5 Things I Wish I Knew About Being A Professional Keynote Speaker

5 Things I Wish I Knew About Being A Professional Keynote Speaker

Are you afraid of public speaking? I believe you know you aren’t alone as it’s widely known to be one of the biggest fears people have…

Do you want to be a full-time professional speaker traveling the world delivering your message?? You aren’t alone either, as the lure of the lifestyle and impact that is possible as a professional speaker is without a doubt a dream career for many.

I took my first stage in 2005 working for the Department of Defense and spoke in front of a government audience on the future of cyber security and our need to recruit and train millennial military members to educate and implement this technology.

Between 2005 and 2013, I spoke on 50+ stages, both in that role for the DoD and as a Technology Evangelist, which included keynoting at VMworld, SXSW, and Gartner. But it wasn’t until 2013 that I realized that the job of a “professional speaker” was something people did as a full-time career.

Over the next five years, I would learn the hard way how little I knew about being a professional speaker. It also was evident that the gap between the person afraid of public speaking and those who want to be a full-time speaker seemed large. Still, in reality, it came down to two things—a mindset shift and inside knowledge of the speaking, event planner, and conference industry.

This might come as a shock, but I believe it’s easier to help someone over their fear of public speaking embracing a mindset shift than it is to figure out the nuances and highly protected process to not only becoming a professional speaker but achieving long-term success as a speaker.

In the early days of my speaking career, I began to understand just how lucrative being a speaker can be and how unique each person’s path to becoming a full-time public speaker was. Public speakers take on a skill that no other industry requires, even more so now when we are constantly connected.

The beauty of being a proffesional speaker is that there is no one way to make a living as a speaker. The hard part about breaking through and finding success as a speaker is the fact there are so many paths to this career!

The public speaking industry (as an economic driver) is hard to measure with a lot of fuzzy numbers. Still, the event planning and conference industry certainly are easier to quantify. Event planners bring in anywhere from $15,000- to $50,000+ per event depending on its size and how much back-end work the event planner contracts out. And speaking at these events is a huge revenue source for public speakers.

Since man first stood before a group to spread their word and ideas, the public speaking industry has been around. But the speaker sure has changed over time…

The public speaking industry is a weird bird when you look at the revenue they can generate for clients not to mention this new world of virtual events and being able to speak from anywhere. Corporate conference professionals, event planners, and public speakers are all in the same industry. Still, they have their own little world inside the industry with its own set of rules and cultural norms. Many of the most successful public speakers started speaking to promote their books, agencies, or as the second career. At the same time, there have also been many successful speakers who’ve built great businesses in just public speaking in recent years. 

For those seeking out becoming a public speaker as a full-time profession as I’ve done, here are five things I wish I knew as I started my journey and aspects of my speaker business that I’m still focusing on improving today. 

  1. Being great on stage isn’t enough: The idea of being the greatest presenter or performer on stage isn’t enough to sustain in this business as the business of speaking requires so many other aspects including your ability to sell yourself, ability to understand your audience and even position your program that others believe its worth paying you to speak.
  2. There are multiple ways of making money as a speaker:  Knowing what you’re best at and focusing on the method that’s best for you must be the priority. You can’t get distracted by your peers building their speaking business a different way. 
  3. You can’t do it all on your own: For many, this means working with a speaker bureau or signing with a speaker agent. It’s also essential to surround yourself with people who know the other aspects of this business that you don’t like travel, planning, video editing or online marketing. See post on best speaker websites.
  4. Speakers get Speakers Gigs:  As much focus that’s put on creating a sizzle reel, building a website or designing the perfect keynote program. All of those things combined will get you less gigs than the relationships you build with fellow speakers that are asked on a weekly basis to recommend speakers for gigs they’ve done in the past. 
  5. Adapting, Re-Invent, Pivoting is Part of the Speaker Life: The ability to roll with the punches isn’t a skill set that emerged thanks to covid forcing things to virtual. It’s actually within every aspect of the speaker life from travel issues to technical problems on stage to the audience to being able to continue your talk during the lunch session as the audience is eating and making noise. 

