Ryan Foland speaks with Holly Dowling, a uniquely motivating speaker who helps people around the world tap into their passion, and learn how to live fulfilling and impactful lives.
Ryan and Holly swing between deep thoughts and light humour in this interview, sharing insights about what they have learned about communication and following your dreams, and how to use your experiences to make a difference in the world. They also talk a fair bit about Gilligan’s Island, just for fun.
Listen to this podcast to find out:
- How to tap into your passion to create a happy and prosperous career
- The profound impact listening can have on your life and relationships
- How to communicate with people in a way that empowers and inspires them
- 3 career-changing tips for new speakers, mid-level speakers and seasoned pros.
- How to use both the good and bad things that happen in your life to create stories and talks that connect with audiences
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Holly Dowling: Hi, this is Holly Dowling with Ryan Foland and the World of Speakers Podcast. We just had the most amazing conversation about secret little innuendos, tips, tricks, and things that most people aren’t talking about, but can make a huge difference in the world for speakers today.
Ryan Foland: Welcome back to the World of Speakers Podcast. I am super pumped because I have a fellow high energy person on the line. Her name is Holly Dowling.
I have not met her before, and so am super excited, just like you listening, to get to know her, get her tips, and see how she can help us communicate better. Holly, how are you?
HD: Ryan, I am so excited to be here.
RF: Now are you ginger by chance?
HD: I am not.
RF: That’s okay. See, I’m a ginger, and so I automatically connect with other gingers. But the good news is I think ginger is a state of mind, so we all have the chance at being more ginger. Technically if you don’t get anything from this call other than the fact that you can now claim to be a ginger, it’s a win for me in the ginger nation.
HD: Well I’m going to own it. Then I’m going to go figure out what that means.
RF: There’s a debate I have going back and forth between a few people on Twitter about the origins of ginger. I’ve reclaimed the word for my red beard, my freckles, and my amazing fair skin, which as a child was a disadvantage.
Somebody on Twitter was saying that the character Ginger on Gilligan’s Island popularized ginger being associated with redheads.
HD: I have to say I was a die hard fan of that show. I used to dream of being Ginger.
You’re going to flip out, because there’s a part of my past that has a lot to do with why I help, and love to empower people to go after their dreams.
Ryan, you just opened up an entire world for me with Ginger.
RF: This is quite a serendipitous intro. Tell us about your story, and definitely weave in some Ginger.
HD: I just want to thank you for not starting with the infamous question that people always ask, which is, “So can you tell me how you started in the speaking industry?” I’m like, “Do you have three hours? Do you really want to hear the whole story?”
I was the little girl living in Pennsylvania, sitting in the basement every Friday in front of our one TV. Now this is going to date me, so all of your listeners will know how old I am.
RF: I can throw a bleep in there if you want.
HD: No, that’s okay. I love aging. I was the girl on Friday nights sitting there watching Fantasy Island, and The Love Boat.
RF: Oh my god. As a child I was forced to watch that show. I’m dating myself a little bit here as well.
HD: I love that you were forced. I would beg.
Here’s what happened though Ryan. In third grade I dreamed of being Julie on The Love Boat. That little vision went into my heart, then into my head, and I never stopped thinking about it. Then by god, one day I made it happen.
This is a story I share with adults and children. Because people aren’t out there saying “Yay, go for whatever your dreams are.” It’s more of “Get your head out of the clouds.”
That really helped me create the mantra I live by which is, tell me no and watch me go. Because the more I was told “You’ll never do this, you need to go finish your college degree, and be an attorney.” The more I was fueled to say, “I’ll get my degree, but then I’m going to travel the world, and be a cruise director.”
RF: Tell me no and watch me go, I am going to write that down. Because I do stick figure drawings every day, and post them online. Those seven words sum up your energy and inspiration from The Love Boat.
HD: Thank you. I think we need to realize that if we keep everything we’ve been through canned up, we’re not doing this world any service. That we need to be willing to peel back the layers of our onion, and share what we’ve learned from our journey.
I just have to laugh, because I had no idea we were going to talk about The Love Boat. But when you brought up Ginger and Gilligan’s Island, that made me think about Julie.
RF: That’s awesome.
You were in your youth, making these goals of exploring the world, and being a cruise director, and then you made that happen.
