Ryan Foland speaks with Alyssa Dver, an author, speaker and Chief Confidence Officer at the American Confidence Institute. They dive into the neurology and psychology of confidence.
What does real confidence look like? We often think it is simply the opposite to acting insecurely, but Alyssa gives us a new perspective in this episode—real confidence is the ability to stop making everything about you—you are secure and able to go make change happen in the world.
But how do you get there? And how do you reach inside yourself and pull out confidence when times get a little rough (like before you get on stage, or during an encounter in a difficult relationship)? The key might come from brain science.
Listen to this podcast to find out:
- What is happening in our brains when we start feeling insecure.
- Why you need to be an expert listener if you want to succeed at speaking.
- Three practices you can start today to grow a more robust sense of confidence.
- Why we need more empathetic pitching and storytelling (Spoiler: Adapt stories and pitches to the listener.)
- Why it has become harder to get paid to speak—and what you can do about it.
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Alyssa Dver: Hey, this is Alyssa Dver.
I just had the greatest time talking with Ryan Foland about how to use the brain science of confidence to totally own and rock the stage.
I'm hoping that you're going to enjoy it as much as we did. My book is “Kickass Confidence” if that's any hint, so have fun. Hope to see you soon.
Ryan Foland: Ahoy everyone, it is Ryan Foland, and I am back with another fun episode of World of Speakers.
Today I have a tech genius. Ladies and gentlemen, she's not only a tech genius, but she is the Chief Confidence Officer of the American Confidence Institute.
Her book (which is number six and she's working on seven) is called “Kickass Confidence”.
Ladies and gentlemen, Alyssa Dver.
Welcome to the show. How are you today?
AD: I'm psyched. No one ever calls me a tech genius, at least in my house. Ryan, I'm glad we have it on tape now.
RF: Yeah, it's definitely recorded. It is out there in the world.
The reason why she's a tech genius is because we just spent the last five minutes with her as an IT tech person, self-diagnosing, figuring out her own computer system, diving into the matrix, not giving up, and basically fighting until she was able to hear me.
That says a lot about you—and your personality.
AD: Oh, that's kind of the definition of a speaker—fighting until somebody listens to you. Right?
RF: Right, exactly. Or just continuing to speak until you’re heard.
What we're going to talk about today is basically how you have found the stage as a way to share your message, some of the tips that you've got for our speaker listeners, and then how you leverage the stage to spread your solution; which is, hopefully, solving a big problem out there.
Now, my guests know that I don't really do much of a cyberstalk, other than really just kind of verifying that you are an awesome speaker that speaks all around the world, so I want to get to know you a little bit and the best way to get to know people is story time.
If I were to ask you, instead of reading off of your bio, or instead of going through your accolades, to take a time travel back and tell us a story from your past?
If that was the only story that I was able to hear, or that I was able to tell somebody that it would probably be a good representation of who you are as a person, and kind of what you stand for and what you're all about?
AD: I love it.
Starting out as a marketer, I was attracted to that industry because it was rich in motivational theory and all this cool, brain stuff that we knew back in the dark ages when I graduated.
I really pursued that, fully-fledged, for many years, Ryan.
I was head of marketing for a number of tech companies, so that's where the tech genius comes from.
Needless to say, for many years I felt like it really wasn't my thing in totality.
As the digital age came upon us, and marketing became much more focused on analytics and kind of explaining things through data, while I could do it and I appreciated it—I loved it even less.
I was always kind of on this path to look for something that still had the juicy stuff about the marketing world but find a different way to kind of explore it in a career.
I decided to do this study on my own. It was kind of on a whim because I kept finding that women in particular, in business, had this funny thing that they kept doing, which was asking for opinions and apologizing all the time.
I was like, "What's up with that?" It turned into a book which was my fifth book actually, called “Ms.Informed”.
RF: Miss like “Miss Informed”?
AD: Yes, “Ms.Informed”.
RF: I have a feeling we're going to have fun because I like to make up words, and the fact that you just threw that out there was pretty funny, so I think we're in a good spot.
I'm learning a lot about you already. Alright, so Ms.Informed...
AD: I'm going to send you the book, as the whole thing is one big, fun New York kind of humor. That's where I'm from originally.
That was out in the universe and somehow caught the attention of some really good people that I'll come back to in a minute.
Needless to say, I was doing that kind of as an exploration—hobby almost.
I guess it was a year after the book came out. My son, who is now 19, but at the time was about 8, was diagnosed with a very serious neurological condition.
I can tell the story now—and I do it every time I'm on the stage—with restricted emotion, in the sense that I've told it so many times that I know what I'm going to say.
But I will tell you, my heart still races every time I tell it.
It was that moment where my confidence as a mother, as a human being, "What did I do to deserve this? What did my child do to deserve this?", really, really got punched.