If you want to hear more examples and details and how I coach other speakers to leverage some of these things I’ve learned check out SPEAKER MISFIT MAFIA BOOTCAMP which is a 10 week Bootcamp that I run only once a year.

4 Immersive Virtual Presentation Styles to Create with Prezi Video

4 Immersive Virtual Presentation Styles to Create with Prezi Video

I’m a big believer that Limitations Inspire Creativity

Created with Adobe Spark highlighting my Prezi Video Presentations

Forty-three days ago, I “googled upon” Prezi video, and although I had used Prezi in the past (2016 last logged in) I hadn’t heard about them launching a video tool in late 2019.

I tweeted them:

Since that tweet, I’ve delivered 18 virtual presentations and created 25+ videos using Prezi Video. On top of that, I also have another 6 Prezi Next templates in the “design brainstorm phase.”

The only limitations with virtual presentations are within our creative minds!

The feedback after each presentation has been fantastic, but I’ve also appreciated the access I’ve had with the Prezi Team. I’ve had multiple calls with the co-founder, the head of the video product, VP of Strategic Partnerships, and other members of the team to share feedback and have a better understanding of the use cases and roadmaps of Prezi Video.

Below are 4 of types of dynamic presentations I’ve given using Prezi Video.

But honestly, the most exciting part has been exposing Prezi Video to friends, executive clients, and fellow virtual speakers and seeing the unique ways they are leveraging it for their presentations, video meetings, and virtual keynote presentations.

If you are still working on the strategy for your next virtual event make sure to check out this post on what it takes to create a successful virtual event.

1. Customized hologram overlays with a shaded background

Customized a Prezi Next presentation and then converted it to Prezi Video as the video becomes the background.  This can be used to create the desired emotional connection needed to maintain audience attention and drive interactivity within virtual events.

2. Branded speaker program transparent overlays

Custom graphics and overlays for Brian’s Press The Damn Button Virtual Keynote Program.  As speakers, it’s important to stand out from the noise, be memorable but also demonstrate the high quality and value you provide with each virtual presentation.  This is a great way to do just that!  This screengrab is from the Socio Hackathon you can watch the replay and read the recap here.

3. Sponsored overlays with brand colors

Zoom presentation live-streamed to Facebook Live using overlays and interviews.  This is one of the 3 main types of video content needed when building a dynamic virtual event. You can watch the replay on Adobe Sparks Facebook Live Page!

4. Video templated graphics replacing webinar slides

Created from a Prezi Video Template much easier to customize and adapt for a virtual video presentation.  This can be done with pre-recorded, produced, and even live streaming video content.   When thinking about live streaming it’s important to go beyond the average Facebook live.  This screen capture is from Kerwin Rae’s K2 Business Accelerator event and you can watch it here.

Why Prezi Video?

For me what excites me the most about Prezi Video for virtual presentations as you aren’t limited to standard templates or just video overlays as you can leverage all of the Prezi Next catalog or even create your own from scratch.

The advanced editing functionality has really allowed me to up my game and the virtual cam connecting directly to Zoom, GoToWebinar, Facebook Live and every other platform I’ve presented on virtually makes Prezi the number 1 tool in my virtual presenting toolbox.

I’m sharing all this not to get you to try Prezi instead to open your mind to what’s possible as you never know what you might “google upon” if you are determined to shift the perspective and transform the way you share your message virtually. 

If you want to see how I created one of these Prezi Video presentations I did a walkthrough using eCamm Live directly after a virtual event hackathon for Socio where I shared the steps and mindset I leveraged here:

I’m such a fan that I’ve signed up as a reseller and created a landing page that I will update after each presentation with tips, tricks, and lessons learned with Prezi over at BrianFanzo.com/Prezi

Ps. I’ll be sharing more info over the next couple of weeks around the reseller partnership and services that we are working on together… In the meantime, feel free to send me an email if you want to jump in and give Prezi Video a try!

