World of Speakers E.115: Jeff Harry | Unleashing Your Inner Speaker


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World of Speakers E.115:  Jeff Harry | Unleashing Your Inner Speaker

Ryan Foland speaks with Jeff Harry who is a Positive Psychology Play Speaker. He shows individuals and companies how to tap into their true selves to feel their happiest and most fulfilled — all by playing.

In this episode of our podcast series, Ryan and Jeff discuss the importance of embracing failure, sharing authentic stories, and consistently putting oneself out there as key elements of successful public speaking. They also highlight the value of networking, leveraging various platforms, and finding joy in the journey of professional development as a speaker.

Tune in for an interview packed with ideas and tips on overcoming fear, finding authenticity, navigating the ups and downs of the speaking circuit, and ultimately rediscovering the joy of public speaking.

Listen to the interview on iTunes or Soundcloud.

Subscribe to World of Speakers on iTunes or Soundcloud.


Welcome to the World of Speakers podcast brought to you by SpeakerHub. In each episode, we interview a professional speaker and reveal their very best tips and tricks. You'll learn to improve your presentation skills, keep your audience engaged, and learn how to grow your business to get more gigs and make more money.

Here's your host, Ryan Foland.

Ryan Foland: Ahoy everybody and welcome to another episode of the World of Speakers. 

And today we have a very special guest who is going to speak from the heart. He does not make mistakes because everything he says is the truth. It's the type of person that you want to be connected with. And I wrote a book called Ditch the Act. And I'm pretty sure this dude's going to ditch all acts and he's going to speak from his true experience. Welcome to the show, Jeff. Was that about accurate? 

Jeff Harry: Well, that is, I guess pretty accurate. 

Ryan Foland: We're going to see. I don't know. 

Jeff Harry: So hopefully it's not an act. 

Ryan Foland: No, no. Well, I know your speaker. What are two other attributes that you can share with us from a top level? You're the one, two, and three. 

Jeff Harry: Yeah. I'm a play guy. So I research, play, and I play for a living. And three is I'm in search of the greatest burger and pizza of all time. 

Ryan Foland: Okay. Well, you definitely need to come to Long Beach cause down on 2nd Street, we can talk about a couple of spots for sure. 

Jeff Harry: Okay, let's go. 

Ryan Foland: So let's talk and let's essentially play here for the next good amount of time. First though, I always like to get to know people through the stories that shape them. So what would be a story that you could pull off of the shelf and share with us today that actually impacted who you are today in some meaningful way? 

Jeff Harry: Yeah. I think a crucial one. You know, it's always junior high, right? It's always an elementary school. 

Ryan Foland: It is. Oh my gosh. Don't get me started. All the way. Yeah. Like therapy. 

Jeff Harry: Let's talk about it. So I think it was sixth or seventh grade. I was at Parker Junior High. And do you remember when like you went to junior high and you arrived and then all of a sudden there were cool kids and they weren't cool? The year before they weren't cool, but all of a sudden like there's certain ones that have been elected and you're like, I wasn't part of the vote. Like how did they, how did they get selected? How did Mark and Ryan get selected? But you know, I'm not. So then I ended up like, you know, I wanted to just play four square. Like that's all I wanted. I just wanted to play. I was still in seventh grade, but like I felt like I was still in third grade. I just wanted to play at recess, but no one was playing four square. And I was just like, yo, is anyone getting down for four square? And they were like, no, we're now being cool. And I was like, oh, that's like so exhausting. But like it was the thing to do. So like, I remember getting, I put mousse in my hair. I now have no hair. So this might be the reason I put mousse in my hair and it was even my mousse I would steal my sister's Vidal Sassoon mousse and I would I put so much in it that like I would have bangs because all the guys that were cool had bangs so you can like throw them away from your eyes. But my hair was like, I had like black hair, you know, like so it was like it was like oofy. So I put so much mousse in my hair that by sixth or seventh period no one ever told me this, but like the moose dries up and then it just became this like raccoons butt like coming out of my forehead. So I would talk to women and be like, hello, how are you? And they'd be like, where you going? Where you going? And I was always like trying to kiss up to the cool people because I wanted to get accepted. And then I remember there was this one party, it was like a pool party and you have to get into this pool party in order to be cool. 

And I won't go into the logistics of this because I did this as a whole story a long time ago but I remember going to the entrance of the pool party and I like was so into like if I get through this entrance this day is I am going to be cool they're finally going to accept me right. I did the most thing that didn't work out I dated someone. Someone. I think there were only two Asian people and they were like, you two date and I'm black and Asian. So I was like, if I could just get into this pool party and I remember someone saying at the front of the party, they were like, they're not letting any black people in. Well, yeah, I know. I was like, yo, what is that? I just remember this clear, clearest day. And they use that word as saying they're not letting one in. 

Ryan Foland: Wow. 

Jeff Harry: And you're not that old. 

Ryan Foland: You don't look that old. 

Jeff Harry: Like, I know this is not like 1950. This is like 19, I don't know, 90 something, you know, when like the bulls were good, she got the bulls were good. And I remember someone vouching for me and being like, oh, no, he's not black. He's Latino. And I remember. remember like not saying anything so I could get in. And I remember as soon as I got it, as soon as I walked across the dais, I felt like I left myself outside, you know, and I don't have, I never felt like I betrayed myself so much. And I remember then going into the pool because no one was going to the pool because everyone's trying to act cool. And I was supposed to be happy in this pool, but it's, I felt like the loneliest I had ever been. And then after that, like I think in that pool, I was just like, I give up on this cool thing because it's like such a waste of time. And then all of my freshman, sophomore, junior, senior year of high school, I just hung out in my basement and made up games for my friends to come and hang out with that were in cool. And it was like, uh, just creating a safe space for people to be whoever they wanted to be. And what's ironic is like, that's kind of what I do now in my talks and my workshops. So like, yeah, that was very formative. 

