Episode #61:
Insights to Gain Visibility and Thrive as a Speaker
with Bobbie Carlton

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In this exciting episode, Caterina welcomes Bobbie Carlton, award-winning marketing, PR, and social media professional and the founder of Innovation Women, an online self-service speaker bureau for women. Caterina and Bobbie discuss the importance of public speaking and how it can have a massive positive impact on your business. Drawing on her experiences as a speaker and serial entrepreneur who has connected more than 2,000 women to speaking opportunities, Bobbie shares super tips to help you gain visibility and infuse more speaking into your business.

Bobbie Carlton is the founder of Carlton PR & Marketing, Innovation Nights and Innovation Women, or, as she calls them, the day job, the night job and the dream job. Innovation Women is the dream job, an online self-service speaker bureau for women. Carlton talks about public speaking for women and how it can be the driving force behind career growth and business success. She gives more than 100 presentations a year, including hosting her own monthly event, Innovation Nights; speaking at the United Nations; and being on the main stage for some of the world’s best-known conferences for technical and professional women. Carlton has been featured on CBS News, in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today and other major media. She’s helped to connect more than 2000 women to speaking opportunities. Her mission is gender equity onstage. No more all-male, all-pale and all-stale events!

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Expand Your Fempire Podcast #61 Transcript


Insights to Gain Visibility and Thrive as a Speaker
with Bobbie Carlton


Welcome to Expand your Fempire with Caterina Rando, the podcast for women in business on a mission. Sharing ideas to support you to grow and thrive. Now here’s your host, Caterina Rando.

[00:00:27] Caterina Rando: Welcome back to another episode of the Expand your Fempire podcast. I am your host Caterina Rando, and I am blissing today because we have a guest that I am so excited to have with us, Bobbie Carlton.

[00:00:46] Bobbie is the founder of Innovation Women. She is also the founder of let’s see a few other companies that she’ll tell you about in our time together. It would take me all day just to talk about all of her companies. We’ll get to that.

[00:01:02] I met Bobbie through Clubhouse. She runs a room that I like to go to on Fridays on Clubhouse. The reason why I’m very excited to have Bobbie on our show today is that her business is all about, or one of her businesses, is all about supporting women to get more speaking, to get on more stages, and to get their voice out there more. Which you know is something I am excited about. Bobbie, thank you so much for being with us.

[00:01:35] Bobbie Carlton: Thank you so much for having me.

[00:01:37] Caterina Rando: Bobbie, you know, I love to start to find out what is your entrepreneurial journey? How did you get from smart girl to big business mogul? Tell us a little bit about you.

[00:01:51] Bobbie Carlton: All right. So my background is heavily public relations. I’ve worked for a number of different agencies in the Boston market, and I headed up global PR at a couple of big public companies.

[00:02:04] So, that background, we’ll stick, a pin in that. And we’ll move to the entrepreneurial ventures where I was heading up marketing for a very cool girl brand. So I quite literally went from enterprise software to pillows and unicorns and flowers.

[00:02:27] And unfortunately, pillows and unicorns and flowers ran out of money in 2008, which happens to startups, especially during the great recession. Lots of companies ran out of money. And that started me down my entrepreneurial path.

[00:02:44] I had to make a living. I had a family who needed to eat and I had a mortgage that had to be paid. So that’s when I started my first company, which is, the “day job.” I run a PR and marketing firm. And that also was during the early days of social networking and social media, which led to the “night job.” which at the time was Mass Innovation Nights, which is a monthly new product launch event. Not so “eventy” right now, but we’re doing virtual stuff.

[00:03:19] And running Innovation Nights, which was a social media-powered venture led me to the “dream job,” Innovation Women. So Innovation Women is designed to get more women on stage at conferences and events.

[00:03:35] And during the pandemic, I bought two more companies. So think about retail therapy, right? During the pandemic, we all needed to go out and buy a little something, something for ourselves. I bought two companies. So one of them is another service for speakers called “My Speaker Leads” and the last company, but not least, is “Lioness Magazine for the Female Entrepreneur.” It’s a digital magazine for women entrepreneurs.

