Deborah Grayson Riegel: Teaching as a Speaker, Consultant and Youtuber (#324)
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Our Guest Today: Deborah Grayson Riegel
Deborah Grayson Riegel is a speaker, consultant and YouTuber. She is a keynote speaker, executive coach, and consultant who has taught leadership communication for Wharton Business School, Duke Corporate Education, Columbia Business School’s Women in Leadership Program, and the Beijing International MBA Program at Peking University. She writes for Harvard Business Review, Inc., Psychology Today, Forbes, and Fast Company, and has been featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, The Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. She is the author of “Go to Help: 31 Ways to Offer, Ask for, and Accept Help” and “Overcoming Overthinking: 36 Ways to Tame Anxiety for Work, School, and Life” and consults and speaks for clients including Amazon, BlackRock, Google, KraftHeinz, PepsiCo, and The United States Army.
You can find her online at www.
Watch Our Interview
Deborah Grayson Riegel: Teaching leadership communication as a speaker, consultant and YouTuber – powered by Happy Scribe
World media. And I’m so thrilled to be here with Deborah Grayson Rego and who I met through nobody else but Dori Clark, as always, dory always, of course, introduces me to such incredible people. I’m so, so grateful. So, Deborah, welcome to so much for having me. I’m so thrilled to share this conversation with you here. And before we get started, I’m going to do a very brief intro for those of you who are new to Deborah’s work. Now, I have to say that I did include all that introduction, bio links in the description wherever you’re watching this, LinkedIn, Facebook, YouTube. So please go check it out. Please go follow Deborah, learn more about her work. And here we go. Deborah is a keynote speaker, executive coach consultant who has taught leadership Communications for Wharton Business School, Duke Corporation, Corporate Education, Columbia Business School’s Women in Leadership Program and the Beijing International MBA Program at Peak University. She writes for Harvard Business Review, Inc. Psychology Today, Forbes and Fast Company has been featured in Bloomberg Businessweek, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times. She’s the author of several books. Go to Help 31 Ways to Offer, Ask For and Accept Help and Overcoming Overthinking 36 Ways to Tame Anxiety for Work, School and Life and Consultant speaks for clients including Amazon BlackRock, Google, Kraft, Heinz Pepsi Co.
And the United States Army. You can find all her work email@example.com and I included some key articles as well for you to check out. So, Deborah, believe it or not, one of the first things I want to kind of get into is the fact that you teach leadership communication, but I think communication in general. And I emailed you about the reason why. I’m so looking forward to this. As an immigrant, as an immigrant woman, woman of color, I’ve always really struggled with public speaking or even earlier on as a podcaster. I know some people be like, what? Faye? Struggled with all these things. I really did. I was just really trying to hide it and trying to internalize it. But you’re also on YouTube where I’m able to learn so much and so many different tips. I love the YouTube shorts. You have under 60 seconds.
Thank you. Yeah, I think they’re mostly me and my dog, but she’s always a willing subject. She’s never fought me on any of that. But thank you. I know you to be an expert around YouTube as well, so I definitely appreciate the feedback.
Oh, you have not just two 3200 followers. You have over the years really built an audience. Over 1000 followers on YouTube. I know that. I’ve never heard you talk about, like, numbers, followers, subscribers, but right behind you, that’s a silver plate.
Is that yeah. I will just share with you that I was at a minor league baseball game with my son Jacob, and we were sitting there getting ready for the game to start, and I’m just finishing up my emails, and I was like, oh, I got an email from YouTube. And he’s 21 years old, so YouTube is probably the most interesting thing I’ve said to him. And what is it? I said, I didn’t read it completely, but I’ve won some kind of award. He goes, mom, did you win a silver play button? I was like, I don’t know. I’ll go back and take a look. And I read it. And I said, oh, yeah, I did. He goes, mom, that is a huge deal. I was like, really? He said, mom, that’s a huge deal. And then he managed to both, like, compliment and insult his twin sister at the same time. He said, mom, even Sophie would know what that is. Sophie’s twin sister a little slightly less into social media than he is. He’s like, yeah, even she would know what that is. So we reached her, and she was like, mom, that’s a huge deal.
I said all right. So I literally had no idea. It wasn’t a goal I had. I had no idea that it was happening. And literally, the last time my son was home from vacation, he was looking at my background. He goes, mom, you have to put that Silver Play button where people can see it. So there it is. It is background design by Jacob Rigle, aged 21. But apparently it’s a big deal. And now I’m super proud. But I had no idea.
That is the best part. When you win something and it’s not even that important to you or something.
Completely, and it makes you cool to your kids. I mean, bonus cool to your kids.
Oh, my goodness. Usually I feel like if there’s a YouTube marketing team to gather feedback on what this means, that’s incredible. And frankly, let’s face it, getting a silver plate, for those of you out there who don’t know what it is, getting 100,000 subscribers on YouTube is not trivial at all. That’s number one. And I think, for me, like, just put things in perspective. I’ve been nurturing this, my own YouTube channel, publishing weekly, regularly since 2019, and I have just crossed over, like, 200 subscribers.
