Ryan Foland speaks with Tara Jaye Frank, leadership development expert, speaker, and writer of “Say Yes: A Woman's Guide to Advancing her Professional Purpose”. Tara Jaye speaks internationally on topics such as leading with purpose, inclusion as a business driver, emotional intelligence, and advancing women.
Ryan and Tara Jaye talk about how to cultivate presence, both on and off stage. They talk about a variety of topics, including presenting skills, marketing, and creativity.
Listen to this podcast to find out:
- The 4 things Tara Jaye does for each talk: preparation, practice, prayer and presence.
- How to find out what motivates the event organizer, and why this is essential for ensuring you can offer a talk that meets their needs.
- Why being clear on your talk's storyline is more dynamic than rotely memorizing your talk.
- Ideas on how to maintain presence both onstage and in daily conversations.
- Ryan and Tara Jaye’s thoughts on finding the right balance for what you share on social media.
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Tara Jaye Frank: Hi, this is Tara Jaye Frank and I just chatted with Ryan Foland about building bridges to the future. Also, we talked about wings and roots and space.
Ryan Foland: Ahoy, everybody. We're back with yet another World of Speakers podcast.
Today I'm super excited because we have Tara Jaye. She is known for building bridges to your desired future.
We're going to hear a story from her past. We're going to get her tips on how to best build a bridge in your speaking, to tap into your talent.
And then finally, we're going to learn how she looks at the business of speaking to help you find more success.
Tara, welcome to the show. How are you?
Tara Jaye Frank: I'm fabulous. Thank you so much for having me, I really appreciate it.
Ryan Foland: Good choice of words with “fabulous”.
I'm always curious to see what people say when I ask that question, and fabulous, really you can't get much better than fabulous.
I want to start the show as I always do, which is not reading your bio, but it is hearing a story from your past.
If you could just pull a story, fabulous or not, from your past that you really feel is a good representation of who you are as a person?
If that's the only thing I had to describe you to somebody that I met, and I wanted them to get to know you, what would that story look like?
Can you pull from the Tara past and share it with us?
Tara Jaye Frank: Yes, sure. If you don't mind, I'll kind of share 2 parts because they go together, kind of 2 sides of one coin.
I grew up, I like to describe it, with a mother who gave me roots and a father who gave me wings, meaning my mom has always been very practical and grounded, and then my father pretty much treated me as though I had absolutely no limits.
The story where this really came to play is when I was working at Hallmark Cards. I started there as a greeting card writer, right out of college.
Several years later I was in an editorial director position and we were working with Dr. Maya Angelou and I was her editor. I worked with her directly for about 10 years. Very cool stuff, very memorable, as you can imagine.
When I called my father — this is just to give you a sense of him. When I called my father to tell him that I was Dr. Maya Angelou's editor, and I was working with her, I was so excited, as you can imagine, he said to me, "Well, you're a better writer than she is." I was like, "Excuse me?"
I remember at the time feeling so frustrated because I wanted him to be as excited and surprised and delighted as I was to be having this experience.
And in typical form, he was just like, "Well, she's great but so are you. You're great too."
And I realized, kind of thinking back on my childhood, that I grew up with a man who literally believed that there was no aspiration too high for me, no dream too big, no goal too out of reach.
I do believe that growing up with him in that way, completely shaped who I have become as a person.
Ryan Foland: Interesting. Now can you think back to your childhood? Is this something that has always been the case?
Was he encouraging Halloween costumes that had wings? Was he encouraging superheroes that could fly? Was this a theme that you always saw?
Tara Jaye Frank: A theme I always saw, and not so much in the superhero costume way, but more like every time I would come to him with some new accomplishment that I was excited about. It honestly made me crazy when I was young, because when I was younger I felt like he was never—I don't want to say never satisfied—but I felt like I could never surprise or delight him with an accomplishment.
He always responded, "Well, of course, that's to be expected."
When I got my first raise I called him and told him, "Oh, I got a raise!" And he said, "Well, what was it?" And I told him and he said, "Is that it? They should be paying you more than that".
So when I was younger it was frustrating.
As I've grown older and I have children of my own, we have 6 children, I realize what he was actually doing was instilling in me, not so much a sense of never being satisfied, but more an expectation that I could do, achieve, accomplish anything, and never to feel that I was somehow less worthy than anyone else.
