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Speakers: Billy McLaughlin

“Many people fail because they quit too soon.”

reads the fortune cookie saying that McLaughlin taped to his dashboard in 2001 – it remains there to this day.

Billy McLaughlin

www.billymclaughlinspeaker.com  | Download pdf

Motivation | Inspiration | Leadership | Change Management | Innovation

Travels from Minnesota

Empowering others to rethink the impossible

Billy McLaughlin is a Billboard Top‐Ten best‐selling international guitar virtuoso whose real‐life drama propelled him through the devastation of an incurable disorder to one of the most remarkable comebacks in musical history. Companies around the world are asking Billy to speak for one simple reason impactful inspiration!

Billy’s honest and deeply personal account of battling and ultimately conquering insurmountable odds inspires everyone to acknowledge their unlimited potential for success.

Billy is an engaging speaker committed to delivering the highest musical aesthetic while warmly acquainting himself with every audience through stories and humor. He captivates audiences with live musical illustrations while telling his true story with disarming honesty and engaging emotion. Billy shares memorable and practical lessons from his journey of transforming “incurable” into “unstoppable”!

Speaking and Seminars

Doing More With Less - Making an Impact with all that you’ve got!

Are you asked to do more with less? Budget cuts, re-organization, ownership changes and shifts in the economy all create an environment of expectations for results that are seemingly unattainable.  Yet, as dramatic and painful as circumstances may be, they come with a gift: self discovery. Having endured a condition that took away his health and career, Billy McLaughlin understands the importance of celebrating this gift. He demonstrates the marvel of discovering what you CAN do with the resources you HAVE when you stop focusing on those you’ve lost. It might require you to think upside-down or "left-handed". It might require that you stop focusing on what is broken or how you can't do something "the way you used to". Billy shows you how you can make meaningful change for yourself and your community when you move out of the mindset that everything is broken. By realizing what still works and what still matters, you can make a significant difference, regardless of the obstacles. Listen to Billy’s story; you, too, will choose to be a "difference-maker"!

  • Help individuals and teams gain control over difficult situations
  • Move from negative reaction to positive action
  • Gain self confidence and empowerment
  • Find the opportunity in the challenge
  • Strengthen allegiances by celebrating wins whenever possible

From Adversity to Innovation: A Look at the Other Side of Change

Billy shares insights into the problems facing professionals today through stories from his personal experience. In a straightforward, down-to-earth style, McLaughlin deals with complex issues in an understanding and often humorous way. He presents no charts or technical jargon, only practical advice based on first-hand experience of what he has discovered in his life and business. A master of reinvention, McLaughlin takes his audience on a journey from skyrocketing success to total failure and back again; a road that he now helps others to navigate in their business endeavors. He combines solid, actionable advice with exceptional music and an entertaining style for an unforgettable experience that will change your perspective on the challenges you and your organization face.

  • Rules that kill results
  • Dealing with the disruption of change
  • The impact of performance on product integrity
  • Working with the weakest player in the band
  • “It worked yesterday!” The journey from breakdown to breakthrough

Life After Diagnosis

Whether in healthcare, business or personal challenges, understanding and having a diagnosis for what you are facing is a critical step towards your future. Diagnosis may be unwelcome news, but it doesn’t have to be final. When diagnosed with focal dystonia, Billy McLaughlin was actually relieved to know what was wrong with him, despite the fact that the prognosis for his musical career was grim.  He put into action the words of Norman Cousins….”Accept the diagnosis, reject the verdict!”

Billy has created this program especially for business, foundations, healthcare professionals, Insurance professionals and individuals who have been affected by sudden, future-changing events. He takes them along with him on a personal journey from diagnosis to self-discovery, which led him to a new and more exciting phase of his business development and career building future.

  • Going from darkness to cold white light
  • Why hard facts are better than subtle fiction
  • Picking up your compass
  • The choice between what works and what doesn’t
  • The gift that comes in the unwanted package

New Ways to Do It: The Road to Reinvention

Simple, frank and funny, Billy McLaughlin shines a mirror on all the unseen artists in the room, especially you. From the day you were born, a new signature was imprinted onto the world. Life experienced through the eyes, mind and touch of every new generation has its own expression and communicates its own meaning. Artists embrace this notion. Finding “New Ways to do even the most ordinary things is the challenge we are all given. All that has been created so far cannot compare to what is yet to be introduced by people with unique perspectives and capabilities—people such as you. If it feels like the world is changing fast these days, it’s because of all the new creative inventions happening around us. Billy encourages you to step out of your spectator’s seat and recognize your ability to take an active role in designing the future that you have imagined.

