Ryan Foland speaks with Nick Morgan, who is one of America’s top communication speakers, theorists, and coaches. Nick is a passionate teacher, who helps people find clarity in their thinking and ideas – and then delivering them with panache.
In this fascinating, high-energy podcast, Nick and Ryan cover a lot of topics that can help you network proficiently on digital communication platforms, building a booming speaking business, and how to use authenticity properly to offer a vivacious and memorable talk.
Listen to this podcast to find out:
- How we are integrating elements of body language into digital communication and why this is important.
- The three things you absolutely need to have a booming speaking business.
- Things you can do to make sure the meaning behind your digital communication doesn’t get misconstrued.
- Why being authentic is crucial, but how to weave proper structure so that audiences can follow your talk effectively.
- Why we get anxious before getting up on stage, and how to channel the nervous energy.
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Nick Morgan: Greetings everybody. This is Nick Morgan.
I had an absolute blast chatting with Ryan today about how to succeed as a speaker and some tips on how to maximize your impact as the speaker.
This is a great conversation, listen in.
Ryan Foland: Welcome back to another episode here, with me, Ryan Foland, and I am super excited today.
Normally, I'm excited— today, I'm super excited because I've got Nick Morgan on the line.
If you haven't heard of him, by the end of this, you will be a fan like I am and pick up his books and use his quotes and follow him on twitter and all that good stuff.
Truly, I think Nick, you are one of the people out there that is crushing it when it comes to helping people become better speakers.
How are you this morning, this afternoon, or evening, whenever somebody is listening in?
NM: Exactly, it could be any time of the day or it could be the middle of the night if you're an insomniac.
I'm great. I am really looking forward to this chat.
RF: In the first part of this show, we always like to get to know who you are. Some people might be intimidated by the amount of information that you've put out there into the world.
NM: Why don't I just stop now?
RF: Just go to his website and check it out from there.
You've created large amount and such a breadth of content.
Did you grow up knowing that you would become the communication guru that you are today?
NM: Not exactly, no. I just wanted to be a writer and write about this stuff and write novels and smoke a pipe, wear a beret and look cool and French.
A lot of that is very difficult to do these days, for those of your listeners who know something about how hard it is to make a living as a writer.
There are a few people who can do it, but not many, so I branched out into other things, speaking and coaching, and I keep writing.
RF: What was it that got you excited about writing?
Is there anything, in particular, that's "behind the scenes" sort of thing?
Were you really into books as a kid and there was something that you read—what was that inciting incident for you?
NM: I was a shy, nerdy kid and loved to read and just entered into the world of books whenever I could.
I had a series of incidents when I was 17 that kind of confirmed the direction my life would take.
The most important of which was— I was tobogganing with some friends after Christmas that year, my 17th year, and I fractured my skull, I crashed into a tree.
Tobogganing— not a good thing to do, any of your listeners who are listening— please, play safe.
RF: And just wear a helmet when you're tobogganing.
NM: Right, because they don't have brakes. When you're 17, you kind of underestimate the importance of breaks.
I thought it was cool to go fast. I went really fast, crashed into a tree, fractured my skull.
I was in a coma for about a week and during that week, when I was out, I actually technically died for about 15 minutes.
You're talking to somebody who's come back to life. I'm very lucky to be on the planet, thanks to an amazing neurosurgeon who saved my life.
When I woke up, they gave me a test to see if my brain is still functioning and it's a standard IQ-like test, made a little easier because you've been whacked on the head.
I passed the test fine, but there was something else wrong that I couldn't articulate. I didn't really know what was going on, and they don't test for it.
I went back to school with a big scar running down the side of my head and a bandage and this kind of spaced-out look, and all my friends came up to me and said, "Nick, you look great," and I would say, "Thanks."
What had happened was I lost the ability to read people's body language and subtle cues that indicate that they're joking or they are being sarcastic or they are being ironic.
At age 17, virtually everything your friends say to you is either sarcastic or ironic, so I was really clueless. It took me a while even to figure out that I was clueless, I was so far out of it.
I finally woke up to that something was wrong and started watching people and studying their body language in a desperate attempt just to get clued back into what was happening.
It took me about a year to retrain myself, but when I finally did, I ended up with a lifelong interest in how communication works and the body language and all the further studies of that that you can undergo.
That was how I first got interested in communications.
