World of Speakers E.94: Maura Sweeney | Be Authentic, Be You

Ryan Foland speaks with Maura Sweeney, speaker, author and the ‘Ambassador of Happiness.’

In this episode of our podcast series, Ryan and Maura talk about the importance of being authentic when on stage.

One of the key messages in this interview is to try to connect and engage with as many audience members as possible prior to the event.

Tune in for an interview full of ideas and tips on how to present yourself authentically when on the stage.

Listen to the interview on iTunes or Soundcloud.

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

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

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

Here is your host, Ryan Foland.

Ryan Foland: Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the World of Speakers podcast brought to you by the awesome platform SpeakerHub.

My name is Ryan Foland, I am always your host, and today we have Maura Sweeney.

She is an international speaker, a podcaster, and more than anything else, an ambassador of happiness.

Welcome to the show, how are you today in the world?

Maura Sweeney: I am great, Ryan, thank you so much for having me on.

Should I tell you I am THE ambassador of happiness, not AN ambassador of happiness?

Ryan Foland: Absolutely, words matter, so let’s define this right out the gates, we don’t want to set anybody astray.

Maura Sweeney: You know, it’s not a title I gave myself but I did get it trademarked.

I was always at the beginning of my career here writing about what it was that made people feel happy from the inside.

When I was invited to speak at the inaugural Nelson Mandela day celebrations a few years ago, they had all these dignitaries they were putting together a report who is going to be speaking when and they said to me,

“Well, Maura, what’s your title?”

Now I do things on my own, I don’t have deep pockets, I don’t come from a corporate background and I said, “Well it’s just me,”

I said, “Maura Sweeney and I travel, I love traveling, and I write and speak about what makes people happy.”

And so they said to me, “We have the perfect title for you, we’re going to call you the ambassador of happiness.”

Now the crazy thing about that, Ryan, I’m sure there’s a story in this, is that when my friends on Facebook and my other friends heard it, they said,

“Maura, that’s exactly what you are, we always knew you were an ambassador of the world, you’re always talking about what it is that makes people happy.”

Somebody else contacted me on LinkedIn shortly after that and he was from the New York area, really big marketing type guy but he also did his own radio show and he said,

“Maura, I had interviewed everybody but I’ve never interviewed the ambassador of happiness. Can I have you on the show?”

And then secondly he said to me, “I hope you trademarked it.”

And I said, “No, I hadn’t thought about it.”

He said, “You better do before somebody else does.”

So that’s why I am the ambassador of happiness, Ryan, as opposed to an ambassador of happiness.

Thanks to that guy, I think he was in Arizona or something.

Ryan Foland: Now the question mark is did you trademark it?

Maura Sweeney: I did.

Ryan Foland: You did? Okay. And then if I go to your LinkedIn is that what I’m going to see there?

Maura Sweeney: Yes you will.

You’ll see Maura Sweeney, Ambassador of Happiness whether or not I put a little seal at the end of it to say I am trademarked but I am.

Ryan Foland: Right.

Well, from the limited interactions here you definitely practice what you preach, if you are an ambassador for happiness because everything seems to be pretty uppity happidy, goodidy godidy.

I just made up goodidy goodidy by the way. That’s a new thing.

Maura Sweeney: That works.

Ryan Foland: Well, you know, typically we like to start with a story but I think you just gave us a story there about being the ambassador.

What’s interesting is that sometimes the best titles are the titles that people give you, not that you generate for yourself.

From a branding standpoint, and I know you talk about this, I’m passionate about branding as well, is that a personal brand is not just what you want to be known for, it’s not just what other people think.

I find that it’s the connection between the 2 and that’s a great example of something that you already associated with.

When somebody put their finger on the words to say, “That’s what you are,” it connected, resonated, and sort of fit right there in the middle of that connection.

Maura Sweeney: It so did, I can’t even tell you that I felt like I was born for that title even though I didn’t know the title existed and it didn’t exist.

And you know, Ryan, it’s probably worth mentioning when you talk about the titles we end up with, when I was very small I always wanted to travel the world and make new friends, I just wanted to travel everywhere, I wanted to see people of every background, every culture, I had looked upon un met on the relatives.

