Today I interview Tyler Foley, who says he never suffered from public speaking anxiety, however, he does distinctly remember having a clear sense of stage fright twice in his life. As a trained performer and someone who has been on stage since he was six, both times were perplexing to him.
He ended up spending the better part of a decade deconstructing the reasons for these incidents. That search became his #1 bestselling book The Power to Speak Naked. Most of Tyler’s experience has come from helping others find their voice.
He does this by destroying the myth that they are afraid of public speaking and showing them that the true fear they must conquer is public judgement. Now, he is able to rapidly tailor a talk to an audience and deliver it with confidence.
Sean Tyler Foley has been acting in film and television since he was 6 years old. He has appeared in Freddy Vs Jason, Door to Door, Carrie, and the musical Ragtime.
Tyler is the author of the #1 best-selling book The Power to Speak Naked and can help you confidently take the stage and tell your story.
Connect with Tyler:
Watch the episode:
Learn How to Speak Without Fear!
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Transcript of Interview
Find Your Voice, Change Your Life Podcast
Podcast Host: Dr. Doreen Downing
Free Guide to Fearless Speaking: Doreen7steps.com
Episode #38 “Sean Tyler Foley”
“Conquer the Fear of Public Judgment”
Dr. Doreen Downing [0:35]
Hi, this is Dr. Doreen Downing and I’m with the FIND YOUR VOICE, CHANGE YOUR LIFE podcast. I interview people who have had a challenge with speaking up in public in their life.
Today, I’ve invited Sean Tyler Foley. Tyler has been acting in film and television since he was six years old. He appeared in ‘Freddy vs. Jason’, ‘door to door’, ‘Carrie’ and ‘the musical Ragtime’. Tyler is the author of the number one bestselling book, “The Power to Speak Naked” and can help you confidently take the stage and tell your story. So, what was it like to be on stage at six years of age?
Tyler Foley [2:28]
That was the sound of applause. The nice thing about being six years old, when the first time you are introduced to the stage is that it’s at an age where there is no real fear, fears are things that we learn through programming. And anybody who has a young child knows they will go and do anything first or twice; they just do it to experience the world. It’s how they’re growing and learning. And so, for me, it’s six years old, to be put on stage was the most magical thing on the planet. I got to be somebody else and play dress up and pretend. And then the first time I heard an audience laugh and clap at something that I had done was a rush and it was thrilling. It is a sound that I have pursued for the rest of my life that was very formative because it’s the most energetic feeling. I’ve done so many other things in my life, flying planes and bungee jumping. I even tried skydiving, once. And all of those things are supposed to be great adrenaline rushes and none of them has lived up to the joy and the excitement that I feel when I take a stage and I get to here, particularly at the end if you get a good round of a standing ovation, there’s nothing else in the world that beats that.
Dr. Doreen Downing [4:03]
That reminds me since I’m a psychologist, there is a stage of development early on, where children are opening up themselves and saying, hey, look at me, the world applauds back, usually it’s the family. I think that you must have had some pretty good mirroring early on because a lot of people trace back their fear of speaking to a time when they didn’t get that applause early on. I’m so happy that you have pointed to that moment and particular kind of energy so that people can say, they stopped because of their fear, they’d never get that far to experience that applause.
Tyler Foley [4:51]
Exactly, it’s those formative years and a lot of times working with clients, the commonality with most of the people that I work with, they all usually pinpoint a moment, in elementary school, where they were called upon by the teacher, and they didn’t know the answer, and everybody laughed at them. It was a spotlight that the center of attention and not knowing has been fear, a little bit earlier on more formative in that three to five range, where they’ve been told to be quiet, seen and not heard. They’ve given up the power of their voice.
