In this episode, host John Laurito talks with speaker, podcaster, author, and entrepreneur Grant Baldwin. He is the creator and CEO of The Speaker Lab, which helps teach speakers how to find and book paid speaking engagements. They talk about how you can overcome your fear of public speaking, how to channel your nervousness into positive energy, the things they do while speaking in front of a crowd, and more. If you seem to enjoy public speaking yet feel too nervous about doing so; this is for you!
Here’s a little something about Grant Baldwin and what he does to make a dent in this world.
After a few years of youth pastoring, I decided to start a speaking career. I worked hard to build my business and get paid to speak, all the while trying to figure things out on my own because there weren’t a ton of great resources out there.
The thing is, I’m just a normal dude. No crazy backstory, no celebrity following. I had a message to share and a dream to make it happen, and ten years and thousands of paid presentations later, I’m happy to say I did.
Today, I still travel and speak, but I spend most of my time working with The Speaker Lab to create resources that I wish I had when I was starting.
[1:43] How Grant overcame his fear of public speaking and how he helped others overcome theirs
[6:08] The positive nervous energy
[8:44] Mindset shift: connecting nervousness with an excellent presentation
[11:12] Pausing as soon as you feel something negative to reset
[15:40] Advice for anyone who wants to start public speaking
[19:09] Learn more about Grant and The Speaker Lab
John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on an insatiable quest to learn everything I can about leadership, and what makes the best leaders so good after running companies small and large over the last 20 years. Today, I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name’s John Laurito. I’m your host, and I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this very topic and what makes the best leader so good. Welcome to tomorrow’s leader!
John All right, tomorrow’s leaders, so by far, one of the scariest things you can ever do in your life is speak in front of a big group. It is the single biggest fear that people have. And it is also the most exhilarating thing I will tell you, there is no feeling like getting off the stage after a great presentation where you know you’ve impacted the audience, but it takes a lot to get to that point. So I had a great conversation with Grant Baldwin, who’s the owner of a company called the Speaker Lab. He coaches speakers. He himself has spoken all over the place and for many, many years. So we had a really cool conversation just about the whole everything that goes into speaking, you know, all the whole mindset and anxiety and emotions and how you influence yourself to ultimately perform at a high level was just a really cool speaker to speaker type of conversation. And I hope you look at these interviews kind of the same way that I intend them to be, which is just a really cool casual conversation between two people and you’re eavesdropping into it. So I think you’ll kind of get a sense of this minus all the background noise, my apologies, construction going on at my place. So I hope it’s not too loud, but I think you will enjoy this episode. Here is Grant Baldwin.
John All right, welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dove deep into all things leader-related, related to leading yourself and leading others. I’m John Laurito your host. I get a great guest for you today, Grant Baldwin, who’s the founder and CEO of the Speaker Lab Grant. Thanks for joining us today.
Grant John, thanks for letting me hang out with you, man. I appreciate it.
John Yeah, you got it. So this is one of my favorite topics because obviously you and I do a lot of public speaking things that really scare the living daylights out of most people that are listening. And it really does talk about leading yourself, right? It takes a lot of self leadership to do that. Tell me about that. I mean, from your own perspective, how you kind of overcame if you had those fears and in particular, how do you help other people do that, do something that they never thought they’d be able to do before?
Grant Yeah, you’re exactly right that speaking in public, speaking in front of a couple of people or 100 people or thousands of people is just a massive, massive fear and point of anxiety for a lot of people. And I think there’s also kind of a misconception that oftentimes you see people on stage or professional speakers and you say, Oh, they’re just a natural. They’re very charismatic. They don’t get nervous. And that’s oftentimes not the case. I think a lot of times speakers, even the best speakers on the planet still get nervous to have those butterflies. And I think what’s oftentimes important to distinguish is the difference between nerves and anxiety, but also just kind of like the excitement and energy. You know, it’s kind of like if you’re I know and my life, I’m married to my high school sweetheart.
