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Parisa Khosravi

Former Senior Vice President, CNN Worldwide; Expert on Leadership; Strategic Adviser and Multi-Award Winning Veteran Journalist and News Executive

Parisa is a keynote speaker, a strategic adviser and a multi award winning veteran journalist and news executive. With over three decades of experience on the global stage, Parisa has first-hand experience dealing with world leaders, dignitaries and high-ranking officials across the globe and opening doors to difficult and dangerous parts of the world where freedom of speech is in no way guaranteed.

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Compassionate and thought provoking, Parisa Khosravi draws in audiences with personal and historic stories. She shares lessons and anecdotes drawn from her fascinating life and adventurous career as an award winning journalist, news executive and mother to a special son.

Parisa authentically recounts a wealth of life experiences which have shaped her perspective throughout the years. Her passion and drive has centered around giving a voice to the voiceless. A natural storyteller, Parisa has built a life capturing and honoring people’s voices. Not only did she cover revolutions during her nearly three decades as a journalist and news executive at CNN, she lived through one personally when her life changed dramatically after the ’79 Revolution in Iran.

Parisa has witnessed mankind at its best and at its worst and as an observer of humanity has an especially unique global perspective. She speaks about empathy and compassion and the power of finding your voice, be it sitting across a refugee, a Pope, in a boardroom, or advocating for children. With her genuine and down to earth style, Parisa is able to cover a variety of topics that will be riveting to your audiences as she shares countless stories and lessons from an eventful and fascinating life and career.

It is vital to have a diverse workforce for many reasons.  The key is to play to the strengths of each of your team member and look for opportunities to place them on the right assignments in order to be most effective.

Having the “type A” personality on each task is not always the right answer.  Some jobs require a low key but persistent determination and patience.  If you have ever played the game Angry Birds, you know using the right bird against the right barrier is essential, and using the wrong one will result in a bust and a much diminished outcome.  This is a good metaphor to think about when you are putting your teams together so that they can ensure maximum potential for delivery and leave no opportunity unexplored.

Parisa built and promoted the most internationally diverse teams across the world and as a result made CNN the strongest international news organization.

People’s different backgrounds, languages and perspectives in any team are essential to become relevant and not miss all kinds of opportunities in different markets.

One’s Emotional Quotient (EQ) is just as important if not more important than one’s IQ.  Human beings are so much more alike than they are different.  We all want safety and security, we want our family and friends around us, a roof over our heads and food on the table.  These are basic human needs and nature.  However, culturally we can be so different.  From the Vatican to Japan, Saudi to Cuba, how you deal with officials, business partners and staff across the globe can be very different.  It is important to know and respect the different cultures and traditions while staying true to your own values and standards.  How you deal with people, how you handle yourself and read a room, these are all key factors in being successful.

Parisa will share anecdotes which will personalize and clearly demonstrate the importance and necessity of such awareness and knowledge when you are operating in the global market.

How do you keep a cool head while chaos breaks out, be as effective as possible, lead your teams and accomplish the task at hand?

Resourcefulness, perseverance and hiring capable diverse teams is what will get you through some of the most demanding business situations and crises.

Your staff does not have to be working in a war zone to end up in a risky and dangerous situation. How do you prepare for and handle life threatening situations in countries where you have positioned your teams?

Some may remember the Mumbai terror attacks, where terrorists attacked and killed people in one of the most public and unsuspecting locations such as a five-star hotel in the middle of the city.  What would you do if you had some of your staff staying there for a business meeting?  That is exactly what Parisa had to deal with.

Parisa is a recognized authority on crisis and risk management and safety/security matters for her meticulous and decisive management of her staff as they covered the world’s most demanding stories, dangerous hot spots, conflicts and natural disasters.

While not naive or in denial about some of the challenges women and minorities face, Parisa talks about how she focused her energy on what she could control. If some people she dealt with had a perception issue with a woman in charge, then that was their problem, not hers. Parisa talks about some of the most difficult challenges she dealt with as a leader at a global organization and how she tackled them.