It's the seed he planted, I would say, that just got nurtured over time, and grew into something that I've really come to embrace as an idea.
That I should expect to succeed.
I should expect to excel.
I should expect to be valued for what I offer and what I contribute.
And that, honestly, has been tremendously useful in my speaking career as well.
Ryan Foland: Interesting. Now tell me about your mom with the roots? How was that dynamic? Did you also call her? How was that interaction and that balance?
Tara Jaye Frank: Yes, she was very grounded, very rational.
So I would call her about something crazy that I wanted to do and she was the "what if" person.
"Well, have you thought about this? Well did you call this person first? Did you check this?"
While my dad was like, "Yeah, go for it! Fly!" I never really got too far from the ground, so far that I may break my face, I like to say.
There were checks and balances in my childhood, and also in my young adulthood. So my mother provided that for me.
When I say she grounded me, she gave me roots, I never really felt like I was floating even as I was reaching for higher and greater things.
Ryan Foland: It's interesting.
I am always fascinated with how our relationships when we're young, in the family, help to formulate how we end up really reflecting ourselves to the world.
Your parents really are the original builders of the bridge, and then you have an opportunity to take the materials that they've given you, and then as you're building bridges for other people, to help them build bridges, just like lots of bridges built on bridges and the technology of bridges from a baseline is like to get to the other side.
Tara Jaye Frank: That's exactly right.
Ryan Foland: But you've got different options, right?
Somebody can look at it, "Well who needs a bridge, let's just get a big pole and run real fast," or, "Let's get a zipline," or, "Let's get a launching pad,” “Let's get a big spring,” “Let's tie some rockets to our back."
So this idea of bridge-building I think is an interesting metaphor for getting to the other side.
As we look at our parents to see what they did, for me at least personally, I can see a lot of that has impacted the way that I approach what I'm doing.
My next question, I'm always fascinated with the idea of an inciting incident. It's that one moment that actually is the part where you can pin it down and be like, "Wow, that's where I actually saw or heard or felt this."
Was there a certain inciting incident where you realized that speaking was something you might be able to double-down on, or that it was one of the strengths that you maybe hadn't identified before?
Tara Jaye Frank: Yes, absolutely. I have a very clear one.
Ryan Foland: Nice.
Tara Jaye Frank: I know, it's always good, right, when you have a very clear one.
As I said, I worked at Hallmark for many years, and I was a leader in our creative division.
You can imagine, we would have top leaders from customers come into the building and do the sales pitch thing, share with them kind of what the creative strategies were, what the product strategies were.
I was invited to represent our creative product development and our recent work in products in a sales meeting. The very top layer of this huge retailer, they were in town that day, they were in this meeting. Our top leadership, they were also in this meeting.
I was a middle manager at the time, if I'm remembering correctly.
I got up there and I kind of told the story of our creative process and I also shared some highlights of the product itself.
One of the top leaders from the retailer, he was watching me very intently the entire time, and when I was done talking about the product, he just kind of stopped and slammed his hand on the table and he said, "You know what, you are phenomenal!," and he said, "Some people speak in black and white, you speak in color."
It was one of those moments where I heard him loud and clear. I felt it in my bones. But it also changed the way everyone around the table from my own company perceived my contribution.
From that moment on, I got invited to more meetings like that. I was asked to represent the company on our 100th birthday or anniversary on the media tour, and invited to all of these different sessions and conversations where we needed someone from Hallmark to represent the heart of the work we do.
Everything changed after that. And then I started having people tell me, "You know, you should be a public speaker. You should be a motivational speaker."
While speaking as a career hadn't occurred to me to that point, I knew that I loved telling stories.
I knew I loved getting deep into the content or the concept of understanding what success looked like, figuring out a way to capture those ideas and share them with people so that they would not forget them.
And that was, quite frankly, the start of how I began to shape what would become my speaking career.
Ryan Foland: Interesting. So a couple of things; one is a comment or a question in that, are you sure you didn't slap his hand and he said you were fabulous?
Tara Jaye Frank: I don't think he said that, no. But I may have heard it, I may have heard it.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, there might be something deep-seated in there, like that's where the fabulousness started.
