Ari is a keynote speaker, wilderness liaison, podcast host and more. He worked previously in branding, marketing, and web design for more than ten years he now connects with audiences all over to inspire happiness and spark creativity. He shares with us his resistance to his first speaking gig, how it came about and the drive it gave him to get his message out to more people!

Victor Ahipene: Speaking Nation, what’s happening? Welcome to another episode of Public Speaking Secrets. I’m your host Victor Ahipene. I’m super excited to have you along with my guests today Ari Gunzburg.

He is a keynote and inspirational speaker who helps people get clarity to move forward and gets resilience. We’re going to go through his journey, which I think a certain aspect of it will be really helpful for a lot of you. We’re going to talk about what he speaks about and who he speaks to that, but how he went about getting his first couple of speaking gigs, what they kind of entailed and getting over some of the fear barriers and different things. We’ll delve into it.


I’m not exactly sure where exactly will go, but I’m sure a lot of it will be beneficial for a lot of you out there who are having that first hurdle of maybe getting your foot in the door. They’ll let things here and welcome to the show, Ari.


Ari Gunzburg: Thank you very much, Victor. I appreciate it. Love to be here.


Victor Ahipene: It’s awesome to have you on. Where about to you in the world?


Ari Gunzburg: I’m in Ohio, in the United States.


Victor Ahipene: Awesome. It’s nighttime in the past for Ari and it’s the future for me, afternoon.


Ari Gunzburg: I think we’re on the same day. Actually, I’m after 1 a.m.


Victor Ahipene: Oh, there you go. It’s 3:00 PM for me. Appreciate you jumping on and I know you have just given a given a presentation tonight as well. There’s no stopping in some people—


Ari Gunzburg: A doubleheader or no less.


Victor Ahipene: Give us a bit of a background, how you came about wanting to share a message and getting out there, speaking that journey that got you to you wanting to pursue being onstage?


Ari Gunzburg: Actually in the Q and a session tonight, somebody actually asked me that and it came up. Basically, I have a friend who used to work in the juvenile delinquent center here in Cleveland. She was working with her boys and she’s like, “All right, the only careers that these boys know of existing are teacher, police officer, and prison guard, or drug dealer.” She’s like, she reached out to a bunch of us and she said it was anybody able to come in and just tell them a little bit about their careers.


They see there’s so many options that this is just a small segment of what there is to do. My initial gut reaction was, “No way, don’t want to do that.” When I was younger, I got into some trouble sometimes and the thought of going back behind locked doors. There was never a hard time or anything, no convictions or anything like that, but just some altercations with the police where I would end up in jail and stuff.


That was actually the subject on one of my speeches tonight. Anyways, my initial gut reaction was, “No way, don’t want to go back in there.” Don’t want to like reopen that period of my life, even though it’s coming from a completely different. It was like a knee jerk reaction like, “Nope, not going in there.”


Victor Ahipene: I always find those knee jerk reactions. It’s just like this wall that we’ve put up their site. This is probably a thing that I should be doing because it’s going to put me outside of my comfort zone to a degree. It definitely is that from the sounds of things that takes you back into darker times of places you don’t necessarily want to think about. I’ll let you carry on.


Ari Gunzburg: Absolutely. Neale Donald Walsch, I think is the guy’s name. He says, life begins at the edge of your comfort zone. That’s something I try to aspire to constantly just be pushing myself a little bit further. After a little bit of time, a couple of days or so, I realized how wrong I really was. Here she is, she’s reaching out to all these people.


Most of them are going to get up there and like, “Yeah, this is what I do for a career.” The kids who are going to be sitting there looking at him and be like, “I can’t relate to you. You and I just have nothing in common.” You’re financial analysts. I’d have to go to college and I don’t even have high school. They would just be so far and away from it. I felt like I actually had an obligation or responsibility to go in and talk to these kids. I reached back out to her. I said, “Okay, I was thinking about and really I should go do it.” She’s like, “Oh sorry, we’ll fill it up.”


Finish that one, a day later she’s like, “Okay, somebody canceled. We have a spot open for you.” That was definitely going beyond my comfort zone because at the time I hadn’t really had much public speaking experience side a little bit. Then I started getting incredibly nervous right before I walked in and I was like, “I stayed up all night, writing down what I can remember from my story like the main point so I could sit there and walk in and talk about it off of like my note cards.” I was like, “How do I know that they want to hear my story? Who am I that they’re going to want to hear what I have to say?” I was super nervous and super self-conscious. What makes me think that I have anything to say to these people?


