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Making yourself unforgettable on stage can feel like an elusive art form – but today, we’re diving deep into the heart of impactful speaking.

In this episode, Dusti welcomes Mike Ganino, the Keynote Director famed for transforming thought leaders into legends. Listen as Mike shares not just his journey but his blueprint for making every speaking engagement unforgettable. Whether you’re looking to refine your stage presence, become a master storyteller, or simply make your business more referral-worthy, this episode is a treasure trove of insights.

Referral Worthy is hosted by Dusti Arab, Fractional CMO and marketing strategist. She's the founder of the reinvention co, a marketing consultancy for personality-driven companies with big online presences and small teams. Learn more at

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Referral Worthy intro, outro and transition music is named We are invincible by Tim Hirst and was found on Epidemic Sounds.

“I’m gonna challenge you to get over the whole idea of, let me tell people what I do and who I do it for, like ‘I work with so and so’s who want to so and so.’ Most of us are tuning out at that point.”

– Mike Ganino, on describing what you do

Dusti Arab: Welcome back. Today, we have Mike Ganino, also known as The Keynote Director. He is a public speaking and storytelling coach, helping thought leaders become legends. It’s a killer proposition. I’m obsessed with it.


Mike Ganino: Oh my gosh, even today, I put out this bratty little Instagram reel about someone sliding into my DMs and saying, “Oh, hey, we both work with speakers,” and I looked up this cat and I was like, “No sweetie, you teach people how to grift via webinars. I help people become headliners. Sorry, not sorry.” 


Dusti: Oh man, that makes my little petty soul so excited.


Mike: I only said that in my Instagram reel. In the DMs, I was much nicer.


Dusti: I’m sure you were. But that is objectively a hilarious way to make content. So you were not always The Keynote Director, though. I mean, clearly, you’re a gifted speaker. We’re two seconds into the interview. And that’s already very clear. You’re very well spoken. So tell me, tell me Mike’s origin story. How did you end up in speaking at all?


Mike: Well, it was a cold day in April. Actually, it was probably a warm day in April when I was born. I was born in San Diego. I ended up… I was a speaker first. Well, not first. I mean, I did lots of things first, but all through my 20s I was an actor and as an actor, I was really good at waiting tables, as many actors are, and stuck in the restaurant industry for a long time because I’m also type one diabetic and I needed health care insurance. So that kept me in a normal nine-to-five all the time. I did acting on the side and eventually moved up into training and corporate training. I became a wine educator and I realized that the skills I had from performing on stages, doing commercials or industrials, those skills were making me a better trainer than other people. They were making my stories I told to open training better, the way that I framed things, the energy that I brought. So I started casually using that with people and teaching them how to be better interviewers using acting skills or better workshop leaders using improv skills, and eventually became a partner in a restaurant group, sold that, and took my little bag of cash and ran away. We had the Affordable Care Act then, so I was able to have insurance without having a job for the first time in my life. I started doing consulting, which led to a client hiring me to come into a workshop for them. That workshop led to someone from that client, who ran an association, hiring me to do a keynote speech. At that time, I thought to be a keynote speaker, you had to have a book or be famous or something like that. I didn’t realize you could just go do it and be helpful to people, be entertaining, engaging, and give them a little hope that they could figure things out and a little joy that this hour they spent with you wasn’t boring. And so that’s what started me speaking back in 2014. Pretty quickly, one of my clients asked me to come back for the second time, and I thought, “Oh, cool. Yeah, this is like, because your managers, there’s high turnover, there’s new people, so yeah, I could probably even do the same talk and they won’t even know.” But they said, “No, no, no, we don’t want you to talk.” I thought, “Well, you’re not the first people who were going to pay me to shut up in my life.” Once an actor, always an actor. What they wanted was for me to work with their executive team to get them ready for that year’s conference. Because they remembered stories I told about working with my grandma and Kids Incorporated, that show from the 90s, how I used that in my talk, and they said they didn’t remember anything that our executives said. They didn’t remember our goals, they didn’t remember the successes we had or the things we needed to do. So could I work with them to make them more dynamic, interesting, keeping them on time, that’s a big issue in that industry. And so I did, and then I thought, “Oh, this is what I’m supposed to be doing. This is like my entire life, even my childhood, it all added up to this moment.” And so for a long time, I did speaking coaching before the keynote director vibe was born.