Now, fast-forward a couple years, as we went through absolutely torturous treatments, things that were debilitating to him, things that as a parent I would never wish on anybody, including injecting poison, as in Botox, into my child only to watch him scream in agony every couple of months.
I finally decided that there had to be a better way and really dug into everything I could find on the internet and so forth because the medical community just wasn't giving me good answers.
A fast version of this story is that I found a guy that had moved from Spain to Toronto, where my business partner is. She was one of the people that found “Ms.Informed” and kind of said, "I want to do some work with you because this is really cool stuff".
I happened to be going to see her, I brought my son with me on this trip. The whole thing has this whole karma wrapper around it because the timing and the coincidences are quite frankly hard to explain otherwise.
I learned about this thing called neuroplasticity, which is the ability to change your brain.
At the time, again, this was many years ago, when I would talk to the neurologist about it, they thought I was nuts. It can't be, this is phooey. It's Eastern meditation at its best and yadda-yadda.
Well, over the last five years we've seen an explosion in brain science in general, but particularly in this area of neuroplasticity.
I'm happy to report that last week that same doctor, the one that I had found up in Toronto— is a medical doctor and a musician, everything but a neurologist—did a lecture. He did his first lecture for the Harvard Medical School because—I'm not so nuts—it actually does work.
Not only was my son—I want to say “cured”, but certainly he is doing fabulously. He is a killer tennis player, he's going to college and he's fully functional. Everything's great.
We've helped thousands of other people, but it also kind of rocked my world back to what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I said, "You know what? This is where my passion lies."
It lies in understanding motivation, how people work, how the brain works, bringing it to a stage, putting it in books, delivering programs that really help other people take advantage of this incredible science, but at the same time making it accessible to anybody.
RF: Wow. Okay, so I learned a lot from you in that story and three words came out— resilient, relentless, reflective. Relentless, and the fact that you found what I wrote down "not getting good answers".
I think there's an interesting point to that because there are always answers, especially in this digital age. It's just like there's an answer for everything but you weren't happy with the answers.
Then this idea that there was a restricted emotion—your words are very colorful by the way. You're an artist here with your words.
You're “word painting” for me.
This idea of being restricted but not being satisfied with the status quo and "being punched." Like punched with what's happening. I think that’s such a visceral way to put it.
But then you basically were both resilient and relentless, but use those two things to become reflective, and it sounds like you're not only taking this for you and your family, but it's the opposite of selfishness and you're out there basically saying,
"Look, I've discovered a new magic bean that I plant and it goes up to the clouds in a place where people aren't looking."
Now, you're basically helping to empower people with their words. That's my take on it.
What do you think? Is that pretty accurate for you as a person there?
AD: Well thank you, from one verbal artist to another. I'm grateful for that compliment.
I think what has been the greatest pleasure is not only does it, yes, help people in real terms. In other words, when I do keynotes, when I do workshops, people come away with real tools and all that.
I get to speak to MIT and Harvard and Wharton and pharmaceutical people and financial people. All different people from walks of life that we often look at, we see as fully confident people.
And yet, the reality is that life is hard for everybody.
My story was really hard for me. It's hard for me to even believe that it happened and we got over it. But at the same time, I don't go out necessarily as a way of saying to people,
"Oh, you know, my life's harder than yours."
Everybody's life is hard.
If we, as human beings and speakers of course, can help people not only feel comfortable that their life is—we all have our struggles and challenges but give them some real tools, not just stories.
Quite frankly, Ryan, there are a lot of stories out there right now, TED Talks and others..
We need to give them some science. Give them some science-based tools, templates, tips that really make a difference.
RF: That's interesting.
I like the consciousness of the fact that it's not just a story, and the awareness that everyone has their own story.
Obviously, stories connect, but it is dangerous to have a story that is positioned in a way where people might think that it's worse than theirs.
It's all relative at the end of the day.
I have a friend whose dog is going through some issues with cancer and it's like that's his kid.
It's all relative and this idea of just focusing on the fact that we all have the stories, but it's really if you want to empower that story, you've got to add to it.
You're talking about tools, science, tips, templates, all that kind of stuff—is that your mission, to take your stories of foundation, and connect and create these tools, tips, templates, and tricks for people to essentially gain more confidence or to heal themselves of illnesses, or is it a catch-all?
What would you say there?
AD: Well, very clearly, yes.
I'm agreeing with what you're saying, but I want to clarify.
People come to me all the time, other speakers, people who want to write books, and they want to write their bios. They say they have a great story.
That's great, my story is great too. Your story is great. It's all great.
But my story is just the explanation for me. Why I got into this, as somebody who is not a neuroscientist, not a social scientist, and not a psychologist. I am not even really a coach. (I do some coaching but I don't consider myself a coach.)
I am not any of those labels.
But what I am is somebody who is taking all this very complex information, motivated, both in terms of my intellectual and material needs, and I've gotten back and done the additional research with all these brilliant people to validate it.