Because of that, when I walked in, instead of starting off with my story, I started off by saying, “Look guys, I’ve got my story. I’ve got my career talk what I was going to give you. I can start with my story if you guys want, but only if you guys really want it.” Almost every hand in the room went up and then I was like, “All right, so if they really want to hear it, they really want to hear it.” I broke it all down to them and they kind of told him about some stuff that I had done, some of the stupid places that I had been in, some of the stupid things that I had done. We all connected and we moved straight from that into this marketing exercise.


I talked to him for like an hour and a half or two hours or something. The whole room’s almost lighting up. They were just getting excited about what we were talking about. I first told them a little bit about what marketing is all about. That’s what I was doing at the time. Then I did like an off the cuff exercise with them where we picked a product category and then we designed a product just verbally. It was laundry detergent and they came up with the name “Fresh” for it because it makes all the clothes fresh. Then one kid was sitting there and he’s like totally just joking around, disengaged, sitting back in his chair.


We were trying to figure out a slogan and he’s like, “If it ain’t fresh, it ain’t the best.” He was just joking around like, “No, that’s good. That’s it right there.” They picked colors. It was pretty cool. After I got home, I am a graphic artist also. I grabbed some stock image and I tweaked it a little bit and I threw on some of the words and names and everything else. I sent it over time they were just like, they’re just totally floored.


At around the same time I was trying to figure out what to do with my life because I was unhappy in my current career. I was also listening to a lot of motivational speakers. My business groups that I was talking to the time like kind of pop that idea out and I was like, “Yeah, that’s my work.”


Victor Ahipene: Nice.


Ari: That’s quite the journey ever since.


Victor Ahiepene: There’s a lot of things to dive into today from a learning perspective for other speakers is, I mean the first thing that jumps out to me is a saying that I use a lot, I don’t know who I stole it off, but it was someone, but I’ll start creating to myself after a while. It was facts tell, stories sell. You can give people fact and percentage and statistic and here’s the fact, I work as this. Here’s what I do, here’s what I had to do. I’d been to university. I went to this, I went to that. If you want to get people truly engaged and sell your message, it doesn’t mean you have to sell your product or your services or whatever.


Storytelling is the biggest thing to be able to do it because what it does and what it did really effectively for you was break down that barrier between you and the audience. If you’re a multimillionaire up on stage selling a product or a service that’s going to help people become financially more independent or make them money or whatever it may be.


A lot of people won’t be able to necessarily relate with you. That’s where a lot of people will give their background story because it says, “Oh, I was just like you. I was probably worse than you. I had 10 credit cards that were all maxed out. I was getting kicked out of my apartment.” It’s similar to kind of Tony Robbins thought backstory if you’ve heard that.


Then it allows people to go, “Well, if he could do it, I could do it.” I think that’s what’s really cool. You walk in there and it’s like, “Look man, I’ve been where you guys have been. I’ve seen a lot of the stuff that you guys have seen. I had two paths to go down. I could have been going down this road where it was going to be crime after crime or it could have been, this other thing where I can either market with legal products or market on the street corner selling drugs.” It’s one or the other and one of them, the police aren’t going to crack down on them quite as hard.


I think for everyone out there— a lot of people have that what you said earlier, that imposter syndrome, what the hell have there’s going to give value to these people. Who am I to be talking to them? If you’ve been there, you don’t have to be Russell Brunson, a marketing expert that I follow. He has the kind of the catch me if you can movie with Leonardo Dicaprio as well when he was tutoring law. We was just saying, one step ahead, one class a head and then was going back and teaching it the next day. It’s the same sort of thing.


You don’t necessarily have to fake it till you make it, but you don’t have to be 10 steps ahead of these people. You can be one and say, “Look, I went to college instead of went and joined a gang.” Then people, “Oh cool. That’s an option.” I went and got my high school diploma and I did that instead. Without trying to steal any thunder or anything like that. I think there’s a lot of really good learning points for aspiring speakers of pushed outside your comfort zone. Realize you don’t have to be the world’s utmost expert in something to be able to bring value to people’s lives and the power of storytelling.