Dusti: That’s so interesting. It feels like your career developed really organically, very person-to-person.


Mike: Yeah, it really did. It was like me just kind of saying, “Oh, well, that’s a thing. Like, I didn’t know that was a thing. Okay, sounds fun.” And to be fair, selling the Restaurant Group and having the bag of cash allowed me a lot of freedom to sort things out. I had room to say, “Oh, I don’t have a plan. I don’t know how to do any of this. I’ll just see what people say yes to,” because I didn’t have to worry about paying the bills, you know? So that also was a factor in that.


Dusti: Absolutely. And kudos to you for being like, “Hey, I had this help.” I definitely always appreciate that when I’m hearing stories like this. But even with that extra reassurance, it’s not everybody who’s willing to be like, “Oh, I didn’t know that was a thing. All right, that’s good. Let’s give it a try.” Making that jump from giving a keynote even somewhere like to being like, “By the way, could you actually just come and train everybody who’s in charge here?” That’s a pretty big leap, and being willing to go there and be like, “But yeah, I got this.” That’s so cool.


Mike: Yeah, I think for me, a lot of that was also things nobody asked me to, like, “Can you come in and do pancreatic cancer surgery?” Nobody asked me to do anything like that, which I would respectfully say no to. They asked me to do things that I thought, “Oh, that’s a new territory for me.” But I had taught actors before, I had taught improv before, I had worked with other trainers to help them become… When I was a director of training or our chief operating officer or head of HR, I’d worked with other people to help prep them for a speech, for a keynote, for an all-hands meeting. So it was stuff that was in my repertoire. I just had never said before, “Oh, here’s a rate for that. And here’s how we’ll do that. And we’re gonna get it all done in four hours or six hours or whatever the case is.” So that part was new for me. But the skills were in there somewhere from all the previous stuff. I just hadn’t seen… What happened when she asked me that was seeing, “Oh, this is a commercially viable thing, like, people need this. People want this.” And really, she gave me the language that I still use today for selling corporate workshops. I just worked with the American Heart Association. I’m going and working with a finance group this week, selling them the skills, because she said, “Well, nobody’s really listening. They don’t remember the messages. It’s not impactful. We’re wasting a lot of time bringing all our people together.” And I thought, “Well, let me write this down. Let me record this, because I’m going to turn that into the sales page for this offer for businesses.” So I was really lucky that that came along, and that she saw something I didn’t.


Dusti: That’s so cool. So when it comes to your corporate work versus the work you’re doing with thought leaders, small business owners, how is that different? Or is it really just the pitch that’s different?


Mike: No, it’s significantly… Well, it’s different sometimes. So sometimes the work is the same, because with individuals, with authors, with business leaders, with folks like you, my work with them is helping them as a keynote director, really working to say, “What is this message? What are we here to do? How are we going to move the audience? What is the story we can do it within? Then how do you use your body, your voice, your movement? How do we use all that to create a moment for the audience so that you can have the impact you want?” So sometimes in the corporate side, they’re hiring me to work with an executive or two who are going to go out and speak on behalf of the company, or they’re a VP of sales who’s going to go speak at industry conferences. In that case, it’s a similar job, where it’s, you know, me working with one or two people and helping them. On the other side of the corporate, it’s often working with teams of people. So working with financial advisors who are going to go out and talk to clients and go to boardrooms and have meetings, and it’s less of like prepping them for an hour-long keynote and saying how to create this almost cinematic experience for an audience. Because if you went into a boardroom to pitch your company, and that’s what you did, they would be like, “What are you doing, bro? Like, sit down.” But those people still need to be really effective storytellers. They don’t have a chance to be boring for five minutes. If they open and it’s like a 10-minute talk about, “Let me open our conversation about sales with why we started this and what we’re here to do,” no, baby. Don’t do that. That’s not what we want. So that’s a little bit of a different focus. But there’s crossover for sure.


Dusti: That’s so interesting. So when, like, what year was it? How long do you think you’ve been doing speaker training versus when you went in as a speaker?