[00:04:06] Caterina Rando: Bobbie, I love that. And Bobbie, I don’t know if you know that I bought a magazine a few years back and I have a lot of admiration for you that you are also running a magazine. I let it go after a couple of years because I felt like I couldn’t do everything even though I did have a good team. And I know that that’s one of your superpowers is that you’re very good at cultivating team.

[00:04:33] Tell us a little bit about how you do possibly run all of these companies. I think I counted five if I’m not mistaken, is that right?

[00:04:43] Bobbie Carlton: Yeah. I mean, Innovation Women did buy My Speaker Leads and Lioness Magazine. So we folded them in underneath, but it’s five projects, five separate things. I mean, the good news is there is a thread that runs between all of them. And it’s all about visibility and how visibility drives business opportunities. So, that part makes it easy because I feel like all the fishes are swimming in the same direction.

[00:05:16] And then there’s, as you mentioned, the team. I’m not doing this alone. I would go crazy. And I have the most amazing team who really do keep everything running and flowing in the same direction.

[00:05:31] Caterina Rando: Now, Bobbie, I am a big proponent and I feel that I have my best team ever after 28 years of doing my thing. I want to hear from you what are a couple of your guiding principles with team that you feel support you in having an amazing team?

[00:05:51] Bobbie Carlton: You know, it’s funny. We were just talking about this internally earlier this week, where I sometimes feel like my guiding principle is “TMI” too much information. I share almost everything with my team.

[00:06:07] Like they know what impacts the businesses. They know what make it soar. They know really all the scary little details that I feel like some entrepreneurs might not share.

[00:06:23] Caterina Rando: Bobbie. I love that. You said that because just the day before yesterday, I was thinking to myself, “do I tell them too much? Do I let them know everything that, like you said, is impacting our business? What’s impacting sales this month? What my sales goals are for the month? What my focus is?”

[00:06:44] And I love that you are sharing with your team because that affirms to me that it’s okay for me to do it, too. I think sometimes we like to hear what other people are doing, because it gives us some permission and affirms that we’re doing it right.

[00:07:01] And I think that’s all about authenticity in business when we share with our team and also transparency so that they feel invested. Would you say that’s true?

[00:07:15] Bobbie Carlton: Absolutely. It’s a shared mission. And the people who work for me understand the mission and they are passionate about it as well. So that helps out a tremendous amount. I don’t have to be constantly driving the mission; it’s already there.

[00:07:35] Caterina Rando: I love that: shared mission. They are sharing your mission. Beautiful. Okay, Bobbie, we know that you’re great at running team. And I see it because I see all of your team and how amazing they are. I’ve had the privilege of interacting with them. Even my team has had the privilege of interacting with them and has had only good things to say. I know you’re on top of it with your team.

[00:08:02] What else do you want to share is a guiding principle that supports you in running five companies or at least five business ventures?

[00:08:12] Bobbie Carlton: I think one of the things is that I’m very focused on everybody winning. And everybody winning doesn’t mean that there is someone who is losing. So it’s all about the win.

[00:08:29] So for example, the way that I set up Mass Innovation Nights to work. Mass Innovation Nights, monthly new product launch event in the Boston market. We launched 1500 new products over 11 years. Those companies got more than $4 billion in funding. We were driving between 2.6 million and 3.2 million views a month with our social media amplification program. You know, all of the events were sponsored and hosted.

[00:09:02] But really the thread that ran through that whole thing is everybody benefited. The entrepreneurs benefited from the increased visibility. The companies were hosting and sponsoring the event, got to bring people into their beautiful offices and perhaps hire some of those people or maybe acquire some of those companies. The service providers who were going to the events and tweeting or blogging or posting video and pictures, they were coming out often with new clients.

[00:09:39] So it was like every single person who was involved in that community was winning. And that’s a community that sticks together. That’s a community that keeps going.