If you’re watching this as a part of my network, let’s make sure they know how to subscribe to you as well. You’re so kind.
So you can find Deborah’s channel as well as my channel, which is Facebook media on YouTube. And that’s incredible, but I really think there’s so many layers to peel through, because, Deborah, one of the things I kind of want to tackle even before all the wonderful content that you create as a speaker, as a consultant, which is incredible. It’s not just, oh, check out my course, and there’s a paywall, or, I have these articles on Forbes and New York Times, and that’s it. You don’t really see me in any other types of media. Whereas for me, I immediately went to YouTube channel, and I feel like I already know you. I watch it on my Big Apple TV and I feel very close to you and your content. But you know, so many people think YouTube is really for kids, for makeup artists. YouTube has no value to business. So I would love to to going hear your take on what YouTube has done for you and why you decided to be on YouTube in the first place.
Yeah, well, so let me start by saying that this was no overnight success story. I think I’ve been posting on YouTube probably for ten years. So I think it’s definitely an example of just steady progress over time and again, as I’ve admitted before, it was in front of my radar. So my top two ways of marketing have always been LinkedIn and Facebook and YouTube was always sort of like, oh yeah, I guess I could put some content up there. But I think the incident that really changed my perspective about it was I had gotten a call, this was maybe seven years ago, I had gotten a call from a global law firm and they reached me and said, one of our partners in our Shanghai office has been watching your videos and asked us as the learning and development department to see if we could hire you. He wants to learn to speak the way you speak. And long story short, it ended up not making financial or practical sense for me to go to Shanghai, even though I’ve been to Shanghai for clients many times before. Nonetheless, this didn’t make sense. But I said to the person who was talking to me, I said, I see that you’re a global law firm.
You must have a North American learning and development presence. And they said yes. I said, Would you be willing to make an introduction? And they’ve been my client for the last seven years, so both North American and now globally. But it really wasn’t until this one person was watching my videos that I got connected to this wonderful long term client relationship that I have. And the other thing that I’ll share from a business development perspective is because I have a range of content. So I have some highly produced content. Things were like, clearly I had a makeup person take away the shine and a hair person and high end equipment and everything from literally me outside walking with my dog with, you know, trucks rolling by. I have lots of different samples that I can send to prospective clients who want to get a sense of how I am in the world, how I’m going to show up. So it’s been really helpful that way. Also, I’m not scrambling for examples to send them.
You are touching upon some really important things that people who are not creating content on YouTube or elsewhere will really think about, which, as you mentioned, you have these high production footage which I have seen and background lights and everything at the same time. I see you, like, in the park, you’re traveling. The lighting may not be perfect, but you’re teaching anyway. So a lot of people struggle to say, well, I really have to be here. The standard is here. It could be no less. But frankly, over the years, I have learned that that’s not the case at all. Like, I’ve had a lot of clients discover me when I am very shiny, like I am now.
I don’t really care.
What’s your take on production quality versus the feedback and you’ve gotten?
Well, I always think about it from the perspective of I’m talking about communication, right? Everything from presentation skills to difficult conversations to how do we talk about our mental health and mental wellbeing at work. So I want to model healthy, good communication skills, and I also want to model how real people communicate in the world. So most people don’t have a production team helping them communicate. Most people aren’t working off a teleprompter, so I have plenty of those. But I also have things around how I walk you through my thinking process, how I manage a challenge, and I think it gives people a real sense of me in a variety of settings. I’m always happy to share something that makes me look like a work in progress. Why? Because I am. But I also want to share things that don’t undermine my professional credibility. And so far, I don’t think I’ve done anything that would undermine my professional credibility because it’s a real human communicating.
I think one of the reasons why I was so drawn to your content is because you’re not trying to be the same or trying to be perfect in every video. And sometimes there’s a level of mystery. I know that you’ve been traveling and recently, most recently to Denmark, and they ask you to follow you on your journey on LinkedIn, but it feels like, as a result, watching your videos, we’re living vicariously through you, and it’s very real, and it makes me so happy to realize that we really shouldn’t be so selfconscious when it comes to content creation. For me, I’m not sure how you feel about this, Deborah. Like, for me, there’s sometimes there’s a burst of inspiration. Sometimes right before I’m ready go to before I’m ready to go to bed tired, but I really want to say something, and I just go ahead and record it. Do you ever catch yourself in those situations, creating content when you’re not feeling, like, 110%?
