World of Speakers E.86: Neil Sahota | Adapt your story to make it work for the audience


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World of Speakers E.86: Neil Sahota | Adapt your story to make it work for the audience

Ryan Foland speaks with Neil Sahota, speaker, author, AI expert, and a UN adviser. 

In this episode of our podcast series, Ryan and Neil talk about the importance of being a storyteller, and how the way you tell your story or what story you tell changes every time you are set to give a speech. 

One of the key messages in this interview is that you have to adapt your speech to the needs of your audience. 

Tune in for an interview full of ideas and advice on how to become an adaptive speaker.  

Listen to the interview on iTunes or Soundcloud.

Subscribe to World of Speakers on iTunes or Soundcloud.


Welcome to the World of Speakers podcast, brought to you by SpeakerHub. 

In each episode, we interview a professional speaker and reveal their very best tips and tricks. 

You'll learn to improve your presentation skills, keep your audience engaged, and grow your business to get more gigs and make more money. 

Here is your host, Ryan Foland. 

Ryan Foland: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to another episode of the World of Speakers podcast. 

I have my friend and fellow speaker, fellow author, but he has something upon me that I don't have. He is a UN adviser. 

He's doing a lot of good in the world, and all having to do with two letters in the alphabet ‘A’ and ‘I’, which he's written a book on and which he speaks about, which we'll dig into today. 

Neil Sahota, welcome to the show. 

Neil Sahota: Hey, Ryan, it's always a pleasure to be hanging out with you.

Ryan Foland: Good, good. 

Well, I want to pretend like we are on Catalina Island in Big Geiger Cove, I've finally convinced you to sail over there on my sailboat, and just for fun, I maybe won't talk to you for the 5 to 7 hours it takes to get there. We go to the beach in silence, we wait for the sun to set, and I awkwardly build a fire. 

Now it's just you and me, in a cove, on an island, and I ask you one simple question, "Neil, tell me a story from your past that represents everything about you. Just one story, a moment in time."

The fire is crackling, and the smoke's maybe more in my eyes than yours at this moment, and the sun has gone down and you're like, 

"Ryan, this one time—" 

What does that look like?

Neil Sahota: All right. This one time about 15 years ago, when business intelligence was really taking off, I hear from my clients, guys like, you know, Michael Eisner and Howard Shultz, stuff like, 

"Dude, it's really incredible what machines are telling us." 

I am thinking to myself, "They're not telling us anything." 

We had these cool, new tools back then that allowed us to collect lots of data and slice and dice it and create these nice-looking reports, but computers aren't telling us anything, but could they? 

And so I embarked on a journey to see how the machine can actually try and think. I would actually use data to come to some conclusions. 

That set me on this whole course of AI.

Ryan Foland: As a young child, you essentially knew that this was the path, this was the way you're chasing after?

Neil Sahota: I was always the kind of kid that sought the path of most resistance. 

Ryan Foland: That sounds like a good title because sometimes, as speakers, that’s how we feel, it's like the path of most resistance. 

Neil Sahota: You be like, "Are you good for punishment?" 

"No, I just like the path of most resistance". 

Ryan Foland: Well, what's ironic is that computing and computers, all of that really, tries to lessen the brain damage that we have to do, but it sounds like there has to be a lot of brain damage to get technology to the point where it's less brain damage.

Neil Sahota: Well we like to think that way, but I think what technology has done for us is actually given us more work. 

It's just it's more complicated work. It's more creativity, it's more imagination or critical thinking. 

Whether we like it or not, we're going to have to keep using our brains, and in more sophisticated ways.

Ryan Foland: Would you say that you were a complicated guy?

Neil Sahota: I don't think I'm a complicated guy, actually, a lot of people tell me I'm too simplistic.

Ryan Foland: Okay.

Neil Sahota: But it's like if you want to do great things, it's not going to be like that low-hanging fruit, it's not how you change the game.

Ryan Foland: Right, if it was easy, everybody would be doing it, right? 