And the other thing about it was as much as I was groomed my early life to be an attorney like my grandfather.

I remember at age 4, being in my grandfather’s office and I was mesmerized by his legal secretary, definitely old school, she wore the suits, probably white gloves, the little cat-eye glasses.

I would sit right beside her, I couldn’t even read yet, and I would watch her typing away at a standard typewriter with multiple papers and I used to say to her,

“What are you doing with all of those things you’re putting on those papers?”

She said this to me, and remember, 4 years old, this is a defining moment, and she said to me,

“We’re writing down words and ideas and they’re going to get put out to different people and they’re going to read the ideas, think about the ideas, talk about the ideas, and change their minds.”

I couldn’t read, couldn’t write, and I’m supposed to be a lawyer.

But meanwhile, at 4 years old I’m thinking,

“Wow, there’s a way to make people talk about good ideas.”

So when you think since then I’ve traveled to over 60 countries, I am a goodwill ambassador —

Ryan Foland: THE, I’m sorry, THE.

Maura Sweeney: Excuse me, you’re right, THE.

And so look at that, the early things that we have in our lives that kind of move us and make us excited, and I couldn’t even write but I knew I wanted to be a communicator.

And here I am communicating with you, how about that?

Ryan Foland: Well I think that’s communiception right there, it’s all intertwined together.

What’s interesting is that, what was happening is that that secretary was typing, now I have a question, was that something that your grandfather had initially spoken for her to type, where was she getting that information?

Maura Sweeney: They were all legal documents.

When I tell you this, she was old school, this lady, she didn’t want the electric typewriter back then so she was using all of the carbon papers.

I remember it was onion paper and they were long documents and she was just so serious about it when I realized multiple documents for going out and different people were going to talk and think about these things and change their mind, there was something in the idea of being an idea person or let’s say there’s a purveyor of ideas, that so struck me, even though my grandfather was a very colorful man in the very next office practicing law and had a great interest in what goes on with governments, I have a political science degree I left law school midstream thinking,

“Well I’m here but this is not what I want to do with my life.”

But I remember I was always connecting with those things that really meant a lot to me.

And the third piece, if you want to say about happy you can hear my energy, but Ryan, when I was small and I told you I wanted to go out and meet the world, instead I was always indoors and I was always unhappy.

I wanted to be out with friends, doing all kinds of things.

I actually chose as a young child that although there were things I couldn’t do, I would find small ways to like let’s say for feed and fuel my interests and so I took maybe the long route and yet I’m doing everything I ever wanted to do in ways I would have never imagined probably in bigger ways than I could have ever imagined back then.

It’s just good and I try to convey that in everything I speak with other people about too, because I think all of us have dreams and we have passions and personal interests that when we give place to them we can end up stepping out into the world and making the world a much better place.

Ryan Foland: Okay here’s what we’re going to do.

I’m going to be the secretary with the white gloves and the glasses.

And you’re going to have a chance to speak to us about things that we’re technically documenting here on this podcast, which then will go out to the world which will allow people to hear this, allow them to then talk about what they’ve learned so that they can change their mind and influence others, which will then spark new ideas.

This is all off of a hypothetical, old school, typewriter-turned-into-a-podcast here today in real-time.

How’s that sound?

Maura Sweeney: I like it, you’re very good at making connections, is that one of your skills?

Yes, right?

Ryan Foland: Hey if you title me as that based on my interactions with you then it’s not me saying it, it’s something that I identified but now you’ve identified, click it’s a check, mark in the box for my brand, yes.

Maura Sweeney: That’s excellent

So let me get some carbon fiber out, let me get this old school typewriter and the topic that I want to discuss is first about the things you can share with us that are nuanced about the art of speaking that you can tell me so I can type, so people can talk, so we can change minds so they become new ideas.

And then we’ll transition into how you build your business and how you’ve gotten to 60 different countries and how you’ve gotten the success that you have.

We’ll again have you talk, I’ll type, somebody else will listen, it’ll change minds and then we’ll make new connections.

Maura Sweeney: It’ll go around the world.

Ryan Foland: Yes around the world and wait a minute, if only this was a podcast called the World of Speakers that would be ironic.