Ryan Foland: There's a lot to dissect there and a lot that I personally relate to, you know, you talk about this timing and when the bulls and Michael Jordan and things like that, well, I. was not the best basketball player, but all of the cool kids were the basketball players. And I will never forget, you know, lining up on that treacherous line of like individuals who are going to be picked for the team. And there's that moment and you're standing tall and looking confident. And then the two team captains are picked and you're never one of them. And then they start to go, you and then you and they go back and forth. And then I would always be left. And even when they were shorthanded, didn't even have enough people, they would just decide to play short or play half court and not allow me to play. Now, I was ginger. So I had the freckles, which is sort of the opposite of the coloring, but I was super pale white. And it just, it was an easy target because I wasn't like everybody else in that respect. And I remember going home and being so swollen for a few weeks around this and moms are pretty good about getting information out of you. Like they're good. And so she somehow got out of me, even though I swore, I wouldn't share with her that I was not being picked for the basketball team. And moms are very good at solutions. So she's like, that's it. You know, we're going to sports chalet, which is now out of business. 

Jeff Harry: Yeah.

Ryan Foland: And she's like, you can pick any basketball you wanted. And the bulls and Michael Jordan, I'm like, nobody's greater than him. And there was a white Michael Jordan ball signature with it. And I was. like, this has to be it. The coolest white ball ever. Like this is it. And so I practiced dribbling to no end in my wooden floored house until my mom was like, no, you need to now go outside. Yes. And so I realized on the day when I brought the ball for the big event that it actually didn't fit in my backpack. So now I'm stuck with the white ball, which is also kind of an eyesore, but I'm still confident and I go out and I'm like, all right, it recess like I've got a ball. Who wants to play?

 Jeff Harry: Right.

Ryan Foland: Some asshole was like, we already got a ball. And I was like, oh, and so Eduardo Neary, who like saw this going down and was in a few classes, he was a Hispanic guy. And we were kind of like, you know, sort of like lonely, matching and just odd balls. And he's like, Ryan, can we use your basketball as a soccer ball? I'm like, sure. And so I just went out there and sat on the sideline and watched the kids kick my basketball around. And it was just like a total pivotal moment for me where I was like, man, it's terrible. And it's a white ball too. That's the best part. It was just like, when you got it back from soccer, it's all dirty. They're like, oh man. A little green stains on it and stuff like that. Well, you know, I think that one of the main takeaways here is that like everybody probably has their own exclusive, you know, excluded story. I'd even think the cool kids, they probably, oh yeah, as well. And it's like we all form our own way of processing, whether it's a basement, whether it's play, whether it's video games, whether it's, you know, healthy or not. But we all kind of grow up and then we have these things that impact us. And there's all these crazy, direct correlations. So it's fascinating that this helped you to become who you are today with. the play and with this authenticity and with this ability to share and to help others. I'm not thinking your target market is the six and seven year old is probably not speaking to elementary schools, but we all have those experiences to tap into. 

Jeff Harry: I also feel as if, you know, and don't get me wrong, like I've met a lot of speakers and speakers are awesome and also can be super insecure too, right? Including me, right? You know, and we're all like trying, and maybe everyone's doing this, right? But we're all trying to heal some part of us with our work, which is really interesting. And that sometimes can be healthy. And then also sometimes it can be unhealthy, like, and get really extreme, where you're like, you must do this. And you're like, dude, you don't even do this. Like, you know, like, like, calm down. But I think that's worth exploring for any speaker of like, what, what is it? it that you want to heal right and what should you actually be healing in therapy and what part have you already kind of healed and now is worth sharing that story so other people can feel that you know what I'm saying. 

Ryan Foland: I totally do. I've got a good buddy John Bates who's a speaker and he always talks about how your message is in your mess. Yeah. It's really an interesting way to look at this idea of helping people see themselves in your story as opposed to just sharing your story of success. And with this whole, like when it comes to being a speaker in a lot of our audience, they are either becoming speakers or coming to terms with wanting to be speakers or their speakers and they're trying to get more gigs. And it makes me think of this cool pool, like there's a pool of speakers. And there's sort of this pool that we all enter into. You've got your speaker bureau, which is more like a private jacuzzi pool. And then you've got these larger pools like SpeakerHub that's maybe more like a public pool. And sometimes you're like, you're afraid to jump in or people are in and out. And then I don't know. I mean, I think we probably, maybe you can, I don't want to make the assumption, but as a speaker, we do want to feel cool. We do want to be represented. of somebody on stage who people respect and that they're willing to listen to. 

Jeff Harry: Yeah. 

Ryan Foland: And that is very analogous to like the cool people outside of the pool when you have the pool and like who's going in the pool. Like as a speaker, you kind of got to jump in the pool and be like, the water's great. Come on in. Here's why let me tell you a story. 

Jeff Harry: Yeah. And it reminds me because I used to do standup comedy. It was the same vibe where you're just like, here's my stuff. And then people would be like, okay. okay, you know, and everyone's like working out their material. And I will say, I think for a lot of like new speakers, they're like, Oh, well, I got to figure it all out first, right? And I remember, and you can look this up, Marcus Buckingham, right? This dude, communication guy, one of the best communication guys in the world, right? You know, constantly is contributing to the Harvard Business Review. And probably most of his books are published by the Harvard Business review. Now, his main job is communication, right? He's been doing it for 25, 30 years. And he does this speech called, I may never do this speech again. And it's a speech about how even though he's all about transparency and communication and making sure that everyone's on the same page, he finds out that his wife paid some guy to help their kid get into college. So that scandal, that college scandal, his wife was part of it. And he had to tell his son because his son calls and just like, mom just got arrested. 

Ryan Foland: Wow. 

Jeff Harry: And then, and then his son said to him, does she not think I can get into school? Does she not think I'm smart? And he. And he asked to like explain this to him. And he's like, I'm a communication transparency guy. And I did not even pick up on all of this that's going on in my life, right? So I think a lot of times we think we have to figure it all out. And then we're ready to speak. And it's just like, you're not, we're all figuring it out ourselves, right? And also there's also a lot of hypocrites there. Sometimes speakers that talk about gratitude and kindness. And they're the meanest people, you know, so you're like, dude, what's going on? 

Ryan Foland: So, or the people that'll sell their speaker programs to guarantee you a $10,000 speaking, and they don't even do it themselves. 

