Ryan Foland speaks with Daniel Midson-Short, an inspirational speaker who teaches audiences around the world on ‘Practical Personal Development’, which is basically the ‘What, Why and How’ of living a great life.
Your talks was named a top ten choice by Forbes for TED talks to help you take action. Tell us about that talk. I mean that’s pretty sweet.
Listen to this podcast to find out:
How using the minimalist philosophy can benefit your audience.
Why practicing in front of a group (like ToastMasters) is crucial for leveling up your speaking skills and 10x-ing your self confidence.
Why being a famous speaker is not the be all and end all and how having it be your only goal can affect your audience.
Why you need to get the fundamentals of speaking down before you can expect to level up your speaking business.
How changing your perspective can change whether or not you get paid to speak.
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Daniel Midson-Short: This is Daniel Midson-Short, speaker and writer, here on World of Speakers with Ryan Foland. Today we talk about my journey as a speaker, and how to turn your hobby as a public speaker into a paid professional.
Ryan Foland: Welcome back everyone to another episode of World of Speakers. This podcast is focused on finding people who are speaking around the world, who have message they want to share, and who more importantly want to share with you their story, their tips, as well as how they make money while they speak.
Ladies and gentlemen, I am excited because today our guest is Daniel Midson-Short. He was one of my original mentors during my first Toastmasters experience. I have seen this guy grow, and grow, competing at the world championship level of public speaking.
He’s somebody I look up to, a friend I have beers with, and someone I’m constantly learning from as well. I’m excited to take all of your brain power, Daniel, and scatter it across the world during this World of Speakers Podcast episode. How are you doing?
DM: I’m doing great. How are you doing Ryan?
RF: Good. Cheerio. We should play a little game called who can have the worst accent. Mine is fake, and yours is real.
I just said to you before we started talking that your accent gets worse every time I talk to you. It has downgraded from quasi-Australian, to half English Australian.
Now you’re just a full English geezer.
You’ve just gone the whole way.
RF: I know one of the big things you encounter first when you meet people is their confusion about your accent.
Tell us about where you came from.
Let’s hear about Daniel Midson-Short. From running from drop crabs, to getting mistaken for an Englishman, all that good stuff.
DM: You’ve got it. I’m originally from Sydney, Australia.
I’ve lived in beautiful Orange County, California for about seven and a half years. I’m an expat Aussie at this stage of my life. I grew up there for the first 32 years of my life, so my accent is still pretty strong. That’s my original story.
I’m here in the US today because I volunteered myself.
My company said, “Come west, young man.” They had an opening.
I decided I would like to try my hand at being a presenter and trainer in the US. It was a big challenge when I started.
That led me into the Toastmasters world where I practiced my speaking.
That led to more professional opportunities to do TED talks, keynotes, and as you said, compete in the World Championships of Public Speaking.
It has been a bit of a wild ride over the past five years.
RF: Are you one of those people who have always been outgoing? Have you always been center stage, and this is just a natural evolution of you as a person?
DM: Not at all. I would say I’m what you would call an ambivert. I don’t know if you’ve heard that term. It means half introvert, half extrovert.
I think I’m one of those people in that middle ground, where I do enjoy being on stage and talking. It’s very fun and fulfilling.
But at the same time I love quiet time, and I have no problem just sitting there in the background. I’m right in the middle there.
In my very early life I was terrified to speak. I was almost a mute. I used to do strange things like flap my arms, and shake all over the place, instead of actually verbalizing anything.
It is kind of amazing today that I’ve come from hardly being able to speak as a child, to being able to talk on stage in front of thousands of people all around the world.
RF: What’s the term again?
DM: Ambivert. It’s similar to an ambidextrous person can write with both their left and right hand. It’s ambi, which means both, and then vert. You’re both extroverted and introverted.
RF: You can go back and forth.
I’ve been over to your place, we’ve had some beers, and it’s decorated a bit differently. Would you call yourself a minimalist, or an essentialist?
DM: I tend to classify myself as a minimalist. When I moved countries seven years ago, I sold everything I owned.
As a side note, I recommend at some stage of your life if you’re feeling brave, to move to a new place and start over.
I got to the US and I realized, you know what, I didn’t need all that stuff. I had all this stuff in my house that was taking up my time, and my space, and so I didn’t buy most of it back.
