We met up with Lisa down on Fifth Avenue in New York City. We were running a little late after catching a bus. Unfortunately, once we got off the bus we had to walk three blocks in the pouring rain. And I mean it was pouring! Tamir and I tried to take cover as we made our way to her office on a Thursday evening and when we arrived we were sopping wet. After a futile attempt at drying off in the bathroom, and some odd looks from Lisa’s co-workers, we managed to start our interview with a sympathetic Lisa.
Lisa told us that she was a Theatre and English double major with a minor in Medieval studies at Drew University, an intimate liberal arts school located in northern New Jersey. After graduating and moving to New York City, she wanted a career in the theatre. She started working in stage management at the Lincoln Center in their educational department. At the same time she was also doing freelance stage management for dance companies. After a year and a half of freelancing, she realized that she needed a more steady paycheck to survive in the expensive city.
She went to work for an arts non-profit organization that had nothing to do with anything she’d done in the past. In her first month she got to yell at Tony Randall and apologize on behalf of her boss to Beverly Sills. She started to question what she really did for a living. After the non-profit failed to raise enough of the essential grant money, Lisa was laid off.
A friend referred her to a mom and pop comedy and music agency, where she worked for five years before getting laid off again. At that point she thought about leaving New York City to go back to school at Temple University to get her master’s in Medieval Studies. That’s when she opened the New York Times and saw an ad that would take her to where she is today.
It was an open sales position for an entertainment agent. She needed to find a position that could pay her bills but she wasn’t sure if she was qualified. She handwrote a cover letter and faxed her application materials to the agency, not really expecting to hear back. Two hours later the phone rang. They were looking for someone just like her that had experience in the college market. Ten years later, Lisa is the President of the University Division for the Greater Talent Network.
Her agency is the “Porsche” of the speakers’ world. She covers the “fun” speakers and her job is to book them at universities across the U.S.. Notable speakers include: Lance Armstrong, Donald Trump, Michael Moore, Ben & Jerry (who give away free ice cream at their speaking engagements), along with hundreds of others that appeal to college markets across the nation.
Lisa is excellent at getting on the phone and getting people to promise her huge sums of money to have a famous person show up at their event to speak.
When asked about her advice to students, here is what she had to say:
“Be polite to people on the phone and don’t chew gum while talking to them.”
“If you have an appointment with someone, call or email them to confirm before you go.”
“Don’t send “cute” emails in a business context.”
“It’s better to be the best, most conservatively dressed person in the room than the most memorably dressed.”
“Find stuff that makes you want to get up in the morning, and even if you don’t think that it will be a good career move, do it.”
After the interview, Lisa was kind enough to supply a book to us entitled “What Should I Do With My Life?” by Po Bronson. The book is very similar to what we are doing and I encourage any of you that like reading stories about the paths of people to pick up a copy today. Also visit his website, he has some very inspiring stuff on there so check it out at www.pobronson.com.