Maura Sweeney: There you go.

Ryan Foland: All right, so I’ve got my white gloves on and why don’t you tell me something that I’m going to dictate here into this old school typewriter.

When you think about sharing information for people to really think about and change the way they think when it comes to speaking, what are the myth busters, what are the nuances, what are the things that you wish you were told and that you are now telling others?

Maura Sweeney: Yes, I probably had to figure these things out on my own and really Ryan, I don’t even know how to give you anybody else’s stuff because I can’t make things up.

So the first thing I would say would be authentic, be authentic.

I’m one of those people I can’t even act the part, I don’t know how to, I could never pull it off but what I always think about is how can I, how can we be authentic but be our best authentic self?

You know there’s a lot of people out there that will say,

“Well that’s just me being me.”

But then a lot of times me being me may not be the best version of myself, it may be sloppy, it may be entitled, it might be unkind to other people, it might be unprofessional.

So everything I’m going to tell you is kind of what I look for my own life to do but it would be my only advice I can give to someone else because it’s mine.

So to be authentic, I could tell you, in my case everything I’ve ever done I’m always building on, but I do things that feel right for me.

So for me, I had a corporate background where I was in leadership and I loved getting in front of groups and I would share stories about what it is that makes us better than where we are right now.

I had sales teams that were connecting with that and it would just fill them up with excitement.

I wasn’t one of those people, because it was not authentic for me to be sharing lots of stats and figures even though that’s what I dealt with all the time.

I was always dealing with the things that get into the hearts and souls of people.

So in my case it has, it’s been all authentic, I go, I’m always searching the same type of topics, I’m always getting to know people, I’m always interviewing people.

I’m always learning about different cultures, I’m learning about different clients,

“Who am I going to speak to?”

I want to be inside their organization or their university, I want to know what some of the issues are, what works and what doesn’t.

And then I want to make sure, this is one thing I’ve done and I could tell you it works when I’ve done it and it doesn’t when I haven’t, is when I’ve spoken in person which has been the majority of the time until COVID.

Unlike maybe some other speakers who might show up on stage like, “Ta-da, here I am,” I will be at the front door as people are coming through, I will personally greet them, I’ll shake their hand and obviously, you could tell that was definitely pre COVID.

But I would get to know them, I’d love to know, I’d welcome them in, I’d like to know their name, I wanted to know what they were looking for, what brought them into the room, what were some of the things they were thinking about.

What are some of the things they’re hoping to get out of the presentation?

And then sometimes I could even go into I’ve been to at amphitheaters and I’d go around I’d say,

“Tell me one thing about you that I don’t know.”

So by the time I would get on stage, we already have that connection and maybe other people don’t feel that way, they’re not comfortable doing it, but I’ll tell you one story, Ryan.

I was in, I want to say Macedonia at one of their private universities and the whole university was going to be there in their big amphitheater to listen to me.

Normally I’ll tell you I’m the person at the front door welcoming everybody in.

This time, they had me in the proctor or let’s say the president’s office and they had a number of other dignitaries in there and I wanted to get out and meet everybody.

I got on that stage and I don’t know whether they noticed it but I felt it, I didn’t get the feel for who was there, I’m talking to them as an audience but I want to know who these people really are, so I know what stories, what nuances, what words I’m going to use.

That to me is so important.

But I do that in every aspect.

Other things about like authenticity, my husband is great, I work with him a lot, one day he said to me,

“You know Maura, you’ve got a little bit of an artist in you.”

He said, “Why don’t you draw something,” he said, “Make some frames.”

As much as I’m very modern, I love to go into history and I am a little bit creative, so I found paper that looked like me, it was parchment paper and black markers and gold markers, I created the most I think they’re really neat, antique frames and from those frames I now use them over and over again and I put some of my favorite quotes in them.

So when I’m up and I’m doing the presentation, I’m not just putting quotes up, I’m using my own artwork and over the course of time you’d appreciate this because, you’re a brand man, people are seeing the same type of artwork.

It’s my artwork, it’s my message.

The other thing I love using is I love images, photos, personal stories, so I’m using my own pictures rather than stock photos.

