The Power Of Vulnerability As A Speaker - Chris RudenNov 23, 2022
Tom Bailey, founder of Succeed Through Speaking, interviews Chris Ruden.
Chris Ruden is a professional keynote speaker world record holding powerlifter and social media advocate for disability and diabetes. From being on a TV show with Dwayne the Rock Johnson To being featured in publications like people magazine Good Morning America the today show and more Chris Ruden helps people see their world without limits
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Tom Bailey 00:07
Hello and welcome to succeed through speaking the place for experts and entrepreneurs who want high value ideas to boost business results Hello, I'm Tom Bailey. And in today's speaker stories episode, I'll be getting to know Chris Ruden who is an amputee, a record holding power lifter, motivational keynote, speaker, author, and disabled model who is featured on rock, or the rocks hit TV show toys and games. So Chris, hello, and a very warm welcome to today's episode.
Chris Ruden 00:45
Thanks for having me, man. I appreciate it.
Tom Bailey 00:47
Awesome. Thank you so much for being here. And just out of interest, I guess for me and everyone listening. Whereabouts in the world are you right now?
Chris Ruden 00:54
I'm in the United States. I'm in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Tom Bailey 00:57
Excellent. Thank you so much. And I also know from watching some of the videos on your website that you actually hid your disability for the first 17 years and, and even in the early days of your speaking career. But now you're literally onstage as a keynote speaker in the spotlight. What was what was Why did you make that transition? And how was it for you?
Chris Ruden 01:18
So you know, growing up with a disability, I have a cool like, prosthetic arm now. But I just I thought I was broken. So I hid my disability, I hid it in my pocket. I hid it in long sleeves. I wear a glove up until four years ago, you know. So I had started my speaking career even before I stopped hiding my hands. So I was on stages in front of people talking about all kinds of things like mental health and overcoming adversity, while I was still struggling, and I think that created a sense of like, authenticity and vulnerability and connection, that allowed me to really connect with audiences. So when I finally stopped hiding my disability, you know, four years ago, people watch that they were in the audience seeing me go from the speaker, who they know, he's still dealing with stuff to like, wow, he literally became his best self in front of us. He is practicing what he is preaching, you know. And I think that created a huge sense of connection, and really established me as a speaker. Not that that was my goal. But it was really cool that my growth happened in front of people, and it inspired people to do the same.
Tom Bailey 02:23
I love that. And I guess for everybody else listening and, you know, it's not only, you know, physical disabilities, but you know, or differences. And people see themselves as imperfect in lots of different ways. It might be their accent, it might be their thing. They're too short, they're too tall or too skinny, whatever that is. And I guess sometimes we put off speaking on stages until we think we're ready. And I guess it's looking at seeking perfection, which may never come out.
Chris Ruden 02:49
That perfectionism is like, it's we know, it's self sabotage. But it's literally procrastination, because you're never going to be perfect enough. People don't want to be perfect, they want to be more perfect. They don't want to be good speakers, they want to be better speakers. So it's like, the place they want doesn't exist, because it's always more. So you cannot be a good speaker, if you don't speak, and you don't have to be hired for $10,000 gigs to speak, you can speak for free, but to be a speaker, you have to speak. And then you'd have to get out there more and speak and speak and speak.
Tom Bailey 03:22
That's a really good point. And yeah, you know, you have to get up and speak and you have to go through that amateur phase as well, you know, you're not going to have your first speaking gig, it's gonna be the best keynote speech that's ever been delivered. And it doesn't have to be either. So really important to think of that. And as well as just asked as well. So obviously, you're great speak, and I've watched a lot of your videos and what was it like, in the early days? What's your earliest memory of speaking? And how did it go?
