World of Speakers E.69: Laura Gallaher | Creating experiences through empathy


Average: 5 (1 vote)

World of Speakers E.69 Laura Gallaher

Ryan Foland speaks with Laura Gallaher. Laura is an organizational psychologist, speaker, facilitator, and executive coach. She is the founder and CEO of Gallaher Edge, which she started in 2013. Laura’s key topics are self-awareness, accountability, trust-building, and team cohesion.

In this insightful podcast, Ryan and Laura explore the connections between psychology, acting, professional speaking, and audience engagement. Laura also shares an innovative marketing idea which has helped her make meaningful connections and build her business. 

Listen to this podcast to find out: 

  • How empathy can help you frame your talks to the specific needs of event organizers, which will help you get hired. 

  • How creating experiences for your audiences can lead them to deeper insights, and why this is becoming essential. 

  • How to get more speaking engagements by using social media to find commonalities, then asking for opportunities. 

  • How to make rewarding connections by thinking outside (or in Laura’s case, inside) the box. 

  • Dynamic, online-offline networking: Laura shares an idea on how to use customized videos to stand out from the crowd.

  • Some simple comedy acting tips on how to be funny on stage.



If you enjoy this interview we’d be honoured if you reviewed us on iTunes. Just follow this link.


Laura Gallaher: Hi everybody. 

This is Laura Gallaher, and I just really enjoyed my conversation with Ryan Foland talking about how I was able to combine my passion for acting and my expertise in psychology, and bring it on stage so that I could create more experiences for people. 

I hope you enjoy the episode and it's a really great experience for you. 

Ryan Foland: Ahoy everybody, and welcome to today's World of Speakers episode. I am excited to have Laura Gallaher here. 

She is not only a speaker, she's an organizational psychologist, and her specialty is in the science of human behavior. 

We're going to talk about human behavior, how it interacts with speaking, what you do for companies, and at the end of the day, we will all be smarter humans. 

Does that sound like a good deal?

Laura Gallaher: That sounds great. 

Ryan Foland: Alright. 

The first thing I want to do is to get to know you as a human, and I believe that storytelling is the method with which to extract that. 

If I challenge you with coming up with a single story from your past, which, if that's the only information I had, I could use it to accurately describe, basically, who you are as a person. 

What would that story be? Does anything jump to the top of your mind?

Laura Gallaher: Yeah, definitely. 

I have a story from when I was about 27 years old. At this point, I'm about 3 years into a career, working for NASA Kennedy Space Center. 

Now, I was hired to work for them after the space shuttle Columbia tragedy of 2003

Essentially, in addition to the technical elements of the accident, they also deemed that there were factors like decision making culture and leadership that contributed to the tragedy.

So they really wanted to focus on developing intentional leadership behaviors to have the kind of culture where there is psychological safety and open expression.

And so my role was to be working with leaders to help them improve upon their behaviors, become more self-aware, and create the kind of environment where people feel safe to speak up. 

And so when I'm 27, about 3 years into doing this, I went through a 5-day workshop called "The Human Element," and it was an incredibly intense experience for me. 

I received a lot of feedback, everybody who goes through it receives a lot of feedback, and a lot of experiences. 

Part of what I learned about myself is that I was actually exhibiting a lot of the very behaviors that I was working with leaders to shift, so it really rocked my self-concept. 

It was extremely challenging.

I went into the workshop, really feeling good about myself honestly, like life seemed great, I was dating this great guy, I had this great job, I was almost done with my Ph.D., I'm like, "Things are good." 

And then I go through this workshop and I felt like a shell of a human. I was like, "I don't even know who I am anymore." 

Because I was probably a little bit on my high horse, maybe a little bit, not pretentious, but potentially even kind of judgy of other people, "How can you not get this stuff?"

Ryan Foland: Could we say it was fresh off the books instead? Like you've got all this book knowledge, and you just think that that's what you need? Was it that?

Laura Gallaher: I think that was a part of it.

I think it was also context, because I actually really did like the way that I would show up, and I was working with the leaders themselves. 

When I was working with them, I was supportive, I was helpful, and I would build trust with them and it was great. 

And the feedback that I got, the workshop that I experienced was with people on my own team. 

When I was in that context of being a leader versus an individual contributor, that's where I lacked the kind of self-awareness that I was really preaching to the leaders that I was working with.

I'm really glad that I had the experience because it created so much more empathy in me to really get, "Yeah, this is a different game," I mean to a degree, even if I was exhibiting the same behavior working as a coach and a consultant to leaders at NASA, that same behavior working with people who are on my team, or regard me as a leader doesn't work the same. 

So recognizing the situational awareness, and focusing on creating relationships with each one of the people on my team such that each one of them felt as comfortable as possible with me. 

That's really what I took from it. 

Now I'm really into the practice of the human element. I am a licensed human element practitioner and the whole focus is from the inside out. 

So instead of just focusing on trying to shift behaviors, which is that outer layer, it's what people see, I am all about helping people get down into the core of what they believe about themselves, especially subconsciously; what's a story they tell themselves about themselves; how does that help them; how does that get in their way. 