What are some other elements of your story? Where are you from? Where do you physically live?
HD: Right now I live in Scottsdale, Arizona. Prior to that I raised my children in Kansas City, which is where we moved after my father’s career moved us from Pennsylvania to the midwest. There’s a lot of midwest in me.
Then one day my husband and I just said, “We’re done with the cold and the ice. We’re ready for some sun.”
RF: That brings me back to the classic question people are always curious about. How did your life experience land you on the stage?
Did it happen organically, or was it something you went after?
Did somebody tell you “No,” and you’re said, “Watch me go?”
HD: It started when I met some people at a church I was going to at the time.
This woman walked up to me and said, “I feel like you have a story every time I talk to you. Would you be willing to come talk to my high school kids?”
I never imagined that speaking to those kids would have a ripple effect.
After I spoke that first time, I was invited back to speak at an event for the entire school district. From there I had adults ask me, “Do you ever speak for corporations? I want to bring them your story and energy.”
In those speeches I shared part of my past that was very tough for me.
But I was willing to do that for children and young people, so that they can realize they can have these beautiful dreams. To not let the world take that away from them.
Before I knew it that turned into working with leaders around the country, and helping them. One thing just led to another.
How many of these stories you want?
RF: Give me three. The magic number is three. I’m trying to re-teach people how to count.
We all count one, two, three, four, five, six, and on. But I think we should re-train ourselves to count one, two, three, then many. No more than three.
HD: That’s simple.
RF: Three happens to be my numerology number, and my favorite number. There are three bears for a reason, there’s three blind mice for a reason. For me the magic number is three.
Choose three fun little nuggets to share that encapsulate your story. That will help people to really get where you’re coming from. I think that will help them understand your advice, and your tips.
HD: Next story. I happened to be living in Colorado at the time. Going back to tell me “no, watch me go,” and that whole story of what it took for me to become a cruise director.
Most people, if they knew what it really took, would have thrown the towel in.
But that gave me the desire. I knew inside my soul I have the fuel. That I don’t care. If I want it bad enough, and it’s sitting there living in me, I’m going to make it happen.
I was the woman helping out leaders, and doing little things here and there, but it was never much. I saw that I needed to get out there and do something different.
I’ve always loved creating businesses. I’m big on being an entrepreneur. That probably goes back to when I was six I sold soap to my neighbors.
One day I saw in the newspaper that once every eight years there is a meeting of the eight presidents of the world, and that the next summit of the eight was going to be in Denver, Colorado.
I immediately thought, “Here I am kind of bored wondering what I am going to do next.” I started wondering what the city was going to do to make a great first impression.
The article said a lot of things were going to be being pulled out of the mayor’s office for the event. I literally put on a suit, and marched down to the mayor’s office.
I walked in and said, “What are you doing to make sure that the press, and everybody who’s going to be interfacing with these people, are empowered so they have a really great experience? Because this could make or break Denver.”
They looked at me and they said, “We haven’t even thought about that. What can you do?” In that moment I started a business called Worldwide Etiquette. I didn’t even have a card yet.
I said, “I can help you with that. Our goal will be to make a great first impression.”
I made up some business cards. Then I started helping the restaurants by hosting workshops in the big library downtown.
There I taught the servers, the managers of the restaurants, and anybody in the service industry simple global etiquette techniques; what the menus should look like, appropriate and inappropriate gestures, and basic communication skills.
That catapulted me to being asked to be a part of the African American Consulate. That turned into doing a lot of work with IBM, which turned into doing a ton of speaking with leaders around the world.
When people wonder what’s possible, I say “Anything is possible, it’s just a matter of where’s your heart.” Don’t force yourself to do something that’s not living and breathing, waking you up in the morning, and making you go, that’s burning in your soul.
RF: Let’s recap. You’re saying you got to where you are now based on that opportunity to speak in an elementary school with no hidden agenda. You weren’t out there trying to get gigs that lead to something else. You just wanted to share your story, because people told you that you have these amazing stories.
I think we all have stories, but sometimes it takes a moment, or a person to call us on it and be like, “Wow, that’s a cool story.”
I try to imagine things in the world of social media, since for some people that’s all they know. But back in the day when there was no social media you had to try to find these offline connections.