Grant We’ve got three daughters. We love everybody in our family except for my wife and myself and my dogs. We love doing roller coasters. And you know, when you’re standing in line to do a roller coaster-like you start to feel some of those butterflies, we’re getting closer to the front of the line we’re in. We’re strapped in or pulling the harness down or whatever it is. And there’s just kind of the it’s not this nervousness like, Oh my gosh, we’re going to die, but it’s just like this adrenaline and excitement. And you think about, some of those most important and most pivotal moments in someone’s life. I think about like whenever I proposed to my wife or when my daughters were born, or if you had a big job interview or some type of big moment that oftentimes you feel some of those same feelings. And again, it’s not that feeling of like, I’m going to die. This is going to be a disaster.
Grant But just like this, this body’s heightened awareness is going like, Hey, hey, this is important, like big deal like lock in right now. And I think that’s oftentimes can be confused or just, you know, I’m a horrible speaker because I feel there’s no no, it’s just like, it’s your body’s reaction to say, Hey, this is important, rise to the occasion. And so what we do in those types of situations because again, it’s not a bad thing. It’s a very natural, normal thing. But what do we do? How do we minimize that? How do we make sure that’s not debilitating in terms of giving a speech or presentation? And one of the best things that you can do, and this is the thing that every present, every like expert presenter, professional speaker, professional comedian, performer, entertainer does is they spend a lot of time practicing and preparing. I think oftentimes we assume that the best speakers in the world, they just scribble a couple of ideas on a napkin.
Grant They hop up and it all just magically comes together and it just does not work like that. They have spent hours and hours and hours behind the scenes practicing, rehearsing, taking over every transition, every word they’re going to use that all the sentence structure, every single thing so that by the time they get up on stage, it looks effortless and looks natural. It looks like they’re just making it up on the fly. But that’s because they put in so much work. The other thing is, when you’ve put in that kind of work behind the scenes, it just gives you a level of confidence whenever you get up on stage. So for example, if you think back whenever we were in high school, middle school, college university and you remember, like if you had a test to take, you had a choice like you could, you could just kind of like show up and wing it.
Grant And you know, the professor or a teacher passes out the test and you’re just like, you feel this like nerves and anxiety. Jim prepared, You haven’t studied yet. You’re not ready for it. Versus if you like what? I’ve really done the work and I’ve done the study questions and I’ve gone over my notes and I’ve gone over the guides and I’ve done all the work. So when you show up, there’s a different level of competence and you may still feel again some of the butterflies and nerves, but at least know, like I’ve done, the work necessary to show up and deliver. Then the same thing is true with a speaker. So a speaker who’s just like, I’m just going to, you know, throw together a couple of thoughts or I just like to make a. Up on the fly. That’s lazy, that’s a not a good speaker at all versus the someone who just says, I’m going to really think through every part of this, I’m going to practice it. I’m a go over it time and time and time again. So whenever I get up on stage, get myself some of those butterflies and nerves. But I also feel a lot more comfortable and confident that I got this.
John Yeah, I love it. I hear I heard you heard you say a couple of things in particular that really stick out. One is, is the preparation. It is so key, and I find that too. I mean, it’s amazing how it affects your confidence. And I do the same thing. I mean, I prepare everything. I’m going to say every story I rehearse that I go through it and I know I can tell a certain story significantly better if I’ve had some more practice and the points that I’m trying to make. So I definitely see that difference. The other thing I heard you say, though, which I think is very interesting too, is that whole difference between the there’s kind of that positive nervous energy and the one that’s kind of debilitating and almost freezes you and prevents you from doing it the best you can. Is there a way that you can kind of channel, you know, if you feel either? I guess my question is, is there a way to recognize the difference between those? And if you feel yourself going down a bad kind of direction with that, how you rerouted and have it become more of that positive, you know, contributing energy?
Grant Yeah, I think there’s kind of, you know, to some degree, there’s probably some level of fight or flight type of reaction that happens in those moments. And I found myself that when people ask, Do you still get nervous before you speak? Yeah, absolutely. But again, I think that’s I think that the bigger the stakes of the event, the more likely you’re going to feel it. It’s kind of like, you know if you play in the NFL if you’re playing a preseason game or a practice running drills versus, you know, being in the Super Bowl is probably just you’re doing the same thing, but it’s just a different level of heightened awareness. And so, yeah, you absolutely want to make sure that you figure out the things that work well for you to make sure that you’re in the best possible state to be prepared. So for some people, that may mean, you know, just sitting in the back quietly and maybe having headphones on, maybe listening to music. You know, I’ve seen speakers who like to jump up and down.
