Ryan Foland speaks with Brian Fanzo, a groundbreaking social media and communications expert, who has mastered Facebook’s Live Video maximizing on the new technology to connect with audiences from around the world.
Ryan and Brian share their passion for social networking, giving tips and insights on how to use tools like Twitter and Live Video effectively.
Listen to this podcast to find out:
- How to stand apart from all the noise on social media
- Why you absolutely need to read your audience in real time if you want to make an impact with your message
- The ins and outs of Live Video and how it can help you reach new audiences.
- Why you need to be active on social media before and after your presentation- not just during.
- Who to talk to and what to say to make sure get paid (and reap loads of other benefits) to speak.
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Brian Fanzo: This is Brian Fanzo, better known as iSocialFanz. You’re listening to the World of Speakers Podcast with Ryan. Today Ryan and I will be talking about social media, live video, and everything that goes into the package of being a speaker today.
It will be a lot of fun, there will be a lot of conversation, and hopefully a lot of takeaways. You don’t want to miss it.
Ryan Foland: Welcome everybody to another episode of World of Speakers, where we help to find speakers from around the world, who speaks around the world, to help you get a better idea of how you can do the same.
Today I’m super excited because we’ve got Brian Fanzo. If you’re not following him on Twitter, you will be by the end of this. He’s one of the most retweeted people out there, and his information is valuable because he gives you the truth.
He is someone who has no fear of being in front of a camera. I’ve seen him on stage a number of times, and the testimonials speak for themselves. Ryan, welcome to the World of Speakers. How are you doing sir?
BF: I am doing wonderful. Thanks so much for having me on. I appreciate the nice intro.
RF: I couldn’t have given it any other way. Unless you were either a jerk or terrible at speaking.
But then we wouldn’t be here in the first place, so it’s all good.
BF: That’s true. I speak the truth in all elements, so I appreciate that on all sides.
RF: Rock on. First I want people to hear about you. In the first part of the show, we always learn about our guest’s story.
You are out there very visibly on social media.
But where did it all start for you? How did you get on this track you’ve found yourself on?
BF: I love telling this story. In part, I think all of us speakers do.
I often introduce myself as a change evangelist.
That means is I’ve been through a lot of change, and a lot of interesting pivots in my career.
A lot of people would assume I’m much older than I am just based on my experience, but I’m a millennial. I’m barely a millennial. I’m 36 years old. I’m a computer science major.
I was the weird kid in school, but I mean “weird’ in a good way. I was the president of my fraternity. I was also the assistant captain of my ice hockey team in college. I was really the only person who did all of that.
I’ve always had that uniqueness, where I have multiple interests and consider myself a generalist.
Out of college, I couldn’t get a job in technology, so I took a job working for UPS delivering packages. I wore those amazing short brown shorts you see everybody from UPS wearing.
RF: With the socks too, right? The socks are also cool.
BF: Of course with the socks! Surprisingly enough that’s all mandated. But it was a great job.
Then I was standing in a grocery store line one day.
Someone came up to me and asked, “Hey, have you ever worked for the government?” I said, “No.” Then he asked, “Have you ever worked in cyber security?” I said, “No.” Then he said, “Well then I don’t have to unteach you anything.”
Then he asked, “Do you want to do an interview to come join the cyber security team for the Department of Defense?”
I took that opportunity, seeing it as a way to get into the computer field as a whole.
Little did I realize I would spend nine years in that role with that company.
In that job, I ran a team of people where we deployed people who then trained the different US military bases on how they could use cyber security solutions to not only protect their network, but also to collaborate with other branches of the military.
I always tell people, “My job was to get the Army to share with the Navy, and the Air Force to share with the Marines.” I challenge people to come up with a much harder role when it comes to getting groups to come together and collaborate.
It was there where I found a love for speaking, as well as a love for social media.
My claim to speaking was nothing I did myself. I had a manager come up to me and say, “We need someone to brief the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Pentagon every quarter. You’re the only non-gray haired person on our team in cyber security.” Because of my age, and because I was not afraid of getting up on stage, that was my first foray into speaking.