Other people are different, but I would always say what is it that feels right for you?

What defines you, what matters to you, and go with those things.

I always tell people,

“Now look, we’re in the business of speaking, how many people out there can speak?”

The entire world, right?

Ryan Foland: If you speak in public then you are a public speaker, it’s a scientific fact that you cannot argue either.

Maura Sweeney: You’re right, but think about this, we’re a commodity.

So just like coffee is a commodity, so we must be authentic in our own ways, and then over the course of time, then we start developing our own brand, our own aroma, our own flavor.

I had to do that in my corporate background as a manager, I have to do it now.

So that’s what I would say authenticity, don’t try to be somebody else, find out what those few things are, maybe it’s 2 things, maybe it’s 3 that mean a lot to you, that you couldn’t even get away from if you wanted to, and just employ them in what you do.

Now you’re not just a speaker but you’ve got a little bit of some freshness to it that people say,

“Oh, you know, that person may have a similar message to somebody else’s but I love the way they give it, it resonates for me.”

Ryan Foland: Okay, there’s a lot to connect here and the tip of my white gloves are now a little black from hitting all those ancient keys.

There are a couple of threads I just want to expand on because again, when we think about speaking tips it’s very easy just to say,

“Well, be authentic.”

But for somebody who is either trying to find what authentic is for them, to deal with somebody who is speaking in a professional environment and maybe they’re quirky and there’s this internal struggle between well authentic but you’re sort of playing to the crowd, there’s a lot to dig in here.

I think that you did a good job of explaining your process.

I want to ask a few questions to tease out how people can apply what works for you to what works for them.

One thing I heard is that it sounded like how you found your authenticity was primarily by paying attention to things that you are always doing and by paying attention to things that you are always trying to learn?

Maura Sweeney: True.

Ryan Foland: So that seems to be the real genesis of you are always doing something blank, X, Y, Z, therefore you recognize,

“Well if I’m always doing this, maybe it’s something to carry to the stage.”

Was this something like that just happened or is that how you look back and rationalize it?

How can people pay attention to what they’re doing to pick apart things that they can use on stage?

Maura Sweeney: Good point, should I talk about what my topics are?

I always talk about leadership, influence, and the power of happiness, they really all go together.

It’s all about encouraging and inspiring people to be their best version of self, be a leader in your own right, you don’t wait for the world to give you a title; you be that leader.

And so for me, I’ve been that way literally my entire life.

I was never someone who was like everybody else, I don’t think I ever fit in anywhere.

So Ryan, I always had to find those things that were important to me, that were feeding my soul, but all those things that fed my soul helped me grow and helped me develop.

So what I do in my presentations, I’m just opening myself up, opening my life, opening my life stories, opening journeys up, and they all carry these similar themes about how you don’t want to be a leader like the 3 people out there that let’s say social media points to, you may want to take the best things that they are that you appreciate, but you want to find your best version of self.

Let me just give you another example about authenticity.

Some people will memorize the speech they’re going to make in front of an audience, and for some people that works very well.

For me, I can’t memorize things that much.

Part of my authenticity is saying sometimes to the people out there,

“The word I’m looking for right now sounds like something, is there anybody out there that can help me?”

And you know what, it makes the connection, they know I’m really no, I’m not perfect, but at the same time that I’m imperfect, I have done my utmost to prepare, in the content and the quality of things I’m looking to do if that makes sense.

Ryan Foland: Yeah, I tell people often times, “Don’t memorize — prepare and improvise.”

Maura Sweeney: I love the way that sounds, I think I may have to borrow it from you.

Ryan Foland: There you go.

So you mentioned you’re speaking topics which I think is interesting because there are your topics that you speak on, and obviously there’s a tie to your authentic self, but my question for you is were you first paying attention to what you’re always doing to come up with the speaking topics?

Or did you know the speaking topics and then you paid attention to what you’re doing in order to fit elements of who you are into that?

Maura Sweeney: Good question.

I’m going to tell you that the pursuit of happiness and knowing what happiness does by becoming your authentic self has been so empowering for me.