RF: Wow, that's a fascinating story from there and back, all the way to necessity driving your interests for nonverbal communication.
When it comes to that, there are a lot of different studies and there is the classic one about very low percentage of communication just being actually what you say.
Then, there are other studies talking about how that study was out of context and whatnot.
Coming from you, is there a certain piece of research that we can refer to when it comes to the age-old question of percentage of what you are actually saying, versus how you say it?
Is there something that you base it off of?
NM: Yes, let's drive a stake through the heart of that particular vampire right now, because that is a study that refuses to die.
There was nothing wrong with the original study, it's just misconstrued all the time.
I always use this example— as a married man, when I go home at night, if my wife has texted me on the way home to pick up milk and eggs let's say, from the grocery store, and I forget.
I get to the door, I see her and suddenly remember I had forgotten to pick up the milk and eggs.
My wife is way too nice to do this, I am just using her as an example— she is standing there with her arms folded and a frown on her face and maybe she is tapping her foot.
And I suddenly remember, "Oops, I forgot the milk and eggs," and I look at her and I say, "How are you, honey?"
When I ask audiences what my spouse theoretically would say in response, all the married people say, "Fine."
That's what you say when you're a spouse and you are asked, "How are you, honey?" and you are not actually fine.
So I say, "Okay, perfect example there, the words, the content says 'Fine', do you believe that or do you believe the body language?"
RF: Yes, the foot tapping is a total give-away.
NM: Yeah, also the crossed arms, maybe the raised eyebrow.
I always say, "Unless I am the world’s stupidest husband, I quickly get the message."
Everybody chuckles, but they get the point.
Here is what the study was trying to figure out when body language and content are not aligned like that.
When you are saying one thing with your words and another thing with your body language, what happens is the body language always trumps the content.
There is no contest, it's not even a struggle, you just automatically go to the body language to decode what is actually being said.
Now, what the study was trying to determine was when those two things are in conflict, when content and body language are in conflict, what percentage of their body language comes from the visual aspect?
In this case, the crossed arms or maybe the scowl on the face, and what comes from the tone of voice.
Maybe it's the way that the person says the word, "Fine," maybe there is an intonation there that sounds cross.
The percentages there are that about two-thirds of the information that we decode about body language comes from the visual and about one-third from the tone of voice when we are trying to decode something that isn't consistent with the content.
Why is that important? It's because we humans care about the intent, what do other people intent for— are they a friend or a foe? Are they going to help us or hurt us? Are they going to beat us up or are they going to shake our hands?
Those are the kinds of things we are hardwired to care about very much, we are always decoding other people's intent.
The words alone as every grown-up knows, are not enough to decode people's intent.
We've learned over the millennia to look at the body language for a better reading of intent, that's what we care about, and that's why we look at the body language.
RF: It does get misconstrued because people just group it together and forget about the context in which that study was done.
I feel like we have definitely stabbed that with a wooden spear, into the heart.
And there is one other important thing to get out of there, which is— content matters.
The whole point of communication is to get across some kind of content, some kind of intent to tell another person what you are thinking, feeling, you wish to do, you want them to do.
It's only when you're lying or your body language is saying one thing and your content is saying another that the study applies.
The whole purpose of communication is to get some content across, it's not to convey body language per se.
We, humans, have evolved to use language because it's much more subtle and nuanced and complex and able to convey much more interesting things, than just body language alone.
RF: Have you dove into the next level of where we're going with communication, as far as the technology that is surrounding us?
It seems like it's adding a whole new emoji level, our digital vocal cords that people are able to go on, and it's all rooted in that core ability to understand what you want to communicate.
Do you see some serious changes in the way people are communicating now with technology?
NM: It is incredibly good timing on your part because I just finished a manuscript of a new book which is going to be called, "The virtual communicator," and it's about how we communicate in the virtual space.
I went into it doing a research, interest in the topic. As I went around the world talking about body language and communications, the first question I always got asked by audience members went something like this:
"Well, I really find this body language stuff interesting, thanks, Nick, it's fascinating— but I manage a team that works in New Jersey and Singapore and France, and I never see the other people that are working in those remote locations.”
What do I substitute and how do I understand what they're actually saying to me if I can't see their body language.
How do I decode that and how do I send messages to them if body language is as important as you say."