Mike: Yeah, so I started speaking in 2014. And then I started doing, I mean, it’s a little blurry because, in 2016, early 2015 even, I was doing improv workshops for speakers. So how to come up with better stories, how to get out of… because a lot of times speakers will get stuck in their little script. It’s like, “This is my script, and I’m asked to repeat it word for word, and I don’t know how to think of new stories.” And, you know, they’ll say something like, “It’s important that we walk across the street.” And so I would say, “Well, when did you learn that?” “I don’t know.” “Well, then why are you telling me it’s important? When did that happen to you? When did you see it?” And so sometimes the improv work was really helpful for them to get out of that space they were in with their script and play a little bit so they could find the stories. So that started in like 2015-16. And then, I would say, like, 2017-18, like, end of the year 2017. This is me being non-committal, Dusti, 2017-18 was when it was like, “No, this is what I offer people.” And even then, I did a very Taylor Swift or Beyoncé, if we’re talking of the moment, crossover album of sorts where I was still talking a lot about company culture and leadership and how we lead great teams. That was my original talk when I was a speaker in 2014. So I thought, “How do I do, like, a little crossover vibe here?” And so then I came up with this whole concept called Story Culture. So it was like Story Culture, the stories of your brand or the culture of the brand, the stories the team tells, the story of the leader tells, the stories your customers tell… That was 2018. That was definitely the vibe. Story Genius was out there. Like, storytelling was huge. Not that it’s never gone away by any means, but yeah, that’s what we did. We did Story Culture in 2017-18. And then 2018-2019 was like, “Okay, I dropped that and was just doing, like, full storytelling, story craft kind of vibe.” And then the keynote director happened last year, really from a client. They were introducing me to someone, and they’re like, “Yeah, I worked with Mike as a keynote director.” And I kind of tuned into that and was like, “I like that. That is how I work with people.” I don’t really do the whole, like, “I’m nervous, whatever.” I don’t do that. I do, like, “Baby, we’re going for the stars here. Let me help shape this.” We’re talking sometimes very minute changes that really shifted the energy. And I listened to her say that, and I thought, “Oh, that is it. That is actually what I’m doing.” And why is she introducing me this way? Wink, wink about referrals, everybody. Why is she using this to introduce me to other people? And I realized, “Oh, the level of people I work with, the level of people I love working with, they don’t want to have a public speaking coach. But it feels real bougie and fancy and high-end to have a keynote director.” And so that’s when I was like, “We’re dumping. We’re jumping in. We’re just going to take off the little vest or whatever you got on the swimming vest. And we’re going to dive into the deep end with this thing.” And that’s where that came from, was me just listening to how people introduced me to other people.


Dusti: God, that is such a great nugget right there. Well, in the end, what I love there is not only were you listening to your client and taking that feedback, but everything about you and the way you present, I feel like, it’s so… It’s such a… I used to be an actor. I live in LA. Like, it all meshes so well from a branding perspective that as soon as you told “keynote director” to me, I lost my shit. I was like, “Oh my God, that’s fucking it. That’s you.”


Mike: Yeah, I remember that Voxer.


Dusti: That was a great Voxer. It’s a great little string there. Okay, so I am curious, when the pandemic hit, for someone who specializes mostly in-person stuff, how did that go for you?