Neil Sahota: Right. 

Ryan Foland: Okay. Now this is a podcast about speaking, and I've known you as a professor, as a lecturer, which is technically a speaker. 

But when was it that you, in your life, identified as a speaker?

Neil Sahota: Great question. 

It was probably really about 6 years ago. 

Teaching, I go out and talk at conferences every now and then.

I've never actually considered myself a speaker until people started to go like, 

"You're one of the most dynamic speakers I've ever heard, would you come speak at my conference?" 

I'm like, "Well, I'm not really a speaker." 

And they're like, "Neil, I don't think you realize this, but you totally are."

Ryan Foland: That's the kind of feedback where you're like, "Oh, okay." 

Actually, I'm guessing how many times did somebody have to say that for it to actually click? 

Because it's one thing to just hear that, but it's probably something to hear a few times. Like how many times did somebody have to say that, or was it truly just like that one moment and you're like, "Oh crap."

Neil Sahota: No, the first time I heard it I'm like, "Yeah, whatever, they're being kind." 

The second time, "Aha," the third time, "Hmm." 

Finally, the fifth or sixth time was like, "Okay, wait a second, they're seeing something that I didn't."

Ryan Foland: Yeah, and I think that's awesome for our listeners because a lot of people maybe want to be speakers but people aren't seeing them as speakers. 

And I think that some people might be listening going, 

"Well people keep saying I'm a speaker, but I don't see myself as a speaker." 

And I think that what you've done is you've always been communicating and especially from a professorial standpoint in that respect, and I'm going to be curious about digging into what you've learned in the classroom that translates to the stage. 

But before that, I want to know if in your family there are any examples of speakers, or people that have taken a profession where they are taking to the stage, or they are, back in the day, doing some sort of semblance of speaking?

Neil Sahota: No, actually my family has a lot of engineers, doctors, people that are serving in the military, business, but not speakers, not people that actually just even went up and shared their stories. 

Ryan Foland: So you're a first-gen speaker?

Neil Sahota: First-gen speaker, man. 

Ryan Foland: I think that's kind of cool. 

It's interesting, I always love to hear what the family influence was, and most of the time, there's, "My father was this," or, "I always remember when this happened." 

But you were truly a trendsetter here in your own family. 

Now, the final question is, if you were to have a kid or not — I am not going to get into that — would you encourage them down the path of speaking, whether it's full time or part-time or medium time?

Neil Sahota: I would. I would encourage them to do that because I believe everyone has a story to share. 

Ryan Foland: And that sounds like a podcast you have, is that correct?

Neil Sahota: "Changing the Story" podcast, yeah, we encourage people to share their stories.

Ryan Foland: Awesome.

I think that's interesting that you bring it back to the story because it's not necessarily about speaking. 

I ask people, "Are you a public speaker?" And they go, "No." 

And I say, "Well, if you speak in public then you are a public speaker, it's a scientific fact that you cannot argue either."

And I bust into a rap, right, but in actuality, we're all speakers. 

But I think that maybe what people are seeing in you is your storytelling ability. 

I'll say that you're one of my favorite people to follow on LinkedIn because you find these weird stories that draw emotions and make you feel like there are really human things that are happening out there.

I would say my final question here is, at what point did you consider yourself a storyteller?

Neil Sahota: It never really clicked in my mind that I was a storyteller until I met this guy and he was a former principal of a very astute private high school. 

He just asked me a little bit about AI, and he used to be a football player. 

So I went on explaining AI to him, and then I explained AI to his 15-year-old son, basically what I told them, and he's like, "Neil, you're the greatest storyteller I've ever heard," 

I'm like, "What are you talking about?" 

He's like, "I've talked to all these big names. I was introduced to Ray Kurzweil, I had no idea what the heck AI was. 5 minutes with you and you explain it through football and I totally get it." 

He was like, "That's a superpower you have, man. You don't know how amazing a storyteller you are." 

I was like, again, it kind of clicked in my mind, "I never thought I was a storyteller." 