When people like you come to my house they ask, “Where’s all your stuff?” I say, “I don’t have much, I just have what I need.”
Don’t get me wrong, I have all the things you need to live.
Minimalism keeps your house pretty tidy, and I find it actually keeps your mind very clear, because you’re not spending your life chasing things.
A big trap you can fall into is thinking you need to get the latest car, the latest clothes, or the latest technology. What’s amazing is when you start to shed those things, you automatically focus more on your relationships, your passions, and contributing to the world.
RF: Do you think being a minimalist influences the type of speaker you are?
Would you consider yourself a minimalistic speaker, if there is such a thing?
DM: I definitely am in my presentations. If you’ve ever seen my keynotes, you will notice that my PowerPoint slides only have one picture or thing on them usually.
They’re very minimalist in that way. I don’t include a lot of data, or visual details.
I try to have a maximum of three points in my presentations, which is a tip I learned from this genius guy called Ryan Foland. The rule of three. I think your mentor taught you that, right? One, two, three, many.
RF: Yes. That’s how we count. That’s why there’s three little pigs, and three blind mice. The number three pops up in the world everywhere.
DM: Three wise men.
RF: The 313. Look at that. There’s three elements.
DM: There you go. That reminds me of when you recommended that book Essentialism to me. I recommend that book to the listeners as well. It’s a great book.
RF: I think it’s by Greg McKeown.
DM: Yes. Essentialism is a great concept. It helps you focus on the most essential, the most important things to you as a person. When you share that with the world, people resonate with it.
RF: That makes me think of when I see people give speeches and keynotes in general, and they try to give too much information.
There’s such value in being a minimalist, and only speaking about the most important elements of what you want to communicate to the audience.
I think we’re so close to our material sometimes that we don’t realize these are groundbreaking concepts for people hearing about this for the first time.
DM: That’s true.
You have this masterpiece you’ve created. You fall in love with it. You have a bunch of ideas built together that all coincide and work together.
But other people either don’t care, or they don’t understand certain concepts the way you do.
Then you’ve got to cut the information down and trim it.
One of the great things about the speech contests I’ve entered is that you only have five to seven minutes to share one idea, so you have to really tailor everything around it.
That has taught me a lot in terms of what is essential.
It’s hard sometimes, because you love a certain line, a certain joke, or a certain concept, and it just doesn’t need to be there.
RF: That’s the reason I love Twitter so much. Because I want to say so much, but I’m forced to shorten it into a small snippet.
Your competitive speeches being five to seven minutes is kind of like the Twitter of competitive speaking.
DM: It definitely is a real challenge.
RF: Let’s talk real quickly about Toastmasters. I know that that’s where we first met. You’re still super active.
You’re one of the most masterful Toastmasters I know.
For those people who don’t know about it, I think it might be worth giving them the high-level.
Then we can transition into some of the things you’ve learned through Toastmasters, outside of Toastmasters, and prepare people to be the best speakers they can be.
What is this Toastmaster thing?
DM: Toastmasters is a worldwide organization which started around 93 years ago here in Orange County.
It was started by a gentleman who wanted to have a place where people could practice and prepare speeches for their professional career.
Very often people are not born with the skill to get in front of a group and present, and they need a forum for it. Toastmasters to me is a gym for public speaking.
You sit there and work with other people who are on the same journey as you.
Same as when you go to a gym, and you have people who are more advanced than you. But you begin your journey the same as they once did, and get better and better over time.
The more consistent you are in practicing, and going through the different modules they have. Things like professional speaking, or speaking for sales training, or for negotiating. The better you get at those, almost by accident because you’re practicing so much, when you get into real world situations you’re suddenly good at it. Then you say, “I can do this now.”
Toastmasters has been a secret weapon in my professional career.
When I did a lot of communication training and workshops, my peers and coworkers sometimes asked me, “How are you getting so good?” Because in their eyes they were presenting the same amount as me professionally. But behind the scenes I worked out in the Toastmasters gym every week, or a couple times a week, so my skill increased a lot faster.
RF: You’ve taken that skill, and branched off into the startup world as well. You’re not only a professional trainer, but you’ve also dabbled in the startup world. How much do you think your ability to effectively communicate has helped you find success in that realm?
DM: It’s an interesting world. I wouldn’t say I’m a pure entrepreneur. I often label myself as more of a onetrepreneur.
RF: Or are you an ambidextrepreneur?