Ari Gunzburg: Absolutely. The power of storytelling is incontestable. I mean two nuances. First of all, you had brought up the imposter syndrome and it came up tonight. Les Brown one of the world’s foremost and motivational speakers. He brings down an old African proverb a lot of times, if there’s no enemy within the enemy without can do us no harm. If you can work on your own self talk and work on having that confidence.


Working on feeling good on the inside, no matter what people are saying on the outside, ultimately they’re not going to affect you because you know deep within that you have the power to do whatever you want to do. It also applies I’m sure to actual violence. I mean in this day and age we just have to apply it to moves into words and stuff like that. It applies to both. That’s one thing. The other thing is you’re talking about storytelling.


I do want to say like I’ve tried my hand at sales like a bunch of times and to some degree, a technical person, facts, figures, numbers, etc. I’m really not that great at sales. I’m just not. What I would say that I’ve found and now that you’re bringing it up, I’m starting to think back. I think that the kinds that I was good at sales was when I wasn’t paying attention to the facts, figures and numbers and when I was paying attention to the story.


When I would either tell them a story about what the sale would do for them or tell them a story about where I’m coming from. Either way that story just goes ahead and helps us connect. Then that’s what’s able to allow these things to happen. It’s not where you sit there and say, “Well, this is going to increase your productivity by 25%.” They’re not listening because everybody says that.


Victor Ahipene: That’s where I think a lot of people go wrong with sales is they try and sell the feature, not the benefit. If that makes sense. It’s like, “I’ve got this car and it drives and it goes zero to a hundred kilometers.” That’s not a feature of that. It goes 400 kilometers on a tank of gas or charge if it’s electrical or whatever. This will save you $10,000 a year in petrol or this will make driving more comfortable. You can do your work while it self-drives to you or those sorts of things. People, they’ll buy into the benefits that it gives them rather than trying to sell them on feature after feature.


You look at Steve Jobs when he didn’t say, “Here’s a portable MP3 player. It’s 500 songs in your pocket.” People are like, “Man, how good is that? Instead of carrying around CDs.” Everyone else was selling MP3 players. He was selling 500 songs that you can take around with you. I think that’s a powerful lesson because it doesn’t matter if you’re up on stage selling an actual product or you’re trying to sell a message. All of them kind of require that partly that storytelling aspect and just the WIIFM, the “what’s in it for me” situation. The audience hear about so much about you. It’s about what’s in it for them. It’s really interesting.  I want to dive into, I know you were saying, you spoke at a sort of a home, a conference or somewhere?


Ari Gunzburg: I just spoke at a conference two weeks ago or so.


Victor Ahipene: Run us through, how did you kind of find the conference or did they find you? What are the logistics to get to it and things like that for those who haven’t gone through that process?


Ari: Sure. I’m going to backtrack a little bit. At a certain point time recently, the past year or so, I noticed that my website and my videos were not as good as it could have been. I spent a lot of time, effort and money investing in improving all of those. Some of this stuff I did myself and stuff I had other people do, but I upped my game a little bit.

Is it as good as it could possibly be? Maybe not. There’s always room for improvement, but it’s much better now than it was. I started off with doing all that. Once I got that to the point where I felt like it was adequately representing who I am and what I’m all about.


Then I started looking into a little bit more. I started doing searches for motivational speaker or whatever and I’m starting to find all these websites and I’m like, “Okay, I want to be out there in front of people. I can’t just be on my website.” Any website that somebody who’s essentially going to be coming across looking for this type of stuff. I need to be on there also.


I started slowly but surely buying memberships to different websites. I’m not on all of them yet, but I’m adding them on as I move along. It’s getting me more exposure. It’s getting me more opportunities to be seen by people.


Victor Ahipene: Give us some example, what is it that you’re getting memberships to different sites. What are those kind of sites?


Ari Gunzburg: Gig Masters, Gig Salad, stuff like that where people are going to look for a lot of different things, a caterer, a magician, and a clown, whatever. They’re going through lots of different things. One of the categories that they offer is motivational speaking. When I was seeing that these websites are consistently showing up as the top result or the top 10 results for a lot of different cities, I said, “Hey, look, I got to put myself on there because if I’m not in front of people when they’re looking for me, I’m not going to be noted.”