Chris Ruden 03:48
So my first ever speaking gig, I was invited last minute to a nonprofit event. It was unpaid. buddy of mine was like, we don't have a speaker. We'd love to have you speak and like I've never done it. But I've always like, that was my secret question. What's your dream job. I was like a motivational speaker. You know, I didn't know what that meant. And I spoke out there and to everyone else, the feedback I got that it wasn't really good. To me, I knew I could have done better. I knew there was words that I repeated. I knew there was something going on that didn't feel as natural as I wanted it to feel, you know, and I started taking from a lot of other speakers that I was seeing on YouTube and I didn't feel like it was me it felt like a conglomerate of other people. So I started going to toastmasters which is all around the world. I started practicing the art of speech and looking into tone and cadence and rhythm and understanding how ideas are communicated. I took it seriously as a business. I also talked to a speaker and I asked him like I wanted his advice. I thought I had the best story in the world. I was like my story is so it's fire you know, like it's gonna motivate people. I told him this, like, heartbreaking story of you know, being broken and emotionally damaged and not confident. I told him all this stuff. And I waited for him to talk. And he was like, He's gonna, he's gonna be like, Damn, you're good. He was like, so what? And I was like, What do you mean? So what he said, No one cares about your story. They care about what your story does for them. That changed everything. Yeah. I was like, it's you have the same story that I do. You went through some stuff, you got over some stuff. And there's some more stuff coming. How do you package not the story, but the message in a way that focuses on what people get, and not what you give? That's it? That is a hard thing to grasp. Once you get that though, everything you speak about becomes impactful, and less like a movie that feels good. Yeah, I went through some struggles. Yeah, but that feel good is not going to do anything for you. But if I gave you the concepts that helped me, they can potentially do good for you. And that's what we need to focus on.
Tom Bailey 05:54
I love and you know, an audience's question, probably a subconscious question. But it's what's in it for me, you know, what can I get out of this?
Chris Ruden 06:01
I think people think that's a bad thing. It's completely okay for an audience member to be like, What can I get from? Yeah, we package that for them as speakers. They are not there to hear about what Chris did when he was seven. They are the year that hear about what can I use from that to make my life better? That's the focus of that.
Tom Bailey 06:20
So you go back to that first talk, you know, you maybe use the wrong words, you probably use filler words, and quite quite a lot. You know, there are other people listening that are at that point in their journey. They're just starting out. What advice would you give to them right now, in their first stage as a speaker?
Chris Ruden 06:36
We'll just reframe it. The day you started driving, were you driving in like NASCAR? Or f1? Formula racing? No, no. If you wanted to get better at playing basketball, would you play tennis? Probably not. You have to practice what you're trying to improve, and you have to improve by playing more. Same thing with speaking. I said, um, a lot. I would say, yeah, man, man was my go to where I'm like, you know, man, it's just man. It's an I listened to I recorded one of my talks. And I was like, Why do I keep saying that word. Because I was uncomfortable with silence, I was uncomfortable with pausing. I didn't understand the art of repetition. Like I just did those three segments. And, you know, there's, there's concepts that we have to learn and improve and grow as artists, I truly believe speakers are artists in their form of communication. So don't be cocky, don't be cocky and assume that you're just going to be good. You went through stuff, or you have a message. That's amazing. But we have to package that message in a way that is optimal. And that comes from effort and hard work, and paying attention to how you're speaking is now and what you need to improve. It's not that you aren't good. The question is, how can we make it better? Yeah,
Tom Bailey 07:54
yeah, I love that. And one point you made in there as well, it's actually recording yourself being your own personal critic watching it back. And that's hard for people to do. Because when you first hear your voice on a recording or a video, you just don't like it the time, it takes hard, but as soon as you get used to it, and you know, you can be your best personal critic, and give yourself that feedback that you need to improve your speaking
Chris Ruden 08:15
career. Absolutely. And there's people, there's so many different kinds of voices, so many different kinds of messages. We need to turn off that self deprecating type talk or like, oh, I don't like how it sound. I don't like the tone. What can you do to improve the messaging and delivery so that it helps other people take it off of you? And things you can't control? And what can you do to make it better for them, which is the whole point of what you're doing? So that really helps.
Tom Bailey 08:40
Yep, love that. So you said you've been on this speaking journey for about four years now, have there been any big learning moments or big speaking failures or disasters that you'd like to reflect back on? Now you've got here?
