Walk the Talk
Indy-Based Speaker Series Encourages Well-Being, Positive Thinking & Spirituality
Writer / Jon Shoulders
Photography Provided by Walk the Talk Speaker Series
Since 2016, Steve Ross has been organizing a type of show markedly different than the many musical shows he helped organize as owner of The Vogue for several decades.
Six years ago, Ross felt compelled to start organizing a speaker series somewhat similar to TED Talks, only instead of focusing on technology, education and design, he wanted each event centered on well being, positive thinking and spirituality.
“I really wanted to start offering something that lifted people up,” says Ross, who became a co-owner of The Vogue back in 1986 and sole owner from 2000 until April of this year. “Our slogan is Creating an Epic Shift, which means to change how people think so they think more positively and realize there are ways to overcome problems in life and be a better person.”
Each Walk the Talk speaking event features six individuals who present a 10-minute story to the audience, related to a particular show’s theme. Ross typically chooses the topic for a given event several months beforehand and invites between 20 and 30 potential speakers to audition for the six spots. Past show themes have included Enlightenment, Mindfulness and Manifest: Anything is Possible.
“When we audition people, we look for people that have passion, with a story and a message that’s real and that the audience will want to hear,” says Ross, who has teamed with inspirational speaker Richard Brendan to make Walk the Talk a reality. “We’ve been able to pick six different approaches to our topic each time, which is cool. So you have six people with their own approach to the same topic.”
The first event was held in June 2016, and Ross and Brendan soon discovered there are plenty of Indy locals with uplifting stories to tell.
“At first we thought about bringing in big speakers like Deepak Chopra, but we realized those people charge more than we wanted to spend for an hour talk,” Ross says. “And even a TED Talk speaker for 10-15 minutes is $10,000 or $15,000. We researched and found there are speaker groups and great people around Indianapolis.”
Each event also includes live music and confetti and concludes with an inspirational balloon drop.
“Inside the balloons is a motivational phrase based on the night’s topic, kind of like a fortune cookie,” Ross says. “People can pop them right there or take them home and do it. The little kids in the audience go crazy for that. It’s a fun twist to the night.”
Ross recalls many poignant moments during the events he’s put on, and one speaker that sticks out in his mind is Lauren Lane Powell, who spoke on the topic of overcoming fear at an event in Bloomington two years ago while battling ovarian cancer at the time.
“Her message was so strong, and she was the most positive, loving woman I could ever imagine, especially considering what she was going through,” he says. “It was very impactful to everyone there I think.”
Ross and Brendan kicked off the series at The Vogue in 2016, and after getting requests from parents wanting to bring their kids to attend, they held shows at Indy’s Athenaeum, the Buskirk-Chumley Theater in Bloomington and the Brown County Playhouse. This September’s event, which will be the 17th and the theme for which is Unconditional Love, will be held at the Indiana Historical Society’s Frank and Katrina Basile Theater.
Audiences have grown with each show, with attendees coming from Ohio and Kentucky as well as Marion and surrounding counties. While they’re considering eventually taking the Walk the Talk series on tour, Ross and Brendan are content for now to attract crowds to Central Indiana and host one-off shows.
“We’ve enjoyed starting out in Indianapolis and Bloomington, and we’ll see where it goes from here,” Ross says. “The main goal with this is to help people be better, and if people can take something away from one of the stories they hear to improve their well-being, that’s what we’re doing it for.”
For more information including an upcoming events page and audition details, visit walkthetalkseries.com.