DM: Or an ambipreneur.
RF: You’re an ambipreneur. You’re either an entrepreneur, or you’re not. But you’re both.
DM: I think my skill in the startup world is similar to yours, in that I help people to shape their message.
I’ve been involved in a couple of companies and startups that are very good at getting their idea off the ground, but can’t articulate that idea well either to investors, or to their customers.
Very often with startups you’ve got to pitch. It’s not a skill they work on until it’s time to do the presentation. The idea is, “I’ll just wing it on the day,” which can sometimes work.
But a little bit of preparation and thought about the core messaging, and the market need, and all the things you have taught me as well. If you can then couple those with this ability to speak, it becomes much more influential.
Being involved in startup businesses as a co-founder has really helped me. As well as assisting friends who have started their own business. Being able to present really has an impact.
RF: I agree with you completely. You can have the best idea in the world. But if you can’t communicate in a way that not only makes sense, but gets people excited, then you’re going to have an uphill battle, in a battle that’s already uphill.
RF: I recently saw that one of your talks was named a top ten choice by Forbes for TED talks to help you take action. Tell us about that talk. I mean that’s pretty sweet.
DM: The talk for Forbes is called Pay Attention.
I have two TEDx talks that I’ve done so far. Pay Attention is a talk that’s about one of the core messages I speak about in my keynotes. It’s a message I’ve crafted over several years.
It’s this idea that in the world today it’s very difficult to focus, and to pay attention to what’s important to you. It goes back to minimalism, knowing what’s most important to you.
I won’t ruin the TED talk in case someone wants to watch it. But I had an experience where I could see very clearly what was distracting me from what is important to me in my life while I was on a vacation. It was a great lesson for me.
This is definitely going to sound corny, but I’ve gone back and watched my own TED talk a couple of times, when I get off track. I think, that’s right, that guy has the right message here, I need to listen to that.
When you’re the guy who did the talk, you have to live your message. That has stopped me from getting too enamored with technology, or getting distracted by things that aren’t really of value.
RF: Anyone listening to this, I suggest you Google Daniel Midson-Short TED, and you’ll see these videos pop up. They’re definitely worth your time. If you’re watching them on your phone, you’ll probably feel bad afterwards.
DM: Exactly. Everyone always hates me for that.
RF: Let’s transition into the second part of our show, which is about getting as much high value information as we can from you about how people can improve their speaking skills.
Remember, we have an audience full of aspiring speakers, and people who are already amazing speakers and want to get better.
Let’s focus on three of your top tips.
What would the biggest, best, and most impactful tip be?
DM: The first step is to focus on your skill as a speaker.
I honestly see a lot of speakers today who might be very passionate and knowledgeable about a topic, but they don’t have basic speaking skills.
They don’t have good eye contact, gesturing, lack of filler words, good posture, or voice tone.
Those little mechanics that come into play almost become invisible once you’re good at them. But if you don’t work on them to begin with, it’s like not learning the fundamental of football, basketball, or hockey. If you’re not good at the fundamentals, you can’t get to a higher level.
It’s interesting when you watch very high level speakers, they’re so good at those mechanics you don’t notice they’re using them. Only someone who is trained in those skills can say, “Wow, he’s got great transitions, he’s very good at pausing.”
The other thing, especially with something like Toastmasters, is if you’re practicing the skills, going through the motions every week, and actually getting up to speak, that takes away the fear factor.
I believe that self confidence comes down to competence. If you know how to do something reasonably well, you have competence, you’re much more confident, and you don’t have that fear.
I often use the example of driving a car.
If you’re driving a rental car in a new city, you’re not an experienced driver in that car, and you don’t know where you’re going, you’re going to be more nervous.
But if you’re in your own car, and you’re driving around your own neighborhood, you have a lot of competence, so you feel much more confident in your ability.
I would say it takes about two years to get good at the mechanics of speaking.
Aim to do 100 speeches. If you do one speech a week for 50 weeks, you can have two weeks off a year. In two years you’ll have done 100 speeches.
By the time you reach your 100th speech, I guarantee you’ll have competence, and you’ll also have confidence as a speaker. That’s my first tip.
RF: Let’s dig a little bit more into that first tip. What are some of the speaking skills you’re talking about?
Because I am speaking right now, but is that considered good practice?
DM: We could go for hours on this topic. It is subjective, obviously, what makes a good speaker.