Ryan Foland: Interesting. 

So from your youth, did you know that you would want to grow up and be this type of psychologist when it comes to dissecting the human brain?

Laura Gallaher: I would say, to a degree. When I was really little, I actually wanted to be an actress. 

I always enjoyed being on stage. I enjoyed elements of performance, I think, and I've always been fairly in touch with my own emotions, and really sort of enjoyed having that access to myself. 

And then I wanted to do psychology, because I thought it would be so great to just be able to give people advice. 

And now as a speaker and a coach and a consultant, I guess there's advice sometimes, but I think where this shifts away from what I maybe thought my career would be, is how much is focused on not giving advice, but just creating experiences for other people so they can learn, and they can start to experience themselves differently. 

So I had some ideas of what it would be like, but I think, in my head as a kid, I thought it would be sort of me sitting on a chair as some kind of an expert, just with all the answers and that's so not how life works.

Ryan Foland: Just dosing out the advice as you see fit, right? 

Laura Gallaher: Yeah, here's what you should know. Yeah, you well know that that's not at all my approach anymore. 

Ryan Foland: Do you think that your initial inclination to be an actor has influenced your path to the stage? 

It's almost like you are, to some extent, a performer, right? 

Do you create that same connection? 

Do you feel like you're an actor, not that you're taking on different roles, but I'm curious to see the connections of the human element of this want, and the desire to sort of enjoy the art of acting and the art of speaking? 

I see some parallels but do you see parallels there for yourself?

Laura Gallaher: I see huge parallels.

I've been doing speaking presentations, I have been in front of audiences for pretty much my entire career.

But it was really only a couple of years ago that I said, 

"You know what, I really want to do the speaking thing more professionally. This is something I really want to focus on and grow." 

And I got very excited about how it all seemed to be manifesting, because I spent about 15 years of my life acting, as a kid, nothing like professional, just if there was a chance to do a school play I would do it and I would probably be in the lead role, and I did it all the way through graduate school. 

And then I accumulated 15 years of experience in psychology between graduate school and careers with NASA and Disney, and then working for myself.

So this idea of being a professional speaker where I get to take this acting and performance element and combine it with psychology, and giving advice or helping people, using expertise to really impact people's lives — it just felt so perfect for me.

Ryan Foland: Now do you think that your parents influenced you in either the acting direction or this ultimate interest in the mind? 

Because it's always interesting to see what parents do in relation to what you did. 

How were they in supporting your path to where you are?

Laura Gallaher: Okay, so one of the coolest memories I have of my dad is when I was about, I think I was about 13 years old. 

He knew how much I was enjoying acting, and he said to me, "You know, we could move to LA for the summer, we could get a little apartment and we could just see what we can accomplish, we can see about getting you an agent, we can get you auditions, if this is something you want to do, let's do it." 

I feel like that's very uncommon. I think parents are normally like, "You want to do what?" 

Not necessarily encouraging something that could be so competitive or potentially difficult to make a stable living with. 

He was so supportive and it was awesome, and I actually, I think it kind of scared me because I was 13, 14 years old, I was like, 

"Well, acting's fun, but I feel like I want to get a real job." 

But I attribute my — I have what I call a "borderline delusional sense of self-confidence." I really think I can do anything — to my parents. 

If you give me enough time and energy, maybe some money to work with an expert, I can do anything I want. 

That's actually what I believe and I blame them for that. 

Ryan Foland: Well that's a good value, or set of values, to blame your parents with. Just granted that you don't become a headless chicken trying to do everything and not doing anything, right?

Laura Gallaher: Yes, so that's actually one of the concepts that I teach when I'm working with my clients, is to help break free of self-limiting beliefs. 

It's very useful to acknowledge that just because I can do anything I want to, does not mean that I'm obligated to.

Ryan Foland: Interesting.

I have a phrase that I tell people, I say, "Thoughts become words, words become things, so think the thoughts that you want." 

And when it comes to people who are speaking, this is one of the easiest ways I can help them, is just helping them to choose different thoughts that end up being different words, that end up with different results. 

And from my perspective, if somebody asks if you're a speaker, if you are a public speaker, or sets you up to define what you are, so many people default to, 

"Oh no, no, no, I'm not a speaker. Oh, no, no, no, I'm not a public speaker." 

And if that's what you think, then those are the words that are formed, then that's what actually happens but with just minor tweaks, say

"No, that's something that I am working on, or that's something I'm excited to get better at." 

Really, the thoughts set up the words that set up the actions. 

I don't have a psychology degree, but that is pretty foundational.

Laura Gallaher: Oh yeah, I totally agree with that sentiment. 

A simpler — not simpler — a shorter version of that that I've heard is “Be. Do. Have.” 

So what if I first build it into my cell concept, what if I make it part of my identity, and then I begin to walk through the world as though, "Yeah, this is who I am, this is a part of who I am." 

What changes, what shifts, what feels possible? 

I love that philosophy.