Grant They’ve got all this energy and they got like, I got to release some of this air. So it doesn’t completely come out as a mess on stage that does some jumping jacks or some push-ups and just burns a little bit of fuel there. One thing for me personally is I’d like to just go through the talk in my head. Like a lot of times, what I’ll do is I’ll have kind of a notecard that won’t have a ton of detailed notes, but maybe it’s like 10 words that would mean nothing to anybody else, but they’re just like some mental cues for myself. OK, I’m going to tell this story, and then I’m transitioning to this. And then I got to hit this point and I’m going here. So I just kind of like, Look through that and that’s kind of my mental checklist of what I’m going through in terms of that presentation or in terms of that talk. So for me, that just helps me again. One more thing before I hop on stage and I know, OK, this is the order, this is the sequence, and that helps me to feel more comfortable and confident whenever I get up on stage.
John That’s great. I love that. And you’re right, everybody’s got to find what works for them. You know, for me, I need to know. I need to have fun when I’m going on stage. I need to be looking forward to the presentation. A lot of times I can’t sleep the night before the keynote, not because of nervous nervousness, but because of the excitement. But it’s still, you know, I do. I also get nervous before him, but it’s good positive energy. But one of the things that I found is when you connect. So for the four, for example, one of the first big presentations I did in front of a few thousand people, I got nervous about a certain type of feeling beforehand, which was nervousness and a little bit of anxiety, but then performed really well and felt great about that. So from that point, it was easy to connect almost that negative feeling of nervousness with the positive outcome. So it then became almost this trigger of, OK, hey, great. I feel I feel that energy, that nervousness coming on. I know that’s going to mean I’m going to deliver a great presentation. So you kind of connect the bad thing with a good, good outcome, almost.
Grant Yeah. And one way to think about this is, again, kind of go back to the professional football player. An NFL player, for example, know they probably feel a lot of nerves, the butterflies before the game starts. But I hear oftentimes that, you know, once that her snap happens and the first play happens and it’s like, OK, now that we’re into a rhythm, you know, it’s kind of like riding a bike, you know, you kind of the muscle memory takes over that. And so I know for me, whenever I step out on stage, you know, you can tell if you’re if I’m doing a 60-minute keynote, I can tell a lot about how the whole thing is going to go within that first 30 seconds. Meaning like if I tell a joke and it gets a great response by, OK, we’re off to the races here. If they laugh at this, they’re going to love that thing that’s coming down the road.
Grant Or, you know, if I tell something and like that falls completely flat, like, Oh boy, I’m already kind of making some mental adjustments like that thing that I normally would stretch and go a little bit deeper on them for the sake of humor is probably not going to get the laughs. I’m probably not going to use that. I’m going to mentally cut that. You’re already making some assumptions about how it’s going to go, but you don’t necessarily know until you actually get up. On stage, because every audience is different, every environment is different, and every setting is different. And so you’re that’s when that muscle memory starts to kind of kick in and you again, not the not like a lazy, apathetic way of going on autopilot, but it’s just kind of the switch are gone going, OK, I’ve done this before. I’ve been here before to deliver this presentation. I have again that level of confidence that I’m good at this. I know what to do now, but you don’t quite know until you get up on stage in terms of how it’s going to be received.
John Yeah, it’s interesting. And that’s such a great point because you’re right. Those first few moments, you can almost feel a certain energy or responsiveness or even the facial expressions of people and the energy in the room. And that can help you. But it also can work against you. If you do fall flat or feel in your mind like you are not hitting your A-game or getting the response you’re looking for. It can really start producing that downward spiral. One of the things that work for me and I’m interested in your thoughts is just almost setting in your mind. In my mind, I have something that if I feel like I’m starting to get negative thoughts in my head, I have a way to kind of hit the pause button. And it’s just that I might throw out a question to the audience. Doesn’t matter how big it is, you know?