I am usually not feeling 110%, and if you follow me on YouTube, you will see how many of these are literally me walking my dog, right? I’m walking my dog and a thought comes to my head and I go, I can’t imagine I’m the only one who has this thought or has this challenge, so let me just record it. YouTube will tell me if it’s relevant, so I just throw it out there. Yes. I really don’t care about I don’t care about looking perfect because I rarely look perfect. And I want people to know that when you get me, if you hire me as your coach, your speaker, your trainer, whatever it is, I’m going to pay attention to how I come across. But at the end of the day, there’s not a different Deb who shows up as a coach or workshop and the one who shows up having a cup of coffee across from you. That’s too many things to remember. I don’t want to have to remember who I was when I showed up. That way, I’m just me.
Love it. Love it. And then for those of you who are tuning in, I know we can’t really see any viewers through LinkedIn just because of how APIs connected. Please say hi and ask questions now or later. I do monitor this channel, trying to provide value to as many people as possible. And thank you for subscribing to Deborah’s channel. I love it and I love interaction. So I was just wondering also, in terms of YouTube, there’s so many questions and I know that Deborah, you’re the main guest for this upcoming November event with Dora Clark, and I’m going to be there also as a guest. And I think I would love to take this opportunity to answer a few questions, perhaps one of which is a lot of speakers and coaches, which I do work with some of them, for their YouTube strategy. Then at the beginning, there’s always that struggle of how do I translate my products and services into YouTube videos? I feel so foreign at the beginning, but I’ve seen you very, very seamlessly. And then also you’ve had, I think, hundreds of videos at this point, like, how are you planning your content?
How are you connecting with the audience and then the products and services as an ecosystem?
Yeah, and I think you’ve made a really important distinction that I want to just highlight, which is part of what you do, if I’m understanding correctly, is help speakers and coaches and trainers do this work, plan their YouTube strategy. That’s actually not what I do. So I want to be really clear that if that’s what you’re looking for, you are the person to go to. I’m somebody who’s doing it for my clients, who don’t tend to be coaches, trainers and speakers. I’m doing it to sort of put content out into the world. But I just want to be really clear that your expertise is for sure not my expertise, and I look forward to learning from you as well. So, number one, I don’t have a strategy. So if you’re looking to have a strategy, I am for sure not your gal. I don’t have a strategy. And here’s how much I don’t have a strategy. About two months ago, I decided I was going to post a short every day. How hard could that be? Well, guess what? I’m no longer doing posting a short every day. I just couldn’t keep up with it.
So I was like, I’m going to post a short when I feel motivated and I might prerecord a couple of shorts so that on a day that I don’t feel motivated, I can get them up there. But I think a really good thing for me to keep in mind is like, nobody’s watching and waiting for my next YouTube thing, right? That would be an overinflated sense of my own importance in people’s world. To think people are going to freak out that it’s been nine days since I posted something on YouTube. So I don’t really have a strategy. I do have a point of view and my point of view is give people something of value and they may be interested in your services. I am not really using it to sell my services, so it’s not a direct like, if you want more of this, please sign up for my online class. Number one, I don’t have the online class and I think for other speakers, coaches and trainers, that might be very much how they’re using the platform, it’s just not how I’m using the platform.
Was that like a predetermined decision? How do you go about, here’s the time I’m spending the value I’m providing versus, oh, here’s the revenue dollar amount that’s associated with this effort? Because frankly, that’s when I started my podcast. It was like zero dollar in mind. And frankly, still today I just want to have an authentic conversation. I can make money elsewhere in different ways, but this is my way of communicating with the world. How do we teach people, share with people how we think about these matters?
Honestly, I think a big difference is where you are in your business and what you need it to bring in for you. Right, so the perspective that I have 18 years into my business is that I am going to make my income doing high cost speaking, consulting and training. I also am a beta B, right? So my clients are L’Oreal, Pepsi, Google, Amazon Those are my clients. So I am not selling products to an individual consumer. I’m also pretty sure that my buyers, more often than not, are not out there watching my YouTube channel. So my YouTube channel is something I can send to a prospective buyer to give them a sense of how an audience would experience me, how I communicate. But I’m not going after an individual consumer or another solopreneur. So because of that, I think about YouTube similarly to how I think about the books that I’ve written and published, which is it’s a business card, right? So I’ve never intended to make money selling my books. It’s nice when it happens. So I’ve just started in the last four months generating revenue from YouTube. Like, my content is now being monetized, which again is four to five months old and I was equally as surprised about that as I was about the silver Play button.
Like, oh, where did that come from? But it’s a business card for me as opposed to the product itself. And again, I’m only speaking about my approach. What you would likely be sharing with your ideal clients speakers, trainers, coaches would be a pretty different strategy, I imagine. And please speak to that if I’m reading it wrong.