In today’s world it’s as though the conversation you had with the person at your church was either a tweet, or an Instagram, or a Facebook longform story that you shared.
All of a sudden this person you were talking to liked it, retweeted it, shared it. That all of a sudden created the recognition that this is shareable content.
You shared that with an elementary school. You had other people who were looking at this “post”, and they were like “Oh my gosh, this story is something that we would love to share with the corporate side of things.” You had this offline strategy.
I encourage people now, that sharing your stories whether in person or online can lead to sharing your story in more avenues.
That’s a really fun example of taking an opportunity, because you never know what that will lead to. That’s number one. I like that.
Number two is making a business before a business card, right?
RF: This idea that if you find something in your gut that you realize has potential, why waste the time sitting there planning, and getting a business card. Go build your business before you make a business card.
HD: Exactly. I have a friend who started a business not too long ago. He didn’t even have a business card because his consulting business had taken off.
I said, “How fun is it to know that what you’re providing this world is in service of providing your brilliance to help others.That you don’t need a business card.”
To your point. I love how you just took the story I shared, and helped scale it to social media. That literally gave me goosebumps.
The one thing I would add that I don’t know if I miscommunicated, is that it was a high school I spoke at, not an elementary. I just want to make sure I get that right for the audience. Because they’ll be like, “You spoke to little kids?”
RF: You know what, that’s my bad. Rather than go back and edit, we’re just going to let it ride. That actually leads me to another interesting point. That even when you’re saying things clearly, people may not hear it correctly.
Here’s an overall speaking tip. As a speaker you are responsible for people receiving your message correctly.
You just did that by taking responsibility for your own story. You didn’t hold that I misinterpreted your message against me. I didn’t feel bad. You just clarified it for me, and for everyone else.
That is an amazing skill as a speaker, or communicator, because you are taking the responsibility for my understanding. As opposed to you just belting the message out, and hoping that everybody gets it.
HD: You know what, I just love being on this show with you. Do we want to do this more often?
RF: Sure. Hey, why not? We should have you as a guest co-host, or something like that. For every show maybe we should include a Hollyism. I’m not sure what that is, but I see it in your bio, so we’ll get to that after your third story.
HD: I love where you’re going.
But you just captured a profound communication moment. Listeners can use that when they think about what makes for great engagement with an audience, whether it’s big or small.
One thing I think is really important is that people in the audience will ask questions of you, whether you’re running a small workshop, or speaking to a big room of people. What I’m always cognizant of in any case is to make sure I own that space.
I make sure that everyone heard what was asked, and make sure I heard them correctly. Many times I’ll say, “Just to make sure I heard you correctly…”
Because what happens is half the room might not have heard what that person asked you. Then if you go into answering them you might not realize that 90% of the room that has no idea what just took place.
RF: Right. Maybe they’ve zoned out for a moment, and all of a sudden now their interest gets perked. But your answer doesn’t much sense without you either rephrasing, or clarifying the answer.
Were you ever a tutor? Because that sounds like a classic tutor strategy.
For anybody who wants to know about how to effectively communicate, take lessons on being a tutor. Because there are specific ways to ask questions. There’s an amount of time to wait to let people answer questions. There’s rephrasing.
I’ve totally geeked out on the techniques of a tutor when it comes to communication, but that’s a whole other show. We might be building five shows out of this.
HD: I love that. I’ve never been a tutor, but I’m big on the art of listening. We could combine that with powerful, easy questions that can reframe an entire conversation, and leave people feeling magnificent, right?
RF: Yes. I’ve talked about studies that have been done on engagement. There’s one where they put two people in a room that haven’t met each other. They talk. Then they get exit surveys, and evaluate.
There’s a huge correlation that the more people talk, the more they feel connected. If you want other people to feel connected with you, talk less, and ask more questions.
HD: You’re going to love this. I challenge anybody listening to do this.
Literally ask people in a room to close their eyes, and think about the last time they left a conversation with someone where they felt really good about themselves. You just went away going, “wow.” You felt energized and lifted, not drained.
90% of the time that’s because they asked you questions, you did the talking, and they were great listeners.
You probably learned very little about them in the conversation. But man, you feel awesome, right?