Ryan Foland: And when was that from a time standpoint? How many years ago was that?

Neil Sahota: It was 4 years ago.

Ryan Foland: So you recognized yourself as a speaker first, then 2 years later saw the fact that it's really your storytelling. 

And so maybe right now you're a speakerteller or a storyeaker. 

Before we go down the rabbit hole of me making up too many words, because it does happen almost every episode, I want to now know your advice from what you've learned as somebody who has not had a storytelling/speaker influence in their family to go off of, somebody who just did their own thing and then found out that what you're doing was something. 

From your experience, what is the secret sauce to being a speaker without knowing it, to being a great storyteller without knowing it? 

And has your delivery changed now that you've identified with it, or is it just still the same thing you've been doing?

Neil Sahota: Good questions. 

My delivery actually hasn't changed.

Maybe I got lucky in how I started, because the two biggest pieces of advice I can give people is, know your audience, and be adaptable. 

I mean it's not rocket science. I was actually not identified as a speaker initially. 

You know, people come and ask, and I'm like, "What do you want me to talk about?", that kind of stuff. 

And like, "Well what do you have canned" 

I'm like, "Nothing. I don't can my talks."

I adapt my talks for the audience. 

And they're looking at me like I'm crazy, like, "What are you talking about?" 

Well I talk, not because I love the sound of my own voice, I talk because I want to create value for your audience members. 

If they want to learn something, if they want to be able to do something, who are they, what's going to make the most sense? 

And so anytime I give a talk or even serve on a panel, that's my very first question, it's who the audience is, what are they hoping to get out of this, what do you want them to get out of this. What industries, what age groups, demographic, all that kind of stuff. 

And then I say, "Okay, maybe this might be a good topic or this type of format, or a fireside chat," whatever it might be. 

And so I created every speech I ever gave. Every keynote I've given organically that way. It's always from scratch.

Ryan Foland: Now is it all tied back to something that is your root topic? Is it all linked back to AI, or is it truly just, 

"Let me see what I have in my toolkit based on what the audience is and what you want as an event?" 

Neil Sahota: It's really about my tool kit that I bring to the table. I mean sometimes it's AI, but sometimes it's about, "How do I build resilience in my team?" or, "How do I manage a distributed workforce?" 

Or, "How do you come up with disruptive ideas?" 

Because I spent 12 years as a management consultant doing exactly that. 

And so it's more about the need and what's valuable for the audience than, "I just happen to be good at a couple of things, I'll just form something around that."

And I've told people sometimes, we'll discuss it and I'm like, "You know, I don't think it actually adds value for your audience here."

Ryan Foland: So you actually look at the audience and if the adaptability is too far for it to make sense and that you might be stretched beyond your story set or your expertise or your experience, you're like, "I might not be the best fit."

Neil Sahota: Yeah, and I think we've probably all seen a speaker where he doesn't seem to quite fit in, or it's like it doesn't seem like they quite know what they're talking about. 

Ryan Foland: Yeah, or it seems very canned. 

This is funny, so I'm not going to name the name of the speaker here, but I read somebody's book, don't worry it's not you, by the way. 

So I read somebody's book and then ended up having a chance to share the stage with this person so that I was like, "Wow, I get to see him talk," and then I was inspired and I asked him to be on a podcast. 

And the book was the same as the talk, was the same as the podcast interview. 

I mean I'm talking almost word for word. 

And what's fascinating though is the success that this individual has had; it's a testament to a solid, single focus. 

But I'm on a podcast going, "I read this story in your book, and I heard you say this in a live audience, and now you're telling me again,"

I'm thinking to myself, "I'm not going to be interested in really consuming a multitude of content from this person if it seems to be the same." 

So it worked for that person, but I like that it's also working on the other side of the fence.

Neil Sahota: That's what you've got to do. I think I've met too many speakers, and I'm sure you have too, Ryan, where they think their talk is about them, they don't think about the audience, they don't think about what's important. 