They sent me to a four-day public speaking course, and I had to serve a vacation course at the end to be able to present in front of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
That was a very interesting experience. You have all the generals, all of the active duty military, and I was doing it inside of the Pentagon. For me, that was a great opportunity to bring change to that organization, but also to get my feet wet, and find out how much I enjoyed being on stage. I did that for the next four years.
Part of my role was to brief the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Then I became the face of cyber security for the DOD.
That was a great role, but I was ready to step outside of cyber security, because cyber security has this association.
It’s like the war on drugs, where if you do something good, nobody notices. But if you do something bad, a drone could come out of the sky.
I pride myself on the fact that I wake up happy, and I go to bed happy. I’m very passionate about everything I do.
I decided to completely pivot out of that area, and went to probably the most boring technology arena of all, even more boring than cyber security. I went to a data center company and became their chief technology evangelist.
It was a data center company that was moving into cloud technology. The interesting thing for me was I became the face of the company, I became the person that told the story. That allowed me to join different events, and come on stage, because my company was sponsoring the events.
I was able to speak at large events like AWS and Gartner. I closed out one of the days at AWS in front of 13,000 people with the presentation I gave that morning. I absolutely loved it. I loved the topic, and I loved the opportunity.
I stayed in that role for about two years and grew that business from about 214 employees to 640. At that point, I realized I wanted to go out on my own, and see how I could grow this connection of technology and social media.
For the last four years or so I’ve been an entrepreneur. I help brands of all sizes leverage new technology in order to tell their story. Everything from live streaming video, to Snapchat, to Instagram.
Speaking is my prime source. I did about 50 events in 11 countries last year. I’m on target to do probably around 40 events this year in 2017.
RF: Wow! That is solid worldwide exposure, and lots of stage time.
BF: It is. Also in many different arenas.
I got there as a cyber geek.
Then I became a brand speaker.
Now I’m doing it as an entrepreneur, a full-time speaker. I can relate and understand all of the advantages, as well as pain points in each of the different roles of speaking today.
RF: Wow. That is quite the colorful past.
It’s inspiring, because you have so many elements that have changed along the way, that have shaped you into a master of change.
Especially with emerging technology, if you’re using that to help people build their brands, and develop their story.
Things are changing so quickly it has got to be an exciting, but also intimidating space, with no lack of new content. Right?
BF: For sure. I think we’re in an interesting time and space today where we’ve been using technology, and especially social media, for the last nine or ten years to distance ourselves from humans, and distance ourselves from people online.
We send people to a website, or we add them to do opt ins.
We’ve always realized brands are great because they have great people, and that people buy from people they like.
I think now more so than ever we’re looking at technology and saying, “How does that fit? How do we leverage technology to share our story?” That’s almost bringing this full circle, and shrinking the distance between us and the customer, or us and our audience.
For me, there’s not only no shortage of content. But you need to get back to the essence of people, tell their story, and go to where your audience is. I absolutely love that element of what I do.
RF: It seems like you are taking your own medicine. You’re incorporating these new technologies to share your story at the same time.
I’d be interested in learning some tips about how you bridge that live interaction, versus the Facebook Live interaction. Or self-facing camera, versus being in front of 13,000 people.
Also the importance of leveraging this new technology as an upcoming speaker. Whether that’s just to spread your message, to share a cause, or to build a business.
If you’re looking to become a professional speaker, and try to get 40 to 50 gigs a year in 10 to 15 different countries, how important is the adoption and use of these new platforms for you and other people as a speaker?
BF: That’s a great question.
I have a distinct opportunity where I’m on every platform, trying every single thing. That allows me to go back to clients, and even podcasts and conversations, allowing people to understand the features and benefits, as well as the type of audience and interaction available on these different platforms.
Then allowing them to select what’s best for them.
I think this is an interesting time, because I’ve always believed we all have a story to tell. I’ve never believed in the adage that I think inhibits a lot of speakers, who believe they need to be an expert in something, or they have to be the only person talking about one thing.
I share and help people use these technologies the way I use them.
I never convince anybody to do this my way because it’s the only way to do it.
I say “this is how I do it.” and the results I’m able to generate. This is what I think you can do. That for me is really important.
