Reading Notes Steal The Show by Michael Port

Reading Notes Steal The Show by Michael Port

Here are my (not really organized notes while reading Notes Steal The Show by Michael Port.

Let me know what you find interesting… What you disagree…

Even if you’re saying something that’s already been said, it’s your voice that matters. You don’t have to be different to make a difference.
Too often, when you are given any opportunity to be in the spotlight, you get scared and lose the sense of being authentic and performing in the moment. Instead, you play at what you think a person in that situation is supposed to be like. As a result, you believe that you’re an imposter.
There are important behaviors that open the way to freeing your voice and finding a sense of self-esteem and self-possession as a performer. These include:
  • Finding out what it takes to discover your backstory, and keeping your promises to your audience (whomever and wherever they may be).
  • Letting go of the pernicious small thoughts that maintain the illusion that your voice shouldn’t be heard.
  • Escaping the perfection trap in embracing your role as a performer.
  • Never again being trapped by your history or anyone else’s.
  • Embracing your audience with love.
MANY OF THE WORLD’S GREATEST LEADERS, along with effective people from all walks of life, know how to play different yet still authentic roles that help them fit in with many diverse groups of people in scenarios of all kinds.
People who are able to adopt different styles of behavior to suit the dynamics of a given situation are comfortable adjusting their style to different situations without feeling fake or pretending to be something they’re not. It’s like being a chameleon, which is different than playing roles where you pretend to be something you’re not or know something you don’t.
When you take on a new role, there may be loved ones, friends, or colleagues who aren’t comfortable with your new role and prefer you in your old role.
Be honest with yourself as you go through the process. Continually ask if you are trying to achieve your real goals or just trying to get people to approve of you.
The twin roots of the fear of public speaking: uncertainty and the fear of being criticized.
We often let criticism from people we don’t know well or don’t know at all affect us too much. Criticism in the realm of public speaking or any other creative endeavor taps into our more personal feelings because performing is an experience where we are undressed psychologically in public. It’s a place where you’re making yourself vulnerable in ways you haven’t before.
Performing, whether onstage, in the field, in the office, or in a civic group where you seek a leadership position, places you under expanded scrutiny. You’re stepping up and you’re asking for the exposure that will result in people talking about you—sometimes negatively. The fact that your ambition to become a performer adds to your anxiety and fear and as a result increases your resistance to achieving your goal all adds to the performer’s paradox.
As you become a performer, you will need to deal with these conflicting intentions. Your superobjective of becoming a community leader, advocate for a cause, or senior executive in a public company will battle with that familiar inner voice telling you to avoid situations where you could be criticized, laughed at, or rejected. I coach and advise many aspiring speakers, CEOs, authors, and others, and they find it helpful to realize that they ultimately have to choose between results and approval. In the end, the ones who choose results are more successful and more satisfied by their work.
for you to be open to new possibilities.
If you are overly concerned with the approval of strangers rather than trusting yourself and the opinions of your loved ones who really know you, you are giving strangers too much power over your life and you need to stop.


Step 1: Stop Being Critical
Performance, or any creative endeavor, including but not limited to writing, product development, design, or project management, ultimately succeeds through an evolving process of rehearsing, iterating, and getting better through both inevitable mistakes and moments of good and bad luck. It’s easy to pick out a mistake in an otherwise solid performance. Each time you pick away at someone else’s work without realizing it, you are increasing the likelihood that you will do the same to yours.
Step 2: Give a Presentation That Doesn’t Have Any Holes to Poke
Almosteveryone filling a seat, sitting in a conference room or across the table from you, is there to get something from your performance. Note that I said almost. Within that audience are three camps. Some people already support you or agree with you because you share a similar view of the world. They will continue to buy in more and more as you present. Some people absolutely will never take your perspective or have personal reasons for not liking what you have to say. You don’t have much of a chance with this group. Finally, you will have folks in the middle who are open to your ideas but aren’t on your side of the table yet. They may want to accept and adopt your speech’s message and objective but need help or a little push to get there.
In preparing for the event, try not to focus solely on either your fans or the die-hard detractors. If you focus on the fans, you’ll be heard as pandering, and if you focus only on the naysayers, you’ll likely water down your message and alienate your fans as well as the large swath of folks between the two camps. Instead, focus on targeting those in the middle, whom the political scientists call the persuadables. They are the ones who are willing to think differently, change their minds, and potentially adopt your worldview.
Even though the persuadables are open to your ideas, you may be provoking them by asking them to change their worldview. It can be easier for an audience member, even a persuadable one, to poke holes in your work in order to escape from grappling with your ideas or opinions. That’s the threshold you’ll have to pass. Even the most wonderfully gracious people in your audience may try to resist your ideas or requests in order to protect their perspectives. Often, it’s easier to find fault than to change a long-held belief. So it is incumbent on you to design your presentation in such a way that there aren’t any holes to poke in it.
I always leave room for their perspective. For example, if I use absolutes in my language, if I say marketing “never” gets you clients, then I’ve created holes that are easy to poke. Or, if I use other absolutes like everybody, everything, always, or no one, it’s pretty easy for someone to poke a hole in my position.
I always attempt to leave room for alternative ideas or experiences, by qualifying my statements with, “it seems like . . .” or “it is often the case . . .” or “it appears to me . . .”
you have every right in the world to say “Thanks, but no thanks” when it’s offered. Too often we let other people inside our heads to be polite or out of some self-imposed sense of responsibility to hear people out. I don’t think you have to. Of course, I don’t suggest closing yourself off from feedback; just make sure you allow in only the thoughts of conscientious and caring people.
Benjamin Zander said in his TED talk, “The Transformative Power of Classical Music,” “I’m not going to go on until every single person in this room, downstairs and in Aspen, and everybody else looking, will come to love and understand classical music. So that’s what we’re going to do.”
From speech-making to networking, motivation is a powerful and liberating tool available to guide you in the decisions you make. This might sound easy, but in practice many of us lose sight of our motivation to achieve a particular goal because of fear, distraction, or disillusion. During my acting training, I was taught to ask myself during early-stage character development and rehearsals: what are my goals and what is my motivation to accomplish those goals? And so should you, no matter what you do.
In the same way the actor needs to think through the writer’s motivation for creating the characters, you need to know the goals your boss or event sponsor or negotiating partner has for the job at hand. If you are doing something on your own, know what you’re trying to achieve and why. The actor will plan and study how her character will take action and respond minute by minute through the play. She will think about how the character responds to success, adversity, or bad news. In your process, you want to think about how your choices move you toward your objective—or not. You want to think about how you respond to specific criticisms, how you overcome specific objections you expect to encounter, and how you will respond to any anxiety-provoking challenges.


