When Google wanted to explain online marketing to the world’s top brands, they brought in none other than Mitch Joel. Dubbed “the rock star of digital marketing” by Marketing magazine, he helps companies understand and harness digital-marketing and new-media opportunities, allowing them to stay on top of, and ahead of, the trends—in social media, blogging, podcasting, mobile, e-commerce, and more. We’re excited to put the spotlight on Mitch today:
What inspired you to want to be a speaker?
I did not want to make cold calls. Seriously. I figured it would be easier to talk about the industry that I serve and my perspective on it to hundreds/thousands of people at a time, instead of trying to call each one of those people individually on the phone or trying to set up a meeting. It was that, coupled with attending a bunch of marketing and sales seminars. After watching some of the masters at work (Tom Peters, Seth Godin, Jeffrey Gitomer, etc…) I–with a certain level of hubris–thought I could do that as well. Close to a decade later, I am still trying to be as good as they are.
Any advice for aspiring speakers?
One word: prepare. I’m amazed at how many speakers work on a presentation, build slides, practice in front of a mirror and then get up on stage and perform this piece for the first time ever in front of the audience that matters most. Speakers need to follow musicians and work that song until it’s ready for prime time. It’s crazy, isn’t it? Most people give their presentation live, in public, for the first/final time. Not the best way to operate.
What do you like to leave audiences with?
I know that a lot of my contemporaries who talk about marketing, media, and technology wind up overwhelming their audience and making them feel either scared or inept. That always make me sad. I want my audience to know that I am right there with them, trying to help them navigate this very strange/new world and that they feel like “they’ve got it” by the time that I am done. That they have learned a ton, were entertained in doing it, and that they are better, smarter, and more informed for having spent some time with me.
How do you prepare before a talk? Any special rituals? A good luck talisman?
None of that. Sorry. I do a ton of work to build up to every presentation that I give, so I am–in short–very prepared and very focused. I don’t have any special rituals, I don’t really think about luck. My job is simple: to get up there and knock ’em alive.
Any funny or embarrassing situations you found yourself in as a speaker?
I feel very blessed to have shared the stage with almost all of my business heroes. From Seth Godin and Tom Peters to Malcolm Gladwell and President Clinton. Every week brings with it something funny (and, probably, something embarrassing as well). I know it sounds cheesy to write this, but almost all events have something highly memorable. It’s such a pleasure to be able to do this. Honestly.
Is there a charitable cause that you feel passionate about? Why?
I’m a big supporter of Light The Night, which is an annual walk to support The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society of Canada. One sunny day (August 25th, 2010) I was flying from Montreal to Toronto for a business pitch. I was happy with life–family, business and community were all going along great. I remember looking out of the plane window into the clear blue horizon and thinking, “life is good. I am very lucky.” I was looking forward to landing because I was about to call my best friend to let him know that my family was expecting a new baby. I’ve known this person for my whole life. I can’t remember them not being a part of my life or a friend. He was the first call outside of my immediate family with the good news. When the flight landed, I received a phone call from him. I was smiling to myself thinking, “this is perfect! He’s calling me!” That’s when my world collapsed. He told me that his beautiful, young daughter, Leah (who was five years old), had cancer… leukemia. How could that be? A few weeks prior she was at my kid’s birthday party, laughing, playing… perfect. Now…leukemia? It was–without a question–the hardest moment of my life…trying to understand and take in what my best friend was telling me about his daughter, who I would treat as my own daughter in terms of love and care. After a lengthy and hard battle, she is–thankfully–in remission and back home where she belongs. Still, we walk. For Leah and those who are not as lucky. Kids like Liam Armstrong, who was five years old–an amazing little boy–who just recently lost his battle.
If you had to choose a new career, what would it be?
I’d love to train people on public speaking, presentation skills and pitching new business. So, if I can’t do that… maybe I can become a professional bass player? I’ll need to pick up the pace on the lessons and practicing.
Desert island album?
The Who–Who’s Next. One of those rock albums that is perfect from top to bottom…and there’s a lot of bottom on this album…and on every The Who album.
Best subject in school?
Whatever you call the subject between the end of the last period of school and the beginning of the first period of school on the next day 😉
Last book you read?
Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon. It’s a great, smart, fast, fun and profound read. Try it! Show it!
Last film you saw?
The LEGO Movie. Everything is awesome.
Howard Stern. Does a man-crush count? I’d love to hang out with him and talk about his interview/conversation skills. He’s simply awesome at it.