I can’t sit there and say, “Well, hey, I failed doing this. If I’m not getting enough gigs, if I’m not putting myself in every single possible place that I should be.” If I’m in every single possible place that I should be and I’ve got a good website up and I’ve got good videos up and I’m selling myself in the best possible way and I’m not making it all right, then maybe I did everything I possibly could and I just didn’t do it.


If I can, like I got to do every single thing that I possibly can to get myself out there and that includes putting myself on all these websites that includes making sure that my videos are up to par. I’ve got some 400 gigs of video that I’m sending to my video guy to sit there and start making new videos from.


I don’t want to say I’ve been lax in uploading, but one of my videographers took a while to send me a bunch of stuff. I have a boatload of stuff that I have to put the upload and the easiest way to do it, I might just mail them a hard drive because I own a hard drive anyways because I’m taking up so much room on his hard drive.


That’s one of the problems with shooting in 4k. What are you going to do? I’m just constantly trying to work on my video because a friend of mine who does video, he says, showing his most talent. The more that I can just put up videos where people are like, “Oh, I wonder if I should hire this guy Ari Gunzburg.” They check out a video.


They check on another video and that check another video. They’re like, “Hey, I liked this guy.” That helps me as opposed to the other guy down the street who may or may not be a better speaker, but it doesn’t present himself as well. I’ll get hired every time.


Victor Ahipene: I think that’s the key thing is if you’re comparing to people, it’s a flip of a coin. If you can watch another video on that person or video— I mean, I tell a lot of people lift up the phone and ask a couple of people who you’re talking to after a speaking gig. After they’ve gone. “Oh, I really loved that. Hey, do you mind just saying that again into the camera? If it’s crap, I won’t use it.


Don’t worry. You won’t look bad all over the Internet. I won’t use it. I’ll just ask you a couple of questions. I’ll edit it out my questions.” If you just say everything as honestly she just did or you say exactly the same thing to the event organizer. You start slowly building up this testimonial package because event organizers out there have got a huge risk on their shoulders.


Whether it be some somebody who’s hosting a large event, it’s got multiple speakers or an internal workplace event where it’s part of their annual conference or the national conference or whatever. If they dropped the ball way picking you, then it reflects on them.


They want to see some footage. They want to see some testimonials from some other people live at events. It doesn’t have to be awesome audio or anything just people saying how much value they got from you. It’s mitigating some of their risk. We’re not flipping a coin between couple of different speakers. Again, I think that’s super valuable side of things.


Ari Gunzburg: 100%. Back when I used to work at website, sorry I’m just jumping into a question. When I used to work in websites, I used to get upset sometimes because I would see people sometimes hire companies that were for sure more expensive than I was and wouldn’t do as nice work as I do. It bothered me, but there’s this old saying I think it’s in sales or maybe it’s in something else and I don’t know who said it originally, but basically nobody ever got fired for hiring IBM.


Here it is, they have this one guy who’s a freelancer, who their boss is like, I just don’t know. This other established company who’s got 10 people working for them and they’re like, “Okay, probably going to do better work, probably going to do worse work more expensive, less expensive. We’re still going to go with people who probably won’t do as nice of a work and who are more expensive because they’re the safe choice.” We always wants to safe choice.


That’s a very good point that you brought that up because this is what I’m constantly trying to do. I’m constantly trying to evaluate my materials from an outside perspective and say, “Am I helping present myself as the safe choice?” Because I know that I can speak, I need to make sure that the people that want to hire me want to know that as well.


Victor Ahipene: I’ve got an interesting point on the value proposition of someone going and hiring someone more expensive. I’ve got a friend who consults and speaks to fortune 500 companies around the world and if he quotes anything that works out to be less than $5,000 an hour. So if he does a half day presentation, it’s anything less than $20,000 down on their initial thing, they wouldn’t look at them because they say, “Oh, you’re obviously not good enough to be working with our company.”


He’s like, “Sweet.” The only reason he found out was I think he quoted like 500 bucks an hour when it was first kind of reaching his way in there and it was only because he knew someone within the company. 500 bucks an hour, you’re about 90% of what you need to be doing. It’s an interesting thing because again, you think you’re getting for the $5,000 an hour a Ferrari. It’s still might be the same care—



Ari Gunzburg: Absolutely. There was another story online talking about pricing. There’s another story online that I read one time about a photographer. She wanted to work less. She looked at her rates and she’s like, “Okay, I’m charging $3,000 right now. I’m working so much. $3,000 for an event, I’m going to bump my price up to 15 grand and I should get a lot less events.” Strangely, she got more because people saw that price tag and said, “Oh, she must be actually worth 15 grand. We need to have her.” It’s absolutely, you know what I mean? Pricing is a funny, funny thing.


