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July Leader Profile: RYAN FOLAND


Global Keynote Speaker, published author, artist, and brand consultant who joined the HCT Community in 2017.

Ryan Foland has what every business leader wants and needs: a visible online presence, a strong voice of influence, something innovative to say, and the personality, confidence, and speaking skills to pull it all together. I had the chance to talk with Ryan about his background, how he developed as a business leader, and how he evolved as a successful speaker.

How did you evolve your public speaking skills? Were you born with the right mix of personality traits, or was this something you learned and developed over time?

When I was a kid, I got picked on and bullied by some of my classmates. Whatever I said, just seemed to fuel the fire and it wasn't until my dad basically forced me to take karate that I really started to understand how to communicate. I learned that you can't not communicate. And this gave me confidence, because I realized that I could communicate with my posture, and how I carried myself. This helped me get more comfortable speaking up, and flash forward to my senior year in high school, I was elected senior class president by the same classmates who had bullied me in middle school. In college, along with earning a degree in Business Economics, I studied theater, helping me learn the nuanced elements of communication. And to this day, I still practice my speaking skills. The trick to public speaking is speaking more. If I can do it, so can you.

Who is your biggest role model?

My father has been my biggest role model since day one. He is an educator and motivator, and has empowered me to be a leader by encouraging me to learn, and helping me not be afraid to fail. He has always been supportive of my crazy ideas, my business adventures, and more importantly, has been there by my side during my failures. He taught me the value of being kind, accepting, and of putting people first. He has led by listening to me, and letting me forge my own unique path. He has taught me to build upon my strengths, as opposed to trying to fix where I am weak.

What are 3 tips for becoming a better public speaker?

  1. Invest time in improving your skills

  2. Look for opportunities to practice

  3. Surround yourself with the right people

How do you find opportunities for public speaking?

  • Think of your many daily conversations as mini-audiences. You don't necessarily need to be on a stage to speak with authority and enthusiasm. Incorporate more awareness about the stories you tell, and use small conversations throughout the day as opportunities to practice material.

  • While engaging with social media typing replies, using emojis and GIFs, don’t forget that video features allow you to flex your speaking skills more than you might imagine. Consider replying on social media with video, or making Instagram stories where you turn the camera on yourself and speak your mind.

  • You can also volunteer for free speaking opportunities to get your name out there. I attended a weekly startup event, and they asked if anyone wanted to “host” the event. I volunteered because it was a great chance to practice. I did well, and they asked me to keep hosting. It was great exposure, and that was the start of how I became known as the #GingerMC.

  • Join Toastmasters. With many clubs now having virtual meetings, the opportunity to find a club that matches your vibe is easier than ever. Going to Toastmasters has been a secret weapon in my speaking career. I give speeches, using the safe environment to practice my content and get feedback from individuals I trust. If you want to visit my Toastmasters, just email me!

How do you surround yourself with successful speakers?

When I launched World of Speakers Podcast, I thought it would be a great way to connect with speakers whom I could interview and learn from. The format is simple. I ask them about their experience becoming a speaker, speaking tips, and how they’ve grown their speaking business.

In the past three years, I've interviewed close to eighty professional speakers who are now all part of my professional network. You don't need a podcast to connect with other speakers, but you do need to make a conscious effort to find like-minded people looking to improve their public speaking skills.

  • Find friends or family who will listen to your practice presentations

  • Find mentors at Toastmasters, or reach out to speakers you admire, and become part of their communities

  • Grow your speaking network by making introductions. When I land a speaking gig, I ask event organizers if they are looking for more speakers so that I can suggest trusted speakers in my network. These referrals help strengthen my relationships.

Do you get nervous before you take the stage or give an online presentation?

Of course! My palms get sweaty, my heart rate increases, my thoughts often swarm around like a cyclone in my head. But that's totally normal. As you gain more experience as a professional speaker, you learn to actually see these nerves as excitement.

In your work as an executive leadership coach, what are the most common success-blockers and career-related fears among your clients?

In working with executives and high-level entrepreneurs to help them build their personal brands, one success blocker that I often see is the fear of being vulnerable. When I say vulnerable I am referring to being open to sharing more than just your successes. There is a real fear of showing weakness and sharing your own failures. But I try to help individuals let this fear guide them to discover parts of their story that uncover how they gained their expertise.

Generally, people don't care about your story of success, but they do care about how they see themselves in your story. Two great examples of powerful brands that have been built off of being vulnerable and real are Winnie Sun, and Iman Oubou. They are both featured in my book Ditch The Act and are great examples of leaders who lead with authenticity.

What is your 3-1-3 Method®?

My 3 1-3 Method is a way to challenge yourself to distill down your core brand message to the problem you solve, your solution, and your target market. I truly believe that these three elements must be the starting point to your brand. I meet many leaders with successful companies who still have a hard time communicating what they do in just a few sentences or words. When you know your core message, it allows you to be strategic about your branding and marketing initiatives. I enjoy working with people and challenging them to sharpen their messaging, which allows them to be more intentional about the content that they create. In my third TEDx talk, I explain some of the core principles behind this method and explain why no one cares what you do. I also have a weekly podcast called the 313 Challenge where I put people in the hot seat and ask them simple questions that are not easy to answer.

Order Ryan’s Book Ditch The Act here.

Listen to episodes of Ryan’s 313 Challenge Podcast Series

Subscribe to Ryan’s World of Speakers podcast

Get inspired – check out Ryan’s YouTube Channel

THANK YOU Ryan for sharing your thoughts and guidance with our HCT Community!

Keep shining!

Communications Director

Heart Centered TECH

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