And the other, I heard you say in describing what you started to talk about was the heart of the work that you did.
And that just stuck in my mind as a very colorful phrase to bring the work to life.
Like that is not a black and white sentence, you were not saying, "I decided, at that point, I was sharing the work that we were doing in the company to create creativity for these—"
You're like, "I was sharing the heart of the work."
I'm like, "Dang, she just totally put this thing into color right here in front of me." I like it, as an example.
Tara Jaye Frank: Yes, yes, thank you.
When you work for a greeting card company where your job is essentially to help people express their innermost feelings for the sake of building bridges between themselves and other people, it really is a heart job.
That's where everything started for me.
My history, or where my career began, it never really went away, even though I'm not with that company anymore, I don't do that specific kind of work anymore. All the work I do now really started with human motivations and behaviors.
I wanted to be a greeting card writer when I was 14 years old. I decided at that point that that's what I would do, and I would find out where in the world Hallmark was, and I would work for them and I would write greeting cards.
And people say, "Well, is that because you started writing at a young age?" And the answer to that is "Yes, and—"
It wasn't only because I started writing poetry at 6 years old, it was also because I was infinitely curious about what makes people tick, about what makes them feel why they feel.
What makes them feel, more or less. How to share those feelings with other people in a way that essentially maximizes that emotion.
I was just always super emotional as a human being and everything I was curious about came out of that heart place.
And my mother called it. She said I was “dramatic,” but remember, she's rational.
Ryan Foland: Leave it to mom, yeah.
Tara Jaye Frank: Yes, right. She saw it as being dramatic. I now know I've just always been super emotional.
Emotion is the core of who I am as a person.
As you can imagine, that sometimes creates complexity, but other times it has created this world of opportunity for me where I'm able to bring that in very practical ways to other people and inspire them to see a future beyond where they are.
Ryan Foland: Alright, so I have a challenge for you.
As we transitioned, we got a really good idea of who you are now, and we know that you have this skill of writing greeting cards.
So I'm going to challenge you to right now, on the spot, help me come up with writing some greeting cards to our listeners, specifically highlighting tips and tricks of the speaking trade. So that we send it to them in the mail and then they're like, "Oh this is such a nice card, what is this artwork?"
And then they open it up, and see this little nugget, they are like, "Wow, this really speaks to me. This makes sense."
Let's design a set of greeting cards for speakers, specifically with speaking tips and then we can decide on the envelope color and everything like that later.
Tara Jaye Frank: I am cracking up on the inside, because you have no idea how many times people have asked me to write a greeting card on the spot, I'm like, "Mhm, good writers and fast writers aren't always the same thing."
But I have given some thought to this whole tips thing, and I do have a few. So we may be able to create what we would call a “boxed set” to be able to share with people that pretty much follow tips.
And you know this, you're a speaker, everyone has their own way of going about this work, and it has to be authentic and genuine for you.
For me, there are 4 things I do every single time, and I do not feel like I'm successful when I skip a step.
And so if I had a box set of speaker tip greeting cards, the first would be preparation, the second would be practice, the third would be prayer, and the fourth would be presence.
It would be about those 4 things because that's essentially what happens between the time I get a gig and the time I get off the stage.
Ryan Foland: Okay, so let's break those down, deconstruct them one by one, let's find out what the ink is made of.
When it comes to preparation, what is the color behind the preparation?
Tara Jaye Frank: Well, the first step “to prepare” is it’s really important for me to know my audience, which sounds like a big “duh!”
We ask these questions:
“Who's going to be in the room?”
“Where are they from?”
“What's your gender mix?”
I ask demographic questions and all of that.
But more than that, I always ask the people hiring me about their objectives.
"What are you trying to achieve ultimately,"
I ask questions about pain points,
"What are the pain points for the people in the audience?"
I also ask every single time,
"What does success look like for you?"
If, by the time we're done with this experience, and people are giving you feedback about it, what are they saying specifically that would make you feel that this particular experience was a great success?
Knowing my audience is more than about understanding their demographic facts and figures.
It's knowing what's underneath that — what do people need, what are they motivated by, what are they striving for, and then, what does success look like.
So that's how I prepare.
Ryan Foland: Okay, so my question is diving a little bit deeper into that: What is your specific tactic in which you receive this information?