Ryan Foland: I'm interested in the combination between your classically trained acting skills with your classically trained psychology, and the combination of those, along with the fact that you can do anything, when it comes to speaking, because it's a really interesting mesh. 

I also have a degree in dramatic art. I, unlike you, was not aware of the theater until I got to college. 

Funny side story: I got stressed out about choosing my first set of classes. My mom helped me out, she chose a theater class. I'd never even been in a theater before, and it was this very weird random string of events that got me involved, but I was like, "Wow, there's so much power when it comes to live human connection." 

And when I got a taste of that, I just loved it. 

But I moved from acting to producing to directing. I like to step back and see it. 

So when it comes from your perspective, I would love to get some serious nuggets of how and what elements of your acting training combines with how and what elements of your psychology training, and how you use that to formulate your speeches or deliver your talks, or play mind games with the audience in a way that they don't even know? 

I don't know, I just, I feel like you've got all these tools. 

Laura Gallaher: Oh man, well, so I am kind of a ham, so when I would be in workshops with clients I would describe a concept from psychology, like defensiveness. 

Defensiveness is something that many people have this really narrow vision of what it is: arms folded, not my fault or whatever. 

Defensiveness is actually extraordinarily broad. 

Defences are something that affects all of us multiple times a day, and they manifest very differently. 

And when teaching about the different forms that defences can take, I would not just teach it and describe it, I would always act it out. 

And it was just a go-to. I didn't even think about it. 

To a certain degree I might plan it a little bit, but we have this signs of defensiveness survey, and it has like 50+ different behaviors that you might be engaging in out of defensiveness, and some of them, people are like, "Well what does this mean?" 

And I'll just launch into acting it out, just doing it. 

And I started to get all this feedback from my clients where they're like, "Can you do a few more?" 

They are like, "I know what this is, but can you act it out anyway?" 

And so it was just sort of this moment of levity and humor, which is another thing that's really important to me, I actually studied humor for my doctoral dissertation.

Ryan Foland: Really? Wait, wait, wait, so your thesis is based on humor?

Laura Gallaher: Yeah, I studied what happens when people use humor during a job interview.

Ryan Foland: Interesting.

Laura Gallaher: Can I tell you the name of it?

Ryan Foland: Yes, please. 

Laura Gallaher: Okay. Alright, so it sounds really geeky at first, it's called "The Moderating Effect of Gender On the Use of Humor During a Job Interview, And That's What She Said.” 

So this was back in 2010.

Ryan Foland: So gender humor, okay. 

Laura Gallaher: This was back in 2010 when "The Office" was big, and “that's what she said was, you know,” I'm dating myself here.

Ryan Foland: Oh I love "The Office", I watched the whole series a few times, so you're talking to me. 

Michael Scott is, he's amazing, but if you really do watch those episodes, you know it was a pre #MeToo movement, I mean the poor women on that show just get berated so much sometimes it's hard to watch these days. 

Laura Gallaher: It's really hard to watch. 

Ryan Foland: Poor Pam. 

So was the humor specifically when it came to gender-related humor, was that the study?

Laura Gallaher: Yeah, so I mean, I wish that I just got the lit-review down perfectly and hypothesized exactly what happened with the data, that's not the case. 

I hypothesized that a job interviewer, somebody in that employer-role would receive the humor differently from candidates if the candidate was male or female. 

Especially at the time, (I think this is still true,) we have a bit of gender bias in society around humor, we tend to expect humor more from men than from women. 

At the time, I think this is, maybe it was late nineties, maybe it was early aughts, something like 90% of professional comedians were male. 

There was some kind of statistic I included in my literature review, it was overwhelmingly male. 

And so I expected that since we don't anticipate humor as much from women, we would have more extreme reactions to them using humor in that context. 

But I didn't actually find that to be the case. 

What mattered from the data actually was the gender of the interviewer. 

So, as a woman, if I'm interviewing you, I don't respond well to any kind of aggressive humor, which is humor that is sarcastic or puts people down, and I don't care if you're a man or a woman, I just don't like it. 

But a male interviewer was more like, "Hey, that's fine, aggressive humor is fine as long as it's funny."

Ryan Foland: Gotcha. 

Okay, so we have a lot to unpack here in sort of the bits and pieces of getting into somebody's mind who's not only an actor but a psychologist and who has an intimate study when it comes to gender-based humor, or something like that, right? 

So one of the things I heard you say first was this acting it out. 

So when in doubt should a speaker act it out or do they really have to be…  is it more dynamic than that?

You said you acted out the defensiveness.

To really dig into that one point, should speakers who are listening to this try to incorporate more of actually acting out what they're trying to communicate?

Laura Gallaher: I would say yes, absolutely. Do whatever you can to incorporate dialogue and interaction into your speeches.

Ryan Foland: Now from a technical standpoint though, is that like, "And then my mom said, 'Ryan, you're going to do this,' and then I was like..." 

Is it that type, where you're you throwing your voice? 

If somebody would hear this, they would be like, "All right, I can act some stuff out, but wait a minute, I've got to make voices?" 

Step me through just the basics of that. 

When you say create dialogue, are you throwing your voice? Is it, "He said this / she said that"? Are you moving around to do it? 

