Published February 20, 2022 in Authority Magazine
This is an article reprinted with permission by AUTHORITY MAGAZINE
An Interview With Fotis Georgiadis
Jonathan George of Unleash Your Rockstar Personal Branding Agency On The 5 Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Public Speaker
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 experiences. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Jonathan George.
As the CEO of Unleash Your Rockstar- Personal Branding Agency, Jonathan George has dedicated over two decades to creating celebrity brands for entertainers, influencers, CEOs, and entrepreneurs as well as purpose-driven organizations. He is nicknamed “The Human Hitmaker” because his clients have over 150 million online followers. As an international speaker on the topic of Personal Branding, Jonathan also builds speeches for his clients so that they can use stages to build their influence and businesses. 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?
Igot up to sing “Jesus loves me” in church one Sunday but forgot the words. So, I belted out “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog” instead. My father was the minister so no one took offense. Instead, they realized my love for singing and performing and hoped that it would someday touch many people.
Yes, I am the son of a Pentecostal pastor. Actually, that was and still is the “family legacy” for five generations. So naturally, I too served in the ministry. So, you could say that I grew up on stage. I sang on my first radio show before I was five years old and gave my first sermon at 11. It was incredibly intimidating to speak in front of my family knowing that we would have a feedback session on the way home. They are some of the best public speakers I know and on our way home from church, we would discuss what worked and what didn’t. We talked about how our messages could have been more impactful. It was a great learning opportunity for me; my first lesson in how to be a great public speaker.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
In 2000, I gave up my teaching career and moved from Dallas, TX to Los Angeles in pursuit of my dreams of being a recording artist. In less than a year, I landed on Ed McMahon’s reality show, Next Big Star, and became the Grand Champion. I had a record deal on the table. I had just released my first single, my first music video, and I was working on my album. Finally, it was all happening; I made it! Or, so I thought…
But, then the phone rang. It was the label telling me that they were retracting my contract because they found out that I was gay.
As you can imagine, this was the worst nightmare ever! My team went into PR mode trying to get me married, and I felt that my life was being ripped apart.
This took me back to my childhood when I was relentlessly teased about being the creative boy in a small Texas town where sports ruled. Coming out as gay at age 19, when my life was all about the church, was one of the worst experiences I ever had. The spiritual abuse was almost unbearable, and it left me battling depression and suicidal thoughts.
All I knew was that something must have been innately wrong with me and the words “You’re not good enough” kept echoing in my head.
That is when I vowed to become a coach; the kind of coach I desperately needed in my own life. I needed someone to help me rock the person I was rather than making me into something I wasn’t.
With that promise, I have spent over two decades creating rockstar personal brands for singers, celebrities, influencers, CEOs, politicians, entrepreneurs, and purpose-driven organizations. They call me The Human Hitmaker because my clients have over 150 million online followers. I built their brands based on the foundation of their true and authentic selves.
Interestingly, I have used stages to scale my business for 20 years. In fact, I built four franchises across the US on less than $5K in marketing. I used my personal brand to land stages, PR opportunities, and build strong relationships. Now I speak internationally as a recognized leader on Personal Branding. I am also part of a top-ranked team of coaches helping business leaders build their speeches and landing stages to scale their businesses.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
When I first moved to LA in 2000, I didn’t know anyone and had no connections. One day, I found a country-western bar — hey I am a Dallas boy and cut a rug… I went there regularly and eventually built up a group of friends and became good buddies with a choreographer. Shortly after we met, he asked me to be a country dancer in a Jay Z music video. I didn’t even know who Jay Z was at the time but I said, “Yes!”.
At the shoot, a lady came up to me and asked who my agent was. I laughed and told her I didn’t have one and have never even taken a dance lesson.
As it turns out, she was an agent at the top dance agency and gave me her card. A week later, I was auditioning as a dancer in front of Brian Gendece, the head of the agency. You can imagine how that went when he said, “I don’t know what to do with you. You aren’t a dancer.”
That evening, I was back at the country bar dancing and having a blast. Brian happened to be there. To my surprise, he approached me and said, “Give me a call Monday morning. I know exactly what to do with you”
I was confused but he said that he had a chance to “see” me and my abilities. He signed me and got me booked immediately on a national commercial with Nicolas Cage and then on Mad TV — … all as a dancer! He told me to just be myself.