It's a great question and I thought finally when I got asked that enough, "I better write a book about this."
As I jumped into the research, I found something fascinating which is that it's much, much worse than you think.
RF: Thank you for adding a few lower decibels there in your voice, which just was an audio body language transfer.
NM: Exactly. “Oral cue” we call it.
This happens in slightly different ways in email and text messaging, so the whole text-based forms of digital communication.
It also happens in phone audio-based forms of communication, like the podcast we're doing now, like the bane of just about everybody's work life existence nowadays, the webinar, or the audio conference.
How many hours have you spent if you are in the workforce listening to your teammates' blather on about something that you don't care about in a regularly scheduled weekly team meeting, let's say which is conducted via the audio conference in a conference line?
To a slightly lesser extent, but to really astonishing extent, it still is the case on video conferencing.
We would think we're getting all the visual information we need— we can talk about that later, but the main thing that happens and it's most obvious in text.
Then there's a subtler form of it in audio conferencing, is the place where we began talking about content versus body language— basically what happens is the body language is all cut out in digital communication.
The effect of that is the communication becomes much, much less interesting to us because it lacks the emotional component— which is what we care about, because that's how we read people's intent.
If I like, "How much do you really mean this Ryan? How excited are you about this conversation? Why should I care about this conversation?"
Well, if you tell me it's important that's one thing, but if you really look like you're excited and your body conveys that excitement, then I really believe it.
All of that is cut out in digital communication, and so as a result, most digital communication is prone to misunderstandings and boredom.
And humans, when you cut out audio information like that, what the brain science shows is that our brains hate to be deprived of that information.
And so what we do, is we make it up!
And that's why you're listening to an audio conference and you think that other person is saying something mean to you, or is being snarky, or is saying something sarcastic.
Afterward, they say, "No, I didn't mean that, I was just kidding." But you think, "They're really dissing me this is something I have to get angry about."
And it happens all the time, all of us I'm sure have had the experience of sending an email and having it get misconstrued.
The reason for that is because it's so hard to convey emotion through these digital channels, that we humans put it back in, we impute it to the other person.
Usually, it's a negative imputation, we usually decide the person is teasing us, or being angry at us or saying something mean, and as a result, we get endless misunderstandings when we're not being bored.
RF: Pretty much it puts everybody in your 17-year-old shoes, right, after you got to the hospital.
It's like, that communication was cut out where you are trying to guess.
Isn't it also the case, from an evolutionary standpoint, that when you start to think or make assumptions about whether it's people or emotions or processes, your brain then starts to try to find elements to support that?
RF: It's almost like the initial cause, like, "Oh my gosh, I feel like I'm running late— bong!" Now you're like, "Wait a minute, traffic is slow, I need to go over here." It's just like it's a self-fulfilling prophecy, right?
NM: That's right, it's like when you start thinking about, "What color should the new car I'm going to buy be?"
And you decide to buy a bright green car and then you start driving around and all you see are bright green cars everywhere.
It's the confirmation bias, it's that tendency to put in what is not actually there, because the human mind loves to see patterns and we love to predict what's going to happen next, that's how we humans have kept alive.
Remember, in an evolutionary sense, we're a very weak species and we are at the mercy of all those lions and tigers out there, and saber-tooth tigers, and willow mammoths, and whatnot.
What we learned to do, what we evolved to do is to become amazing prediction machines, always predicting what's coming next, and as you say, if there's information lacking, we hate that, because then we can't make as good a prediction so we just make it up.
And that's why when I'm listening on the phone and I can't quite predict what you're going to say next because the emotions aren't clear, I can't tell whether you're angry or not, I make it up, I say,"Okay you're angry at me— screw you, I am angry at you."
And then the whole system goes down the tubes.
RF: Yeah, and then you're on a downhill slope, in a toboggan, with trees that are in your path.
NM: Oh no, don't remind me of that.
RF: It's interesting, it's almost like you're really helping people to avoid that proverbial toboggan accident when it comes to their speaking and communication.
I think people are running into trees whether it's the relationships, whether it's just maybe not getting enough speed, if they are up on stage and people being disinterested.
This idea of kind of the digital transition and this newer age difficulty which is more difficult than we would ever imagine— how important is it to really sharpen those in person speaking communication transferring emotions visually, is it that much more important now?