What does this one-woman show look like?

Laura Gallaher: I would say it depends on what's happening in the story. 

If you're using a story, an example from your past in a speech, and part of your intention and your hope is to create humor, then absolutely throw your voice. 

Become that character, and use it as a chance to be comedic and introduce that. 

As a woman, if I want to do a man's voice I'm going to sound a little bit like a dork trying to do a man's voice. I'm not actually going to sound like my dad if I am acting out my dad in a scenario. 

But if I'm trying to be funny, or I'm hoping that they experience it as funny, then yes, I would say do that. 

If it's more of a serious moment and you're wanting to capture a moment of dialogue, but it has a serious tone, or maybe it's actually pretty emotional, I would say it's probably more okay to just use your own voice, but you can use your body to shift and play the two roles. 

I can be looking to my right as I'm playing me, and saying whatever I said in that situation, and then I can simply turn left and then I can speak now as though I am the other person in that story. 

I don't think you have to do anything too radical or crazy with your voice, you just get to depict it, or whatever it is, that's assuming you're standing together or sitting together. 

I've witnessed stories told from other speakers where it's a nurse leaning over a patient and so you can use physically how you're showing up to just become those. 

I think it can be really powerful actually to cut out any of the, "And then he said / and then I said," you know, just do it, just be in the moment. 

I think it can be great to break from that moment if you want to, then focus on, "And here's how I was feeling," right?

So if it's something like,

"I'm standing in the kitchen, and I'm just washing dishes after dinner, and I hear my husband walk up behind me, and he says, 'Honey, I want a divorce.' " 

And I can act out like flipping, turning around quickly, "What?"

Ryan Foland: I'm so sad now, it just got so sad. 

Laura Gallaher: It's not a true story. 

Ryan Foland: You brought me into the scene, you brought me in. 

Laura Gallaher: Oh no. Okay, but you feel it, right?

Ryan Foland: Yeah, yeah. Okay, so when in doubt sort of act it out. Kind of tying back almost to the Be. Do. Have. 

You almost have to assume these characters, just be them and really let the audience take that interpretation. 

So on speaking tips, and it's part of what we're talking about here, how much do you psychoanalyze your audience, and how much thought do you put into how they're interpreting what you're saying? 

Do you go that deep or is it more just that you're really focused on the presentation, the message, and not as much on the psychology of how they do it, how they get it?

Laura Gallaher: I think that I began to really transform as a speaker when I started to think about when I'm on stage, what I'm doing is, I'm creating an experience for people. 

And it was almost one of those, "Oh my gosh, duh," moments for me because that's what I do in my work—in my face to face work with clients—I create experiences. 

And then when they go through those experiences they become more self-aware, they create more connections, they have insights and ahas, all that kind of thing. 

For a while I think I used to look at speaking as different, this is me up here, playing the role of expert, it's my job to relay information to you. 

It was transformational for me when I remembered or realized, or I'm not even sure what verb to use there, but at a certain point I said, "You know what, no, no, no, this is an experience too." 

I want to think about what is the experience that my audience is having. 

It's everything from what's the journey that they're on, to what is something I can say or do right now that will actually create an impact. 

Ryan Foland with Laura Gallaher - Quote on audience experience - World of Speakers Podcast Powered by SpeakerHub

I actually have a recent example. I love this.

My assistant came with me to my last speaking engagement, which was about a week ago, down in Palm Bay.

And I made a statement that was almost the thesis really of the whole talk, which is “if you're not good enough now, you never will be,” and I repeated it again. 

I said it twice, and Keyla, my assistant, who was sitting in the audience, said that the woman next to her turned to her friend and she said, "Oh, I feel sick."

The very next line in my speech was, "I want you to notice right now what are you feeling in your body," because I know, I know from my own experience of internalizing that same thought that that brings something up for me. 

So now I'm asking them to really step inside themselves and notice what's happening, like is your gut-churning, is your chest tightening, what's happening for you. 

And so thinking about it as, "This is an experience and what's the experience that I want them to have so that something about them feels different when I'm done with my speech." 

Ryan Foland: Interesting. I love that. 

Let's jump back to your preparation because I'm always interested to know how people prepare for a talk.

Personally I still always get nervous, and I just turn the nervousness into energy, and I try to get into more of an excitement. 

Do you have any pre-speech rituals or things that you do that work for you? 

Because you have all these psychological hacks for yourself?

Laura Gallaher: Oh man, that's probably an area where I might underutilize some of my own expertise.

Ryan Foland: Right, we're getting back to the self-awareness, right? Getting back to your human element. 

Laura Gallaher: Okay. So I still get nervous as well. Absolutely. 

But one of the things that I do, well 2 things really, and they're not, it's not like they’re simple little life hacks necessarily, one of them might be. 

One, it really is preparation, and that might sound really goofy, but when I am getting closer to a talk... so recently I actually took a stand up comedy class and I performed in a stand-up showcase for the first time. 

Every time I thought about that, I felt like sick to my stomach, or just that pang of adrenaline, just like the intense nerves of, "Oh my gosh, am I really going to do this to myself." 