John Hey, you know how many people in here are, you know, x y z. And all it does is give me a chance to reset mentally. It’s not even about the question, it’s about the pause that I’ve now put in there and then the ability for me to take the focus off me for a second. So I think a lot of people, I talk to a comedian that I asked him the question at very successful comedy. I said, What happens when you do you get that? You know, when you get out there and your first joke just lands flat or, you know, the audience is really not into your feel that, I mean, it’s got it. And he said You know what? It used to really bother me, but what I realized is, that I know I’m funny. I mean, I’ve had enough audience is enough positive feedback. I know I’m funny. So if they’re not laughing, that’s their problem. It’s not mine. I thought was really funny, but it’s true. Like as a presenter, as a keynote, you’ve got to know you’re there for a reason. I mean, you’re being asked to speak and paid to speak for a reason. And that’s because you, you are who you are. You’ve done what you’ve done, you know, so it’s all about the mindset, right?
Grant Yeah, yeah. And I’ll give you a couple of filters I kind of run through after the presentation. Let’s say I get off stage and it just didn’t go as well. It wasn’t a disaster. I wasn’t a late train wreck, but it’s like, I know I’ve done better. So there are three different criteria I kind of run through in my mind. One is me that was I on. Was I prepared? Was I ready? Did I give my best? I feel super comfortable and confident in that, so that’s a big factor. That’s something that I can control that I can do something about. Maybe, you know, I didn’t sleep well that night. Maybe I wasn’t feeling great. Maybe I just got some bad news, you know, I just got off the phone with my wife and we were at a little fight or something or, you know, anything that’s just going to rattle me on stage, you know, was there something that happened?
Grant So that’s a factor. Another factor is going to be the audience meaning like, let’s say, right before, let’s say, was speaking to a group of sales reps. And right before I get up, you know, the VP of sales comes up and says, Hey, you know, we’ve missed quota for the past couple of quarters and we’re actually going to have to lay off 20 percent of you at the end of the week. All right, now, let’s bring up our speaker grant. Well, it doesn’t matter. Like what I say, like nobody is going to be listening to me, right? You’re walking into a setting and to an audience is just like, man, we have we don’t care at all what you had to say. So the audience is certainly going to be a factor and other factors are just going to be the environment. I’ll give you an example. I remember a couple of years ago I was speaking at a conference in New Jersey and I did a keynote in a room that was set for about two thousand people and the room set two thousand people, they had about two dozen people in there.
Grant And it worked beautifully. Right? Well, they’re going to do a workshop right after this. And so they have all 20 people leave and then they have to do this breakout a small workshop with about 50 people in the room that seats two thousand when you put 20 people in a room that see 20, it’s awesome, but 50 people in a room that sees 20. It’s a disaster, right? So even the same room, similar audience members, but completely different size, completely different setting there. It’s just a totally different feel. So the environment makes a big is a big factor as well. You know, you actually want a room that is too small. You know, I remember speaking at something a couple of years ago and I got there and kind of doing a soundcheck and the event planner came up to me.
Grant They had just chairs just all the way around the walls, and they’re kind of apologetic and they’re like, Hey, you know, this room only seats something like a thousand, but we think we may have 1100, and I’m really sorry. I was like, Oh, no, that’s awesome. That’s exactly what you want. You want it to feel crowded because energy is contagious versus if you come to a room that seats 1000 and there are 100 people in there, it just feels dead. It feels empty. So again, there are some factors that you can control some factors that are outside of your control, but you want to kind of like chalk it up in your own mind of like, what can I do better? What are the things that I can control that I can do something about the make sure I’m better next time I give a presentation?
John Yeah, that’s such a great, great point. You know, I mean, I do recall certain situations I remember doing one in an airplane hangar that was enormous. Everything’s echoing in there doing work in the background. I mean, it was just that the setting was not conducive. We know, you know, you walk into a bar and it’s, you know, dead. You don’t think it’s a lively place versus a smaller one that’s, you know, more crowded is just got cool energy or restaurant or whatnot. I love that. So now as far as that, you know, somebody’s looking to get into this. Let’s say they have, let’s say so. There are a lot of people that are listening. They’re saying, You know what? I’ve got a really great message. I’ve got a really cool story. There’s something unique about me. They want to get into this business. How do they do it? What’s the process? What’s the first step or how did you go about doing it?