NM: Yes, I suggest in the book a number of things that we can do to make the experience better.
There are a couple of things happening, we're slowly learning how to exist in this digital space.
To take a very simple example, everybody now knows that if in a text message or an email somebody types you something in all caps, it means they're shouting, right?
Now, where was the rule passed that that was the case?
It just sort of happened, it sort of evolved because it's so hard to get tone from email, that we all just kind of cosmically agreed that, "Okay, so all caps mean shouting," and there are a few clueless people who still don't know that. All caps mean shouting.
The point is that that's what we're starting to do, we're starting to create those extra contextual signals so that we can read email better.
We're slowly going to do the same thing in audio conferencing and video conferencing.
The other point about it is that's a very crude distinction, it doesn't give us much emotional nuance, I mean either shouting or not is a pretty simple-minded level of communication, so we need much, much more.
And emojis are the next thing to evolve to help us do that.
The classic use of emojis which is spreading, by the way, all the time, it used to be that in the business world you weren't taken seriously if you used emojis in an email, it was considered too frivolous or too text messag-y or something.
Now what I'm noticing is, especially in millennials, especially in younger people, they use emojis in email and business communications all the time. I think it's a good thing.
Even LinkedIn basically gives you an option to give “thumbs up” which is the easiest reply right, it's like there's this visualization to it.
RF: Exactly, and what it shows is that there is no ambiguity there.
Instead of putting in the “thumbs up”, if you have to write something like, "Nice job," then people start to wonder did you say like, "Nice job," like you really meant it, or did you say, "Nice job" sarcastically.
And they are feeling, "He thinks I'm a jerk," and that’s the exact problem and that's why emojis are going to gradually become more and more common.
They're putting back in what the virtual communications channel has taken out.
So here's a situational question: you've got these younger millennials that have grown up on these technology platforms, and maybe we could argue that they are savvier at the different types of leveraging it to communicate what they really want.
On the flip side, you've got people that are in the older crowd, that are just either trying to get up to speed or they are still generally confused about this new digital communication.
But when it comes to speaking in front of a live audience, the younger crowd and the older crowd, it seems like they both have advantages and disadvantages.
I'm curious— what are those core components, if you had to pick out of your hat of 101 tips, what are the top ones that will help bring the younger more digitally inclined speakers to really crush it on the stage in a live IRL situation?
And then, the same type of the same crossover— those people who are feeling more and more disconnected with the younger crowd, because they're not online, but bringing them to that in front of the millennial generation in a live opportunity on stage—
what are some of those core things that will not change, but will bring both young and old together on a path of better communication?
NM: Yeah, I love the question.
We're dealing in generalizations here, but that's okay, there are obviously exceptions all along the line, but both generations have a lot to bring to the party and that's the fun thing.
The millennial crowd that you're talking about, have given us authenticity and a kind of willingness to be vulnerable and a willingness to tell it straight in a way that the older baby boomers who learn to suck it up I guess in early age or something, or maybe learned hypocrisy over the years, I'm not sure which— anyway that comes less naturally to them.
The CEOs of today, who tend to be older, can learn from the younger crowd just how much all human beings want authenticity.
We don't want marketing BS, we've had way too much of that historically. That's kind of the first rule of successful public speaking,
"Find your authenticity, find something you can talk about honestly. If you're not prepared to be vulnerable and honest about it, then you really shouldn't be talking on stage."
And then, there's a big caveat that goes with that, which is that it's not enough just to stand up and be authentic.
If you listen to a really true, unguarded, authentic conversation, say you overhear one in a restaurant.
The tables are too close together and they're really small, and you hear the people next you talking; that conversation would not go well on stage, because it's too meandering.
It's too unstructured, there's too much repetition, there are too many half-thought things that are said half out loud and then forgotten and then the conversation moves on to something else.
The next thing to understand about a speech is, it's a structured conversation, it has to sound authentic, but it also has to be structured and is that a bit of a paradox— of course, it is, but that's just what you have to deal with when you're going to stand up in front of an audience and speak.
The audience wants authenticity, yes, but it doesn't want you just open your mouth and spew because it can't follow that.
One of the things that we've learned over the years is that public speaking is a very hard way for audiences to get information.
They forget most of what they hear.
The studies show anywhere from 70% to 90% of what they hear, an audience forgets.
