A Fearless Force: Eduardo Placer invests in female voices
Eduardo Placer is a Social Impact Entrepreneur, Public Speaking Coach, Keynote Speaker, an actor, a fan of hashtags and a story doula.
That last sobriquet is one Placer invented to describe his work teaching women how to develop their public speaking skills to advance their careers, causes and passions. It’s a perfect alignment of experience, passion, talent and desire to make a difference in the world.
“My commitment is to service and social impact above everything,” Placer says. “I noticed that there was so much that I was passionate about and knew in my core that I wasn’t the best equipped to speak about all of it. However, I could work with those poised to make the biggest difference in areas I care about – health, peace, sustainability, equality – and elevate how they speak.”
Placer founded Fearless Communicators to do just that: teach others how to not just become more comfortable with public speaking but to refine and amplify their message through radical authenticity.
“As a gay, Latino man, I’m looking for more in a public speaking program,” Placer says. “I want to feel safe. I want the freedom to be myself without apology. The most important quality for me to bring forth from my speakers is authenticity. That is the secret ingredient of charisma. It’s what makes you stand out.”
Authenticity is key to Placer’s identity in business, too. He received NGLCC certification as an LGBT-owned business in 2018, a significant designation for him.
“It’s important to me to identify as a gay man, for people to know that I’m a gay, Latin man in business,” he says. “It’s tied to my brand of radical authenticity. I think people are hungry for real. They’re weary of staid, tired and cold when it comes to public speaking. That is so 1980s Public Speaking. I’m here to bring change.”
Placer is also excited about how certification increases his potential to grow his impact and business. Shortly after joining NGLCC, he partnered with his local chapter to hold a workshop prior to the NGLCC Conference where he coached attendees on their elevator pitches.
“NGLCC certification provided me with a network of other LGBTQIA business owners,” he says. “I’ve loved the events I get to go to, and the collaborations with other queer business owners. I’m looking forward to leveraging certification moving forward.”
“Where my ladies at?”
Fearless Communicators offers training for individual clients crafting Keynotes and TED speeches, entrepreneurs developing effective elevator pitches, hacking the fear of public speaking and different types of storytelling, but at its core is the signature program, A Fearless Force: Public Speaking for Visionary Women Leaders. This six-day intensive course brings a cohort of up to six women together to craft an original TED Talk-length speech, then photograph and record them giving this speech in front of an audience.
Placer and his team have presented this signature program 11 times so far, in locations as disparate as New York City, San Francisco, Tel Aviv and Australia. The inspiration for A Fearless Force came when Placer attended public speaking conferences and events and noticed that they were dominated by white men.
“It struck me that I was seeing an endless parade of people who don’t reflect me and who weren’t women, and especially not diverse women. I thought, ‘Where my ladies at?’,” Placer says.
He had already noticed that most of Fearless Communicators’ early clients were women, so it was clear that the need existed for a program focused on helping women elevate their stories and amplify their voices. Placer is quick to note his male privilege, how he uses it to benefit his female clients and when it is necessary to set it aside.
“I’m clear that I bring my privileges as a man into the spaces that I lead,” he says. “It is not lost on me that I am a man. I don’t pretend to know what it’s like to be a woman. The last thing women need is someone mansplaining how to speak. What I can do is facilitate and help the story emerge, while giving the woman the tools to powerfully share their story with the world.”
The story doula
An early cohort of women referred to Placer as a “story doula”, a term he embraced and used to further develop his teaching style.
“I’m about holding the space for the story to emerge, being the incubator, asking the questions and doing the work that calls that story forth to be present. We then craft, form and mold that story so an audience can do something with it. I call that ‘connaction’. Connection is nice, but connaction is about an audience being in action because of the connection. It’s a beautiful process and one that I take seriously.”
Storytelling is at the heart of the Fearless method. Placer believes that all speech matters, that “there is no such thing as private speaking,” that whenever we speak, it is for the public even if that public is just one person. Someone is listening. Make it count, he says.
“Speaking, if it’s about you, is selfish. However, if you’re crafting a message and content because you want an audience to use it, to do something with it, then that’s generous,” he says. “If you’ve ever witnessed someone speaking where the ego of the speaker disappears and they become a vessel and vehicle for a message, then you have witnessed my goal for my clients. ”
Amplifying diverse voices in the workplace
Members of the Fearless Force, as alumni are known, use words like “powerful,” “exciting,” “healing”, “confronting”, “transformative” and “pure joy” when describing their experience with the program. Although the workshop itself is intensive, Placer uses his background in theater and improvisation to help attendees connect creatively with their message.
“For those of us crafting a serious message to create change in the world, it’s easy to slip into over-serious mode, making the process and the talk itself very academic,” says Jennifer Iannolo, founder & CEO, IMPERIA. “In the Fearless world, however, we leave the academic behind and get into what really tells the poetry of the ‘why’ behind the ‘what.’ It is storytelling training at its finest.”
Now Placer, Debra Driscoll and their team are bringing that transformative process to the corporate world, “bringing light and giving voice to diverse talent.” It’s not enough to hire a diverse workforce, Placer says. If organizations are truly committed to Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, then they must prepare that diverse talent to speak, lead and participate.
“If organizations are truly committed to the D&I conversation, then we need to prepare a new generation of leaders to use their voices,” he says. “Do we see them and do we hear them? Are you creating pathways to speak to their leadership? You must give them visibility and give them a platform.”
This requires more than a one-size-fits-all prepackaged training program, which is where Fearless Communicators steps in, with training specifically for diverse communities.
“Someone who is African American, Latinx, LGBTQ, Asian Pacific, Differently Abled – they need a different, more nuanced approach,” he says. “I can acknowledge from my experience as a gay man that I have trauma around public speaking. Many minorities and underrepresented community members do. We help them work through that trauma and come out the other side confident in their voice and their message.”
Even as the Fearless universe expands, Placer is committed to working with women around the country and around the globe. Elevating and amplifying female voices benefits us all, he says. It goes beyond the individual to the larger world around us.
“An investment in women is an investment in the communities they serve.”
Learn more about A Fearless Force at fearlesscommunicators.com.
Upon meeting Eduardo via an email introduction from a mutual friend, it was clear to me that we needed to connect. I had literally just pressed send on my publisher’s note for the Winter 2018 BEQ Pride issue, entitled “Fearless”. The fact that Eduardo’s business was called Fearless Communicators wasn’t lost on me. The next thing I noticed was his business was focused on women and women business owners — he’s an ally, like me.
For me it was a chance to focus on telling the story behind my reason for being an ally to the LGBTQ business community — “my why” and sharing some of the wonderful leaders, business owners, inventors and friends I’ve met along the way. Allyship is a currency for me.
Understanding my privilege, seeing the need in another person or group and using my privilege to do what I can to eliminate oppression —that’s my currency and that’s what I’m about. I’ve made it my business to help change attitudes by exposing people within and outside the LGBTQ community to many shining examples of people being out and authentic in business, in the workplace and in the community through BEQ Pride and its platform. Connecting people to opportunities and eliminating economic oppression within diverse communities is my primary objective.
The six-day workshop (two days of intensive in-person work followed by three one-on-one coaching sessions) culminating in a live event was an amazing experience. Circle 11 included five other women with their own stories to tell. Together we talked and shared and laughed and cried and honed our messages until we got to the core of what we wanted to say. Eduardo led us there. He’s done the research, he’s developed the training – he’s the real deal. I found out a lot about myself and my allyship in those six days. I can’t wait to share that message with the world.
Robin Dillard, Publisher BEQ Pride magazine
Fearless Communicators Circle 11 Participant, February 2019