[00:09:53] Caterina Rando: And also I’m going to imagine Bobbie. That’s a community where everybody’s talking digitally and the old way we talk. And as a result, the word on the street or the word on the net about you and your events has continued to grow because you do have a win-win focus. Would you say that’s true?

[00:10:18] Bobbie Carlton: Absolutely. I mean, our next event is going to be Maine Innovation Nights. And the Maine community is using our model for Innovation Nights and they are creating their own Innovation Nights events. So, you know, it’s the reputation I think, of the community and the community-building aspect.

[00:10:38] Caterina Rando: Now the Maine event, are you in on that too? So that’s another creation.

[00:10:45] Bobbie Carlton: Well, it’s an extension of Innovation Nights in Massachusetts. So they are licensing the name and the concept. They’re using our methodology. You know, we handed over our 47-page handbook. It’s really taking the innovation night’s concept, which I firmly believe could work anywhere.

[00:11:07] And I would love to see Innovation Nights in communities that are looking for ways to support their local entrepreneurs.

[00:11:15] Caterina Rando: Bobbie, this is a new revenue stream for you. Very exciting. So is this the first test of licensing your concept?

[00:11:25] Bobbie Carlton: Nope. We’ve had Innovation Nights in Western Mass, Connecticut, New York, New Hampshire. So we’ve spread it out before. And actually, that was a great test for me in these other locations. Because Boston is an amazing startup community. Would Innovation Nights work in a smaller community? And I tested it out and the answer’s yes!

[00:11:52] Caterina Rando: One of the things, Bobbie, that I say about being an entrepreneur is that you’re never done with your to-do list, even when you have a great team.

[00:12:01] And here’s what else I’m going to say about you. You, I think like myself, like many entrepreneurs, you have a little Brilliant Ideas Syndrome. Which means that you’ve always got more brilliant ideas. And this is a great example of that, how you took what was working and you’ve licensed it to other communities. And maybe we will see Innovation Nights all over the country and the globe. Why not?

[00:12:27] Bobbie Carlton: Absolutely.

[00:12:29] Caterina Rando: Love it. And this idea of win-win, the other thing that this supports is having a long-term view of your business. Because if everybody’s winning, then the word is going to keep being that you help people win. And I know that that’s part of why you started Innovation Women. And why don’t you say a little bit about why you started the company?

[00:12:52] Bobbie Carlton: Sure. So, the way that Innovation Nights works is it was all social media powered. What we said is “come to our event, look around, see all those cool products, find a cool product that you love and tweet about it, or post a picture or video or whatever it is you can do using your social network to help promote another company.

[00:13:17] So, frankly, that meant I walked around with a large amount of power in my pocket. You know, my social network was large and I had no problem using it to benefit other people. So I got invited to a lot of events, “Bobbie come tweet about my event.” Uh, alright. You know.

[00:13:40] But when I got to those events, a lot of times what I saw is what I call the “male pale and stale panels.” okay? You get the same four old white guys onstage having the same conversation. And don’t get me wrong. I got nothing against old white guys. I’m married to one.

[00:14:04] I just don’t want to hear just them speaking. I want to hear diverse voices. I want to hear different ideas. I don’t want to hear the same thing over and over again. And it’s incredibly hard as a new voice to break in and get yourself on stage.

[00:14:24] And I’d sit in the audience with women who were brilliant and they’d be like, “how do I get myself invited to do that?” And I’m like, “well, first off, you know, a lot of these conferences, it’s not an invitation. You apply through the call for speakers.” And I get a lot of “what’s that? What’s that?”

[00:14:45] I would show people, this is a call for speakers. These are the deadlines. This is how you apply here. Let me introduce you to this event manager and that event manager. And I was helping some of event managers too because they recognized the danger that they were running with their events whenever they put a “man-el” up on stage.

[00:15:09] You know, if it’s the same four old white guys on stage somebody would take a picture and post it online and say, “oh, you know, these guys, they don’t know that the world has changed. And diversity is important these days.” And they knew it could become a social media firestorm. They knew they could be written up in the media. So they looked for help. I was there to help them.

