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Elaine Penn  

Nationally Recognized Speaker, Trainer and Performer Who Has Inspired Countless People With Her Dynamic and Motivating Keynotes

Elaine is a nationally recognized speaker, trainer and performer who has inspired countless people with her dynamic and motivating keynotes. She has also held numerous university positions, including director of special projects, chief fundraiser and executive producer of five award-winning television documentaries, director of campus recreation and assistant volleyball coach.

Elaine received her bachelor’s degree from Greensboro College and her master’s degree from the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. While at Greensboro, she received numerous athletic honors. In recognition of her achievements in basketball, her jersey was retired. She was inducted into the Greensboro College Sports Hall of Fame in 1996.

Growing up in a musical family, Elaine has been singing professionally for most of her life. She has performed in nightclubs, theaters, college campuses and on radio and TV.

Elaine began speaking to college audiences in 1996. Her highly interactive style and use of music enables her to reach people in profound ways. Those who experience Elaine’s keynotes leave feeling motivated, informed and inspired.

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Speech Topics


Moving Forward, Staying Human: A Fresh Approach to Student Leadership

Have you ever wished that a leadership speaker would talk less about things like skills, goal setting, and achievement and more about connecting with your fellow human? Have you ever wished that someone could actually talk about – wait for it! – “love” as a leadership trait most missing on our campuses?

If you are looking for a message about leadership that’s less about the brain and more about the heart and soul, consider Elaine Penn’s message for your next event. She talks about loving what you do, putting your strengths into action for others, and inspiring those around you with sincerity and goodness.

In a world where text messages have replaced face-to-face conversations and leadership has been boiled down to successful habits, Elaine will hearten your student leaders with a message that speaks to the emotional values of leadership. She talks about serving others, overcoming fear, and being passionate about the opportunities college has to offer.

One Student, Many Stories: Discovering the Diversity Inside Every Student

You see someone on campus, and you make a quick judgment. We are all guilty of it. Maybe it’s the way a person is dressed, or the way she wears her hair, or even the music coming from his headphones. Quick judgments are a part of everyday life.

But when we buy into a single story about a person, we support stereotypes, fear and prejudice – and we miss the many facets that allow us to connect with others in our community. The people around us are made of many stories – perhaps about gender, or race, or family economics, or disabilities, or past experiences – and the more we connect, the more we appreciate the complexity that surrounds us every day.

This isn’t a traditional program about the diversity we can see, or even the cultures with which we identify. It’s a program about looking inside and questioning the stories we create in our heads about ourselves, and those around us. Elaine will help your audience connect with the vulnerabilities that define the human experience and inspire them to look deeper toward the human dignity in each person. Perfect for any audience – staff, students, or faculty – placing value on making stronger, authentic connections within their campus community.

The Journey to Success – For New Students

New student programming is about encouraging success, smart decisions and investment in all the opportunities that college has to offer. But, there’s no reason why that programming should be boring, preachy or cheesy. Elaine Penn has been providing fun, interactive orientation programs for more than a decade.

“It’s choice, not chance, that determines your destiny.” This idea is ever present in Journey to Success, as Elaine shares inspiring stories about people who, regardless of their life circumstances, understood that success was in their hands. In these empowering tales, men and women defied the odds and achieved their goals. The same is true for college students. Each day, the choices that students make determine their achievement of success. Using storytelling, discussion, music and audience interaction, Elaine explores the importance of setting priorities, believing in yourself and stepping out of your comfort zones. She might even convince students to turn off the video games, stop focusing on their phones and meet the amazing new people surrounding them! Students emerge from Elaine’s programs understanding that their journey is, in fact, truly theirs.

Don’t Run on Empty: Find Balance and Reduce Stress in the Chaos of College

College can be overwhelming and exhausting. Between academic, extracurricular, social, volunteer and work obligations, many students feel stuck in fast forward. Each day is like a race against time, cramming more and more into less and less time. From fast food to Facebook, it’s as if everything is flying at 100 miles per hour. Somewhere, we lose sight of the damage this jet set lifestyle has on us.

For college students, depression and anxiety are on the rise, while creativity, cognitive function and overall health are on the decline. In Don’t Run On Empty, Elaine appeals to students to take responsibility for the type of lives they want to lead, and make an effort to find more balance and reduce stress; intellectually, emotionally and spiritually. Leading the students through relaxation exercises, Elaine shows that one of the best ways to do this is by “massaging the brain” everyday with techniques such as focused breathing, relaxation and awareness. Elaine makes the point that being more balanced does not require a major change in your life. Sometimes it’s as simple as appreciating life instead of always rushing through it. In the end, more balance and less stress leads to improved health, increased learning, enhanced creativity, better relationships and greater happiness in life.

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