How do you get your message across as an effective communicator in a very crowded field? Whether you want to break through as a journalist in the business of journalism or want to clearly communicate your message in any business to the the world, Parisa shares with you her in-depth knowledge and experience as a journalist and as an executive.

The way the world’s most significant and dangerous stories get covered has substantially changed in the past three decades, especially in two areas: technology and safety/security.

Now a days you can essentially do a live shot from anywhere in the world with your smart phone.  It wasn’t  that long ago that journalists had to haul around a two thousand pound satellite dish to be able to transmit live from remote places.  Parisa once diverted a commercial airliner to make an unscheduled landing to pick up CNN journalists and equipment so that they could get to a breaking story on-time.

Determination, perseverance  and resourcefulness is what made it happen.

Sadly, journalists have become the biggest targets in some of the conflicts around the world and are sometimes taken hostage or worse.

How are they kept safe and prepare to go to some of the world’s most dangerous places and cover the most horrific stories such as Syria?

Parisa talks about how to overcome some of these most distressing challenges.  Parisa’s experience in safely leading CNN teams through conflicts and natural disasters has made her a recognized authority on crisis and risk management.

Parisa was born in Iran and left for the United States during the 1979 Revolution as a young teenager.  She has travelled to Iran a number of times as a journalist to cover a variety of news stories for CNN.  There is not enough known about Iran beside its politics.  In light of some of the possible openings between the U.S. and Iran, what are some key historical facts and cultural values you should know about Iran if you want to do business there?  Parisa talks about some of those important considerations.

Testimonial about Parisa’s recent speech on Iran to the Association of the Trade and Forfaiting in Americas:

“…You held the room’s rapt attention for 40 minutes in a way that far exceeded expectations, while enlightening all of us about Iran’s rich cultural heritage as well as its modern-day needs and capabilities…”  Brendan Herley, ATFA President

Parisa travelled to Cuba for years for CNN in order to keep CNN’s bureau effective and operational. Parisa talks about what you should know about the country as the U.S. and Cuba prepare to normalize relations after decades.

Parisa has enjoyed one of the more challenging and dynamic careers with nearly three decades of international experience and helped build CNN, the original 24/7 news network, to one of the most recognized and respected global brands.  This is how CNN lauded Parisa upon her departure: “No one has played a greater role in emergence and then dominance of CNN international news gathering than Parisa.”

Ted Turner’s vision changed the world as we knew it and CNN became a house hold name which has been admired and modeled again and again around the world.  Parisa calls CNN the original social media.

Parisa talks about behind the scene stories and some of the most historic and memorable news events of our times and what it took to cover them.

When life tests you in the most painful and difficult way, how do you respond?  Do you say: “why me?”

Parisa talks about how she deals with the big challenges in life and her philosophy of looking at them as opportunities for growth and becoming a stronger and more compassionate human being.

She says:  “WOW, Me!”

Parisa moved to the U.S. in 1979 during the Revolution in Iran. Her family had to rebuild their lives in a new country. Not only did they survive, they thrived in this great land of opportunity. Some of the challenges were not easy, however, determination and perseverance opened doors and opportunities. Parisa talks about overcoming barriers and reaching some of the highest professional and personal levels of achievements which bestowed her the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


Parisa is a keynote speaker, a strategic adviser and a multi award winning veteran journalist and news executive. With over three decades of experience on the global stage, Parisa has first-hand experience dealing with world leaders, dignitaries and high-ranking officials across the globe and opening doors to difficult and dangerous parts of the world where freedom of speech is in no way guaranteed.

Parisa speaks on the topic of compassionate leadership to audiences across private and public sectors. Those who meet and hear Parisa are struck by her down-to-earth approach and wealth of life experience which is so evident in her message. Parisa’s motto is: you never know what is inside someone until you give them a chance.

Throughout her career as senior vice president for international news gathering, national news gathering, global relations and the first ever ambassador for CNN Worldwide, Parisa directed historic coverage of countless award-winning news stories. Parisa left CNN in 2015.

CNN lauded Parisa in its farewell to her by stating: “No one has played a greater role in emergence and dominance of CNN international news gathering than Parisa.”

