Paul Potorti

The word most often used to describe Paul is “enthusiastic,” and he demonstrates his passion for learning and development in everything he does. This includes presenting, facilitating, moderating, and hosting vents such as this, as well as baking—his other passion.

Paul has a Master of Arts in communication studies with an emphasis in interpersonal and nonverbal communication. The adage is true: it’s not what you say, but how you say it.

Paul’s career has included being a college professor, sales trainer, training director, and professional speaker. He likes to consider himself “semi-retired,” but his former clients keep requesting him to provide training, including presentational speaking, virtual presentational speaking, communicating with emotional intelligence, handling difficult conversations, SL II, and more. Paul always brings baked goods to his speaking and training engagements.

September 20, 2023
1:15 pm to 2:15 pm
Session Name:
Going Deeper to Making Waves
Room Location:
Convention Center – Grand Ballroom

Marcus Johnson


Marcus Johnson is an independent Billboard-ranked musician, NAACP Image Award nominee, owner of FLO Brands and FLO Wine, JD and MBA, philanthropist, father, friend… and so much more! Marcus Johnson is a man of many talents.

He has released 15 albums, five of which have made it to the top 10 on the
Billboard’s Contemporary Jazz Charts. Five of those CD’s are under the FLO Brand. He has performed around the world for crowds as large as 30,000 people. He speaks on the lecture tour on the topic of entertainment law and intellectual property rights. In 2009, his album Poetically Justified was nominated for an NAACP Image Award for jazz album of the year. 50,000 fans follow him through social media outlets including email, Facebook, and Twitter.

What is FLO? It represents the journey through which we discover those things in life that fulfill us and make each experience a little better. For the love of life, self, happiness, passion, joy…love itself.

September 20, 2023
2:30 pm to 3:30 pm
Session Name:
Making Waves with a New Perspective on Work-Life Balance
Room Location:
Convention Center – Grand Ballroom

Dr. Bryan Robinson


Bryan E. Robinson is Professor Emeritus at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and a psychotherapist in private practice. He writes for and Thrive Global and is the author of over forty books, including Chained to the Desk in a Hybrid World: A Guide to Work-Life BalanceChained to the Desk: A Guidebook for Workaholics, Their Partners and Children, and the Clinicians Who Treat Them, and #Chill: Turn Off Your Job and Turn on Your Life. His upcoming podcast is called HOW’S THAT WORKING FOR YOU? THE SHRINK AND THE SMARTY PANTS. Each year he co-hosts the world’s largest resiliency experience on the planet, bringing together inspirers, celebrities and clinicians to help people thrive and grow. This year it’s Resiliency 2023:

September 20, 2023
4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Session Name:
Embracing Diversity through Inclusive Hiring Practices
Room Location:
Convention Center – Grand Ballroom

Amy & Ben Wright

Founders of Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, Amy and Ben Wright are on a mission to change the way people see people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD), especially in the workplace. Proud parents of four children, including two with Down syndrome and one with autism, they are passionate advocates for fostering acceptance and value for people with I/DD.

Inspired by the alarming statistic that 80% of people with I/DD faced unemployment, Amy and Ben took action. In 2016, they founded Bitty & Beau’s Coffee, a groundbreaking venture dedicated to creating meaningful employment opportunities for individuals with I/DD. Based in Wilmington, NC, the flagship store thrived, and they have since expanded with 24 additional locations nationwide. At the heart of their enterprise are more than 400 individuals with I/DD, skillfully running the shops and captivating attention from media outlets like TODAY Show, CNN, Good Morning America, BBC, and Harvard Business Review.

Amy’s trailblazing efforts have not gone unnoticed, as she has earned prestigious accolades such as the 2017 CNN Hero of the Year, Civitan International World Citizenship Award, Salesforce Service Equality Award, ADAPT Leadership Award, and National Down Syndrome Congress Employer of the Year.