Are you calling them on the phone? Is your assistant gathering it? Is it a form that they fill out? How do you get this out?
Tara Jaye Frank: I talk to people on the phone, I have an initial phone call with every potential client.
So they may fill out a form initially, they may reach out to my assistant the first time, but my first step in the process is to talk to people on the phone.
I schedule a 30-minute call and I just ask lots of discovery questions, essentially to try to understand what they're trying to achieve.
And in that time, I'll usually feel it in the moment and then kind of share a couple of potential ideas with them about how we might be able to collectively achieve their desired outcomes.
But it always starts with the first call from me.
Ryan Foland: Gotcha. Okay, I dig it.
So let's deconstruct the practice. When you say “practice,” what do you think of?
Because there are different thoughts on practice.
My martial arts instructor always told me,
"Practice doesn't make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect."
So tell me about your thoughts within those letters that make up the word “practice”?
Tara Jaye Frank: Yeah, well I do not have a thought for each letter, unfortunately. I have not unpacked it that much.
Practice for me is about being very, very clear on my storyline. I don't memorize my talks, but I memorize my storyline.
So if I have an actual presentation deck, then for each visual I have, or each slide, I understand the story that is attached to that particular visual.
If I am clear about the story I want to tell, then even if somebody asked me a question when I didn't expect it, or my presentation doesn't work, or I forget to say this one specific data point, I forgot to share this research, I will not ever lose sight of the story I'm trying to tell.
So I get clear about the storyline and then I practice telling the stories, point by point. I literally put like a story per bullet.
So if I have 10 slides, I have 10 bullet points. Because there is a story for each of those.
And I practice that. I don't practice it by reading it, per se, I will write it all down, because writing it down, as you know, helps you to remember it.
But then after I've written it all down, I'll just tell the story.
Sometimes I tell it in the mirror, but usually not, honestly. I'll just kind of sit there with my notepad beside me and then tell the stories at least a couple of times, until I feel like I am one with the story.
So that's the practice phase for me.
This practice thing is fascinating because, I'm sure you've heard this as well, when you get up there and you do your thing and then people always say to me afterwards,
"It comes out so naturally. Do you just get up there and talk?"
And I'm like, "Oh no, no, no, no. I prepare, I practice, I don't just get up there and talk”.
It's beautiful when it seems that way, when it comes across that way, but I like, wholly believe in practicing.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, it's like you've got your mom on your shoulder whispering, "What happens if something goes wrong? You've got to make sure that you're prepared."
And then your dad on the other side be like, "Come on, just wing it. You've got this."
And like you've got this mix where you're prepared, you've got the roots, but then you're not fearful to sort of flap your wings a little bit and see where it takes you on stage.
Tara Jaye Frank: Yeah, definitely.
Ryan Foland: Alright, so talk to me about prayer. Let's put our hands together if that's what we're talking about and let's dig into it.
Tara Jaye Frank: Yeah, so this is an important step for me personally because after I've prepared and after I've practiced, when I actually get on site, like in the 10 minutes before I'm going to hit the stage, I have to release it.
I have to realize that I have done all the preparation and all the practice I can possibly do, and so I just, I say the same prayer every single time.
I say, "Dear Lord, I pray that your words become my words. your thoughts become my thoughts," and then I just let it go.
I just trust. I trust that I am as prepared as I'm going to be, and it helps me to stop spinning in my head about all the 52 things I want to remember to say.
So I surrender at that point.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, because the final moments before going on stage, if you don't control that process, it can control you and especially all the anticipation, everything up to it.
So I like that, this idea of release to just sort of let go, and have faith in the practice and the time that you put forth.
Tara Jaye Frank: Yeah, that's right, because I've seen a lot of people speak over the years.
I do a lot of speaking, but then I also design conferences for a couple of organizations, so I get to see people speaking all the time, beyond just myself.
And the worst possible thing is when you can tell someone, and it's happened to me before, not in a while, but it's happened, when someone is in their head too much.
And so I try to get out of my head at that point.
Ryan Foland: Gotcha. And then that really leads to the fourth, which is “presence”.
And so you have to be outside of your head in order to be present, otherwise you are your worst nightmare and you are stripping away the words of fabulous like it's Back to the Future, and the people disappearing in the photo, but it's like literally the letters to the word fabulous until it stresses you out, if you can't get out of your own head.
