I speak frequently about happiness, technology, innovation, the power of image, self-empowerment through strategic life hacks, and my own life and career story. To inquire about a speaking engagement, please contact Tom Neilssen.


Sample Speaking Themes

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+ The Power of Image

Before you can be heard, you are seen. What are you communicating? In this presentation, Dr. Anna Akbari pulls from her in-depth ethnographic research to explore the nuances of self-presentation and develop replicable, customizable formulas for visual success. Image is explored as a critical communication medium and a key component to identity construction and performance across contexts, from personal to professional, and from physical to digital.

Dr. Akbari founded Sociology of Style to bring the science of visual communication to everyday life. Her doctoral dissertation, "Fashioning Power," and her M.A. thesis, “Distinguished Compliance: Living in the Cracks of Corporate Dress Codes,” explore the ways in which we negotiate power in our everyday lives using visual self-presentation.

+ Digital Happiness: How To Be the Boss of Technology

Pings, news alerts, social media likes, EMAIL. We all struggle to manage our 24/7 connection to technology in a way that feels healthy and balanced, often at the peril of our personal relationships, the work we produce, and even our own sanity. How do we reclaim some “sacred space” and allow ourselves to find flow in an overly mediated world, without compromising our work and professionalism?

In this presentation, sociologist Anna Akbari, PhD, applies her decade of research on human/technology relationships to offer rules to guide you toward digital happiness, personal well-being, and enhanced productivity in a hyper-connected world. Through audience engagement before and during the presentation, this presentation offers a customized understanding of the effects of digital engagement and helps you to optimize your relationship with technology by creating a framework for setting and following your own technology rules, in both your personal and professional life. Leaders and managers can apply this framework for setting the tone within their companies and industries.

+ How To Be the Superhero Of Your Own Life: Your Guide to Slaying Convention, Rewriting Your Story, and Creating the Life You Want

Fairy tales, comic books, multi-book fantasy series — this is the stuff of our youth. Battles of good vs. evil, fought by superhumans with superpowers. These heros embark on a journey, along paths that are often violent and terrifying (and questionably appropriate for children), and yet we are drawn to them at all ages. Even as adults, blockbuster movies and novels are still the stories we still look to for inspiration, the characters we aim to emulate, as we (re)construct our own identity tales.

As a culture, we’re particularly fixated on superheroes. And it makes sense. They’re larger than life. They’re inspirational and aspirational. But they’re also imperfect and far from infallible. We love them because we can see ourselves in them. They’re us — only better. And when we’re kids, we believe it is possible. But as we get older, we don’t love them any less – we just dismiss our ability to become them. So we settle for being a voyeur, cheering them on in yoga pants from a distance.

But we can be the superhero of our own lives — both personally and professionally — regardless of age, profession, or life stage. And this presentation shows you how.

How To Be A Superhero gives you the permission — and the tools — to defy convention and rewrite your story. It invites you to rethink your life as a personalized, labyrinth-like "choose your own adventure" novel — one where you take back the power and start calling the shots.

You don’t have to know exactly where you’re going to start on this journey of self-discovery. And becoming the superhero you are meant to be is well worth any battles fought or injuries sustained, because you will come out on the other side more powerful than when you began — regardless of the outcome.

The great American mythologist, Joseph Campbell, wrote extensively about the hero’s journey, a recurring trope that is found in everything from The Odyssey to Star Wars to Lord of the Rings. It’s also the narrative arc of our spiritual giants, from Buddha to Moses to Jesus. Basically, it’s a rite of passage that involves some sort of separation (from your previous life, all the stuff keeping you stagnant), followed by an initiation (complete with wild obstacles, wisdom guides, and hard-fought battles), and finally, a return “home” with a renewed sense of self and purpose.

This is the path of our greatest heroes — from Superman to Katniss Everdeen — and this presentation helps you to make it your story, too. So dust off those tights, and prepare to go on a modern day, convention-busting (super)hero’s journey.

+ The Secret Sauce to Enterprise Innovation

This presentation offers a framework for effective innovation initiatives within the enterprise, including executive team buy-in, innovation as an everyday activity, and enabled employees. The presentation builds on the Startup Your Life methodology and emphasizes the role that individual employees play in transforming large organizations — while improving themselves in the process.