Jeff Harry: Don't even, Jody have never made that much money, but they might have like a lipstick on a pig marketing system. Oh my, oh my, the amount of people that are like, are you ready to make seven figures in a day? I'm like, if you're emailing me, you're not making seven figures. So you would not be spamming my account. So yeah, all those quick fixes. I mean, I even had an opportunity recently to join a group, but it was just too much money. And I was just like, and my friend said something to me that I thought was really interesting. She goes, well, you could like, you talk about dismantling patriarchy through play, right? You talk about, 

Ryan Foland: Wait, say that again, 

Jeff Harry: Dismantling patriarchy through play. Yeah. So like challenging the powers that beat, right? And making sure that everyone can have access and by you joining this organization, you're kind of just like contributing to what you are against. And she asked this question, which I think is a really interesting question for anyone to ask her. Her name is Angie Cole, amazing person. She was just like, what would be a more interesting story to tell three to five years from now? And I was like, ooh, you know, like, ooh, you know, rather than like the easy route, you know, my friend, Destiny Muhammad, who's this black harpist known as the harpist from the hood, she would always say this quote, I think it from C.S. Lewis of the longest way around is the shortest way home. And it's just like, take the long way. the way that it's just like you doing you, even though a lot of people aren't going to be popular because that's the shortest way rather than do the shortcut because the shortcut is you're going to lose yourself in it. Or you might make a lot of money to… 

Ryan Foland: Everybody else who's trying to do the exact same thing. 

Jeff Harry: Yeah. You got to make it. You may make a ton of money, but in the process, you'll lose who you are. And if you're okay with that, but usually people are not because, you know, I know, know speakers that make million dollars a year and not happy, not that happy. And it would be better for you to figure out, like, what am I passionate about and what I want to talk about rather than be like, whatever, what is everyone else doing? I'll do exactly what everyone else is doing. 

Ryan Foland: Interesting. Are you, have you ever been out on a sailboat? 

Jeff Harry: Uh, maybe once or twice. 

Ryan Foland: If I had a preference, I would just be on it all the time. So I do a sailing and I was sailing this last weekend on a boat called a Tempest. So it's just a little 22 foot boat. It's got a jib. It's got a spinnaker and it's got a main sail. And it's a very, very sexy, cool, fast, slick boat used to be an Olympic boat. And it was my first time sailing the boat. And I had a super seasoned instructor, you know, like similar to all these individuals that come top of mind that just have knowledge in the space. We're talking about all the different modifications you can make out there. And he said something which is very apropos for what we're talking. He said, "Look, Ryan, some of the decisions that you make out here will make you go faster, but they won't help you become a better sailor." 

Jeff Harry: Oh, interesting. 

Ryan Foland: And if you think about these sort of quick fix or flash in the pan, sure, maybe it's equivalent to tightening in a sail or putting up an additional sail just to sort of milk whatever situation, but it's not gonna make you pound for pound, a better sailor race for race, cruise for cruise, because it's a shortcut and it's not the longer, more proven route that you actually figure out yourself. 

Jeff Harry: Yeah, and also just thinking about like my own experience, right? When I go and speak, I don't memorize my stuff, you know? I have like nine talks, right? Maybe that's not a good idea, but... I met people that have been doing the same talk since the nineties. And I'm like, you still reference things from the nineties, dude. Like, and I guess that, that can work for some people, but it's just when you're more off the cuff, you're more understanding of like, if something happens, you know, you have some audio issue or whatever it is, you can roll with it because you're like, I'm not trying to be perfect. And I'm a play guy, like my background's perfect. psychology and play, right? You know, when people are like, what do you do? I go, I make work, suck less for people who positive psychology and play. That's just what I do. And people are like, make work, suck less. And I was like, yeah, it sucks. Like, let's just be honest. A lot of it sucks for a lot of people. So, you know, a lot of times I'm just like referencing things that just recently happened, like Spotify making the most money they've ever made and then laying off. 17 % of their staff then like two months later like I'm just throwing that just comes out and like oh yeah maybe I should share this I'll just share it right now you know and because of that it makes it more relevant you can connect more with the audience because they know you're not so rehearsed that you're actually having more of like a conversation with them and I think when you're so scripted and you're so you know know, I talk about, because I'm a play person, I talk about plays the opposite of perfection, perfection is rooted in like ego, shame and constantly trying to be right. While plays rooted in like sense of wonder, awe and like curiosity, I kind of feel like when I'm talking to the audience, we're like figuring it out together, like, Hey, I've done some research on this, but I don't know everything about, you know, the four day work week, but I'm going to still advocate for it. But then let's let's talk about how we could potentially make it happen at your organization. It's an adventure together, and that feels more real to me than me just spewing the same talk that I'm so bored of. 

Ryan Foland: Yeah. Back to this pool analogy, the way you're talking, it almost seems like you're avoiding the trap of jumping into that pool that's supposedly cool, and you're literally taking people on an adventure through the woods to find some sort of hot spring or something that's coming naturally off the mountain. It's a lot of snow and it's melting. Now we've got water. Let's go over here. It sounds like a very much build your own pool or bring people in new location. And it's gotta be fresh for people who are audience members 'cause I've heard people do their little sticks and then hear them on podcasts. And I've actually seen them on stages. And when you are talking about this person who does the same stick every time, it's like that. I mean, when are you going to clean out the pool water? Right? 

Jeff Harry: Yeah. 

Ryan Foland: Get some filter, get some chlorine in there. 

Jeff Harry: Or it has the same cadence to it. That's almost like, well, they seem bored, you know, or they seem just really rehearsed. Like it's now time for me to cry. And you're like, Oh goodness. And, you know, not knocking it. Like if that's your jam and you're like, I only can memorize one talk, fun, do you? But for me, like, I wanted to be fresh for me. 

Ryan Foland: It sounds like it's more fun that way for you. 

Jeff Harry: I want it to be interesting for me right now. I'm about to speak at Work Human, which is a huge HR conference that like Michelle Obama and Brené Brown have spoken at. I'm doing a talk I've never done before. I'm doing a talk on how, what is it? I think it's I don't even know the title exactly. 

Ryan Foland: That is fresh. That is good. 

Jeff Harry: What the Barbie movie can teach you about leadership and psychological safety. I'm still writing this talk. I don't know what's going to come out. 

Ryan Foland: I assume you've watched Barbie though. We got it.