Subsequently, now I have the ability to give everyday people some hands-on tools, so that when you go back to work, no matter what it is, or you're about to come on stage, or you're having dinner with your in-laws, which can be equally confidence-crushing, right?
I'm going to put a Twitter call out to anybody. If anybody has a confidence-crushing situation that you want to share, then definitely share that. Tag me at @ryanfoland, and I'm assuming you are on Twitter?
AD: Oh, yes. Yes, I love that hashtag.
RF: Where do people find you on Twitter, so that we can start a #ConfidenceCrushing conversation?
AD: I love it. It's @kickaconfidence because we couldn't put kickass confidence, it was too long.
RF: Right, you've got to be PG there.
Okay, so tell me more about this #ConfidenceCrushing across the board— whether it's in-laws, whether it's life-threatening, whether it's this?
AD: You had asked me about the target market, as we were prepping for this.
One of the qualifiers that I like to say—now of course, everybody in the world can use some more confidence. We all can. Some of us admit it more than others. Different conversation for a different day perhaps?
But my particular niche, because I bring the science forward, has real appeal and what I call intellectually competitive environments.
People who go to work or go to school in places where they're constantly having their smarts challenged. Where you look around and you go,
"Everybody here is smart, and the only way for me to compete, to succeed, to be promoted, to get a raise, whatever it might be, to get an A, is to show that I'm smarter than everybody else."
What happens is it creates all kinds of havoc in your brain.
In fact, it actually can damage neural pathways in a permanent... when I say permanent, in a relatively permanent—you can't actually undo them.
We don't even know what's happening where we start doing behaviors; things that I qualify as business bullying.
I'll give you an example, Ryan, and I'm sure you've had people on your show, I hope I'm not one of them, that is, but the classic smartest person in the room, right?
You say something—they always have to say something a little bit better. Maybe they one-up you.
RF: Yeah, one-uppers.
I'm not going to name them, but we have somebody, just a family friend, and we call them One-up ____ (blank), whatever his name is, and just no matter what you say, even if I told him that, he'd be like,
"Yeah, but you know what? I know somebody who..."
AD: Yeah, just the smartest person in the room or somebody who just has to correct somebody else, or is always disagreeing with somebody because they have to portray themselves as the smartest person in the room.
Now in our heads, we do this like, "The guy is doing it again...here he goes again."
But it does kick us in the confidence. Literally.
Many people will subsequently go into what we call caveman mode.
They go into survival mode, and without giving a whole brain lesson on a podcast, it literally is that they've lost control of their brain processes. Their brain stem, which is responsible for all your autonomic, literally the body functions you don't have to think about— breathing, sweating, heartbeat and so forth, that's the part of the brain that takes over.
That's what caveman had, that's what we had when we were born.
Needless to say, the rest of the room starts acting a little like cavemen too. We start beating our chests saying, "Oh, wait a minute. I'm the smartest person in the room."
Now here's the reality. The person who does that, I think it's a guy you referred to, right?
RF: Yes, we'll call him One-up John Doe.
AD: Okay, One-up John Doe.
Now, One-up John Doe probably doesn't know he's doing this either, but it's a form of bullying. It's trying to make other people feel less good about themselves so that he can feel better.
It is a form of bullying, but we're so darn used to it that we kind of accept it and then we get defensive. We go into that caveman mode, and so it is just confidence-crushing all the way around.
RF: Now I think it also has a belittling aspect to it. Belittling and bullying, so it's maybe belittlelyling.
AD: Oh, yeah. Okay.
You also said something before. I don't know if you said it on purpose, but you said,
"When somebody like One-up John Doe actually does this and they are belittling you, it kicks you in the confidence," but I heard you say, “in the confidass”.
Like the confidence-ass.
If your confidence had an ass and somebody was to one-up you by belittlelying them, they're actually like kicking you in the confidass.
AD: Someone is going to listen to this, my friend, and be like, "That editing job just was weird."
RF: Yeah. This is real. This is not edited, and it's funny you talk about this. I'm very passionate about this.
My first TEDx Talk is called "How to not get chased by a bear" and it actually is talking about this caveman syndrome where everything we see oftentimes presents itself as a bear and we react to it like it's a bear.
Somebody one-upping you could definitely be a bear, and then you react to it, and then it creates a negative feedback loop and everybody's just like, "Grrr caveman".
AD: It is exactly what it is.
Again, not to get in too deep brain science, but you kind of have led me down that bear path, sorry my friend.
RF: Yeah, the bear path is good.
AD: There is a part of our brain that actually is looking for anything that's going to harm us. It's called the amygdala.
Harm can be a physical bear or it could be John Doe one-upping because emotional harm is also what it looks for.
At that moment where it senses that something's potentially harmful, it either is going to send you into caveman mode, in psychology we say fight or flight, right?
It's kind of like rash-responsive reaction and that's what the brain stem does in a good way in most cases. Go back on the kerb because you're about to be hit by the bus.