And I think this is where, ironically, being a professor probably helped me out when I  recognized I was even a speaker, is that I remember what it's like to be a student and I didn't like to be lectured at, so I never came in to teach a class and say, 

"Okay, I have to teach them these 10 things, I have to get to this checklist." 

It was like, "Look, they're taking this class to get a job, so what's really going to help them up?"

Maybe there are 10 things that will be beneficial, but I can only help them get 4 or 5 of those skills so I am going to focus on that. 

And I try to make a class as a very real-world environment, and I've heard so many students tell me that, one, thankfully, they like the class, and "It's like no other class I've taken before." 

It's like, "You are really trying to teach me stuff."

Ryan Foland: Okay, it sounds like you're using AI and machine learning when you are the computer trying to take the feedback. 

And I bet you your second or third class is probably you've machine-learned what works and what doesn't, but you're also taking in sensors and making predictive guesses which is different than machine learning, so you're a professor who's learning how to teach based on what students want to learn?

Neil Sahota: Yup.

Ryan Foland: I like this analogy of students to an audience. 

Because I think we tend to look at an audience, not as students. 

And I have seen speakers guest lecture in classrooms and it has not hit because it is a one-sided talk, right, lecturing at. 

And you and I both know, professors, there are some of them that truly believe they are there to just share their own wisdom and you take it or leave it. 

But in today's day and age with essentially remote learning becoming the new standard, that's dangerous territory. 

You're going to have people falling asleep on you, it's going to be crazy. 

I want to go back to your customization of adaptability for your audience/students, how are you storing, preparing, and coming up with your PowerPoints or your presentations? 

And the reason I ask that is, I do a lot of customization as well, I do a lot of stick figure drawing, I try to understand similarly what the audience, what will resonate, but I find myself in like all these versions of PowerPoints and all these backlogs of stick figures. 

How do you go through the process of creating something without it being a total time suck or lack of organization or whatever? 

What does that presentation look like for you?

Neil Sahota: That's a good question, and now that I am recognizing I am a storyteller, I realize it's just that I'm trying to craft a story. 

And so I always think about if there's only one thing the audience takes away from my talk what would that be? 

And I kind of structure everything around that.

Ryan Foland: And from the slide perspective, are you heavy on the slides, are you just sort of, you just like that you don't need slides, what about that part of it?

Neil Sahota: I've done it both ways and people actually told me that I tend to be a lot more dynamic and engaging without slides. They say like, 

"You're a pretty lively speaker, but you speak even more lively, but for some talks you need slides"

And I am not the kind of guy that likes to throw a lot of text and stuff on the slides. 

Most of my slides are just a picture, just to kind of create a little imagery so that when I'm talking it kind of helps them visualize and recognize. 

I'll throw in a couple of videos as well just to show something that's more concrete. 

Earlier this year I was asked to actually give a keynote to the Ninth Circuit federal judges, and so I was told that there's a lot of hype,and that kind of stuff, and so I came and my first thing was like, 

"Yeah, there's a lot of hype in the AI, people are doing it to make money on the stock prices." 

But the problem with the hype is there is actually legitimate stuff going on that people find unbelievable, or not even thinking what can be done, and then I show this video of this guy that controls — he's lost his hand but he can control — a robotic hand with his mind. 

It's a real video, it's just shot in someone's lab, low production quality, and everyone looks at it, they are like, 

"Oh my god that's real, that's real."

Ryan Foland: Right.

Neil Sahota: Now they're a little more open to listening.

Ryan Foland: So it's story first, presentation last, and somewhere in the middle, visuals and videos that support the story, is more important than having the images and the videos that you want to match with the message that you want to come in and talk about?

Neil Sahota: That's right. It's a story, the message, then you find what things go along with that, it's not like, 

"I have this really cool video, I'm going to build my story around it."

Ryan Foland: Okay, I like it. 

Well, I want to keep that simple and tight there, in that, you know, you gave two pieces of advice and I'll add the one thing that you said but you didn't say, which is one key thing that you're taking away. 