RF: Right. But what are some of these mechanics?
Because I like this concept.
It’s not about focusing on the topic, but about the mechanics.
Having the wherewithal to plan and do 100 speeches, that’s awesome. But the question is, can you learn by yourself, or do you have to have other people teaching you?
If somebody were to go through 100 speeches without feedback, and people giving them insights, tips, or tricks, couldn’t they end up at the same level of speaking? Or do you just inherently learn to become better by yourself? Is it a natural process?
DM: “I think both are the answer,” to quote Forrest Gump.
If you’re on the path of practicing 100 times, you’re going to naturally get better.
But one of the beautiful things about something like Toastmasters is the evaluation process.
If you go in and do a speech at Toastmasters, there may be a theme, such as “Getting to the point.” Then you have to learn how to structure your speech around a particular point.
The theme might be “Your body speaks” where you have to learn to use gestures to amplify your message.
It might be “pausing,” “eye contact,” “voice tone,” “energy”... If you start to focus on those little fundamentals, over time you’ll get better at them.
For instance, if you have someone who is very quiet and shy who comes in to do speech, and you say to them just speak a lot louder, yell at the audience. For them their yelling will probably be a normal volume, because they’re very quiet and timid.
If you tell them if you talk very loud, the audience actually resonates better because you seem to have more energy, suddenly they have almost this self commission and they say, “Oh, I can talk louder. I’m allowed to.” If someone speaks really quickly, you tell them to speak really slowly.
Eventually over time they become an improved version of themselves.
I would say it’s both.
Definitely just doing the work, going through 100 speeches is a great milestone, and it’s also good practice if you’re doing it every week. But then as well having the evaluations, and the mentoring will make you an even better speaker.
Also studying the skills of speaking. There’s tons of books and podcasts like this one, and different things you can do that will help you to improve along the way.
RF: I have three things to say. Number one, you’d make a good politician.
Number two, your answer was straight up an ambiguous answer. I’m like, what’s the answer Daniel? You’re like, “Well it’s yes and it’s no.” I’m seeing a theme here with what’s going on.
Then number three is what are these books? Can you name three off the top of your head? Because I’ve had a lot of people ask me this, and I don’t think there are that many books about public speaking I’ve found really helpful. What are some of your favorites?
DM: One would be TED Talks by Chris Anderson, the guy who started TED. I think he just published that last year. It’s a great book because it’s very technical about speaking, in terms of why to do something, and why not to do something. He uses examples you can Google, and then watch the actual videos. That has probably been my favorite book in the last year.
Some other ones I really love are World Class Speaking by Craig Valentine, who is the 1999 World Champion of Public Speaking. He has got great ideas how to communicate with an audience, how to tell stories, how to connect, and be very human.
The third one is a great book by Scott Berkun called Confessions of a Public Speaker. I like that one because it’s very honest about the real world of public speaking. He writes about the travel aspects, getting to the venue, and feeling prepared, and what happens if an audience falls asleep. Things that you don’t realize until you’re up on stage and realize, “Oh, not everyone loves me? Okay.” He’s very honest about the real life of speaking.
Then a fourth one I haven’t finished reading, but I’m really liking is Steal the Show by Michael Port. He has a podcast called Steal the Show as well. He comes from the acting world, so he blends the idea of being an actor and a speaker. He talks about the motivation you have as a speaker, being in the right state, and different things like that. Sorry, that was four, not three.
RF: I’ll only count it as three because technically you haven’t finished one yet.
DM: You’re right. It has been so good so far I just had to add it in there.
RF: You have your three books. Then you happened to share with us there’s another one you’re reading.
The second big tip you have to help people to improve their speaking skills is?
DM: Work on your content. I said in the beginning you want to work on your mechanics, your speaking fundamentals. The second is to work on your content.
A lot of people think, “I know a little bit about this topic, and so I can just get up and talk about it.” Especially if it’s you’re own business, or your own life experience.
I have learned that the deeper you understand a topic, the more you become an expert on it, and the more engaged the audience becomes with what you’re doing. Especially if they’re asking you questions before or after the event.
If you’re speaking on stage, then after people come up and ask you questions, the depth of your understanding and knowledge around the topic starts to show. It also increases your confidence, because you really feel like, “I know this topic. I believe in the message I’m sharing here, the tips and the ideas that I have.”