  • Never underestimate the value of your own ideas
  • The people who change the world look a lot like you
  • The world needs more people who love what they do
  • Be part of change or change will happen to you
  • Don’t go the road to reinvention alone

Stop Listening to Experts

You are not a beginner - don't act like one! Stop waiting for validation outside yourself. With the culture of specialization, and listening to experts, is limiting our productivity.  You know better than anyone around you what needs to be done even if no one around you thinks it is possible. If Billy McLaughlin had listened to experts, the music you are about to hear would never have been created - it is precisely this music that went on to earn Billy his first Emmy Award in July of 2013. His message of succeeding under continuing challenges is filled with emotion, humor and valuable takeaways. Billy's keynote talk with just the right amount music will help you become the confident expert you know that you are - and show others around you the new paths that must be taken for you and your organization to succeed. Who did Steve Jobs listen too? Not for entry level employees.

Organize - Execute - Enjoy!



Meet the Artist

Emmy Award winning Billy McLaughlin has been changing people’s idea of what an acoustic guitar can sound like since the 1980’s.

 “…you may swear Billy McLaughlin is two of the greatest acoustic guitarists you’ve ever heard.” - Pittsburgh Post Gazette

 “… it’s amazing that such an extensive sound comes from one instrument.”
- Chicago Sun Times 

He is recognized as an innovative performer and composer who embraces the advantages of acoustic guitar amplification, unorthodox techniques and altered tunings while celebrating a gift for melody. His enormous yet fluid acoustic guitar tone has carried him around the world, to Billboard’s Top-Ten Chart and most recently through a devastating medical disorder called focal dystonia. McLaughlin has had to re-learn the guitar left-handed and is in the early stages of what might be described as “one of the great musical-comeback stories of all time.”

His story is the subject of an award-winning documentary film called Changing Keys - Billy McLaughlin and the Mysteries of Dystonia.

In addition to regular concert dates, Billy McLaughlin has performed/presented recently for:

  • Accenture
  • American Academy of Neurology
  • ARC Greater Twin Cities
  • Elm brook Church Milwaukee
  • Fairview Hospitals
  • Great Lakes Music Therapists Convention
  • Gustavus Adolphus College
  • Guthrie Theater Minneapolis
  • Keller Williams Realty International
  • Mayo Clinic
  • Metropolitan Symphony Minneapolis
  • Mobile Symphony Saenger Theater
  • Peking University
  • TEDxAtlanta
  • Twin Cities Public Television Pledge
  • University of Minnesota
  • Wells Fargo
  • Woodbury Financial


"Billy was the highlight of our Annual Meeting making it one of the best we've ever had!"
~ Tina M. Novack, American Academy of Neurology

"Billy's masterful performance captivated every single person attending FPX's customer appreciation banquet.  But his humble yet incredible testimony of refusing to quit inspired all of us to our feet in applause.  I have never heard a more powerful speaker and performer in my 25-year career."
~ Glenn Seaberg, Marketing Director, FPX

“WOW is all I can say…thank you so much for adding the most amazing element to our Annual Sales Meeting. I cannot begin to describe the impact you made on 250+ people…This is my 9th year at LSI and [this] was our best meeting ever…will you come again next year?”
~ Jane Jenewein, Sales Strategic Alliances Manager, Landscape Structures Inc.

