Like most people, Michelle Lemmons-Poscente can think of many places she’d rather be than standing at a podium.
“I get so nervous to speak in front of a group,” she says. “I get asked to speak all the time and I say no.”
Fortunately for her, Lemmons-Poscente, founder and president of International Speakers Bureau, has a long list of people who can take her place. ISB represents about 500 speakers and has an available database of about 15,000 more, many of whom are household names. From Barbara Walters to Bob Costas, President Jimmy Carter to Magic Johnson, ISB’s roster makes it one of the top three bureaus in the country, booking several thousand appearances a year. ISB works with Fortune 500 companies, professional societies, and civic groups, finding the match between speaker and message.
In 1992, Lemmons-Poscente left Hollywood, where she once worked on Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, for small-town life in San Angelo, Texas. The move allowed her to care for her ailing father and start her own gig, parlaying her showbiz connections, business savvy, and Southern charm. Within a few weeks, she had her first speaker booked—veteran newscaster Charles Kuralt. The agency has grown considerably; though it’s still headquartered in downtown Dallas, it now operates branches in Canada, Prague, Amman, and Dubai.
Like any other agency representing celebrities, musicians, and the like, dealing with egos (big and bigger) is just part of the game. Still, she says, the intellectual stimulation and working with “fascinating individuals” is worth the effort. Her consulting background even landed her a job as a speech coach for the recent reality TV show American Inventor.
“This business allows me just enough to stay in the entertainment industry, but far enough away that I don’t get cynical,” Lemmons-Poscente says.
If the job ever did get her down, there’s plenty of help at hand to motivate her.