Jeff Harry: I love it. I love Barbie. So I've watched that numerous times. 

So I'm into it, but like that's tapping into like a trending theme. 

Ryan Foland: You're tapping into an Academy Award nominated film. You're tapping into something that people've seen recently. 

Jeff Harry: And I'm tapping into something I'm interested in that I'm passionate about, right? Let me talk, I'll talk about Ken all day. Let's go. So, but that's me. And that's the other thing that I also feel with like any advice you hear from any speaker, it's like only do it if it resonates with you. You know, don't do it because Tony Robbins is like, "This is how you get ready for a talk." I mean, if it works for you, great, but you got to figure it out on your own. You got to figure out your voice on your own. You got to figure out what works for you rather than us constantly trying to be somebody else. 

Ryan Foland: Yeah, you got to put the work in to figure out what works for you. 

Jeff Harry: Yeah. 

Ryan Foland: And I think this first section is a great example of how just a simple, single story from a sixth grade moment in time really helps us to understand who you are, you're building your own pools, you're finding them. You could care less if you're cool or not 'cause you're enjoying the process, you're playing, you're learning, you're growing. 

Jeff Harry: It's, yeah. 

Ryan Foland: Let's transition. Now that we know you, now that we're all hanging out in the same pool area, what do you think with the caveat that nobody has to do this, but this can be something that they try? Cause I love that, you know, advice that resonates is the stuff you should then even try to see if it works for you. If you had a chance to sit down with an individual, one of our thousands of listeners here and just be like, you know what, here's some things that work for me from the art of speaking, maybe from my comedic background to play to all these things. What is something cool, crazy nuance that really does work for you that maybe. people haven't tried or, or they might want to dip their toe in from the art of speaking perspective, taking this. 

Jeff Harry: Yeah, that's a great question. So I mean, right now I'm putting together this, uh, I'm doing this play day summit with this other awesome speaker, Jeff Gippard and Philly. We're doing this for a bunch of NSA people and just like speakers in general. And we're creating this, I don't know, like workshop where we're challenging speakers. 

Ryan Foland: Is it a workshop or is it a play shop? 

Jeff Harry: It was a play shop. Well, it's a Play Day Summit. But the whole point is they're playing. I don't even know if they can share their real names. Right? So it's like no like ego, no business cards, all that, we're taking all that out. And we're challenging them to do the talk they've always wanted to do, but they've avoided. Because so many speakers, right? have been doing the same talk. And you're like, I'm amazed how risk averse speakers are because they're on stage. So you would think that they'd be like, big risk takers and some are, but a lot of them are not. So for someone that is starting off, I'd be like, what's the talk you've always wanted to talk about and start there to start writing down topics that you would like, Oh, this would be a really interesting topic to explore. Maybe I don't even know anything about it yet. Let me just start doing research on it. Or like, you know, for me, I was just like, man, if work sucks, wouldn't it be great if we just worked four days a week? I have a lot of friends that have been advocating it for a decade. Let me talk to them and pick their brain, right? I have a talk on it. Oh, well, here, this is a great example. My friend Gary, where and I, when I'm was first starting to speak, we put together a workshop called dealing with a holes in the workplace through play. And we got to go to Australia to speak right before the pandemic. And what, how did, how did that come about? Because we both were complaining about former bosses. We were eating burritos in San Diego and we're like, would it be hilarious? We made a talk about how to deal with a holes, but in a playful way. And he's like, yeah. And then we just wrote it. And then we just started applying to places and inbound said, yes. And then there's random place in Australia said, yes. And we're like, Oh, this is real now. You know, and then we did it. And we're like, that was so much fun. You know, so my challenge to people is just like, what is the topic that makes you a little nerve -cited, nervous and excited, you know, where you're like, ooh, this would be a little scary to speak about. But also also with something that I'm really into. And I'd start there. 

Ryan Foland: So it sounds like this is like an internal looking sort of therapy session of admitting what you're interested in, agnostic of what channel within the speaking topic you think is going to make money in whatever category you think people should are paying for leadership talks and stuff like this. And it seems like there's these it's a great exercise on a surface level. But I want to go one level deeper because I think like I want people to know how to start. And for example, you literally watched a movie that resonated with you and you're like, "Let's explore this movie." 

Jeff Harry: Yeah. 

Ryan Foland: You're sitting here eating a burrito, complaining about A -holes and that comes up with something. Talk to me more about like, where do we look for those inspiring moments? Where in our life do we look for these inspirations? Because there's probably a reason why we look for these inspirations we haven't given that talk. 

Jeff Harry: Yeah, it's tough, but it's kind of like it's kind of looking at the pain, right? It's kind of looking at those moments in life when like you were dealing with something really tough and you're like, I don't want the next person to have to deal with that. And if I did this talk, this might heal other people, you know? So the best speakers, in my opinion, are the ones that are healing themselves. while they're speaking and then in turn are healing others, right? Like trying to think of which one, oh, Sir Ken Robinson's TED talk, one of my favorite TED talks of all time. And it was like the first TED when no one, there were no rules, right? And he didn't follow any rules, but, you know, he tells that story of the girl that couldn't sit still in class and then was taken to a mental hospital where they were like, "Ooh, what's wrong with this girl?" And the parents were all nervous and he takes the parents outside the room and he just happens to press play on a radio or something and they're like, "What's wrong with our girl?" And he's like, "Nothing. She's a dancer. That's just who she is." And they were like, "Oh, and she's dancing." in the room. That person ends up, you know, creating cats, you know, one of the most prolific and most, you know, profitable things of all time. So I mean, you could go from the route of like, well, what does, what's popular nowadays? AI? Is AI popular as VR? Like you could do that. And a lot of speakers are going to give you that advice and if that resonates with you, but I'm more of like, let's talk about the thing that I like that's interesting to me. I'm interested in Barbie, right? But I'm also interested in psychological safety because I don't want people to hate their work. Ooh, can I combine those? Can I mess around with those? So like taking things that really resonate with you and finding some creative way to do it is really interesting and also again, you know, the longest way way around is the shortest way home It's not gonna be easy. Like you could just do a talk on AI get hired right now for thousands of dollars to speak on it Great, you know, it won't be your talk. You'll probably just be barring someone else's kind of like Matt Damon and Goodwill hunting When he calls out that guy, do you remember that scene in Goodwill hunting when he…

Ryan Foland: it's been a while I've watched it a few times and I remember Matt Damon

Jeff Harry: I was talking to this Harvard guy who's like quote all these books. And Matt's like, you read that on page 346. Like, do you have anything of value that you want to share? Anything unique, any opinion you have? Are you just going to pawn off all these other ideas and pretend they're your own? You could do that as a speaker, right? Or you can just like, what do I want to talk about? And then that's more interesting. Like people, people will feel it. it on a soul level that you're interested in this, and they'll want to gravitate towards you, rather than you're just speaking for speaking's sake. Don't be on stage if you just want to be on stage to be important. What value does that have? You're never going to fill that ego part of you. It's always going to remain empty. But if you're talking about something that may heal you as well as heal someone else in the process.