But when I felt really confident with my set, when I had it fully memorized and I had done it in front of the mirror, I recorded it, and I was really, really prepared. Then it was the day and I felt fine. 

Now 5 minutes before I went on stage there was some heavy breathing backstage! But preparation really makes a big difference for me. 

The second thing, which might sort of fall into that category of a life hack is I ask myself, "What's the worst that could happen?" 

Now I used to be an amazing catastrophizer. 

Ryan Foland: I like that word, by the way. 

Laura Gallaher: Oh yeah, I could take one 5-minute set on a stage at a comedy showcase and turn that into, like, I'm homeless on the street. I was ridiculously good at the most extreme, ‘worst that can happen’ kind of scenario.

But then I got a dose of realism and I'm thinking, "Okay no, realistically, what's the worst that could happen?"

I'm like, "Well okay, in a 5-minute stand-up set maybe I have 4 or 5 jokes that just don't land, and it's obvious to me and to the audience that I was hoping that they would laugh and they didn't, and that will be a little bit painful and a little awkward. But the whole thing's 5 minutes of my life and then it will be over, and the audience will probably completely forget about it within 30 minutes, and my life will go on. 

So if that's the worst that will happen, could I cope with that, if that happened?

And every time I ask myself, "Can I cope with that if that were to happen?" 

My answer is “yes.” 

That gives me so much courage to just step into whatever, because it's less about fearing what might happen, and more about fearing that I can't cope with it. 

And if I ever think I can't cope then I’ve got to keep my energy focused inward and say, 

"Okay, well what would give me the confidence to cope with that?"

Ryan Foland with Laura Gallaher - Quote on courage - World of Speakers Podcast Powered by SpeakerHub

Ryan Foland: Interesting, you totally got psychological right there, like we just got all med!

Laura Gallaher: I know, that's what I do. 

Ryan Foland: I love the experience concept that we talked about just before your intro and I was going to ask you to define what those experiences would look like. 

I do appreciate that you gave an example without me even asking, basically playing on the reactions of the audience that you know will happen. 

It's almost like you have an idea of how this will impact people, you go ahead and impact them, and then get them to look inside to help them evaluate what that is. 

That's very psychological of you. 

So let's transition from the advice, again what you are saying the value of acting it out, you're talking about humor and that it is a bit dynamic and can be complex, but you just have to pick and choose what you want to do. 

Then you've got this experiential where it's not just you spouting advice, but you are having everyone lie on ze couch and think about what's happening inzide of you. [uses Freud-like voice with German accent]

Laura Gallaher: Exactly. 

Ryan Foland: And then it's nice to know that you also get nervous, something that makes everybody feel better.

But this idea of really looking at the worst-case scenario and knowing that you're going to survive that worst case as a way to sort of defuse some of that nervous energy beforehand, I like that. 

I want to transition into how you sell yourself.

How do you get more stage time?

I'm interested, as you're a few years into this, because a lot of our listeners are just getting started, and for those who are well beyond getting started, I think hearing from people in those first 5 years or so really helps to kind of refresh and recharge. 

What are some of the things that you find that you're doing that work and have worked to get you on more stages, get more attention, build your brand and get out there as a speaker who is paid for what you're speaking about?

Laura Gallaher: Well some of it is definitely not rocket science, for me personally, which is “Ask.” 

Ask to be the speaker and that might sound really goofy, but it's crazy how much fear can paralyze us sometimes, and how many people might find themselves sort of waiting for an invitation, rather than letting people know.

And so you know, Ryan, when you were speaking earlier before I was, I offered the Be, Do, Have, it sounds to me like you're describing what I would consider like the law of attraction type of concepts. 

One of the mantras that I had a few years ago, and still do, is "Speak what you seek until you see what you've said."

Ryan Foland: Wow, that's a good one.

Laura Gallaher: So I will talk about it, I will share with people in conversation that that's what I do. That was a shift for me when people say, "What do you do" as a question, so I used to really focus on being an organizational psychologist and I at some point shifted to say,

"Well I'm a professional speaker, I get on stages." 


And so that in and of itself, just putting it out there until the universe can create opportunities. 

I went to the National Speakers Association conference just last month in Denver and one of the things that I heard over and over again that I really loved, that has been true for me as well is, the more you speak the more you speak.

Getting on stages, getting the practice at a minimum, getting the exposure, speaking to a room full of people could very likely be the thing that gets you that next opportunity, so I'm just continuing to do that. 

And then one of the more unique things that you are aware of, Ryan, that I started to do this year, was an attempt to stand out. So I definitely do the cold reach-outs to people for opportunities, and I think it can be challenging to stand out, I really do. 

I think when people do respond back to me, there's something about my story that they think is really compelling and valuable for their audience. But I worked with a company called Wazoo at the beginning of the year to create what we call these speaker boxes. 

Now if you try to google that it won't work, you're just going to get like a bunch of speakers, like audio speakers. 

Ryan Foland: Waterproof, and bluetooth, and that kind of thing. Okay. 