Secondly, the fact that I have been in love with positive leadership, I’m dating myself again, Ryan, since John F. Kennedy was in the White House and I was a preschooler.

I loved everything about his form of leadership, he was sending people in the Peace Corps overseas, he was bringing people to the United States in the White House where we’re hearing people’s you know with music, and his one of the biggest lines I remember as a preschooler was,

“Don’t ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

So when I think about leadership, I have followed great leaders, I have read books on leaders, but it can be books and leaders let’s say in culture, in music, in media, in government, in business, and so these are things that have been with me since childhood.

So for me, these are literally interests, passions, things that are so important because I always believed in a better world.

So no matter where I’m going, I’m encouraging other people to see the world through a different lens, to see the bigger person they can be, and to also see the role that they can be in playing a part in creating a better society, in whatever aspect that means.

And I have to tell you, there’s an interesting little nuance to this, when I first started writing and speaking about happiness, even the writing, there was an error when blogging was very big, people would say to me,

“So Maura, who’s your demo?”

And I would say to them,

“I guess it’s people who want to be happy.”

And I know, Ryan, there were people looking at me like,

“Oh yeah, sure, that’s not a demo.”

But listen to this — with the power of happiness being authentic and being a leader in your own right, do you wanna know my speaking career has taken me to some of the most unbelievable places?

The message is so elastic that I have spoken to aspiring CIA and FBI agents at the university, I have addressed national young leaders in Macedonia at the president’s big arch in Skopje, Macedonia; I have addressed national young leaders in several foreign countries.

I have spoken to women’s groups, I have been at UN, model UN organizations, so it’s amazing that what I’ve got are these ideas and these concepts that really empower people.

And these are things that are so important to me that a single message ends up being elastic enough to relate to so many different audiences.

I’m not in the IT industry, I’m not something that’s very, very specific, but the concepts and the ideas that I have end up finding audiences even in corporations that right now during COVID are so struggling with people that have a sense of ennui and discouragement and lack of hope.

And they’re bringing me in now, overseas, I’ve had several of them to say,

“Maura, we really need an infusion to make our employees feel like they’re reconnected and that they’re empowered and happy to do their job, and to feel good about what they do.”

So it’s interesting how certain ideas we have and passions we have, we can find different ways to deploy them to different audiences.

Ryan Foland: So it sounds like your topics were predetermined and that your authenticity was finding the moments of understanding what you’re always doing, what you’re always learning, and then those 2 sort of meshed together.

And you know, I’m putting myself in the shoes of somebody who’s trying to make it in the speaking industry and there are some topics that are more elastic, as you said than others.

But if you come across as a generalist, I’ll speak on anything, that can work against you.

Maura Sweeney: You’re right.

Ryan Foland: I think people, in general, are dynamic and we all go through life changes and our experiences help to create our expertise, but the way that you’re describing this it’s still — if I’m one of the listeners of this show right now, it still is a bit overwhelming and a very elastic definition of being authentic.

It’s as though you’re saying everything from when I was in kindergarten to now has helped me to formulate not only my topics but what I’m doing.

And so for somebody who’s trying to draw a line in the sand or actually make an application that says what do you speak on, there are those components.

So any advice of not necessarily looking to your whole life, but maybe that is it, like how do you help somebody with this process?

Maura Sweeney: Very good, very good. Okay.

I would say, I don’t know if you heard, some of the places I’ve been to, foreign countries dignitaries, governments, young leaderships, those are the things that for me, more so let’s say than the midlife lady who wants to know how she can get on a diet and feel better about herself, I’m looking for people that are building themselves up.

Ryan Foland: Are you reverse engineering based on your demographics then?

Maura Sweeney: Cool.

I never really thought about it but I will tell you, I was always interested even though I was trained to be an attorney, I always was interested in good foundations, good government.

And so when I think about, these are incisive questions you’re asking me and obviously helpful for an audience because I’m always looking what’s the deeper message and how does it go to me?

If I were to really say how do I drill it down because I’ve been to so many places, probably 400 different —

Ryan Foland: You’ve got oil fields of lots of drilling.

Maura Sweeney: I do, for something that people made fun of in the beginning, happiness.

