The AMA Madison Annual Conference has a new location, new name, and new ideas for 2019!  This year’s conference is built around the theme “Elevate with Authenticity”. Join us Thursday, September 26th at the beautiful Park Hotel in downtown Madison for a stimulating day of top-notch presenters, thought-provoking concepts, actionable takeaways, and prime networking opportunities.

Our keynote speaker will be Roger Wolkoff, professional speaker, author, and owner of All About Authenticity. Roger is an expert in interpersonal communication and team-building experiences who helps leaders and high-performing teams build authentic trust and drive impactful communications and incredible results. We recently spoke with Roger about his upcoming AMA Conference keynote address on being FIT: focus, intensity, and truth.

What is holding brands back from being authentic marketers themselves?

I think what holds brands back is this sense of “we have done it this way before,” so sometimes taking the lessons from the past and bringing them forward doesn’t work. I think people strive to send out the perfect message or create the perfect experience, and quite honestly, I don’t believe there is one perfect experience or one perfect message. The more we get back to our grassroots of being authentic, being ourselves, and sending those messages and crafting those experiences we would want to experience ourselves, that’s where the magic is.

What would you like your audience to take away from your talk?

I want the audience to take away that it’s not as hard as we think it is. One of the key messages I like to tell people is “put yourself in other people’s shoes, put yourself in the shoes of the people you are trying to reach.” I think the art of empathy, of being there for others, helps you create messages that are more authentic, and helps connect people to the messages and experiences you want them to have.

Why did you choose authenticity as the focus for your business?

Well, it wasn’t like a problem I could go out and solve for people. No one asks, “Hey, do you have problems with your authenticity?” It became more an adjective and descriptor than a noun. It became more about talking to people about authentic leadership and authentic engagement. What I found in my experience in the corporate world was that there were times when people just weren’t being authentic, or being themselves. I felt there was a message I wanted to get out to the masses. That message is, it’s okay to be yourself, show up as yourself, and when you show up as yourself, people are more likely to accept your leadership, and more likely to follow you and engage with you.

What do you enjoy the most about what you do?

The one thing I enjoy the most is that I get to meet new people every day, build new relationships, and I get to be around the people I want to be around, and who want to be around me. Isn’t that what we’re all trying to get? So, imagine a world where we all get to do that. Where you can create experiences and send messages for people who are just like you and you are making a difference in their lives, giving people the tools that they can use to change their lives for themselves.

What advice would you give your eighteen-year-old self?

First thing I’d tell him is don’t do the mullet. It’s not a good look. Second thing I’d tell him is don’t be too much of a people pleaser. You’re going to wind up satisfying a few, but you’re not going to be true to yourself. I think that’s one of the biggest lessons I learned. I think if I had had that lesson early on, it would have opened many more doors for myself than I opened in my youth.

If you weren’t doing what you are doing today, what would you be doing?

There are two careers I’ve thought about. When I first started thinking about doing this, I originally thought I would try stand-up. That seemed a little daunting. So maybe this is a way I could do a little stand-up and ease my way into it. The second thing is, I like driving. I really like driving. Driving is a pleasurable experience, and it means I get to see many new places and meet a ton of new people. In a sense, I am trying out both jobs as a professional speaker. I am driving a lot, traveling a lot, and meeting new people.

You can start a new business as an Uber driver who does standup – do a routine for ten or fifteen minutes and charge a premium.

I am going to call it Stand-up Uber Comedy, or STUC.

As a marketer how do you define success?

I didn’t realize it initially, but as a business owner, I’ve had to put on that CMO hat. I think it starts from the top down, being true to your vision, mission, and your values. That’s something I did not think a whole lot about when I first started, but a lot of people would say that’s where you should start. I think the more marketers stick to their core values, and the vision they are trying to accomplish, then I think the mission unfolds from there.If one of your core values is integrity, then hold integrity. If one of your core values is truth, then tell your truth. I’ve seen enough people stray away from that and it gets them in trouble. So, the more you can circle back to being true to your values and core beliefs, I think that’s the key to success.

You love to travel. What’s your most favorite destination?

It’s one of the few times I got to travel outside the country. My wife and I went to Mexico to one of those all-inclusive resorts. Two things made that trip extremely wonderful. One, we try to extend ourselves, and we met a couple from British Columbia in Canada. We just hit it off and spent the rest of our time with them. We had such great experiences with them. The other is that we really like to immerse ourselves, wherever we are, in the local culture. In this case it was Mexican culture, Playa del Carmen, the local culture, learn the language, learn customs, talk to the local folks, find out who they are, what their experiences are. Go to those out of the way places to get the real local flavor.

What’s your favorite pizza?

Ha, ha, ha! There’s nothing like a New York slice. Sorry, I grew up in New York, butut for you Midwesterners, deep dish follows a close second.

Is there even a third option and flavor?

The third option would have to be free! In New York, aside from cheese, I like a good meatball slice. When they slice the meatball thin, that’s my favorite.

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