And it sounds like with the information about the audience first, you're able to then adapt a story that happens to have a presentation to support the story which then is focused on one single thing that they're going to take away.

Neil Sahota: Right, okay.

Ryan Foland: We've just dissected your speech process. 

Now we can all take over and utilize this and make it our own.

Neil Sahota: You've kind of made me show what's behind the curtain. 

Ryan Foland: Yeah, but it's like, I don't know, and I don't want you to take this the wrong way, but it's like we've finally gotten behind the green curtain and you're like, that's it. 

I think that's refreshing because there are so many ways that, as a speaker, we can get lost in the process, we can focus on the wrong things, we can have the wrong target, we can speak to the wrong audience, and it ends up being a lot of work but all for naught. 

So I think we all have stories, and so finding the story that matches what works for the audience and holding back on things that are not going to bring value, I think that's a good equation. 

The Neilquation. 

Neil Sahota: The Neilquation. 

Ryan Foland: I want to move now to how you have had success in building your speaker business. 

And where I think this is interesting is that you're a professor, and I work at UCI in communications, and like we have these day jobs that we enjoy doing, and speaking is something that you discovered, storytelling is something that you learned as part of your speaking. 

How have you taken, or what steps have you taken to make that more serious, to start getting paid, to start generating revenue?

I know that you wrote your book "Own The AI Revolution", but how has that all worked? 

Because I wrote a book, "Ditch The Act", and it's a grind to use it as part of the speaking. It's amazing and helpful, but I now want to learn what you've been doing.

Neil Sahota: All right. And I hate to break it to you, it's always going to be a grind.

Ryan Foland: Wait, the path of most resistance, so I'm on the right path.

Neil Sahota: You got it, yeah. 

It is. I don't think a lot of people realize that to be a professional speaker, even part-time does take a lot of work. 

And when I decided I want to do more of it, because I actually do enjoy it, the first thing I did was actually seek God's help because it's not a space that I really know. 

And it's like at that point I had actually been giving talks for like a month, but it's just people that had either seen me or things like that, and so working with people that actually were professional speakers for a while and learning those ropes about what you do and how you reach out and how you engage, and you've got a target, you've got to have a speaker reel, you actually have to put together a lot of collateral so that people know how good you are. 

I hate to say it, I had done a TEDx Talk and I had never thought to leverage that, it's like talking to these people.

Ryan Foland: Right. Sometimes a challenge, when you're starting, is that you need to be seen on the big stages for people to think that you're worth being paid. 

You need to have the speaker reel with you on stages to make it seem like someone else has already taken a chance on you, but it's that chicken and the egg, you're like, 

"Well I need you to give me the chance on stage so that I can capture that," and right now since everything's digital, it's if you didn't capture that live footage on the stage before then, now it's like digital live zoom catching reels kind of thing.

Neil Sahota: It's easy to get there today, in that someone recorded it, so just ask for a copy.

Ryan Foland: Right, yeah, that's true.

Neil Sahota: I find it interesting that most people don't realize that. It's just like you just ask to get a copy. I was asked to be on Good Day DC, I've done an interview, and then I'm just like, "Hey can I get a copy of the interview," like, "Yeah, sure, here you go."

Ryan Foland: Never ask, never get. 

Neil Sahota: Yeah. It's the same thing. If you want to be a speaker and you're looking for gigs, you have to tell people that, "I'm looking for gigs." Right? 

Unfortunately, people aren't just going to connect the dots.

Ryan Foland: Why do you have to give such simple advice to make it seem like it's attainable without some sort of hack or app? 

Why are you doing this?

Neil Sahota: I told you why, I seek the path of most resistance, I'm actually a really simple guy.

Ryan Foland: And what's interesting is, I'm fascinated with simplicity, and it's deceiving because simple does not mean easy, it's the opposite. 

Simple is inversely proportional to ease. Simple equals one over ease.