RF: Yeah, don't die.
AD: Right, don't die.
When it's an emotional situation, like One-up Johnny or the smartest person in the room or whatever it might be, where you're like, "Wow, this guy's going to make me look stupid." Or, "I may fail," or, "I may regret what I'm about to do."
The biggie, which most people don't recognize actually, dates back to 1940's research of Mr. Abraham Maslow, if there are any fellow Maslow lovers out there. That when we feel like somebody's not going to like us, when we don't belong, when they make us feel like we're outsiders, we just don't fit in.
That's one of the biggest triggers for caveman behavior because our amygdala just goes bananas.
Again, we don't necessarily recognize this in the everyday world, but this goes back to all this research and science that I bring when I teach people how to manage those triggers by really strengthening your brain pathways to not lose it into the brain stem.
RF: This is a great transition because I think one of the biggest bears in the room is when people have to speak in front of other people.
That's just classically the biggest bear and even to the emotional bear, this invisible bear when somebody might not believe in you or it's your time to go up and speak and they give this one-up John, or after the fact they're like,
"Yeah, he did really good, but I saw somebody else."
I'd love to transition into some tips for people when it comes to public speaking, how they can get past that bear, how they can train their brain.
What are the tips, tactics, tools, and templates for them to, basically, up their emotional intelligence to feel more comfortable on stage and maybe realize the emotions that they're going to go through as they develop their skills as a speaker?
The thing I love about speaking is that you can always get better, right?
It's like the bar is always being raised and so you're always going to have people better than you. You're always going to feel intimidated. It's a process.
How can we use your brain science to give some tactical tips to our speaker listeners about dealing with the bear that is public speaking?
AD: I love this question.
I very recently in fact did the Boston Toastmasters keynote, and so these questions are all really fresh in my brain, and some of the tactics.
I remember when I gave this tip and everybody looked at me like, "Are you kidding me?"
I can't see your face, let alone anyone who's listening to this podcast, but trust me, this is the most important tip that I got as a speaker.
It changed the way I work and I can explain it neurologically, which is this: when you go to speak, forget about yourself.
The reason you're there to speak is not to show off. You're there to change an audience in some way, to educate them, entertain them, make them forget about their problems and prove themselves. Whatever your purpose is in being there, you're there to do a job, but it's all about your audience.
I know it sounds almost pedantic, Ryan, but if I am prepared and I really know my stuff, which I do, and of course, most speakers are going to rehearse and do a good job.
My job is to really connect with the audience, and if I worry about them, and not so much what they're thinking about me, my focus shifts. My need to belong and fit in kind of dissipates because that's not my job.
I'm not there to fit in. I'm the speaker. I'm not fitting in no matter what, because I'm the speaker and they're not.
The reality is this: there are always going to be people in that audience better, worse, I don't care who they are. They're not going to love me.
That's not my job to make them love me. My job is to help them fix whatever they're there to fix.
In my case, they're there to learn how to manage their confidence. They are there to learn and understand how to drive their behaviors better by having more control of their brain.
That's what I'm there to do. I am the expert in that. I know I'm the expert in that. I don't need any more than that to stand on the stage and give you the information.
If, for some reason, somebody's in that audience and they want to be a cro-magnon—because there's always going to be one or two—there's only so much I can do.
I don't care if I'm standing there naked, juggling fireballs out my confidass.
RF: My facial reaction is—not necessarily to the last part about you juggling fire, but the idea of the fact that you don't matter, that it's really the audience that matters—my facial reaction would look something like this. Bam bam bam bam.
AD: Okay, it's that good?
RF: It is good. It's the horn that's going off in my head.
I've heard a version of that advice a few different ways and it never gets old because the idea of being nervous is tied to selfishness because you're worried about what they think—and you're saying "who cares."
You used the word cro-magnon, I don't know what it is, but I picked it up in context as my new favorite word.
Like there's always going to be these cro-magnon people out there who are nay-sayers or the one-up John Does and stuff like that.
But if you forget about them, and you're saying like the opposite of selfishness is speakerness.
AD: It's speakerness. I love that!
Opposite, yes, and you know what? There could be an audience of 100 people. If you're changing the lives of 5, you had a great day.
I'm not saying that you've totally succeeded because you certainly don't want to fail the 95 others.
But go in with the attitude that you have something to offer. That's why you've been asked to speak. And stop worrying about your hair or what you're wearing.
And yes, you want to look presentable and all that, but leave it at home in terms of your attitude and go there with "I gotta bring it."
One of the greatest honors hasn't even happened officially yet, but I got asked to speak this fall for the US Air Force.
I'm sitting there going, "What the hell do I know about the Air Force? I don't know anything about the Air Force, I'm so far removed from that world."
I asked the folks there, and in particular that's the recruiters that wanted to hear my talk, and I said to them "Why? What do I have to offer you guys?"
Not that I'm not being confident, I'm just missing something here.
