Avenues of Public Speaking, Challenges Speakers Face, and How We Show Up Consistently as our Brand

Welcome back to Branded: your comprehensive guide to creative branding.

We just returned from Speakonomics in Dallas, so today we wanted to focus a little bit on public speaking. There are different ways to be a speaker, and we both see ourselves more as presenters and facilitators than speakers, which we’ll explore further.

We also discuss forced vulnerability and the disconnect that comes from trying to tie an emotional story to a message that really doesn’t align.

In an act of true vulnerability, Larry shares his own experience of giving two different presentations just hours after saying his final goodbye to his beloved dog, Buddy. He talks about how his commitment to his brand had to come first in order to follow through on the promise his brand stands for.

Of course, this episode is dedicated to Buddy and we hope his tail is wagging as he chases squirrels across the Rainbow Bridge.

Key takeaways:

1. Impact of Speaking Engagements on Branding: Larry emphasizes the importance of speaking engagements as a tool for building your brand and enhancing credibility. He discusses how speaking can position you as a thought leader and is sometimes a “necessary evil” for reinforcing a brand’s authority.

2. Differences in Public Speaking Styles: Sara shares insights on the differing challenges and opportunities between motivational speaking versus educational speaking. She observes that motivational speaking often involves more difficulty in securing stages compared to educational speaking, where content expertise leads to opportunities.

3. The Value of Storytelling in Speeches: Both hosts discuss how powerful personal stories can positively or negatively impact a speech. They note the importance of ensuring personal stories are relevant and well-integrated into the speech’s main objective to avoid it feeling like “forced vulnerability.”

4. Strategic Approach to Speaking: Larry advocates starting your speaking career as a facilitator or educator, which can be more straightforward and less intimidating. He also stresses the importance of being specific about the message and target audience when pitching for speaking slots.

5. Resilience and Commitment to the Brand: Larry shares a personal story about dealing with a profound personal loss on the day of a major speaking engagement. He illustrates his commitment to his professional responsibilities and the integrity of his brand, highlighting how crucial it is to fulfill commitments and maintain professionalism, regardless of personal challenges.


Larry Roberts [00:00:09]:

What is happening, everybody? I'm Larry Roberts.

Sara Lohse [00:00:12]:

And I'm Sara Lohse. And this is Branded, your comprehensive guide to creative branding.

Larry Roberts [00:00:16]:

And on this episode of the podcast, we're going to be talking about some of the, I don't know, maybe we could call them life lessons, even that we learned this past week at an event here in Dallas.

Sara Lohse [00:00:28]:

Yeah, we were at Speakonomics, which is a really great event for people who want to be speakers. And I think one of the biggest lessons that everyone learned was actually taught by Larry and not on purpose.

Larry Roberts [00:00:40]:

Yeah, yeah, you could definitely say it wasn't on purpose, but there were a lot of lessons that go beyond just the one that was kind of reinforced with me, and I'll share that here in just a minute or two. But we saw a wide variety of speakers during this conference, and the whole conference is all about speaking essentially to build your brand and build your business. I mean, it's speaking as a business. And for those of us that have brands that want to grow those brands, and we've talked about it. I mean, you know, we're well into this podcast, 50 ish episodes, and we've talked about speaking before. And, you know, it's something that I love doing. It's something that Sara doesn't necessarily, not.

Sara Lohse [00:01:20]:

Even a little bit doing.

Larry Roberts [00:01:22]:

But, you know, sometimes in order to get that, reinforce that brand, reinforce your credibility, reinforce your position as a thought leader, sometimes it's a necessary evil. You know, a lot of people look to you to be a speaker. Look, look for you to be well spoken, look for you to be able to convey your message in words. And it can be difficult at times, especially when you have a microphone in your hand or a microphone on your lapel, and you got 50, 75, 200 people staring at you going, teach me something.

Sara Lohse [00:01:59]:

What was really interesting for me at this event was to see the different ways of public speaking, because there was a lot of people there that wanted to really be like motivational speakers, and that is a really hard game to get into. Those are not stages that are that available. And it was really interesting for me because as someone who doesn't want to go the motivational speaking route, I get on stages all the time and I don't even want to. But the people who really want to have difficulty. But it's because it's a different way of speaking, I guess, because when I am speaking at a conference, I'm there to educate and I'm there to be a subject matter expert on something like podcasting or branding or something in that vein. So those are pretty easy, because if you find an event where people want to learn about that, they'll put you on their stage. But if you just have a really personal message and you want to inspire people, those are harder stages to find.