I’m on every one of the platforms pushing the boundaries of the platforms.
I even work with a lot of the different app and technology companies directly as an advisor, allowing them to understand the different behaviors.
To answer your question about value.
My grandfather, growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, had three TV channels on his TV, and he’s got a newspaper.
He would always tell me he really only had two sources, because he didn’t have a remote for his TV.
That really he had one channel on TV, and one newspaper.
Those are the only places he got his news and consumed content.
Now we have 300 apps on our phones with push notifications giving us not only all of these distractions, but opportunities to consume information.
I’m a father of three girls, and I think I’m raising my daughters in the greatest time in the world, because we have all of these opportunities to tell our story, and all these different vehicles to do so.
But at the same time, all of this can be extremely overwhelming, and we can spread ourselves extremely thin.
Probably the hardest part is figuring out how do you stand apart from the noise when the noise keeps growing, and growing, and growing.
I fit in this middle road where I wasn’t great on video. Video was not my background. I did not have a great YouTube channel.
But live video. It was originally Meerkat, and then it was Periscope. Now most people know it as Facebook Live.
Live video just fell in my lap. It was the perfect piece for me, because it’s participatory content, which is a word I made up for it.
When you’re staring into your camera and creating a video for YouTube, you’re delivering your message without any other variables being put in.
I played poker semi-professionally for a long time.
I did a lot of studying of nonverbal cues, and body language. I’m a real big believer in the power of that.
Oftentimes when I’m on stage presenting, although you might see me talk about the same “subject” multiple times, each time is drastically different because I’m reading the audience. I’m allowing them to have input.
Oftentimes I’ll do a Q&A halfway through my presentation that will completely shift the second half of the presentation.
Because my goal has always been to provide value for my audience. There’s no way to understand what your audience wants unless you’re willing to listen to that.
That’s why live video to me is so powerful. Because it used to be about what I thought people wanted. Now I’m able to share on video my thoughts, but also allow the audience to shape the direction of the content, much like I do on stage.
RF: You talk about how live streaming just landed in your lap.
You’ve taken that as an opportunity to create engagement through social platforms.
You’re not just YouTube-ing in one direction, not like the band. But livestream creates this connectivity for you, which really seems to work for you.
Would you encourage other people who want to become more traditional speakers on stage to explore these live mediums as a practice tool?
What are your thoughts on that?
BF: We’re living in a space where we always want to relate with our audience.
We always want to know that our message is being heard.
The interesting thing is we often don’t get the feedback until it’s too late.
We’ll get feedback from a speaker review a week after the event’s over.
We’ll even get feedback when you get off stage and there’s that line of people giving you information.
Live video allows you to have that real time feedback, which is a little scary for some people, because you do have to react to the feedback as the comments come on screen.
But that allows you to hone not only your message, but to truly understand how your message relates with people.
I think it’s a combination of testing and practicing the cadence. Understanding the different examples you get.
I speak at a wide range of conferences. I went to a pet influencer conference. The very next week I spoke at the National Dental Insurance Association Leadership Conference. The following week I was at a social media event.
One of the things I like to do is go on live video, share a little bit about what I’m talking about, and then test out some of my examples, or analogies, and see how they come across.
Because there’s that speaker we’ve all heard on stage giving an example in their presentation that not only doesn’t relate with the audience, but maybe it’s a competitor of the audience, or maybe it’s a faux pas, something you’re not supposed to talk about.
I think live video can help you practice your delivery, and also get real time feedback.
Last but not least, it will help you better understand those unique audiences you have, so that when you are up there it’s not like it’s the first time you’re talking to the pet influencer group.
Then I’ve done three live streams prior to, and have a much better understanding of their pain points, and I’m pretty confident they’re going to understand my examples.
RF: I love this. We’ve had some other guests on the podcast who have talked about standing at the door to meet and greet people as they come in, or talking with people before the event, getting that feedback and getting some fans.
You’re taking this to next level by using a live stream platform well before the event to get in front of that audience. Allowing you to not only get to meet them, but build a potential relationship with them, get feedback in real time about what you’re speaking on. That helps you to create more relevant content which is more valuable.