Tara Jaye Frank: Yeah, that's absolutely true.
The present for me is honestly the most powerful part, and I believe this is where people feel me the most.
Where they say, "You were so much fun," or, "Funny," or, "Engaging" or however they describe your presence on the stage. What they're really describing is the fact that beyond all the preparation, I am there in that moment with them.
And so, if something surprising happens, I'm able to respond on my feet.
Like I said, if someone raises their hand and just wants to ask a question in the middle of the talk, I am there with them, and I'm able to respond organically.
seeing people's faces,
understanding what they're responding to and what they're not responding to,
being able to flex,
understanding when I might be taking too long at a certain point in my talk, based on body language, and so I'm able to kind of speed ahead.
All of those things are possible because I make myself be present once I am out there.
Ryan Foland: Now I'm going to say that that is not an easy thing to do, and my question to you is how do you practice your mindfulness or your presence when you're not on stage?
Tara Jaye Frank: This is a really good question.
There are times I feel more present on stage than I do in other parts of my life, believe it or not, because my brain is always working.
And once I get out there I cannot think about anything else other than what I am doing, in that moment. It's a liberating feeling, very exhilarating for me.
Other than that, my brain is sometimes my worst enemy, but I try to spend time actively listening.
For me, the best way to practice being present is in conversation with another person face-to-face where you say to yourself,
"I'm not going to wonder what that chime was on my telephone. I'm not going to look at what time my next meeting starts, I know it's not in 5 minutes. I'm not going to be thinking about everything I want to say to this person versus what they're trying to say to me."
Active listening I find is a really helpful way to practice being present.
I'm not always as good at it as I want to be, to be frank, but that is something that I try to do when I'm not on stage.
Ryan Foland: It makes me think of this concept, and I don't know the exact quote if it were going to be in a holiday card, but something along the lines of it ends up feeling like the days are long and the years are short.
And so it's almost like there's all this prep time and all of the backend work and all of that, at least from my perspective, sometimes it just feels like it all blends together because there's just like “whoosh!”
And then that 45 minutes that you're on stage sometimes seems like that's it, like you were in that moment, you were so there that time just kind of stands upon itself.
Do you feel something similar to that when you're on stage, that this moment seems to extend, and then like all of a sudden flash forward, and like it's another year, and then you're like, "Oh, I'm on the stage again," or something like that?
Tara Jaye Frank: I do feel that way.
It's funny you say that, because I find that if I'm on stage and I feel like the moment is extended, sometimes it's because I'm thinking too hard, if that makes sense.
I find that the more present I am the more natural it is, the faster it goes, the more I'm paying attention to the people in the audience, as well as what it is that I want to share with them.
So if I'm really present, if I'm really in that moment with everyone, then in the first 10 minutes, I'll say, it seems like it's going more slowly, and then all of a sudden I'll look at the clock, the best thing in the world is to have a time clock, I'll look at the clock and I'll be like, "Oh my gosh, I have 4 minutes left. I've got to wrap this party up!"
But the more I settle into it, the faster it goes. In the beginning when I'm trying to get my rhythm, and when I say get “my” rhythm I mean like “our” rhythm, because to me it's a collective rhythm, it's not just me on stage trying to do my thing.
It is me trying to be aware of them and creating a moment where we're all in there together, and that usually doesn't happen right away, it takes 5 to 10 minutes to happen. But once it does, it's like, "Oh, look at the time."
Ryan Foland: Right, it makes me think visually of like a tuning fork, you slap the tuning fork and it's always consistent, but then you've got to sort of match to that tone but then once you get it you're like, "We're in that groove."
Tara Jaye Frank: Definitely.
Ryan Foland: So all of this is for naught if you don't get up on the stage.
So I want to transition into how you visualize the speaking business and some of the things that you wish you would have known, or some of the things that you actively are telling people if their desired future is to become a professional speaker, and how you build that bridge to get them there.
Tara Jaye Frank: I love this question, and I get it a lot now.
"I'm thinking about being a speaker, I want to be a speaker. What would you share with me?"
I had the benefit of some really wonderful guides, early in this career.
One of them, his name is D.Keith Pigues and he probably gave me the most valuable piece of advice of any advice I've received.
