Influence can be earned through various ways. However, leaders of the past have learned that you can master influence by becoming a world-class speaker. It’s still one of the best ways to share your message and create an audience that’s engaged in what you’re trying to convey. Bloggers, Instagrammers, and other influencers who have created their audience online through a specific platform now look to develop their speaking skills to take their influence to the next level.
Learning the art of storytelling is one task and growing your business with speaking is a completely different thing altogether. Recently, I had an opportunity to discuss this topic with Yahya Bakkar, a world-class speaker who has spoken at prestigious institutions like TEDx, Harvard, and Yale while training some of the most successful millennial influencers on mastering the art of storytelling and the business of speaking.
Bakkar has spoken on over 500 stages, impacted thousands of lives, and is now teaching successful influencers and entrepreneurs how to become world-class speakers. He was also one of the Top Youth Speakers in the country for over five years. His client list includes people like Gerard Adams, who sold Elite Daily to Daily Mail for $50M. Gerard refers to Yahya as the “best millennial public speaking coach in the world.” Influencers like Lewis Howes, Josh Shipp, and Elliott Hulse have also recommended Yahya.
According to Yahya, the #1 mistake most speakers, coaches, entrepreneurs, and influencers make when they get in front of an audience is that they are D.E.A.D. every time they walk onstage, get on a podcast, or enroll a new client. And what he means by D.E.A.D. is that they are Disappointing, Embarrassing, Annoying, and Dreadful to watch and listen to.
When Yahya works with clients who want to captivate an audience and become unapologetically self-expressed on any medium, his #1 goal is to help them become more A.L.I.V.E.
In order for his clients to go from D.E.A.D. to A.L.I.V.E., Yahya coaches them to overcome the “perfection trap” or the “curse of knowledge.” The curse of knowledge is where clients are stuck in their own head trying to provide more content to the audience instead of developing a connection with them first. Clients who don’t know what to say or how to say something are in the “perfection trap”; they’re usually looking for the most polished way to say what they want to say, which ultimately creates a disconnect with their audience. Here’s the reality: Connection is the new currency. If content is King, connection is Queen.
A lot of experts think that to become an authority and add more value to the marketplace, you have to give them more content. That’s only one part of the equation. In Yahya’s opinion, one of the best ways to become an authority is to be more authentic, and one of the best ways to add value is to be vulnerable. Once you’ve established the connection first, then you can give them the content.
He adds that “most influencers, leaders, and entrepreneurs talk a lot about establishing authority and adding value to the marketplace, which is great and definitely has its place in the world, but having a connection with your audience is the new currency. And nothing builds connection faster than being authentic and vulnerable. That’s what will make you more trustworthy, which will, in turn, make you more influential. Your authenticity will attract admiration from others, and your vulnerability will inspire transformation in others. So if I see a client who’s D.E.A.D. and struggling with the perfection trap, that’s my cue to give them permission to be imperfect in public. And in turn, they will reach more lives and make more money with their message.”
As a writer, I was curious about how he started his journey in public speaking. At first, he wasn’t trying to be a professional speaker. He wanted to be a personal trainer. But Yahya’s parents suggested he become a doctor instead, and since he didn’t want to let them down he decided to pursue the pre-medical/pre-dental route. Four years later and with $50,000 in student debt, he realized that he was doing all of this to win the acceptance and approval of his parents. With that being said, he decided to drop out of college and face his fear of disappointing his parents with only one semester left.
The result? He wasn’t allowed to stay in the house anymore unless he went back to school. A friend of his heard about his situation and invited Yahya to live with him for a few months. Out of nowhere, Yahya’s friend said, “I think you should become a motivational speaker and life coach for young people.” At the time, Yahya said he honestly thought that was the dumbest idea ever. There’s no way anyone is going to listen to a college dropout give life advice. But after going back and forth, it started to make sense that maybe speaking was something he should pursue since he had been reading books on personal development, health & fitness, relationship dynamics, and spirituality since he was 14 years old.
So, the next day, Yahya googled “motivational speaker and life coaching programs for young people.” To his surprise, he only found two programs that caught his attention. One was called “Youth Speaker University” by Josh Shipp, and the other program was “Robbins-Madanes Training” by Tony Robbins. The only thing wrong was that he had to invest $9,000 in order to participate in them. At the time, he didn’t have $9,000 lying around, so he ended up being resourceful, calling as many people as possible to raise at least $9K. Yahya ended up raising $4,000 and to pay for the rest, he took two extra jobs. One year later, he quit both jobs, became a full-time speaker, won the 2012 Student of the Year Award at the Youth Speaker University, and was one of the youngest graduates in the Tony Robbins coaching program, receiving two certifications as a Strategic Interventionist and a Relationship Educator. It’s been almost a decade now, and since then, Yahya has traveled the world, spoken on over 500 stages, and impacted thousands of lives.
Yahya helps successful influencers and entrepreneurs become world-class speakers by teaching them how to master the art of storytelling and understand the business of speaking to grow their impact, influence, and income. Yahya always looks to connect with his audience by being transparent, authentic, and vulnerable, which makes him one of the best speakers in the world.