I had the opportunity to stop by NPR recording studio to jump on Federal News Radio’s “What’s Working In Washington” podcast hosted by Jonathan Aberman. This was the second time on the podcast and we talked everything about being a keynote speaker to those damn millennials. Give it a listen below and if you enjoy make sure to subscribe to the podcast.
Here in the D.C. region, I see a lot of people who say to themselves if I could only get paid to make speeches about the things that I know. The reality is, it’s rather difficult to get people to do that. Our next guest is Brian Fanzo. He’s achieved that goal of becoming a well-regarded keynote speaker on topics of entrepreneurship and millennial behavior. He’s the founder of iSocialFanz.
We’ve had him on the show before to talk about the intersection of entrepreneurship and technology, and today we’re going to talk about a couple topics, the first one: how do you become a public speaker, and somebody who people will pay to have you talk, and also what’s going on the world of social media and entrepreneurship right now. Brian, thanks for taking the time.
FANZO: Thanks so much for having me. My mom said that I came out of the womb talking, so now I get to do what I love, and so I always enjoy coming on shows to talk a little bit more.
ABERMAN: Well, I’m always in favor of helping moms feel good about kids. But more to the point: you say it lightly, you came out the womb talking, there’s a lot more to becoming a successful public speaker or an authority than talking. Everybody talks. There must be something else to it.
FANZO: There is! And part of it is a little bit about finding your niche, or your story, and then ultimately figuring out how you can resonate and move the needle. I think in today’s, especially the digital world, lots of shouting, lots of broadcasting. I think the key is figuring out what your message is, and then it’s really an art. I study a lot of storytelling. I get to work with a lot of the professional speaking industry, different leaders that work on things like technique on the stage, how to deliver messages that are engaging, how to bring people on that journey with you. And for me, I kind of got blessed.
When I worked for the Department of Defense, early on in my career, they wanted me to speak at the Pentagon, and they said, before you can do that, we’re going to send you to training. So, I was 25 years old, and they sent me to a four-day camp, on kind of what it was like to kind of deliver a powerful message onstage, make sure that you kind of understand how to bring people on a journey, but also you make sure you turn things into actionable insight. So I kind of got a lucky kickstart early on my my career, and now I get to travel the world, speaking at the largest events in the world, sharing multiple messages, but ultimately, it’s an element of storytelling, and hopefully moving the audience to make a decision.
ABERMAN: Well, the first key, clearly, is the ability to communicate well, but it strikes me that just doing that doesn’t crack the nut. You also have to have a power base of information, or something that makes you an authority. How, in this world of attention-seeking and the different places where people get information, how did you manage to develop your core–this is what I know, and this is what I’m good at?
FANZO: You know. I have to thank social media for that. I started building my community on social media–Twitter, probably moreso than anywhere else–and I started sharing my experience: nine years in the government, two years at a data center company, and now I work in marketing. And so I have a unique background, and so I start sharing my story, and finding out that people were saying: hey Brian, you changed my life. Brian, my business is no longer the same.
I started to realize this resonates. You know, and I also like to say I talk in tweetables, which is that 140-characters of sound bytes, and that’s something that’s helped as well, and live video, I’d say, it’s probably the last piece that has really helped me. Because, when you’re able to share a story, and do it in way that that moves people, you can start to figure out your groove. And I think for me, as I kind of figured out this game–and I’m by no means an expert–but I actually love being on stage. It’s probably my most Zen place that I can be, and so I get to speak. This past week, I spoke at a training-learning-development conference, the next day a paintball distributor conference, and then on Thursday, the sailing leadership forum. And so, three completely, dynamically different audiences. But for me, it was talking my stories but putting them in a way that would relate to those unique audiences. So it’s never the same message, never the same presentation, but ultimately, the wrapper and the goal, for me, is to get them to embrace change, press the button, or move the needle.
ABERMAN: Sounds to me that this is an awful lot like being a successful entrepreneur. You have to be incredibly empathetic to understand who you’re speaking to and what they want from you, and you have to ultimately be able to speak with authenticity, and make sure that people understand that you’re coming to them with information that’s useful, and is free of filter and self-dealing.
FANZO: I love that you say that– it’s the perfect mix of empathy, authority, but not talking at people. It’s talking with people. One of my favorite compliments, when I get off stage–I’d say there’s two of them. One would say, Brian, you’re the same person online as you are offline. And one of my favorite compliments is someone says, Brian, I’ve been thinking those things that you were telling me, but the way that you brought them to light, I’m now ready to go do that. And I think it’s not saying I know more than you. It’s ultimately really, kind of reassuring, kind of bringing them along and getting them to–hey. This is that third party validation that says, I am on the right track. This is something I should do.