Oh, yeah, totally. I had to quote you YouTube channel as a business card. I’m kind of hearing that for the first time. Most people think like, oh, I write a book. But it’s a brilliant idea for your YouTube channel to be a business card because there’s so much variety. You can build playlists and people can actually see you, hear you and feel that instant connection. And when I was studying for this interview, that was my immediate choice to go to YouTube because I want to get to know you right away. I want to hear your voice and helps me communicate better as well. But you’re right. Absolutely. Deborah, that for you, this is a way of creating as part of your business, as part of your functions as a business card. For me, it’s actually kind of interesting. It may be a little different or even opposite of reaching a broader audience through content related to YouTube strategy for creator preneur. So it’s very much a B to C, I guess, and selling some of my courses. But people get 99% of the knowledge right from the YouTube channel and if they want to learn more, they can take the course or not.
I’m not very pushy or constant call to action on the channel. And then the funny thing is I am getting discovered by certain businesses like Women Leaders Association. As a result, somebody found me on YouTube. I ended up interviewing Mark Cuban, Arianna Huffington and Steve Wozniak. I’m like what?
I never, ever imagined that. And it just happened. It is an ongoing effort for nearly two years at this point.
You are playing at a very high level. All I’m trying to do is to get a sponsorship from ZLOO where I get my sunglasses. So X Lulule, if you’re hearing this, I’d love you to sponsor my channel because I’m always wearing one of your cute things on my videos. So we’ll see what happens.
Oh, please. I do like those glasses.
Oh yeah. I got quite a hold on 1 second, just in case Vlog is watching. We’ll just switch them out. I know. Oh my God, I have a whole pile more. But literally I was like, yeah, that would be fun to have a little, you know, sponsor. Thank you. Sponsor my glasses. But anyway, yeah. And I think one of the points that you’re raising is that there are it is really helpful to know what objective you are trying to achieve with YouTube or any kind of content creation or social media so that you can use it that way.
Absolutely. Understanding your objective, getting clear on that, and that might shift and you might pivot later on, but I think it’s an absolute longterm growth. But there are so many questions. My goodness, I have no idea. Like, our connection. When I think about reading about you traveling to Asia, like, Beijing, Shanghai, I often think about, like, was I there? I spent the past 20 years in the US. But I keep thinking about how we could have crossed path. Where were you when that’s true? So I came here. I came to the States. I’m currently in Boston, for those of you who don’t know, and in Central Mass, to be exact. But I moved here as a high school student in 2000, and I’ve been here ever since. But I do travel back nearly every single year, except for since 2019, for obvious reasons, I haven’t. But before that, I’m usually in China every single summer and sometimes the winter vacation, too.
Wow. And where in China are you?
In Beijing? That’s where I grew up. So Hydian district. I know.
If you know Beijing, do you know Hydean District? Absolutely. I think I could walk to there from Peaking University. I think it was a long walk, but I definitely know that I could take the train there. Yeah.
Wow. So how long did you spend how much time did you spend in China?
Yeah. So I taught at Peaking University at the Beijing International MBA program. I taught there five times. And so this started this was in, I think, 2009 was maybe my first time. And basically what happened was two things happened. Number one is the market crashed here in North America. I’m sure it crashed in other places. And a huge number of my clients basically got wiped out because of the housing market, because of Bernie Madoff, my clients just disappeared. And I remember saying to my lovely husband, do I need to get a real job? And he was so supportive, and he said, just because you don’t have clients right now doesn’t mean you don’t have a real job. Which is just like, how beautiful is that? And I had to figure out how I was going to contribute to our household income. And I got a call from a colleague of mine who had another colleague who had been teaching at Bimba, which is what it’s called, beijing International MBA Program. She wanted to stop. She called my colleague and asked if she would do it. My colleague was like, oh, gosh, no. But I know someone who might want to.
And that was me. And so I’ve got an important point, and I want to reiterate about that in just a second. And so I had little kids at home, like little twins, and my husband and I didn’t really want to go, but I needed to go for financial reasons. And I ended up doing it five times, teaching there, and then after the fifth time, I said, actually, that was a decision that I made financially. Now it no longer is a financial necessity, and in fact, it will cost me more to do that work than it will to sit here and do domestic work. And so that’s how I wound up here. But as a result of that experience, I ended up getting a number of teaching jobs. So teaching at Wharton, for example, teaching at Duke, for example, where there is a significantly high population of nonnative English speakers, and in particular people from China, which led to the publication of my book I don’t know where it is. The tongue. The nonnative english speakers guide to public speaking. I have a Udemy for Business course on the same topic, and so I was able to turn it into content.
Wow. I love how it’s interesting. It’s like following the M and M, just hearing how the docs are connected, accepting the job to support the family, to contribute to the family, and later on that job translated to all these future opportunities and the experience to work with nonnative English speakers. Yes, that is wow. Because right now I’m hosting two very dear guests in my house. And it’s interesting, I used to tell them, like, you know, you guys are Spanish speakers. It’s so easy for you to learn English. And even I don’t mean like, what do you mean? You also struggle to learn English. There’s a lot of stress when it comes to speaking English constantly because for us Chinese people look at my mom’s like, we really have to start from zero. And there are very few things that are transferable from Chinese as a language.