I think a great example of that would be someone like Elon Musk. I love Elon Musk, but he is not a great fundamental speaker.
But his passion for his topic, and his depth of knowledge is so profound that it almost carries him.
He’s already influential.
But imagine if he actually worked on the fundamentals of speaking how much more influential he would be. He is a great example of someone who really studies, and understands in depth his businesses, and his goals for those businesses.
Work for two years on your fundamentals. Then at the same time if you have something you want to speak about, really study that topic, and understand the history of it. Understand why you came up with the idea. You can journal about it, you can take notes.
You can do the same speech over and over again, refining and iterating it, making a 5-minute version, a 20-minute version, a 45-minute version. Trying to do it in podcast format, or video format. Play with the message, tighten it down.
The more you work on those things, the more effective you’ll be when you get to that two years and you have great content alongside your mechanics.
RF: There’s a concept out there that to be an expert, you have to know just a little bit more than everyone else. Do you agree with that, or do you think it’s not about knowing a little bit more than everybody else, but just knowing it to the best of your ability?
DM: I would agree with the second part. But I would also say keep going. Even if you’re done 50 keynotes on one topic, keep studying it. That keeps you fresh, and makes you more passionate about what you’re learning.
Certainly if you know a little bit more than other people, that will get you by to a certain extent. But if you want to be a renowned expert on something, if you want to be known for a particular topic, you almost have to be the world champion of that topic. You have to know it better than anyone else.
RF: That’s a good number two.
Do you have any suggestions one how to choose that topic?
A secondary question is this concept of being really good at a lot of different topics, versus being solely focused on one. Because I think there might be this inclination to believe that the more topics you can speak on, the better.
But what is your opinion on being the one person who is called on to speak about a specific topic, which may make it seem like you’re losing opportunity otherwise?
DM: I think it’s counterintuitive to think that the more things you can talk about, the more audiences you can reach. You’ll end up speaking more generically about many topics. If you’re talking about being motivated, overcoming fears, or starting your own business, if you’re not a really deep expert on that particular topic, someone else will take the lead on it.
If you look at someone like Simon Sinek, he started off in a management consulting position, talking about why some companies succeed. He has the book Start With Why, and then Leaders Eat Last. He was in that real world of management consulting and business.
But then suddenly when that viral video went out about his discussion about millennials in the workplace, you could see the depth of his knowledge in that particular topic. He talked off the cuff for almost 20 minutes.
What he was talking about was so important and clear it resonated and took off. If he chooses in the future to talk about millennials, I think he’s going to have a huge impact, because he is such a well researched author on that topic.
That example shows that sometimes the topic finds you in ways you don’t expect.
I started off as more of a generic motivational, inspirational type of speaker. I was talking about being motivated, being focused, and overcoming distractions.
Slowly that started to morph into this idea of how technology is influencing our relationships in the world, which is the thing I’m most fascinated by. I think technology has both good and bad attributes that simultaneously cause us to advance as well as regress.
I’m really interested in the topic of relationships, and how technology influences that. That is becoming my topic because every time I speak I’d have a piece of that in my keynote or in my presentation.
Then people would come up to me after and say, “I really like how you said that. That’s true. I need to think about that.” I developed the TEDx talks I did from the people who would tell me, “Yes, I really like what you said.” I doubled down on that part of the talk.
RF: That all makes a lot of sense. I think people can relate to that, or at least be inspired by it. Rounding up the top three tips from Daniel Midson-Short, number three is?
DM: Number three I learned from being part of the speech contest for Toastmasters, trying to win the World Championship of Public Speaking, which is a life goal for me.
I’m putting it out here today Ryan, I will be a World Champion of Public Speaking one day. 25 years from now somebody will listen to this and say, “Wow. That’s amazing. He’s right.” Right now it’s my goal, and I’m focused on it.
However, one of the challenges of competitive speaking is you become obsessed with winning all the trophies and the contests, and being labeled the winner. You start to forget that the audience who are listening to you is the most valuable part of your speech.
My most profound lesson over the last couple of years was learning that speaking is an act of service. You are there to give the audience value, your time, your attention, and your love.
Doing that makes the audience love you back. It makes them want to listen to you, and connect with you, because they can see you’re there to give, and not just try to get.
You can tell if someone speaking has an agenda, if they’re trying to show off, or get you to buy something, instead of giving. Versus a speaker who genuinely wants to share something of value. I think over time those speakers rise to the top, because they genuinely want to share something that contributes to their audience.
