Delatorro McNeal, II warns his clients to “Get ready for the Delatorro experience!”—an experience that promises high energy, high content, high impact, high relevance and high ROI—and he delivers! As an executive producer, conference host, keynote speaker, best-selling author, and man of God, Delatorro has been transforming the lives of people from all walks of life for over 15 years, and he’s just getting started.
One of the youngest professional speakers to earn the prestigious Certified Speaking Professional designation from the National Speaker’s Association, Delatorro was recently ranked #32 of the Top 60 Motivational Speakers in the World—a list that includes the likes of Tony Robbins, Les Brown, and Brian Tracy.
At just 38 years old, Delatorro has spoken in 49 of the 50 United States and abroad. He has delivered well over 3,000 paid presentations to major corporations, professional associations, conventions, pro-sports teams, churches, and leadership conferences, and he hosts his own annual conference called “The Full Throttle Experience.”
Son of Delatorro and Olivia B. McNeal, Del’s parents divorced when he was two years old. His mother remarried and was active in their church as a leader, deaconess, Sunday school teacher, and member of the choir. His stepfather was also a deacon and leader in the church. Del’s early years included attending church services every Sunday, Bible study every Wednesday night, Vacation Bible School during the summers, and prominent parts in the Christmas and Easter plays. He knew the Lord early in his life. As Del grew older, he was able to develop a relationship with his real father, a decorated Army veteran who was paralyzed from injuries sustained in the Vietnam War and who ultimately rose to the top leadership role as the National Director of the Paralyzed Veterans of America.
“I was not only raised Christian, I was raised to be articulate,” explained Del. “My mom was an orator. She narrated Gospel plays and everyone knew Olivia B. McNeal for her voice. She was also a mentor, a coach, and a parent.”
These early experiences began to cultivate Del’s ability to be comfortable in front of audiences. When he was giving a presentation, a speech, or a recitation, his mother would be in the front row giving him hand signals to say “use your hands more” or gesturing with her ear to say “I can’t hear you.” She was always coaching him to present better.
“I was like a child prodigy of speaking.” Delatorro said. “The biggest thing that made a difference for me was that I knew at an early age that I was supposed to be speaking and impacting audiences.”
Although he was raised in a Christian home, things were also challenging. Delatorro’s stepfather, who struggled with an addiction to alcohol, was verbally abusive to Del, his brother, and mother, and physically abusive to Olivia. As a result, by the time Delatorro was in the 6th grade, he began acting out in school and was put into a classroom full of “at risk” children. The first day of class, his teacher, Ms. Diane Williams, took one look at Del and said, “Son, you are not a youth at risk. You are a youth at promise. I am not going to just teach you this year, I am going to mentor you.”
Recalling Ms. Williams' impact on his life, Del commented,“I don’t know why she did it. Call it purpose. Call it destiny. I definitely call it a divine intervention.” From that moment, she relabeled his life and began to channel all his behavior into a positive direction. Because he liked to talk, she put him on the school’s morning show, and his desire to be in front of an audience was fueled.
Although the situation at home did not improve, Del found new ways to cope with it in a positive manner. He played sports, sang in the choir, got a job at age 14, and did whatever he could to stay away from the volatile situation at home.
Between the diverse examples of his two fathers, one a decorated war hero who overcame adversity and rose in the leadership ranks of a national association, and the other, a man whose adversity overcame him, Del’s faith and character was cultivated. “I learned a lot about resilience, fortitude, fight, and faith in God from my real father. As scripture says, ‘Though he slay me, yet will I trust him’ (Job 13:15), I came to understand that although we as Christians love God, and God has given us these great promises, we are not going to get out of here without persecution, challenges, trials, and tribulations. But from my stepfather, I saw how people can profess one thing and live another. So I developed a very practical focus on faith, where it is important to be real.”
Young Delatorro was bitten by the entrepreneurial bug when he was 14 years old and working at Winn-Dixie Supermarket bagging groceries. He fueled the fire by listening to motivational material and got hooked on quote books. He was listening to Zig Ziglar, Jim Rohn, Les Brown and Tony Robbins as a young teen.
“Just like the Word of God is so powerful that one scripture can change your life, quotes did the same thing for me. Dr. Mike Murdock would say something powerful like ‘Pursuit is proof of passion’ or Jim Rohn would say, ‘All of us will suffer one of two pains in life, the pain of discipline or the pain of regret. The only difference is the pain of discipline weighs ounces, but the pain of regret weighs tons.’ I would hear simple, quick, messages like that, and it would ring my bell!”
Del had a very successful college career and attended Florida State University, where he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Interpersonal and Speech Communications and a Master’s Degree in Instructional Systems Design. In five years, he graduated with a 4.0 grade point average, and zero student loan debt. He also had several mentors in college who encouraged him in speaking. He joined Toastmasters, and every time he would present, whether for two, five, or ten minutes, he got incredible feedback. Del recalled, “That was a key indicator for me that I had a very special gift that needed to be utilized to the fullest.”
His plan was to work in corporate America for a decade to earn credibility and then move into the professional speaking business. He was off to a good start until he was laid off one year into his first corporate job. This experience was a pivotal point in Del’s life, and he decided to never again allow someone else to determine his destiny. Del explained, “It taught me to pray, lean on the Lord, and expect God to do his thing.”
He took a job at the University of South Florida as an instructional designer. For two years, he worked a 4-day work week at USF and spent his lunchbreaks, nights and weekends cultivating his craft. Del spoke at Toastmasters, Rotary Clubs, Kiwanis Clubs, chambers of commerce, and business networking functions all over town. On weekends, he spoke at conferences. He smiled when he said, “I was making my dream happen.”
