We had the good fortune of connecting with Dan Faill and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Dan, what’s something about your industry that outsiders are probably unaware of?
The interesting thing about speaking is that people assume they’re paying you only for the time you’re on stage. Part of that is true. What’s often not discussed is the years of trial and error, research, and experience that got us to that point to share our crafted message from the stage. So while a client might only think they’re paying for 60 minutes for a keynote experience, they’re actually paying for the 15+ years of experience that got me to this point. And that experience wasn’t free.
Alright, so let’s move onto what keeps you busy professionally?
Being a professional speaker brings together so many aspects of the creative process, while also being able to impact the lives of so many people. I get to reflect on my own life and experiences, trials and tribulations, and synthesize a relatable story or lesson for an audience. When it comes to crafting the actual keynote, my creative juices go into overdrive, figuring out how to visually impact the audience through my slides, which accentuates the stories I’m telling. I get to lean into emotions and bring others along the journey of a keynote experience, while dropping little knowledge nuggets just like Hansel and Gretel so you can find your way back to the lesson. Bringing life to data can also be fun, making numbers and information relatable and tangible.
I think I’ve always had the speaking gene – from doing theater at an early age, to debate class in high school, to working on a communications and leadership degree in college, it’s always been there. However I discovered my ability to take heavy or hard topics and make them relatable when I was in my various jobs working in higher education for over 15 years. Imagine having a room of 30 to 3,000 students, required to be in attendance, and you have to talk about risk management policies, alcohol and consent, or any wide array of what would usually be considered boring topics. You have to be engaging. I realized I can make the difficult topics more relatable by being vulnerable and my authentic self. By admitting faults and failures and sharing my personal experiences, I found that it not only made people laugh, but they opened up to the learning lessons because it wasn’t lecture style or preachy, it was relatable and realistic.
I used to treat my speaking and consulting as a side hustle for over a decade, but I would light up when I was able to engage audiences. I was excited to travel and meet new people and engage them in conversations that matter, laughing and learning and making a difference all over the country. Finally I had to ask myself if this [speaking] was worth trying to go full time. I was scared, anxious, full of fear of failing and being judged. However if I speak about failure and leadership, but don’t push myself in the same capacity, then I’m not being true to myself or my message. And with that, I leaped. That was five years ago.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not been all sunshine and rainbows. Being a speaker and developing a speaking, coaching and consulting business are very different beasts. There’s been times when I’ve asked myself if I was on the right track, if I filed the right forms or had the right infrastructure in place; a ton of trial and error and back to the drawing board moments. And that was before a global pandemic. When you’re a professional public speaker and all of a sudden there’s no public to travel and speak to…it makes you stop, think and reassess. It’s been difficult. I’ve had to pivot (yes, I said the P word). And I still love every second when I’m able to share part of myself and my experiences with others in hopes of making a difference.
I also have created better personal and professional connections, which has launched a whole different aspect of my business. Last year I co-created Voices For College, which helps aspiring and current speakers better understand the higher education marketplace and audience, while making an impact on the next generation of leaders. That has been incredibly fulfilling and keeping me busy as we develop lessons and teach Zooms and engage with so many talented people from across the nation.
Public speaking is an art, and I’m beyond grateful this is my vocation and calling.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Living in the City of Angels offers so many choices! I’d start a visit with some of the standard tourist stops: Walk of Fame, Hollywood & Highland, Santa Monica Pier, etc. But I’d also want my friend to experience what makes LA special: the random taco truck that is occasionally off Jefferson near West Adams, finding minority owned breweries like Crowns & Hops (that HBCU Hazy IPA tho!) or Three Weavers in Inglewood, then hop over to Randy’s Donuts right around the corner from LAX; there’s so much this city can offer.
We’d pop over to Modern Times in DTLA for some coffee or beer (my fav spot for both), and fingers crossed it’s a nice day because I’d take them to the top of the Culver Stairs so they could see a panoramic view from the ocean to the Hollywood Sign to DTLA and beyond. If they needed to do some work, I’d take them to my all-time favorite co-working spot The Metaphor Club in Leimert Park, and hit up Taco Mel right across the street. I’d want to hop on the Expo line and go down to Santa Monica to see the sunset, and then take the Expo to DTLA to see LA Live and all that DTLA has to offer, while also stopping at one of the hot dog vendors for some bacon wrapped heaven in a bun. We’d need to visit LACMA and The Broad, maybe stop by Griffith Observatory on our way to take in the scenic 101 on our way to Malibu before stopping at Neptune’s Net for a shrimp taco and a cold one.
But let’s also be honest, it’s LA, which means most of our time would be looking at the back of cars on the 405 and 10…
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
I would not be where I am without my tribe of randomness. I want to thank my spouse emeritus, who I get to co-parent with and show others that even though we’re not married anymore, it doesn’t mean our lives as parents and a support network is over. I also want to shout out to my kids who give me grace when I’m out of town speaking, but who get to put up with my epic dad puns when I am home. I have to give gratitude to my other speaker friends as well: Archie, Jess, James, Thom, Saul, as well as my National Speakers Association Los Angeles group, and so many more who continue to impact the lives of thousands with their experiences and messages. My Superconnector Mastermind group, who continue to challenge and champion me to be better tomorrow than I am today. And having just returned from some outstanding student leadership conferences, I simply MUST thank the teams that made the Association of Fraternal Leadership & Values Central & West conference, as well as the team of the Southeast Greek Leadership Association conference, an incredible and powerful experience for so many, including myself.
Thea Zunick, Donovan Nichols, GreekYearbook