That's something may worth exploring. I like that.

Ryan Foland: And I can see how people might like the idea, but might be afraid of taking a chance of using this newfound talk as like what they're out there selling or what they're trying to put forward and getting paid. So it makes me think that two options for people, and I help clients sometimes when it comes to content creation. and sometimes the hardest part is just like hitting the go button and actually publishing. So if you took everything up until that point and you say, like, why not create this talk? Why not give it to your stuffed animal friends? Why not make a video out of it? Why not do something? You don't have to publish it, right?

Jeff Harry: Yeah, right.

Ryan Foland: Knowing that you need a place to land this talk, I think holds people back from creating it. So why not create it for yourself? almost like a workshop. You don't have to publish it. Or the other thing that comes to mind is use it for a free note. I mean, we all want to get paid for keynotes, but there's way more opportunities for free notes. And so why not take an opportunity where it is a volunteer basis, a free note, to explore these different types of element. And you might find like section three or story two really resonates. And that might be pulled out into your more classical stick or something like that.

Jeff Harry: So yeah, I'll give you a great example. So the dealing with a holes at work through play talk, no one hired me for that. Of course no one hired me because like, why would you hire somebody if you know that,

Ryan Foland: You know, so there might be some a holes in the audience and…

Jeff Harry: I know seriously, right? But they loved it. Don't get me wrong. A lot of people loved it. And then I turned it into a talk because then I realized there's a lot of toxic masculinity in the workplace. So I turned it into dudes do better dismantling toxic masculinity at work. Again, so many people loved it. Dudes hated it. Right. So again, didn't get hired for that. So it kept evolving. Now I have two talks. It evolved into why Ted Lasso's masculine and feminine leadership matters, which actually I've been hired many times for now because because people love Ted Lasso and they love that. And then I've also done one on Ted Lasso and psychological safety, you know, similar to the one that I do for Barbie, right? So it'll evolve. Like it will, you know, like I agree, there's going to be talks that you're going to have to change up so that they can fit certain genres, you know, you're going to have to compromise at times, right? But allow yourself to play with it and you'll be amazing. what you can create.

Ryan Foland: Now, the final sort of dig into this that I want to do before we talk about building your speaking business is it's pretty clear that you're comfortable off the cuff. And you mentioned your background in stand-up comedy, which is like the highest level of public speaking as far as I'm concerned. 

Jeff Harry: The most painful.

Ryan Foland: Exactly.

Jeff Harry: Like, in me. I immediately know that you're doing good or not. Like immediately. And most of the time you're not. And I only did it for a little bit. I think I did 160 performances in like six months because someone was like, you got to do a thousand performances before you hit it big. And I was just like, let me see if I can do 160. And then I did it and it is rough. Like it is rough bombing in front of three people, bombing in front of 40 people. But at the end, then when I started doing campaign talks and all these other talks, I didn't care because it wasn't as bad as standup. Standup was just torture.

Ryan Foland: Except for your first time.

Jeff Harry: The first time everyone loves you because they're like, look at him. He's trying. And then you're like, man, this is always going to be this way. And then it's not.

Ryan Foland: So with all of this depth, depth of experience in the more extemporaneous style, it's clear that you have the ability to have a new talk that's fresh each time and not worry so much about it and throw it up on its feet and get it up there and just sort of get it on its feet.

Jeff Harry: Yeah.

Ryan Foland: What are some of the basic things that people can do to tap into that? Because that could be frightening for people and that could be a skill that holds them back from the bottom. other piece of advice of trying to build the talk that they want. Like, what do you say to somebody that is trying to gain more confidence in off the cuff or not fully memorized or not as structured?

Jeff Harry: You gotta let go of the perfection. The perfection is where burnout comes from, the perfections where pain comes from. You know, I have slides, don't get me wrong, but like it reminds me of my bits where I would be lost. this is the subject. All right, let me talk around this subject, but I'm not thinking about where to put the the, you know, or like, Oh my gosh, I forgot the the, or I said the in the, I said the instead of the, you know, like you could just be in your head the whole time about the thes or the ums. Who cares about the ums? Like in Toastmasters, apparently my friend Gary was telling me this who's a prolific speaker. Right. He says, um, from time to time, when he went to Toastmasters, they counted his ums.

Ryan Foland: Oh yeah. And counts it.

Jeff Harry: Oh yeah. Like, dude, that's not fun. Like he's a phenomenal speaker. Once in a while, it says an um, so big deal. Like this perfection-oriented. It doesn't work for me. Maybe it works for other people, but it doesn't, it doesn't allow for me to how to play. And I want to play up there. So like I challenge you to here's a challenge for you. I challenge you to write a horrible talk or do it and then present it to your friends, you know, and be like, this is the worst talk ever. Here you go. Because once you feel it, then you're like, it's not that bad. Like I wrote the worst talk ever and it was really not that bad. 

Ryan Foland: So everything you only have up to go from there. 