Laura Gallaher: Exactly. 

The idea was instead of just sending a cold e-mail or applying to be a speaker through some kind of a system which can be great, do something else above and beyond to really stand out. 

So I created these custom speaker boxes, so the actual box for me is purple because that's my primary brand color and it has a word cloud on it that has in priority order these are the words that most encompass what I'm all about and what I want for my audience. 

And then inside is a customized journal where the first few pages really focus on what it is that I can offer them.

So they are an event planner, they are a conference organizer, or maybe in some cases, like with you, Ryan, they are another speaker. 

And so it has just a little bit about me, but now it's this, theoretically, it's a useful, functional thing that they get to use. 

Each time they use it, the idea is that it's a reminder of me and it's a gift, right, so I'm starting out immediately by giving this gift, 

"Hey, here's something I just want you to have, I thought you might really enjoy this." 

I want to thank you for some of the ideas that you gave me because after... 

So yeah, so if it's not clear for your audience, I sent one of these speaker boxes with the journals to Ryan. 

Ryan Foland: She sent me a box, and it's an impressive box. It's like a full-on box and it's a custom box, and you open it up and then there's a little furfully stuff within the box.

I feel like it's my birthday box! And then you've got this well-bound ring folder with your mug there on the front, and you're on the TEDx stage and then a few color slides of like, 

"Okay, this person has put the effort into this, I'm going to flip a few more pages and then it's just blank paper." 

I'm like, "Oh this is functional for me now." 

And I'm quite the doodler, and so I have definitely used a few pages because it's a big size and yeah, it was something that helped you to land a spot here on this show, you definitely stuck out.

Laura Gallaher: Yeah, absolutely. 

And I loved a lot of your ideas, so one of the things that I do now because of your input is I write in the journal, so now the first piece of it it's like dotted graph paper right on the inside, so I write the message directly in there.

I think when I sent it to you I sent it with a card, and so now I write directly in the journal and I go in like part way through and I'll dog-ear a page and I'll put some other kind of note. 

And I usually am trying to customize that. So something that I know about the event, something I know about the person. 

Sometimes I've found event planners on Twitter, things like that, and I will follow them as a human and I take a look at the things that they tweet or Instagram or things like that. 

And I look for genuine commonalities. What are the things that they're tweeting about or opinions that they have that also feel true for me, especially if I can ever connect that in with, 

"Here is the message that I want to bring to your audience." 

So I'll dog-ear 1 or 2 pages like randomly throughout the journal where there's another message. 

And then there's this contact information form at the back, not information form, but sort of like a retro journal that's like, "Here's where you can keep your phone numbers."

Do you remember back in the day, did you ever have, Ryan, like your little phone book?

Ryan Foland: Oh my gosh, I had one of the coolest.

It was actually, it was a double-sided magnet like the size of a credit card and each was a magnet and then you open it up and it's like an accordion and has little pages that flip, flip, flip, flop back and forth. 

And so it was my little, it would snap together and you'd put it in your wallet and you'd bring it out. So yes, I remember that.

Laura Gallaher: That sounds amazing. 

So there's one of those and so it's like important contacts, and I put my name and my email and my phone number right there at the top, so they can do that. 

And then when I have a direct email, I will then follow up with them a couple of days later, or right when it's intended to arrive so we ship it, we track it, and then when it arrives send the follow-up email. 

And typically what I'm asking for at that point is a 10- or 15-minute phone call, 

"Can we just jump on the phone real quick, I just want to connect with you, I want you to get to know me."

And I wish, Ryan, that I had already implemented this so I could let you know how it goes but we're adding one more layer to this now, which reminds me to ask if this came from you, because I've gotten feedback from a lot of people so far and this, maybe this was your idea too? 

So one thing that I'm going to, I'm filming on Wednesdays, so in a couple of days I'm doing filming, so now one more layer is, so if I was sending you the box again, Ryan, it would say, "Now I'd like you to go to" or maybe even “/RyanFoland”, was this your idea?

Ryan Foland: Yeah. Yeah, it was my idea, that was a good one. 

Laura Gallaher: Amazing. 

We were so excited so we are starting that this week. 

And so then when they go to that URL, now they're going to have, and I'll let them know and it's like a video that's one minute or less, so they actually make time. 

Because I can tell you, like I'd be super excited. 

Ryan Foland: Yeah and how are you communicating that, is that a part of the note, the handwritten note, "Hey check out this."

Laura Gallaher: Yeah, but in the journal itself.

Ryan Foland: Totally cool. 

So you're just creating the page that brings them to your site, but then also gives them a personalized message, makes them feel special and if they're already at the URL, they might, you know be like,

"Oh, let's continue to click," right?

Laura Gallaher: Absolutely, yeah. 

And so it will be this personalized message to them where I'm speaking again about, "Here's what I would love to bring to your audience," or, "Here's my request for us to connect and jump on a call," have some text there on the landing page, keep it really simple. 

But also then have a call to action there where they can— I actually haven't figured exactly what it's going to be, it could be a link to my Acuity, so they can just automatically schedule time on my calendar or if it's going to be the information form that I have, that's part of the regular call to action. 