[00:15:34] Well, oh my God, that could be a full-time job. I already had two full-time jobs at that point. So I crowdfunded. I raised over $20,000 to get myself a developer to create an easy to use platform that would allow event managers to directly connect with speakers and allow speakers to get access to all of these calls for speakers and speaking opportunities.

[00:16:07] And we’ve got about 1,500 speakers on the platform currently. We have something like, I think it was about 9,000 event managers who have issued at least one invitation or posted at least one call for speakers. And a lot of the event managers use it over and over again.

[00:16:25] I mean, we had one conference that came in and I was like, oh, they seem to be sending out a lot of invitations. And one of the conference organizers said to me, like, “yeah, we need 600 speakers.” Oh my God. Okay. Well, you know, I’m sorry, I can’t supply 600 speakers to talk about internet of things for you. I think they ended up with like 40 or 50, which for them is huge.

[00:16:52] So the idea behind Innovation Women originally was connect the event managers with the speakers. But over time, you know, we’ve built up so much educational material. We built up such an enormously supportive community.

[00:17:07] We do a weekly zoom call now with our speakers where. We talk about things that speakers talk about only with each other, you know, ” how do you get paid? And what do I do in terms of getting people to buy my book from the stage?” And all of these good things.

[00:17:25] We have a bookstore. We have a partnership with an app called Answer Stage that allows us to give each one of our speakers a path to a video showcasing them as a virtual speaker. We have bi-weekly knowledge sessions, half-hour sessions where people can drop in and learn about Ted talks or writing a signature talk or building your speaker foundation. So it’s really a great value. It’s a hundred dollars a year and the hundred dollars a year is designed to keep out people who are not serious about speaking.

[00:18:12] Caterina Rando: Yes, you give massive value, Bobbie, and you didn’t mention the clubhouse on Fridays. However, that is anyone can come to that not only members. Well, yes, Bobbie, I’ve been raving about Innovation Women. Several of the ladies in our community have already become members. I’m waiting for that referral program, by the way…

[00:18:33] Bobbie Carlton: (laughing) I’ve got to do something about that…

[00:18:35] Caterina Rando: And the other thing that I know about women and speaking is that sometimes we feel like we’re all by ourself and you have created an incredible community of women that speak. I would say that all the ladies in our community, Thriving Women in Business Community, our VIP community, everybody speaks. Or they didn’t speak when they walked in, they speak by the time they get here. We have them start speaking pretty quickly. Because as you know, I know the value of speaking, not only for bringing your massive value also for building influence and gaining clients.

[00:19:16] Wonderful. Now, Bobbie, let me say this to you. You know, here’s a question that people ask me when I do interviews.

[00:19:23] And I have my answer. I want to hear what your answer is to this question. Okay. A woman that wants to get on more stages, whatever her business or industry is, she wants to start to speak. She hasn’t been speaking. What is your advice?

[00:19:42] Bobbie Carlton: So a lot of people who are anxious about public speaking or getting out there, they need to get comfortable with the idea first.

[00:19:52] And I think one of the easiest first steps is simply asking a question when you see a speaker. So think about it. You’re at an event. Virtual or in-person and the speaker is done and they say, does anyone have any questions? And if you stand up or raise your hand at that moment, you introduce yourself you tell people what you do briefly, and you set the context for your question and you ask a question.

[00:20:29] You just had a public speaking opportunity in front of the same audience that the people who were on stage had. That is a wonderful way to get yourself used to the idea to practice your introduction and to let it be known that you, too, are an expert on this topic so much that you’re able to see a gap or have something that you can add to the conversation.

[00:21:00] So it’s just a wonderful, painless way to get started.

[00:21:05] Caterina Rando: I love this Bobbie. This is advice that I don’t think I’ve ever given, which is great. I do say always get your voice in the room by asking a question. That’s not necessarily to be a speaker.