This was the BIGGEST lesson I ever learned. “Being yourself will surpass the lack of talent, skills, or abilities.” That’s how powerful a personal brand is! This experience has given me permission to just “be” and to step out into the world-leading with my strength and authenticity.
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?
As part of my personal branding agency, we have been servicing singers for over 20 years. I built the personal stories of many artists you see on American Idol, America’s Got Talent and other competition shows. It is always story first, talent second — always! We are drawn to people and their stories. And although I have been building speeches and personal stories, and coaching people for public speaking engagements, interviews, and press, I wanted to hire a coach to help me be better. Ironically, I have been coaching people for two decades, yet I couldn’t do it for myself. I truly believe everyone needs a coach when looking to grow and expand.
So, I decided to sign up for a Speak Off. It is like American Idol for speakers. I had three minutes in front of the judges. I was certain I made it through to the next round…I mean, I have been doing this my entire life, right?!
Well…they announced the finalists, and my name wasn’t called. I was so embarrassed and wanted to crawl in a hole. But I decided to pull up my big boy pants and mingle. To my surprise, three of the judges approached me and told me the reason they didn’t choose me. And here comes the funny part: They did not choose me because I didn’t share my personal journey, rather I shared my clients’ stories.
I felt like a hypocrite because I always make people share their stories, yet I couldn’t do it for myself. I realized that I didn’t even know how to share my journey and craft it to feed my purpose.
Needless to say, I immediately sought out one of the top speaking coaches, who has worked with the world’s top speakers. I spent the next six months with him and his team crafting my story and my speech, which I am still using to this day. Interestingly, he asked me to join his prestigious team. I said, “Yes!”
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?
I would have to say Brian Gendece, from the story above, impacted my career the most. But my greatest impact came from my family as far as the person I am today. Their loving care, their approach to raising a sensitive kid and making him into a tough warrior, as well as their unwavering faith in my ability to succeed prepared me for where I am today at this juncture in my life. My parents taught me to be honest, trustworthy, and to be in servitude of others. I learned that when you are on stage it isn’t about you; … it is always about the audience. Serve the people, connect to them, and you will create raving fans.
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?
As an entrepreneur, a professional, or a leader, you need to realize, just as I did, that stages will help you expand your message, brand, and influence. It creates immediate trust, positions you as the expert, and lands you ideal clients. With stages, you can scale your business quickly. But more importantly, in the face of doubt, remember that you have something to share with the world. If you aren’t delivering that message, you are not only sabotaging yourself, but you are also denying the world of all the wonders that only you in your uniqueness can offer.
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 spent so many years crippled by fear. I didn’t know who I was or how to show up in the world. And I didn’t have anyone else to help me package all that I was. I refuse to let you do the same. I want the world to see you the way I see you. I want the world to value you the way I value you. I want you to have an impact. I want you to be successful.
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?
Last year I created and launched a passion project called Rock My Campus, which is combatting the mental health crisis in schools. I am incredibly passionate about this as we are losing our youth to anxiety, depression, and suicide. Our proprietary process is the R.O.C.K.S.T.A.R. Path to Social Emotional Learning. I am a Master Practitioner of Social Emotional Intelligence, which is the foundation of how I build personal brands. We need Brand Ambassadors to help us get connected to schools across the US. Anyone who is passionate about saving our schools and is interested in getting involved, we could use your help! Contact us at www.RockMyCampus.com
Also, I am currently working on my first book, Unleash Your Rockstar: Personal Branding in a Digital Age. I believe that everyone needs a strong personal brand to feel confident in their authenticity, have influence, and be successful in today’s world. It also promotes well-being during this mental health crisis, which is mainly due to smartphones and social media. These addictions have caused our culture to be completely disconnected, lack self-identity and confidence, and compare themselves to unrealistic lifestyle highlights on social media. Let’s face it, our lives are very entwined with social media. Our business and personal interactions are playing out on the web. Employers request media links in resumes, and reviewing personal profiles is standard procedure. They aren’t just looking for skills and talents. They want to see the real you. So, it is important to understand how to package and manage your brand to support your intentions with optimal impact, while remaining mentally healthy. Register on our website to be the first to know when it is released. www.UnleashYourRockstar.com
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“Success is 20% talent. The other 80% is how you build your personal brand to make that talent shine.” This is my own quote and my business motto. It is a reminder to me that when I don’t feel good enough or I feel like an imposter, I am more than enough. It is important to understand that “talent” is not a magical ingredient that stands on its own. It is YOU that makes that talent shine. This is why it is imperative that you do the work to build a strong personal brand.