For the first year, Delatorro prayed, “Father, help me match my income with my paid speaking business, and I will know that it is You telling me to step out to be an entrepreneur.” He was not even 25 years old, but in that first year, he made $41,000 in speaking fees and at the same time earned $40,000 at USF. He thought, “Wow, God, this is kind of cool.”
The whole time, he was heavily involved in leadership at church, leading the youth or young adult ministries on a volunteer basis. He went through extensive leadership training, coaching, and mentoring from pastors. In the second year of working full time and growing his speaking business, his pastor challenged the congregation to believe God for something big. Del accepted the challenge. “I wrote on my envelope, ‘Double my income in my speaking business,’ and I sowed my ‘New Year’s Seed’ in church that Sunday.”
By the end of the second year, Del made $115,000 speaking while still working full time making $41,000. He knew it was time to leave his USF job and pursue speaking on a full-time basis. This experience was the basis for Del’s book, Caught Between a Dream and a Job, where he shares the practical way he transitioned out of his job and into his dream.
As he focused on his full-time speaking career, he struggled, because people at church would hear him speak and say, “Man, you are supposed to be a preacher!” Although he loves the Lord, Del didn’t feel called to pastor. Although people would make him feel bad by telling him he was using his gifts for secular purposes, he felt that he was making a big impact in the marketplace.
That was when Del read a book by Ed Silvoso titled Anointed for Business: How to Use Your Influence in the Marketplace to Change the World that taught him what it meant to be a marketplace minister. He started to follow Dr. John C. Maxwell, Dr. Stephen Covey, and others who were very strong in their faith and were able to use their faith in the marketplace. Del said he knew “that was my lane, my thing, my shtick; it allowed me to be comfortable with who I was.”
Delatorro started in the market where he had experience—colleges and universities. When his books matured in content, doors opened to corporations and associations. Now, he has a diverse portfolio—20% in faith-based or churches, 20% in colleges and universities, 20% in private corporate, 20% in professional associations, and 20% entrepreneur groups.
“I take my faith with me everywhere I go. Everyone who hears me speak knows that I am a Christian; however, I do not beat audiences up with my faith. I use a lot of metaphors, analogies, and stories, and the average person in the audience thinks, ‘Man, that is great wisdom!’ but a person of faith knows that it is Proverbs.”
Delatorro packages himself for the marketplace in order to be invited to take that light where there is darkness. “We are supposed to shine bright, be visible, be the salt of the earth, bring the flavor, bring the funk, and bring the ninja!”
His style is fun, demonstrative, and exciting. Del believes in being charismatic so people are drawn to you and see that light of Christ that is within you. Del says we are all called to “Let your light so shine before man, that they will see your good work and give Him all the credit.” (Matthew 5:16)
In addition to speaking, coaching, and writing books, God has always laid it on Delatorro’s heart to develop others just as Jesus recruited people to help share the message. “About 10 years ago, I created speaker boot camps where I would invite 10-15 people at a time and teach them the business. Two years ago, we moved the training into a mansion environment and brought people in to teach them all that we knew about building a highly profitable professional speaking and publishing business.” The entire process was filmed, and The Keynote was born.
Delatorro has been shopping the concept with the networks for over a year, and although the show concept is awesome, and the production quality is exceptional, the show has one problem: it is too positive. Delatorro said he was told, “There isn’t enough negative drama in the show. If the cast doesn’t fight, cuss, or have affairs, and because you’re not a huge celebrity, we are going to pass on it.”
Believing that a “no” from the networks is a “yes” from the public, Delatorro and his team have taken the concept to the marketplace and launched a crowdfunding campaign, TheKeynoteCampaign.com, to post-produce and launch two seasons—14 episodes—of inspirational, transformational, educational and positive reality television.
“The reason why I am so passionate about The Keynote is because television is the most powerful platform you can utilize to get a message out. There is a scripture that says, ‘The wealth of the wicked is being laid up to be transferred into the hands of the righteous.’ (Proverbs 13:22) I believe that for far too long, the wicked, the negative, and the toxic have had way too much influence in the media. It is time for us to not only produce good Christian programming, but also good business programming, and just good programming, period!”
As he pursues the means to bring the positive, inspirational message of The Keynote to audiences through TV, Delatorro’s speaking business continues to flourish. Last summer, Del earned a place on the stage at the Million Dollar Roundtable, the most prestigious professional association in the world for financial services and insurance professionals. Del spoke to 10,000 people from 80 countries around the world, and his presentation was simultaneously translated into 13 different languages.
Del said, “This was easily the biggest gig of my entire career and clearly a huge milestone to be able to take light where there is darkness.” And what do you say to inspire those who are the top producers in their industry? Delatorro responds “Will you be better today than you were yesterday?”
That is his challenge to every business owner, Christian, entrepreneur, parent, spouse, and to every member of society. “Will you be better today than you were yesterday?” That is the challenge, and that is the message of Delatorro’s forthcoming book, Performance Beyond Gold: How to Be Your Best, Top Your Best, and Bring the Best Out of Those You Lead.
Delatorro’s life’s journey allows him to bring his corporate skills into faith-based environments and his faith into places where a pastor would never be invited. He has also built “Kingdom Connections” with some of the most influential leaders in our generation, including TD Jakes, Joel Osteen, and Dr. Myles Munroe.
“Before every presentation I always pray, ‘Father, use me today to impact these business owners and entrepreneurs. Use me today to impact these college students. Use me as a vessel. Anoint me now to impact these people in a profound and special way.' "
"I fully believe and expect that His power and anointing is going to show up through me to be able to impact the audience, even though it is not in a church setting. My altar is different. It is global, and I have a platform that allows me to go into multiple environments and take light where there is darkness—and that is the beautiful part.”