AAE was joined by keynote speaker, award-winning sales and consulting executive, and professional DJ, Rich Bracken. He is an energetic storyteller who blends data and research with emotion and case studies to share insights and strategies on how to implement sustainable positive change.

Bracken has served numerous Fortune 100 clients and global organizations as a keynote speaker and is a notable media personality appearing in such outlets as ABC, ESPN, Thrive Global, Vice, and Goalcast. I recently had a conversation with Bracken about how he got his start, emotional intelligence, edutainment, and what’s next for his career.

AAE: Tell us a little about yourself and how you got started in the field and as a speaker.

Bracken: When I was 5, I knew my dream job was to be Bob Barker’s successor on The Price is Right. I just always had this desire to engage and entertain people. In my career, I spent quite a bit of time as an event planner and as a national touring DJ and emcee which allowed me to pursue the affinity that I had for crowds and entertaining.

After college, I pursued a career in marketing and event planning, which gave me the opportunity to experience the stressors that our industry faces on a day-to-day basis. As I climbed the corporate ladder, it seemed that the air got heavier with additional stress and anxiety. Deadlines, multiple projects, meetings galore, team management, schedule juggling; it was all quietly chipping away at my health as I continued to ignore it.

Until one day, I found myself having the symptoms of a heart attack in my office. 

I drove myself to the ER to discover I was having a major panic attack. It was then that I started studying mindfulness and emotional intelligence to help manage my stress and anxiety.

Once I figured out how universal these topics were and how badly we need it as a society, I decided to combine my highly empathetic desire to help people with my affinity for the stage, my entertainment background, and my event experience and stepped into the keynote speaking world. 

It was the best decision I’ve ever made.

For the last 6 years, I’ve spoken to thousands of people around the world and have been able to empower them to take control of their happiness, personally and professionally, like I did. As a keynote speaker, emcee/host, and multimedia personality, it’s my privilege to share uplifting messages, actionable tactics, habits of happiness, and sustainable change.

It’s the most blissful feeling to have found my calling and, in that, have the ability to serve my clients, their audiences, and bring positivity with a strong dose of storytelling and entertainment.

AAE: What topics do you speak on and why are they important to you?

Bracken: Emotional intelligence, leadership, motivation, and resilience are the top topics I speak about as they are all incredibly personal to me and universally needed across industries. I also have a dynamic keynote/workshop focused on executive presence and effective public speaking that’s taking off lately.

Emotional intelligence is probably the most personal because it’s what helped me turn my life around. The fact that we can all raise our emotional intelligence in simple and effective ways is empowering to those who understand how to do so. There are immense enhancements to everyone individually and companies can massively reap the benefits. It honestly has become the most impactful presentation in my content as it truly breaks through to everyone and allows them to leave better than they walked in.

The fun part is that I have a core emotional intelligence presentation and a similar presentation that incorporates DJing as well. It’s so fun to show the parallels of music and emotional intelligence which allows me to have people singing and dancing along while learning how to have more control over the success of each day.

I’ve been a massive fan of motivational speakers all my life, so to be one is a dream come true. My presentation “Become Unstoppable” has become a huge hit and the most requested of my keynotes. It’s based in the research that I did while training for the New York City Marathon where I was looking for inspiration from some of the top dominant names across all industries. I studied the characteristics of people like Oprah, Kobe Bryant, Walt Disney, and others, to find out how I could incorporate their mentality into mine to keep moving forward.

The lessons on improving our performance, tied in with some impactful and fun storytelling aspects, have had teams and leaders messaging me months later to tell me about the positive change and higher levels of success their teams are experiencing by shifting their mindsets and incorporating successful habits. These are lessons I learned personally and I love sharing them with others so that they can feel hopeful for a positive turn in their life or a greater level of happiness and success.

AAE: What kinds of audiences do you usually speak to? Who do you think resonates the most with your message?

Bracken: Between industry conferences, company meetings, and leadership retreats, I have had so much fun engaging with some of the top leaders in the world. As a lifelong entertainer, the big events are definitely a blast for me, but I also love a smaller, intimate discussion that allows the group to feel engaged and able to bond and share their experiences. 

My messages absolutely resonate the most with high performers as they walk in knowing that they’ve achieved a certain level of success. When they leave, they realize that they have a higher ceiling than they realized. The tactics and strategies I share with them help them not only realize their higher potential, but that they can get there through simple, effective, and enjoyable shifts.