Chris Ruden 08:52
I have. Okay, so I've only had one major disaster failure talk and that haunts me. And it wasn't technically my fault. It was one of those things that I just learned. I learned to vet the events from now on. So I did an event and they had a simultaneous fitness event going on, and they didn't turn the music down. I was swarming to the backs of people, it was just not a good feeling. And from that I learned in my speaking contract, I established the scenario, I established the scene and make sure that people are not eating while I'm speaking. Make sure that the scene is set for what I need and your needs may be different. But start to finish. You have to know what the environment is most likely going to be. There's always going to be technology problems. There's always going to be things that go wrong, but who you are. I was taught one thing. A good speaker doesn't always have a prepared speech, but he's always prepared to speak. Yeah. So if you're if you have practiced enough, you can deliver what you have already. In any scenario because you've practiced so much. It is second nature to communicate, just like if you were going to talk up with a significant other, you wouldn't have to prepare. Because you know how to talk authentically from the heart. Same thing, when you make your speech, you obviously want to prepare. But at a certain point, all that practice means, you know, a famous basketball player can go to a court anytime and play well, with the speaker if you put into work,
Tom Bailey 10:19
and I guess it allows you to flex as long as you could be that you've got a 90 minute presentation that you can flex into a 30 minute slot, you can flex it into a four hour training. And, yeah, have that confidence in your own content. And she's really good point on that. So I fell into the trap in my early days of learning to speak of scripting everything, revising my script, word for word, and memorizing my script. And then also having the scripts in my hand when I delivered that that presentation. So it was a comfort blanket for me, that took me a long time to get rid of what's your advice about scripting versus non scripting versus notes? Like what what advice would you give on that?
Chris Ruden 10:56
I would say there is no universal fix to an individual problem. So for me, my scripting, I write anywhere between four to eight bullet points, maybe two to three lines that I really want to use. And I do the rest from my authentic delivery. That's how I operate this. Yeah, I am very like, I'm a charismatic type speaker, and I'm very witty off the cuff, that's my specialty. versus some might be more technical, loves to write their speech, know it word for word, and then deliver it. The thing with writing your speech, you have to practice it so much that the delivery has to be authentic. And it has to seem natural. Because if you're searching for words, in your head, you're no longer present. It's not bad. But if you go that route, you have to really know your content. And if you mess up, you cannot show that at all. Because no one knows if you mess up as long as you're communicating authentically, my style is a little more chaotic, but I love that method. And I built myself to that point. I know a lot of other speakers like that. But I also know speakers who memorize 16 pages of a speech and they deliver it perfectly. It's all your personal preference. But don't think one is better than the other ask what's best for you.
Tom Bailey 12:07
Yeah, perfect. And you'll only figure that out through going through the process of
Chris Ruden 12:11
I did both. Speech, I was so stressed. It just didn't work for me. Whereas other people could memorize speeches, no problem. And they delivered it amazingly. And it showed me the individuality of the speaker. Yeah. Have it. So
Tom Bailey 12:25
we've talked about the free speaking gigs. We've talked about paid speaking gigs. There is a transition point there for people what would you say that transition is and and what what do you need, internally and externally to help you transition from free speaker to paid speaker.
