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The Business of Meetings

Sep 26, 2023

We are delighted to have Judson Laipply joining us on today's show! Judson is a legendary speaker who achieved viral stardom on YouTube with his video, The Evolution of Dance!

Today, he shares the story behind his iconic video and offers us a glimpse into his fascinating journey after his video went viral.

Judson has appeared on the Today Show, Ellen, Tosh. O, GMA, Oprah, and more. He is the world’s first YouTube celebrity, having had the most-watched video for four years. He has been speaking professionally for over twenty years and resides in the Cleveland, Ohio area. 


Judson Laipply M.Ed, CSP is an enigma wrapped in an anomaly contained inside a quandary. Combining comedy and content, laughter and learning, energy, and engagement, Judson gives his audiences immediate joy and lasting impact. He helps audiences understand the difference between change and evolution while teaching them to embrace struggles, and ultimately evolve. He has been featured on the Today Show, Ellen, Oprah, GMA, and more. He is the world’s first YouTube Celebrity and his finale “The Evolution of Dance” has over a billion impressions and was the first video ever to hit 100 million views. He’s been speaking and performing for over 20 years and has been all around the globe. He is also an Ironman Triathlete, terrible singer, and reformed Kool-Aid eater. 

Judson’s journey

Judson's journey mirrors the journey of many others who aspired to make their mark as professional speakers. What set him apart, however, was a fortunate turn of events that propelled him toward viral fame. Back in the 90s, professional speaking was still a relatively exclusive niche. Intrinsically outgoing and driven by a passion for engaging with people, Judson believed in the power of play as a tool for teaching, embracing Plato's timeless wisdom that an hour of play reveals more about a person than a lifetime of conversation. That belief drove him to seek opportunities, from working on a cruise ship as a youth coordinator to orchestrating evening events at a Colorado camp. Those experiences helped to hone his public speaking skills and expanded his horizons. Throughout his journey, Judson remained steadfast in his quest to make speaking a full-fledged career. That aspiration led him to graduate school, as he recognized that a master's degree would solidify his credibility and fortify his commitment to his chosen path. He took advice from a seasoned speaker, learning that the key to leaving an indelible mark lay in crafting memorable moments. Thus, the Evolution of Dance was born. It was a fusion of Judson’s modest dancing abilities and a powerful message about change and evolution destined to become an unforgettable hallmark in his career!

A Compliment from a Choreographer

The success of the Evolution of Dance video allowed Judson to experience incredible opportunities, including appearing in a Weezer music video. An LA choreographer praised his dance, acknowledging his lack of formal training but appreciating the joy and emotion he conveyed through his moves. That compliment marked a significant moment in his career as an entertainer and dancer!

The Birth of a Viral Video

His video was uploaded to YouTube in 2006. At the time, YouTube was still emerging as a popular website and viral videos were not as commonplace as today. His video gradually gained traction, becoming one of the first viral videos on YouTube. The timing was crucial because the popularity of the video coincided with the rise in prominence of YouTube.

The Challenges of Going Viral

Going viral was a roller coaster ride for Judson, filled with unexpected twists and turns. His video garnered millions of views, and he received numerous emails and messages from various platforms and media outlets. While tempting offers came in, his sudden fame also presented new challenges, like managing the influx of opportunities and distractions and making choices aligned with his long-term goals and identity as a speaker and influencer.

Navigating Success and Opportunities

His experience taught him the importance of staying true to his core identity and goals. Amid the overwhelming success and attention, he faced offers to pursue acting, reality TV, and other opportunities that could have taken him off his desired path. However, he chose to prioritize his passion for speaking and comedy, making strategic decisions to maintain his course while also enjoying the benefits of his viral fame.

Appearing on Television Shows

Judson had the opportunity to appear on various television shows, including Ellen, Oprah, and Good Morning America. His interactions with show hosts varied. Sometimes, he had limited interactions with hosts due to their busy schedules and other high-profile guests. Nonetheless, those appearances were significant milestones in his career, allowing him to reach broader audiences and share his unique brand.

Monetizing Viral Videos

Monetizing a viral video can be complex, particularly when it contains copyrighted music material. In Judson's case, the original Evolution of Dance video did not generate any direct revenue, as it was uploaded before the establishment of the YouTube partnership program and ad monetization. Regardless, Judson remains content with the cultural impact of his video and the opportunities it brought him without dwelling on the potential revenue it could have generated. 

Building a Brand

When building your brand, you must focus on your goals and maintain momentum. 

Succeeding as a Speaker 

Succeeding in the speaking industry involves the performance aspect of captivating audiences on stage and the often-overlooked business side of the profession. Judson took the advice of seasoned professionals to heart and set out on a five-year business plan to establish a strong foundation for his speaking career. 

Transitioning into Corporate Settings

In his quest to move into more corporate settings, Judson capitalizes on his experiences and research. His transition aligns with his desire to evolve his speaking career and explore new opportunities.

How Comedy Has Changed Over Time

While reflecting on the evolution of comedy over the past 15 years, Judson emphasizes the need for comedians to adapt to changing norms. He points out that shock comedy and humor targeting specific groups have become less acceptable. He praises comics like Brian Regan, Jim Gaffigan, and Mike Birbiglia for their clean and relatable comedic styles.


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