You will literally get people to laugh because it’s exactly what you just said. Isn’t it amazing how little we as grown adults actually think about engaging with people at that level?
RF: Let’s bring this into the social media world, to modernize it.
If you’re constantly posting things, but not engaging with people, you’re not going to connect with them. Because many people scroll through their feeds, and see of all of their likes. But an actual reply is a thumb stopper.
By replying you can insert yourself into conversations, as well as spark conversations.
One of my favorite things to look at are Twitter conversations that go back and forth. Where it’s not just, here’s my tweet. It’s here’s my tweet, what do you guys think about this? That invites people to engage.
When you give audience members the chance to ask questions, or make comments, that makes them feel comfortable.
Even if you’re having dinner or a coffee with someone, ask more questions. Then after they’re done talking, own that silence.
I love the awkward silences in a conversation. It’s like a staring contest with your ears to see who gives up first.
HD: I love that. That’s a great visual. You’re really great at visuals. You’re also brilliant at storytelling.
Whether you’re online or on stage, what people will remember is the sizzle. The things you did that created a visual, or a story that landed the point.
You are brilliant at this. This is just in your DNA, isn’t it?
RF: Yes. It’s in my freckles really.
I’m super passionate about getting people to shorten the amount they say to allow for more engagement. My 313 concept helps people describe any idea, business, or even themselves in three sentences, then one sentence, and then three words.
You talked about finding something you’re passionate about, that gets you up in the middle of the night just to develop that idea further. For me that is 313.
Once you find that beacon, everything else falls into place. Because everything else either supports that idea, or doesn’t, and then slowly starts to fade out. Everything you’re doing then ends up funneling into this one big traffic free lane.
HD: I love that visual. I also don’t want anybody to miss the passion coming through your voice.
Look at your ideas, your brilliance. When people are on the path of developing their gifts, talents, and strengths, they’re doing something they feel strongly compelled to do from within, and they’re unstoppable.
Look at all the ideas, passion, and emotion you’ve just thrown out. It’s great to be a to witness that.
RF: It’s empowering to be able to help any person listening to listen to themselves, and acknowledge their path.
Let’s talk about listening. You have to listen to yourself. Because if you feel excited about what you’re doing, recognize that means you’re on the right track.
Some people have careers, as well as a side hustle that’s really exciting to them. But they don’t listen to themselves, and see how exciting that hustle is. They don’t realize they can incorporate core parts of their side hustle into their main job, and just be happier, more fulfilled, and do better work.
HD: That’s so true.
RF: Enough about me. What’s your third story?
HD: Wait, I’m kind of liking this. I think I’m going to have you on my show. I think this is way too much fun. There’s all these things I want to ask you.
RF: We will totally have to do a pod swap. #podswap.
HD: Okay, let’s do it. We’re totally going to hashtag that, and do it.
I love my third story, because it is so relevant.
Remember I had two little children, started Worldwide Etiquette, started doing all this stuff with leaders. I ended up in the African American Consulate, and doing work with IBM. Before I knew it I was getting all this work to help leaders, and consultants.
I realized this is not just about speaking, It’s realizing what can I do to help people overcome the obstacles that are in their way.
I started listening to my voice, following my path, and just kept letting the doors open. But I do believe, and this is really important for the listeners to hear. I truly believe that the good or bad times we go through in life, are opportunities to grow.
I’ve been through a lot of tough times. But I can look back at those and say, “That had to happen.” There are seasons of life.
At that time in my life I was going through a really rough time. I was going through a divorce. I found a niche in the insurance industry where I was working with a lot of brokers, and helping them build a book of business. I was consulting them.
The CEO out of the east coast said, “You’re helping all of our brokers do this, you really should be one.” I looked at him, laughed, and said, “Over my dead body. I would hate that. I just like working with them.”
Over the next six months every time I was asked, I said the same thing.
There came a day when I said, “You can’t afford me.” I used every excuse in the book. Yet they kept twisting my arm, fingers, and toes.
Finally I thought, you know what, maybe this is what I’m meant to do right now, because of the timing. I’m single now with two children. I have financial security. Deep down inside in the depth of my soul I said, “Yes. I’ll do this.”
I was determined and very competitive, because there’s not a lot of women in the industry.
