An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
… A love of travel. Some people hate to fly. Others hate waking up in hotel rooms and wondering where they are. If you want to work as a keynote speaker, you’d better love to travel! Although I do a fair number of virtual gigs, I travel three or four times each month for out-of-town events.
At some point in our lives, many of us will have to give a talk to a large group of people. What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker? How can you improve your public speaking skills? How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public? What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker” we are talking to successful and effective public speakers to share insights and stories from their experience. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Brittany Hodak.
Brittany Hodak is an award-winning entrepreneur, author, and customer experience speaker who has delivered keynotes across the globe to organizations including American Express and the United Nations. She has written hundreds of articles for Forbes, Adweek, Success, and other top publications; she has appeared on programs on NBC, CBS, ABC, and CNN; and she has worked with some of the world’s biggest brands and entertainers, including Walmart, Disney, Katy Perry, and Dolly Parton. Entrepreneur magazine calls her “the expert at creating loyal fans for your brand.” Brittany’s debut book, Creating Superfans, will be in stores in January 2023.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up in a small town called Roland, Oklahoma. When I was 16, I got my first job as a radio station mascot — I got to dress up in a bee costume, which I thought was the coolest job in the world! That led to more jobs at the radio station, including a really fun feature called Brittany Jones Diary after my maiden name, as a nod to the Bridget Jones films. I interviewed rockstars when they came to town and wrote about it for the station’s website. That path inspired me to work for record labels and then ultimately launch my own entertainment marketing company.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
I’ve always loved speaking, but I never considered pursuing it as a career. I always worked in the entertainment industry, helping recording artists connect with their fans. Several years ago, I was on Shark Tank. After my appearance on the show, I started getting lots of requests to speak. I’ve always loved customer experience, so I gave it an entertainment spin (“creating superfans”) and started speaking to and consulting for great organizations across the country.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
I was keynoting at an event recently when a fire alarm went off in the hotel. At first, attendees thought it was part of the keynote. When it didn’t end in a few seconds I said, “I think we should probably all go outside?” and several hundred of us made our way downstairs and outside until the hotel declared “all clear.” It turns out it was a relatively-harmless fire in the kitchen, so we were able to finish the event. It certainly made for a memorable experience!
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
I knew nothing about speaking professionally. I was an entrepreneur who became a keynote speaker by accident because several companies requested that I speak to their teams. It wasn’t until about six months into speaking professionally that I mentioned to a friend how time consuming it was to create completely customized presentations for every event. He kindly told me that I should be customizing some of my content, but that the key points for my main points should be the same. That was a game-changer, haha!
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
My dad was always my biggest cheerleader. He was a restaurant manager when I was a kid, and then a customer service manager at a car dealership, so I saw firsthand from him how important it was to treat customers and team members well. His passion for people helped fuel my love of customer experience.
You have been blessed with great success in a career path that can be challenging and intimidating. Do you have any words of advice for others who may want to embark on this career path, but seem daunted by the prospect of failure?
Yes: Accept the fact that you’re going to fail sometimes! Learn from those small failures and move forward. When you dwell on them and let them create fear, that’s when they snowball into bigger failures.
What drives you to get up every day and give your talks? What is the main empowering message that you aim to share with the world?
I’m obsessed with customer centricity — that is, putting your customers at the center of every decision you make. I love sharing that message, because improving customer interactions quite literally makes the world a better place. There’s nothing better than hearing an audience member say, “I never really thought about customer experience before, but now I get why it’s so important.”
You have such impressive work. What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Where do you see yourself heading from here?
I’m thrilled that my first book, Creating Superfans, will be in stores in January! It’s currently available for pre-order.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” — Theodore Roosevelt.
Too many times, when talking to a customer, we don’t take the time to listen to them. We lead with authority at the expense of empathy. We’re so anxious to tell them what we know that we forget to show them that we care. Whether you’re in sales, marketing, public relations, customer service, product development, or just about anything else, empathy is a critical skill. Why? Because the quickest way to get someone to care about you and the things you care about is to demonstrate that you care about them.
Ok, thank you for all that. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker?” Please share a story or example for each.
1 — A message worth sharing.
So many times people will say to me, “I want to be a professional speaker!” When I ask them what they want to speak about, they have no idea. The first key to creating a memorable, meaningful keynote is a message worth sharing. You’ve got to believe in your idea so much that you’re willing to advocate for it onstage for an hour (or more!) at a time, inspire others to rally around it, and deliver similar speeches dozens if not hundreds of times each year. If you haven’t dialed in on your message and your “why” yet, prioritize that ahead of everything else.
2 — Persistence.
Yesterday, an event organizer who saw me speak four years ago reached out and booked me for a gig. She said, “I’ve been following you for years. I love your newsletter, and I’ve always wanted to book you for an event because your keynote was one of the most memorable and impactful ones I’ve ever seen.” She and I never met, and she’d never reached out before. You never know who is listening and watching. Spend time dedicating yourself to improving your craft, and people will come to you.
3 — A heart for service.
When you’re a speaker, it’s not about you: it’s about the audience. You’re simply there to bring an idea or message to life that you want them to remember and act on. Familiarize yourself with the industry and/or company you’re speaking to so you can create a relevant experience for your client and show them that you care. After your keynote, be sure to answer individual questions and offer further support or resources.
4 — A love of travel.
Some people hate to fly. Others hate waking up in hotel rooms and wondering where they are. If you want to work as a keynote speaker, you’d better love to travel! Although I do a fair number of virtual gigs, I travel three or four times each month for out-of-town events.
5 — Great systems!.
Customer relationship management (CRM) software is key for my business. There are many things I have to do before and after an event, and my CRM will automatically set tasks for me so that I never forget a step. For example, after every presentation, I’ll get a reminder to send a thank you note. I also send clients a special survey to fill out so I can record useful information in my CRM, such as their birthday, favorite treat, and favorite charity.
As you know, many people are terrified of speaking in public. Can you give some of your advice about how to overcome this fear?
Absolutely. The best advice is to focus on the audience instead of yourself. If you’re allocating all of your energy to figuring out how to serve them, you’ll be less worried about your fears. Always remember that no one is there to judge you or find flaws — they all want to learn from you!
You are a person of huge influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
When any of us is interacting with another person, at the end of that experience the person will feel one of three ways: better, worse, or exactly the same as they did when the interaction began. I call these outcomes Net Positive, Net Negative, and Net Neutral. If you focus on making as many of your interactions (in real life and virtually!) Net Positive Experiences, you will be quite literally making the world a better place, one interaction at a time.
Is there a person in the world whom you would love to have lunch with, and why? Maybe we can tag them and see what happens!
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
Absolutely! I’m @BrittanyHodak on all networks.
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
Thank you very much; it’s been a pleasure!
Brittany Hodak On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.