Larry Roberts [00:03:01]:

Not only are they harder stages to find, I think they're harder stages to present on. And I think we saw that because at the end of the, the conference there, there was the group, great, what is it? North America's greatest speaker competition. And we saw 15 individuals go up and they had three minutes to give their best talk. And the talk had certain parameters that were allowed and not allowed, but a lot of it was not a lot of it, but it was all a power story, a powerful story. You know, it wasn't an educational story at all. Now, there could be a lesson that's built in, but honestly, it was more of a hero's journey type speech in three freaking minutes.

Sara Lohse [00:03:42]:


Larry Roberts [00:03:42]:

And, you know, we saw a couple.

Sara Lohse [00:03:44]:

And it's three minutes. Like, Tony, don't play around. No, Tony, it hit three minutes. You are off that stage.

Larry Roberts [00:03:51]:

You can be mid sentence, and she's like, all right, thank you, thank you. Get off my stage. And that in and of itself can be intimidating because of the parameters and the rules behind the competition add extra pressure. But, you know, one of the things that I've learned over the years is that if you take it from a facilitator perspective, you know, when I speak, I don't do motivational talks. I do educational talks. So while I like to call myself a speaker, I'm more of a facilitator. I'm more of an administrator, a teacher per se. I have gotten much more entertaining, I guess, in the way that I present my material, because I do like to joke.

Larry Roberts [00:04:32]:

I do like to work with the audience. I do like to get that audience engagement and participation back, because I don't like to just get up there and talk about the latest thing that's happening in AI and how you can AI, improve your business.

Sara Lohse [00:04:42]:

And this is why not. I'm already so engaged.

Larry Roberts [00:04:45]:

Oh, my God. It bores me to tears and I hate it. And I'm a failed comedian. So this gives me an opportunity to get up there, still get on the stage and crack a joke or two and maybe get a laugh or two and make myself still think that I'm semi funny. But I found that that's a much easier way to go if you want to get your speaking career going, is start from a facilitator type perspective. You know, get in front of a small group and teach them something. If you're a subject matter expert and it has something to do with your brand, what you do as part of your business, whether it's a product that you offer and the benefits of that product, or whether it's a service that you offer and how those services could benefit the people in the audience, leverage that opportunity to start refining your speaking skills. And then once you get that experience, once you understand that everybody in the audience, they're not out to get you, they're really there to support you, and they're looking to you for a little guidance, and that's okay.

Larry Roberts [00:05:43]:

Once you get that experience under your belt, it starts to feel easier and easier, and your speaking skills, they will increase. And it's so funny because one of the coaches, Glenn Moorshower, I think it was Glenn that said this, he is.

Sara Lohse [00:05:55]:

A wheelbarrow of wonderful.

Larry Roberts [00:05:57]:

He is a wheelbarrow of wonderful, that is for sure. And if you don't know who Glenn Moorshower is, check him out. He's been an actor for decades. I first saw him in the 1992 cinema epic called Under Siege, starring Steven Seagal. He was a commander, I think, in the Navy, but that was a great role that I saw him. But he's also played on 24, so he was on every season of 24. He's got a show right now, literally on Apple TV called Manhunt, where he plays president Johnson, and it's all about the Lincoln assassination and how he came into power after that. Super, super great guy.

Larry Roberts [00:06:34]:

Super talented and super insightful, especially when it comes to speaking from a stage. I'm not kidding when I say he could recite the Alphabet, and I would just be just entranced, just would not move as he went from b to c to d to e and, and on and on all the way to z. I would just eat it up. But I think he was the one that said, practice doesn't make perfect. It makes permanent. So while practicing and getting in front of stages is great, it gives you that experience. We also want to make sure that we're trying to grow, we're trying to evolve, and we're trying to learn with each and every one of those presentations. But I still love the fact that you just got to get up there and do it.

Larry Roberts [00:07:15]:

You got to get up there and do it.

Sara Lohse [00:07:16]:

So do I have to?

Larry Roberts [00:07:19]:

Yeah. Yeah, you have to. I know. I know. It's, it's funny because you loathe the concept, but yet you got up there on Friday. I think it was. Yeah, we had the podcast panel and girl, you killed. You freaking crushed.