I was blessed and grateful for the experience that I had. I was a performer when I was 3-4 years old, I would sing and dance. Anytime we were having a family gathering, I would put on a little bit of a show while the adults would be preparing the dinner and I remember being very young and receiving my first magic kit. I always would show people how to do it. Then I learned how to play the piano very young too and I’ve always been very musically inclined. So, to have that supported and encouraged, was a blessing because when I finally did experience my first bout of stage fright, it was foreign and uncomfortable. But it wasn’t my only association with speaking on stage, I had positive reinforcement for eight years. In fact, by the time the first experience came, it was abnormal and did not become the focus of my attention. I didn’t think that’s what the public eye was, to me, the public eye was a joyous thing. So, this was different and weird. And I knew that I didn’t want to feel that again but I also knew that the stage wasn’t what caused it.
Dr. Doreen Downing [7:21]
Can you share your story when you didn’t have a voice and how did that happen?
Tyler Foley [7:59]
I had eight years from the time I was six to the time I was 14, of not actually experiencing stage fright or looking forward to stages. I remember, my music teacher put me in the fourth grade. So, I was 10 years old at that point into a regional speech competition, just because she knew that nobody else wanted to do it, they were too shy or stage fright or had a hard time with their voice. It was something that I wanted to do. And I won the regional speech competition and went on to the provincials and won that as well. I remember winning the Quanta’s festival that year and being hooked. When I was 14 because I had been doing speech competitions regularly and they had me memorize poems and it was just part of the work. I would often be asked to present at the Memorial Day or Remembrance Day presentations. I would recite from memory in Flanders Fields. And a famous poem on World War One about the beauty after the death and the unnecessary sacrifice and the necessary sacrifice of war. The fields in Flanders field, where the poppies grow row on row, and it was a thing that I did regularly, probably from the sixth grade to the ninth grade, where I was called upon to recite poems. And when I was 14, 9th grade, it had become an old hat to me.
I remember distinctly, for the first time that I’d done it, it was just my peers. We’d have an elementary school assembly, and the students were who I would read this to. And then for this particular assembly, we brought and invited veterans from the care facility that had come and so there was a whole series of them that were Highland, they all had the medals on, and they were in their dress uniform. I remember one gentleman that they wheeled in, he was in a wheelchair, and they brought him right to the front and he was right in my eye line, everyone else was off to the side, but this gentleman was a square in front of the podium. He had steely blue eyes and massive medals on his chest, and his uniform was tightly pressed. And he had a cane as well. I remember as they were announcing me to come up and read the poem. He leaned forward on it, and his eyes pierced my soul. And in that instant, I remember thinking to myself, this man has seen the war, he’s experienced loss. Who am I, I’m 14 I don’t know about where I’ve even been at that point, I barely held a gun? This man pointed a weapon at another human being and potentially took their life, if anything he’s seen life lost around him I have not and all of these thoughts are running through my head. And what should have come out was in Flanders Fields, the poppies blow Between the crosses row on row That marks our place and, in the sky, the larks still bravely singing fly. And what came out was dead silence because I couldn’t get the beginning of the poem, and I couldn’t get the rhythm and I couldn’t find the bit and so I remember being like the puppies, the puppies and that’s all I could think of was the puppies and knowing that isn’t how it started. And this man is looking at me and now all of a sudden, I’m seeing everyone else who’s looking at me, and I don’t know the words.
Thankfully, my vice principal came to my aid and brushed me aside. He had a copy of the poem, he did a little other introduction and then brought me back on and I was able to read it from the page. It was a beautiful lesson for me because I had been spoiled for eight years, I never experienced anything like that. I understood what people were talking about stage fright, everything that they talked about happened. I’d gone flush and I didn’t know how your body could be hot and cold at the same time. My hands were cold, my face and my ears were flushed red hot. My heart was beating 1000 miles a minute and yet I had no saliva in my mouth but somehow, I was still spitting a lot and I none of these things made any sense to me until I was able to look back on it and reflect many years later on to what some of those triggers were why I experienced that. It was an experience that I have dedicated my life to never feeling again.
