Public Speaking

It's a telescope, not a microphoneI can help you solve your event-planning needs. To book a speaking engagement, email or call (619)796-5455.

In addition to co-hosting the national public radio show A Way with Words each week, I do public speaking for  groups of all sizes — conferences, keynotes, luncheons, lectures, commencements, graduations, classrooms, and private gatherings. I also emcee galas, fundraisers, awards ceremonies, holiday gatherings, and celebrations. I can also serve as a moderator for your panel or live interviewer for your event. Check out these client testimonials.

I’ll entertain, energize, and motivate your organization with a lively, humorous presentation on words and how we use them, effective communication, language and diversity, the joy of lifelong learning, and other topics, such as:

  • The Joy of Lex: Falling in Love with Language
  • The St8 of English 2day? Gr8!: The English Language Is Healthier Than Ever
  • Get Your Words’ Worth: How to Improve Your Email Efficiency
  • Do You Hear What I Hear?  Workplace Diversity and the English Language
  • You Say Pop, I Say Soda: A Talking Tour of Regional Dialects in America
  • A Garden of Words: How Flowers Got Their Names
  • Putting Words in Your Mouth: How Foods Got Their Names
  • Where the Wild Things Are: An Appreciation of The Animals Hidden in Everyday Words
  • A Way with … Birds: Spotting Our Feathered Friends Lurking in The Language
  • Libraries: Your Key to Lifelong Learning
  • My Best Failure Ever!: A Motivational Talk About Pursuing Your Passion
  • Unwrapping the Gift of Language: Words for the Holiday Season
  • Teachers Change Lives: Appreciating Our Educators

I’m happy to tailor my presentation to fit the needs of your organization. Contact me here. If you’d like to book both my radio partner Grant Barrett and me, just say the word!

Selected Recent and Upcoming Appearances

Helped the literacy organization net $50,000 in donations

Sold-out performance in Dallas, Texas, to benefit literacy


CareFusion corporate headquarters: “Do You Hear What I Hear?,” an interactive presentation on language and diversity in the workplace. April 3, 2014.

•Emcee, national conference of the National Association for Bilingual Education, San Diego. February 13, 2014.

• Emcee and Auctioneer. Buena Vista Audubon Society annual fundraiser, Oceanside, California. February 22, 2014.

Sidestage Improv, San Diego. February 23, 2014.

•Interviewer/moderator. A conversation wtih bestselling author Alice Hoffman (Practical Magic, The Dovekeepers), for Words Alive! literacy organization. La Jolla, California. November 12, 2013.

•A conversation with bestselling author of The Kite Runner, Khaled Hosseini, onstage at the Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, California. June 26, 2012.

• “An Evening with Martha and Grant,” a sellout appearance to benefit the Aberg Center for Literacy. We also emceed a Jeopardy!-style quiz for local celebrities, including Dallas mayor Mike Rawlings. Dallas, Texas. May 16, 2013.

• Panelist. “Restoring Respect,” Second Annual Conference on Civility in Public Dialogue, at the Joan Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, University of San Diego. February 20, 2013.

With Congressman Marty Block and San Diego Union-Tribune editor Jeff Light

“Restoring Respect” conference, University of San Diego

• Celebrity designated speller alongside my radio partner Grant BarrettSan Diego Council on Literacy Adult Spelling Bee. Hall of Champions, San Diego. February 27, 2014.

Selected Past Appearances

• Luncheon speaker. Community College Humanities Association (CCHA) Pacific-Western Division Conference, “Exploring Histories in the Humanities.” Portland, Oregon. October 26, 2012.

• Interviewer/moderator.  Words Alive! annual Authors Luncheon and fundraiser for this San Diego literacy organization. I’ll have an onstage conversation with New York Times bestselling author Vanessa Diffenbaugh about the language of flowers,  November 13, 2012.

• Lecturer, with my co-host, Grant Barrett. “Three Centuries of American English,” in conjunction with the Behold America exhibit, San Diego Museum of Art. November 15, 2012.

• Panelist. “Restoring Respect,” Second Annual Conference on Civility in Public Dialogue, at the Joan Kroc Institute for Peace & Justice, University of San Diego. February 20, 2013.