Larry Roberts [00:07:33]:

You had the audience eating out of the palm of your hand, slapping the daylights out of some of the other podcasts that were up there. We're talking some noise.

Sara Lohse [00:07:43]:

It's one of the things that's interesting, what you said before, because I don't consider myself a speaker. And some of the people, they were like, make sure you always have speaker in your headline and speaker in your bio so people know you're a speaker. I'm like, I don't want them to think I'm a speaker. I feel like that sets a certain bar and will. I get on stage and speak and I feel like I'm the same as you. I'm more of a facilitator, an educator. But I don't get up there as, like a speaker. I get up there as a presenter, I think is probably the better word for it.

Sara Lohse [00:08:17]:

And I feel like it's just a different expectation because as if I see someone like, as a public speaker, I expect it to be, I guess, more of that motivational speaker type thing versus. Here are my slides about how to have a podcast.

Larry Roberts [00:08:34]:

It's that cadence that you hear. You know, if you see a speaker, they have a certain cadence, they have a certain rhythm that when they deliver the message, they draw you in and they make sure that you're listening to each and every word that they have, and then they leave you hanging to let that message sink in, you know, it's almost like slam poetry. We had one of the speakers there and she destroyed it. But during her presentation, I found myself waiting for that next rhythm, waiting for that next line, because it really felt more like a poem to me than really what it did was speak to me. So she was delivering it in a way that was very emphatic, that we all look to it. We all try to replicate that same rhythm, that same cadence, because that's how we think we're supposed to speak.

Sara Lohse [00:09:24]:

I don't. I don't speak like that. My brain does not work and I am big pentameter. I don't think it ever will. Good for you, for people who can do that.

Larry Roberts [00:09:35]:

It's so funny because. And I did that on the fly right there. So, you know, I went to church a lot as a kid, and I got used to that rhythm that they hit you with from the pulpit as they're telling you about the Lord and how you need to save your soul and you need to repent right now and be baptized yeah, when Glenn was.

Sara Lohse [00:09:54]:

Speaking, and he is such a powerful speaker. He's such an amazing speaker. Everyone is in there. Like, I feel like I'm in church.

Larry Roberts [00:10:00]:

Every one of them. The church. Yeah, exactly. Right.

Sara Lohse [00:10:03]:

Like, we done been paid a visit.

Larry Roberts [00:10:05]:

We done been paid a visit. And that's actually one of his catchphrases. You know, you've met Glenn Mooresharwin. You know, you've done been paid a visit. And what I saw, especially in that competition, that I think was a shortcoming. I don't know if it was a shortcoming. That might be the right word. It's a trap.

Larry Roberts [00:10:23]:

I think it's a trap for speakers, because they feel like they need to use that kind of cadence, and they need to get that rhythmic delivery in their tone. And as a new speaker, especially, it's super easy to fall in that trap and make it sound so rehearsed, make it sound so desperate to sound like a speaker, that the message gets lost. And we saw that in a number of the participants that were in the. In the contest. And then you went home Friday evening. But on Saturday, I went to an extension of the event. It was for their elite speakers there at the e Women network, and I saw that a lot there as well. One lady gave her.

Larry Roberts [00:11:07]:

Gave. They had five minutes on Saturday to deliver a portion of their talk. They weren't even looking for a full talk, just a portion of their talk. And I thought one of them was like a haiku. I mean. I mean, I don't. What is it? 575. 575.

Larry Roberts [00:11:24]:

But that's how it. And she was so monotone, and she delivered it with every line is the exact same way. And it just felt like she was delivering a poem of some sort. And she did that for five minutes. And, bro, I had a hard time, you know, staying. Staying awake because it was hypnotic. But. And this is no disrespect to anybody that was out there.

Larry Roberts [00:11:45]:

That's just, again, the trap that so many new speakers fall into.

Sara Lohse [00:11:49]:

Yeah, I think one of the traps that I saw people fall into is forced vulnerability. And that's something that I actually have a section up in my book about forced vulnerability and why to not do it. But a lot of them, like, they would use this, like, really powerful personal story and then try to connect it to, like, a point they were making, but it didn't connect.

Larry Roberts [00:12:12]:


Sara Lohse [00:12:12]:

And it almost feels like they just had. Felt like they had to tell this gut wrenching story. But if it doesn't fit the scenario, then it doesn't. It just doesn't.