Victor Ahipene: How did this event find you, this one that you did a couple of weeks?


Ari Gunzburg: Oh, they found me on one of those websites. They had had somebody that they were planning on using I think. Maybe they initiated the hiring process with somebody right before me or something. I’m not sure, but essentially the person just started getting a little bit too sketchy for them about money and how it was going to work and everything. I don’t have all the details because they didn’t share them all with me. They reached out to me and it was back and forth and back and forth and was always like, “Yo, we really want you, but we have to approve it with the committees. So just hold on. Sorry, just hold on the committee’s still going to be, hold on.”


After a little while they said, “You’re in. You take care of this. You take care of that. Here’s the hoops that we need you to jump through in order to go ahead and bring you on board. I know you have a lot of listeners out there who are at the varying stages of building a speaking business. I just want to go ahead and give another message.” There are times when you’re working on, I guess you could say a sale, but like whatever working on getting a gig and it doesn’t seem to be working and so you may be give up, but just remember that you really never know where somebody else’s at.


The example that I’m going to give you is that I have this associate who I said, “Hey, let’s do like a little something at your office. I’ve got these online profiles. I’m working on building up, because they just started them a few months ago. I’m trying to just get more stuff in there with the reviews.” Real stuff meaning, you’ll hire me, you’ll pay me, I’ll come in and I’ll do stuff. Then I’ll just log it on these websites so that it ends up helping me if you end up deciding to write me a good review.


I’m not saying you have to, nothing like that. I was bugging him for like a while and I would email him and he’d probably be back once then I need to email him like three times and then I wouldn’t hear from him. I’ll email him like another time. It was like a very, very sketchy thing. I kind of got the feeling over the long period of time, I just wasn’t interested. He didn’t want to tell me that.


I was like, “All right.” I just left it alone. Then today I happened to be near his office and I was like sitting there talking to a secretary for half a second, not about this, about something completely different. She’s like, “Oh, by the way, he wanted me to schedule with you for that thing.” I’m like, “Oh, okay, great.” Apparently I had done everything right. I had sold him on it and he just had never had the opportunity to get back to me and say, “Hey, by the way, we’re good. Just schedule.”


When my name popped back up into his head and he saw that I was coming into the office or whatever. He’s like, “Yeah, make sure you schedule with him, please.”


Victor Ahipene: That’s the good thing. Life gets in the way. If you’re a speaker or a trainer, it’s on your mind 100% of the day. I need to be book somewhere. I need to make sure that my previous clients are all good and whatever. For a company who might an HR person or what, got 50 different plates spinning like we all do. The one about that speaker who emailed that they forgot to get back to because five people quit in one day, it’s a different thing. The power’s in the follow up.


Ari Gunzburg: Absolutely.


Victor Ahipene: Cool. I want to thank you and welcome you to our speaking nation group. What you have given today will give a lot of people a lot of hope, but I think there’s some awesome learnings and your journey so far and moving forward into how to start positioning yourself as the speaker that you started a while ago. Then how these different things develop and do some life learnings.


That’s what this podcast is all about is giving people that behind the scenes look of what has worked for other people because you can often go searching, scouring all over the web and you’re not going to get, you’re going to get the person who’s like, “Oh yeah, I speak and I do this.” You don’t get the necessarily the skin and bones behind it. I really appreciate you for sharing that. I want to thank you and welcome you to our speaker nation family.


Ari Gunzburg: I appreciate that you have me on the show. I hope I can be of help. If you ever want to do this again, check back in in six months, a year, something like that. By all means, feel free to reach out.


Victor Ahipene: Absolutely. We’ll lock it in for a year’s time. If people want to get in touch with you, where should they go, what should they do?


Ari Gunzburg: Number one place That’s my website. It has a bunch of information about me, links to my blog, and links to my social media profiles.


Victor Ahipene: Wicked. We’ll link all of that at It’s been an absolute pleasure mate. I will let you get some well needed sleep.


Ari Gunzburg: Wonderful. Thank you.