Chris Ruden 12:43
So I think I went about it in a less optimal way. But it did pay off. I did probably 30 speaking gigs for free. I'm also in the diabetes space. So I was building my social media. I was doing everything myself. I had no real mentor. I was just, I was getting my name out there as much as possible. And one day someone asked like, oh, what's your honorarium? I'm googling what's an honorarium. I don't even know what that is. And it was like, Speaker fee. I'm like, oh, whatever the last speaker did, and they were like, okay, 2000. I'm like, Kool Aid like this. I'm like, that's insane. And now it's to the point where my speaker fees are 10,000 Plus, yeah, you know, it's, it's transition. But what also transition was the belief in myself, believing my content is worth the ask. You know, limiting beliefs are huge when it comes to asking for your speaker price. Also, does all of your foundational elements back up your price? When I go to your website? Do you look like a $5,000? Speaker? Do you look? Because no speaker? Do you look like a $10,000? Speaker? Have you invested in yourself as a business? You know, you are not just telling your story, your business? So are you doing some sort of PR? Are you writing blogs? Are you doing something to position yourself as an expert in whatever field you are? And if not, that's fine, start doing stuff like that. So you can elevate your speaker fees. So I no longer negotiate my speaker fees. When I say my feet, they say okay, or they can't afford it. And I can help them you know, other ways, but I no longer negotiate where in the beginning, I had to really negotiate. So it is a part of the growth process. But invest in a mentor invest in, you know, coaching, invest in a website have have the plan to expand. This is beyond a one person operation, even though it seems you're the speaker, I have people who I hired to help, you know, with things because I've gotten a position like that. But in the beginning, I didn't have money to do that. It's not the need money, you need to invest sweat equity into your business.
Tom Bailey 14:46
Yeah, I love that. And again, it's just reiterating the point that it is a process you know, you don't have to charge 10,000 For your first gig.
Chris Ruden 14:53
I never thought I would get to that point, you know, but as I saw the growth, I saw that it was possible and I'm telling you right now It's very possible and where I'm going, I've gotten to the point where I've done $60,000 gigs. And that's something else, which we can talk about. But the speaking business can be so one lucrative and too impactful as long as you do it in a way that you grow alongside your business. Yeah,
Tom Bailey 15:17
yeah. Love that. And one final question just to ask, which is, I think still topical is and you know, the 2020 pandemic pretty much wiped out the in person speaking business. So I want to know how you transitioned and also is virtual speaking here to stay? That was
Chris Ruden 15:36
tough, I lost probably $80,000 in contracts. I was, I was not bulletproof. I didn't bulletproof my business. And that taught me how to pivot. So I added virtual speaking, I have seen a massive downtrend and virtual speaking in my space in the corporation and association space, but it's still there for continuing education, like workshops or remote satellite events. It's still there, you know, it's still there. I think it will always play a part in people's speaking careers, as well as consulting careers and workshop careers. But you have to decide, again, what kind of speaker are you I know someone who's all virtual, and they love it. They live in Dominican Republic, and they don't fly it pretty much anywhere. You know, I personally love in person events. That's the kind of Speaker I am. There's no right or wrong answer, but just know both elements are going to be involved in speaking forever. Yeah,
Tom Bailey 16:27
great. Yeah, absolutely. And, and, you know, we've got the hybrid space as well. Now, do we try and have hybrid events where you've got people in person balls and people dialing? And what if
Chris Ruden 16:39
I had a company fly me in, and they streamed it to the rest of their company? So 10,000 people total about 500 in person and the rest? You know, virtually? Yeah, it's crazy what's happening, you know, just you have to prepare your business. And when you're speaking, you know, on a camera, that's a lot different because you're not getting that audience interaction. So you have to find different ways. You can't treat it the same exact way. But that's all part of investing into your business. Yeah,
Tom Bailey 17:05
absolutely. Well, thank you so much for all the advice you've given so far. My final question for you today is, if somebody wants to book you as a speaker, or find out more about you, where can they connect with you online?
Chris Ruden 17:15
Yeah, so my name is Chris Rudan. Are you d en I have a book on Amazon I have. Everything is just at my name. So at Chris Rudin for Instagram, and Tiktok, Twitter, YouTube, and then my website is Chris rutan.com. So whether you want to book me just talk about speaking, I always invite newer speakers to just shoot me a message because I never had a lot of people who would be willing to give out advice. I'm always gonna give out advice, just like you do. I'm here to help, because I want to see more people more speaking in the space. So thanks for having me. Appreciate it.
Tom Bailey 17:47
Yeah, no problem at all. What I'll do is I'll post all those links in the show notes as well. So we can click on those and find out more about you. But yeah, Chris, thank you so much, again, for coming along and sharing such great value with our audience
Chris Ruden 17:58
Appreciate it. Thank you.