If it typically took a broker 7 to 11 years to build a book, I was going to knock one out of the park and make it happen in a lot shorter time.
Within two years I won the President’s Club. I was one of the first women in the entire midwest to achieve that. The point is I made a choice that at the time was the right thing to do in the space of where I was in my life.
What happened over time is I got so far removed from the depth of who I was, and what I love to do, that I found myself going to my bed or closet every night after putting my children to bed, and crying myself to sleep.
I was miserable. I hated what I was doing.
But the world was telling me I’m really good. I was getting plaques. I was winning awards. I was making good money. I mean, I won President’s Club.
I started wondering, “What is wrong with me? Something must be wrong with me. I feel really guilty that I’m not loving this, that I’m hating this.”
It took one moment. I woke up and I thought, I can’t do this anymore. I’m going to make a plan. I’m going to go back to having my business, and working with a lot of clients doing what I feel driven to do. Where I can bring my best.
I didn’t do it overnight, Ryan. I made a plan that spanned 12 months. Because financially I knew I had to plan for my children.
I reached out to old clients. Doors opened so fast I can’t even tell you. I took that leap of faith. When I reached my 12 month deadline I resigned on good terms. They still wanted to use me, and consult with me. It was perfect. I ended up having them as a client.
The point of this story is you have no idea the impact you’re making on the people around you.
This was within two weeks of going back to having my own clients, and leaving that horrific, very draining experience.
I was in the kitchen with my two beautiful boys, and we were cooking dinner with the music going. We love to dance, and it had been a long time since we’d done that.
My oldest son turned off the music and said, “What’s happened, Mom? You’re so happy.” My little one, who at the time had a little precious little lisp went, “Yeah Mommy, you don’t yell at us anymore.”
In that moment I thought, wow, I had no idea the impact I was having on my children by being so miserable.
That was my confirmation that no matter what I’m never going to look back. I’m going to keep looking forward. I’m not living in “Woe is me”, I’m living in “Wow is me.”
I’m going to be that mom, and I’m going to be that woman in this world that’s going to continue to create an extraordinary life no matter what it takes.
RF: I feel you. I am giving you an official clap on behalf of everyone here. It is a clap of thank you for the authenticity, and being raw right there. I think a lot of people can relate to being miserable.
This ties back into listening. If you’re not listening, you can hear things, but you still aren’t truly listening. You hear these awards, and you hear the accolades. You hear at a very surface level. You assume that what you hear is good.
But when you really stop and listen, you hear things you might not have heard before. Sometimes that comes up after the fact.
I think the fear of stepping away from something secure is what holds a lot of people back.
It’s kind of the archetype situation.
Where if you’re looking for a girlfriend, you don’t find one.
But as soon as you stop, she appears. Or if you’re searching for a job, you can’t get a job.
Then when you stop focusing on getting the job, but focus on you, people start giving you offers.
That’s an inspiring example to not just trust your gut, but also listen to it.
HD: As a speaker the greatest gift you can give your audience is to put your ego in your back pocket. Choosing to be a speaker for your ego is the wrong way to go about it. We are messengers, and we are servants when we’re in that space.
What makes for a really successful career is being willing to embrace fear. We’ve got to face it, and we’ve got to lead by example.
RF: I completely agree. If you, me, and Ginger were on Gilligan’s Island, we would cheer with our coconuts right now The Professor would walk by and roll his eyes, because he’s working on some contraption to get us off the island.
Let’s say that Mary Ann cruises by, and she’s like, “Well I like what you guys are talking about, but I’m not comfortable communicating my story.” I think people have a message, but they don’t know how to communicate it, or their ego might get in the way.
What would be your top three tips for somebody who has a message, but doesn’t know how to express it?
After we understand those tips, we can take the next step. Which is, how would you encourage people to deliver the message in different arenas, areas, or methods, right?
The first idea is from a tactical standpoint. Is there anything that has really helped you out, or when you’re working with your clients you’re like, “Stop, we’ve got to work on this first?”
Because I don’t think you should be trying to get paid to speak. I think you should be passionate about stories you’d like to share, and people will pay you for that. I’m curious of your top three tips when it comes to creating this authentic delivery of a real message.