Parisa’s perspective has evolved throughout the years as an immigrant, a journalist and a mother. Parisa didn’t just cover revolutions, she lived through one personally and experienced her own life change dramatically after the 1979 revolution in Iran. Parisa’s joy and passion both in her career as a journalist and as a mother to her special son is to help give voice to the voiceless. She leads with compassion and integrity earning her the nickname of “Mother Parisa” from many of her colleagues.

“You never know what is inside someone until you give them a chance.” Parisa.

Parisa has spoken about compassionate leadership at NASA, United Nations, Delta Airlines and numerous other private and public organizations and companies. Parisa built and maintained ongoing working relationships with world leaders, dignitaries and high-ranking officials while ensuring top editorial access and forging positive strategic relationships for the network all over the world. She also managed International Newsource, the network’s international affiliate operation with more than 200 CNN affiliates worldwide, and the CNN Journalism Fellowship programs.

A member of the CNN team for almost three decades, Parisa served as CNN’s senior vice president of international newsgathering, domestic newsgathering with editorial, operational and administrative oversight of CNN’s bureaus and assignment desks, which provided the network’s global coverage. Parisa played a vital role in the network’s award-winning coverage of the most significant stories since joining CNN including Tiananmen Square, the live coverage of both Iraq Wars, the Fall of the East Bloc, the End of Apartheid, the genocide in Rwanda, 9-11 and Hurricane Katrina. She directed CNN’s coverage of the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, and the award-winning news coverage of the devastating earthquake in Haiti; the Emmy-nominated coverage of the attempted airline terror attack over Detroit on Christmas Day in 2009; and the duPont-winning coverage of the tsunami disaster in South Asia.

Parisa led the network’s Peabody and Emmy Award-winning coverage of the uprisings and conflicts throughout the Middle East and North Africa, including the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya. In March 2011, she simultaneously led the network’s ongoing coverage of the Arab Spring as well as the powerful earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan. The news coverage of these stories was simulcast across CNN’s networks and platforms around the clock, including live broadcasts from Egypt under a difficult crackdown by the regime upon the media, and in close range of Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant as its reactors failed. She has been a leading force within the industry for incorporating user-generated content into newsgathering to bolster seasoned reporting, particularly from countries with limited or no press freedom.

In addition, Parisa oversaw The CNN Freedom Project, an award-winning, multi-platform initiative that aimed to expose the horrors of modern-day slavery and push for change, as well as numerous other CNN global initiatives such as girls’ education. Parisa directed CNN’s largest investment in international newsgathering in its history. She strategically increased the number of bureaus around the world, placing new operations in emerging global centers and in the Middle East, including in Kabul, Afghanistan; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Lagos, Nigeria; Nairobi, Kenya; Mumbai, India; Singapore; and Abu Dhabi, UAE. Parisa also increased the number of correspondents throughout the world, including in existing bureaus in Tokyo, Japan; Istanbul, Turkey; Beijing, China; New Delhi, India; Islamabad, Pakistan; Johannesburg, South Africa; Abu Dhabi, UAE; Berlin, Germany; and added a senior Latin American affairs editor in Atlanta.

Parisa’s experience and firsthand knowledge ranges from cross-cultural relations to leading through international and domestic crises. Parisa is a recognized authority on crisis and risk management and safety/security matters for her meticulous and decisive management of her staff as they covered the world’s most dangerous hot spots, conflicts and natural disasters.

Parisa served as a board member for the International News Safety Institute, and the International Women’s Media Foundation. She is a board member for Callanwolde Fine Arts Center and serves on the advisory board for Child Spring and Iranian-American Women Foundation. Parisa’s work has brought her recognition and many prestigious awards for both individual and collaborative efforts. Parisa earned her bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism from Columbia College in Chicago and studied French at the Université de Sorbonne in Paris and is fluent in Farsi.


"We had a wonderful experience of Parisa on campus. Her presentation was excellent. She was very engaging and heart-felt with students in the communication class and also at the lunch. "

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