[00:21:17] Well, I love this and I can remember way back many, many years ago, I was doing a workshop. I had a client. She was an insurance agent. She was at my workshop. She did exactly what you’re saying. She stood up, she introduced herself. She said she was insurance agent. She said the name of her company asked her question. By the time she left, she got a new client.

[00:21:44] Bobbie Carlton: That’s perfect. And the event manager could potentially look at that and say, “oh, maybe I’ll invite her to speak next time.” So a great opportunity to get known by the people who are organizing events.

[00:22:01] Caterina Rando: Absolutely. You know, something I sometimes share, which I wanted to share with you right now, based on what you just said. I’ve had the privilege of doing some talks for Jones, New York, the clothing company.

[00:22:14] Bobbie Carlton: I love their stuff.

[00:22:15] Caterina Rando: Yes! And what happened was I was at this big luncheon that they were sponsoring for women in our business community. And I was on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, I got invited. And they had a big-time speaker, they actually had one of the editors from O magazine.

[00:22:35] Bobbie Carlton: Oh, nice.

[00:22:36] Caterina Rando: This is many years ago. I went up to the event planner. I thanked her. I complimented her on her great event, by the way, super tip alert. I complimented her on her successful event. I thanked her for being invited. And then I told her that I was a speaker. And if she needed any more speakers, I was available. I was shaking in my boots at the time. And shock of shocks. She said to me, “oh, do you have a speaker video? I would love to take a look at it.”

[00:23:06] Now I did have a video. I didn’t like it. I did have one and I sent it to her and I that’s how I got booked. I did several talks, I think nine talks for Jones, New York in different cities. Paid speaking, bing, bing, bing!

[00:23:21] That’s another thing I would say, Bobbie is always introduce yourself to the event. What do you think?

[00:23:27] Bobbie Carlton: Absolutely. Aaaaabsolutely a hundred percent. And nowadays, if you’re looking at speaking opportunities, if you look at some of these platforms they make it so easy to find the organizers. You know, if you look at Eventbrite, if you look at Meetup. I mean, quite literally “contact the organizer,” bam right there. It’s part of their platform design.

[00:23:55] Caterina Rando: And that is a great super tip. Let’s just underscore that on how to get some bookings. If there’s events on Eventbrite or Meetup that you say, “Hey, this is an event where my ideal clients are gathered or my ideal audience has gathered.” Do exactly what Bobbie said, reach out to the organizer, even if she or he is booked for this event, they’re going to have more events in the future otherwise they wouldn’t be there. Very rarely does somebody do one event and never do another one, right?

[00:24:22] Bobbie Carlton: And often you can see all of the events that they’ve done. One of the things that I tell people to do is look at annual events. Look at their timeline, understand their timeline. If their event is always in May, the call for speakers is always in October.

[00:24:42] Well then, you know, September-ish, October-ish, you know to go to that website and apply to speak or reach out to the organizers at that time. A lot of these annual events, they happen the exact same time every year.

[00:25:00] Caterina Rando: Absolutely. Bobbie it’s wonderful because you’re affirming things that I tell my people. So that makes me feel like I know I’m doing it right. Wonderful. Beautiful.

[00:25:09] One of the things I want to mention about Innovation Women is that you can apply for these events and speaking opportunities through the website, which I feel really streamlines the process makes it very easy. And then of course it makes it easy for you to keep track of what you’ve applied to.

[00:25:27] Okay. Now, Bobbie, you know I can talk about speaking all day. You know I love to come and talk with you on Fridays about speaking. Let’s expand our conversation a little bit related to running a successful business. Because you’ve been doing that for years. You have a lot of expertise and value to bring in this area. What are one or two more guiding principles that you use to run your thriving business?

[00:25:55] Bobbie Carlton: I think any thriving business has to be focused on customer service and making sure that your customers are happy. I mean, there’s a reason that you are doing what you do, and the reason that they bought your product or what you do if it’s a service business.

[00:26:17] Always think about everything related to “what is my customer’s goal.” And sometimes the customer’s goal is not really what you think it is.