They're like, "Every single day we have to go and present ourselves. We have to present the opportunity why to join the Air Force to people, and we know that, based on what we've seen of your work, you can help us do that better."
I thought to myself, "That's right. That's what I do."
I help people be better, whether they're presenting on a stage or in a sales situation because when they feel good about what they're going to do, all that other self-selfishness, like you said, it melts away.
We could do a whole show just on that one tip, but that kind of changed my world first and foremost.
RF: #BeBetter. Yeah, I dig this.
Basically, not being selfish is a magical tool.
What are some of the other challenges that you solve for speakers who are in the process of really honing in and sharpening their brain skills?
Are there any mind hacks, or are there any special tricks or tips from a mind standpoint that we can tap into as speakers to up our speaking game?
There's this really awesome easy thing that professional athletes use. Actually, some of the sharpshooters in the military use it too.
It's called a structure.
That's the technical name, if you're a psychologist for example. A structure can be anything, Ryan. It can be a piece of a song, it can be a picture, it can be a lucky charm. It can be even just a memory.
But it’s something that you can go to quickly and remind yourself that you're freaking awesome. And it doesn't even have to be freaking awesome on the stage, but that you are really a great person, that you do something that's really great. It gets that dopamine fired up in your brain very quickly.
When I do some of my programs I tell people to set up a folder on their phone or a laptop, get a Dropbox folder, or any of your favorite tools out there, there are hundreds of them, and stick in there some of the photos that, when you look at them, just make you smile—like goosebump moments.
Maybe it was a time you were on the stage where people were really excited, or maybe it was a family event, or your diploma, or whatever it is. A picture is great.
Also, grab some of those LinkedIn or other comments. Maybe informal recommendations that you get, or just comments from somebody after you've spoken, or anything again that you've done.
It could be a job review. Anything that basically was feedback that you can look at and remind yourself, "You know what? You're really pretty good."
I hate when people give, say, "Visualize something."
I'm like, "No, this is a realistic visualization." This is something that really happened that you can see.
It can be a memory, but it's something that you can actually see in your brain that tells your brain "You got this," and that neurotransmission will really do wonders. It relates very much.
Are you familiar with Amy Cuddy's work on power poses?
RF: Yeah, I am, I've seen the talk and I did a lot of research for my TEDx talk about the bear and the croc brain and all that kind of stuff.
AD: People have a problem with Amy Cuddy's work in the sense that, when I see people, academics, having a hard time reproducing the results, which basically say, based on the way you sit or stand. [Read more on this “Power Posing Is Back: Amy Cuddy Successfully Refutes Criticism”.]
You're going to get positive neurotransmission into your brain. That dopamine and endorphins and adrenaline and things that are going to help you power through that thing. It's going to suppress all the cortisol and other stress hormones that make you nervous.
For me all it is is a structure.
If you go to the men's room before you speak and you do a little power pose and it works for you, that's your structure.
For me, I go to a quiet place. I do a little zen. I look at my confidence collection online. I remind myself “I can do this.”
Now, here's like the one that most people use it's called—breathing.
You take a deep breath.
Now funny enough, if you do yoga, you do any kind of martial arts, the control of the breath is a very common thing.
It's also a structure because what you're doing is you're taking it on unconsciously, which is breathing, which is controlled by that caveman part of your brain we talked about before. It's called your brain stem, and we're taking control, we're saying,
"Goddamn it, I own breathing. I own breathing in my cognitive space, not my brain stem."
Again, you are taking control of the brain, you're literally feeding it some positive kind of neural chemicals so that you can remind yourself, "You got this".
RF: Well I have to admit that I stood up for a little bit, did my Superman pose and I'm feeling a little puff chest, and then I took a couple breaths and I'm ready to go.
I'm ready to save somebody from a burning building. I'm not sure, but yes, I'm ready.
AD: I love it. Like superpower speaker.
You're going to have to figure that one out because now you're ready to take on the world. I love it.
RF: Yeah. I'm actually in the process of trying to get sponsored by Post-it because I love Post-its and I've been on this active campaign to have them let me be a brand ambassador.
Speaking of a cape, one of my pitches to them is that, "If you sponsor me, I will make a cape out of Post-it notes and I will wear it on the stage."
They have these super extreme Post-it notes right now and I'm confident that they will stick together.
I visualized myself running on the stage with a cape of Post-it notes and I definitely will do a few power poses and think of this moment before them because there's a lot of people who might just absolutely laugh and think I'm ridiculous, but I don't care about what they think because it's important that they are the ones entertained.
RF: Because I'm not selfish.
AD: I love it.
RF: Because this podcast is revolutionizing with simple advice. That's what I love about this.
One of my favorite concepts—and I would love your insight on this—everybody's looking for these hacks and these apps and these tricks and the shortcuts, and how do I get to the stage quicker, and how do I get my speaker fee faster, and how do I do all these things.