Mike: Well, I had an existential crisis. And then I had an actual physical crisis. And then I had all the crises that everyone else had. And I had just sold, by the way, my… For a while, I worked… I have a great friend, Claudia Vita. We’ve done many things over the years together, all kinds of different things. We’re always trying to find a way to work together because we just love each other and complement each other so nicely. So we had just sold out a program where people were going to work with us for nine weeks online, and then show up after that to Los Angeles as a group, and they were gonna get a filmed version of a 10-minute part of their talk. Literally, we sold it out. And the next week, “Hey, maybe this is good.” So we’re like, “Well, let’s kind of help people.” And then we could feel the anxiety from them about money, about travel, and we didn’t know then, and back then it was like, “It’s gonna be over by Easter.” And people were then struggling with money. And so we gave everyone their money back. We gave them their money back in full. We said, “We’ll just see you when we see you. If this is meant to be, it’ll be, and we’ll find you when we find you. We can’t get you together to do the video anyway. So we’re not taking anything from you. Good luck.” So then it was like, “Well, now I also don’t have any money.” And we had a baby coming. My daughter was born in August of 2020. So it was like, that’s also fun. And so what I saw happening very quickly was, “Oh, people are switching to do virtual talks.” Like, events are still happening. So they’re doing virtual events, virtual conferences, and they’re still hiring speakers to do virtual keynotes. And what I saw was a lot of speakers didn’t know how to translate what they did on stage to on screen. So it would be a Zoom call, and they would do a screen share. And then the speaker would get a little tiny box, and it would be a huge slide in front of you. Boring. And especially if you want… I think even if you want $5,000, but my clients are like 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, $40,000 and above keynote speakers, you want someone to give you that cash, and you’re going to do a huge slide share with a little tiny face in the corner. And we need to up the production. So that’s what I thought of first: okay, how can I work with people to get more, not even confident, but to actually think through the production of their virtual keynotes? When they use slides, when they don’t use slides? How can they play with the camera? Should they actually have two cameras in two different angles? What can we do to elevate that? Because pretty soon here, it’s not going to be cute that, “Oh, we still have a conference and a speaker came, yay for us.” It’s going to be, “Well, maybe you want the money the same as this other one wants money, and this other one has a full production suite. So what do you got for us?” And so that’s what I initially pivoted to. So I had that going on, where I was doing coaching individually, working with people in production, setting up, even designing their production stuff for them. And then at the same time, realizing that for so many of the other folks who would have worked with me in other ways, that storytelling for them was still always a struggle. And so then I ran for a little while this Story Boss Academy, and that was like a live group. We’re together, and we’re working through eight weeks, finding your core stories you need to sell your products, whether they’re physical, digital. How can you go on the internet and on the camera and talk to people about what you do so you can stand out when everyone right now is going on camera? Like Beyoncé is doing concerts from her… there was a Disney sing-along, and Beyoncé did one of The Lion King songs from her living room. 


Dusti: That was such a crazy year, completely Beyoncé, right? And all the celebrities who were doing different things, especially that March, April, to entertain people from home. I know I got in my Elsa dress and read stories to kids. Like, you could come to Storytime with Elsa. What a weird time. 


Mike: But also, like, if you go back to that, like there’s parts of it that I just miss, like, wow, what creativity, what ingenuity. If you go back and you watch that Disney sing-along thing, it’s like, some of them were… they had full casts. It was like the full cast of High School Musical. And they did, like, they used Zoom. Literally, it would be like, there’s four boxes. Now there’s three. Now there’s only two. Now there’s 20 boxes. And it was like, what a cool way to say we don’t need all of this other stuff, the lights, the glam, the filters, we don’t necessarily need it all. We can find new ways of doing it, and I just thought it was a really good lesson for all of us as well, like, okay, I might be stuck a little bit in a rut, you know, I might need to rethink how I do things.


Dusti: So good, given where you’ve been, and where things have kind of landed now. So we’re like, I’m gonna say we’re out of the pandemic, but then let me just dump like a, like a tray of salt on there with that. If you could go back and tell a little baby training speaker, Mike, anything before all this? What’s the advice you give them?


Mike: I would probably say I mean, the hard thing is, it’d be like finding Obama earlier. So you could get affordable care. So you could have gone and done what you wanted to do much younger, better. But I would probably go back and say, “This thing that you’re noticing about the way people show up, and the choices they make on stage, on screen, in a boardroom in a training room, you’re right about it. And you’re right, that people are making choices. And you’re right, that they’re unaware of it. And you’re right, that you can help them unlock some of that you’re right about that.” Because there was a long time I just kept thinking, well, this is the way people are and, you know, maybe I only know this because of acting. And I was right, I was right about people make choices. And we make choices for all kinds of reasons how we show up in the world. It’s our trauma histories, our family histories, our social histories, our friend histories, our relational histories, how we show up every time we show up on camera, or we show up in front of people to give a speech or a talk or, or tell a story. And we are just so unaware of those choices we make because so many of them were ingrained. And so many of them feel like survival that we don’t even know we’re doing it. And I see that every day. That’s part of that’s part of the like, the secret thing, as always, I’ll say to my husband, I’ll say up, made another one cry today. And it’s like, I’m not making them cry because I’m mean to them, I’m making them cry, because I’m saying, “Okay, there’s this thing you’re doing, do you know you’re doing it, and do you know, you could do something else.” And then it’s like, I don’t know what the body, the body kept the score, and the body just unlocked the score. And something just poured out of there. It happens almost daily, Dusti, almost daily. 


Dusti: I’m not even a little bit surprised. Like, I’m really not like partially because you are such a safe human to be with just on so many levels. But also, because of the depths of the work especially like, if you’re getting into the stories that really matter, you’re gonna hit something. And it’s better for that to come out during rehearsal than it is for it to come out during a performance.