Jeff Harry: You only have to go to, right? I'm just going to read the phonebook to you, all right? Like for two minutes and then let me know when you get bored. Are you already bored? OK, you know, so then you get over, you get over yourself because some of the best advice I heard. I think I heard this from of all people, a politician, but they were giving advice to like, you know, like a teenager. And they go, you have to remember that the talk is not about you. You happen to be the messenger of this talk and you're channeling through you, but this is not about you. It's not about you looking cool up there. It's not about you like getting praise afterwards and all these people like being like, "Oh, let me take a photo with you afterwards." Your ego might say that from time to time. Don't get me wrong, mine does that as well at times, but it's about like the message. And it's about like not only the message, but how you actually connect with the audience so they can hear that message. Like this is a dance, like this is play with the audience. This is a, I may be facilitating this, but we're co-facilitating this. We're co-creating this talk because I don't know what might come up. And that feels more authentic to me and more connected to me because then we get to some place that otherwise the audience at me would have never gotten to by ourselves. 

Ryan Foland: Right. That makes sense. No, that totally does. At the end, it's without that co-creation, without that willingness to change or be dynamic in the moment, you as a facilitator come across as sort of more rigid versus more fluid. And I was, where was I? We were out the other day and it was in a restaurant downtown Long Beach or in Long Beach Second Street and there's this one table of like six people and they're were so loud and it just kind of caught my attention. The reason they're loud is that they were all animated, telling stories about different stuff and like from like an entertainment perspective, they were having the best time. And you literally had other people who were like the exact opposite on their phone staring across from each other. And so it's like, I'm going to have something that's prescribed and not, or I'm just going to be like, just story to, oh, that is a story over here. And it just kind of flows. 

 Jeff Harry: And people get angry at that loud group. They're like, why are you having so much fun? You know, like I hate when they come up to you and you're like, there's almost too much fun being happening over here. And you're like, dude, like that's because you're fully connected to each other. Right. And I talk about this in play all the time. It's about attunement. Attunement is the first form of play you experience as like a child, as a baby. When your parent holds you up and like you lock eyes and you have the same brain wavelengths. Like they match up and that's one of the only times you truly feel like seen and appreciated and valued, right? And then you look for that attunement for the rest of your life. So all these people are attuning. Meanwhile, you're doom scrolling because you're looking for connection as well, but you're not getting it. And then you get envious of the group that's having so much fun. 

Ryan Foland: Boom. That's it. Therapy session one on one.

Jeff Harry: Okay. Look at that. Look at that. 

Ryan Foland: Now let's move into, uh, how to pay for the therapy. I'm always curious to know about building your business, getting more stages. There's so many ways to do this. We've touched into how sometimes there's the more, what seems a little, I don't want to say sleazy, but I'll say sleazy, sort of high in the sky. You're selling it and it really messes with expectations. Cause a lot of people who are new, they get sucked into it. And then they believe this thing is going to work. And there's six months down the line and a big retainer out the door and they're no real further than where they started. And then it kind of like, ah, how do you get more stages? What works for you? What would you share with people who are beginning middle and even like, you know, increasing the good they've already got. 

Jeff Harry: Yeah. So as like my whole jam of, you know, dismantling patriarchy, I like to talk numbers. Like let's talk real numbers, right? So I was leaving my, I was in a Lego job, you know, teaching kids and sharing with Lego and building gigantic stuff out of Lego. And then we all got laid off during the pandemic. So 2020, I think I made $7,000 speaking, like doing virtual talks, right? I hopped on a bunch of podcasts for free, but like I was making nothing. Then 2021, you know, kind of, of opened up some conferences opened up and I think I made $14,000. So like I'm dipping into my savings and unemployment, whatever I can to survive, right? Then 2022, still not the best. I think I made $32,000 and I spoke 60 times and it was flying all over the country. A lot of times for free. I don't recommend that strategy. And then only last year did I finally start making near what I used to make, which was about, like, 115. So I went 7, 14, 32, 115. So people also have to realize, like, it's not like anyone that's like, "You've been speaking for six months. You're not making $800,000. You should pick me. You should hire me as Bradley Beale, the basketball player, this is, this is gutter and grimy. Like it is tough at the beginning. So I, my strategy, and I don't know if I recommend this completely for anyone, but I applied to every call for speakers I could find, you know, every two months I would do hashtag call for speakers on LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram. And I'd find whatever call for speakers I could that were relevant, that had a relevant topic to me to figure it out. If I was myself, you know, if I give myself advice now, I would have targeted earlier because there were, sometimes I was speaking at a conference and I was like, I should not be speaking here. Like one of the rules that I broke is like going to a conference where you have to pay to speak. Who's the worst? Oh dude. And it was just like, you know, the conference fee or whatever. But I was like, what am I doing? You know, like I'm already speaking for free anyway. And you have to remember when you travel, it's like 1500 bucks. It's like 12 to 1500 bucks. It's not cheap to travel. You know, so a recommendation would be I would, I would look for as many call for speakers as possible. I would submit three to four different talks because I read and also spoke from some event planners. They want to see what you can do. Do you have a plethora of different talks you can talk about? And sometimes they'll get you for two. 

Ryan Foland: Quick real quick. So you're saying when you apply, you're applying for multiple within a singular application. 

Jeff Harry: Within a singular application. Like yeah, sometimes you can submit multiple talks, like you just fill out the form and then they're like, do you want to submit another form? And you're like, sure, why not? You know, and I even started doing collaborative talks with other people that had skill sets that I didn't have. So I do a workshop called Making Work Suck Less by Fixing Broken HR Systems with my friend Sam Smeltzer. She's a professor doing HR in York University. I don't have that experience. So she can balance me out with my play stuff. So sometimes you're like, "Okay, we're well, maybe I don't feel comfortable doing a talk by myself. We'll find someone really dope that you can do it together with, right? Again, you're just, you're playing around. And then, and I should have done this when I first started, then figure out, okay, how many places am I willing to travel? And how much is that gonna cost? Like, what's my investment to go speak for free with the girls at every talk at the end of it, making sure you have some way to capture their information, right? Some QR code that I used to have people send to my LinkedIn and I would just link with them and afterwards I would message them separately. Or now I have one of those QR codes where they collect the email and you give them something, some way to stay in touch with them so that you're not just going speaking and then leaving, you know? Like a lot of the work that you're doing when you're at these conferences is not on that stage. It's after or before, you know? So like, you know, no, that's the strategy and that has helped tremendously and you never know. Like I remember speaking at all these conferences not getting any work. 

