Celebrating 25 Years of Setting Stages Worldwide
Gail Davis, 22 January 2024
Have you noticed GDA Speakers’ new logo? You guessed it - 2024 marks our 25th anniversary! In the coming months, we will be reflecting on the last quarter of a century through a series of blogs that offer insight into our journey, who we are as a business, and the impact we have had the privilege of bringing to stages worldwide.
It all started with a movie.
In the days of what I like to call “the first half” of my career, I served as the Corporate Incentive Event Department Manager at EDS - the legendary Electronic Data Systems company founded by Ross Perot. Since my responsibilities included oversight of the company’s top sales recognition program, I was charged with the selection and preparation of outside keynote speakers for our large events.
In 1994, I was issued a challenge by the chairman of the company to find a keynote speaker who was new, different, had global appeal, and someone our audience had never heard before.
It was a tall order but if you know me, you know I love a challenge. I immediately began pondering who could fit the bill. Right around this time, I happened to see the 1993 movie Alive, which recounts the incredible story of the 1972 Uruguayan rugby team's plane crash and rescue in the Andes mountains. As I watched Ethan Hawke’s portrayal of one of the central figures in the story, Nando Parrado, I knew this was the speaker I was looking for. Now I faced my next hurdle—finding Nando.
Remember, this was the early 1990s so I didn’t have Google to help me. I first tried contacting speaker bureaus I had worked with in the past, but they all came up empty handed. Then fate stepped in. Thanks to a crazy connection I leveraged through my father, I was able to connect with the Uruguayan Embassy in Washington. While the embassy wasn’t able to make a direct introduction, they did steer me in the right direction. After finally finding Nando (and a lot of persuasion on my part), I convinced him to speak at our event. Little did either of us know that this would be the first of over 300 keynote speeches we would book together over the next 25 years.
And the rest is history! Four years later in 1999, after a 20-year career with EDS, I ventured out on my own to form GDA Speakers. My first office was in my own home and had zero employees on payroll. During that first year, I executed one speaking contract and three event contracts.
The story of how “the second half” of my career starting Gail Davis & Associates has now come full circle with yet another movie – Society of the Snow.
This most recent cinematic retelling of Nando and his friends' story of survival has been nominated for two Oscars - International Feature Film and Makeup and Hairstyling - and is rated #1 movie worldwide on Netflix. Now the world knows what our audiences have known for 25 years. There is a reason this story has retained such profound interest since the rescue 51 years ago. Nando's message reminds us that even in the toughest times, love, determination, and the power of the human spirit can guide us to unimaginable heights.
2024 is a special year of celebrating our team of experts setting stages for a variety of audiences worldwide for 25 years. But it is equally a celebration of the global resurfacing of Nando’s powerful story of survival and the human spirit through the buzz of Society of the Snow.
To clients new and old - thank you for being a part of GDA history and we look forward to partnering with you to create lasting impact through more unforgettable events.