Video: Keynote Speech, Women & Technology Conference, Ferrum College

Selected Past Speaking Events

Recent media appearances, and:

• Keynote speaker and workshop leader with my co-host Grant Barrett. Writers’ Forum, Intuit Corporate Headquarters. Mountain View, California. September 12, 2012.

• Keynote speaker, Diversity Summit, Sempra Energy, Downey, CA. July 12, 2012.

• Commencement Address, National University graduation ceremony, Sacramento Civic Center, Sacramento, California. April 22, 2012. More about the event here.

• Keynote Speaker, Women’s Leadership Conference, Ferrum College, Ferrum, Virginia. March 13, 2012 (See a recommendation from the College Provost. Watch the speech here.)

No, I'm not nervous--just excited about telling a story

Improv comedy at Finest City Improv

• Co-host of the Words Alive! Annual Authors’ Luncheon with my radio partner Grant Barrett. The benefit and fundraiser grossed more than $90,000. November 1, 2011. (See a recommendation from the Executive Director.)

• Courtside Announcer for the Mercury Insurance Open, a professional tennis tournament, at the La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, California. July 30-31, 2011.

• Lecture, Congregation Beth Israel. “The Joy of Lex.” March 17, 2011. • Emcee, San Diego County

Women’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Emceeing a collaboration among the Women’s Museum of California, the Women’s Studies Department at San Diego State University, The Women’s Center at the University of California San Diego, and the San Diego County Commission on the Status of Women. March 12, 2011. (See a recommendation from the organizer.)

• Sunday-morning Speaker, Chalice Unitarian Universalist Congregation, a church in Escondido, California. “Pursuing Your Passion.” February 20, 2011.

• Luncheon featured speaker, the Wednesday Club, the venerable women’s artistic and cultural organization founded in 1895. This a holiday-themed presentation was titled “Unwrapping the Gift of Words.” December 1, 2010.

• Luncheon featured speaker, Brandeis University National Women’s Committee, North County Chapter of San Dieguito. This organization philanthropic arm of the University raising money for scholarships as well as support of campus libraries. “Why I Love Libraries.” Morgan Run Club & Resort, Rancho Santa Fe, California. May 24, 2010.

• Lecture. Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, University of California San Diego Extension. “The Joy of Lex.” April 13, 2010.

• Featured Speaker, La Jolla Golden Triangle Rotary. December 4, 2009.

• Featured Speaker, Family Health Centers of San Diego Annual Luncheon. November 21, 2008. • Closing Keynote Speaker for the training conference of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources (IPMA-HR). Flamingo Hotel, Las Vegas, Nevada. “Getting Your Words’ Worth: Improve Your Business Communication and Email Efficiency.” October 22, 2008. (See a recommendation from the organizer.)

• Writing seminar, Baker & McKenzie LLP. My talk to attorneys and paralegals at this law firm was called “Get Your Words’ Worth!”: Increase Your Word Power and Improve Your Email Efficiency.” San Diego, California. July 29, 2008. (See a recommendation from the organizer.)

National Association for Bilingual Education national conference

NABE national conference MC

• Emcee, Annual San Diego Book & Writing Awards. May 17, 2008

• Speaker, Marion County Public Library, “A Garden of Words.” Indianapolis, Indiana. April 13, 2008.

• Guest Host and Speaker with my radio partner Grant Barrett for “Alphabet Affair,” a fundraiser for the Indianapolis literacy organization, Indy Reads. Hyatt Regency, Indianapolis, Indiana. April 12, 2008.

• Awards presenter at the 31st Annual American Crossword Tournament in Brooklyn, New York. This is the big event organized by NPR Puzzlemaster Will Shortz. Crossword Tournament: The Final Countdown, New York Press. March 28, 2008.

• Emcee for fundraising gala with sports legends Maria Sharapova and Pam Shriver at the Acura Classic Tennis Tournament. This event raised $256,000 for the Scripps Polster Breast Care Center to support breast care prevention, treatment, and early detection. La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California. August 2, 2007.