So I would say Keith, and then also a world champion speaker whose name is Ed Tate.
So several years ago when I first thought, "I think I want to be a speaker," and literally it was probably 15 years ago, it was a long time ago, he came to do a talk at Hallmark and he was amazing.
We spent some time afterwards and I was talking to him about it and I said, "You know, people tell me I should be a speaker, and I really want to be a speaker," and I was thinking about speaking as an act, right like as a verb.
“I'm going to go speak!”
And so he says to me, "Well that's great, what are you going to speak about?" And I was like, "Uh… I don't know."
Ryan Foland: The words that are coming out of my mouth?
Tara Jaye Frank: Exactly, I'm going to speak about the things that enter my brain and then come out.
And it's so basic, but he is the person who essentially said to me,
"You have got to decide what you are going to speak about, what you will be known for, what your expertise will be.
What you will share with people that will make their lives better somehow.
And you have to figure out how to focus on something that other people can grasp.
Because no one's going to hire you just to speak, they're going to hire you to teach them or inspire them, relative to a specific topic or desired outcome."
And when he said that, it made all the sense in the world.
I was a business person, I'm halfway smart, right, it wouldn't be a surprise what he said, but somehow I was not marrying that clear-value-proposition-thinking with the fact that I wanted to be a speaker.
I was just thinking about the fact that I wanted to be a speaker.
And so I spent years after that, not actively, not every day, because I was still full time in corporate, but there were certain times during the years following that I asked myself,
"What am I going to speak about?"
And I eventually came to it, I wanted to speak about leadership. I really wanted to focus on women in leadership.
No matter what job I had at Hallmark, I always relished leading most, talent development was something I was hugely passionate about.
I came to my topic over time, but he was the first person to say, "First you’ve got to decide what you're going to speak about." So I share that with people today.
And then D.Keith Pigues was the person who said, "You need to think about how you're going to value yourself as a speaker, because if you don't figure that out first, you will never get other people to value you appropriately."
And I will never forget this. I spoke for one year in the very beginning for free, and I did that because I was trying to build credibility and visibility.
I'm like, "If I go out there in the world and I speak for free, more people will see me speak.
If I do a good job they will like it, they will want me to come back, they will share it with other people."
So in my mind, that strategy made all the sense in the world.
But I was also still working full time in my corporate executive position, so I didn't have to make money speaking.
I was just going out there doing it, doing more of it, getting more comfortable doing it.
And I will never forget, he said to me, "When someone as good as you are, goes out to speak for free, you make life difficult for all the people who make a living doing it".
I had never thought of it that way.
It shocked me to my core because it was never my intent to devalue the industry of speaking, which is essentially what he was telling me I was doing. "You are unconsciously devaluing this industry by doing this, and you should be making money doing this, you should not go do this for free.
What was the value I would bring to people as a speaker
How would I value it monetarily moving forward?”
It's been crazy how much both of those points have kind of changed everything for me.
Ryan Foland: So here's a question for you when it comes to speaker bureaus.
Because I'm just curious about your thoughts on it, I'd love the advice of knowing what you're going to talk about and making sure that you value yourself.
It's almost like to love yourself before you can love anybody else, I couldn't stop thinking about that when you were saying that.
You have to love your message before somebody else will maybe love it. You have to know your fees and accept it before somebody else will accept it.
But speaker bureaus seem to market themselves as sort of this unique breed that is there to help you out, but there's a lot of talk about “being bureau ready”.
And the idea that a bureau is not going to help you figure that out. You've got to figure that out and then go to the bureau.
So where do you see bureaus fitting in, and is this something that you leverage? What are your thoughts?
Tara Jaye Frank: I don't use any bureaus, personally.
I remember when I first started speaking, I was dying for a bureau to want to represent me somehow.
I felt like that was the signal that I was successful, if a bureau would take me on.
So I reached out to a couple in the early days, and I didn't get any bites. I didn't get anyone interested.
And I remember I felt some kind of way about that.
And then over time, through both consulting and speaking and building some long term robust relationships, I got to a point where I didn't need a bureau.
So I don't use one now, not because I never thought about it or never thought it might be helpful for me, but because I had to make my way without that.