HD: I love that. Can I just say though Ryan? I’m laughing, because I had this visual. When you took me back to the island with Ginger and Mary Ann. The reason I have to say this is just because my husband and I laugh because I used to always wanted to be Ginger. Then he would go, “I used to think Mary Ann was the hot one.”
RF: Well then it’s a good thing your husband wasn’t on the island. I’m glad that you got off and found him, because that could have been dangerous.
HD: Right as you said that my face just started glowing. I’m like, “Great, of course you say Mary Ann walks by.”
RF: I was going to say the Skipper, but I didn’t think he’d really be into sharing his story. He’s more of a grump, and into himself. He’s more concerned about slapping Gilligan on the head with his hat.
HD: I think we’re going to do a whole story just on Gilligan’s Island, because now it’s just killing me. We’ve got to do something, this is way too much fun.
HD: Do it. Podswap. We’re doing it. Island style. That would be a whole talk.
RF: I’ll make sure that I’m on my boat with reception, just to make it really authentic.
HD: Will you promise? I swear I want that. I would love that. We’re totally doing that. I know everybody listening is going to be like, when are they going to do this.
Because then we have to dangle the carrot back to the Ginger, and make sure that we’re letting people know.
Back to the message. I love that question. I think it’s so interesting, that currently in our space, in our world, stories are a big buzzword. You see this even within the corporate space with a lot of leaders getting workshops around storytelling.
People want leaders to be authentic, and tell a story that makes them real. But not everybody is comfortable with sharing a story.
My first tip is no one, and I’m going to say this as though I’m putting the velvet hammer down, no one, dangit, gets to tell your story but you. You write your own story. It starts with you.
I truly believe everybody has a story that if they can get clear on, and get honest with it, there’s somebody else’s life that can be impacted because of it.
This is what I do. Get out a journal. I say, “What’s your vision?” You say, “20/20.” Number one, I take 20 minutes for meditation, prayer, quiet time. That’s for self reflection, and it’s the most important time of my day.
Number two, I walk or swim.
In both of those spaces I’m completely alone. I listen. There’s so much wisdom that can come from within. Start writing what’s coming up for you.
There’s a few questions you can ask yourself. At the top of a page put, what am I fascinated by? What are my successes? What are my wins in life? What drove that? Then maybe what are some of the hurdles? What got you through those hurdles?
I always say, our resilience is golden. Your message is around your wins, your successes. What makes you brilliant in this world? What do you love? What fascinates you?
Also, what have you been through? Don’t shove it under the carpet, own it, honor it, and figure out what it is that drove that. What did you do to tap into your resilience that got you through those really dark times? That’s where you’re going to find your story, and nobody can do that but you. That’s my first piece.
RF: I dig the actionable steps there. To actually have a journal, and this pun on 20/20 vision. To have 20 minutes of self reflection, and then I’m assuming 20 minutes to really explore some of these thoughts based on questions like, what am I fascinated by? What are my successes? That kind of stuff. Is it a 20 minute activity, and then a 20 minute writing?
HD: I actually do 20 minutes of quiet time, 20 minutes of exercise, alone, and then I do 20 minutes of writing.
RF: It’s 20/20/20. There’s three sets of 20, look at that.
HD: Look at that. It’s your three. I always say, my vision is 20/20/20, not just 20/20.
RF: You can call it the 20/3, 3 x 20. Which is 60, which is easily dividable by 3 as well.
Let’s focus on number2. What is the number two top tip for the mechanics of expressing the story that you’re finding with the 20/3?
HD: When you say mechanics, are you thinking about somebody who has never shared their story, or are you thinking about people who are actually out there talking and speaking?
RF: Here’s the thing. The first tip really caters to the people who have a story, but they don’t know how to share it. If you have a story, and you’re at that stage, do the 20/20/20. If you are a speaker who is already speaking, do the 20/20/20.
But I think the second tip should be once you’ve done six months of the 20/20/20, and you are already speaking. What are some of those second tier tactics?
HD: Get really good at listening to clients. Your story can weave, but it needs to be relevant.
Once you’re at a place where you’re getting comfortable, you’ve shared your story, and it has got a message, people will begin to want the experience they had with you.
I’ve been very, very blessed in speaking around the world. But my clients are all referral.
