Professional Keynote Speaker

My childhood home was multi-generational, bilingual, bi-cultural, biracial, bi-religious, and bi-national. I pursued a variety of endeavors to flesh out, refine, and balance the narratives I learned in public education and in my home, which helped me to become a successful professional keynote speaker. Ask any mixed race individual and they will tell the story of what it is to be a pioneer.

When you are unlike the people who made you, you learn to lead and you learn to negotiate.


I have found inspiration in the stories of other mixed race and mixed heritage artists and, like them, I’ve been able to organize my beliefs and my endeavors to align with my passions.

Cherrie Moraga, Maria Campbell, and Gloria Anzaldua were sources of inspiration as I learned to navigate my mixed-ness in a world ofttimes hostile to the ambiguous. They explore the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality in their work and are some of my biggest heroes. They capture the essence of complicated human experiences and make them accessible through their beautiful and candid writing.

I hope to achieve the same in my artistic expressions.


Speaking Abstracts

Judging by the covers in the self help section at the bookstore, people love the idea of saying no — especially in an effort to reclaim their time, their identities, their comfort levels, and what they think is their purpose. I argue that our knee jerk reaction looks like no most of the time and diminishes our capacity to truly live. 

Dr. Christine Carter, a sociologist at UC Berkeley, writes, “When you’re expecting a yes, your field of vision is actually larger” than when you expect a no. In other words, if you can see more, you can be more. More is possible with yes.

New York Times bestselling authors Doctors Siegel and Bryson believe people can be taught to approach life with openness and curiosity. In their book, The Yes Brain, they ascertain that when working from a Yes Brain, “people are more willing to take chances and explore. They’re more imaginative and less worried about making mistakes.”

In other words, being a yes, people are better at relationships and more flexible and resilient when it comes to handling adversity and big feelings. 

This talk combines personal experience with statistical data to explore and uplift the notion that being a yes in a no world provides access to freedom, joy, and the unexpected in delightful ways.

Perfect for large or small audiences. PowerPoint images are required.

What do cats, quantum theory, the KKK, and Oreos have in common? This talk touches on all of them. This talk shares the importance and power of naming “things." This talk offers insights on how to elevate one’s sense of empowerment and identity and ultimately be primed for freedom. 

Perfect for large or small audiences.

There is no shortage of media in the western world that depicts how mental health can alienate and stigmatize people. From television to fiction, stereotypes of people with mental illness are rampant. In other parts of the world, mental illness is constructed and interpreted differently.

“Barriers,” in this context, are assumptions about people who “suffer” from various perceived shortcomings. This talk explores the intersection of mental health, gender, race, and culture in a way that lifts up the benefits of seeming adversities.

This talk combines personal experience with statistical data to explore and uplift the notion that everyone suffers from something and we are more alike than we think. Sometimes we just need a new perspective to orient ourselves in order to see that each individual is unique and offers incredible contributions to the community.

Perfect for large or small audiences. PowerPoint images available but not necessary and Q&A possible.

As a photographer whose motto is “Capturing your present, creating your future,” I am in the business of creating the future. With 43 years of unique and entertaining setbacks, this talk is about overcoming failure faster and to actually encourage opportunities to fumble in order to forge one’s path with creativity and connection.

This talk is a mix of personal experience marked by easy to digest epiphanies. I will cover the gamut of the sentimental to the practical and offer easily remembered gems to develop new perspectives on artfully designing one’s life.

Perfect for large or small audiences. PowerPoint images available but not necessary.

Think you’re connected? Discover how we’ve been conned into thinking we know what makes quality connections. Things like social media, conferences, and networking meetings scratch the surface of what it means to connect. What if you had a strategy to create meaningful connections quickly and confidently? Artist, educator, and business owner Elaine Kessler will help you stay at the forefront of your industry by sharing the latest insights and strategies for cultivating profound connections with both clients and collaborators. Mitigate interpersonal challenges by understanding how curiosity is the catalyst for profound connection. Explore the different dimensions of curiosity while learning how leaders can foster curiosity in their teams. Learn about how curiosity can amplify one’s connections to people, places, eras, and ideas. Discover how to generate powerful stories that matter by connecting deliberately. Elaine will offer effective strategies for how you can develop incredible stories from your life’s encounters. Using storytelling and interactive exercises, this will be a dynamic presentation designed to effectively engage and empower you to exercise curiosity as your access to deliberate connection.

I had the pleasure of hearing Elaine Kessler speak at the Gilbert Chamber of Commerce GEM Talk in February.  Her topic was thought provoking, concise and well prepared.  The manner for which she articulated her presentation kept the audience engaged and eager to hear more.  I would highly recommend Elaine Kessler for future speaking engagements.  Rest assured you will be getting a professional business leader with the grace and stature to inspire others.