That's a horrible statistic, if you think about it, that's a real exercise in futility, if you know in advance, "Well I'm going to stand up and speak for an hour and the audience will remember 10% of that." I mean, come on, that's horrible!
So the question is then, "All right, I've got to be authentic, I've got to structure it, I've got to structure it in a way that helps the audience remember, so that I'm not wasting my time and theirs."
Most of the insights into successful public speaking start from that premise, that, "What I'm trying to do is make it simple and clear for the audience, but I'm trying to present the information in a way that's audience-centered rather than it's centered on me."
For me, the great big Zen insight into public speaking and it's really freeing for speakers who get this, is it's not about you as the speaker, it's about the audience.
It's your job to present information that they can understand in a way that they can understand it, and that doesn't mean talking down to them, that means presenting it to them in a flow which is easy for the audience to grasp.
In my first book, I get into how you can do that in a way that is audience-centered and easy for the audience to understand and retain.
RF: That's the type of universal that brings all the generations together.
I think that with social media, there is really a user-centric setup, like, "Here's my profile picture, here's what I'm doing, here look at me, look at me."
And then, they're almost validated by their communities of liking and commenting.
So if you grow up in a world where whatever it is that you are doing is validated by other people, that is difficult to translate to the stage.
You might have this thought that, "Here, I'm here, I'm giving the info clap for me or like me— wait a minute, why aren't you guys clapping?" They run off the stage, right?
NM: It's the social media trap of everybody feels like they're way more interesting than they may actually be.
RF: If you think about it, lights and music and all of those things that are typically used in a theatrical setting, those are really filters, right.
You put a red light on somebody that gives them a little bit more of a filter, you drown him out with a blue shade and then you pop some music in the background and they are physical filters in the speaking sense, but for the most part, it's usually you and a microphone.
I can see how it's a bit of a naked feeling.
NM: Yes it is, and that's the essential reason why I've been writing now.
Since 2007 I've been doing my blog on public speaking and why people keep coming back to read it, that and many other people's insights in the public speaking, because it's a very difficult thing to do.
A friend of mine used to say, "Back in the old days, that is the cave person days, there were only two reasons you'd stand up in front of a large crowd of people.”
“Either you were going to be elected chief of the tribe or you are going to be a human sacrifice and neither one of them was really good."
I love that because I guess that that feeling of, "Oh no, I'm standing in front of 200 or 2000 people, that's terrifying." You never get over that feeling of terror.
Most of the work that coaches like I do is involved in helping you cope with that terror in successful ways, learning to manage it, learning to channel it, learning to use it to your advantage and to realize the positive aspects of it.
But it's never going to go away entirely, you just have to look for interviews with any famous actor who has faced an opening night performance after opening night performance, over many years and they will tell you— they get nervous every single time.
The only exception that I know was maybe you've heard, maybe your viewers or listeners will have heard of the Alan Alda, the former TV star, back in the day he was sort of a baby boomer TV star, he is older now, he's been in a number of movies.
I interviewed him on stage fright and some other things and to my astonishment, he said he was only really paralyzingly terrified once when he was on stage in London and suddenly had this horrible feeling, "Oh my god, I'm going to forget my next line."
And he just sort of stood there stuttering and panicking, looking at the audience and finally thought of something to say and then said,
"Okay, so I'm alright now," and then his brain said, "No, no, you're going to forget your next line too!"
Apparently, it was the worst night of his life, he got through it, and he says he's never been afraid since.
But that's very unusual, most people are repeatedly terrified of public speaking and learn, as I say, how to manage it.
RF: I love the word "terror", that really encapsulates it.
One thing, I'm just listening to and what you maybe mentioned a few times is this internal voice, the one that says, "You're going to mess up your line, you're going to mess up the next one."
How important is having control or being aware of the self-talk, that internal voice, whether it's preparing for your speech on stage?
I think we all have that, but it's not really talked about as much, we really focus on what comes out of your mouth, but half the time you're speaking to yourself in addition to that.
NM: Yeah, I think it's incredibly important. In my book "Power Cues" I devoted a whole chapter to it.
I think for anybody who's going to do a lot of speaking, a professional speaker or somebody who speaks for their job on a regular basis, if you don't learn to manage that voice in your head, you're in for a rocky, tough road.
What I tell people to do is to do the same thing that Olympic athletes and other peak performers do, which is basically creating a little mental movie and soundtrack of you performing the task well.
