As my speaking career has taken off in 2016 I’ve received lots of questions, ranging from my thought process to how I broke into the scene to my secret for creating slides. But there’s one comment I get after almost every keynote: “Brian, you’re so passionate and so engaged and such a unique speaker. This must have come easy to you. You probably didn’t need any help.”
Now, I’m very lucky to be one of the few people who never get nervous before speaking on stage. I’ve always loved talking, engaging and answering questions from friends and my community on the spot with no preparation. But since high school the one thing I’ve studied more than anything else is storytelling.
After pivoting my career in 2013 away from the cyber security & cloud computing industries, I made it my focus to tell my story on every digital channel. At the same time I have been studying, reading and listening to the best minds in social business, social media and digital marketing because I knew with this pivot I’d need to learn from every person, opportunity and experience.
In the last three years I’ve had the opportunity to go from fan to follower to friend to peer with many people who I’ve looked up to. Surprisingly enough, the more I’ve gotten to peek behind the curtain, the more I discovered there are so many fakes and frauds out there! So I’ve spent many days and nights listening and learning from everyone I could, and thankfully some leaders in this space have given me guidance on who to follow and who to avoid. I’ve realized that just because someone is on a list or on the big stage doesn’t mean they’re the best or someone I’d recommend or want to be aligned with.
Below are six speakers who I’ve studied and enjoyed watching speak. Each have had an impact on my style, passion and storytelling abilities and I can fully admit that I wouldn’t be where I am today without their leadership and wisdom.
Amazing stage presence matched only by his taste in styling suits. Jay includes data & examples in every presentation and they’re so well integrated that they never disrupt the story. Rather, they become the parts of the presentation people are talking about the most. Jay’s ability to link personal stories throughout his presentations while also refining and changing each keynote he gives, is why I’ve learned something each of the 9 times I’ve watched him speak.
Gary might be full of hustle, profanity and big statements that he loves back up but when speaking Gary has an amazing ability to identify and tap into the vibe in a room while not missing a beat. His love for Q&A is something that I share with him—I would love to do Q&A keynotes and I believe Gary is paving the way for that. Most importantly, I’ve never watched or heard of Gary giving the same speech as he customizes each one with the goal of always making the audience feel like the lucky ones. I believe this is why he is truly the man.
Marcus’s passion and charisma on stage is contagious, and seeing him live the first time gave me everything I needed to tap into my passion and avoid holding back or being inauthentic on stage. Marcus also has the unique ability to give a motivational presentation mixed with actionable takeaways that all link to his pool company story, adding credibility & validation on top of everything he says. Marcus is first and foremost a family man and that is often included in his slides and stories and as a Dad it’s truly inspiring.
Ted is completely at home on stage and everyone who has watched him would agree. He gives out his phone number and literally skips on and off stage. I’ve been able to feel his love for the stage since the first time I saw him speak and even when I got to share the stage with him last year. Ted has an amazing ability to make his adage “Return on Relationships” not only resonate with every audience but also feel new each time you hear it, which is why events seem to always have him back year after year. There is a reason after watching Ted speak once, people call him a friend. He truly builds a relationship with each person in the audience on every stage he presents on.
Jason’s approach to speaking is highly influenced by heavy metal, which he never hides as he wears band shirts, pairs brands’ slides with music and even titled his book with a metal flair. For me, standing out is something I’ve always taken pride in, but it’s amazing watching Jason leverage his passion for music, photography and marketing in a way that not only helps him stand out but be memorable. I’ve known Jason from when he was at Marketo and most recently Linkedin and I believe he is the perfect example of why companies must invest in their best employees personal brands as Jason is an industry leader, company evangelist and dynamic speaker.
Chris’s bigger-than-life heart and presence is captivating when he takes the stage. His confidence and ability to make fun of himself while telling stories and giving examples builds instant credibility with the audience. Chris might have been in the social media game early on but his passion and charismatic approach has crowds laughing while blowing up the events twitter feed.
Interestingly enough, five out of the six of these speakers have their own podcasts, and I also have two myself: SMACtalk with Daniel Newman and my newest one launching this summer, Think Like A Fan. They’ve also all written books that I’ve read cover to cover while I’m still finalizing a book of my own due out spring of 2017. I not only recommend attending events where these six gentlemen are speaking, but also reading their books, listening to their podcasts and just consuming everything and anything they do.
The speaking space is an interesting one, as I’ve written about in the past. It’s a very hard club to penetrate so I want to also thanks to these other leaders that have reached out or connected me to speaking opportunities and event planners. All of my speaking opportunities have come from fellow speakers and leaders in this space including Lisa Loeffler, Daniel Newman, Bryan Kramer, Tamara McCleary, Tyler Anderson, Rachel Miller, Christin Kardos, Mike Stelzner, Joel Comm, Ryan Bell, and Cathy Hackel
Make sure you sign up for my email newsletter so you don’t miss any of my future blog posts, including my next one that highlights amazing speakers I believe are crushing it. Below are a few of those speakers I believe should be on every big stage and I’d love to share a stage with them: