What Speakers Can Learn From Roman Philosophers With Johnny Ball

by | Jun 10, 2021 | Podcasts

SWGR 569 | Roman Philosophers


The wisdom Roman philosophers possessed transcends time. We all can benefit from their teachings even in this modern era. Elizabeth Bachman’s guest today is Johnny Ball, a Life Coach and Founder of Present Influence. Johnny discusses with Elizabeth his unique view on branding and marketing, gathering from the teachings of Roman philosophers. In particular, he taps into public speaking and using the tools of ethical influence and persuasion. Join him in this episode as he takes us further down into marketing the right way, one that does not take advantage of others but instead comes from the context of influence. Tune in and enjoy this conversation!

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What Speakers Can Learn From Roman Philosophers With Johnny Ball

This is the show where we interview experts from around the world on presentation skills, leadership, visibility and communication challenges. I’m delighted to have as my guest Johnny Ball who is a fellow speaker, trainer and business coach. I brought him back to the show because he has so many interesting things to say about marketing and branding. We had a very interesting conversation about philosophy. That was an unexpected delight. He has been working in the world of professional and personal development for many years as a coach trainer, speaker and teacher. His previous career was in First Class Hospitality. He was a flight attendant for twelve years and a bar and restaurant Manager before that. You will learn a lot about personalities with both of those jobs. For the last years, he has been leading online coaching and training programs for Harv Eker International from financial freedom to making income through online training.

He also has his own podcast. The one called Speaking Of Influence, Points Of Change and he’s about to launch two more. He’s self-employed in Present Influence where he helps turn expert non-fiction authors into exceptional public speakers using the tools of ethical influence and persuasion. One of the things that I love about talking to John is the way he thinks about branding and marketing. I asked him for a chance to talk about some of the things he tried that didn’t work because I do believe we all learn from our own mistakes as much as anything. He was wonderfully warm and candid with me in the interview. Before we go to the actual interview, I would like to tell you that if you are interested in seeing how your presentation skills are doing, you can take a free four-minute assessment at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. That’s where you can see where you are strong in your presentation skills and where perhaps a little bit of support might help you get better results and the recognition that you deserve. Now without further ado, on to the interview with John Ball.

John Ball, welcome back to the show.

It’s a delight to come back again, Elizabeth. Thank you for inviting me.

Having and applying a life philosophy improves your quality of life and gives you your code to live by. Share on X

I am having so much fun watching you on LinkedIn and all the various things that you are doing. I interviewed you in 2020 about ethical persuasion. Now you are doing marketing this, that or the other. I wanted to know a little bit about your journey, especially all the shows you are doing and what you have learned, what worked, what didn’t work. I’ve got a whole list of questions for you, but before that, let me ask you if you were to have a dream interview with somebody from history, who would that be? Who should be in the audience and what would you ask them?

I remember last time I said Leonardo da Vinci and I still think that would be incredible but I thought this time I should think of someone different and I thought Marcus Aurelius, the Roman emperor, the philosopher-king. I enjoyed so much reading his writings and all the things that have been written about him and Stoic Philosophy, which I am a huge fan of. I need to apply a lot of that inspired life and I found it very helpful. I would love to have that conversation. I feel like I have almost had the next best thing in having had some conversations with philosophers and people who have written about him. That has been incredible. The audience would be seekers of knowledge and people who understand that having and applying a life philosophy improves your quality of life and gives you that thing to your code to live by and the desire to be better in this world and have a better quality of life. That’s what I would go for.

Give me a little clue about Stoic Philosophy. All I know is Stoic is you don’t cry when you stub your toe.

That’s more than a modern interpretation of stoicism and that certainly not Stoic Philosophy. My friend, Donald Robertson who is an expert in Stoic Philosophy who I had on one of my podcasts, explained to me this way. He calls it stoicism that, “Don’t cry or show your emotions,” kind of stoicism, which is not what the ancient Stoics were talking about. He calls Stoicism in terms of philosophy, which is much more about creating mental resilience in your life, being prepared, living within your own values and virtue to do the right thing in situations even when nobody is watching and thinking about the things in your life and being of service and remembering that we are not here forever and not to take advantage of people. There are many good principles in stoicism that allow us to hopefully lead a more virtuous and more fulfilling life as well because it is very much about action too.

There will be things in there like some of the ancestors say sometimes to go without something for a while. Not to deprive yourself of it but to show yourself that you can and to appreciate it all the more when you have it back in your life as well. You can have all these things but excess isn’t so good for us and we know that. In 2021, I did a 90-day no alcohol challenge and got a lot of value out of that. It was a great thing to do. It showed me that I don’t ever need to have a drink. The whole goal of it was to change my relationship with alcohol which it did, the whole way I think about drinking alcohol and knowing that I could quite happily live my life without alcohol.

SWGR 569 | Roman Philosophers

Roman Philosophers: Just because you can coach somebody on something doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re doing it and applying yourself, even though you should be.


That was nice to know that. Sometimes it’s good to get that experience for ourselves. A lot of Christians celebrate lent for example. They give something up for 40 days and that’s an experience of that as well. If you are giving up something that you want to have, you will appreciate it more when you can have it again after that or if you are in a Ramadan, a period of fasting, you are going to appreciate coming out to that again once you can do so. Those things can help us appreciate our lives and without going too much more about it. One of the things I found very helpful is a lot of people struggled with loss and grief. Stoicism encourages us to prepare for that by recognizing that nothing lasts forever. That means we don’t take for granted the people and things in our lives. We recognize that they could all be gone tomorrow. Appreciate it now. While it’s there, I appreciate it all the more. Don’t spend your whole time in fear of loss or fear for the future as so many people do. These are some of the things that I love about Stoicism and there are a lot more as well.

At first, I was going, “He wants to talk about Marcus Aurelius?” Now I get it and that would be, “I will be in the audience when you interview him.” Certainly, the whole thing of appreciating what you have and be glad. I have a friend who lost her beloved from choking. He choked on a piece of steak in a restaurant and it caused him to have a heart attack and his gone. Tell people you love them right away. Let’s talk about marketing and branding. We are both speaker trainers. We can get in not too much into the weeds but a little bit about what you are doing. I’m seeing lots of interesting things that you are doing on LinkedIn. Tell us a little bit about the evolution of what you have been working on. You’ve got four podcasts now?

Not yet but there are 2 in the works and 2 that are running. There will be four podcasts probably at some point. It’s all interesting, which means some of it is about fun. Not all podcasting is about making money or getting leads into a business. Certainly not for me and that’s not why I started doing podcasting. I did recognize the potential of it, which is why Speaking Of Influence, my main show is going to remain something that is me talking with experts about public speaking, influence and persuasion. It’s a show for people who want to improve their speaking ability and understand different aspects of speaking. I have such amazing guests on it. You’ve been one of them as well. The conversations we have there are fantastic about what I want to have is something that is more allowing me to showcase more of my own knowledge and experience. It comes through in the show. To be a bit more perhaps teaching and demonstrating some of the stuff and having shorter form content which is why I’m launching a shorter show, which will be just me specifically about the arts of persuasion, which is going to be called The Persuaders.

One of the things in terms of marketing and branding ourselves, we often learn as much from the experiments that don’t work. That we do from the things, I mean, nothing ever goes perfectly all the way through. Can you talk a little bit about what you have learned from some of the things that you tried for a while and decided, “This is not for me?”

When I started my very first podcast, I did not have a clue what I was doing. It was a Toastmasters project and I thought, “Let’s give that a go.” I tried podcasting way back in 2008, did maybe 4 or 5 episodes, then I lost interest. It may have been the very first case of podfade ever but I lost interest very quickly. There wasn’t a lot going on podcasting. It wasn’t much of a thing at that time but I enjoyed it but it was just me. When I came back with the show, it was started in, see what happens and it ended up being fun and I kept it going. What kept it going after that was learning from all the mistakes that I started making and making improvements based on that.

If you’re giving up something that you want to have, you will appreciate it more when you can have it again. Share on X

That is what it is about the whole podcasting community. We will talk about just get it started imperfectly as it might be and you will improve along the way. When it comes to branding, I have mostly been clueless about it. It has been a real journey. One of the joys of having a show is being able to bring on experts in particular areas. I have a lot of help with my branding from experts who work in this. We had a little chat before we started the interview. You said it was that some of the stuff they tell you is like, “It is hard to hear,” and you feel like you are restricting yourself. I would maybe compare this to when I work with coaches who don’t niche their services or niche as Americans. When people need their services, it makes it very hard for them to market themselves. It makes it very hard to stand out in the market. The same is true for podcasters and speakers. You do need to define your niche, who you are solving a problem for in the specific area or areas that you want to be known for talking about.

I am going to add into that one of the things that I see a lot with my clients who tend to be high-level women in corporate jobs. There are many things they could do. The hard part is to narrow it down. If you have a lot of ideas and lots of things, you can talk about lots of knowledge, how do you choose what to be known for? Niching applies to your personal brand as well as your company brand. I know you have been a trainer for the Harv Eker Company for years. Did you find yourself saying, “This is what I tell my clients, I should maybe take my own advice?”

Just because you can coach somebody on something doesn’t necessarily mean that you are doing it and applying yourself, even though you should be. Most coaches will know this, very often you are coaching a client and you are telling them stuff. As you are saying it thinking, “I am coaching myself here as well. I need to do what I’m telling my clients to do.” We all get those moments and any coach who says they don’t, I don’t believe you. There we go. It’s such an important element of this. The main resistance to it from people is that people want to talk to everybody and want to have that perceived freedom but if you for everybody, you are for nobody. That’s the reality of the world of marketing these days.

Despite the resistance to it, it becomes essential. As soon as you start to decide what you could talk about for hours on end, without getting bored, what you love to read and learn about and you never get fed up or finding new information or searching for it, that is probably going to give you a few clues to what would be a good niche area for you. Think about who has problems in this area that you could solve that relate to this topic that you can talk about.

If you are using speaking as a promotional material, which is one of the best and fun ways to market yourself. It does take time. You have to build your knowledge in something. You can then add to that but you can.

SWGR 569 | Roman Philosophers

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know

That’s a huge opportunity right now. This is something that people are going to start seeing from me if they are following me online. Whilst there has been a degree of throwing spaghetti at the wall to see what sticks and getting better at defining what I’m about and what I want to be known for. I have defined that down to one word now, which is persuasion. That is what I talk about. That is my primary topic. That’s what my new show and my branding stuff are going to be about. Identify me as somebody who talks about persuasion. Not necessarily the world’s greatest expert on persuasion because I don’t know everything but certainly, someone who does know a lot about it, loves talking about it and I often talk about it very much in the context of presentations and public speaking skills. I think if somebody ever wants a speaker or some coaching around this area, who are they going to go to? Is it the coach who says, “I can coach you on all things,” or the persuasion guy?

As you are talking about this, it makes me think that sometimes people react badly to the thought of persuasion. You do a talk about the dark side of persuasion and ethical persuasion. Can you tell us a little bit more about how to embrace persuasion, perhaps?

One of my keynote talks is Defence Against The Dark Arts of Persuasion. I don’t know how long it will be before I get to see this is from JK Rowling. We will keep going until then. The goal of that is to demystify this because people don’t always understand how persuasion works and that’s maybe why there are some fear about it. We know that there are people who have persuasion skills and sometimes we will use them to calm people, treat people, get their own way and take advantage of people in situations. Those people have always been around and there haven’t necessarily been people teaching the art of persuasion to them. These are people who figured it out, generally along the way and take advantage of those things. Having an awareness of how persuasion operates in our lives starts to put you in a position where you can have awareness of it and then decide what you want to do with it.

That’s my goal when I talk about this is to give people the awareness of how persuasion works in the context of influence, one-to-one and group conversations so that you can take that step back and hopefully see what’s going on and make your decisions based on that rather than when you are in a situation at the moment or you are not able to recognize certain tactics or techniques that are being used on you then you have no defense against that. That’s the issue. You might have a feeling that you are being manipulated or you might have an uncertainty like, “This may be a bit dodgy,” but you don’t necessarily know. As Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book Talking to Stranger, which is an interesting book, we tend to earn on trust and default to trust. This is why so many of us fall victim to scams and con artists. I ended up buying rubbish that we don’t want, need or getting into get-rich-quick schemes that lead us now where it gives us money.

I think of persuasion as helping someone do something that I know they need to do and show them why it’s going to be good for them. How do they invest in themselves through working with me because I have the experience to show them how they can get to where they need to?