Once I did, it doesn't serve me to use a bureau now. I would make less money than I make just doing this on my own.
Ryan Foland: Yeah I feel you on that.
But I think as a business model, there's an interesting misconception about that, so I'd love to hear that you sort of by necessity figured out things without them. Then realized in that process that you don't necessarily need them.
And I don't think people need them.
I think for the right person at the right time it's a great accelerant, but I don't think it's something that from my research and my experience, it's not something that they're not going to help you get to that Level 10. They're looking for Level 12s to then get them to the Level 15s.
Tara Jaye Frank: I completely agree with you. They were looking for level 12s, I was thinking that a bureau was supposed to help you.
I had it all kind of flipped in my head.
And now, like I said, they reach out and I'm thinking, "No, I'm good".
Not that it couldn't be valuable at some point, and I'm certainly not dismissing it as a useful path, but I just don't have a need for it now.
Ryan Foland: Yeah and that kind of leads me to my final question when it comes to the balance between presenting yourself as a successful speaker and essentially ditching the act to show people where you're at in that process.
Now as you know, Leonard Kim and I wrote our book "Ditch The Act", and I'm always curious to see how you see vulnerability and authenticity and transparency playing into this process.
Because you're talking about a 15-year process, and I think sometimes we forget about that and there's this tendency I see where people as they are starting their speaking career, and this is myself included, I was like,
"I need to look like the most badass person out there. I need to have everything super polished. If it is not polished I don't want people to see".
What are your thoughts of that, when it comes to ditching the act and your ability to be successful in the speaking business?
Tara Jaye Frank: I think this is a really powerful discussion to have. And I honestly go back and forth about this.
I try to be, I'll say LinkedIn is the platform I use most frequently, and people say when they meet me in person, they say, "I feel like I know you."
And I tell them, "Well, you do."
Because I'm pretty transparent on LinkedIn. If I'm having like a crazy day I'll just be like, "Oh my gosh, I am having a crazy day," or, "I can't focus," or, "Look, a squirrel!" things like that.
So I'll share, I'll be vulnerable, in the moment. If I'm kind of struggling to be productive, if I had a rough day or experience, that kind of thing.
But I also, and I don't know if it's because I'm a woman leader, if it's because I'm a black woman leader, I don't really know what it is, I don't know that I will ever feel comfortable peeling back the curtain all the way to my bones.
Because I sometimes feel as somebody who does not fit the mold any way, that people are sometimes looking for the holes in your armor to begin with.
And so I really, honestly try to strike a balance.
I'm not going to be the person on Facebook or on LinkedIn telling everybody about every single failure that I have ever experienced in life, but I also don't pretend to be perfect, and I don't pretend that I have it all figured out.
And I don't pretend that I never have bad days. That is not real, it's not at all genuine. But I try to be conscious of striking a balance.
Because I also want people to be confident that when they hire me to come into their company and teach their women leaders how to reach their goals, that they can trust me to do that, and to do it with consistency, and to do it with credibility and with authority.
And that is as important for me, ensuring my business can thrive, as it is for me to be transparent and vulnerable.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, I love that.
We talk about those little small sharings as level 1 exposures, like on a scale of 1 to 5 and it's not about sharing the level 4, we suggest not to share until the level 5s, but I've personally found the more that I open up to those level 1 — I had really weird, crazy, scary dreams the last 2 nights.
Tara Jaye Frank: I saw that!
Ryan Foland: And I shared that and I was like, because I mean, that's a level 1 exposure.
I wouldn't normally be like, "Hey my name is Ryan, I'm a professional speaker and I had a bad dream last night" right?
But the response has been overwhelming, like people making me realize it might be the food I'm eating, I could guess the stressors, but I have people DMing me now with like these resources and all this stuff I'm like, "Yeah, I'm a human, I have bad dreams too."
And I don't typically have dreams, and I don't typically have bad dreams, but it's just something that is just weird, and sharing that has like I feel like I'm letting people get to know me because I had a bad dream, you know?
Tara Jaye Frank: Yeah, and you are, and I saw that this morning Ryan, and I thought, "Okay, I can relate, I had a bad dream last night too."
I totally did, and I woke up this morning like, "What the heck was that about?" I remember I shared something early in the year in January, it may have been the level 2.