Mike: Because what happens during performance for most people is it never comes out and the audience reads that as Hmm. There’s something missing wasn’t as much and then you will constantly feel like, I know, there’s more. I know there’s more. And then what we read that as the little imposter syndrome comes in and it’s like, well, yeah, but you can’t get to it, you can’t get to it , you can’t get to it. It’s all that other stuff that we got to kind of clean away. So we realize, Wow, we get to make these choices all the time. And my job really as a keynote director, if I think about it, is to help people expand their range. So now I have more choices to expand your range, like you know vocally we say oh, that person has good range. They can go really high and they can go really low but good range. That’s my job is to say what is, you know, Dusti’s range, what’s available to her physically? How can she move her body? And are there ways she can move her body that she’s not even aware of yet that we could tap into that would give her more choices. So then in the moment, she knows, oh, I can go in five different directions right here. Let me play with what that could look like. And then that’s what rehearsal is about. 


Dusti: And that’s so much more fun than just going through and like trying to memorize a script. And then like, you know, stand behind the podium and try not to be awkward with your fucking hands. Everything about this is sexy. Okay, so, right now, where do your clients come from?


Mike: Largely, they come from other clients, like, largely, largely, largely, my business is a referral business. In some capacity, I’m actually thinking right now, like, I think nearly everyone, whether it’s the small group that I’m mentoring right now, in this program called The Guild, or whether it’s my one on one people I’m working with, with the American Heart Association that I just worked with, and with the finance company that’s coming up, every single one of those comes because of someone I’ve worked with before. So 100% of my revenue in 2024, so far, is from referrals.


Dusti: Yeah, I mean, the same is true for me, I’ve been 100% referral for God, at least at least the last two consecutive years. Like, occasionally, somebody will slide through the cracks on Instagram or something. But it’s almost always because they’ve heard about me from somebody else. So yeah, that absolutely makes sense to me. So if you had to start from scratch today, like ground zero for this, how would you go about finding your first time clients?


Mike: I would probably as quickly as I could put together some small in person events with folks. So I would just – I live in LA. And it’s so funny, sometimes to live in LA, it’s like, I don’t know, what am I gonna do to get people, there’s like a gazillion people here who all want to be famous. There’s like, we have like seven different kinds of tech sectors. So we’ve got Silicon Beach. So the cons, we got all the silicones over here, we don’t even have to go up north to the San Francisco area. All of those tech founders want to be heard, they want their stories to be heard. And I would often sit and be like, Well, I don’t know how to get people to fly from New York to LA, baby. They’re right here in the backyard. And so I would go to groups, like there’s a bunch of these tech training schools where you go and you learn engineering in 13 weeks, you learn to code, you learn that. So general assembly and such, I eventually did do things with them, I would have done it sooner, because I would go and I would do like, “hey, let’s do storytelling for founders.” And it was, you know, 300 bucks, and they would come for the day, I would have done that earlier, because a lot of those people ended up being referrals, whether they referred me back into their own clients are they set or their own companies to work with their sales teams or the rest of their exec team? Or they would refer me to other execs who they tell, “You got to meet this guy, you know, you said you’d like to tell my story. In the podcast, Mike’s the guy who helped me.” I would have done that much earlier, and said, “Ooh, getting five or six people into a room for four hours. And like breaking this down for them.” The way that I break it down for them, that keynote director style would have made some of these things that are happening for me now happen much sooner. 


Dusti: I think that’s so, so smart. And I mean, and that’s so smart on so many levels going in at that level, like not necessarily going straight to the execs because you don’t have to at that level. I mean, anybody in that room could be the next big exec. And I mean, and what a way to grow your influence. That’s phenomenal. Then you get to be somebody who knew them when to which is always fun. Like no, everybody loves being that person.


Mike: Yeah. And you’re like, you’re somewhat, there’s even some of them still today in that group like that you’re kind of intrinsically tied in their mind to that growth for them. So like, they look back at something we did five years, five years ago, like six years ago, seven years ago. And it’s like, “oh, that breakthrough happened, because Mike pushed me to stop saying the things that I say” because that’s what we do. Mike pushed me to realize like, “Oh, you’re moving that way, because you’re trying to protect something” like, I get messages all the time, I get video clips, like, hey, look, I was at, I was at Salesforce’s big event. Look, here’s this little clip of my speech, and it’s like sending it to like, you know, their, their, their favorite uncle or something of like, look, I did it. And so that’s a really cool space to be in to where they think back to that moment when they were at the early infancy stage and say,” Ooh, that made a difference.”