Virtual Events: We Have to Create Digital First Experiences

Virtual Events: We Have to Create Digital First Experiences

Why haven’t virtual events or online conferences replaced offline conferences? Because they can’t! 

But… If we redesign the experience from a digital-first mindset, it’s possible to provide a complimentary digital experience that bridges offline conference experiences 365 days a year and can supplement the value we aren’t able to deliver during times like now with the Coronavirus. 

‪What won’t work and hasn’t worked:‬

‪❌ Back to back webinars called digital events‬

These are impersonal and often time unengaging. 

‪❌ Live video platform streaming offline keynotes‬

While these may be more personal, they’re still not super engaging if the speakers don’t engage with the audience comments like they would if it were any other live stream. The problem with that, is that this makes it less “conference like,” how do we find the happy medium?

‪❌ Speakers using the same slides, story, and presentation structure for digital talks‬

Virtual events are far more accessible for most, so how will we ensure that our audiences aren’t seeing the same thing over and over again? How can we create a unique experience without feeling the mood of the room?

‪❌ Events built with tech-first their your mindset still have to focus on format and audience experience

We can create all of the tech-first events we want, but the tech itself won’t be enough to create a great customer experience.

Hard truths:‬

‪✅ Great creators such as YouTube stars don’t make great speakers. ‬

Being able to speak at a live event and creating well-produced, audience-specific content require very different skillsets. Virtual summits, specifically ones that happen live, will require keynote level speakers.

‪✅ Just as many speakers won’t make great digital keynote speakers‬

Just like YouTubers don’t always make great in-person speakers, we can’t expect that many “traditional” keynote speakers will be great in a digital format.

‪? Sadly, just like offline, the host/emcee of digital events are key, yet seldom valued or included in strategy!‬

Cutting corners is not acceptable. Not even in the digital space. The host/emcee of your event is the only constant in the attendees’ experience and you’d be surprised how important that constant is. So don’t leave them out!

? Virtual Reality isn’t the answer either

However, understanding VR content, storytelling with creating 360 degrees of access, and how those interactions work is a mindset digital events must factor in.

Digital Events are a completely different ballgame – how are we going to adapt? I challenge you to consider 3 things:? How are you going to adapt your stories?? How will you adapt your tone/language?? How can we collaborate with others?

Posted by Brian Fanzo on Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The questions we must be asking for digital events are: 

‪1. What experience and interaction will maintain attention with an audience that is easily distracted and has unlimited other options for content?‬

‪2. How do we connect the theme and hypothesis of the event throughout every aspect of the digital event without it being obvious?‬

‪3. What does success look like for our digital event and how does that differ from our traditional events? How do we manage those expectations for audience, sponsors and executives?‬

‪4. What is the emotional link to the content we want to create.. FOMO no recordings or JOMO exclusive access?‬

‪5. What are the measurable touchpoints that we can track for success & driveability to adapt and pivot?‬

‪6. With no venue but no doors to keep the audience in, how do we use that money from butts in seats to butts not clicking off?‬

We Must ReInvent

When designing a virtual event we must go beyond the platforms and even beyond the conference experience to build a truly digital-first experience! I’m working with multiple companies and associations on doing just that with what I’m calling a “Choose your own digital event experience” framework. Stay tuned for more insights and information on how we are doing this and if you want to learn more or believe your software platform would be a great fit send me an email at Brian@isocialfanz.com.

What does Reinventing “The Venue Of The Future” As Coronavirus Decimates Conferences look like? Listen to FOMOFanz podcast episode 124 to find out more!

Reinventing “The Venue Of The Future” As Coronavirus Decimates Conferences

Reinventing “The Venue Of The Future” As Coronavirus Decimates Conferences

Over the last 10 days, we’ve seen massive events such as Facebook’s F8, Mobile World Congress, IBM Think, and Oracle ModernCX announce that they were canceling their global conferences in the wake of the coronavirus epidemic.