“Billy was absolutely amazing.  The feedback has been off the charts!  I am a big fan and would love to have him join us for future events. The minute he started…it was pure magic!”
~ Chance Garrity, General Manager, North Central District, Microsoft Corporation

“Billy did a magnificent job and we’ve received so many positive comments about his presentation.  A lot of our customers were quite awestruck and inspired with how passionate he is! I know they’ll enjoy the CD (thanks for that recommendation!). Rod, our company president, commented to me that we need to end all of our conferences with someone like Billy so I’m sure we’ll be working together again in the future!”
~ Maria Cabrera, Event Planner, Unitron

“Billy has a unique ability to weave levity and music into the serious subject of epilepsy. He created the perfect platform to make an impact. Billy helped to rally our people behind our goal; he let them know that everything they do helps to fuel our success. The results were better than I had anticipated. Billy aligned our organization. The feedback we received was exceptional.”
~ David Stefanoni, Head of Early-Stage Commercialization & Advocacy, Upsher-Smith Laboratories, Inc.

“People did not expect to be as captivated as they were by Billy. I looked around the audience and all eyes were fixed on him as he told his story. This is unusual during an after-hours event where people like to visit and chat. Whatever expectations they may have had were blown away, mine included.”
~ Mark Evenstad, President & CEO, Upsher-Smith Laboratories, Inc.

“Billy provided a wonderful experience for our convention attendees. His message of overcoming adversity through perseverance and determination was well received by those in the audience.  His unique ability of mixing his music with his message is powerful and effective.” 
~ Dan Tjornehoj, Executive Director, MVMA Minnesota Veterinary Medical Foundation

The Past

A serious professional in his teens, McLaughlin left his home and rock band in Minneapolis for the University of Southern California guitar department where he became interested in minimalist composers Phillip Glass and Steve Reich. Employing what would become his signature style of placing both hands on the fretboard, McLaughlin began composing for his first release using a technique of “hammer-ons” and “pull-offs” that create a harp-like effect on the acoustic guitar. This unusual approach led Billy to extensive national touring earning multiple NACA Campus Entertainer awards. In 1995 McLaughlin signed a multi-album international contract with Virgin Records label Narada whose first release, Fingerdance, peaked at #7 on the Billboard charts. Hundreds of shows a year and another release deep into the contract with Narada, he began struggling with his hands – something felt “off” and it was getting worse.

For two years he struggled with a mysterious and unrelenting condition of unexplainable muscle spasms and contractions. Shockingly as symptoms grew worse he could no longer perform most of his own repertoire.  In 2001, Billy was diagnosed with a neuromuscular disorder called focal dystonia. The diagnosis was confirmed at the Mayo Clinic. Going against doctors’ recommendations to quit music and look for other work, McLaughlin focused on his songwriting and returned to his rock band which was less demanding for his hands. Despite releasing his ensemble’s best recording, finally – Live! (2002) it was clear that focal dystonia had ended McLaughlin’s career as a virtuoso guitarist.

The Challenge

Feeling utterly lost without his music and not willing to give up, McLaughlin began the unlikely journey of teaching himself to play in his signature style, left-handed! Late in 2004 a documentary film crew began following McLaughlin’s desperate attempt to regain his career. Warned by doctors of a higher likelihood for developing focal dystonia in his remaining good hand, McLaughlin chose to press on towards an ambitious goal he had yet to achieve – to perform and record a new project with a string orchestra.

In January 2007, McLaughlin published a limited release of Into the Light, a concert recording of compositions for acoustic guitar with string orchestra. This collaboration with Grammy nominated arranger, Eugenio Toussaint, is McLaughlin’s first recording as a left-handed guitarist. In 2008, Coming Back Alive, a companion DVD shot by volunteers from the WWE broadcast crew capturing the historic performance was completed and released via direct marketing.

The Future

Billy’s story is truly an inspiration! The Dystonia Medical Research Foundation (Chicago, IL) has named Billy their first Ambassador for Public Awareness and for his efforts McLaughlin has just been awarded the international 2010 Leadership in Public Neurology Award at the American Academy of Neurology conference held in Toronto. Previous winners of the award include Paul Allen, Julie Andrews, Leon Fleischer and Michael J. Fox. The documentary film, Changing Keys, chronicling McLaughlin’s physical and emotional struggles, the medical mysteries of dystonia, and this amazing musical come-back has been awarded top-honors at the Houston International Film Festival. This independently produced film will begin airing on over 50 major market PBS stations in June 2010. McLaughlin is a featured speaker at the TED conference in Atlanta (May 2010) and is touring internationally including China, the Philippines, India, Europe and extensively throughout the US.

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