Keynote speaker Erin King

Ask Erin King how she got to where she is—a bestselling author, podcast host, chief digital officer at a marketing agency and international keynote speaker—and she spins a story of lucky moments. But behind her success lies more than mere chance.

Through the ups and downs of King’s professional and personal life, her resilient and intellectually curious approach has played a pivotal role in her achievements. This trajectory has led her on a path to exploring all components of energy management: why people’s energy levels are so unique and the best ways to source and maintain energy levels. 

Here, we look at how King went from an entrepreneur searching for a win to speaking on stages around the world and spearheading research into human energy management. 

A viral moment, and hopping on stage herself 

King’s marketing agency began as a kitchen table operation and got its big break when a cold email led to her running social media for the 2014 Oscars. Perhaps you recall a certain selfie from Ellen DeGeneres, that year’s host? While Samsung was the power behind this viral moment, King’s agency benefited. “We got the glory for it… [since] it happened on our watch,” she says. 

After the Oscars, and in these early days of social media, King and her agency were at the forefront of live events, from tech conferences to Fashion Week to Nelson Mandela’s birthday reception. 

Not every event was glamorous. It was during a Las Vegas automotive conference that King had her first big moment on stage. She was listening along to Amy Cuddy’s keynote on the power pose when the event’s planner came to her in a panic: The speaker for an upcoming 300-person breakout room had missed her flight, and she wanted King to hop on stage and talk about social media strategy. 

King’s first response: “You’ve got to be kidding me.” 

She wasn’t a star; she was there to do behind-the-scenes work, clad in comfy flats, hair pulled up in a bun. But fueled by Cuddy’s talk, she went to the bathroom and put herself in the power position. To this day, King can’t recall what she said. But clearly, she was a hit—when she was done speaking, several people told her they wanted her to speak at their companies and asked for her speaking fee. 

From there, “it built itself, and one gig led to another,” King says. 

Before flourishing, daunting setbacks 

When opportunities arrived—like a reputation-burnishing social media moment or the ability to embrace a speaking opportunity with courage and wit—King seized upon them. But before these opportune moments came more challenging experiences. 

“My first two companies were disasters,” King recalls. An early digital media agency drove her into debt, and a capital-backed tampon delivery service sold for its catchy website address (and not the product she’d developed and built). 

King was in her late 20s and feeling like a failure. She’d worked hard without any triumphant payoff and was losing faith in her ideas. It would have been easy at this moment to give up on entrepreneurship. Her grandmother’s words kept her going: “It’s better to be someone’s shot of whiskey than everyone’s cup of tea. You are someone’s shot of whiskey.” 

King kept going, and her third attempt—the agency that powered the Oscars social media posts in 2014—would go on to be her big break, leading her eventually to her true passion: speaking on stage. 

A terrible year led to a new quest for insight 

Recently, King had a truly dreadful year. It didn’t start badly: She was appearing on stages worldwide, and her book was racing up the bestseller charts. But then, in the space of just a few months, she was hit with a series of terrible back-to-back events, including family illness, the traumatic death of a pet and a financial setback.  

“No one wants to hire a depressed motivational speaker,” King says. So she tried to power through. Her mentality was “if I can keep working, I don’t have to think about anything,” she recalls. But it simply wasn’t sustainable. One day, after doing five keynotes in seven days, while in the middle of a Zoom meeting with her team, her heart started racing and she collapsed on camera, convinced she had a heart attack and was going to die. 

“I woke up in the hospital,” she says. She’d had a panic attack, and that moment helped her realize that something had to change; she couldn’t work her way through despair. But three months of relaxing—on an Eat, Pray, Love journey in Bali—only alleviated the problem briefly. 

Learning how to power up consistently 

King had tried powering through, and she’d tried powering down a bit to reset. Neither option worked. 

“I realized I needed to figure out how to power up more consistently,” King says. 

Others may have turned to yoga, therapy or other self-improvement efforts. Not King. She hired a team of Ph.D.s, and together, “we conducted the world’s largest study so far on personal human energy management.” She says they wanted to uncover how people source and nurture energy and how to keep it steady even when life comes at you. 

The research revealed five different energy types and showed that not everyone gains power—or drains it—the same way. These findings have led to an energy assessment, which will be available on King’s website soon, that can help people uncover their energy type and be able to make deliberate adjustments to how they spend their time to maximize their energy. 

Now, King teaches organizations the Big Energy Blueprint, a framework of five steps: 

  • Ask
  • Assess
  • Adjust
  • Align
  • Amplify 

This framework helps adjust an organization’s energy levels—something leaders may be eager to do if morale is low and burnout is high. 

“I believe energy management is kind of the time management for today’s world,” King says. It’s how we get through everything and feel present, aligned, ambitious and more alive, she says. 

Worth noting: “Big Energy” does not equate to high “energy.” It’s not about everyone hitting the super-sized energy of a used-car salesperson, King points out. Imagine a yoga teacher with that energy; it wouldn’t feel right. “It’s not about mimicking someone else’s style; it’s about tuning into your core energy,” King says. 

Bottom line: “Energy is the most valuable skill we can bring to the workplace,” King says, noting that her team’s research found that people valued energy most in leaders: more than education, connections or experience. King’s passion is finding ways to help people manage their energy levels and not vacillate between powered-up time and work and powered-down time on the couch. “Your energy,” King says, “is your edge.” So it’s worth prioritizing how you can learn to power up for your energy type over the long term, she says. 

Want to book Erin King as the keynote speaker for your next event? By booking with the SUCCESS® Speakers Bureau, you can be confident in working with a legacy brand. You also receive logistical support and professional guidance.