Discovering motivation starts with asking the necessary questions. Many acting coaches teach a variation of legendary Russian actor and director Constantin Stanislavski’s questions for character development. I’ve adapted them to serve your needs so you can use them to prepare for any pitch meeting, job interview, speech, or even first date:
  • What do I want? If you’re giving a speech, and you don’t have a strong objective, what’s the point of being there? You’re not there just to have a pleasant conversation. What is so important to accomplish that you must take the stage, so to speak, in order to accomplish it?
  • Why do I want it? You must always have a strong reason for pursuing your objective. And when I say strong, I mean it is something you must accomplish at all costs, a save-the-world kind of motivation.
  • What will happen if I don’t get it now? The stakes should always be high. Otherwise, so what? The consequences of failing to achieve your objective need to be too terrible to do anything but achieve your objective. Ambivalence is never interesting, cool, or compelling.
  • What happens if I do get it now? For you, the rewards must be so compelling that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to achieve your objective. For the audience, the rewards must be so compelling that they’re willing to change the way they see the world, to say yes to you, to think what you want them to think or do what you want them to do.
  • What can I do to get what I want? This question leads you into the crucial distinction between knowing how to play the line and how to say the line. We’ll explore this further later in the book, but keep in mind the infinite ways there are to say and present the same words depending on your goals and circumstances. You need to work out how you are trying to affect the other person with what you are saying. And so it is with speech-making, deal-making, and dating.
  • What must I overcome? You must have an inner and outer obstacle. The outer obstacle gives the resistance (usually another person, company, industry, or social pressure) to attaining your goal. The inner obstacle is your own mental conflict. In speech-making, the resistance in the audience creates conflict; we can’t impose our perspective in a speech. Asking people to change the way they see the world can feel confrontational to them. It’s a lot to ask in a short period of time. You need to overcome that resistance to reach your objective. The same is true in sales. The buyer often pushes back, offering great resistance. His objections are the obstacles you need to overcome. The same is often true during a job interview. The interviewer may have objections to hiring you that you need to overcome.
Another benefit of knowing why you do it: you simplify your actions and make fewer wrong turns. You can map out how your performance carries out your motivation to achieve your objective. Having specific objectives and clear motivation means you know what you should not do, so you don’t waste mental or physical energy.
Listening is a powerful component of live performance.
Not just to understand but to feel what’s being said. Listening is one of the most underappreciated tools in the performers’ toolbox. Great actors don’t manufacture emotion. They get angry, sad, or joyful in response to what they hear.