Meanwhile, Ben had a successful career with Smith Barney and Morgan Stanley before founding Dye Creek Capital in 2013. In an inspiring display of dedication, he employed eight part-time Client Hospitality Associates, all adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. In 2020, Ben made a significant decision to sell his practice, fully committing his energy to the growth of Bitty & Beau’s Coffee. His involvement extended beyond the business, serving as president of the board of Smart Start of New Hanover County, treasurer, and chair of the Investment Committee for the National Down Syndrome Society. He was also appointed to the North Carolina ABLE Program Board of Trustees, where he served two terms.

Together, Amy and Ben Wright embody the spirit of innovation, compassion, and progress. Their journey of creating positive change has touched countless lives and continues to be an inspiring example of how entrepreneurship can create a lasting impact on society.

September 21, 2023
9:30 am to 10:30 am
Session Name:
Tame the Turbulence
Room Location:
Convention Center – Grand Ballroom

Tracy Stock, CSP

Achieve Positive Outcomes

Tracy Stock is one of the most in-demand and top-rated female speakers in North America today because of her ability to inspire behavior change and achieve positive outcomes— whether live or online. As a coveted Certified Speaking Professional® (CSP), Tracy holds the highest honor in the speaking profession, held by only 12 percent of speakers worldwide. It can only be earned by demonstrating exceptional speaking ability, outstanding business management, recognized ethics and integrity, and a proven track record of distinguished professionalism and success.

Her experience includes serving as a former director of learning and development Where Tracy was accountable for talent management and employee development, and parlayed her career to become an expert on workplace culture. With more than 20 years of speaking experience, her trusted clients include the U.S. Army, Motorola, Berkshire Hathaway, US Bank, True Value and Subway, to name a few.

In addition to keynote speaking, Tracy is also exceptionally talented as a consummate training professional, engaging workshop participants in interactive, fun and results-focused programs. She has a unique ability to connect with participants quickly, provide a warm and comfortable environment, encourage respectful discussion, and achieve expected learning outcomes.

Beyond engaging audiences, Tracy is also a prolific and best-selling author—now with five published titles including:

  • HOLY COW! How to Create an Amazing Workplace that Steers Passion, Performance & Prosperity
  • The One Choice Rule: Transform Your Life and Work by Changing Your Mindset and Behavior
  • Tame the Turbulence! Avoid Losing It. Fly Through It.
  • The Perfect Pair of Jeans: Design Your Life to Fit You. Dream It. Plan It. Live It.
  • Conscious Choices: 10 Powerful Strategies to Grab Control and Transform Your Life

Tracy is a dynamic, passionate speaker who is committed to energizing workplace culture, enhancing employee engagement and empowering high performance—helping organizations, teams and individuals live more productive, passionate and purposeful lives. When looking for a memorable speaker who understands client’s needs, delivers on her promises, and drives energy and success.

September 21, 2023
10:45 am to 11:45 am
Session Name:
How Bold, Driven and Future-Focused Leaders Can Drive Engagement, Win The War For Talent, and Create A Culture of Belonging
Room Location:
Convention Center – Grand Ballroom

Mike Lee

Founder of MindShift Labs

In a world of disruption, change, and adversity Mike Lee helps individual contributors, leaders, and organizations activate the purpose-driven, future-focused, and heart-centered skills that drive engagement, win the war for talent and create cultures of belonging. He’s blended a diverse background of mindset, mindfulness, and high-performance to create a counter-cultural approach to the future of leadership.

Mike’s engaging, inspiring, and interactive programs at F500 companies and professional associations like Morgan Stanley, AmFam, Cisco, SHRM and IBM have earned rave reviews from bold and driven leaders. He’s delivered this approach through keynotes in packed ballrooms of a thousand where he’s shared the stage with cultural icons and speakers such Mike Tyson, Eric Thomas and Jesse Itzler, as well as, intimate workshops with 10-person senior leadership teams. Mike has been described as “the easiest and most conscientious speaker I’ve worked with”, “the perfect choice to kick off our event” and having “an impeccable ability to tell a story”.