And then I spoke at a chapter event for like 30 people and that brought in like $30,000. So like you never know who's gonna be in the room. So your goal is to just be phenomenal on that stage and then to connect with as many people in a real way as possible. Don't connect with everybody. Like don't be running around passing your business card to everyone just for the sake of being like, hi. And then pitching them instead, like really connect with people. Don't talk about your work. Actually talk to them as a real human being because a lot of times people don't hire you for your talk. They hire you because they like you and then they were like, I will figure out what we just want to work with you. We don't even know I don't even remember what you're talking about, but I just like you so do that. 

Ryan Foland: Yeah, that last part I think is really significant and I'd be curious your thoughts on how you play that out them getting to know you because I really believe people will have to get to know you in order for them to decide whether they like you or not. And if they do like you based on actually like some realistic, like you being honest and authentic, it sets a foundation for trust and people do business with those who they know, like and trust. So I'm curious your strategy of, I guess it sounds like more like relationship building. So you're not just going in for the juggernaut and I know as we're all developing and getting our brands out there and getting people to get to know us, how have you utilized, like, how do you get people to get to know you as far as the beginning in the end? You mentioned LinkedIn. Are you doing a lot of posts on social is like, just curious your strategy around this.

 Jeff Harry: I mean, I do some posts on social, but like, I'll give you an example at conferences, right? So I wear this ridiculous bow tie. This ridiculous Lego bow tie, right? right? 

Ryan Foland: I did see that. I thought I wasn't sure. So let me see that. 

Jeff Harry: It's an actual ridiculous. It's actually a Lego bow tie. So a lot of people remember me from this, but I wear something like this just to remind me that we're all wearing costumes, right? That we're all being ridiculous. So whatever your way, you can like break the ice where it's just like, I'm not pitching you, right? Kevin Carroll, this phenomenal play mentor of mine would always say don't have transactional conversations, have transformational conversations. So like you're not trying to get them. You're not trying to extract something. People can feel when you're trying to extract something from them. So most of the time when I'm at conferences, I'm talking about them. I'm asking questions about them. I'm being curious about them. I'm not pitching them. Eventually you get to talk about your work. Or, eventually, they're going to find out, but I usually like start off, you know, go up to people and I'm like, Hey, what's your mischief? And I don't even, not, not what you do for work. I don't care. I hate that question. You know, what do you do for work? Who do you work for? You know, I'm just like, what's your mischief? And you can answer that however you want, because I'm, I'm interested in you. Like I want to, I don't care. The most boring person I ever met still has the most fascinating story. And my job is to find it. right? So I'm, that's what I do. I just love people. I love getting to know people and learning their story. And then sometimes then their story kind of ties in with like, oh, you know, well, that kind of ties in with my story. And then I start sharing that. And then the attunement starts to happen. 

Ryan Foland: Then they jump in the pool with you. 

Jeff Harry: Exactly. Then they start playing being, because now we're playing, now we're joking around. Now we're even like, like commenting on the conference and be like, I hate these things. 

You know, like whatever it is that you bond on. And then they're like, well, what are you doing here? And I was like, oh, I'm just speaking. What are you speaking about? Oh, I'm just talking about how to make work suck less. And they were like, oh, man, boy, do I need that at my job. And I'm like, okay, well, come, come by if you want. I'm speaking to two. And if you're not, no big deal, like whatever. And sometimes I even say this because like I've been doing some talks. so long that I'm like, well, I'm not getting bored, but I'm getting like, I need something new. So I'm like, Hey, can you do me a favor? Walk in and start heckling me or walk in and throw paper at me. And people have done that to start by, they just come in and they were like, and I got to roll with it. It's actually fascinating to do it. So whatever real way to talk to someone where you're not trying to convert and don't get me wrong. 

When you are broke and trying to make money, everything looks like I got to convert on everything. But that is coming from like a very fear base and people can feel that, they feel that in it. And that's maybe why I didn't do as well financially at the beginning. Because I remember my last two talks last year, I didn't care at all. Like I was like, I'm done for the year, it's no big deal. Well, I... just going to say whatever I want. I don't care if I make a mistake at all. That is the, I've made more money from those last two talks than any other ones I did all year because I was just having fun up there. I was just messing around and being me. 

Ryan Foland: You know, all this, I just can't help but think back to your original story of where there are cool kids out there and there are barriers to entry. And sometimes we feel like an imposter getting inside of these spheres. And some of these spheres that pay the most money, it is kind of an insider club. And it's a whole bunch of executives or a whole bunch of people that, you know, is a really powerful group to be in front of, which makes you feel like, you know, a bit awkward. And there's the stage, which is the pool and you're paid to jump in it and convince them that it's okay to jump in the pool with you and I think that the more, I think that as time sort of shows us that this emergence of technology and how things are becoming more and more digital, it's so important for us as speakers to keep that human element and that means fallibility, that means playfulness, that means authenticity, that means changing it up, that means throwing some paper into the audience, that means sliding them around a little bit. That giving them just as much as you're trying to inspire speakers to develop the speech that they've never given. I believe audience members need to be inspired to hear speeches that they want to hear. That is not the standard shtick. That is not the same take on leadership. That is not the same. Ma, ma, ma. And you on stage are inspiring them to open up their minds. And when they go home, and they're like, you wouldn't believe I just met the most awesome person today. Well, I didn't really meet him. I just saw him on stage or saw her on stage or saw them on stage. And like, I got to look this person up. And then that becomes this string of thread that sort of weeps together. This referral based non-sleazy stage development, really. 

Jeff Harry: Yeah, I completely agree. Like seeing a speaker up on stage, sometimes nervous, not all the time, but like seeing Marcus Buckingham nervous for the first time in 20 years doing a talk made me actually like him more. It made me actually start looking at the rest of his stuff more. Like that vulnerability, real vulnerability and not like fake vulnerability, I think is massive. And then the other thing, and I contributed an article recently to SpeakerHub, because I was so frustrated when I first started because I was like, where do you find stages like I don't know where to speak. 