Actually, what do you think, Ryan, what’s your advice?

Ryan Foland: Well what you're doing, what I think is most important is on one level it's sort of standing out, not everyone is sending a box to everybody. 

On the second level, there's that customization where you're actually handwriting into it. 

And the third level, what makes me think about it is the thought that goes into it. 

I think when somebody makes a customized video you're actually putting your brainpower into something that is for them, and what I do is something similar, but after I have an initial call with an organizer, whether they ask for it or not I will jump into the green screen or I'll just turn on the camera and I'll make something that's a follow-up, that's reinforcing, because often the one person you're talking to or the two people, they're not all the decision-makers. 

And so if you're giving somebody a tool to then share with other people, it magnifies your message showing that you are thoughtful, that you are not just a numbers game player and that you're a little bit outside of the box by sending the box.

Laura Gallaher: Yes, absolutely. I love that.

Ryan Foland: Yeah, so I would say don't try to find a hard and fast rule for what the ask is, go back to this customization and you might be able to spin on a certain event that they have coming up or you could compliment them on a piece of content that got your attention, those kinds of things. 

So I think just enough of the planning process to include that URL on the box with a movie. 

I would figure out sort of what works from there. 

But what I'm hearing is 2 different sides of the fence here, one is the super, simple advice that is just to ask, just talk about the fact that you're a speaker and that's something that everyone can do. 

And then you're going to the other extreme, which is full, customized investing in it. Really a dynamic follow up process, so you kind of have both those spectrums on one end and the other. 

Laura Gallaher: Absolutely.

Ryan Foland: Now have you—is it too early to track the metrics and see how successful the outreach effort is?

Laura Gallaher: We do have various metrics but I don't have those in front of me at the moment.

Ryan Foland: No, no, that's fine. 

Laura Gallaher: I think, so like the first metric was a connection made, which I believe the way that we defined that is at a minimum a call, or they've agreed to a call and it's on the calendar. 

And I think we're kind of hovering at like 60% on that.

Ryan Foland: Wow, that's way better than 10% open rate or something like that. 

Laura Gallaher: Yeah, so that's pretty solid. 

Ryan Foland: Interesting. 

I think you have to look at, at least in my opinion, at having had the chance to talk with so many people, at the end of the day it sounds like, for the event planners, it's just risk management.

They don't want to put their reputation on the line by bringing a speaker that's not top tier and going to be amazing. Their fear is getting somebody who is not good. 

If you're taking all these steps and these efforts, everything from

  •  just asking to sharing, 

  • to being top of mind, 

  • to giving them gifts, 

  • to following up, 

  • to being professional, 

  • to making a video,

these are all little pieces of the puzzle that will reinforce that you will not be a liability, you'll be an asset. 

Laura Gallaher: Absolutely. 

I want them to feel incredibly confident and really impressed with, 

"Okay, she's thorough, she's not going to phone it in, she's really serious about this."

Ryan Foland: Yeah. Excellent. 

From your outbound strategy, aside from asking and keeping it top of mind when you're talking, and aside from your box concept extravaganza, are there any other tips and tricks you'd want to leave with people as far as some ways that maybe you've been successful at getting on stages or getting in front of these planners or anything along those lines?

Laura Gallaher: I think those are probably my best tips at this point. 

Ryan Foland: Okay, I'm going to extract the one to make it a round 3 which is actually finding event planners on Twitter, finding event planners on Instagram—

Laura Gallaher: Or LinkedIn.

Ryan Foland: Or LinkedIn. 

Now, are you finding that they're pretty easily identifiable with the keyword of event planning to that extent?

Laura Gallaher: No. My short answer is no. 

It's been challenging, it's been tricky, I will say that when I am, and I say I and that's not really fair, because Keyla does so much of this work for me. 

She does so much of the research and the stocking for me, which is really, really helpful. 

But when that's how I am finding them and connecting with them, I have a much higher success rate, so it feels like it's worth it. 

Ryan Foland: And I like that you are connecting to people too, right, you're finding a common interest. 

And I'm a big fan of letting your guard down just a bit to get personal, it's a big part of my book "Ditch The Act," which is people really need to get to know you before they can like you, before they can trust you. 

And at the end of the day, as a speaker, they have to trust you. 

So the step before that is for them to like you and the step before that is for them to know you.

So getting to know people on their personal feeds is a great way of starting that relationship, it sounds like, as opposed to just coming in hot with,

"Hey, you have an event, I'd like to speak there." 

It really does sound like you're getting a bit more, shall I say, psychological about it. 

Laura Gallaher: Yeah, I think so. It's very human, right. 

Ryan Foland: Yeah. And the last thing I want to sort of touch on is this idea of the science of human behavior if that's what your specialty is, are you also using that specialty to get into the heads of these planners? Or to better understand where some of these event organizers are coming from? 

And if so, what is maybe one professional psychology tip that we can use as we're either evaluating or prospecting, really based on what you know about human behavior?

Laura Gallaher: At a high level I think it's about empathy.