For 15 years he worked with some of basketball’s elite earning testimonials from NBA players such as MVP Steph Curry. Through his experience building an international basketball brand from his college apartment, and growing it while battling anxiety and depression, Mike understands the challenges leaders face in this volatile, uncertain, and complex world. His unique combination of personal adversity and basketball background gives him the ability to connect in a vulnerable and authentic way with a diverse range of audiences from the stage.

Drawing on the latest research from neuroscience, sports psychology, and personal experience, he’s shared stories and practical exercises — across the world — to help people find their own inner power and poise to thrive in business and life. His latest book, The New Rules For The Future of Leadership, has been endorsed by the likes of Nieman Marcus Chief People and Belonging Officer and other Fortune 500 leaders.

September 22, 2023
8:00 am to 9:00 am
Session Name:
Amplify the Ripple Effect of Your Communication
Room Location:
Convention Center – Grand Ballroom

Sharon Delaney McCloud


Sharon Delaney McCloud is an Emmy Award-winning broadcaster, keynote speaker, emcee, host and moderator. As a Certified Diversity Executive CDE®, adjunct professor, agency owner, cancer survivor, Olympic Torch Bearer, author and communications expert, Sharon knows how to get the job done. She helps leaders & companies improve communication & executive presence to drive business results. As a member of the Global Speakers Federation and the National Speakers Association, Sharon connects with people, while at the same time, offering actionable insights. She does this through in-person and virtual presentations, webinars and live streams.

Sharon earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Communication from Florida State University before embarking on a career as a television journalist. From the Persian Gulf War to John Glenn’s historic return to space to the Super Bowl to hurricanes, floods, politics and entertainment, she has covered thousands of stories that have affected people’s lives on a daily basis. Sharon also moderated gubernatorial and mayoral debates throughout North Carolina and served as a mentor for young journalists beginning their careers.

After leaving television news, Sharon founded Greenroom Communications, a video production and marketing firm, with Kim and Penn Holderness (the XMAS Jammies Family). They worked with big brands like Target, Samsung, H&R Block and Chase Bank. At one point, they even had a reality show on UPtv. In 2016, Greenroom merged with Walk West to become a full-service digital marketing agency that’s landed on the INC 5000 list three times in a row.

Sharon has been featured in numerous publications, including Sheryl Sandburg’s Option B digital platform, Thrive Global, Enterprising Women and co-author of the book, Keep Going, Memoirs of Strength, Courage & Perseverance. In 2019, Sharon had the opportunity to share her big idea with the world on a TEDx stage. Through Giving Vilomahs a Voice, Sharon shows us how to approach conversations with bereaved parents.  This passion led to her writing a letter to the White House advocating for bereavement leave policy. That letter turned into an invitation to meet one on one with President Joe Biden in the summer of 2021 when they discussed the need for paid bereavement leave.

Sharon was born in Nairobi, Kenya and spent her early years in East Africa attending schools in Kenya and Tanzania before moving to the United States. In addition to her television career, Sharon worked for the Department of Defense’s U.S.O. program and traveled all over the Middle East, Mediterranean and Europe entertaining American troops as part of an all-girl group, The Florida Girls. Sharon is very active in the community and serves on a number of Boards of Director and advisory committees for non-profit organizations in North Carolina. She’s married with three kids and during her free time, you’ll find Sharon planning their next family vacation. Ask her where her next trip is.

September 22, 2023
9:30 am to 10:45 am
Session Name:
Mental Health and Wellness
Room Location:
Convention Center – Grand Ballroom

April Simpkins, SHRM-CP, PHR


April is a dually certified HR Professional with 30 years of executive-level Human Resources experience. April is the Chief Human Resources Officer for Questco, a human resources services firm focused on supporting the HR needs of small- to mid-sized businesses. Prior to holding this role, April was a senior level HR consultant. During this time, she helped over 1000 business owners shape and develop their human capital.

April’s experience and expertise, coupled with her continued study of Human Resources trends, have made her a trusted advisor for many in the business community. It also led to an invitation to The Business Journal Leadership Trust, allowing April to share her expertise with leaders nationwide. She has been a requested presenter and guest speaker for organizations that include Harvard University Extension School, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, The Citadel, EEOC, and The National Urban League, to name a few.