Oh, yes, I found that not just the language, but all of the cultural nuances. I mean, I’m a 6th generation New Yorker. I have direct running through my bones. But direct did not help me teaching in Beijing. Right. It was really hold on. This is a culture where actually being indirect is more polite. We’re actually building a relationship. Before you talk about the work, content is the order. I actually work in the reverse order. But I’m here, so let me see what I can learn about this culture that will help me be a better teacher, coach, mentor to others. And so that really got me out of my own little world of like, yeah, do everything the way you do it. No, you’ve got to do things the way other people can appreciate it and take it in.
Considering that a lot of our listeners and viewers on YouTube are speaking English as a second language, even as a third or a fourth language, and then I’m thinking, like, public speaking kind of wasn’t even a thing so much in China when I was growing up. So it’s kind of a very North American concept. So what are some of the tips and tricks that you have come across that could really help us.
And I will just share. I learned that it was a North American concept as I was doing this work. So I remember one of the professionals who I worked with was a native French speaker, and they shared with me that in their growing up, getting up to speak in front of the class was something you would do if you were in trouble and like an example of you. So no wonder there was anxiety associated with speaking. If you assume that I’m getting up because somebody is trying to make, you know, make me be an example for the rest of the class of what not to do, there’s a lot of challenges around that. So let’s see if I can boil it down to three tips, which I have not thought of, but I will think of them as I am sharing them. Number one, for nonnative speakers, I want to just share with you that you are not alone. And I’ve really come to learn some of the mindsets that really can mess with your sense of confidence. So things like, you know, because I’m not because I speak with an accent, because I’m not a native English, people think people are going to think I’m not as smart as I am.
People because I can’t necessarily choose the real word I want to use. I have to choose the word I can pronounce or the word that comes to mind more quickly, people are going to assume I’m limited rather than have, you know, expansive knowledge that people are going to assume that because I might need to take a pause and think about things that I’m not a quick thinker. So I want you to know, number one, that I understand those mindsets. Those mindsets have truth to them, of course, and they are also getting in your way. So a mindset that the beliefs you have about feeling limited as a nonnative native English speaker drives your feelings, which then drive your behavior. So if you’re thinking to yourself, I speak with an accent, which means that people don’t understand me or don’t take me seriously, that’s going to lead you to feel worried, not confident, concerned, less than. And then the behavior associated with it is withdrawing, not volunteering, shying away. And if you look at it starting from the behavior first, you probably don’t want people you don’t want to behave in ways that are withdrawn. You want to behave in ways that are contributing.
So a big part of it is shifting your mindset. Yes, I speak with an accent, and I can make myself understood. English isn’t my first language, and for many of the people in the room, they only speak one language. I’m doing something pretty impressive. So number one is to shift your mindset so that you actually have more healthy emotions and more healthy behaviors associated with your speaking. Number two, the pause is your best friend. We tend to speak, I think, about twice as quickly as people can take in our information. That is certainly true for me. As a really fast New Yorker, I always have to remember to slow down so people can take in information. For anyone who believes I am being judged on the speed of my fluency, please know that the speed of your fluency is likely to hinder your ability to be understood more than help it. And in fact, the research shows that it takes about a full minute for an ear to catch up to accented speech in order for me to take the accent that you are speaking English with and then translate it so that I can decode future things.
The slower you take that first minute, the easier it will be for me to learn to decode your accent. And then the third thing that I would share is to get feedback. Chances are, the story that you have made up in your head about what a big deal this is, is way bigger than any barriers that are getting in your way. And so rather than operate from a belief that you have that you are hard to understand, you’re not coming across professionally, that people can’t follow your message. Get feedback from people who will give you honest feedback, but also care about your growth and development and find out how big a challenge it really is. It’s probably much smaller than you think.
Oh, I love this. And I know I was in a smaller screen, but I was nodding uncontrollably because I felt everything you described. I felt all those emotions. And I know that every time I talk to the international population, they’re like, hey, where did you learn your English? It’s perfect, this and that. But I’ve always felt the struggle. And overcoming anxiety is another topic and book you have, Debra, gotta admit, like, I’ve always felt it. Even I remember 20 years ago when I first got here, instead of saying, like, herbal medicine, I said herbal medicine somehow. And then I remember people started like they were chuckling. They’re like, face said herbal. And then ten years later, I’ve had British friends.
Are like, British people say that too? Yes, they pronounce their than we do, right? How dare we tell the English that they’re not speaking English correctly? Do you want to start a fight? That’s the way to do that.
Like you said, Deborah, the healthy mindset and healthy emotions and reactions and behaviors, that is absolutely key. So thank you for dissecting that for us. And then I think you want to say something else before I cut you off.