This epidemic is having a global impact and closer to home its decimating the meetings industry, and the question we have to start asking is how should planners, brand marketers, and professional speakers be thinking about the future of live events? 

Now in context, this disruption is minor compared to those dealing with family members getting sick or dying thanks to this coronavirus, and our thoughts go out to them. 

In this episode, I’m joined by a good friend and fellow speaker Erin King who happened to have spent a decade in live event digital marketing. We discuss the epidemic impact on our industries, but more so, the digital OPPORTUNITIES are presenting themselves for both keynote speakers and event planners. 

There’s no right way or one-way to handle this forced change, and we’ve seen some events announce that they will be moving to a “global first digital event,” while others have postponed the event till 2021.  

Erin and I have both spent years in this industry, both planning backstage AND performing onstage. From this unique perspective, in this episode, we share our predictions, recommendation, and ideas around: 

  • How agile planners, marketers, and speakers can re-invent the venue and capitalize on what is actually an exciting opportunity 
  • Why only streaming a keynote via webinar is not a good enough alternative to live  
  • How production schedules can get more creative, immersive and interactive to deliver more compelling experiences for remote audiences 
  • How the roles of event production teams will have to evolve with this “new normal” of experiential 
  • How to elevate your internal budget and planning discussions from “which functionality” to “what type of format” 
  • Why in tumultuous times, organizations need education, inspiration, and motivation more than ever, regardless of the medium used to deliver it 
  • What we believe is the number 1 shift that must occur in the content & format of digital events to “re-invent the venue” and embrace the non-captured attention of a digital attendee.
  • Why & how almost EVERY digital platform & software has gotten online conferences wrong.
  • Why we, like speakers and event planners, must coordinate and collaborate on an audience-first approach to supplement what sponsors, attendees, and executives are now missing.
  • Why the future is bright, and digital opportunities are endless

Now let’s be real; there’s a reason digital events haven’t replaced offline conferences over the last 10 years as nothing will 100% replace the handshake and in-person networking experience.  

But both Erin and I believe that this is going to spark a NEW approach to digital events that have been long overdue. In the past, let’s face it digital events we’re just back to back webinars labeled as “online conference” or a brand live streaming the audio of speakers online and calling that a digital summit.

There will be much more to come on this topic, and some details will be shared soon on the offerings and exact plans Erin and I have in the works to help facilitate these ideas that we discuss on the show.

In the meantime pick up Erin’s book and give her a follow on social media

Erin King is Founder of Socialite Agency, a firm specializing in digital communication for live events like The Oscars and others. After spending a decade as a live event digital marketer, she transitioned full-time onto the professional speaking circuit with the publication of her Amazon best-selling book, “Digital Persuasion.”

What You Must Embrace When Marketing to B2B Millennials in 2020

What You Must Embrace When Marketing to B2B Millennials in 2020

Millennials may get a bad reputation — lazy, entitled, attached to their phones and responsible for killing the napkin industry. But stereotypes aside, this generation is playing a greater role in the workforce and needs to be taken seriously.

Early on I was often hired as the “Token Millennial” to consult or speak at events because organizers knew they needed a millennial speaker but didn’t really care why.  I’ve been working hard at changing this narrative focusing on switching the conversation away from “marketing to a generation’ and towards understanding the aspects of today’s digitally plugged customer.  

Thankfully that narrative has changed over the years and especially in the B2B space no doubt led by the increasing power today’s digitally plugged customer has in the buying process.  

This blog was written by the team at Demand Gen Report as a summary of my recent opening keynote at B2B Marketing Exchange event in Scottsdale Arizona.

In fact, 73% of Millennials in the workforce today believe they play a critical role in B2B purchase decisions in their company, according to Brian Fanzo, Millennial keynote speaker and founder of iSocialFanz

Brian Fanzo, Digital Futurist, and keynote speaker showed Millennials in a new light and how to get into the right mindset to market, sell and build relationships with them.