Dr. Doreen Downing [14:23]
So, it was about comparing yourself and being judged by this veteran. It’s something about the comparison and knowing you were less than him and then trying to unwind the gap.
Tyler Foley [14:53]
It starts with the judgment piece, as you and I both know that’s usually where that fear of public speaking comes from, it’s that fear of judgment. And for me, I felt less than him. My concern was that I hadn’t given the poem The gravitas that it deserved because when I was doing it before, I was saying words, and I said it pretty. But they were just words that didn’t have a true meaning to me. I think for the first time, it occurred to me that the author of the poem, John McCrae, had walked Flanders Fields when he penned this and was taken by the loss, and it was in that recognition that I had not prepared. And what do these words mean to somebody who has been there, and who’s seen it? I felt ashamed that I hadn’t given it the gravity that it deserved or the somber reflection, perhaps it was a whole bunch of projection on it.
Dr. Doreen Downing [16:27]
How are you helping people through different mediums?
Tyler Foley [17:15]
I grew up in a rural community, so I was part of the Four-H club and the five P’s come from Four-H, which are planned, prepared, practice and present. I’ve added the fifth one, which is participating. And for me, I think it’s the fifth one which is important because participating in your talk is important, how do you show up? How do you work with your audience? We’re doing right now, people are coming in to listen to find your voice, change your life, to do those two things. It’s incumbent on me as guests to your platform, to serve your audience to the best of my ability. And the drawback to this medium that you and I have is that we can’t interact directly with the audience. So, I’m relying on you to be a conduit for your audience for me to interact with them. So now I am going to participate in this conversation is actively listening to the questions that you have, trying to present thoughtful information, and then be vulnerable with my responses, give more than cursory information, if I was in a live scenario, I would invite questions from the audience, I would ask them to share how they are feeling. All of these things are critical in a truly good presentation. And the only way that you can effectively do that is by doing the other four P’s: your plan, your preparation, your practice, and then the actual presentation itself, which requires your participation. So those are the five P’s that I discussed in the book.
Dr. Doreen Downing [19:24]
So, you’ve written a book “The Power to Speak Naked”, tell us about that because people are curious to know about the book title?
Tyler Foley [21:02]
I’m glad you asked because it does have many layers to the title. The first one is poking a little bit of fun, in my opinion, is the worst advice given to people when they’re trying to public speak and that is to picture your audience naked. To me, it’s such a disservice to everyone involved in that scenario. It’s not doing you any good. It’s wasting brainpower. It’s not honoring or servicing your audience in any particular fashion. And frankly, I find it insulting and a little bit degrading to your audience too. Why would you try to think that the nexus of that advice is to try and draw comfort from somebody else’s discomfort, which is narcissistic or masochistic, or if it’s both? But either way, it’s not serving your audience. One of the best ways to serve your audience is to love your audience. And one of the best ways to love your audience is to empower them, not to strip it away. And so, I do not like that advice. And when we were coming up with the title for the book, somebody brought up that as advice, and I’d gone on a tirade very similar to what I just did. And I said I would rather empower you to speak naked on stage than for you to waste even an ounce of brain matter on picturing your audience naked. Man, as soon as I said, it was like the power to speak naked, that’s good. And then as we explored what that meant to me, it started to unfold.
So, on the next level, just below the surface of the poking fun. I believe that people should be able to give a naked presentation. And by that, I mean stripped of all gimmick, so you don’t need the PowerPoint, you don’t need props, you don’t need AV, a lot of your listeners who are listening to your podcast, I would hope that the conversation that we’re having is serving them that they’re getting value out of this, and yet they have no visual to go with it. And that’s the true power of communication. When I can give a talk, I can give a presentation, and I can keep you captivated even without the gimmicks, I don’t need a big presentation screen. I don’t need props; I don’t need all of the fluff.