Just get started and you will improve along the way. Share on X

We will do persuasion all of the time, whether it’s persuading someone to go on a date, somebody to come to the bar, someone to buy your book or your coaching. We will do persuasion all of the time on all different levels. I have had a bit of very weight when it comes to kids taking drugs. The difference between kids getting into drugs or not is who’s the better salesperson, the parent or the drug pusher and that’s persuasion. Understanding how it works is helpful to be able to live our lives. Chris Voss says in Never Split the Difference, “Life is a negotiation,” and it is. Negotiation requires skills of persuasion.

You have had a long history in travel and tourism. You are based in Spain now, although we can hear that you are originally British, how do you see the differences between the people you work with within Spain? How persuasion differs from expectations?

That’s tough. A lot have persuasion differs in different cultures. In principle, not that much but maybe some of how it’s applied are a bit different like Spain much more than the UK is or at least seems to be a very family-based culture. People are very big on their families here. I’m not saying people that care about their families in the UK but I will say that people don’t always seem to be living and always close to their families. Certain people have their smaller nuclear family units more in the UK or a lot of people live in backpacks by themselves. Here, family is a big part of things, perhaps because there was so much outdoor socialization as well that buzzer terrorist is that you can say that our beach bars are all sorts of options that people do connect to mix a lot more. Whereas in the UK, perhaps people are a bit more solitary. How influence gets and persuasion get applied are perhaps a bit different based on those social differences more than cultural differences. In terms of what techniques work, it’s pretty much the same across the board. There has been a lot of research into this that shows that the essentials of persuasion are pretty standard in any culture.

That’s what I have found in my international work. The key is then you want to use references that people will understand. I hear a lot of American speakers do use American TV show references. I’m thinking, “I couldn’t do that when I’m in Austria or when I’m speaking to a German audience.” It is one of the things to consider or for that matter if you’ve got international colleagues and everybody is referring to this one particular thing that you didn’t know what they were talking about. That certainly happens to me with my in-laws. They are all referring to something that I have no clue what they are talking about because I didn’t grow up with those radio stations.

My in-laws are all Spanish. There are a lot of cultures. I will play, for example, trivial pursuit with Spanish people, many of the pop culture references I have no clue on because in the Spanish edition they are more specifically Spanish. Those questions I need help with because I can’t play by myself. I have to have some help with that. That would be the same for that with an English edition there. There are a lot of idiomatic languages. It’s interesting because I have been asked to give a presentation to an international business group on this topic. The cultural differences with presentation skills and how to cross that divide and be able to communicate effectively in those areas. I feel very well prepared for it.

SWGR 569 | Roman Philosophers

Roman Philosophers: Speakers and coaches have to be solving a problem for people.


That’s a lot because I have been doing international presenting for a long time. Also, because I have so many guests on my show who also do that and have talked about those kinds of things as well. TV references, pop culture and idiomatic language with many of us have that doesn’t translate into other cultures, stuff that you have to watch out for, speaking at a pace which non-Native English speakers can understand you. Essential is one of the things that most people get wrong or leaving those pauses or making sure there’s an opportunity for people to be understanding what you are saying or setting up a translator service at your event if that is what’s needed. There were a lot of things to consider with that. I think it’s also great. One of the things that come up with that is wherever you go, whatever culture go into international professional, whatever the differences are, try and get a sense of something, both a few things in that culture that you can reference so that they may be a bit foreign to you but your audience is going to love it.

This has been such a delight. I love following you on LinkedIn and learning from you, having you as one of my favorite people that I listened to, follow and watch what you are doing. Let’s talk about niche one more time to finish. If there was one thing to start with in terms of choosing, narrowing down your niche, how could we do that?

I would go back to thinking about what you love learning about, what you could happily speak about for a long time, look at what you have been doing already as well. What has been the life of coaching? What have been the things that you successfully coach people on and you love working with people on? If you are a speaker writer, what are the problems that you most adeptly help people to solve? You may have a whole list of them, write them down and start to narrow them down to your options for what are the stuff that people want. One thing that a lot of people don’t consider with the niching, which I think is critical is our people going to be prepared to pay to hear about this or to know more about it.