It’s not because I came and shared 45 minutes of all about me. It’s because what I did was find a way to really listen to the clients, and find out what their needs are.
I asked them, “Do you want this to be a small or large experience? What do you want people walking away with?” Then it’s up to me to pick which story of mine is relevant to share.
For example, the story of the cruise ship was a great story to share for the back to school event I did not too long ago for all of Bentonville, Arkansas. But would I ever share my story about leaving the corporate world? No. Because that’s relative to the corporate arena, or entrepreneurs.
My point is to get really clear on what your clients want.
This brings me to figuring out what your expertise is. You can’t launch yourself into a speaking career unless there’s a reason people want to hear from you.
Pull a platform from your story that you can share with people, as well as the reason they should listen to you. Tie that platform to their outcomes, their needs.
We could spend two hours talking about this, I am so excited about this topic.
RF: I can’t tell at all. You sound super depressed. You’re like the person looking at their PowerPoint slide as they read it, with their back to the audience in a monotone voice saying, “This is what I’m really passionate about.” They’re for learning, not reading, everyone.
HD: Absolutely. I love your lines.
RF: I have a stick figure form of this somewhere on my Instagram or Twitter.
We’ve got a basic beginner tip. Then we have a mid-range tip. What is one of the most advanced tips that you can give someone who is an emerging, existing, or super experienced professional speaker?
HD: No matter how seasoned you are, the minute you get in your own way, and you let your ego take over, your audience knows it. No matter how experienced, or revered you are, always show up as a servant in this space.
I don’t care if you’re speaking to thousands of people, or ten, you are there to serve. They’ll sniff you out if you think it’s about you.
This is about what I can do to serve and support this group, or this event. What is it they really want their people leaving thinking, and feeling?
When you can do that my friends, you will be at the place I am now, where I get to turn business down. That’s a joy.
Now when I say that I don’t want people to think I’m being selfish or greedy. Turning away business is about knowing my limits, and knowing the areas where I can serve people at the highest level.
Turning away business is about knowing when I don’t have the experience for a certain topic. Then I say, “I do know some speakers who are great at negotiation skills, or coming in and talking about neuroscience.” Because that’s not my thing, I’m not going to play there.
Another tip for highly seasoned professional speakers is to stop trying to be everything to everybody. Don’t you see that happen a lot my friend?
RF: Many times. I want to piggyback off of that. If you have opportunities that come your way that are not within your swing zone, one of the best things you can do is say, “That’s not in my swing zone, but let me introduce you to Holly, she’s all about that.”
In the world of professional speaking, there is nothing I love more than giving a straight up referral to somebody, and placing them into a speaking spot on stage. That favor has come back so many times.
This is an interesting transition to our final third act here. I’ve referred tons of people to speaking engagements that aren’t in my swing zone. I have been referred by those same people who have identified, “This would be great for Ryan.”
It’s about serving other speakers by listening to what their expertise is.
The organizer will respect you for giving them someone that’s a better fit. Then you will be in their mind for a better fit later on.
HD: Yes. I think people stay so siloed. I don’t know if it’s the fear of if I give somebody the business, are they never going to have me back. But this world functions because we choose to share, and we choose to give.
A client is going to love you even more for being honest, and they’re going to come back to you when they know you’re going to be perfect for what they need.
When I say, “I’ve got this amazing guy, he’s perfect for what you need, his name is Ryan. Here, I’m going to make an intro,” trust that you’ve just made that client even happier. Because you’ve made it about serving the client, not yourself. Right?
RF: Yes. People might think that sounds better than it is. But I have to just say, that’s what happens.
I’m speaking at a conference in 2018. They’ve already booked me, and it’s all set up. They reached out to me to help find other speakers. I’ve helped place three or four people that I know with them.
They sent me an email saying, “Oh my gosh, we are so excited about you.” That’s not because of what I’m bringing up, but because of the people I’m bringing.
I get to trail off of those referrals. I’m able to bring other speakers to the table I respect, and learn from. That’s reminds me of the one boat the Professor keeps making, which actually gets me further and further from the island each time.
HD: That’s a great visual.
RF: That’s number one. We just blended that one together. In order to get more speaking gigs, help others get more speaking gigs.
RF: What’s number dos.
HD: It’s interesting. You just hit on something I want to take to the next level.