I think that’s a great point. However, I think some people will still be scared, because there is a bit of vulnerability that comes with live streaming.
How do you encourage people who are new to the platform to feel comfortable with not looking as good as they normally look on video, or not being as comfortable with the technology as they appear on video?
Do you feel the audiences, for the most part, are understanding of those issues? Or is it just sack up, do it, learn as you go, figure it out?
BF: I think there’s multiple points there.
I think the audience is very forgiving, because the stare into your phone version of live streaming has only been around for a little over two years.
That means we’re all learning together.
I always joke that almost everybody’s first live stream, their feet is the first thing they see, because you don’t realize the back camera is the first camera that’s on of your phone.
All of a sudden you’re wondering, “Why are my feet on camera?”
But on an even bigger note, I think speakers make the easiest transition to live video for two main reasons.
Every time I work with a brand and talk about live video, I explain there’s two principles they must understand if they want to leverage these platforms.
I believe speakers already understand this.
The first one is perfection is a fairytale.
Anyone who has been a speaker knows oftentimes we can’t control things like the clicker not working, or a fire alarm, or an AV team that hasn’t set things up correctly, or being told you had two projection screens, and when you get there you have a podium with no projection screen.
I think from a speaker’s perspective we learn we’re not trying to achieve perfection.
We know how to go with the flow, which is extremely important in live video.
The second key part is control is an illusion.
A lot of people who published a YouTube video put out a controlled message. That’s our speaker reel where we’ve reviewed every single second of the transitions. But truly when people want to relate to somebody, they don’t look at them in a controlled environment.
That’s the reason every conference goer says their favorite part of a conference, unfortunately for our speakers, is the networking afterwards, or the uncontrolled environment of spontaneity where things just happen. That’s what live video gives you.
Be willing to embrace the fact that you don’t need to be perfect because the viewers aren’t seeking perfection. If you realize that sometimes you won’t be able to control the variables, much like we can’t control the variables on stage, that allows you to jump on there.
I can tell you if you’re making a mistake, or all of a sudden your audio disappears, there’s never a heckler in the crowd. There’s usually someone saying, “Here’s two things to try.” I’ve had that same problem happen.
It’s a very forgiving community, because like I said, it’s less than two years old.
I still look at live video as an opportunity to be yourself. The risk barrier of embarrassing yourself is not really there. Remember, every live broadcast can be deleted after you’re done being live, if you are someone who leans on the perfection side.
I’ve done this before for some of these events. I’ll go live, talk about certain things, and delete the replay, so it’s just for that live viewer.
I have a simple phrase, press the damn button. What I mean by that is press the button, go live, and try it out.
RF: I love that. Are there any tactics you use in online video that maybe are not as important on stage, or vice versa?
BF: The first thing that comes to my mind is from when I was at Social Media Marketing World two years ago.
Unfortunately for me I was presenting right before Gary Vaynerchuk, and Gary’s presentation was in a different location.
With about ten minutes left to go on my presentation about half of the audience got a push notification saying, make sure you get here early to see Gary.
I had to watch the audience get up and leave.
But that’s a rare occasion.
On live video you’ll see your attendee numbers fluctuate. New people worry about having five people. Then that increases to 100, and drops back down to 20. They ask, “What do I do now?”
I think as a speaker we have to embrace that we are delivering the best we can do. We can’t control who is in the audience.
That’s why I always tell people to put a sticky note over the number so that you don’t know how many people are there. Because you want to deliver the same quality, the same level of engagement whether there’s five people, or five hundred.
Just like I would pitch a brand and say, “I will give the side room of 50 people just as much takeaway and value as if you gave me the main stage with 5,000 people.”
RF: A phrase my mom would always say is, “Ryan, it only takes one.” Right?
BF: Yes. When I’m on live video I speak as if I’m having a conversation with one person, and that allows me to break down some of the examples.
I feel if you can impact one person’s day, and change how they do something, or inspire them to tweet about your session, that’s one more person you had before you went live.
RF: That brings up an interesting point. I was checking out your website, and I love how you integrate people’s tweets as your testimonials.
Talk a little bit about how important it is, and the art of this whole validation process, because there’s a fine line.