April is a board member of the York County Regional Chamber and the SC Small Business Development Centers (SBDC). She also sits on the Duke Energy Advisory Board in the Upstate of South Carolina.

April chaired the Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Committee for Greenville SHRM. In 2020 April received the Unsung Hero Award from Greenville SHRM for her exemplary leadership in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. She was the South Carolina Society for Human Resources Management Diversity Director from 2018 to 2020. Her service and commitment to the HR community and the profession’s advancement led to her selection as a member of the HR Advisory Board for Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC. There, she works with a team of HR thought leaders charged with designing the human resources undergraduate and postgraduate degree curriculum and programs.

April has received many awards and honors for her business acumen. Her awards include The 2020 Women In Business Achievement Award from the Charlotte Business Journal, the 2018 Fort Mill/ Tega Cay Business Person of The Year Award from the York County Regional Chamber, and the Movers & Shaker Award given by Business Leader Magazine. In 2016, April was named one of Charlotte’s 50 Most Influential Women by Mecklenburg Times. In 2022 April was named to the impressive list of 100 Women to KNOW In America. In 2021 April received the prestigious WPO Presidents Award.

April is also an advocate for mental health. She became a more visible advocate following the passing of her beloved daughter, Cheslie Kryst. Cheslie battled depression for many years. April, an ambassador for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), is committed to breaking the stigma of mental illness. April has shared Cheslie’s story emphasizing the importance of mental health on programs like Red Table Talk, CBS Mornings, and ExtraTV. She has also contributed to print media, including an article in the New York Times.

April is a classically trained pianist, an avid runner, athlete, mother, wife, and entrepreneur.

September 22, 2023
11:00 am to 12:30 pm
Session Name:
The Ripple Effect: The Power to Influence, Transform and Make a Difference
Room Location:
Convention Center – Grand Ballroom

Dr. Kevin Synder


At just 12 years old, Kevin was diagnosed with depression and an eating disorder that nearly took his life.  At 16, he was arrested.  At 22, he was sexually assaulted by another man.  Through his struggles, Kevin eventually found strength.  And in the journey to recovery, Kevin felt a calling to help other youth battle through their own adversity, realize their full potential and feel proudly vulnerable to express their authentic self.

Kevin’s professional career started working on college campuses in a variety of different Student Affairs roles.  His vision was to become a Dean of Students to advocate for students.  At just 33 years old, Kevin became the 1st Dean of Students at High Point University.  His experiences working there as well as his passion for leadership and understanding what motivates people to thrive despite circumstance sparked his interest in research on self-efficacy, speaking beyond the classroom and writing.

Since Kevin’s first presentation nearly 20 years ago, he now speaks professionally full-time and has presented motivational leadership keynotes, workshops and professional development retreats for over 1,000,000 people through 1,150+ organizations in all 50 states and several countries.  Toastmasters International awarded him in 2022 as the only speaker in the world to receive the Accredited Speaker (AS) designation.  In 2023, he earned the highest earned credential in the National Speakers Association, the Certified Speaking Professional®, or CSP.

Kevin has also delivered keynote presentations for dozens of SHRM chapters, conferences and even a Mega Session keynote at the SHRM International Conference. His engaging, humorous and authentic presentations help re-energize and uplift the human spirit so individuals can overcome challenges, envision new possibilities and build stronger teams.

He’s the proud author of several best-selling books, holds a Doctorate degree in Leadership, is a sailboat captain and multi-TEDx speaker.  His most recent TEDx talk, PURE Vulnerability, reveals his triumphant story for the very first time.

Kevin lives in Raleigh, North Carolina with his amazing family and – fun fact – lived his childhood dream of meeting Bob Barker and winning BIG on the television game show, The Price is Right!

2023 State Conference Schedule

Our 2023 Making Waves In HR schedule is below! Please note minor changes might be made before the event.  Make sure you register, so you do not miss out on the Keynote speakers and concurrent presenters!