Dusti: Ah, that’s so special. I love that. Okay, so how can speaking make a small business a referral magnet?


Mike: I think about the times when you’ve been in the audience and whether you’ve been in the audience at a big big event in an arena somewhere or whether you’ve been in a small room and someone stands up and talks, you’re at a wedding and someone gives a really stellar, thoughtful, non drunken, you know, father of the bride, mother of the bride – I just worked with a huge, huge, can’t you know, NDA, but a huge, huge wedding that happened in like a huge castle in Europe. And I worked with a mother for the mother of the bride speech. It was very cool. But think about the times when you’ve been in the audience and how much gravitas you give to someone who gets up there who can be comfortable and natural tell a story something you remember something you can go back and explain to someone else like, ah, yeah, Dusti today was talking about when this thing happened to her. And it made so much sense to me. And it’s like they’re repeating your story. Now, that level of influence, that level of trust is real. You can’t pay for it. You can’t run ads for it. It is truthful and honest. And being on stage being in front of people being at your local real estate office. If you do, you know social media, your social media person for real estate, sure, run your little ads, sounds good. Go to the offices and say, Can I come do a 30 minute session on this new thing about TikTok, stop worrying about getting paid? Like sure, don’t get on a plane and travel for days and miss your babies and stuff. But 30 minutes to go work with like the local office and say, Hey, can I come? I’m not gonna, I’m not going to pitch, I’m not going to ask him for anything. I just took 30 minutes to show him this cool new thing on TikTok, and we’ll actually make our first TikTok together, like go and do that stuff. Because what happens is, one, it helps you start to hone your vibe and your style. But it also, there’s just nothing like watching someone who’s willing to get up. We think it’s magic. You watch someone get up in front of a room and you’re like, Well, I would, my knees would be quaking, if that was me, I would be so scared, I’d be so nervous. And look at them. They’re telling a story, we all laughed for a minute. Like, we’d love this person. There is no other influence. Besides having a nationally syndicated talk show, I believe there’s no other influence, as powerful as being a public speaker is and being able to. And when I say public speaker, I don’t just mean my clients who are out there in arenas literally. But I mean, the people who go down the street and talk to the local restaurant team, the people who are willing to get in front of a local real estate office, a local financial advisor office, Charles Schwab or something like that. That gravitas you can’t pay for you cannot run ads for it.


Dusti: Yep, I completely agree. There’s nothing like being in the room with other people.


Mike: Yeah, and then being able to like, put together words and open with a fun story. I help them see something like you change them that day, we have this like, again, go to an office, teach them a TikTok thing, teach them an Instagram thing, help them rewrite their Instagram bio, whatever it is that you do help them fix. Their first email that’s gonna go out to their list. We also have, we pay a lot of respect, long term to people who showed us how to do something, so if that day, like sometimes my clients are doing like big, like, let’s just reframe the way you see the world. And it’s like, I don’t know how to do a thing because this is keynote. But that’s still teaching them it’s still showing them “Oh, wait, there’s another world possible,” going and teaching them some specific thing on social. You have a relationship with them. That’s so different now. Because we want to honor and pay back those people who helped us and taught us.


Dusti: Great point. Okay, my last question, for you personally, what makes a business referral worthy?


Mike: I think this is like a couple of parts – one is, absolutely has to like deliver on the goods like if I’m gonna say, “hey, go work with so and so.” My name means a lot to me. And I don’t want someone to say, “Oh, don’t ask Mike for help. Because he sends you to this one. They weren’t good.” So for me, the goods have to be there, the goods have to be there. And I have to have enough awareness to know are the goods going to be the goods my person needs? So meaning, we can all be great and wonderful, but we all aren’t for somebody? So I have to understand, is my person I’m referring gonna be able to work with the way you work. So that to me are those are twofold? I don’t refer stuff. I don’t know, I don’t try that. I haven’t been around a lot. And then the second one would be, and this is like, if you’re out there, if you’re going to conference land, if you’re doing podcasts, if you’re networking, I’m gonna challenge you to get over the whole idea of, let me tell people what I do and who I do it for, like “I work with so and so’s who want to so and so.” Most of us are tuning out at that point. What I want to hear, what I started asking, by the way, if you start asking this, people remember the heck out of you because it’s like, wow, that question. Start asking this instead. And if you ever see me, I’m going to ask it to you. “Hey Dusti, if I heard one of my clients complaining about the thing that you are, like, the best in the world at helping with what would I hear them say?”