It’s nice after you speak if people voluntarily give you feedback and testimonials.
Sometimes there is a structured feedback form, which you said you sometimes get when it’s too late.
But social media, and Twitter specifically creates feedback in real time.
When you’re speaking are you saying, “Hey, if you like what’s going on, tweet me?” Are you introducing your social handles in the beginning of your presentation?
Because I think from a presentation standpoint there’s a lot to learn about merging the two worlds on and offline.
I always have a slide with all of my handles. I have my own hashtag, #gingermc, and I try to get people use it.
But there’s a fine line being professional and self-promotional.
How do you handle encouraging people to interact on social media while you’re live on stage?
BF: I have a different approach that comes from me being someone who loves, and is a fan of speakers, and a fan of promoting those who are doing well.
Whenever I get introduced, and someone is reading my bio, my goal is as they hear my name onstage that they’ve already engaged with me on Twitter, or they’ve seen my tweets.
Every event I go to I do a Twitter video when I land in the city, and I post it with the event hashtag. I tag the event coordinators. Then I try to actively engage in other people’s sessions.
I might say, “Hey, I’m about to board my airplane to head to this event,” or, “I’m excited for my company retreat this weekend.” I’ll actively engage in that hashtag leading up to me getting on stage.
I’ve had this discussion with Jay Baer, a good friend of mine who I’ve always bounced things off of. I make my slides tweetable, and make sure they look good when someone takes a picture of them with their phone.
Five years ago if anyone was looking at their phone, you as a speaker thought you weren’t very good. Then we got to this arena where if they’re looking at their phone, that means they’re posting on social media about us.
Now we’re in this world where we’re taking pictures, and posting to Instagram, or Twitter. Sometimes we take pictures, then go back and use those as takeaways.
I make it my mission for every event I go to that I’m part of that community and hashtag before I even get on stage.
I believe you should what I preach, not what I do. I teach people to use your first and last name as your Twitter account, because that makes it easier for people to tweet at you. But I built a brand around iSocialFanz.
I do have the handle Brian Fanzo, so if someone tweets me there I can monitor that. But you want to present your name, and be a part of the conversation.
Regarding your question about promoting.
If you tell people what to do on social media. If you say, “Come to my session. This is what you need to do,” that is self-promotional.
But if you talk about how excited you are about the event, and then why they should come to your session, that goes from being promotional to being helpful.
I don’t think you could ever get in trouble asking, “What’s the hardest thing you’re dealing with in growing your personal brand?” Or, “I want to talk about live video. How many people attending the event have gone live on video?”
By me not only asking for that feedback, but bringing them along on my journey, that comes across as I want to be a part of this conversation.
In my contract, I do something a little bit different.
I tell the event organizer “I will guarantee six hours at your event. I will not just be there for the one hour I’m on stage.” I want them to know that I want to be a part of the event, and the community.
That might stop me from having two gigs in a day. I’ve talked to many of my good friends who said they would never do that because they know what they’re selling is part of that one hour on stage.
When I talk to an event organizer, I usually come straight out and ask. “Is your goal to satisfy the sponsors, to sell tickets, or to provide as much value to the audience as possible?” Not very many organizers will tell you 100% of the truth, but the majority of them will say, “Our audience is who we care the most about.”
For me the testimonials are great.
I have a lot of testimonials from event organizers, my peers, and fellow speakers. I think you’ve successfully engaged your audience when someone says, “This is the most I’ve been inspired since the Tony Robbins presentation.”
That type of response is my goal.
When you are part of the conversation ahead of time, you make it easy for people to share your work.
I love having my social handles on the slides. I also make my slides tweetable, so when someone shares them there’s just enough information, and a slide background that looks good in a dark room.
These things take it a little far for some people. They’ll say, “Wait a second. I’m building my slides for the audience in the room.” But let’s face it, there is an element of people monitoring hashtags.
One of my favorite advantages of doing this is I get hired to speak at the same event back to back over years, when that’s not currently a trend. When someone asks me why I think that is, I say it’s because I care about the community, and am committed to it by being part of the conversation.
