By Charndré Emma Kippie
Charlotte Kemp is the President of the Professional Speakers Association of Southern Africa (PSASA), Vice President of the Global Speakers Federation (GSF), and a Member of the Association of Professional Futurists (APF). She is also popularly known for her role as a Professional International Futurist Keynote Speaker. Charlotte’s membership and leadership roles in various speaking bodies allow her to help to connect aspiring and experienced speakers to associations that will help them to develop their speaking careers.
With years and a wide range of association experience, combined with good futures models, she helps volunteer led association leaders to create futures focussed strategies for the association and advocacy plans for members and the industry.
What got you into the field you’re currently in?
I spent a decade teaching people about social media but wanted to invest myself in something deeper. When I discovered the field of futures thinking, I felt like I had come home. It was a huge process of reinvention, changing the topics that people associated with me and creating awareness of the new work I was doing.
What excites you the most about your role?
I have multiple roles in my professional life. As a futurist I love working with organisations to help them and their teams prepare for the future. Without good preparation we feel like we are victims to what is coming at us. When we develop future literacy we learn what we can influence, what we can avoid, and prepare ourselves to face what may otherwise be a major disruption. Of course we cannot influence everything in the future, but we have a lot more agency than we sometimes credit ourselves with.
In my roles in leadership in the speaking world I am thrilled to be able to connect people and organisations. The PSASA is a member of the Global Speakers Federation, a world-wide body to connect our regional and national speaking bodies. My election as Vice President of GSF makes me the first person from Africa to be in the leadership team, and I will take over as President of GSF in 2023.
In what ways do you think your organisation/business is enhancing the South African economy?
Both with the speaking world and the future world, I am on a mission to identify, connect and promote our incredible talent and wisdom in the continent. I have been to too many events where we have all male panels of speakers or where we have imported a keynote speaker from North America or Europe instead of tapping into the wisdom, insight, innovation and expertise in Africa.
In terms of the South African economy: The PSASA was invited to participate in the South African Events Council at the start of the Covid lockdowns and I represented PSASA on the SAEC for a year until I handed over recently to a new member of our PSASA leadership team.
The SA Events Council represents all the associations in the business events arena in South Africa. This has been one of the worst hit sectors of the SA economy because of the lockdowns and restrictions for meetings and gatherings. The SAEC has done a huge amount of work to see what other countries have done about meetings, to source case studies and tests, to defined meeting safety protocols and to promote those protocols to all of the industry partners. And yet we painfully share every week, the news of yet another hotel, conference venue, convention organiser, event space or company that is closing down after valiantly trying to stay in business after months and months of zero income.
The speaking part of this sector has not been as badly affected as most speakers were able to transition online very quickly and we have become used to and quite good at presenting keynotes, workshops and facilitation online. It is vitally important that our country doesn’t stop learning, connecting and growing and our members in PSASA have certainly added their voices, and very often provided free sessions to motivate and encourage others.
The future work that I and my future colleagues do, is also a valuable contribution to South Africa. We have the example from decades ago when Clem Sunter taught us about the high and low road scenarios for South Africa, coming out of apartheid. We should be defining new scenarios for our country now and finding ways to change our directions and create better ways to face the challenges we are buffeted with.
Do you think your field is diverse in terms of gender equality?
Gender equality is something we pay attention to in the speaking world in particular. I founded a Women Speakers Mastermind within PSASA to help women to share their experiences and expertise and to help to raise their profiles and positioning in the speaking world. We have just embarked on a similar project with women leaders from the speaking world in India and in Malaysia, creating a platform for us to network internationally. The more we know about our respective work, the better able we are to promote each other as women speakers online, and to refer to each other for business or speaking opportunities.
In the futures world we have just started a casual collaboration and network of futurists from across the continent. The APF is planning on starting regional chapters, and in anticipation of that, we are networking to get to know each other and to discover the incredible futures work in different regions in Africa. While there may be fewer women in futures than men, it is not quite as evident as it is a relatively new field and there are many shining examples of women doing fantastic futures work.
What are your top 3 tips for ensuring the success of women in your field?
Network! The stronger, further and more robust your professional network, the easier it will be for you to learn new things, find business opportunities, be referred for work and be able to cope with a crisis or disruption because you will be tapped into the most amazing global wisdom. You can start to do this in the association that represents your work.
Stand for leadership positions. Volunteer organisations and associations are always looking for good, competent, connected, resourceful leaders and they need the voice of women.
Develop resourcefulness. In a world with such volatile changes, none of our career choices or work positions are guaranteed to continue providing for us forever. The more resourceful we are, the more opportunities we have to find new avenues for income and development. This is way more than just creating multiple streams of income. It means being a lifelong learner, developing creativity and developing our personal and professional skills.
What have been some major obstacles in your career, as a woman, and how did you overcome them?
I positioned myself really badly. There was an opportunity a few years ago to meet a significant person in the speaking world, from Singapore, at an event in Cape Town. I went up to him to introduce myself and he said, “Oh yes, I know you. You are the admin person at PSASA.” I walked away devastated. I really appreciate our admin support in the organisation but for me to be mistaken as that person instead of the international keynote speaker that I aspired to be, was a blow to my ego but a wake up call to my professional positioning.
Now I hold significant positions locally and a prominent position internationally. I still do lots of admin work, but I keep it behind the scenes. I have crafted my image and worked very hard to change the impression people have of me.
Of course, now there are some people who find me boastful or arrogant, but as I always use my profile to support and raise up others, I guess I will have to take that.
What are your goals for the future?
When events open up and we can travel and speak internationally, I want to take the opportunity to share my work on global stages, and to meet in person many of the amazing people I have connected with virtually over the last few years.
I have the leadership of the GSF to look forward to, and my goal is to bring new associations into the Federation, as well as to support the development of speaking associations in different parts of Africa to represent the speakers there.
And the APF wants to start a Chapter in Africa, and my goal is to see at least 5 regional chapters developed over the next few years to represent the futurists and their amazing work in their parts of the continent.
What important/life-changing books have you read?
I’m going to have to go with Sir Terry Pratchett and the Discworld series. Pratchett is able to make such deep and insightful commentary on elements of society that we often take for granted without questioning. With his characters and story lines he comments on gender, race, identity, purpose, and power in a beautiful way that has us laughing and crying and then realising how we have accepted something as true that should really be questioned.
What advice do you have for young women entrepreneurs who aspire to work in your field?
Young women entrepreneurs have amazing value to bring to the marketplace. Don’t sell yourself short. Find out what men are charging and charge the same. Don’t discount yourself and then have to reinvent yourself later to be taken seriously. Step up and let your voice be heard, especially if you are a speaker or trainer! If you reach out to a more established woman for some help, and she rebuffs you, know that it is her issue and not yours and try again with someone else. Know that men aren’t the enemy, the patriarchy shackles men as much as it does women, so if you find a man who is an ally, then appreciate his support.
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