So you've spoken about this really, which is, what are they concerned about? 

What are their fears?

What would make them happy?

What's going to make their jobs or their lives easier?

What's going to help them look really good. 

And so if you go into a conversation really thinking about that and, "What can I do for this person," even in this conversation. 

I've had moments occasionally where I'm asking a question theoretically for myself but actually, it's creating space for them to be a little bit more clear, even for themselves. 

Ryan Foland with Laura Gallaher - Quote on empathy - World of Speakers Podcast Powered by SpeakerHub

And so because I am a coach I'll have, I'll actually have these small little coaching moments that I'll infuse, and it may or may not have any bearing ultimately on whether they ask me to come be a speaker, but it's a way for me to add value right there in the moment, and I feel like that kind of thing can make a difference too.

Ryan Foland: Alright, I love it. 

So to wrap it up, essentially, without necessarily wrapping it, you are an actor for 15 years that got into the psychology of human behavior only to realize that you were not looking at your own behavior from the outside, which sort of reinvigorated your mindfulness and self-awareness that's legit to this opportunity to take what you have and share it outside of your typical consulting, but to a larger stage. 

And on that stage you are essentially helping people have an experience. 

So you're not a speaker if you are an experiencer, which I just made up. 

And in this experiencerness role you've got everything from humor to inward-looking, to lie on zee couch, I don't know why I go German with that but I just sort of seem to. 

Laura Gallaher: Freud was Austrian, right? So that's pretty close. 

Ryan Foland: Oh yeah, there you go yeah, Austrian. 

You just knew my unconscious reason for referring to Freud who was all about the unconscious mind right. 

And what I like that you're doing from the prospect in perspective is 3 parts, one super simple, easy in front of you just asking and being aware that part of the whole game is just letting people know that you're there and available. 

And then it's exciting to see you come up with a dynamic box driven, data-driven, video supplemented notes and amazing attempts at stick figure drawings to get people's attention, while at the same time there's this piece of empathy. 

Because I remember when we first talked, it really didn't sound like you were trying to pitch yourself, you were really just trying to learn more about me, trying to ask what I needed help with and that naturally led to the conversation of, 

"Well, I'm always looking for great guests on the show." 

And then boom, you got it, you grabbed it, you snatched it and here we are, however many months later. 

But looking at this in general, I see that what you're doing is working, so it's exciting to see that you are working it to make it work. 

And so my observation is that you kind of have broken the mold and that you're not really following what others are doing, you're really just creating a system that you think will work for yourself and then your work in that system is essentially the be, do, and have when it comes to your own process. 

Which is inspiring because I hear people all the time talking about the process and when you create your own process, you build your own box, it becomes unique to you. 

And so I think that that's really what stands out here.

Laura Gallaher: That's beautiful. You do such an amazing job of summarizing and synthesizing, I'm very impressed with that.

Ryan Foland: Well maybe I should say that I am instead of a psychologist, I'm a summarologist. 

Laura Gallaher: Yes, clearly.

Ryan Foland: Hey, I hope that if you are listening to this, you appreciate the information enough to help repeat it in someone else's mind, so that means sharing this episode, that means reaching out to Laura, that means reaching out to me, connect with us on Twitter, get to know us.

Laura, if somebody is going to find you, is Twitter the best spot? Is it Instagram? Is it your website?  

Where would you send people if they wanted to learn more about you?

Laura Gallaher: I would want to send them to 

Ryan Foland: I know, I thought about Smashing Pumpkins this whole time.

And not that smashing watermelons.

Laura Gallaher: Yes, so watermelons, Peter Gallager, no. 

Ryan Foland: Alright, well you've heard it here, and if you have to take anything from this, I think you need to Be, do, and have.

And for me that would be “Be” yourself and “Do” would be “Do something that works for you”, and “Have” is going to be “What you have at the end of the day” only if you continue to work the system.

Because you can send boxes all day, you can send gifts all day, but if you don't actually connect with that person on a real human level and let them know that you are someone to be known, to like, and to trust, it's all just a bunch of numbers, an outreach and cold calls and stuff like that, but that will just take your money without any results. 

So it's exciting to hear this process. Thanks for the sneak peek behind the scenes Laura, and I look forward to staying connected online and maybe we will share a stage sometime.

Laura Gallaher: I hope so. Thank you, Ryan.

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.

Connect with Laura Gallaher:

Did you enjoy the show? We’d love to know! Leave us a review on iTunes by following this link.

Listen to more interviews with expert speakers.


Average: 5 (1 vote)


See also:

  • World of Speakers E.95 Tamsen Webster
    World of Speakers podcasts

    World of Speakers E.96: Tamsen Webster | A Professional Who Speaks

  • Scott Allen and Maria Soriano Young
    World of Speakers podcasts

    World of Speakers E.95: Scott Allen and Maria Soriano Young | Delivering Digital Presentations

  • World of Speakers E.94: Maura Sweeney | Be Authentic, Be You
    World of Speakers podcasts

    World of Speakers E.94: Maura Sweeney | Be Authentic, Be You