I really, truly believe that successful _____ (blank) so let's say, successful speakers— successful speakers are not doing things that everyone else cannot do.
Successful speakers are doing what everyone can do, but not everyone does.
AD: I love that.
RF: It's things like breathing. It's things like power posing. Things like having a structure to go to. It's things like not being selfish.
I'm just curious about your thoughts from a chemical and brain standpoint when it comes to leveling up. Do you really feel that we need these dynamic and crazy hacks to fast-track things?
Or is there truth in the fact that we all have access to taking an autonomic function and owning it?
We have the ability to wake up half an hour earlier and these little moments.
Because this is what you've given me, you've given me and our listeners tiny little things that every single person can do but that's what's exciting, and I think people are looking for these hacks.
I'm curious to know your thoughts on that because I know you're working with people who are trying to up their games.
AD: Well, I think there are, in some cases, legitimate shortcuts.
The challenge is syphoning through the vast amount of bull crap everywhere that subsequently kind of hides some of the gems.
Here's another little gem that I think goes to your point, which is you hear all the stuff about, you should have more gratitude, and you should be thankful and celebrate things, and you know what? Athletes have been doing small wins celebrations for two decades now at least, right?
Again, there's some neurological proof now that when you celebrate a small win, you again infuse the brain with the positive stuff like dopamine and adrenaline, and you say, "Oh, I just did that thing," and it doesn't have to be a major thing. It can be a small thing.
You didn't fall off the stage this time. Woohoo!
“They didn't throw tomatoes at me. Woohoo!”
I think that to some extent what you did state, and I don't want to lose it in this kind of conversation, is that a lot of things are not shortcuts. And good preparation, doing things a lot to the point where you do master them, whether you're a Malcolm Gladwell 10,000 hours kind of person or not—different discussion—but I think there is something to be said for people who like to wing it.
It is very, very, very rare to find anyone who is really a master in anything that will wing it. Because they make it look easy, it doesn't mean that they haven't practiced and practiced and practiced.
When you are in the neurological space and you do something enough, you do hardwire those pathways in your brain.
For example, it almost doesn't matter how tired I am anymore. I recognize that I'm tired before I go on stage, but those pathways take in so clearly that when I'm on stage, it literally is as I'm in my zone.
When I'm done, I have learned, Ryan, not to book any meetings. I've learned not to do a presentation next day, because I'm intellectually and literally neurologically done, and I know that.
Practice and getting to the point where you really can get into a zone when you have muscle memory kicking in on the mechanics of things makes a huge difference, I think, for speakers.
Again, celebrating small wins is really important just in a context of if you really are growth-minded and you want to improve, you want to get better, you want to up your game, so to speak. It doesn't have to happen in big chunks. It can happen in small incremental things that, over time, really do make a difference.
That's actually a great transition into understanding the small and medium and large steps. Maybe some of the shortcuts and hacks that you found through all the BS to get to stages like speaking at the Air Force and being a keynote at major Toastmasters events.
Because there is one side of the speaking fence which is the skills and the expertise and the knowledge, and those are very much these things that everyone can do.
Sometimes you just have to put in the time. And like you mentioned, there are legitimate shortcuts.
What are some of the pieces of advice or personal experiences that you've had to fast-track, or a shortcut to get to these larger stages?
In the same respect, what are some of those standard things that everyone can do that maybe they're not doing?
AD: There's a reality check here.
When I started speaking, 10 years ago or so, and I say 10 years—I wasn't doing it full time or all the time for money.
However, the world has changed so much in the last—I want to say 2 years—that because everybody's waking up and going what a great opportunity to generate leads, to do branding, both for the company and for the speaker—personal branding.
The competition has gotten crazy. My competition is no longer “”other professional speakers".
My competition is the VP of AI technology for blah blah blah blah company.
It almost doesn't matter what space they are in. If they have a big title at a big company they can be the world most horrendous speaker, but that's my competition in many cases.
And that's what everybody's facing these days. It's free, corporate-funded competition.
Finding money to get paid as a speaker has gotten very hard. It doesn't mean it's impossible, but I want people to realize if you're having a hard time, that's partly or largely the reason why it may not even be because you're doing something wrong. It's just hard.
Now with that said, the more you do, the more portfolio you do, the better videos you put out there— I'm on my third video it's about to come out in the next couple of weeks because you have to continue to get better and show people that you're better.
Like you said, you could always be a better speaker, but being a good speaker is the foundation.
You’ve got to be good.
You’ve got to have good material. You’ve got to deliver well. You’ve got to have good marketing materials.
Do you have to have $4 million worth of it? No.
But you do have to invest both time and money to make yourself—make it provable that you're good.
I have a very unique spot. A unique nature, if you will. It helps. If I were just a motivational speaker, if I was a sales trainer, there are a gazillion people out there doing that.
