“Success is about elevating others. If I can do that with great health, compassion, and some humour then that’s a job well done,” asserts Saana Azzam, whose expertise lies in the art of high-powered public speaking. Currently, Saana is the Founder and Chief Inspiration Ofﬁcer of the leading speaker’s bureau in the Middle East called MENA Speakers. MENA Speakers: Empowering & Educating MENA Speakers is a UAE based MCs and Speakers Bureau that educates, engages, and empowers by connecting speakers, MCs, and trainers to events, companies, and governments around the world. The company received the Best Speakers’ Bureau award in the Middle East in 2019.
Behind the Journey
Saana pursued her Master’s in Economics from the esteemed Stockholm School of Economics. Her adept skills and knowledge in market analysis, investments, research, and ﬁnance has earned her the prestigious title of ‘Female Economist of the Year’. She undertook public speaking assignments in Europe on leadership and leading Generation Y and was listed as one of Sweden’s 101 ‘Supertalents’ in 2012 and recognized as a Top 30 Under 30 inﬂuencers in 2015. Besides, Saana is a certiﬁed NLP Practitioner and incorporates this skill set in her trainings. Her speaking engagements have covered audience sizes from ﬁve up to 1000 persons and she has presented in Europe and the Middle East with clients such as Ericsson, Spotify, ofﬁcial functions and more.
Saana took over the responsibilities as Financial Sales Executive of Saxo Bank Middle East since November 2013 and pursued a banking career till 2016. Prior to Saxo Bank, Saana worked in the precious metals industry for the Swiss based company MKS/Pamp in a Business Development role covering institutional clients including Central Banks in the Middle East. She has played a key role as Business Developer in American Express and has also gained market research experience while serving at Barclays Capital as Summer Analyst FX Sales.
Besides, Saana is a fellow at The Vital Voices GROW, a leading business program under the founding leadership of Hilary Clinton and Madeleine Albright. She is the author of the book Leading Speakers and a contributing author of two books titled Voices of the 21st Century and Your Dose of Motivation.
Initiative on Track
At every job, Saana would get invited to speak at different conferences. A seed was planted already in 2010 when she found herself being quite often the “unique” person at conferences in Europe. She was often the only female, the youngest and the only Arab speaker. She got headhunted by speaking agencies quite early on in her career.
However, when she moved to Dubai there was no traditional speaker agency and she decided to set it up. It was new to the Middle East, as people were not even familiar with the expression “speakers’ bureau”. She knew that she had signed up for a real challenge and she was not so sure if her cashﬂow would allow for that. In her ﬁrst start-up month only, she received a call from South Africa and was requested to organize an event for HE President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa in Dubai with a few days’ notice.
It was a beautiful milestone in her life and hosting a humble visionary such as His Excellency was marvelous achievement. That event single-handedly lifted her spirit and she felt like it was an omen that she was on the right path. Since then, Saana has made her mission and life purpose to improve the state of the world through great dialogue.
“My hope is to have improved some lives by giving them the knowledge to independently lead compassionate and successful lives. I also have a dream that we get more global speakers from the Middle East and that we showcase the renaissance movement that is happening here. If that also happens to be female voices, then I would truly have lived a life worth living,” says Saana.
Inspiration is All Around
Saana ﬁnds inspiration in every human being. She believes that by having an authentic conversation with a person one will get to hear the most beautiful and powerful stories. Generally, she draws inspiration from people that challenge status quo like Oprah Winfrey, Jean D’Arc, Muna AbuSulayman, Frida Kahlo and so on.
According to Saana, lot of people visit the industry because they had a lucky break in a panel or similar and then dropout when they realize how hard it is to be a professional speaker. Yet, those that make it to the top reap some amazing beneﬁts. In her advice to aspiring women leaders, who wish to break into public speaking industry, she says “Get an agent, get organized, treat your speaking career as if you were a corporation.”