Annette Sellers
Vice President Membership Services, Gilbert Chamber of Commerce

Elaine has the innate ability to deliver content in a meaningful and purposeful manner. When she speaks to an audience, she is motivating, intellectual, visionary, and impactful. Her presentations compel introspective thought and often can motivate and inspire change. She is humble but also confident and knowledgeable. I am grateful for Elaine's beautiful perspective and meaningful contributions to our community.

– Sarah Watts
President/CEO, Gilbert Chamber of Commerce

Elaine Kessler spoke at our Network QC Luncheon and it was a wonderful presentation. She is a very engaging and thought-provoking speaker and was well received by our attendees. We would bring her back as a speaker.

– Kim Swei
Administrative Assistant, Queen Creek Chamber of Commerce

I had the incredible opportunity to hear Elaine Kessler speak and share her experiences in life that are relatable by so many, including myself. Having attended several conferences and events, I have heard from many inspirational and motivational speakers. Elaine stands out as one of the best I’ve heard from. I was truly captivated by what she shared and the message she wanted to impart on the audience. I was taken on a journey with her that had highs and lows, where I felt joy and sadness, and experienced so many connections to her story. She expressed confidence and vulnerability that drew me in and kept me on the edge of my seat. She has a way of connecting with you like you’re the only one in the room. I look forward to the next opportunity to hear Elaine speak!

– Christie Boutain
Senior Vice President, Commercial Loan Officer, Meadows Bank

Meet Elaine Kessler

Photographer + Professional Keynote Speaker

Elaine is a graduate of the Master’s in Creative Enterprise and Cultural Leadership Program at Arizona State University. She also completed graduate work in Southeast Asian Studies and Performance Studies. She earned a BA in English Literature from the College of William and Mary.

As former faculty in Arizona State University’s Asian Pacific American Studies Program and the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, she received the Alexander Astin Spirituality Award for creative and insightful thinking in higher education.

She owns and operates Elaine Kessler Photography, a portrait and commercial photography studio based in Gilbert, AZ and produces interactive art exhibits. She is currently also faculty in Art and Design at Park University-Gilbert and in the Herberger Institute at Arizona State University.

Presentations + Experience

  • Presenter: DEBx, Higley Center for the Performing Arts, 2020
  • Presenter: Queen Creek Chamber Luncheon, Speaker, Queen Creek/Virtual, 2020
  • Coach: DEBx Speaker Training Program, 2018-present
  • Presenter: GEM (Gilbert, Educational, Motivational) Speaker, Gilbert, 2020
  • Presenter: Women Empowered Professional Development Luncheon, 2020
  • Grants Panelist: Arizona Commission on the Arts, 2017, 2018.
  • Presenter: Entrepreneurial Mindset, Tours for Teachers, Gilbert Chamber of Commerce, 2017 and 2018
  • Presenter: DEBx, Tempe Center for the Arts, 2017
  • Presenter: The Election Monologues, A Nationwide Event of Unity and Resistance, Tempe, 2017
  • Judge: Influx Arts, Arizona, 2017
  • Co-Chair: Building Bridges, a music education event serving Arizona students, 2015-16
  • Presenter: Sweet Chariot: An Ethnographic Performance, Tempe, 2011
  • Presenter: Performance and Pedagogy, Center for Global Culture & Communication, Northwestern University, 2004
  • Presenter: “Collaboration and Conflict” at the Performance as Public Practice Conference, University of Texas at Austin, 2004
  • Presenter: The AmerAsian Experience: An Ethnographic Performance, Tempe, 2004
  • Presenter: On the Threshold: An Ethnographic Performance, Tempe, 2004
  • Presenter: “Performance as Conflict Resolution” at Wakonse Conference on College Teaching, 2003
  • Presenter: “Performance and Pedagogy: The Role of the US in the Cambodian Genocide,” Western Conference of the Association for Asian Studies, 2003
  • Presenter: Mentoring in Higher Education: ASU Center for Learning and Teaching Excellence Institute, 2003
  • Facilitator: ASU Voices of Discovery: Asian Identity, Community Dialogues, Leadership Retreat, 2003
  • Steering Committee and Panelist: ASU Women of Color Conference, 2002
professional keynote speaker Elaine Kessler

Hire Me to Speak at Your Event

I enjoy speaking to groups of all sizes. If you'd like to hire me as a professional keynote speaker for your event, contact me to start the conversation.



3651 E Baseline Rd
Suite e223
Gilbert, AZ 85234
Map + Directions

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