You really have to have a niche, and there's a lot of people who want to sell stuff to speakers that will tell you to pick a very specific market—really do deep dive marketing on it.
Absolutely, but you better have something that's unique and special and/or that you have a lot of marketing. Your numbers are what's driving the business.
RF: Back to what you talked about originally.
You were saying that your story really just makes me think of like the door that opens for you to be able to explain why you're on stage.
When you're on stage, you have to back that up with the research and the expertise and the time and all of that investment.
There's this—let's say the stage gap, right? Where it's one thing to have your story and become passionate and know what you want to talk about so you get inside of the room, but then the next step to the stage, you have to have all that expertise.
Are there any things that you found, personally, that have worked?
Do you leverage personal relationships?
Are you big on social media marketing?
Do you do paid Facebook advertising?
Are there any tricks that you've used to sort of combat this crazy excess supply of speakers? As you said, the free corporate big title speakers?
AD: Yes, all of it.
I do all of it, but still the best source for my paid speaking is referrals.
Somebody who saw me, heard me on something like your podcast or saw me live. That's always the best referral.
I'm starting to believe that applying for any call for applications, call for speakers, is a moot point because, again, the competition and the noise that's created from that. Yeah, somebody looked at my thing. They will probably be very impressed, and if it fits their event, so on and so forth. The likelihood that they're actually going to take the time to do that is so minimal that I'm doing less and less of that these days and really relying on my referral base.
So what do I do? I stay in touch with people.
It's,yes, social media. Yes it's email, but I actually call and email people directly, that I know are influencers in an organization or target market that I know is particularly good for me.
So, good, old-fashioned relationship building and keeping it. Not just making a contact. Just because we're friends on Facebook doesn't mean more real friends.
You’ve got to build those relationships and you are still going to come just like you would a real friend.
RF: One thing I would assume is that your confidence is a big part of that.
Maybe you can share with us how to attain that kickass confidence.
If you were to do a high level, 3 main takeaways from this book—your most recent one—because it sounds like the relationship—I think that's pretty straightforward. You're building relationships.
But I believe there's still even a certain amount of confidence required to go out there and say “Yeah, I am a speaker. This is what I'm doing.”
How do you help people build the confidence to build the relationships that will actually form the kind of relationships that would lead to referrals?
AD: Listen before you talk.
RF: What? No, I am just kidding.
AD: You know what? We're so busy trying to tell people stuff.
I'm sure you've had this experience, I posted stuff too. It's a natural behavior.
You almost want to think about what you want to say next and you're not really listening, right?
You can't help it, and we do that in natural language, natural relationships, but if you really want to build confidence in yourself, confidence in the other person very quickly, listen to them, ask questions first and then tell them your story.
Apply it to something that they care about. Apply it to something that they go "Oh, I can relate to that."
A story on its own is not so powerful unless somebody can relate to it.
Figure out how to do that, and the only way you can do that is to listen first and speak after.
RF: Yeah, I love that.
One of my favorite things to do is to get people to ask me questions, and the concept is: the more you talk the less people actually are going to listen, and the less you talk, the more they'll actually ask questions.
I've got this 3-1-3 method with which I help people in the conversation.
When somebody asks you what you do, or you're not sure and you're in that spot trying to build a relationship, and one of my favorite things—and I think there's a lot of brain psychology in it. I think we could geek out on this later—but I have this, I guess, this vision that no one really cares what you do. They care about the problem that you solve. And so if somebody asks you what you do, and you just tell them what you do, they're secretly waiting for you to finish telling them what you do so they can tell you what they do. And then you're just waiting for them to finish saying what they do so that you can continue on your way, right?
It's like people are talking but nobody's listening.
A fun trick that I have people do, and I'd love for you to like think of this from the psychological level, when somebody asked me what I do, I look at them and I'm just like,
"It sounds funny, but it's not what I do that's important."
That flips the whole conversation and they're like, "Huh?" and I say, "Well, it's the problem that I solve. That's what I'm excited about. That's what I'm passionate about."
And then they'll be like, "Well, what problem do you solve?"
Then I tell them the problem, and it's a way of, sort of, during the conversation to create intrigue and interest by just physically saying less, and that way they have to ask you more questions.
AD: That's an interesting approach. I love that.
I think you need to patent that.
I don't know what to call it off the top of my head, but I am going to work on that.
RF: Well, I call it permission-based pitching and it's part of this 3-1-3, and that's all trademarked and everything.
That's what I speak about.
I geek out on this idea of, we talk about relationships, we talk about connecting with people, but when you put two real people in a room together, and there's nothing else, that interaction when people are actually communicating face-to-face—that's so fascinating to me.
I think that there's a lot of problems that people have within there.
AD: But again, it goes back to what we talked about in the beginning.
If you approach a stage or a relationship or anything else of interactivity with other people and say,
"I have some stuff that I think I can help people with, but I can't help you unless I'm focused on you first. I'm not worried what you think about me. I'm not worried if I'm impressing you. What I want to worry about first is, in a relationship we both have to feel that there's value. We also have to both have an appreciation for our value—each other's values."