Therefore the next year they still want me to be there because I’m part of it. I’m not just there as a contractor to deliver a message, and then leave.
RF: I’ve seen that in action in the social media marketing world, and I believe in that same concept.
I’ve invented the word tweetnado, and I use that term when I go to conferences. I create a tweetnado when I use the conference hashtag, get involved with the conversation, and create as much value as possible.
Now sometimes I get annoyed at tweets that have no value. Like I’m here at this, or this person is on stage.
Your tweets are the opposite of that.
They are value driven.
They are a video with information, or highlighting something somebody else has found value in.
I believe it’s not the volume of tweets, but the quality of tweets. If you get the quality of tweets with a volume of tweets, that’s a tweetnado right there.
BF: I love it. I know a lot of speakers will say, “Brian, I’m not active on Twitter.” Or, “I’m on Twitter, but I only engage at an event.”
I love Twitter. Without question, Twitter is my favorite platform.
RF: Me too.
BF: Both of us were on there earlier today.
RF: Here’s an example. For those who don’t know, we got disconnected. I sent you an email, and that wasn’t fast enough. Then I tweeted you, and you tweeted me back. Then we went to DM and we handled it.
BF: It’s funny how that works too.
I think people who are not on Twitter are intimidated by it.
You and I love Twitter, we’re on it all the time.
When you tweet with a hashtag, and people are watching a hashtag, your tweet gets the same amount of power, validity, and oomph within that hashtag as everyone else.
Whether you have one follower, or 100,000 followers, when someone is monitoring a hashtag it doesn’t matter, your amount of followers does not come across.
Some people say, “Since I don’t use Twitter every day, I’m not going to be a part of the Twitter conversation.” I challenge them saying, “You can be a part of an event conversation no matter how many followers you have.”
That usually gets people over that hump.
That brings me to the feedback piece. I live stream a lot of my presentations.
A lot of people say, “Brian, aren’t you afraid you’re giving away content?” “Brian, people are taking a picture of every one of your slides, and posting them on social media.”
My answer back is, if I can inspire people to always share and promote my content because it’s that important to them, I’m very confident I’ll continue to get those people to show up in my seats and pay for tickets.
Versus the old way of thinking where if I’m out of sight, out of mind, I’m exclusive.
That since you could only see me at these four places, that’s where I got the most value. I think that’s opposite today.
It still humbles me when people travel hours upon hours to come see me speak, and they’ve already watched me on live video four times that week.
But for them that is the connective part of the journey, as well as being in that audience, and being part of something that is truly special that cannot be mirrored online.
RF: A thought just came to mind. I like to make up stuff all the time. This idea of digital word of mouth, which is what you’re really doing.
Conversational value aside, what you’re doing by the engagement and energy you’re creating online is you’re creating digital word of mouth.
There’s nothing more powerful than word of mouth, unless you throw digital on it.
This idea of holding back your best content is so backwards thinking.
John Bates, a good friend of mine, and a great speaker. He has been on the podcast. He talks about if you give your absolute best information every time, people are going to assume you have better information out there.
Give the best information you can, and people are still going to want to learn more, no matter what golden nuggets you give out.
Especially this idea of sharing. I think sharing is caring. That comes back.
I think your ability to get rehired by engaging in the community is a huge and simple step people can take. Once some get to a paid level they show up saying, “I’m being paid to be here. I’m in and I’m out.”
But you’ve taken a more holistic approach where you become part of that community. It’s not as much about the money as it is about that community you’re growing. Those people who follow you.
For people who don’t know about the thousand true followers concept, you don’t have to have hundreds of thousands of followers. You just have to have a few who are dedicated, who will drive hours to see you, and when and if you build a product, will buy it.
BF: That’s the truth. I love the digital element. Millennials want to get their voice heard. I would challenge every generation and say that they wish they had the digital megaphone available to us today.
I spoke in 11 countries last year. I would say 8 of those 11, I had never met the people who hired me, or the people that advocated for me in person. They didn’t see me on stage. They connected with me digitally. Maybe they watched a livestream of one of my presentations.
To me, that’s the ROI of digital, that’s the value there. I think it is an amazing power, to inspire action through digital media.
