What skills or talents make for a standout speaker? The kind of speaker where you say, “Wow! How did we ever get her?”
Is it humor? Personality? The ability to tell a good story?
Or personal passion?
While all the above are incredibly important (and attributes that attach to me in one degree or another), I believe the key ingredient to an outstanding presentation is authenticity.
If the audience finds the speaker genuine and authentic, they will more readily connect with the speaker’s messaging.
“Authentic.” “Genuine.” “Open book.” “Compelling.” “Brave.”
I’ve heard all of those phrases after various presentations.
My favorite most recent review (which you can see below) is this: Ellie – I really enjoyed your talk today in St. Paul at the MN CLE. Was quite moved – and I am not historically prone to being moved . . . . Am committing to be in the A+A camp going forward. Thank You. Bill
Because my voice (distinctly male) contrasts with my appearance (distinctly female), I can talk about how we humans automatically label and categorize people who are “different.” My appearance-voice incongruity also allows me to talk about how I left one “tribe” (the “Rich White Man Lawyer Tribe”) and entered an entirely different “tribe” (the “Marginalized Transgender Human-Woman Tribe”) which impacts my ability to fit in. In essence, with just the words, “I’m transgender” when I came out as the true me in 2009, I firsthand experienced what it means to be “other” in this society of ours that so easily divides between “us” and “them.”
While some of my presentations include parts of my personal story, my premiere training, Gray Area Thinking™ is not at all about me but instead about providing a toolset for how to be more inclusive and welcoming toward anyone who is considered “different” or “other.” I developed Gray Area Thinking™ through research, personal observation, and just plain old common sense about how we treat each other. Audiences love this training because it is both concrete and inspirational. (See Bill’s comment above.) And for sure, I believe that in order to motivate people to change the way they think and act, they need to first be inspired to do so. Banging people over the head (e.g. “You have to do this”) just doesn’t work.
For credentials, I hold degrees from Coe College (Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi) and Boston College Law School. I practiced law in Boston for five years where I was mentored by a brilliant trial attorney and an astute corporate lawyer. In 1988, I relocated to my hometown of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I eventually founded and oversaw a law firm specializing in high exposure (death and life-changing injuries) trial work. I have more than 100 trials to my credit, many of which were jury-verdict cases. I won far more cases than I lost.
In 2009, I transitioned from male to female. Within three months of transitioning, I became the first Iowa attorney, and one of the few nationally, to try a jury case in the other gender. I believe I’m also the first transgender attorney to argue before the Iowa Supreme Court.
In 2011, I started a Minneapolis-based nonprofit, Call for Justice, LLC that helps connect low-income persons with legal resources. In 2014, the American Bar Association conferred upon Call for Jusice, LLC an award for innovatively increasing legal access. Additionally, from 2011 to 2014, I co-chaired the Hennepin County Bar Association Diversity Committee, which launched a number of initiatives to promote racial and other diversity and inclusion in Minnesota.
Beginning in 2009 when I transitioned genders, I began speaking on what it means to be transgender. From there, I developed very formal training programs around that (“Transgender 101”) and around general inclusivity (Gray Area Thinking™ and “Allyship 101”) as wells as motivational trainings and workshops (“Getting to Ellen: Gleaning Authenticity from a Moment of Truth” and Human is Human™). Even when I worked as a nonprofit executive director, I trained and spoke on the side. I’ve now presented or trained more than 500 times in venues across the country and in January 2017, I left the nonprofit field to speak/train exclusively through my company Human Inspiration Works, LLC.
I’m a monthly freelance writer for Lavender Magazine, through which my column reaches more than 40,000 readers a month. That column, Skirting the Issues, has received Gold and Bronze Medal Awards for Excellence from the Minnesota Magazine and Publishing Association.
In January 2017, I launched my weekly radio and podcast show, “Hidden Edges Radio with Ellen Krug,” which airs on AM950 in the Twin Cities. The show is an extension of my inclusivity work where I interview guests who’ve demonstrated grit and resiliency in the face of adversity. The show is also about highlighting our commonalities as we all collectively struggle to survive the Human Condition.
My memoir, Getting to Ellen: A Memoir about Love, Honesty and Gender Change (Stepladder Press), was published in February 2013. The memoir has been featured in the St. Paul Pioneer Press and on Iowa Public Radio and has been reviewed on Amazon (5 Star rating) and Goodreads by more than 70 readers. My experience as a transgender trial attorney was a subject in the blog Lawyerist and my story has been featured on the Huffington Post (podcast) and in variou publications. I’ve given many interviews, including to Public Radio in Minnesota and South Dakota, MyTalk 107.1, KSTP television, and other media outlets.
My past or upcoming presentations, trainings and/or clients include Target Corporation (headquarters), General Mills Corporation (headquarters), Medtronic Corp. (headquarters); Wells Fargo Bank, Fairview Health Systems, Thompson Reuters (headquarters), a major federal national banking institution which asks that it not be identified, the state of Iowa judicial system (training judges, magistrates, clerks of court and judicial court officers), the cities of Rochester, Bloomington and Albert Lea, Minnesota, Iowa State University, the University of Denver Law School, the University of Minnesota Law School, and many other educational and nonprofit locations. (A listing of representative clients/venues can be found here.) I have also trained law enforcement students and professionals on how to interact with transgender persons.
A short biography with my picture can be found here.