So like I wrote this whole article breaking down every place from like the industry, high school, college, following your favorite speakers and literally looking at where they've spoken and then just applying to exactly the exact same place they've spoken, you know, doing all those call for speaker research and sorting by date. So, you know, which one is about to jump, you know, applying to be a keynote nine months in advance to small conferences that don't have a budget, but you're like, Hey, I'll figure it out. Heck, I even talked to this guy, Phil Gerbershock, and he was just like, I just, I find sponsors to cover costs when I speak to a chapter group of 20 people. And I was like, you can do that. He's like, why not? Well, I can, you can find money anywhere. You know, if you're in front of an audience and I was like, oh man, so like, just playing around with stuff. So yeah, you can check out that article on SpeakerHub. But, you know, I think the thing that, that I really want to emphasize to people is you got to be in the gutter and the grime. Like you have to get on stages and suck. Like I think a lot of people want the shortcut because they don't want to suck. We all will suck. Like that's just part of the process and it's better to suck. 

I'll give you a great example. And this will date me. Paul Rodriguez, right? He's a comedian. He became really famous when he did this movie called "Quick Silver" with Kevin Bacon back in the 80s, but he had just started doing standup comedy like a year or two years before. So he started selling out all of his stand up comedy performances and he sucked. And he missed this opportunity because he wasn't ready. Right. If he had gotten five years or whatever number of years under his belt as a stand up, then he would have been able to deliver. And that's part of the process. It's like, you got to be on a lot of stages. You got to make a lot of mistakes. There's no way around it in order to figure out who you are, right? You could, again, do the shortcut and just copy somebody else, but that's going to get old pretty quick, you know? And I think people don't want, they don't want that. And frankly, like, I'm glad I did that. I'm glad I spoke at a conference where I paid $1,500 to get over there and do all this stuff. Zero people showed up in my talk. Zero. I think one or two came in later on, so humbling, such a humbling, posted it on LinkedIn. And then that was the post that went viral and all these people were like, Hey, do you know what? I'd like to hire you. And you're like, really? I was just making zero people. 

Ryan Foland: Yes. Yes. 

Jeff Harry: So like, you know, you got to have those experiences. You got to make your own mistakes. You got to be like, what am I doing up here? You know, and then there'll be moments where it'll click for you. but it won't click for you if you're not willing to fail as well. It won't click for you if you're not willing to be in the gutter and grime it out. 

And I don't want to sugarcoat that process because when you talk to musicians later on, like the Red Hot Chili Peppers or whoever it is, and they ask, "When was the favorite time?" The favorite time was the gutter and grime time. And it was being in that dirty van singing for 20 people, just barely getting by, eating Taco Bell. Like they love that time now, because that was where they became who they are, you know? 

Ryan Foland: Yeah, what a great message. And the idea of sharing that journey is also key because if you have the experience, but you're not sharing it, how are people going to get to know you and your story? So I think so many people might take that advice. They get on the stages, they fail, but then they don't share. And they're just sort of waiting for that moment where they're perfect. But the perfect thing you can do is share the process. 

Jeff Harry: Yeah. And I remember I was in San Francisco, right? So I'm doing open mic standup comedy. And that's when Allie Wong was starting to rise in San Francisco. She was only doing shows for like a hundred, 200 people at like the makeup, make out room in San Francisco, but she was in the gutter and grime of it. She was promoting her own events and passing out flyers, like doing all the things, right? And I remember seeing her perform at a show and she crushed it. And this was like for 40, 50 people, like, I don't know, it was like a Thursday night, not even like a big thing. And I was just like, wow, that was really good. And I remember her saying to a bunch of people, and maybe she was speaking to me as well. But she was just like, that wasn't that good. Because like she now had her own compass, own internal compass of what she wanted. It wasn't about them anymore. So at that point I was just like, oh, she's gonna be phenomenal because she understands what she wants. And it's about her, the work's about her. It's not about like just pleasing everyone out there, but it was just like, what do I believe I'm capable of? And I'm not going to deliver on that. And I was like, that is a professional. And that was like, that was only like three, four years into our career. So that's what you want to get to by doing so many stages, you figure out what you really want to do and how you really want to show up. 

Ryan Foland: Love it. 

Now, if somebody wants to join in on your journey, follow you on LinkedIn, send you an email, hire you for their stage, have you talked about how to deal with A-holes, make work not suck. Where do they go? Where do I point them to you? 

Jeff Harry: Yeah. So if you want to hire me or just learn more about my work, go to and click on the play button. 

If you want to see my ridiculous videos where I wear wigs and mock work, you can find me on TikTok, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Threads, Medium, all at the same hashtag @JeffHarryPlays, J-E-F-F-H-A-R-R-Y-P-L-A-Y-S. 

Ryan Foland: Like it, how you're using hashtags to help people find you. This is great. And #opencallforspeakers #greatadvice. Well, I want to say this has been fantastic. And I'm going to go check out your article on SpeakerHub and a shout out to SpeakerHub for being an amazing sponsor of this podcast where we get a chance to have these real conversations to help everybody along the process. It's a place to be found. It's one of many places. They have a call for speakers engine. Again, I don't think there's any silver bullet out there, but I believe that the more places you are to be found and the more community that you're belonging to and the more people that you meet and the more times that you're able to connect with other speakers, the better off.

So I'm glad we're connected now. Maybe we'll share the stage sometime. And if people enjoy my vibes and want to hang out on the basketball court with me and my white Michael Jordan ball, you're welcome to. You can find me online as long as you remember my name and know how to spell online because my website is If you want to hire me to speak or join me for a sale, I'm always here to entertain a conversation, learn some stories about you, get to know you, if I like you and I trust you, and maybe we'll hang out more than once. So what a great time. This is an energizing talk and I'll probably never, I'll probably think about you in perpetuity as I am the first one in the pool trying to make some waves to get people into the water or into the ocean, which is my pool because not everybody wants to jump in but if you can create the catalyst and get people to see that we can have a little bit of fun and play then we're all actually in the same pool, we're all on the same stage. 

Jeff Harry: Love it! Thanks so much for having me. 

Ryan Foland: All right, Jeff. Well good stuff. You enjoy the rest of your day. Looking forward to get this out there and we'll talk to you soon. 

Jeff Harry: Talk to you later, see you, see you. 


A bit about World of Speakers

World of Speakers is a bi-weekly podcast that helps people find their own voice and teaches them how to use their voice to develop a speaking business. 

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