Dusti: Oh, man.


Mike: And it’s like different, right? 


Dusti: It is, it’s like I’m just like, oh god, that’s easy. Like, let me just explain to you how I make my clients launch problems go away and how I lead their marketing teams and how they don’t have to stress anymore. God, that’s a phenomenal prompt.


Mike: I made a joke about this the other day with like, the whole, the whole net promoter score, like I got a thing from Target that was like, “how likely are you to recommend Target.” I don’t find myself in the business of recommending Target to people very often. So like, what a stupid question for Target to be sending me like how likely to recommend Hertz, rent a car to a friend. Get the cheapest car you can baby, I don’t care what one you get. It’s not what I’m doing. And so in this case, with how we network and how we teach people to refer us, is often so broken, because they can’t refer us because they never hear the words from their clients and friends that would say, “Oh, that’s a Dusti problem.” So even there, it’s like, what we don’t want to talk about is like, “Oh, I work with professional speakers. I help I’m a public speaking coach, I help them get better speeches, blah, blah, blah.” That’s not my people. Those aren’t my people. My people are the people who are like, “Hey, I’m doing this at a high level. And I just, I feel like I’m missing something. I don’t know what it is. I get good feedback. Clients, audiences love me. And I just I know, there’s something I need to unlock. I want to be like so and so I want to be like so and so I don’t know what to do.” Ah, that’s a Mike problem. That’s a Mike problem. So when you’re meeting people at conferences, stop asking like, tell me what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for? Stop doing that, it’s not helpful. It’s not helping you. It’s not helping them. Instead say, “hey, if I heard one of my clients complaining about a problem, that should trigger my brain to say, Oh, that’s a Dusti problem. Call her.” What would be the words they said, what would they be saying? Don’t leave it on me. If you want me to refer you don’t make me have to think hard for you, make it easy for me to say, “Oh, I know exactly who to send you.” That is one of the things I think I’ve done well, in the speaking world as a coach and as a keynote director is I rarely get the wrong people referred to me. Because I’ve been really good about helping train my folks. Who should they be looking for? Who should they be listening for?


Dusti: God, and that is such a time saver, among other things, like avoiding all the red flag clients in advance because you’re already being approached by exactly the right humans? Like I mean, usually that takes years to refine to that level. 


Mike: Yeah, yeah. And it’s, and again, it’s wild, because when I ask people that they have the same reaction you did Dusti of like, “oh, my gosh, that’s a cool question.” I just did this. Last summer, I was at a conference with a bunch of online entrepreneurs. And that was my question. Everyone’s like, “oh, whoa, hmm.” They’ve been introducing themselves to each other all day, like “I work with owners, I work with busy business owners as an OBM, where I help them as an interpreter or whatever that’s called the interpreter.” What does that job called – implementer? The implementer? “Yeah, I work as an implementer, with visionaries.” Who maybe I never heard one of my clients say, “I’m the visionary and I need an implementer to help me.” But I never hear that, what I hear is, “I have so many big ideas, and I struggle with how to get them all done.” That’s what you’re telling me at a networking event, say? Well, like, you know, “what I work with, like people who are like, bang, and they’re doing stuff, they’re out there getting it done. And they struggle with all the small details because their brain is going 27 miles ahead. That’s what I do. I come in, I help them get everything organized. I make sure things are happening. I help their vision become reality.” Bang, I know 10 people to send you to, but the other way you just sound like muckety muck.


Dusti: Mike, thank you for the masterclass in how to actually get referrals when you go to a networking event. That clearly I will have that question in big bold letters in the show notes for everyone. Make sure you tell all of your friends so we can all have less boring networking events everywhere we go. Mike, thank you so much for coming in here today and doing this with me. Thank you for the public service you just did or however many people listen to this. And I can’t wait to see you in person here in October at the Freelance Failure Ball.

Mike: Yeah, let’s do with thanks for having me, and thanks, you person listening to us in your ears. Thanks for hanging out.

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