[00:26:28] Like I’m running Innovation Women, and yes, most people would say “my goal is speaking.” No, it’s not. Your goal is making money. Your goal is selling your book. Your goal is selling your services or your product. Speaking itself is often not the goal. It’s a path. It’s a path to all of these other things. It’s a path to thought leadership. It’s a path to a better salary.

[00:27:03] You know, I point to the benefits of public speaking a lot. I call them the five C’s and the five C’s include Customers. They include Careers. They include Cash because you make more if you are comfortable with public speaking. They include Confidence. Like when you’re on stage, you are exuding confidence, you are demonstrating confidence. And also Credibility. When you’re on stage, you are demonstrating that you are a thought leader, you are a visionary, you are an expert. And oh, by the way, those are three different things okay?

[00:27:46] Visionaries and thought leaders are actually quite different than experts. When you get a keynote opportunity, they are looking for the thought leader and the visionary. They want the audience to come out going, “oh my God, I have a whole new way of looking at the world.”

[00:28:05] Panelists, featured speaker sessions, things like that, they’re more often targeted to the expert- teach me how to do something. Whereas the keynotes, those thought leaders, they’re teaching you how to think differently.

[00:28:22] Caterina Rando: That’s a great distinction. “How to think differently” is with your keynotes and then your breakout sessions, your featured speakers, strategies, tactics, information to support whatever the mission of the conference or the attendees is. Beautiful.

[00:28:41] Bobbie, you are a wealth of knowledge. We’re going to begin to wrap it up today. What final thought or idea would you like to share with our listeners? And then of course, we want to tell everyone how to connect.

[00:28:55] Bobbie Carlton: Absolutely. I just think that everyone needs to think about being a public speaker and how being a public speaker fits into your business or your career. And get comfortable with public speaking.

[00:29:12] Don’t assume that everyone who is a good public speaker or even a great public speaker walked onto the stage the first time, knowing everything. I will tell you that the first kind of early public speaking things that I did…. were horror shows. I was terrible. I was absolutely horrendous.

[00:29:35] Caterina Rando: I don’t believe you.

[00:29:36] Bobbie Carlton: Oh, there’s video the first Mass Innovation Nights event. Yeah. Uh, that was bad. I didn’t even kind of let my. Think about the fact that I had to be the MC and host at this monthly event. And that first night I sweated through my clothes. I was just dripping sweat and it looked so bad and I looked so unhappy to be in front of that audience. It was terrible. And of course, this is an event where every single person had their phone out and taking video and pictures and I’m like, “Great it’s, it’s plastered everywhere for everyone to see. Awesome.”

[00:30:20] But you know, I’ve done 135 Innovation Nights events. I had to get better and I did.

[00:30:29] Caterina Rando: That’s wonderful. Well, that’s the truth. The more we do it, the better we get. And I see this after all these years speaking, I feel like this year and last year I’ve gotten so much better only because I’ve done it so many more times with the virtual lifestyle, the pandemic lifestyle. I have been speaking three times as much as before. As a result, getting better and better.

[00:30:54] Let’s tell everyone, Bobbie, how do they connect with Innovation Women? How do they connect with you? Any place else you want to invite them to connect, please.

[00:31:04] Bobbie Carlton: Well, it’s easiest to go to www.innovationwomen.com. You know, we have all kinds of ways to connect with us via the website. Sign up for our newsletter. We have a whole section of speaker resources and actually the newsletter every Friday, we are sending out five speaking opportunities to everyone who signs up for that newsletter. So sign up for the newsletter, get those speaking opportunities, and just kind of learn what kind of opportunities and world we can place at your feet.

[00:31:41] Caterina Rando: Bobbie, thank you so much for being with me today. Everyone, go check out Innovation Women. There’s massive value there for you. Be like Bobbie, go after the win-win. Remember the more you do it, the better you get. If you want to have five companies like her, you better get good at having a great team. And we will see you next time on the Expand your Fempire podcast.

We hope you enjoyed this episode of Expand Your Fempire with Caterina Rando.

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