ABERMAN: Well, I’m going shift gears a little bit on you, but it strikes me. So, I was sitting in front of the TV, watching Super Bowl ads. I saw that the Budweiser, the Bud Light “dilly dilly” ad, and lot of our listeners will be familiar with it. That, to my mind, is a great example of how, these days, businesses can really do social media and marketing well. Do you want to talk a little bit about that?
FANZO: Sure. You know, I think, right now, in this crazy digital world, we have more distractions, more information. We have notifications on our phone. Even watching the Super Bowl I was getting–between social media, ads the HQ Trivia game, an ad popped up–so there’s lots of distractions, so capturing someone’s attention and making it memorable or something that’s easy to share or kind of recognizable is the secret now, right? So I don’t think about it as saying: hey I want to go viral, but ultimately how do I tie an important message–or any message, I wouldn’t say “dilly dilly” is important–but a message to a certain brand, right?
And this is that idea of standing out. It used to be about logos, and celebrities, and that’s no longer the case, because everyone can have a celebrity. Everyone has a logo. Youtubers and everything that’s out there, but I think that now, if you’re able to connect something that resonates, right? You know, when you crack open a bottle, it doesn’t even matter if you’re drinking Bud Light right now. Someone hears that crack and they’re like oh, dilly dilly. What an interesting piece. And I think, Budweiser has figured that out previously, with, you know, the Clydesdale, and then the “whazzup”. I remember that, in high school, I didn’t drink beer at the time–my mom and dad might be listening–but I remember, I had a hat said “whazzup” and that was part of what Budweiser has done great. I think it is an attention game today, and the fact that I’m able to link that to something and tie it into their commercials, is pretty gold.
ABERMAN: Last thing before I let you go, if you don’t mind: recently, you wrote a blog talking about how this is great time being an entrepreneur, but it’s a lousy time to be an entrepreneur. What do you mean by that?
FANZO: So, you know, entrepreneurship, I think is blowing up right now. It’s something that I believe everyone kind of sees, because of the world we live in. You know, I grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and, the only people that, in Pittsburgh knew anything outside of that area, you’d go on vacation to the shore and then you’d come back to Pittsburgh. But today, you’re able to see the world. So entrepreneurship has this fun, viral aspect to it, but oftentimes times we only see the highlights, right? We hear about these great success stories, but you know, entrepreneurship, I talk about for me, I’ve had to master the pivot, right, pivoting my business.
I don’t fail. I pivot. I pivot to different things, I pivot my services, and in this world we’re at today, it’s powerful. Because anyone can tell their story, and anyone can work for themselves, but at the same time it’s frustrating because you feel like you only see the highlight reels. Sometimes it looks easier than it is. And I’ve made argument many times, I don’t believe everyone should be an entrepreneur.
I don’t think entrepreneurship is for everyone, but you really don’t know until you try it. So I think it’s a great time to jump in and do it, but at same time, it’s a little bit overwhelming because you do feel like everyone else is successful, or everyone’s claiming to be successful and it’s a struggle. I think entrepreneurship, without question, I did nine years in enterprise and two years in a startup, entrepreneurship has been the hardest thing I’ve had to do, hands down.
ABERMAN: So, Nick Foles, who just won the Super Bowl, was asked what the secret to his success was. He said the, secret to my success is all the times I failed, but you don’t see–and I thought that really did encapsulate it–everybody’s shouting so much about how they’re killing it, and what’s lost is that the reality of entrepreneurship is grinding it out on a daily basis.
FANZO: That’s for sure. I think we’re moving towards–one of the things that I talk about on stage a lot is relatability. I actually say, relatability is the future of marketing, because we–I learned golf because my dad told me business was done on the golf course, but the reason it’s been on the golf course is because you talk about personal things.
You talk about your life, you kind of relate with people, and in this world of entrepreneurship, now one of the things that I really stress is the importance of sharing your vulnerability. So we used to only talk about our high sides online. I believe, moving forward, people that talk about things they struggle with, the good and the bad, will bring people along in that journey. You know, I was diagnosed with ADHD at 31 years old. I talk about that on stage very openly, and for me, people come up crying, and saying Brian, I need to get my son just to listen to you because he’s been struggling with that or, hey, I suffer with something else, and I’ve always wanted like, a scarlet letter. Thank you for empowering that. And I do believe our vulnerabilities are what’s going to stand out moving forward, and I think that’s an exciting time.
ABERMAN: Well, I really enjoyed speaking with you, Brian and I hope everybody listening enjoyed as much as I did. Brian Fanzo: he is a keynote speaker, an expert on how the culture of millennial behavior is driving what we’re doing, and founder of iSocialFanz. Thanks a lot for joining us.
FANZO: Thanks so much.