Larry Roberts [00:12:23]:

Yeah. I mean, they, they'd share something very personal, very deep, very moving. So.

Sara Lohse [00:12:28]:

Oh, I was tearing up for several.

Larry Roberts [00:12:30]:

Exactly. But then tying that back to the relevance or the impact or the message of the talk can be extremely difficult.

Sara Lohse [00:12:38]:


Larry Roberts [00:12:39]:

And I think that's what's intimidating for a lot of folks to get started speaking is they don't want to go through all that, and they don't understand how to go through that. And again, that's why I want to reiterate that being a facilitator is a great way to start and great way to get in front of audiences, and it's a great way for people to say yes. When you apply to speak, you are very specific about your message. If you're very specific in your title, if you're very specific about the three to five bullet points that they generally ask for as takeaways from your talk, if you're very specific about the audience that your talk is for. So if you nail those things down, it's much easier to land a talk than you would ever imagine, especially on a virtual stage. So, and that's how I got started, was, I started on virtual stages, and this was even pre pandemic before everybody was on virtual stages. That was the first opportunity that I had to speak, was on a virtual stage.

Sara Lohse [00:13:35]:

Yeah. One of, I was talking to one of the ladies that was there, and I even said, like, I've spoken at at least one event every month since August. Like, I think April was the first month that I think both of us may have had off, or may, I think you only did some, like, virtual April.

Larry Roberts [00:13:52]:

No, I had the live one here.

Sara Lohse [00:13:54]:

You had, yeah, you had a local one, but that was the first month since August that I didn't have one. And she, like, I say that and she's like, I hate you because they're trying so hard to get on these stages. I'm like, but we're doing it differently.

Larry Roberts [00:14:08]:


Sara Lohse [00:14:09]:

I just, like, all I need to do is find people who want to learn about something and, and I'm there, versus you need people who are trying to be paid a visit. Really. It's so different.

Larry Roberts [00:14:24]:

It is. And, I mean, since right now we're in May, we're at the, what is today, the 6th? I think May 6. And I'm booked at least once a month up through October of this year. And it's not that hard to do. You take a little different approach. You have, and I'm not sure if you're still exercising that, but I mean, you've got a database of talks that come up and you actually go out and apply. I don't apply. I don't ask for talks.

Larry Roberts [00:14:49]:

And I'm not saying that to sound smug, but I get asked to speak. And the reason I get asked to speak is, one, because I'm a badass speaker, but is two. No, I'm just kidding. But two is that I've put myself out there for the last four years, whatever it is, and you develop a reputation, so it gets easier and you get more freedom in your talks as you deliver more talks as well, because the audience and the promoters of that audience realize you're going to be bringing value. So take the opportunity to do it. And I kind of want to go back a little bit and share my story. And to reiterate that a lot of these competitors were trying to tie in this gut wrenching story so that they appealed to the emotional side of the audience and had a real hard time tying it back because it wasn't relevant, really, to what the rest of their talk was. And it was Thursday morning, and I actually did two talks on Thursday.

Larry Roberts [00:15:46]:

The first talk was AI proof speakers, how to AI proof. And your speaking career as a professional speaker, how do you use AI to make sure you don't become irrelevant as a speaker? And that was a very technical talk. Wasn't a lot of room for emotion in that talk, so there wasn't any. But my afternoon talk was all about personal branding. And Thursday morning started out really freaking rough. It's about 615. I was laying in bed in my hotel room, and because the event was in Dallas, I just stayed at the hotel down there that was close to the event and got a call from the, from the wife saying, buddy just screamed and collapsed. Now, for those of you that don't know, buddy was one of my dogs.

Larry Roberts [00:16:33]:

So I start calling back to go, what the heck is happening? And she's not answering the phone. I call back and she says, stop calling. I'm like, oh, my God, what is happening here? So instead of even trying to call again, I jump out of the bed, I throw on my clothes, I jump in the car, I fly home. Not fly, literally drive home. I get home, and when I get here, he's gone. Buddy passed away. So it's about 645 now. And I had text, I sent a text to the promoter of the event.