So this is the asterisk from a long time ago. In real life, I never would have remembered. But I do remember I wanted to share something that I hope will be helpful to your clients and your viewers and the people that you work with. So the person who sent me the engagement in Beijing that completely transformed my life personally and professionally is somebody who does exactly what I do. She does presentation, skills training and coaching. And I have found over the course of my career that there’s a group of professionals who, when they see somebody who does what they do, thinks about them as competition and sort of backs away. So that’s not a good contact for me. I have always operated with the opposite mindset, which is, if you do what I do, you probably know something I don’t know. You know people I don’t know. You’ve got things I could learn from you, and you are likely to be my best resource of referrals. And so considering that you work with coaches and speakers before somebody says, I don’t want to follow that person’s YouTube channel because they do what I do, no, support that person, amplify that person.
That is where your best source of business is going to come from, is from people who do just what you do, but maybe do it at a different price point, who may not be available, but you are available, available. That is your best network.
That is so important to pinpoint. Because I even think about just this year of working with Don Media production outsourcing angel, that on YouTube strategy work has been so helpful, I want to give them a shout out. And Lynn Paddy found me in a random Facebook group. We even had trouble recalling how we met. Yeah, it just made so much sense. I’ve operated as a YouTube strategist and she has a production capability. And we just came together and even I said, Lyncher, you have a growing, thriving YouTube channel. You can do the same thing. She’s like, no, I want to focus on sales so you can do this and absolutely don’t undermine anyone. And I would also say that don’t undermine anyone with an accent. I’ve worked with so many different accents in the United States and worldwide.
Look, it is definitely not the same. And I give just high marks to anybody who speaks more than one language. I speak English well. I speak Spanish mediocrely, which isn’t even an English word. I speak three phrases in Hebrew and two in German and one in French. So, yeah, I’m definitely not a second language speaker, but I’m somebody who grew up trying to work against a New York accent, right? And every once in a while it will come out. People can typically tell that I’m from the Northeast, but not. And a New York accent is something that I’m proud to be from New York. But as somebody who speaks around the world, I needed to work to modify it a little bit for my own credibility, for my own level of comfort, and to make sure people can understand me. So I never want to lose my authenticity. And I share with nonnative English speakers that I would never do anything to strip them of their authenticity, and in fact, I would encourage them to dial it up. Tell us about your savings. Tell us about your custom, tell us about your culture. Bring it into what you’re talking about.
Help us get to know you more deeply. And you can also make sure that you are understood and understandable.
So true. All the things I thought was pretty, I guess, trivial or not even all that interesting about me. Yeah, you came here I came here when I was 17 by myself with a few kids, went to a boarding school. And that’s part of my origin story. And people are like, that’s so interesting. I’m like, really? And people remember that. And I think that really leads to not just leadership communication, but communication in general. Which I’ve watched numerous videos of you, Deborah, on YouTube and read these articles, and I love the humor in it, which one of the videos for people who haven’t seen it yet, which I’m going to include in the description, is you started this opening, like, very steady voice. Hi, my name is and I’m here to teach you this. I was like, wow, this is pretty standard. And basically, very quickly, you said, don’t do this. This is a do not, do not do this, because it’s not memorable. So maybe, if possible, like, what are some of the things that we can practice today to keep in mind?
Yeah, so I think that video is called stop Beginning Your Speeches with hello, good morning and thank you. And I think that’s the one where I think somebody had asked me several years ago about my viewership on YouTube and I said, I don’t really know, let me check. And I saw that that video has over a million views, right? And I was like, oh, I guess that’s a good number. And somebody’s like, yeah, that’s a good number. Again, I had no goal and no way of knowing, but that is my number one most viewed video. And really the idea behind it is we make an impression immediately. And if you are getting up to speak in front of an internal team and an external team, you are wasting valuable time and space by using things like, hello, good morning, and thank you for having me. Now, I want to be mindful of cultural nuances when I go and I speak in China, when I speak in Japan, I start with, hello, good morning, and thank you for having me. Because there is a certain level of respect and politeness that is required, right. So I want to always be mindful of my culture.
However, I really like to start a presentation, often with a story, with a quotation. I will start with a startling statistic. I may say something about the time and date. So, for example, I often find myself presenting in New York City on September 11, which date that everybody knows. It would feel weird to me not to mention it. It’s like the elephant in the room. So just making mention of something that you can somehow bridge to the conversation but gets people listening right away. So even a question, you know, by a quick show of hands, how many of you take public transportation to work? Right? We get a quick show of hands and says, good, looks like about half of you do. Today we’re not going to be talking about public transportation, but we are going to talk about the power of choices. Every single one of you had a choice about how to get here today, and we’re going to talk about the neuroscience of choosing how we can use that as a leader and what the next steps are for you and your practice. So take something, bridge it to the topic, and then move forward is a really good way to have people think, oh, I better pay attention because there’s good content coming from the beginning and I’m even willing to settle for starting that way.