My third tip is speaking is an act of service.
RF: That’s a really great transition to the third part of our podcast, where you can take that idea of speaking as a service and turn it into a career. A career where you can earn extra income. Where speaking can be your side hustle.
I think focusing on service first is important. Then being able to use that message, and monetize it. There’s no shame in that game.
I know this is something you’re actively working on. But what are some of the things you’re picking up from other individuals who find success with this model? What are some of your insights and tips to monetize this message of service?
DM: I’ve never been a speaker who wanted to be a bestselling author, or have some audio program. That was never my desire or motivation.
I’m certainly not saying it shouldn’t be. Some people love that aspect. They want to be a writer. They want to sell programs, and have income that way. That’s a great way to further your value.
What I’ve learned most of all is that if you really focus on the quality of what you’re doing; the message, the fundamentals, and the mechanics of your speaking ability, and you have the right intention, success starts to come to you.
I’ve always treated my speaking as a hobby. You said a side hustle may be another way to put it.
I’ve always had a career as a consultant, and as a professional trainer. That has been on purpose, because I wanted my speaking to come from the heart. I didn’t want to feel like I have to go and chase speaking gigs so I can put food on the table. I wanted it to be I love to do this, and I do it as much or as little as I want.
I think there does come a point, in talking to a lot of professional speakers, where you start to make money from it. I’ve been paid very well to speak.
You might start to think, if I could just to ten of these a month I’d be rich. But sometimes ten speeches a month doesn’t fulfill you the same as two fulfills you. You’ve got to find that balance for yourself.
I’m starting to ask to be paid, because I feel the value of what I’m providing is there.
Because as you and a lot of speakers listening will know, you can speak for free as much as you want. Especially in the early days I recommend it, because you’re practicing.
But as time goes on people will get excited about your message and your skills. They’ll ask, “Can you speak at my event? Can you come and do this here? It would be wonderful to have you here.” That’s very flattering, I’d love to.
But then you notice you’re spending two, three, four, or five nights a week out speaking at places, and it’s costing you a lot of money and time.
I’ve learned to think of it as a value exchange. If someone asks me to speak, I’ll tell them I’m certainly open to that. Then I say I do charge a speaking fee, which is, and I tell them what it is. If they really get shocked and say, “Oh, we can’t pay you for that event.” I say to them, well look it’s not typically something I do for free unless it’s for a charity, or something like that.
I’ve started to put barriers in place of me speaking everywhere. That’s a lesson I’m still learning. I’m still becoming confident doing that.
Because over the years I’ve spoken so much for free that it has become almost my default. Now I’ve had to say, there’s value here, I’m providing this value, and I’ve got to ask to be paid for it.
Surprisingly when you ask very often people say, “Okay,” and they pay you. In the last 6 to 12 months I’ve started to say, wow, I can actually get paid for this.
Because the hard work of the fundamentals and the content creation has been done. Now while I’m giving out value, and serving my audiences, it’s important I actually receive value back in payment.
RF: I think that’s a great way to look at it.
I think if someone is on a sales call, and they need you to pay their rent and you’re broke, you’re going to smell that. In the same respect, if you’re trying to pitch yourself and your services, but you're also trying to also make it about getting paid, I think people smell it.
I think the best way to get paid for speaking is to have people want to pay you, versus asking for it.
I’ve seen a big turnaround in my own speaking career. There were times where I was out there scraping and scrapping to get anything.
Now a lot of things are inbound. People reach out to me. They hear about something I’ve done, or they’ll see me and it turns into a conversation about me speaking for them.
I’m at a certain point where I have so many things going on, people realize there needs to be money for me to pay attention.
If you are going to get somebody’s attention, and they’re high profile, a public figure, or somebody who is sought after, you assume you’ll have to pay for their attention. The more attention you can get on yourself, your message, and what you’re serving people, the more people will know they have to pay you to get attention. You’ve got to pay attention to that process.
DM: Definitely. Someone who wants to be an NFL player cannot go from nothing to an NFL player in one year. That’s 15 years of college football, and training. There’s so many years where you worked for free to get to the point where you get a contract. That’s just common knowledge.
Even someone like LeBron James who didn’t go to college, still worked his butt off to get to the point where he was skilled enough to be drafted. That reality is there, and it shows up in your ability too.
