Recap: Inspirational Wisdom from INSPIRE 2024

INSPIRE 2024 Stage

Meeting professionals packed the house at Washington, D.C.’s Watergate Hotel on March 8, 2024, for our annual speaker showcase INSPIRE, which was held in partnership with Associated Luxury Hotels International (ALHI). We welcomed attendees for a day of networking, ideas, and inspiration — all headlined by captivating keynotes from the following LAI exclusive speakers:  

Here’s a recap of some of the highlights from INSPIRE. 

Lindsay Shookus Takes the Audience Behind the Scenes of SNL 

Following a light breakfast and coffee, excited attendees found their seats near the main stage and heard from the first of our keynote speakers, Lindsay Shookus. For 20 years, Shookus was a producer for Saturday Night Live and worked alongside countless celebrities to get them ready to perform live under the bright lights of one of America's most iconic shows every Saturday night.  

Among her entertaining and humorous anecdotes was a story of a time when she worked with President Barack Obama, Michael Phelps, Oprah, and William Shatner to put together a star-studded episode of SNL. Everything was going swimmingly until — as is the norm in show biz (and for any business) — an unexpected turn of events brought about complications that put the show in jeopardy. Shookus uses this and other captivating stories to detail her strategies for building trust by remembering small details, being open to vulnerability, and being a coachable person.  

Lindsay Shookus INSPIRE quote graphic

Joan Higginbotham Reminded Us That There Is Always Space for Humanity 

Trailblazing former astronaut Joan Higginbotham took the stage next. During her career, Higginbotham overcame her fair share of setbacks and adversity to become the third African American woman to travel to space and become a pioneer and source of inspiration to many.  

She wowed the audience with fascinating stories of what it really is like fly aboard the International Space Station and emphasized that if her crew of international astronauts from diverse backgrounds can get along in a small, inescapable spaceship, that we are more than capable of doing the same here on Earth. Her overarching point was that if something doesn’t challenge you, then it won’t change you and a setback is always a setup for an inspiring comeback. 

Joan higginbotham on inspire stage

Evy Poumpouras Draws Parallels Between Words and Currency

After a coffee and lunch break, where attendees and LAI and ALHI team members had the opportunity to mingle and exchange pleasantries, Evy Poumpouras took the stage. Poumpouras is a former Secret Service Special Agent and interrogator for whom success was dependent on her ability to understand who people are at their cores.  

With her extensive background in understanding people and their complexities, Poumpouras stressed the importance of being a better listener, pointing out that people only hear about 49% of what you say. Throughout the session, Poumpouras emphasized the importance of choosing your words carefully, stated the impact of remembering the small details about a person, and shared that warmth + competence is the equation for effective leadership.  

evy poumpouras on INSPIRE stage

Miguel Cervantes Inspires Laughs, Tears and Action From the Crowd

As we neared the end of the day, Hamilton star Miguel Cervantes took the stage to bring the event home. After playing Alexander Hamilton in Chicago and on Broadway for many years, Cervantes possesses an effortless gravitas and is a natural storyteller who keeps the audience hanging on to every word as he shares inspirational wisdom on authenticity and purpose.  

He joked that if the dress rehearsal goes awry, the show itself will be a success. After warming the crowd up with live music, he retraced his journey to starring in the iconic Hamilton production, and shared how he was able to find a deeper purpose in your life.  

The most moving and heartfelt moment came when Miguel, who was unafraid to be vulnerable, took the time to open up about his young daughter who passed away in 2019 due to epilepsy. Her battle coincided with Cervantes’ big breakthrough as an actor. He has since dedicated his career and life to raising awareness and advocating so that others may not have to face similar tragedies as he did.  

Miguel concluded the show with a fun singalong that brought smiles and laughter to everyone in the room.  

miguel cervantes on inspire stage

Another successful INSPIRE is in the books and the positive feelings from the event are still running high. Our esteemed speakers shared actionable takeaways and meaningful lessons on trust, listening, leadership, connection, and love that we won’t soon forget.   

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