They do this in the Olympics all the time, the gymnasts and the skiers and so on, so forth all the various athletes, what they do is they create a mental movie or image of them doing a successful routine.
If you don't do that, what happens then is doubt comes in.
Anything you care passionately about and spend a lot of time on, of course, you're going to have doubts, that's the way the mind works.
And what you don't want is to be hurtling down the hill on an icy slope at what 90 miles an hour and suddenly have your head say to yourself, "O-o you're going to put that leg wrong."
As soon as you think that you’d do it— yeah, you're rolling down the hill and you've lost a run and maybe broken your legs, so not a good thing.
The skiers and the others know they have to create positive mental images of themselves doing well.
I say to speakers, "It's the same terror basically, it's the same fear that your mind is going to play tricks on you.”
“And so, you have to take charge of your mind and create that positive mental image of yourself doing well, walking on stage confidently giving the speech having the audience react positively."
The way to do that, to start that dialogue is every single time your mind says, "Oh this is going to be bad," you've got to say, "No, I've prepared, I'm ready."
Whatever your particular mantra is, you've got to repeat that to yourself to cut short that argument with yourself.
What's fascinating is, if you talk back to that little voice that's telling you that it's going to be disastrous, you'll find that the voice goes away.
It doesn't happen immediately, it takes some discipline, it takes some stick-to-it-ness, but if you do, eventually that voice will go away.
RF: I have always been motivated to get more in touch with an inner voice and I know meditation is a big part of it, so I'm even more motivated now than ever to have those conversations and continue to show whichever person on my shoulder is the boss.
I think that that's great, I don't believe we talk enough about that and we talk more about what the words come out of your mouth.
It's kind of the chicken and the egg if you can get in the right headspace, the egg that you're going to give up on stage is probably less rotten.
NM: Yeah that's right, you think about the voice, the human voice is immediately undercut by that kind of terror and then what shows up on stage or what people hear on stage is that kind of shaky sandwich.
Of course, it sounds worse to you because you're inside your head, but that's ultimately the physical manifestation of that little critic inside your head saying,
"It's going to go down the hill fast here, watch out, you're not going to be great."
And then, your voice that comes out isn't the one you want to, it isn't string, it isn't confident, it isn't that one that can take charge and win the day.
It's a tragedy I hear strangled voices all the time from speakers on stage and I want to grab them and take them backstage and say, "No you should have worked out this beforehand, you can do better than this".
RF: Speaking of winning the day and getting on that stage, I like to play with this concept that in attention-deficit society.
There's nothing more difficult than getting someone's attention whether it's to be a presenter on a stage, whether it's just to an audience member who's paying attention and I play around with a pun— in order to get people to pay attention somebody has to pay for that attention to happen.
And so, how do you help people on the path to monetizing their message?
And again, it's not the, “let's get aggressive and teach people how to sneakily get by or get to a 20,000 dollar honorarium”, but it's like— I'm learning there is a process and I'm finding the process and I'm going through.
From your experience, very technical background, how do you help people get up there and deliver that same message that one person can't get paid for and another person ends up getting paid very well for?
NM: There are several great questions in there.
One of them is the one I get asked all the time which is, "Is my topic original enough that I can get paid for this as opposed to somebody else?"
I usually say to them, "Surprisingly, if you tell the stories that you're telling and you talk about that topic that you care about in a way that is real to you, that is authentic to you, then nobody else can tell that story."
It's not the case that you're reinventing leadership, but you are talking about it from your point of view and with your story and there's nobody else who can say that; you're the only one who's lived your story.
Originality is less important in a funny kind of way than telling the story well.
We help people really figuring out, "How is it that I can talk about the stuff that I care about in a way that grabs the audience and it doesn't let go?"
And you're absolutely right, people these days have a thousand demands on their attention, way more than we had even a decade ago.
The whole iPhone nightmare for a speaker standing up there and watching all the heads disappear and go to the iPhones thinking, "Oh my god, I didn't grab them," is fascinating.
We now think there's this kind of epidemic of people unable to pay attention.
On the other hand, those same people will come to work on Monday morning and say, "Yeah, I Binge watched Game of Thrones all weekend, and it was fantastic!"