Do you know the event lineup? Do you know who is speaking before you, or after you? Do you take the time to find out?
I always ask permission to sit in on the beginning sessions, or the tail end of the day before, if I’m on in the morning. For one, you get to hear what that audience is hearing prior to you. You get to know the speaker before you.
Many times I’ll reach out eight months in advance, and I’ll get on the phone with the other speakers, and talk about what they’re planning on doing. Because I want all our talks to weave together.
I’m not a fan of speakers walking in with a canned our out of a box speech. Where they have no idea who their flipping audience is, nor do they know what the overarching theme of the event is. They don’t know why one person was before them, and another person after them.
Take the time to get to know the other speakers, and what are they going to be talking about. I love to listen to the people before me. That allows me to weave their talk into mine right when I go up on stage.
When you take the time to do that, the event is seamless for the client. Which is great, because at the end of the day everybody is there to serve the client.
RF: I love it. To build off of that, here’s an online strategy I use. Twitter is my favorite platform, because it’s all about simplifying the message.
If I’m speaking at an event I will find all of the other speakers on Twitter, and I will connect with them. I will spend a few minutes on their profile, and like, share, or show support for the content I agree with and like.
I then take all of them, and put them on a Twitter list. That way I can actually engage with them on Twitter prior to the event, and support them along the way.
That Twitter love is a great way to build relationships with people eight, or however months before an event. Using Twitter lists to connect with, and aggregate these groups of speakers is a very high impact, low effort tactic.
HD: I love that. It’s a no brainer. Everybody should be doing that. Other speakers love it when you do that too. I just did that with a group of speakers.
I was speaking at the United Nations a few weeks ago for a big annual event, the Girl Up Initiative. There were some amazing celebrities, and all kinds of stunning speakers on the docket.
We did exactly what you said. We got everybody’s names. Everybody was hashtagging each other, and getting everybody excited. We were all there to serve one common purpose.
To your point, do it as far out as you can. But look at those simple things.
Guess what gang? This isn’t rocket science. It’s common sense, it’s just not common practice.
RF: I like that. What is one final, no brainer trick to helping people book more business? What’s one of these items everybody has access to do, but not everyone is doing?
HD: Stop trying to drum up new business from cold leads. Start where the love is. Go with the clients you’ve had an experience with, even if it has been five years.
Stay close to the people you’ve had a great experience with. Reach out to them. Stay in touch with them. Go where the love is.
If you do that you won’t have to beat doors down, and you won’t have to prove yourself. Those past clients will be asking you for more. They love being stayed in touch with. Especially the meeting planners gang.
Meeting planners are like the kings and queens of this world, and we should be taking very good care of them. A company may move on, but they’ll never forget you. Be an amazing speaker to work with. Be there to serve, and make their life easier. Just go where the love is.
RF: Well I’m feeling the love Holly.
I really feel like in this last 45 minutes I’ve gotten to know you, and learn more of your story. You’ve been a great listener from my perspective, to where I don’t feel like you’ve just been a talking head on the show.
The tips are always great reminders, even for myself. Even just hearing you reiterate some of the simple things to do is inspiring.
I’d love to #podswap with you. I have a feeling that we will stay in touch.
I think that our Gilligan’s Island, Ginger nation pride is something we’ll talk about in 50 years and I’ll be like, “Oh, I remember that one where we kept talking about Gilligan’s Island.”
HD: I think we’ve just started something. I know you have an amazing listenership. If people want to know more about certain topics we hit on, just let me know Ryan.
This has been a joy, and I can’t wait to have you on my show, The Celebration of You. Then I’ll get to shine the spotlight on you my dear.
RF: Sweet. I’ll put on some sunscreen, because Gingers are sensitive to the light.
Well hey everybody, this is the GingerMC. This has been amazing.
I’m looking forward to connecting with you further. Have an amazing day, week, year, life, all that stuff, and we’ll be in touch soon.
HD: Absolutely. Thank you my dear. You are amazing.
A bit about World of Speakers
World of Speakers is a weekly podcast that helps people find their own voice, and teaches them how to use their voice to develop a speaking business.
We cover topics like: what works versus what doesn't, ideas on how to give memorable presentations, speaking tips, and ideas on how to build a speaking business.
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