Grant Yeah, I’ll give you a high-level overview, and then we can dig it wherever you want. If you like within our company, the speaker that we teach, what we call the speaker success roadmap. So it’s a five-step process that makes the acronym speak, speak, so the SS selects a problem to solve. First of all, you have to get really, really clear about who you speak to and what problem you solve. The problem is, is that most speakers think that we need to go as broad and wide as possible. So who do you speak to? I speak to humans. My message is for everybody, right? Well, that’s not the case, right? What do you speak about? What do you want me to speak about? I can speak about anything that’s not what people are looking for. So you got to be counterintuitive, but you’ve got to be narrow and specific on who you speak to and what problem you solve that part, correct, and you get that are clear and everything else becomes a lot simpler because you know what the target is that you’re aiming for.
Grant The next part of the process is P, prepare your talk. So once you’re clear on this issue, I speak to this the problem that I solve. What’s the solution and how are you going to provide that solution? So we’ve kind of been talking about keynotes, but that could come in the form of breakouts and workshops and seminars and training. And like, there’s a lot of different coaching, consulting, a lot of different things that you could do there in terms of how you provide that solution. The key is to establish yourself as the expert. Two key marketing tools every speaker needs. You’ve got to have a website. If you don’t have a website, you don’t exist. People won’t take you seriously. And number two is you’ve got to have a demo. VIDEO Now, demo videos basically think about like a movie trailer, movie trailer.
Grant They take 90 minute movie. They boil it down to two or three minutes. Within those two or three minutes, you have an idea of who’s in. It was the plot was the theme and the pointing to the demo video and the point of a movie trailer is to make you want to see more. So you got it. It’s really important to have that. The next part of process A is paid speaking gigs. So this is where the mistake is that that a lot of speakers were like, I just I just want to do a gig. And so I just kind of like, sit back and I wait for the phone to ring. I wait for things to magically fall in my lap. That’s a very reactive way that does not work, going to be proactive in building this business. And then the last part of the process is know when to scale, meaning a lot of people who are interested in speaking are also interested in coaching, consulting, writing a book, podcasting, doing a course so you can do all the things.
Grant You can’t do all the things at once. So something’s going to come first. Something’s going to come last. There are speakers I know that do 100 gigs a year and nothing else on speakers that do five gigs here and a bunch of other things. And they both work. So that’s it’s not necessarily one better or worse than the other. You just got to determine and decide for yourself where to speaking, fit into what it is that you’re trying to accomplish. So that’s not the big picture framework that we walk through with speakers and again, at all different levels and stages, something gets really, really, really clear about who they speak to, what problem they solved. And often we find it difficult to to read the label from inside the jar.
Grant We’re so close to it. We’re going like, I think I could speak about this, but is there a market for that? And I think, is this relevant or would people be interested in this to people? Book speakers for that. So we help them get clear on that and kind of organize some of the marketing efforts there to create again more of a system in place to book gigs rather than just sitting back and waiting for someone to to magically find them.
John Yeah, I love that. That’s great. Well, it sounds. I love the process. I love the acronym that makes a ton of sense. And you need a coach. You need somebody to help you, especially if it’s a whole new kind of chapter of your life. And the speaking business is phenomenal, and it’s a lot of fun and can be very profitable too. But getting a coach makes a ton of sense. So if people want to learn more about you or the speaker lab, where should they go?
Grant Yeah. If people are listening to this podcast, you listen to other podcasts. So we have a podcast called The Speaker Lab Podcast. We’ve got nearly 400 episodes there, so definitely check out if you’re interested at all and speaking. And also everything we do is over at the speaker lab and thespeakerlab.com. We also have a book called the successful speaker. So that speaker framework, that speaker we just walkthrough, it goes into that way more in-depth. And so again, the book is called the successful speaker. So, yeah, lots of resources. If there’s anything we can do to help you support a bill to grow your speaking business and share your message with the world, please don’t hesitate to reach out, let me know.
John Excellent! Well, we’ve been here with Grant Baldwin, founder, and CEO of Speaker Lab Grant. I love your words of wisdom, your insight. It’s been a pleasure talking with you. I appreciate you joining us today.
John And thank you all for joining today. As always, I appreciate you liking sharing, subscribing, and always appreciate your suggestions for future guests and content. And of course, go down below. Give a five-star review and we’ll see you next time. Thanks, everybody. Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader for suggestions or inquiries about having me your next event or personal coach, you can reach me at John@johnlaurito.com.
Thanks, lead on!