Take it back to primal days, when I would stand not even at a lectern but in front of a group, and say, this is what I’ve discovered. This is how I feel this is something to know and have a real true naked presentation. The surface below that is that I strongly feel that the things that we’re afraid to say are what our ideal audience needs to hear. And when we covet this information, and we keep it close to our chest, and we don’t express those things, not only are we doing ourselves a disservice. And again, being a trained psychologist, you will know this far better than I do. I know this through intuition and actual training. That can have negative health effects on us when we try to keep those things bottled up. There is a catharsis in letting some of that information go. I want to be clear with your audience. I’m not saying to go out and start filling your deepest, darkest secrets. That is not the intent of what I’m saying. What I’m saying is, even in telling just a simple story, you’re probably holding back minor details that could add so much rich context to it, but you’re afraid of the judgment that will come if you say, this is how I felt about this, or this is what I saw, this is what I experienced. But when we share those details, that’s where we find the humanity in the story. That’s where we find connection and empathy. All of these things come when we can humanize ourselves, by speaking the raw Naked Truth, the reality of the situation, how we experienced something, as opposed to the doctored, redacted and edited version that maybe we want the world to see because it looks polished. So, I want people to be able to speak the raw Naked Truth to their audience because that’s where we truly find change. That’s where we can find acceptance and that’s when you can move and make somebody better through presenting a powerful idea. Then on the very deep surface, If I was so effective as a public speaking coach, that one of my clients one day, could take the stage and the Emperor’s New Clothes, and never care because they were so confident in their messaging and they were so engaging with how they did it, that nobody would pay attention to the fact that they were stark naked on stage. They would yet instead be enraptured by the power of their voice, that they never even noticed that they could walk on stage and walk off stage completely naked and have people go, how incredible that was.
Dr. Doreen Downing [26:50]
The power of his presence, these layers that you talk about, from the title of your book, illustrate not only that first level of you can be in front of an audience and feel like you are there fully sharing not just information but your presence, love, heart and humanity as well. Your explanation is going to go far today to help people see those opportunities, what is available to them by speaking and it’s layered.
Tyler Foley [28:02]
Opportunity is abundant, anytime you find yourself censoring your voice, that is an opportunity to speak up. It doesn’t have to be in the boardroom and front of an electron. These are the everyday conversations we’re having with our spouse, child, loved one and colleagues at work. I’m not saying that you need to suddenly have blunt honesty that can all borderline be offensive. What I’m saying is to be conscious of why you’re feeling the need to censor those words, because it’s in tough conversations where we have the most change. If you can get comfortable in the one-on-one scenarios, it’s amazing what you can accomplish on the one on many, one of the greatest gifts that I get receive is when I have trained somebody who has a powerful message, to be able to take the stage and impact multiple lives instead of just the one-on-one work that they’re used to doing. And ripple effect can affect change in the way a group of people think as opposed to just what an individual thinks is powerful. It starts with those being able to have conversations in the right way with the people closest to us. If you can have harder ones to have than to speak to a group of strangers. They’re usually on your side and you’re the authority. So, it’s really easy at that point to step into that role. Once you’ve become accustomed to the feeling and impart change, those conversations are the easy ones to have. I’d much rather speak to a crowd of 1000 over my wife or mom.
