Brassy vs. Classy: What Professional Speakers Can Learn from a YouTube Misfit


One of the most popular YouTube channels belongs to a brassy, in-your-face, 26-year-old young woman named Jenna Mourey, aka Jenna Marbles.  She talks about her day, her makeup, her clothes …whatever’s on her mind or going on in her life. Jenna wears tons of makeup, uses a lot of profanity, has a pronounced New York accent, and doesn’t script her videos. She uses a hand-held camera, shoots video in her bathroom, bedroom or kitchen, and basically breaks every rule that any NSA speaker has ever heard about putting video online. Her videos are low-budget and have very little production value, but she’s has a ton of clout on YouTube. The number of subscribers and views she gets proves that she has created a definite recipe for video success.  She was even recently referred to as the “Women with a Billion Clicks” in a New York Times article.

Before we go on, do yourself a favor and watch at least three of her videos.

Now that you’ve seen a few of Jenna’s videos, here are three things we can learn from Jenna:

1.  She is authentic.  Authenticity beats polished anytime. When we see Jenna Marbles, we know that we are getting the real deal. She hasn’t scripted herself; she hasn’t set up any limits on herself. When we watch her, we feel like we’re getting the real person.  Speakers talk about authenticity on the platform. But our “authenticity” is often over-polished and over-prepared.  Jenna teaches us what real authenticity can mean. It means putting up a camera and talking about something that is important you.

2.    She has a “Voice.”  In the publishing world, writing teachers talk all day long about finding “Your Voice.”  Having a definable and describable personality beats white bread and polished any day. If somebody were to ask you right now how to describe Jenna Marbles you would have a lot to say. You would be able to describe her style, her passions, and even her personality. But many videos of professional speakers lack any personality at all. We all tend to come off as plain-vanilla. We are safe, professional, and sometimes wildly eloquent.  We want everyone to like us. But often that means we end up with no personality.  And no personality = no hits.

3. She is fearless.  As professional speakers, we tend to be reserved and tentative. We hold back.  We fear offending our audiences, our buyers, and our meeting planners. We’re afraid to reveal too much of ourselves and our opinions. We’re afraid to reveal too much of our personal lives for fear somebody might take offense with us and therefore not hire us. Jenna Marbles is the opposite. She lets it all hang out. She is passionate, opinionated, and fearless.  Next time you make a video with great ideas and fabulous content, consider ratcheting up your opinion and your passion about what you are saying.

I’m not advocating that we need to duplicate Jenna Marbles. I cannot picture any of my clients wanting to hire her. But her success on YouTube has a lot to teach us as we reach into the video world. When you create a video, ask yourself if you’re revealing enough of your passion. Consider if you’re letting enough of your real personality shine through, or are you holding back in order to appear “professional”?

And perhaps most importantly, turn down the polish. We have been told for years that we need to be some version of perfect. But we will be way more accessible, interesting and successful with our videos if we just allow ourselves to be human while the camera is running. Let your audience connect with you through your video. Make it real. Lose the fear. Make the connection.

Brad Montgomery

Brad Montgomery

motivational keynote speaker and humorist at Brad Montgomery
Brad Montgomery is a very funny business speaker who speaks on happiness in the workplace. He helps organization improve productivity, innovation, creativity, and resilience by increasing their happiness. (Oh, and he does it in a laugh out loud funny way.)
Brad Montgomery
Brad Montgomery
Brad Montgomery

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