“For the first time in history, we have four generations in the workforce,” said Fanzo. “We have to understand Millennials and also bridge the gap to connect all the generations, capture their attention, and maintain their attention.”

Most importantly, Fanzo said we should forget about thinking about the differences between generations and focus on two groups of people: the digitally plugged and the digitally unplugged. Because no matter what generation is in the workforce, we’re all evolving in the digital age.

During his keynote, Fanzo shared four characteristics of the digitally plugged consumer:

  1. Disruption and change are the new normal.
    “We’re in a world of constant disruption and change, but the digitally connected generation does not care that change is hard and that your business doesn’t want to change. You have to be agile,” said Fanzo.
  2. Community is the future of business.
    “Community and being a part of something is everything,” he said. “It must extend internally, outside to customers and further to prospects. It matters — people want to be involved. It’s about empowering and connecting with that community because no one trusts a brand or a logo, [they] trust our community.”
  3. The future of innovation is collaboration.
    “Collaboration is everything,” said Fanzo. “It’s no longer about what you know, but about knowing and sharing with others.”
  4. The future of marketing is reliability.
    “Every business is in the business of trust,” Fanzo continued. “We have to think like a fan. We need to put yourselves in the shoes of your consumer and look at it from their point of view. If your own employees don’t feel it is valuable enough to follow your channels, why the hell would your potential customers. We must shrink the gap between ourselves and our consumers. Today’s consumer doesn’t trust anything they don’t know. Our job is to be relatable with what we do online.”

“Stop talking with a logo, talk with your employees.”

For example, Cisco has a microsite completely run by its employees. They do “Instagram takeovers” of their employees, giving them the opportunity to tell their stories. This leads to the development of trust and reliability between the company, its customers and even its prospects.

Putting It To Action: Fanzo’s Tips To Stand Out To Digital Natives

Fanzo said digital natives want to understand their voice is heard. “It’s not about solving their problem, it’s about acknowledging that they’re heard.”

B2B organizations must be where their customers are having conversations today. If you’re not, out of sight, out of mind. You become something they no longer care about, according to Fanzo.

“Content is not king,” said Fanzo. “Great content is king. We as marketers believe that everything we create is great. Our audience determines what great content is. Shrink the gap by doing something innovative and way out there.”

Fanzo suggests thinking out of the box: turn your white papers into podcasts, or add interactive elements to your content, and don’t worry about attention spans.

“Leave the damn goldfish alone,” he said. “It has nothing to do with goldfish — today’s consumer has no time for crappy content. Great content doesn’t matter around attention spans. Now it’s about getting content in front of the right audiences.”

If your content is exciting to audiences and is available where they want to consume it, the length won’t matter to them. Fanzo, for example, as busy as he is, makes time to watch numerous podcasts a week — some that even last up to two hours. But they are delivering messages he wants to hear, so he makes time for them.

Fanzo concluded by sharing a few tips to achieve this:

  • “Personalization is a fairytale. Default to authenticity. What works now is real-time, authentic content.”
  • “We need to give our community a window to who they are. Transparency is powerful and scary. But it is different than over-sharing — [audiences want access in a window to who you are, what you do and why you work there.”
  • “What works is content where someone is writing the way they would [talk with someone], not at them.”
  • “If you do not know what your customers are saying about you, you’re not willing to look. Look on Reddit; people tell the truth on Reddit. Be willing to ask your audience, take their feedback and listen to it.”
  • “If your content is not mobile-ready, it’s a loss.”
  • “Field of dreams marketing is over (if you build it, they will come). This year, if you build it, nobody cares. You must go to where your audience is and have a conversation on their channels, connect and build trust, and inspire them.
  • “Look beyond current customers and understand who influences them to make decisions.”
  • “If you want to build a reputation with your audience, it’s not about talking yourself. It’s about collaborating with others. This grows audiences.”
Why Events Should Have Panels and How to Make Them Not Boring

Why Events Should Have Panels and How to Make Them Not Boring

We’ve all been to events where the panels were crazy BORING, and each answer was scripted and robotic!