But that is somebody who claims they are ADD or they are afraid that their audience is ADD, and yet, they'll spend 12 hours watching a show, why— because that show is full of great storytelling.
That's the place where we always start with our clients is, "Let's turn this into a great story."
If it's a great story and it grabs the audience, then you'll never have to let go, and that's the key.
Just to give a very simple example, I did a blog post maybe about 8 months ago, not quite a year ago, in which I said,
"Here are 3 things that you shouldn't start with as a speaker if you're worried about this ADD world: don't introduce yourself, don't give an agenda and don't do chit-chat."
I got a call from a very nice guy who's a very successful speaker and he was laughing and he said, "I do all 3 of close things, can you help me?"
And we looked at a recent video of his talk and he had spent the first 11 minutes of his talk saying, "Hi, I'm so and so, anybody here from Dubuque out there in the audience? Oh, great to see my old friend Bill over there—"
That's a chit-chat, that's the kind of stuff people do when they're nervous.
Then after about 3 or 4 minutes of all that, he told the audience who he was and he had chatted about Dubuque and then he finally said, "Here's what I'm going to talk about."
11 minutes in, he still hadn't actually started his talk.
What I said to him very simple and what your audience can do immediately, a very simple immediately practical thing you can do is think about a James Bond movie, how do they start?
When I ask people that, they say, "Well, they start with—"
RF: Cars and guns and chases, and motorcycles and explosions.
NM: Exactly, yeah. And you get about 7 minutes of that, you're completely hooked and then what happens?
RF: And then it rolls the credits.
NM: Then it rolls the credits! And the credit and stupid, right, those waving girls and the kind of filmy scenes.
RF: Like the gunshot captured, like the frame that kind of like closes in and then somehow opens up and things are falling...
NM: Yeah, I remember as a boy at about age 12 being thrilled with those credits, but not anymore, we recognize this grown-ups and they are pretty silly.
The point is that the movie survives that because it has just delivered to you 7 minutes of great entertainment, a whole lot of expensive explosions and really valuable cars have been blown up or people have been killed, you can't take your eyes off of it, right.
This same analogy works for speaking, don't start by introducing yourself, can you imagine if a James Bond movie started with Daniel Craig coming out in the screen going,
"Hi, I am Daniel Craig, you're about to see a James Bond movie, it's going to be really cool, we're going to have explosions, we're going to have deaths, we're going to have cool women in it".
It would be ridiculous, right?
The point is, don't start with that stuff, don't start with an introduction, don't start with an agenda, nobody cares if it's an hour along, we can live without an agenda.
And most of all, don't start with chit-chat.
When I'm sitting at a conference watching speakers and they're doing the chit-chat thing to make themselves feel more relaxed.
Then I see the audience is surreptitiously getting out the cell phone thinking, "I can do one more text because he hasn't really started yet," or, "I can do one more email, I can check to see how things are back at the office, because the talk hasn't really started yet."
And yet, if you— and I've seen this over and over again with speakers that I've coached, to come out and just launched right into a story, right from the beginning, “It was a dark and stormy night—”whatever the story is, then the audience is engaged right away.
RF: What I like about this is it really does help to differentiate yourself from the next person who is talking about leadership.
A big part of applying for talks or for getting that paid gig, people are going to do their due diligence, especially if they are dropping 5000, 10 000 to bring somebody.
If the videos that people are watching are 11 minutes of, "Hello, hi" chit-chat, "Here I am, this is not what we are going to do," that's not going to translate to an exciting performance.
I like that your tips for getting people to pay for you to help people pay attention, are just solely focused on crushing it when you're on stage.
That seems to be the biggest barometer of your likelihood for success in getting booked in getting speaking gigs, is really being that communicator that wows people and leaves them with more than 10% of their content after the talk.
NM: Yeah, absolutely.
I always say to people who call me up and ask for help in developing a speaking career, I say that, "There are 3 things you have to do really, really well," and it's even truer today.
What's happened in the last couple of years is that this professional speaking business, the paid speaking business has gotten more and more competitive.
The speakers are better, the audiences are more demanding, part of it is TED.
TED has really raised everybody's game, you can see great speeches on your computer just by googling “leadership” or just going on to TED.
The game has been raised on everybody and there are really 3 things now that you have to get absolutely right to be a successful speaker.