The only way you can get to that place is through listening.
You don't have to listen to me, necessarily, but if I come to the relationship with "Hey Ryan, like tell me a little bit more about yourself? What do you need? What are you looking for?"
I'm, in so many ways, gathering information. Then when I come back to you to present to you or to pitch to you or to converse with you, I'm going to make it more relevant to what I heard you need.
RF: You've got some conversational ammunition right there.
AD: Oh, yeah. Well, ammunition. I don't know if I want to make it so aggressive this one time.
Yeah, I'm a kickass kind of girl.
But in reality, I think that that's what, when you look and study, what makes people confident.
Quite frankly, I have a hang-up about this phrase self-confidence because the truly confident people are not so concerned about themselves.
They're concerned about, "How do I help other people in a way that we both get value out of it."
RF: I like that. Say that one more time for the record book, because I just like it. I just want people to hear it again.
AD: The truly confident people are not so self-obsessed.
What motivates them, what drives them is, “How do we bring value to each other?”
Subsequently, they're focused on other people as much as, if not more than, themselves.
RF: Awesome, and I'm going to replace my word ammunition with valuenition.
AD: Here we go! We're creating a whole new dictionary today, I love it.
RF: I actually have a Ryan Foland Dictionary Word Document that I just keep dumping words into so valunition is like having the ammunition but not in a gun sense at all.
It's just like this plethora of value that you can then basically deliver to people.
I think this all is coming full circle because your original story is that you were relentless and finding an answer that was better than good. That was great.
Essentially, that situation with your son—you are listening to people on stage, the doctors on stage telling you you're the audience member and you got a unique thing to be like,
"As an audience member, I'm not accepting this. This is not good".
The true doctor that is actually listening to his audience, the speaker who is listening to the audience, the person who's trying to build a relationship who's listening to that other person to find out what really it is that is a great answer for them, you can then have this valuenition that you can return in favor, selflessly from the stage, from behind the curtain, from the doctor's office, and that idea is that you're confident enough to make it not about you.
You're confident enough to listen and find value so that it is about everyone else, and you're confident to do that.
That's kickass confidence right there.
AD: Love it.
Well, I think I want to go stand and do a power pose, and then I want to go out there and do something. I'm going to start a Google Drive Folder because that's my preferred technology of my confidence cards.
Can I say that, is there a phrase that you have for these little bits of information?
AD: Yeah, well, we call it a confidence collection.
RF: Okay, so I'll put some confidence cards in my confidence collection and create some sort of a structure so I can pull back when One-up John Doe is doing his thing.
I can think back to my Google Drive, maybe access it on my phone, sort of reset the amygdala so that I'm back on board. Maybe another power pose and then go kick some ass.
AD: Yeah, and also, if nothing else, just remember exactly a little bit like a caveman we call that in our book— bonehead behavior.
Maybe you'll geek out a little inside, not let them in on the secret, just go, “Man, you're acting like a jackass! It's okay. Go for it. I'm not going to fall for it.”
And that, in and of itself, kind of saves some face particularly when you're with your in-laws.
RF: Tons of fun.
Well, make sure that you shoot me this Ms. Perception or whatnot and then I'm going to check out your book. If somebody wants to find you, where's the best way to point them?
Where do they find you online?
AD: OK. Well my name, because it's so unique, makes it easy to find me. Alyssa is my first name, Dver, so that's easy enough but “Kickass Confidence” is the name of the book.
AmericanConfidenceInstitute.com is our website.
I welcome and love to hear from folks and their opinions as well as their experiences, so thank you Ryan for making that available.
Well hey, this has been a lot of fun, and I look forward to connecting with you, and maybe we'll share the stage some time. Who knows?
AD: Oh man, that would be awesome. I look forward to that.
RF: I will make a Post-It note cape for you as well.
AD: Oh, all right. I love it, I love it. Thanks so much.
RF: All right. You have a great day and keep changing the world.
I'm really inspired by what you're doing.
I think it's not about self-confidence, it's about being confident that you can be yourself regardless of what anybody else thinks. I love it.
AD: I love that. Thank you so much.
RF: All right. Goodbye everyone and it's not just goodbye, it is hello if you click and you start another podcast here at the World of Speakers, we find amazing people so that we can bring them to you.
They give you insights, they give you tips, real-life experiences, so you don't have to make the same mistakes and you can do the same things that they did to help them find success.
If you liked this, which I hope you did, definitely subscribe, leave us a review, let us know and your review. I'm going to add to my confidence folder for a confidence card and I might just peek at it before I go up on the stage in my Post-It note cape to save the world.
Alyssa, thanks for listening because you did a good job of listening because you let me talk which makes me feel good.
This is good, you're good at what you do? I love it.
Alright. We'll talk to you later.
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.
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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