I’ve also found a few techniques that I’ve incorporated that bring teams together with a stronger bond and set them free as individuals to unleash their full potential. I’d love to bring them to as many organizations as possible because I’ve literally seen and felt the energy of a room move and it becomes a powerful motivator.

AAE: What is unique about your take on a topic or message that differentiates you from others in the field?

Bracken: There are several factors that I’m proud of when sharing my messages and it starts from the first pre-event conversation with a client.

As a highly-sensitive person, I have a level of engagement and empathy that is unmatched. I sincerely want every person in the organization to feel invested in, cared for, and cheered on by me. I never have nor will present a canned presentation. I leverage my connection with audiences to engage and allow people to feel comfortable in letting their guards down. The topics I talk about can be very glossed over and fluffed up, but I prefer getting into the work and having people understand that change is possible and positive. 

I also firmly believe in the power of “edutainment” which is why my DJ keynote has struck the right chord (see what I did there?) with audiences. I have found that audiences loved being empowered and educated, but we all love entertainment. If I can have an audience nodding their heads in agreement and with the beat or laughing with a story and singing along, then I know I’ve given them the full experience.

My unique take is based in my experiential storytelling, based on personal experience, research, or client feedback in their own journeys. I’m a firm believer that we all know something that no one else does and our perspectives are what make us unique. I’m proud of my ability to find the story within the experience to not only share assimilation with the audience, but also provide them with the path to improve.

AAE: What’s an example of how you go above and beyond the expected for your client or audience?

Bracken: As a prior event planner this is where my passion for client service meets my past experience in the event world. And, clients win as a result.

The following are what clients have told me as to why they’ve chosen me and referred me to others.

Pre-event: I’m always up for any pre-event calls as I want to be as much of a part of the plan as possible. I love learning as much about the company and audience I’m going to be engaging so that I can make my presentation as customized and personal as I can. 

I also create pre-event “hype” videos for clients to circulate internally to get them familiar and comfortable with me and get them prepared for a fantastic experience (plus, my video background is top notch.)

Presentation: I pour it all out on stage as if it were a concert. I want the emotion of the message, the shift of the empowerment, and my genuine personal investment into the improvement of all in attendance to be felt, from the delivery to interactive engagement. 

I know we hear the word “engage” a lot with these types of conversations, but if you could hear the outpouring of personal stories and resonance, see the messages I receive after sharing how the messages empowered them, and the outreach months after to share their success, you’d raise the bar on the use of that word.

Post-Event: This is where my clients have raved about my extra effort. First, I share my materials with the team, including extra content to help reinforce the messages that I have walked through with them. These come in the form of guided worksheets, infographics, and more.

If I’ve presented any of my keynotes with a musical element, I have a blast building motivational playlists that we curated together during the event with me. This has become a client favorite as it continues to infuse positivity and high energy while also creating a team building element.

Finally, about a month out from the presentation, I create a custom video to check in with the audience and make sure they’re on track to sustain the positive habits we created during the presentation. And, me being me, there’s always an entertainment aspect that joins the education piece.

My goal with all of this is to make sure that each client feels that they’re getting a ton of value each time they work with me.

AAE: What do you think has been your greatest accomplishment or impact?

Bracken: I’d say becoming a dad to two amazing sons is my greatest accomplishment. It’s the one title that ranks higher than “keynote speaker” to me. While I love sharing motivation and positive change with each and every client, I’m also extremely proud of what these two will do in their lives. 

They’re just amazing.

AAE: What’s next for you in your career journey?

Bracken: Right now, I’m just focused on speaking with as many people as possible to meet people where they are and lift them up to new levels of success and happiness. I pour myself into every single engagement and I’m excited to work with as many companies, conferences, and organizations as possible for as long as I can humanly talk.

It’s truly what I love to do and was put on this Earth for.

I also tend to aim very high with my goals which has landed me in some extremely phenomenal situations. I’m working on a TV show idea right now that I’m really excited about that is focused on the events industry. I’m also tossing around the idea of a book and a TED talk.

All of these are amazing goals and keep me motivated every day to help as many people as possible.

And Drew Carey, when you’re ready to retire, call me.

If you’re interested in booking Rich Bracken for your next event, visit his speaker profile on AAE’s website to learn more.