But these are the places where I feel my strength it is are you looking for something that is in the field of government, of diplomacy, of cultural exchange, and let’s say business leadership?

See how I kind of tightened it in?

Ryan Foland: You kind of went wider actually.

Maura Sweeney: Oh goodness sakes, we’re not getting anywhere then, Ryan?

Ryan Foland: But if you think about it, just real quick, from what I’m hearing you went governments then you went a little bit wider, and then you went to business leadership.

You actually went wider.

So let me go to a word that you said a number of times, just feel.

So you talked about when you’re meeting an audience you want to know where they’re coming from or how they feel.

When you’re on the stage you want to get a feel for what they’re doing.

And then you were just talking about how you feel that your certain strengths are X, Y, Z.

And again, not trying to get too meta here but you have speaking topics, you have bringing yourself authentically to the stage and now we’ve also added in the demographics.

So with those 3 polls would you start with a certain one as a speaker?

Do I focus on what am I all about, what do I feel are my core attributes, and do I then use that to come up with my speaking topics?

And then use that to come up with my demographics?

Or do you say I want to work with these types of people and then look internally to see what authentic parts fit that and reverse-engineered the speaking topics?

Do you see how like those as 3 cornerstones, I’m just really interested in how you have navigated those?

Maura Sweeney: You’re pretty good at mining, let me tell you. I’ve taken a long road to do what I’m doing and I’m almost going to tell you at some level it could be accidental, as to how I ended up where I am.

But let me, I’ll give you some of the dynamics. I know I always liked to learn and I know what I’m drawn to.

So I have gone to so many places, I will go and I will listen, and I will learn.

And then I will meet the people that I’m learning from, and I’ll connect with them, and I’ll write them letters.

And I will find myself in certain venues where after a while people say to me,

“You know Maura, you ask some really excellent questions. Can I invite you to get up and maybe speak and share what you know?”

So I’m going to say, I have a mantra and it’s living happy inside out.

And what I’ve done over the course of my life is I find those things that are of personal interest to me, curiosity, passion, learning, and I place myself constantly and repeatedly in those areas and those arenas.

And so I will tell you that as a result, I have probably found ways to make the connections and then people discover that I have things to offer and then they invite me to speak.

Does that help you a little bit?

Ryan Foland: It does, I feel like I see the vein, the nugget vein of the gold on the hill here, and now just repeating what you just said is that it sounds like you start with yourself and that is the things that you feel personally inspired by, the things that you always tend to find yourself doing, the things that you’re interested in learning.

So if we were to sort of map this out, it sounds like it starts with yourself.

So if you’re listening to this, to be an authentic speaker start with yourself, don’t worry about buzz words of industry and who’s going to pay you, and what your demographics are.

It sounds like focus on what you feel you’re interested in.

Maura Sweeney: Yes.

Ryan Foland: Then it sounds like you went out there and you put yourself into communities, into locations, into government networks to feel out where they were coming from, and then that seems to allow you to have found topics that you feel passion about, that you found others are interested in, and that becomes it.

So it sounds like it was starting with what your passion about first, then looking more at your demographics, and then deciding on the topics that would make most sense that sort of tie them all together.

Maura Sweeney: That’s a good way of saying it.

That’s very good.

In fact, now I can tell you that my mantra and even my podcast is entitled living happy inside out, I found out and followed the things that were of greatest interest to me, as an individual.

And here’s another thing too, maybe listeners today who are occurrent, emerging speakers, I am really a pioneer of my own sort, I didn’t start doing this until I was in my fifties.

Now imagine I decided I actually wanted to be one of most influential women in the world starting in my fifties, without any contacts, no media contacts.

I didn’t have as I said a title, I just took every single thing I had in front of me, I wrote, I shared I ended up with my own column on Huffington Post, I utilized every single thing in front of me.

I traveled, I connected with people.

And this is my message about leadership to everyone, and this goes contrary in a sense to the idea of being a copier, you can take what you like of other people but ultimately your energy, your authenticity, your brand, your power —

Ryan Foland: Je ne sais quoi.

Maura Sweeney: Right, it’s je ne sais quoi.

Your power, it comes from literally being the word that you have walked in.