When you get on stage, and you can confidently speak, and talk about something of merit and of value, suddenly people go, “Wow, this is worth paying for.” They want to know more. It happens naturally.
It’s like the tipping of a needle. First they’re neutral about you. Then they’re very passionate about what you can do.
It’s very nice when you get compliments, and things like that. But I think as a speaker there comes a point when you have to say to yourself, I’ve done the work. Now I have to start asking for payment, or for opportunities.
If I can just add too. One thing you’ve helped me a lot with is, you’re very good at seeking out opportunities. You’re almost like a fisherman or a hunter, you’re always looking for new ways to catch opportunities.
I’ve learned to ask, can I speak at that event? Is that something I could be associated with? If you as a speaker are out there thinking about where your next gig coming from, what you can do to grow your influence, and to add more value to people, that attracts more of those paid opportunities to you.
RF: That is something I do. I applied to 12 different TEDx talks before I got my first one. Then I got asked to do a second one. I know I’ll continue to do more.
I believe you have to be somewhat humble in that approach. Don’t be fearful of rejection, that is just part of the process. There’s no shame in nominating yourself for something you think you could be recognized for.
You’ve got to start the snowball. You’ve got to get the snow together, and then keep building it.
I talk about this with the personal branding course we do at InfluenceTree about success stacking. Once you’re featured in Inc. once, it’s easier to get featured in Entrepreneur. Once you’re in Inc. and Entrepreneur, it’s easier to get featured in Forbes. Once you’re in Inc. Entrepreneur, and Forbes, then it starts stacking upon each other.
There’s no shame in scraping for that starting point. Scrape together the snow so you have somewhere to go.
DM: There you go. It even rhymes.
RF: I might even have to illustrate that with a stick figure.
DM: That’s a great example. You’re great at the stick figures that you draw. You are becoming known for that, because they’re valuable, they’re consistent, and they’re unique. I certainly know a lot of people who enjoy them too, because it’s a simple concept.
I mean really anyone could draw stick figures, and write something that’s clever or relevant. But you do it consistently, which builds your value. That’s a key message too.
RF: That’s very analogous to speaking, if you’re consistent with your speaking. First of all, speaking is something anyone can do who has the ability to speak. Even somebody like Stephen Hawking who doesn’t have the ability to speak can still communicate.
I talk a lot about how success doesn’t happen because those people are doing things that nobody else can do, success happens because successful people do things that everyone can do, but not everyone does. I really believe in that.
It’s very in line with what your first comment about focusing on what you’re doing, allowing for opportunities to show up.
It’s almost like when you’re trying to find a girlfriend, boyfriend, or a partner, and you’re so fixated on finding somebody that it just doesn’t work. Then you stop out of frustration. You’re like, “That’s it, I give up, I’m done.” Then all of a sudden I’m sitting on a plane next to somebody, end up talking with them for four hours, and the rest is history.
Do you have any other insights on how you’ve found success with making money?
DM: One of the things you’ve taught me is don’t be afraid to label, or name yourself as a speaker. I think for a long time it was a side hustle, or a hobby for me.
In my social media I would always think, I’m more of a consultant and a trainer. I don’t want to write I’m an inspirational speaker, that seems silly.
But then I realized I need to put that out there. I need to be brave and say, this is who I am, and this is what I love to do.
Interestingly when I started to do it, other people started to see me as that. Now when people think of me they think of inspirational speaking. It’s just starting to happen in my personal and professional life.
Because I’ve done some TED talks now, because I’m working towards winning the world championship, and I’m in the higher levels, I’m known now as a more skilled speaker. Very often people will say, “I’ve been following your journey. You’re doing so well in your speaking.” That never happened before, because I wasn’t brave enough to share the journey.
I know that comes from Gary Vaynerchuk too. He says, “Catalog or document your journey along the way.” I’ve been doing that more and more.
It’s amazing how that inspires people as well.
Just being brave enough to say, I’m an emerging speaker, I’m an emerging entrepreneur, whatever it is. People admire you when you have the courage to put it out there.
Then they think of you in that way, which attracts more success.
RF: I love that concept. It really comes down to personal branding.
My definition of personal branding is your brand is the intersection between what people already think about you, and what you want to be thought about.
Go out there and tell people, this is what I want you to think about me. Once you plant the seed in their mind of what you want to be known for, miraculously, and evolutionarily, their brain will start to look for things that reinforce that.
