I received a letter from a girl who had heard my program in Pennsylvania. About three sentences into her letter, I was in tears. Her story was heart breaking and gut-wrenching. I forget that there are teens who live in just horrible conditions with adults who are horrible people. I know some say, there are no horrible people, just horrible behavior…no…I believe there are horrible people. This girl lived with them. As I was reading how she loved a part of my program where I tell the audience to learn to “Deal With It,” I was sick to my stomach. When I tell people to deal with it…I had thought I was telling people to deal with minor setbacks…or to deal with not getting what they want like homecoming queen or the boyfriend…not what this girl faced. But, she took “Deal With It” in a different way. She took it to mean that because she had survived…and, because she could see her physical scars…she HAD learned to “deal with it” and could continue to live and “deal with it.” She told me that the phrase would also inspire her to go to college and deal with that…and, that she’d contact me when she graduates. I really hope she does…
What type of advice would you give a female that wants to pursue Youth Motivational Speaking? Advice I’d give a young female motivational speaker…When people say you can have it all…they are wrong. You cannot travel all over the US and think you will have a “normal” family life. You can’t. Children rely on their moms in a different way than they do their fathers. Mothers want to be there in a different way than fathers do. I don’t care what anyone says—women are nurturers by nature. Even if you aren’t married or don’t think you will have children…you might. So…if I were starting over again…I’d build my business closer to home. I’d contact anyone and everyone within a 100 mile radius. Right now, within a 100 mile radius, hardly anyone knows me. I don’t market/promote myself beyond a website…and, my name is known better in other states than within my own…because I work more outside of my state. So, my advice would be to develop your craft before your website…and, then promote yourself closer to home. Then…there’s always opportunity to expand.
Thank you Harriet! I appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences with us. Keep leading the way for us female speakers. You are a STAR!