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Tap This Ex-CIA Operative to Speak at Your Events

September 15, 2021

A compelling keynote speaker can be one of the biggest draws for events. And what could be more riveting than an ex-CIA intelligence officer who spent 10 years in the organization living a double life, interrogating terrorists and carrying out some of the nation’s most sensitive tasks? 

Michele Rigby Assad, with Goodman Speaker Management, presented her story at Meetings Today LIVE! Louisville at The Galt House Hotel on September 14 to about 60 meeting planners and suppliers. Assad talked about joining the CIA after 9/11, traveling abroad in the Middle East and working undercover—all under extreme stress and pressure. (That last part, planners are no stranger to.) 

Assad knows that an audience might raise their eyebrows at first: How relatable is it to be a CIA officer? But with her ability and training on assessing sources, she’s able to assess an audience and tailor her talks to them in ways that matter to them and their specific industry. 

“I’ll give you an example: I was once a keynote for 900 airport snow removal experts. It was mostly 900 men who do snow removal, and I found a way to relate the CIA to snow removal,” she said with a laugh. 

Along with detailing her story in her book Breaking Cover, Assad is taking it on the road with Goodman Speaker Management, where she has presented in front of a wide variety of groups, from women’s leadership conferences and social media industries to faith-based groups. 

“The reason why I really felt called to speak was, number one, communication is one of my strengths,” Assad said. “And I had so many incredible experiences in the CIA, and so many incredible life lessons that I've learned. I thought this would be useful to so many people.  

Michele Rigby Assad
Michele Rigby Assad speaking at Meetings Today LIVE! Louisville on September 14 at The Galt House Hotel.

“It's not like I'm saying things that [attendees] have never heard before—about having confidence or grit or things like that—but because my stories are so different, because they involve terrorists and insurgents and the Middle East and the CIA, it's such a unique platform,” she said. “It gives people a chance to see behind the curtain and hear a little bit about something that they're fascinated by. So in the process, I can insert these life lessons in a way that can be mind-blowing to people.”  

Although Assad has done Zoom talks for groups as the industry continues to navigate the pandemic disruption, a live crowd is where she thrives, “as a person who loves that energy and has the ability to read body language,” she said.   

Planners interested in booking Assad can do so through Goodman Speaker Management, where they can have a detailed conversation with her about the theme of the event, who will be there and what their expectations are. Her talks have ranged from 35 minutes to two hours. 

"Michele always has a content call with the organizer and asks really thoughtful and probing questions to get clarity on expectations and to understand their objectives and desired outcomes," said Diane Goodman, president of Goodman Speaker Management. "She has so many stories and experiences from being in the CIA, that it is easy for her to find the right ones to customize each talk she gives."

And Assad knows that planners are dealing with the many changes brought on by COVID-19.

“When you carry out complex operations in difficult places, you can really turn on a dime," Assad said. "I’m the kind of person where, if you have a live event and suddenly need to go to Zoom, or vice versa, I can do that. I can pivot very easily.” 

Yes, CIA operatives and meeting planners have a few things in common after all. 

Interested in participating in a Meetings Today LIVE! event? Join us in Myrtle Beach October 17-20! Inquire now.

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About the author
Sarah Kloepple | Content Developer, Destinations and Features

Sarah Kloepple joined Stamats as a staff writer in August 2018. Previously, she's written and edited for numerous publications in St. Louis.