It’s not about online versus offline anymore, it’s just about living. Digital is just as much a part of that as what we do on stage.
I’ve always believed, even when I took a job early on, that my goal was to make my manager look good.
Because if my manager looked good, my manager would get promoted, and then I would get promoted. We as a team would be good.
I take that same exact approach with every event organizer. How can I make that event organizer look good; whether that’s working with a sponsor, being a part of the community, helping a hashtag trend.
Because ultimately I believe I’m getting paid to deliver a message, and inspire. That inspiration can come before, during, and after what I’m on stage for.
RF: If you pull the stats on the conference hashtag, and you’re crushing it, that visibly shows you’re a top interactor, top influencer, top tweeter.
That’s millions of impressions you’re bringing to the table. There may be an audience of 500, but you’re bringing millions of eyeballs to it. I think that digital connection is so key.
You were talking about ROI. I’ve got this concept I’m forming called the IROI. I hear so often people looking for the ROI when it comes to digital and social media. But I think there’s an IROI. It’s an invisible ROI. You don’t see it until it’s there.
You have to put in the time, the effort, the grit, the tweets, and then all of a sudden like you said, you get speaking gigs because of your social presence.
But if you were to look back, it’s not like you can see that return on investment until it happens. I tell people it’s an IROI. It’s invisible until you see it. You have to believe in it to do it in the first place.
BF: I love that. I reverse engineer a lot of my paid speaking opportunities down to figuring out what relationship, what event, what dinner I went to that led me to the first connection that got me to be part of that person’s community.
Even getting on a podcast.
I try to look at that and reverse engineer.
Who connected me with this person?
It’s amazing how many of these things lead into being part of a Twitter chat, or supporting another speaker at an event. That person started following me because they saw my name in that hashtag.
I like that IROI, because I do that a lot now. It gets tiresome sometimes tweeting, and always being on, engaging, and providing all that value.
But when you’re able to realize how powerful those micro moments are, that makes it worth it for sure in the end.
RF: Definitely. If you were able to give some basic tips for people who want to speak in 50 different locations, in 11 different countries around the world.
I don’t want this podcast to be the make money by speaking, sign up for this webinar and you can make money, right? But there is this natural progression where everybody has their own story. You perfect the way in which you communicate your message to draw value to an audience. If you can get paid for that, that’s awesome.
A lot of people talk about there being this process and story along the way.
For those people who want to take their message and monetize it, you’ve obviously done that and are doing it.
How would they start, or what would you say to yourself when you were starting this process to make it easier?
BF: I think this is probably one of the hardest paths. I love speaking, because we can all take our own journey into the paid arena. We can even take it into the arena of making a lot of money in this space, which some of my good friends are doing. I think that journey is exciting.
But there’s no carbon copy. There’s no playbook on these things. But there’s a couple things I learned along the way.
You’ll hear people say, “I can’t afford to pay you, but I’m going to give you exposure.” Exposure has become almost like a joke.
I decided to take exposure and break that down. For a lot of events I would be like, “I appreciate the sponsorship. I understand you don’t have money. I would love to have lunch with the CEOs of your two sponsors. Or I would love to have access to the senior VP who pitched you.”
Because when you start thinking of exposure, of what I provide on stage, or the message you’re giving, yes that’s powerful.
But when someone says that’s all they can offer, more often than not they are willing to do all of these things as long as they don’t have a dollar sign attached to them. They just don’t have that physical money.
I’ve started looking at what will make this event valuable for me. Oftentimes it isn’t money.
The very first IBM event I ever spoke at I used this exact tactic. I said, “I would like 15 minutes with the senior VP of the company, and then I will speak for free.” That 15 minutes ended up turning into a lunch. That turned into her before I even spoke at that event, booking me for four future events. Those future events are paid.
That speaking opportunity got me the face time. I wish I knew that early on.
Then along the lines of how do you start pushing the envelope. You have to be able to tell your story. You also have to be able to understand what the message is, and what that event is trying to accomplish.
For me a lot of times if they say, “This is the first ever event we’ve had, our budget is tight. We want to make this the best event ever. We’d love to have you there.” When I start thinking about what matters to them, I know they’ll have sponsors, and people they’re trying to get to come along on this journey.