The other thing that you mentioned, it brings to my mind is celebrating the successes that you have when you do speak in public because we speak in public a lot and don’t realize it, next time you go to a restaurant and order food if you don’t know who your waitstaff is, just spoke to a stranger in public, that’s public speaking to strangers. I say this to a lot of my clients, and they roll their eyes. That’s so ridiculous, but you’ve claimed to have a crippling fear of public speaking. You’ve been to a restaurant three times this week, I’ve been to the bank once, I’ve been grocery shopping three or four times and checked out because you didn’t get arrested for shoplifting. All of these required some form of public vocalization or speaking in public. And as soon as you can frame it that way, then they understand that they’re not afraid of public speaking. And it’s a misdiagnosis I often find because, with a medical background, this is an oversimplification. It’s like having heartburn and diagnosing yourself with a heart attack. Most of my clients have a terrifying fear of public speaking. The reality is they’re afraid of public judgement and it’s really easy to tackle that fear of public judgement. As soon as they were allowed to speak, that made them the authority and nobody showed up for something because they didn’t want to be there. If you are volunteering at your office, that you have to give a presentation, and everybody else has to attend the presentation, you were picked because you were the subject matter expert or they would have picked somebody else. The people who are being forced to come are still choosing to be there. So, at best, they’re passively indifferent to your message, all you have to do is show up and inform them of what you need to do. People do not do the things that they don’t want to do, they would have to come up with an excuse and not show up. So, if the audience is there, the audience is on your side. If you were asked to do it, you are the subject matter expert. And now it becomes a place of power as opposed to vulnerability and you have to show up and deliver.
Dr. Doreen Downing [33:07]
I hope people heard that ‘’a place of power’’. The place of power as opposed to not having power and I think that it is related to people finding the power within which they already have but it’s layered over with fear. And We are naturally doing public speaking every day.
Tyler Foley [33:56]
The best way to find confidence is through competence and competence has a legal definition, adequately qualified, suitably trained with sufficient experience to perform the task with minimal or no supervision. If we consider that, what we need is that experience and so many people try to minimize or reduce the experience that they have by public speaking instead of acknowledging the wins that they’ve already accomplished. When you look at it from that perspective, you have tons of public speaking experience, so now it’s a matter of honing that craft and feeling more comfortable doing it.
Dr. Doreen Downing [34:34]
How can people find you, Tyler?
Tyler Foley [35:10]
I would ask that if they’re getting value out of listening to your podcast and coming back regularly, the best thing that they could do is that you can get guests like me so that I can plug my website and how to reach me is to give you a five-star review. So, if they could do me a favor right now, hit pause and give a mention about a favorite episode that they had or a favorite takeaway that you’ve given something that you’ve specifically done to help them get over their fear of public speaking. So, if they could give a little nugget or something, write a review, like a good proper one, instead of just giving five stars and walking away, be a little bit specific about how this show has served you. And then if you can leave a five-star review to FIND YOUR VOICE, CHANGE YOUR LIFE, you can unpause and go to www.seantylerfoley.com. You will find everything there. We’ve just recently launched a free Facebook group where I’m coming on once a week for 20 minutes and giving everything that we would charge in our seminars and private coaching.
In the book, we are taking everything that I’ve put together over the last 35 years of public speaking and giving it to you for free in the Facebook group so you can get it there. You can also download a copy of the method, which is an 11-page PDF, five insider secrets that I’ve put together over the last 35 years of public speaking. You can find my speaking calendar and episodes of podcasts I’ve been on including FIND YOUR VOICE, CHANGE YOUR LIFE. Thank you so much, Dr. Doreen for having me on the show. It was my absolute joy and pleasure to be of service to you and your audience today.
Dr. Doreen Downing [37:12]
Any last thoughts, Tyler?
Tyler Foley [37:38]
I feel it’s incumbent on somebody with a spotlight the way that you and I have to do the things that we preach. If you don’t, then who’s going to follow you. I know that the only way that I can have an impact is to get people to see that their voice matters. And that’s why I was so grateful to be on your show because it is the message that you have that you can change your life if you can find your voice. It’s the dedication that I have in my book, most of what I do is driven by my love of my daughter. So, my dedication in the book says May you always have the courage to speak up for what you believe in and the confidence that your voice will be heard. The opportunity to come to your show with a very similar message was a joyous moment for me. So, thank you for the opportunity on the platform.
Dr. Doreen Downing [38:40]
Thank you, Tyler.
Also listen on…
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.
Get started now on your journey to your authentic voice by downloading my Free 7 Step Guide to Fearless Speaking: doreen7steps.com.