If you’re driving a car and you think to yourself you’re going to be late, it seems like there’s more traffic, you’re panicked, you look at the clock more, time just seems to move at warp speed.
You look for elements that will reinforce your thoughts.
If you can, help to create the perception in someone’s mind. You’re not convincing them of something that you’re not, you’re just helping to identify of the five or six things you know about me. I’ve got a weird accent, I’m this, and that, and whatever.
Identify that inspirational speaking is one of them you’re excited about, and they’ll start to think of you that way, and introduce you to people that way.
Here’s a little social media hack. If I look at your profile on Twitter, and you have a microphone in your hand, I know immediately that you’re a speaker. A really easy way to put out into the world who you are is to incorporate something that visually exemplifies what you do. That will help shape people’s first impression of you online.
DM: Definitely. You’ll notice too if you look at all of my social media, and I’ve learned this from you. It’s very consistent, and it says all the things we talked about today. Speaker, writer, expat, minimalist, it has all those things, because that’s who I identify myself as.
It’s interesting. People ask me, “what’s an expat? What’s a minimalist? What do you speak about? What do you write on?” They want to actually know.
I find being courageous in that way attracts business and interest to you.
That’s something I’ve definitely learned from you and from Leonard Kim as well, is just to be open and overt with your personal brand.
RF: I like that. Overt personal branding.
DM: Be shameless. Not too shameless. You don’t want to push it on people.
RF: It is a fine line. People don’t feel like they have control over what comes up when someone searches their name online. That is true only if you are not out there communicating who you are.
Because the more you establish yourself as what you want to be seen as, the more likelihood that eventually you’ll get featured in a major publication. When someone references, they’ll reference you by your title. I think that’s really powerful, because it gives you choice.
With Google, you feel like you have no control. But you do have control if you’re out there positioning yourself.
Here’s a final question for the final of the final. The difference between the two phrases professional speaker or public speaker. Do you have any thoughts? Do you prefer one over the other? Do you think one is good and one is bad? Do you use them both? Maybe it’s a ambidextervocabulary for you.
DM: I would say I’m an emerging professional speaker, I’m still learning obviously. But I would say anyone can be a public speaker. If you do a speech at your friend’s wedding, or something like that, you just did public speaking. The second you talk to two people in a crowd or a group, you’re a public speaker.
But there’s a difference. A professional is someone who takes it to the next level, kind of like a professional chef or race car driver. That’s the thing they do, and are known for. If you want to move into the realm of professional speaking, and you want to get paid for it, that’s a big part of being a professional.
But more than that, you need to have the world class skills, so you can compete against the other people also saying, “I’m professional.” Not that you have to enter into a contest, but you must have that level of skill and ability, and that takes time.
You don’t become a chef in two days. You don’t become a professional public speaker in two days. This is my fifth year I’ve been working on this, and it will probably take me to my eighth or tenth before I start to get more headwind, and people start to really know me. I know that it’s a long journey.
I would say someone who says “I want to be one of the best, and I want to give something of value to the world,” makes them professional.
RF: I dig that. I think that’s all great information. I’m super excited to have you on the show, it’s always fun to talk. I think at the end of the day you bring a unique perspective of someone who picked up and moved to this foreign country.
I love the fact that you’re walking your way through it. It was a hobby, you got traction, you saw the value in it. You still don’t say you’re a professional speaker, but I think you are. You’re still humble enough to say you’re an emerging professional speaker. It’s really about the journey.
If somebody wants to follow you on your journey as you go on to win the World Championships of Public Speaking, where’s the best place to follow you, and where would you direct them so they can find and explore your content that I know you create consistently.
DM: You can just Google my name, Daniel Midson-Short and my website will pop up. It’s Midsonshort.com. My Twitter, my Instagram, and my Facebook are all under Midson Short, making it all very consistent and easy. Just send me a message, add me, follow me. I’ll follow you back, and we’ll keep in contact.
RF: Right on. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, professional speakers, emerging speakers, this has been another amazing episode of the World of Speakers, bringing to you the best people to get you the best information. So then you can take that message, serve everyone with your words, and hopefully make some money at it.
This is Ryan Foland, and Mr. Daniel Midson-Short, if you would join me in saying with your best Australian accent good day mate.
DM: Good day, mate.
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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