Neil Sahota: The Ryanquation. 

Ryan Foland: The Ryanquation, yes. 

Okay, so in the honor of simplicity, what we just talked about for the last 5 minutes actually seems kind of complex. 

I'm going to be honest with you. 

You got to do the speaker reel, then you've got to do this, and you've got to ask, you've got to do, and if I were to listen that I'd be like, 

"Neil just said it's simple, but he was really explaining how he needed help and there are these ropes to learn."

So let's imagine that there's a ropes course that you're building and there are only 3 components to this rope course. 

What would those 3 fundamental basic, simple, not easy but simple, steps be? Not for you to pontificate on and say, "This will work for someone else," but if you look back, you're like, 

"These are the simplest, not necessarily easiest, things that I've done to build my speaking business."

Neil Sahota: Well, 3 things — I'd say brand, collateral, outreach. 

So brand is what do you want to be known for, right? 

People want you to come and speak, what is that? So you can't say, "I do everything."

Ryan Foland: I'm going to push back on that.

Coming from the guy who said, "I'm going to adapt and I'll talk about customer culture or about engaging here, or about AI," from the looks of that, that could be seen as like what you want — 

I'm not going to tell you what I talk about, you tell me what your audience wants, and then I'll tell you what I'm going to give you. 

How did you navigate that brand or is it all centered on one thing? 

What do you want to be known for Neil?

Neil Sahota: It's interesting you say that because when I embarked on actually being a professional speaker I already had a lot of collateral that was already out there and so people had seen my TED Talk they had seen this, so I had been known for a lot of things.

But the underlying thing, everything I ever talked about, was disruption. 

That's actually what I did in my career and actually still do today, is, I am known as a guy that creates disruption.

Ryan Foland: Okay, the good kind. Like you're not going to ruin the party, you're going to move the party to a new location and not tell people, and that's going to be the best party in town. 

Neil Sahota: You've got to be invited, right?

Ryan Foland: Yeah, exactly. 

Neil Sahota: Even when the people are like, "I thought you're the AI guy," but the AI is just a tool for disruption. 

Ryan Foland: Okay, so this is interesting because you gave the 3 steps as a brand and then collateral, but in your experience, it was collateral which determined your brand?

Neil Sahota: Well at that time it was a hodgepodge but if you're going to do, and say, "I want to be a speaker to support your brand," I had to create collateral. I didn't have a speaker reel, there was a bunch of videos and audio stuff, things I've talked about, but that's not a speaker reel. 

I had to create, essentially, a video montage that shows not just what I am talking about but, more importantly, my style. How do I actually speak, how do I try to engage with the audience, different formats, it should be one of the keynotes, one of the panels with like comments, it should be a fireside chat. It's to try and give people an idea of what you can actually do, where your experience actually lies.

Ryan Foland: Okay, so for the listeners, don't confuse content with collateral. 

And I think that's where I got tripped up. Before you recognize or had the epiphany that you are a speaker and storyteller, you had already created a lot of content. There's content that's out there, but that's an interesting distinction because the content doesn't mean you can take something on its own and just share and be like, 

"I'm a speaker, here's my proof." 

So the content that you create could help you, or should help you, determine the brand that you want to be known for. 

Neil Sahota: Correct. 

Ryan Foland: And I always say that your brand is not what other people think about you, it's not what you want to be known for, but it's that intersection. 

So if you have content, blog posts, and videos and things you've already done, then that could be a good foundation to decide your brand, to then be conscious about creating the collateral that supports the brand and is most likely still relevant to the content that you've created. 

Neil Sahota: You've got it, Ryan.  

Ryan Foland: Boom, we've just reverse-engineered the CCS plus Javascript. 

Okay, so let's attack this last one about outreach. 

I want to know specifically, in a COVID world, what you think works, or what you're trying to make work, from an outreach standpoint, and is there a way to use AI, and is there a way to be smarter about it that might not be easy to create, but once the system is created like I want to know how to disrupt outreach when it comes to speaking, grabbing speaking engagements?