And people going, oh, hold on, she’s cuckoo. I better pay attention because who knows what she’ll do, right? I don’t mind shocking an audience appropriately and professionally by making a statement, telling a story, starting with a question that’s so fascinating.
Whenever I talk to a professional communicator speaker, I often wonder, where do you get these tips from and where do you get feedback from? Do you rewatch your own speech and dissect them and then try to make them better?
Yeah. So where I get my tips from are people who do exactly what I do, but longer and better, right? That’s why I have to follow the people in the field. So I learn an awful lot from colleagues who are in the presentation and communication space. I always believe there are things that I can do to raise my game. I learn it also by teaching. So by teaching at Wharton Business School, by teaching at the Fuqua Business School at Duke, I get exposed to their curriculum, the way they teach their students. And I learn from that as well. I get to bring some of my work, I use some of their work. And so that exposes me to new ways of thinking and presenting. I wish I could say that I watch my videos. I would rather eat paste than watch my own videos. I do get feedback from other people, especially if I’ve made some kind of mistake. My network is very quickly to point out that I said the wrong word, that there’s something wrong in my video, that there’s a typo. Like they’ll find that in a second and I don’t have to worry about it because somebody’s going to find me and tell me, and if not my network, then my kids will.
So I definitely get feedback from the fact that I’m often in front of a group speaking and presenting, and I always get feedback and invite feedback. Both feedback about what they wished I had done differently and feedback about something that had a positive impact on them.
By the way, do you ever feel do you ever have any negative feelings associated with feedback, things like typo, where I wish you use a different word? Because I think sometimes that can turn people off quite easily.
Let me see how I feel about that. Number one, I think I take it as a sign that somebody was watching and somebody was paying attention. I also appreciate that people hold me to a high enough bar that they think I would want to know that and that that was a mistake right there. Assuming I made a mistake, as opposed to, like, I just didn’t know that sort of thing. Yeah. I have to say that sort of feedback doesn’t bother me. And I also think a big part of it is because so much of my social media presence, whether it’s LinkedIn, Facebook, or YouTube, is about me being a little bit messy, not having beautiful lighting and makeup and all that sort of thing. I don’t have never set a bar for myself around perfection. If I did, I’d be really nervous about having to maintain that I set a bar for myself around being me. And me makes mistakes. That was a mistake. I make mistakes, which includes typos, mispronouncing things you’ll see in my videos that I might stumble over a word, and I just keep going. I don’t throw it out. And I’m just me.
I love it. And I purposely asked that question because I get those emails. And then the tone, sometimes it’s different. You know, you can sometimes tell when somebody’s ready to help or somebody’s trying to insult you. Luckily, I have rarely come across very negative feedback and someone’s trying to attack me or my channel. So I would say, don’t worry about it too much. Even with 20,000 subscribers, I think most people are there trying to help you. Speaking of health, I know I’m trying to, like, watch the time, but I love the topic, Deborah, when you talk about go to help and why seeking help is so important, and that is still something as someone in her late 30s still struggled with regularly, like, I really struggle to ask for help or express my sometimes these are my needs and setting boundaries, I would say. However, the good news is, over the years, being the entrepreneur, since 2016, I have grown a team. Not just me, but me, you know, three, four other people, not including contractors. And so that has helped my business tremendously. Oh, my God. But we love for you to talk.
About let me just take a moment in my most mom tone to remind you that the way that we met was I needed help. I don’t know if you remember that, but our mutual guru, Dorie Clarke, asked me to do a session on YouTube and I said I happened to have a really well watched YouTube channel, but I don’t know what I’m doing and I don’t know what I’ve done. I need help. I need an expert to do this. You know that.
You know that.
Yeah. So I said, I can talk about what I’ve done, but I don’t have a strategy. I’m not in the this isn’t my business. I need help. Can you help me find help? And you are my help.
Amazing. That makes me so happy.
So I was very clear I don’t know how to do this. And I was also really clear that I don’t want to get better at knowing how to do this. This isn’t core to my business, but I need somebody who really knows what they’re doing, and you are the person who really knows what they’re doing. Let’s just even take this example of here’s something that can happen when you reach out and say, I don’t know how to do this. This is not my zone, or it’s something that I don’t know how to do yet. Right. This is not a yet for me. I don’t need to learn how to get better at this because I have people like you that if I want to get better at it, I can just outsource it or hire you to teach me how to do it. But yes, people have trouble asking for help. Starting at around age seven, we start to associate asking for help with reputational risk. So starting when we’re kids, we start to think, if I ask for help, which is admitting that I don’t know what I’m doing or I can’t do it myself, people are going to think I’m dumb, lazy, incapable, all of those things.