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.
What does it take to be a highly effective public speaker?
Clarity- The first thing we do is get clarity on WHY you are speaking and WHAT you want the outcome to be. You can’t give an effective speech without this clarity. Otherwise, you will never be able to lead the audience down a path where they walk away with “something”- educational, empowering, transformational, inspirational, etc.
Content- Once you know WHY and WHAT then you can build out the content of your speech which includes your story, 3–4 talking points with supporting stories, and a strong closing that makes people want to take action.
Preparation- You must understand your audience. Do your research to ensure that they feel that you get their needs. Once you have the outline then you need to prepare the speech. Write it out if you need to.
Practice — Confidence is key. Give the speech over and over out loud while practicing staging. If you are using slides then practice using your computer and your device to switch slides. Practice with the microphone if you will be using a handheld. Watch for “um’s” or weird habits that will be distracting to the audience. Practice eye contact. Everyone must feel like you are talking to them directly.
What does it take to give a very interesting and engaging public talk?
Vulnerability- Being transparent will be the key to winning an audience over, regardless of whether you are soft-spoken, inexperienced, or a seasoned professional. This is where your STORY comes into play. A speech must include a personal story that makes the speaker ordinary (relatable) as well as extraordinary. We have written many stories for singers on shows like American Idol, America’s Got Talent, The Voice, etc. If you pay attention, they tell the story first and then show the talent second. This makes people relatable. It is hard to connect with someone who seems so out of reach or perfect. We work to show our speaker’s struggles as well as their triumphs. It is important to see the speaker in their victories and greatness.
Authenticity- Being yourself on stage (how you are with friends) will create trust with your audience. If you are quirky…let it be known. Do it loud and proud. If you are humorous…be funny. If you are a singer who has turned into a speaker…then sing a few bars. The key is — DO YOU!
How can you overcome a fear of speaking in public?
Preparation -It’s amazing how preparation, coaching, and practicing will kill most nerves. Even when the nerves are there your muscle memory will kick in. However, there is no better cure for nerves than getting out on stages and doing it over and over.
Eliminate Stress -Be early to your speeches so that you can see the room and meet people. Have everything prepared and ready to go to avoid last-minute issues.
Ritual- Before you go on stage, find a quiet place to breathe, focus, and get your energy up.
Connection- Smile, connect and make it about the audience. Focusing on the audience rather than yourself removes a lot of stress. And the audience loves it that much more. Also: Don’t forget eye contact. Look at one person at a time — it will make you feel like you are having a personal conversation rather than standing on stage.
How can you improve your public speaking skills?
Train- I coach speakers yet I still have a coach. Training with a great coach is the difference of being ordinary or extraordinary.
Practice- My dad always said that you can’t really do something great until you have practiced it a 1000 times. That seems exhausting, but the more you practice the more comfortable you become.
Role-play — Practice your speech in front of friends and relatives. You will drive them crazy, but it will make a difference when you first start out.
Anticipate — Prepare for every scenario. What happens if no one laughs or the sound cuts out. What if the projector doesn’t work? What if there are only 2 people in the audience? Think of everything.
Speak — Get booked on small stages and “do the dang thang over and over”. Get on as many of stages as you can to build confidence and skills. There are thousands and thousands of stages- podcasts, social media, YouTube, associations, summits, TedX, virtual events, conferences, rotary clubs, etc.
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?
I am currently on a mission to help build the personal brands of a million people. If I can help people understand, develop, and package themselves in a way that they feel confident, have a purpose, and direction in their lives…it will help break through fears, insecurities, and mental health issues that get in the way of achieving their own personal greatness. Can you imagine the impact this will create?
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!
DOLLY PARTON!!!! She is the epitome of an incredible personal brand. She is so vulnerable, authentic, and impacts every person she comes in contact with. Truly, she has to be one of the most spectacular humans on this planet.
Are you on social media? How can our readers follow you online?
Instagram - @jonathangeorgee Linkedin - @jonathangeorgee Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCF12kGvLXmR00dQjBZOcCVg Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/JonathanGeorgeEnt www.RockMyCampus.com
This was so informative, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!