Neil Sahota: I'll give you the 20th century way first. It is go out and just tell people, just your network, post on Linkedin, you know, "Hey I've done like a 30-second video," they'll be like, "Hey, I remember you giving this talk and I like these," and I'm basically telling people that, 

"Hey I'm open to speaking engagements. If you’ve got something, let me know. An opportunity? Let's talk."

Ryan Foland: Now that is a simple step, and it happens to be technically an easy step, but it might be one of the most difficult steps to sort of put yourself out there as a speaker. 

Neil Sahota: I think a lot of people kind of get freaked out like, "Does it look like I'm advertising," 

I'm like, "This is the funny thing, unless you actually say it, people don't know it". 

It's the same thing I learned like on my LinkedIn post you're talking about that you'll see now, that I said like, "Hey, please follow me, click here to follow me to see more or learn more," and before I did that maybe now and then somebody would follow me. 

Now it's like I get 20, 30 followers a day as a result, because like, "Oh yeah, I should totally follow this guy", click. Same thing with the podcast.

Ryan Foland: So you're actually helping to lead the horse to water, but then when you get him there, you're like, 

"All right, well this water is going to be here if you want to come back next week". 

Neil Sahota: Look, I think we've all watched YouTube videos and you see they're like, "Hey if you liked the video, like it, subscribe”, that kind of stuff. 

And some people think it's cheesy, but sometimes like I've watched a really good video and in the end, I say, like, 

"Oh yeah, I should totally like this, duh."

Ryan Foland: Okay, you summed it up right there, duh. 

What you may think is obvious, is not obvious to someone until you actually tell them. 

Okay, so finding the confidence, strength, and courage, once you've decided what your brand is, to put yourself out there and actually be like, 

"I'm here. Follow me, subscribe. If you need a speaker, I can help you." 

All right, that's a good top of mind strategy. 

So now that you're top of mind, but then you're just waiting and waiting and nobody invites you to speak, and then all of a sudden, you're just like, 

"This advice Neil gave isn't so strong. It's incomplete."

So what's the next part?

Neil Sahota: Next part is you actually have to go out and do your own outreach. 

So you have to go and look for what kind of events, look for conferences and all these things, and say like, "Is this something I'd like to speak at," and if they don't have a speakers' form or a nomination thing like that, find the contact person, reach out to them and say, 

"Hey, I'm really interested in your event. I'm known for this and I think there might be a good topic here, can we chat about it?"

Ryan Foland: Interesting. 

And I can vouch that that works, that is something I do. 

Here's an example of that in process. I was actually researching for women's leadership conferences because I'd recently spoken at one and so I was fine, it was a good message about authenticity and empowerment and I Googled and I found the 12th annual international women's leadership conference, so I went to the website and I could not find a call for speakers. 

So I used the contact form and I emailed, "Do you guys have a call for speakers?"

The guy emailed me and said, "Yes we do, thanks so much for asking, it's right here." 

Do you want to know what the link was? It was whatever 

Neil Sahota: Ryan’s secret right there. 

Ryan Foland: There's a secret, take the ‘website forward-slash apply’, okay. 

But here's where it goes further. 

I then thank the gentleman. I then found him on Linkedin, I connected with him on Linkedin and said, "I'm really excited that we connected, I'm looking forward to this conference," and he replied back, and so now I have a conversation going on with somebody on the inside that is going to look for my application coming in, all because I couldn't find how to apply and then created that personal connection. 

So it could be as simple as that.

Neil Sahota: It works, and there's a third piece to this. If you speak in a place and they thought you were a great speaker, let them know you're looking for other opportunities. 

So like, "If you know anybody that might be interested in me speaking," you would be surprised how many times like, 

"You know, I actually know so and so over there." 

I actually got a gig in Australia that way. 

Ryan Foland: Awesome.

Neil Sahota: "You know, actually there are these guys in Australia that are running this big legal conference, you'd be perfect for them, I'll make an introduction." All right!