Larry Roberts [00:17:05]:

I said, hey, my dog just passed away. What time am I going up this morning? She says, 1030. So it's close to 07:00 in the morning on Thursday, I'm going up in three and a half hours to an audience and I'm in tears and I have to scoop my pup up and put him in his bed and then put him in the car and actually wait for an hour because the vet didn't open till eight. So I had to sit here with my pup for an hour and then take him to the vet and send him off to his forever place. And actually, as we're sitting here right now, right before we hit record, I just got back from the vet, just got his ashes back, so. So he's back in the house with me. But I had to go back to the event and I had to speak. The promoter of the event was relying on me to deliver three talks over the course of two days and judge the speaking competition.

Sara Lohse [00:18:02]:

And one of those you weren't even supposed to have to do, you were already stepping in because someone else had a health emergency themselves, so there. There was no way they could make it. And so you had already stepped up and took their place.

Larry Roberts [00:18:19]:

Yeah. Or yeah, yeah, 100%. So, I mean, how do I leave someone hanging that severely? I can't. I got to step up. My brand has a reputation and I have a reputation. I got to step up. So I had to go back to the event and as I mentioned, I went up at 1030 and I did the AI talk. And even though I was emotional and just the wrong word would have put me over the edge and I would have broke down in front of an audience of, I don't know, quite a few people.

Larry Roberts [00:18:49]:

I didn't mention it. I didn't. It didn't fit. It didn't fit that talk. However, after lunch at 130, I went back up to talk about personal branding and I felt that it did fit. It did fit because my brand was on the line. I had to demonstrate that regardless of what happened, that even though one of my favorite dogs passed away that morning, my brand still had a promise to deliver on. And I delivered.

Larry Roberts [00:19:21]:

I thought the AI talk went extremely well, seemed to be very well received. I thought the brand talk went extremely well and was very well received. But I shared that story as a point that your brand and your message, it's always on the line and you have to back it up. Twenty four seven. And going back to what you were saying, Sara, there was a gut wrenching story to go with that, but it fit the talk. It fit the moment. And, you know, I debated whether or not to share because it also seems a little gratuitous, but it was super raw, and I trusted this audience and they trusted me. I knew several people in the audience personally and felt like I was just talking to family and friends.

Larry Roberts [00:20:04]:

And I think it came across that way. But that kind of reinforces the point that you were making and that if you do have a emotional story to tie to your talk, do it, but understand when and where to do it.

Sara Lohse [00:20:19]:

Yeah, I mean, everyone, I don't think anyone took it as like a, he's trying to get attention, or he's trying, like, we all took it as this man showed up. Yeah, you're here. And, I mean, I found out right when it happened. And, I mean, I have my dog tattooed on my arm. Like, he is, he is my life. So if anything had happened, I would not have shown up. I would not have gotten out of bed. And so the fact that you did that was really just a testament to how seriously you take your brand, because it wasn't like we were expecting, like, Larry to be here.

Sara Lohse [00:20:53]:

It was like, red hat media is presenting and you have to show up as your brand. So that was a lot of strength and courage that it took to do that. And I, I personally was incredibly impressed and proud of you for pulling through, uh, even though I knew that I would not have your, your brand is more important to you than mine is, I guess, um, because I would not have done it. I feel like you guys can deal with it, someone else can talk about this, but that's just, it just shows you how strong, and it's not a do as I say, not as I do kind of thing. Like, you really do love it.

Larry Roberts [00:21:31]:

No, I live it. I mean, this is it, you know?

Sara Lohse [00:21:33]:


Larry Roberts [00:21:33]:

Everything to me, so. And buddy was too. That's no disrespect. Like, say he's sitting there, he's back in there on the bar, you know, he's hanging out.

Sara Lohse [00:21:41]:

So, yeah, he's proud.

Larry Roberts [00:21:43]:

Good to have him home. But anyways, we don't want to lend this on a bad note, but just keep it in mind as you, as you're, as you go through, as you're speaking, as you're trying to tie emotionally relevance to a talk, make sure that it really is relevant and it's in there. And remember, regardless of what you're doing, your brand is on the line, you're repping your brand. Twenty four seven. And we all chose this entrepreneurial life for a reason. Sometimes we gotta figure out what the hell that reason is, but we did it. You gotta live it. So with that, hopefully you guys found some value in this episode, hopefully, you will be able to move forward a little bit in your speaking career.

Larry Roberts [00:22:16]:

That's our goal for you. If you did find some value, do us a favor. Smash that subscribe button so we can bring you these episodes each and every week. With that, I'm Larry Roberts.

Sara Lohse [00:22:24]:

And I'm Sara Lohse. And this one is for you, buddy.