The first one is, you've got to have a killer speech, and that means none of that babble for the first 11 minutes of the speech. The speech has got to kill right from the start and it's got to be great.
The real test of that is to get referrals, because that's still the best source of your next gig, is somebody in the audience going,
"You know, that was so great, we should get it in at that other place that I belong to or that other club or that other association or that other company I've heard of."
Or they'll get asked by a friend of theirs, "Hey, how was that speaker that you heard the other day?"
"He was great you should get him into your company."
Word of mouth, speeches have got to generate referrals, that's the first thing.
The second thing is that you've got to prove that you're a thought leader in some way; traditionally in the speaking world that's been by writing a book.
Now that's kind of opened up and there are other ways besides writing a book to prove your expertise, to show that you are a thought leader in this space, to prove your authority.
But the book is still the kind of gold standard and so you ought to think about that at least for the long term.
In the short run, there's a lot of online stuff you can do blogging and that kind of thing that kind of establish your expertise.
But the first thing people are going to do when they think about hiring you for real money as you say, they're going to do their due diligence, so they're going to google your name and they're going to see what comes up.
If there's nothing there that says, "This guy is an expert in the topic,” whatever it is, then they're not going to hire you.
Then, the third thing is you've got to get word of mouth going about, you've got to create some buzz, we call it creating community.
You've got to get people saying, "Hey, we should get Ryan in to speak because he's awesome."
It sounds less convincing when you call up somebody and say, "Hey you should hire me to speak because I'm awesome."
We don't really believe that kind of pitch anymore and the returns on that are very, very low.
That doesn't say you shouldn't do it, but you've got to be able to keep doing that a lot, because you're going to get 100 rejections for every one nibble that you get if you do cold calling.
RF: Yeah, versus the edification will open up the doors all day long, for sure.
NM: Exactly, and if other people are saying great things about you, then those invitations are going to roll in.
You really need to crush all 3 of those things, you need to have the killer speech that gets referrals; you need to have some kind of proof of your expertise thought leadership we call it, you need to have something out there that says you do know what you're talking about.
And then, the third thing is you've got to start community going, you've got to start them talking about you.
In a way that I believe that brings into the community, ask genuine questions, so it's not all just you going, "Me, me, me, I'm great, hire me to speak," but you actually get people debating about an issue that you're passionate about.
I think that's the real test and also, it's the thing that will sustain you over the long haul of trying to establish that kind of speaking career.
If you really care about it, you do care about the conversation, you do want to hear other voices, and hear what they have to say.
Then you're going to be in that game for real, and people are going to start responding to you and talking about you and putting you forward as a speaker.
That's what it takes.
RF: Wow. Nick, I told you I was super excited when I started, and now I'm super stoked that this has finished, but I'm also super looking forward to seeing you online.
I've been checking out your Twitter that's actually where I initially reached out to you and so I would encourage people to follow you on Twitter.
I love your little, very simple, "Good speakers do this, great speakers do this."
NM: I've been dribbling those out, I'm glad you liked those, those are fun to do.
RF: What one thing can I say today, especially with the new 280 characters, I still want to go back to this like, "Give me less, less is more."
You'll see me retweeting those out pretty consistently and hey, what great foundational advice, you've got the three things, to have a killer speech, to prove that you're an expert, and to create a community eventually with the almighty word of mouth.
I still really think that the concept of the internal voice is so important to focus on as well as the external.
Then just all of this brain science that goes into it, I think the more people get excited about the science behind speaking, the more they will get crazy interested like a 17-year-old who has a new reason to learn how people are actually communicating with each other.
NM: That's right because when they say, "Hey Nick, you look great," they don't mean it.
RF: Hey Nick, you did great, this was great and hopefully, you can tell by my excitement.
NM: That was really great to chat with you, I really enjoyed, thank you for your questions.
RF: Everybody who is listening to this, tweet us both up and let us know what you liked and let us know how you're getting to your goals to create that community that will spread the word of mouth because you're an expert so that you can make a difference with whatever your message is.
This is Ryan and I've got Nick here, check out past episodes, check out future episodes and follow Nick on Twitter for his little almost less than sentence amazing insights.
So, Nick, this has been a lot of fun, I look forward to connecting more and maybe we'll share the stage some time together.
NM: That'd be great. It would be great to meet you in person, thanks so much.
RF: Alright, thanks.
NM: Alright, take care.
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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