I had basically shared that everything was quiet at that moment and I was kind of thinking, "Oh my gosh, am I going to reach my goals this year for my business?"
Because it's so quiet in these parts. But I wouldn't share it until things had started to pick up in a crazy way.
So things started to pick up like crazy and so I was like, "Wow, earlier this year I was wondering X, and now like I'm looking for a cloning machine."
Well, I felt like it was totally honest because it was, it's what I had experienced, but somebody in my family was like, "Why did you share that? Your clients are going to think that your business is not successful."
And I was like, "Well but my business is successful, I just had a quiet January and it kind of freaked me out."
So things like that, every now and then I'm like, "Did I overshare?" I ask myself that all the time.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, but I think the key is balance, and I think the key is those lower-level exposures, where like I mean, I can tweet out a number of different things like, "Hey, this is an amazing podcast with Tara," and it'll be like, you know, a couple of people here, a couple of people there.
But then it's like, "I had a bad dream," and I'm just kind of like, "I'm not sure what's going on," it's like everybody jumps in, and everybody wants to talk about it.
I'm like, I can't keep up with the tweets today. So I like that.
Tara Jaye Frank: It probably goes back to your comment about people looking for themselves in your stories, they don't really care about you, they care about themselves and seeing themselves in your stories.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, and it's not a bad thing, everybody, because we all care about ourselves.
If all you're sharing is stuff that professional speakers can be like, "Oh yeah, I totally get that, yeah I'm stressed out when I'm about to give a $10K keynote tomorrow too. [laughs]" Right?
The lower you bring that level, the more people can actually relate and give value and give value back to you.
Because you are talking, and I see the whole picture coming together here.
You talk about to be successful you have to not only know what you're going to say, but you have to know your own value, and you have to convince yourself that you are giving value.
But if you don't let people give you value, it will become unbalanced.
It's like the friend who never lets you pay for gas, always covers the bill, and you feel like kind of like cheated out of your ability to participate.
So it sounds like what you're doing is bridge-building, but bringing people to work on-site with you.
Tara Jaye Frank: Yeah, that's very, very true. And my best relationships — it's always the case — are reciprocal.
I'm a human being, when I decide I'm going to give, I give it all. I leave it all out on the stage.
And I never want to feel like I've done that and it's not reciprocal, and I also don't want the opposite to be true.
I don't want anyone to ever feel that they gave me more than they got in this business that I'm in.
And so I work hard to ensure that the relationships are reciprocal, and that manifests in so many different ways.
It's not always about cash money, sometimes the other things, but reciprocity for me is important.
It's kind of the lifeblood of sustainable relationships, which essentially is what I really tried to nurture in this business.
Ryan Foland: Yeah, and nurture sounds like nature and that's exactly what we all are at the end of the day, and you have to have an ecosystem, you have to have the plants taking the carbon dioxide, you have to have the release of the oxygen, you've got to get your mom give you the roots, you’ve got to get your dad to get you to reach for the sky. It's all there.
I mean there is a lot to unpack here, and I think this is one of the episodes that people can listen to over and over and get different nuggets each time.
So, Tara, I can't thank you enough, this has been totally cool.
I'm going to send you a nice greeting card with a stick figure drawing on it, and it's going to be an original, it's going to be a Ryan original.
Tara Jaye Frank: I will frame it and keep it forever.
Ryan Foland: Oh gosh, awesome So how do people get in touch with you to have you help them build a bridge with you for what they want to do?
Tara Jaye Frank: Thank you for asking. I'm at TaraJayeFrank.com.
Ryan Foland: I feel honored that I really feel like I got to know you more today as we were able to have our little chat.
Tara Jaye Frank: Same. And I appreciate you inviting me so much. Thank you so much, Ryan.
Ryan Foland: Alright, this is it, if you guys or girls enjoyed this show, then like it, share it, Facebook it, Gram it, whatever you've gotta do to get it out there in the world, because this is a way that you can add value to others by sharing how Tara adds value to the world.
Ladies and gentlemen, this has been another World of Speakers podcast.
Tara, we will see you on the flip side online, offline, and I hope to share the stage with you sometime. Adios.
Tara Jaye Frank: I hope that too, bye everyone.
A bit about World of Speakers
World of Speakers is a bi-monthly 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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