There are people that have said to me in foreign countries,

“You know Maura if I didn’t understand a word you said, I knew you understood me because when you got on that stage you were so real.”

I’m so real because everything I’m doing, Ryan, is everything that’s important to me.

I literally want to see everybody step up and become a better person, a leader in their own right, a person of their own making in their own creation so that they can make a positive impact in the world.

I can’t even get away from my message.

And so I do, I have pioneered my own way and I have always instructed other people to do the same thing.

And so here I’ll tell you this, and this is what any speaker needs to hear, there are many people that are great international speakers, they’ve been huge stages, I never tried to be competing with anybody.

I just stayed in my own lane following what I loved.

Now I look back on it, Ryan, nobody has a resume like I have, it doesn’t look like anybody’s but it works for me.

It fits for me and I don’t look like on this odd person fitting into somebody else’s package.

And so you literally, I would say if you follow what you love and then you try to become an expert at it, then over the course of time you and your message and your energy, you’re all the same thing.

It’s like you’re forced to be reckoned with and you don’t have to compete with anybody else.

That is so empowering and it takes away a lot of those, I’d say those doubts that anyone, in any capacity would have about themselves like,

“Am I as good as the next person?”

You don’t have to be as good as the next person, you just have to be your best you, doing what you love, being convincing of it but you’re convinced of it because you’re at it all the time, because it’s that important to you.

Ryan Foland: You are essentially your own long-form piece of onion paper to which you’re typing so that others can think and whether you talk or write a podcast about it, it has the ability for people to change their minds.

This is a great transition into what you almost were already talking about, which is we always want to share tips for growth and for building a business.

You basically said starting at 50, you started from scratch and you use everything around you.

And we don’t have enough time to understand everything, but if you were to pick the things that worked the most, the things that gave you the best traction starting from 0, what would those look like, so that once people find their passion, what they’re interested in, the people they want to talk to and the topics they want to talk about, let’s imagine they’re starting from scratch just like you.

Of all of the things that you tried what are the one or 2 or maybe 3 things that worked the best, moved the needle the most?

And on top of that, can you put a filter for in today’s post-pandemic, new reality where digital is a big part of it?

Maura Sweeney: Well that’s one heck of a question.

Ryan Foland: You know there’s no joke, I’m getting more connected here in the end, we’ve got to make it happen.

Maura Sweeney: You know what I would say about this?

I’ve never used the negatives in this conversation with you, but I would say the biggest thing that moved the needle for me was staying away from things that didn’t feel right or authentic to me.

So when all the connections I made, and all the places I’ve gone, all the people I’ve reached out to, all the organizations I’ve been part of, I have left places that didn’t feel right to me.

Because those places would take me away from being who I am and being around the right energy type people that I know connect with me and I with them.

It sounds like a negative remark, Ryan, like I’d be the person I’m writing emails, I’m posting, I am communicating, I’m sending out pitch letters.

But when I’ve been in environments where I sense there is something that runs contrary to the values that I hold, the energies that I like working in, which is highly collaborative, and also very freeing.

If I’m around control-oriented people or people that it’s got to be all about them, I will just pull out.

And so do you see it’s a combination of doing many things, but also knowing those things that don’t feel right, that don’t resonate.

Ryan Foland: It comes back to feeling which we continue to go back to you in order to feel what you’re interested in, understanding how your market is, your target audience, your demographic, how they feel as well as the topics that feel correct for what you feel, for what they feel.

So I don’t really think it’s a negative, I think it actually reinforces the one central theme here which is when you follow your feelings that will get you the most traction.

I think we all have been offered speaking opportunities that might not be the best fit, but we might tend to want it because we see the stage time alone, or maybe the relationship with somebody that we’re trying to build we can feel has potential toxicity or maybe the values aren’t completely aligned, but then maybe you just think,

“Oh but this is another opportunity to get closer, I’ll just do it this one time.”

But you’re really reinforcing if it doesn’t feel right it’s not necessarily going to fit with your authenticity?

Maura Sweeney: Very true.