Oftentimes, I’ll say, “How about this. Tell one of your sponsors I will do a workshop the day before I speak if they’re willing to pay my entire speaking fee.”
A lot of people would say, “Wait a minute, that’s a lot more extra work.” But here’s how I look at it. That gives me an opportunity to meet a new potential customer who can hire me, because this is a sponsor that wasn’t the initial hire.
It gives me face time with the audience I’m going to be speaking to the next day. Therefore I’m going to better understand the pain points, and the nuances of that community.
I just gave the event organizer a path to getting closer to their goal, giving more value to their sponsor, and getting a speaker they want. To me that’s a win win all the way around.
The weird part is until you start asking for those things, you’ll never know they’re there.
RF: Because it wasn’t on the sponsor sheet, that little matrix. Nobody said there will be a private workshop for you specifically as an upgrade.
Those organizers are always looking to provide more value to the sponsors. What a great opportunity to come in there and negotiate nonmonetary terms that turn into money.
BF: I think that’s key. I think also it’s a weird balance. Because I have been guilty of giving away too much of my time, or giving away too much to certain events because I wanted to make that path. Then the next year they’d hire me, but not at the amount I want.
I think that’s because there’s a difference between giving away your time, versus maximizing the time you plan to put in.
That to me is that unique difference. If it’s just a workshop for five people, that’s not going to be that valuable.
But if I know that by doing this a couple hours the day before I’m going to knock out three other possible opportunities, as well as make three more people fans of mine, that’s great.
I spoke at InBound, which is put on by HubSpot out of Boston, last year for the first time. I was beyond humbled when I walked into the room and the CMO of the company was there.
I was not the main keynote, but when I came up to him afterwards, gave him a hug, and said, “Thank you so much for coming to see me speak.” They were like, “Brian, you’ve made my sponsors happy, and you’ve been part of this community, which has inspired me to put on my calendar that I want to come see you speak, because that’s my thank you to you.”
How cool is that when they’re doing what you would dream of.
Honestly, all I did before that event was support and celebrate, which is what I would have done natively.
I think that’s a lesson learned for me as well. If you do some of that amplification, some engaging in the hashtag conversation strategically and with passion, the ROI, or IROI, it’s amazing how many unique nuggets will happen.
More often than not I don’t even talk about what room I’m in, or what time I’m speaking. I want to inspire you and provide you with so much value that you seek that information out, and I don’t have to put it in your face.
RF: Absolutely. I wish we had a couple more hours, but we have the rest of our lives.
I’m looking forward to connecting with you, continuing to follow you, see you at these conferences, and hopefully share the stage sometime soon.
The information you’ve provided here today is so inspiring, because they’re things everyone can do.
I always like to share that successful speakers are not doing things everybody else cannot do, successful speakers are doing things that everybody can do, but not everybody does.
You’re doing those things, and I believe that’s why you’re successful.
It’s empowering to think that by sharing what you’re doing, if other people just do those things, which everyone can do, it will help levitate them.
It will help create more information for the audience, provide value all around, and make the world a better place as a result.
BF: I love it. I would say my true passion is connecting great people with great people to do great things. I think that’s the ultimate mission.
You summarized that true value of a speaker. It is that element of putting all these dots together.
The nice part is there is no one way to do it. The bad news on that side is you have to pave your own road, but it’s a fun road to pave.
Brian, amazing stuff buddy. We’ll see you online, and we’ll talk to you soon.
BF: Cheers my friend. Have a good one.
RF: Thanks guys.
You’re listening to the World of Speakers Podcast. I’m Ryan Foland, and we are bringing speakers from around the world to share with you how you can do the same thing.
We’ll see you later on. If you want to catch up on old episodes, go to WorldofSpeakers.com.
This is Ryan signing out. Peace.
A bit about World of Speakers
World of Speakers is a weekly podcast that helps people find their own voice, and teaches them how to use their voice to develop a speaking business.
We cover topics like: what works versus what doesn't, ideas on how to give memorable presentations, speaking tips, and ideas on how to build a speaking business.
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