Do the audiences that you want to target have the means to pay for your services if you want to be a speaker? I worked with some clients around this and you have a target audience who do not have those means. Unless you can set up something like, for example, maybe there’s government sponsorship or professional business sponsorship that might be able to cover those costs, then you are going to struggle so you could be a successful speaker in one sense of getting lots of speaking bookings. Also, having lots of great results with the people you speak with but your bank balance is not necessarily going to reflect that. You need to make sure you have the money stuff taken care of first and go for a market that has a problem that you can help them solve. If you think about it in those ways, that will start to automatically narrow down your options for what you talk about and how you help people. Speaker, coaches, you have to be solving a problem for people. That’s the thing a lot of people miss.

I love that because I also find people who say, “This is where my heart is.” I have lots of my fellow speakers and trainers who will say, “Here’s the problem.” I know it’s important but your audience doesn’t know it’s important or they may know it’s important but they are not willing to take action.

You don’t do your events for free because if you don’t find value in that for yourself, then you’re not going to enjoy it. Share on X

Similarly, in the coaching industry. People want to follow their hearts and do what they are passionate about and that’s great. I don’t know who’s saying, “Don’t do that.” What I’m saying is if you want to make money doing that, that’s not the way to go about it. I will always advise my clients to go for getting the money side of things taken care of first, get an audience and a following a flow-through of traffic that are there for you, have the means to pay you and love your services. Think about what you want to do that perhaps is more service and contribution-based because you will have that luxury then to be able to do that. I actively encourage that we should be helping as many people as possible but help the people who can pay for it first. Let that be something that funds your ability to help the people who can’t.

I did a speech for a group of nonprofit organizers and women who are running organizations to make the world better. I considered that my pro bono work because they are certainly not going to pay my prices but that was the most engaged audience I have had in a long time because they were excited about what they needed to learn and said, “I hadn’t thought of that.” A lot of my time for the next couple of weeks is going to be taken up in doing one little follow-up for each one because they loved it so much. It made me feel good. I am probably not going to get paid for it but it’s a pro bono thing.

When I had a chat a while back with an incredible lady who is a speaker voice agent, she’s a speaker agent for people like Mike McAlary it’s Li Hayes. She’s incredible. One of the things that she said was, “Don’t ever do a gig for free.” That doesn’t mean you can’t do stuff that you didn’t get paid for. It means there has to be some value there, whether it’s an audience that you want to be in front of, you are needing the practice as a speaker in front of large rooms. It’s putting you in front of people that hopefully may lead to more bookings in the future or getting a bit paid or very well paid for it. You don’t do your events for free because if you don’t find value in that for yourself, then you are not going to enjoy it and it’s not going to benefit you in the long run and I think that was good advice.

That’s probably a piece of advice that we should close on. John, I could talk to you for hours but let’s not abuse our readers. Maybe I have to have you on once or twice a year. John Ball, thank you so much for having been on the show. Is there a way that we could get some of your tips that we can find?

Probably one of the best ways to get back is to follow me on YouTube. If you look for the channel Present Influence, you will find a lot more video content up there. Once The Persuaders show is released, that will be on podcasts. Those episodes will be on YouTube as well. If you want to get in with some of that info now, YouTube is the place to be following me.

I downloaded something from you about the Secrets for Bulletproof Speakers.

I have on my website PresentInfluence.com as a giveaway. The giveaway now is the Last-Minute Presentation Checklist.

The Last-Minute Presentation Checklist is excellent. I downloaded it and put it up on my wall. Thank you so much, John, my friend. I’m delighted to have you on. Readers, let me remind you that if you are curious about how your presentation skills are going you can take our free quiz at SpeakForResultsQuiz.com.


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About Johnny Ball

SWGR 569 | Roman PhilosophersJohn Ball has been working in the world of personal and professional development for over 15 years, as a coach, trainer, speaker and teacher. His previous career was in first-class hospitality, where he was a flight attendant for 12 years and a bar/restaurant manager before that.

For the last 10 years, he has been leading online coaching and training programs for Harv Eker International, from financial freedom to making income through online training.

John is the host of the podcasts, Speaking of Influence and Points of Change. As the CEO of Present Influence, he helps expert non-fiction authors become exceptional public speakers using the tools of ethical influence and persuasion.

John lives with his husband in Valencia, Spain.