Ryan Foland: Okay, so I'm going to do this, I'm going to make this, it's called the TSU. 

This is your new formula, your new algorithm. It's to tell people that you're a speaker, and I don't know if the next one works but I was going to say sell yourself as a speaker, which is, I am assuming, the outreach.

Neil Sahota: We call it search for speaking.

Ryan Foland: Search, okay, I like that. We'll just keep it the same, it's good. 

Search for speaking opportunities and then upsell after your speech, not to the audience but to the actual organizer.

Neil Sahota: That's right.

Ryan Foland: Okay. 

So we have just deciphered a new way and if we can code this and then we can get massive amounts of people to give us the data that we can learn to see what works and what not, and then we can create for those speakers that don't have a speaker hand, we'll create some sort of machine and then they can control it with their brain. 

Neil Sahota: That, I think, is the ultimate thing. You were asking me about AI, the 21st-century solution is to have a little AI assistant to actually help do this for you and actually help find like those conferences and the contacts and help you build your own little portfolio. I mean we could do it, we just need the data.

Ryan Foland: Okay, well I'm happy to be a test pilot and we can create it. 

I've got a bot. Her name is Gingybot. Maybe she can help. We can program some of the backend on that and have Gingybot do some reach out outreach for me, and stuff like that. 

Hey, well for people who want to know about disruption and how to get into the party that they don't know is there because they don't have an invite, I'm going to tell them that if they purchase and read your book, it's probably a nice invitation to learning more about you and some of the crazy stuff you do. 

So where do people find your book and how do people follow you?

Neil Sahota: Well my book is available at every major retailer; Amazon, Barnes and Noble. 

If you want to learn more about me, I encourage you to come to visit me at my website which is, or follow me on Linkedin and Twitter or Instagram. I'm always sharing stuff all the time about disruption, and what I am up to, so it's a good way to stay in touch. 

Ryan Foland: Awesome. 

Well, hey Neil, this has been fun, and I think one of the things that stands out is a definition of a speaker that I've known but I haven't necessarily put a permanent marker on, is that to speak is really just to tell one story really well.

Neil Sahota: Yeah. 

Ryan Foland: All right. 

Well, hey, if people want to check out your podcast where you're helping people share their stories, how do they find that? Where do they go, and how do they share their story on your podcast?

Neil Sahota: The podcast is, again, Changing the story, the website is, it's on every major platform so easy click from there to the website, but we actually have a form on there so if you like to come in as a guest, just fill that out and we'll get you set up.

Ryan Foland: Awesome. 

Well a shout out to SpeakerHub for sponsoring this amazing opportunity for me to burn almost an hour and have fun and have a great conversation. 

Neil, I will invite you if you'd like a VIP spot on the SpeakerHub platform, I would like to see what you think about how it works because there is an outreach mechanism to do calls for speakers. Maybe there's some more opportunity for AI in there? Maybe we can utilize some of your brain to help other speakers use data that we know in order to get people on more stages so they can share more stories so they can share less.

Neil Sahota: That sounds like a plan, Ryan. Let's do it. 

Ryan Foland: Alright, buddy. Hey, take care and we will see you around some time. 

Ladies and gentleman, you know what? Normally I just say we're out of here, but I'm going to say, if you liked this podcast, you should subscribe, you should follow, you should share it with your friends because even though you might like it, you might not know that there's an opportunity to share this with other people. 

So follow Neil on LinkedIn, follow me on LinkedIn, follow SpeakerHub on LinkedIn, share with your friends, hopefully, that wasn't too — was that good Neil, was that good?

Neil Sahota: Idea is good, I think you got the message across, like, follow, subscribe. 

All right, we'll see you next week or whenever it is that you consume this content. 


A bit about World of Speakers

World of Speakers is a bi-weekly podcast that helps people find their own voices, and teaches them how to use their voice to develop a speaking business. This special series of episodes has been created to help speakers navigate the coronavirus crisis. 

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