Many events that I attend as a keynote speaker are fixing the “boring panel” problem by removing panels altogether.

As a full-time keynote speaker, you’d think this would be good for my business, but let’s remember many of those panelists are executive leaders from big brands with popular logos that drive ticket sales for the event. Also, I feel there’s so much to value in learning from the practitioners and leaders. Still, sadly most aren’t trained or excellent at delivering that value in a keynote solo presentation form.

Interestingly enough, as much as I love being on stage, giving one of my keynote programs, I equally love moderating a panel or hosting a fireside chat. The reason, I find great joy and satisfaction in helping others tell their stories and facilitating dynamic conversations around trends and relevant topics. Beyond moderating panels, I’ve also spent many years developing my skills for interviewing guests in person and via video while also launching over 3k live video interacting with comments in what I call live participatory content.

Moderating, Hosting & Emceeing is a SKILL that Takes Practice

Moderating requires practice and a specific skill set, and just because someone is a great speaker or great panelist or the headline sponsor of the event does not mean they’ll be a great moderator. The need for dynamic offline events will only be increasing as we become more connected and technology-dependent. Event ticket sales are often driven by the celebrity speaker and famous logos on panels. But creating an event community where the audience wants to come back year over year requires an investment in dynamic keynote speakers, passionate moderators, and event hosts that can connect the inspiration with the education and provide motivation for all who attend.  

This past week I hosted and emceed The Social Shake-Up conference in Atlanta. As I was coming off stage, the AV director approached me and asked if I trained hosts or executives on how to moderate panels and conduct interviews. He stated that he felt my style was one of the most unique and dynamic he had seen in his 20+ years running AV for events.  

This feedback was very humbling and inspired me to share my strategy and approach for each event that hires me as host & emcee or event ambassador.

Below, I breakdown my pre-event strategy, on-stage focus, and overall vision of success when moderating panels. I also wrote a post titled “What All Great Hosts and Moderators have” that goes into more detail on the importance of building 3-way trust!

I go in-depth on each of these in the podcast episode that you can listen to at the bottom of this blog post.


  • Panel topic, type of panelists, and length of the panel should be a collaboration between the event organizer and panel moderator.
  • Why the outreach and first interaction with the panelists must have a focused message.
  • Why I don’t ask for questions or provide questions to panelists
  • How asking for 2 and only 2 “audience takeaways” shifts the dynamic of the panel 
  • How I deal with panelists that REQUIRE a list of questions
  • Where does the trust triangle start as a moderator?
  • How to crowdsource audience questions and event theme?
  • Why I take notes about a panelist’s most recent tweet, hobby, or current passion.


  • Combine panelist 2 takeaways with crowdsourced questions to formulate discussion flow!
  • Why panelist MUST have handheld microphones
  • Why the order and what’s on the screen matters during the panel
  • How to ask the same question twice without anyone noticing it
  • The art of reframing an answer to translate it for the audience 
  • How to include your insights and data without injecting yourself too much as the moderator
  • How to handle BORING answers 
  • How to create debate/dialogue between panelists
  • What a moderator must be aware of while listening to a panelists answer
  • What I envision as a success while on stage for me as the moderator, and it has nothing to do with the audience.

Moderator success:

  • Why “if you don’t know the moderator is there” is the most significant line of crap and a great moderator is heard, but the panelists takeaways are what’s remembered. 
  • Importance of including the event theme, trends and goal of event manager
  • How a lousy panelist won’t ruin a panel that doesn’t cover pre-determined questions
  • The art of cutting someone off or limiting their answer without being rude or playing Oscars music.
  • Why moderator should be compensated and great panelists sell event tickets, but a great moderated panel sells next years tickets and turns attendees into superfans.

How To Make Panels and Interviews Not Suck!

If you want more insights and examples, listen to this episode of the FOMO Fanz podcast below or in any podcasting app.