And I’m 50. So if I started thinking that when I was seven, I have 43 years of those neural pathways carving their way in my brain saying, if you ask for help, it’s going to cost your reputation. And in doing the research for this book, Go to help, which I co wrote with my daughter Sophie, who is a senior at Duke University, we came to learn that you actually have a higher likelihood of reputational costs by doing something you don’t know how to do well without asking for help and then fouling it up on the other end. It could cost you money, it could cost you your reputation, it could cost you your credibility, a whole bunch of things. So the reputational risk of asking for help tends to be a lot lower than the risk of doing the thing you don’t know how to do without asking and having it get fouled up.
Wow. I wonder what’s holding people back from asking for help. I don’t think we were as you mentioned, I don’t think we were ever trained or taught to do the right way. Same thing with feedback, which we talked about just a moment ago, how to provide feedback, how to seek feedback. So in terms of getting for help, what are some of the structures way of approaching someone or organization or your boss that could make seeking help a little more a little easier, I guess.
Yeah. So number one is actually really related to what we talked about in terms of presentation skills for nonnative English speakers. There’s a lot of mindset work, right. And if you have since seven, been telling yourself, this is going to make me look weak or lazy or incompetent, you have to recognize that you have that thought. That thought has helped you in some ways, but it’s actually now costing, maybe costing you more. So thinking I often ask people to do this experiment. I say, actually let me do it with you. So I want you as quickly as possible to name three people in your work or life who would say yes to an ask for help without even asking, what do you need help with? Who would just say, of course I’m here to help you. Who would three people be?
Oh, in my work. Oh my God. Herman, my producer, Jorge, who’s like right here helping me. And tarek the name, could just keep going. Adam.
Okay, so that’s the first part. The second part is what would they say to you if they found out you needed help and didn’t ask them?
Wow, I didn’t think about this. I think they will be upset.
Why would they be upset?
Because they really care about me, want me to be successful. And I think that makes them happy to feel of contribution.
Absolutely. And would any of them I just want to check out a common thought. Would any of them be insulted that you thought they could help you?
No. Not feel that way.
Yeah, exactly. If anything, they’d be flattered, right? Oh my goodness. They think I can help. That’s amazing. So it’s a thought activity that we do in our workshops that we talk about in the book, which is put yourself in the position of the person who is waiting and wanting to help you. And keep in mind that you’ve probably helped them. They’ve been waiting to reciprocate. They would feel hurt and confused if you didn’t ask them. They wouldn’t want you to think you have to do it alone. Like they just don’t have that mindset. So put yourself in their mindset of them being wanting and waiting to help you as well. And one other thing that I’ll say, and again, so much of this is related to the presentation skills work that we were talking about. There’s a lot of cultural impacts that we need to consider. So there are many cultures, whether it’s a country of origin or just the family that you were born into, we’re asking for help outside the family unit is frowned upon. Right. You don’t make it public that we’re having a problem or that we need help. And so it’s also really helpful to think about how were you raised as it relates to asking for help.
So I was raised in a family where I was recognized and rewarded for my resourcefulness. And I interpreted resourceful as you can figure it out yourself. Nobody told me that, but that was my reading of it, which means that I have spent the better part of my life believing that I am resourceful, so I can figure it out myself. So what does that keep me from doing? Asking other people from help? And so part of it is just checking, well, what’s my origin story here? And does that still serve me? And then the one other thing that I would say is every single one of us have gotten help from people who weren’t helpful. Right? We’ve gotten help from people who weren’t helpful. And so we need to be willing to share with people who are trying to help us, saying, thank you so much for that. I really appreciate you wanting to help. Could I tell you what would actually be more helpful right now? Willing to thank them for their intention and redirect it a little bit so that we’re actually getting what does count, like help. So if I’m in a jam and you’re like deb, let me give you some advice from when I was in that situation.
I might say, thank you so much. I can imagine that you have helpful advice. And right now, can I just bent for three minutes and then figure out what I need next?
Yes, I’ve definitely been in that situation. People go right to a solution mode, but we just want listener just wants you to we just want to express ourselves. I love it. So, to respect your time, Deborah, I really love this conversation that spanned across YouTube, how we use YouTube differently from each other. And your work oh, my goodness. Your work in China and, you know, sort of how your path went from teaching in Beijing to now teaching at Wharton Business School, Duke, and all these incredible paths that you have really built up for yourself. And I encourage people to check out not just one book, all of your books. And there’s a link.
And my publisher, thanks to you.
Absolutely. You’ve written so many, and I can’t wait to check out more than one of these books. I was so excited about how to help, basically, nonnative English speakers to become better presenters. And thank you so much for all your work. Is there anything that I didn’t ask you that you wish to share with my audience?
I’m really grateful for this time, and I’m really glad that you now know that you are my helper. I need you, and that’s how we met.
Oh, I would love to. Anything you need, deborah I would love to be able to share with you. Yeah. Thank you so much everyone. I’m going to end this dream now. And you’ll be able to find this episode also on Facebook, Podcast yeah, Apple, Google Podcast and also Spotify and other major channels. And I will see you very soon in the near future, maybe tomorrow. Bye, guys.
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