And the thing is I’m sure unlike other people I have done some of these things, but I tell you, I have walked out of places I’ve left places, I’ve done certain types of interviews in certain formats, and there are certain mindsets Ryan, that I know are not synchronized with mine. It’s either combative, it is negative, it’s controlling, it’s domineering.

Ryan Foland: It just doesn’t feel right.

Maura Sweeney: No, and you know I have to tell you, this is how I’ve lived my whole life, it’s how I’ve managed people in corporate America, it’s how I raised my daughter, it’s how I speak.

It’s my podcast, it’s everything.

But sometimes we only find out what we do resonate with when we step into a couple of those places and then came to ourselves,

“You know what, I’m moving away from my mark.”

Ryan Foland: And as you said, you can’t seem to escape your messaging which is just a confirmation that you are aware of the things that are authentic for you.

So full circle here.

I think we’ve actually dug around a lot and we understand your oil fields as your sort of mining what feels right for you and the areas that feel right for the people that you know you can impact.

And the more you are aware of that, the more you can know when you’re stepping outside of your lane.

And so if you are a speaker that is not focused first on what you’re interested in, and you’re not considering what the audience wants, and you’re not reverse-engineering the topics that make it so that you don’t allow yourself to escape your messaging, then truly, the right stages will come, the wrong stages you’ll pass on, and then it’s just a matter of what rinse and repeat is it just a matter of continuing to do the same thing?

Maura Sweeney: Yes.

But always with an eye on who the specific audience is.

Because I’m not out to talk about myself, I’m out to make a difference in the hearts, the souls, the lives, and the vision of people and where they can go in life.

Ryan Foland: All right.

Well if someone is inspired in their heart and their soul and their body and their brain and they want to follow you to see and understand where you’re coming from so that your feelings can connect in this epic explosion of connectivity, where do people go to find you, where do people go to find your podcast, how did they find it your feelings out there?

Maura Sweeney: I think a great place for them to find me is on SpeakerHub under Maura Sweeney.

I love, I love SpeakerHub, it’s a great connecting point, they can go especially if they enjoy podcasts, they can go to Maura Sweeney Living Happy Inside Out.

And interestingly enough, every one of those podcasts will ask a reflective question, it’ll go into a little story, and then it’ll give people or let’s say inspire people to mine out of themselves the very things that make them authentic by following what feels right for them as opposed to for the next guy.

And in so doing they should become a bigger person, a leader in ways they had never been before.

Ryan Foland: And I bet you the people are looking for those things but they might be hiding in plain sight.

So I think that’s a great way to look at it.

Sometimes we look to think how we can be more authentic instead of just looking at what we do, what we like learning, and what we enjoy feeling as the source of our authenticity.

So things that are hiding in plain sight are the hardest to find because they’re just right there.

Maura Sweeney: Yes, you did a great job of explaining that, Ryan.

One thing I’d like to say that I ran counterintuitive too is how the world is always looking out there to find somebody to tell them what to do, rather than saying,

“How does that work for me, how does that feel for me? Does that feel right for me?”

I’m always going back to does it feel good for you and if it does you go and you follow that track and you be the best version of you in it.

And you find people that are more empowered and happier and more successful.

Ryan Foland: Well, that is a unique look at finding yourself.

I almost am envisioning a feeling Geiger counter where it’s that little 2 stick that you’re feeling around and there’s something in the world that will direct it a certain way but you have to sort of, whether it’s a bio, feedback or listening or looking back at your journals or your notes or your YouTube history or what you historically lean towards because I have a feeling that’s where the real authenticity lies for those who are still trying to find it or for those who are super authentic and they just want to find more captivating stories, more examples, more things that they can share so that others can see themselves in their stories.

Maura Sweeney: I think you did a great job capping that off, Ryan.

Ryan Foland: Well it’s perfect timing because here we are at the end of the show so thank you and thank you to SpeakerHub for sponsoring this opportunity for me to meet people like you and other speakers from around the world.

If you are listening make sure you subscribe, make sure you share this, make sure you connect the dots so that we can all be a little bit more connected and we can all feel for what feels good, for the feeling Geiger counter.

Thanks again, we’ll talk to you soon, we’ll see you on SpeakerHub.

Until next time.


A bit about World of Speakers

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

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This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.

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