There are four ways the most connected people actively listen:

  • Thorough preparation. Rehearsing gives you the confidence to respond to the events and reactions of the moment, knowing you can come back to where you want to go with your planned content.
  • By being present. Presence is about using the power of silence and pauses to stay rooted in the moment as it occurs. Train yourself, when listening, to clear your mind of anything other than what is being said to you. Don’t plan your response. Don’t judge what you’re hearing. Don’t just listen to the words. Listen for the emotional undercurrent, listen to the confusion in the thought process, and to the pacing and tone and inflection, and you’ll actually hear what’s being said.
  • By paying attention with all their senses. Listening isn’t just something you do with your ears. When I am giving a speech, in addition to observing myself, I’m listening to the audience with my ears, eyes, and body. When I see people taking notes, I know they’re resonating with a point I made and I know that I need to pause so they don’t miss what I’ll say next. If I sense a touch of fatigue or feel they’re getting restless, I’ll get them up on their feet and have them play a game. If there’s a glaring technical glitch, I’ll openly address it. If it’s hot in the room, I’ll try to fix it. Showing empathy for the audience means I’m paying attention to how they are listening and what they are feeling. It’s the difference between awareness and a lack thereof. If you’re not aware that your mic is too loud or if there’s no mic and you’re speaking too softly, you’ll lose the room pretty quickly.
  • By viewing themselves in the third person, using aesthetic awareness. It’s the ability to keenly observe yourself while you’re in the moment. A performer’s sixth sense of how they are being perceived and how their audience is responding
What’s the Big Idea? big idea shows to the audience the world as it is, and it shows them how much better the world could be if your idea became a reality—that’s the promise of your speech. It also demonstrates how much worse their world will be if they don’t adopt this new way of thinking or being.
It’s an idea, but an actionable one.

The following questions will help you develop and evaluate a big idea in any particular situation:

  • What matters most to you?
  • What are you passionate about?
  • Could this change some aspect of the world for the better?
  • What is your personal connection to the subject matter?
  • What does the world of the audience look like in terms of this idea?
  • What are their limitations, concerns, hopes, and dreams?
  • What are the costs of not changing?
  • Finally, what is the promise?
  • What will the audience get out of listening to you? What will the world look like if the audience adopts your big idea?

Seven steps for creative and effective content development and writing

  1. “Brain dump” everything you know on the content topic. The goal is to tap your creative and associative powers without activating the judgment and censorship of the linear brain. Start out with a session of freeform writing or speaking, just to get it all out. I usually do this verbally and have someone take notes for me, but you can also opt to make an audio recording.
  2. Organize the brain dump by compartmentalizing related ideas. Look for the main points and supportive material and separate them. You may enjoy using the sticky note technique I mentioned above, or a mind map approach that you can deploy online or on a whiteboard. You’ll get the hang of basic mind mapping very quickly. Or you may thrive by talking through and notating the brain dump with a trusted colleague over lunch or over a beer after work.
  3. Note your direct experiences that relate to your main topic. How can you shape your experiences to support the change you will be asking your audience to make? If you are speaking on health, what health issues have you overcome? If you are trying to get a school board to change a policy, what experiences did your child have with the current policy?
  4. Gather the direct data, either anecdotal or scientific, that support your topic. Do preliminary searches for the kinds of data you think are relevant and that you believe will be credible. Please observe a simple and smart rule of research: tap the most respected and credible sources that are heavily used by journalists and academics first, and ignore a lot of the less authoritative research you’ll find on Google searches.
  5. Identify any holes or vulnerabilities of logic or persuasiveness in your content. What arguments could your audience present in response? How can you skillfully address those arguments? Identify the various objections that people might make to your theories, experience, or personality.
  6. Let the editing process begin. Good content creation tends to be messy for a while, just like rehearsal. Don’t get discouraged if you need more than a few drafts. You will. That’s how writing works. Writing is rewriting. I suggest one of the following approaches to editing: Go through your notes and choose the pieces, stories, and data that best serve the through-line (the connecting theme or plot in a movie, play, book, or speech) and the journey. Or choose what not to include, removing anything and everything that doesn’t serve the through-line or advance the big idea and what you want your audience to think, feel, or do. This then becomes a recurring process: brain dump, organize, edit. However, remember this is also a creative experience: it’s about what you like in a work process, and if you find a different system works better for you, great. Use this as a good starting place.
  7. Cut, cut, cut! As you get to the later stages of the editing process, it’s time to “murder your darlings.” (Incidentally, despite years of misattribution, that phrase was first coined by Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch in his 1916 book On the Art of Writing.) Why is it so often offered as advice to writers? Because many of us tend to add more details and examples for important points to be sure the audience “gets it” or because we want them to think we’re smart and know what we’re talking about. Be careful of extraneous detail that disrupts the flow (such as the bit of historical context I offered above). Cut to the meat: choose the strongest detail or example or data point at critical parts of your story. Your audience often needs a lot less information to get to the “Aha!” moment than you might think.

Build In Contrast

  1. Structural Contrast: how you organize the material and use types of content. It’s about how you use stories, data, connecting narrative, and recommendations.
  2. Emotional Contrast: how an audience experiences your performance emotionally. It’s about how to strike different emotional notes—serious, moving, hopeful, sad, sardonic.
  3. Delivery Contrast: how you deliver the content physically, orally, and visually. It’s about how you vary your vocal pitch, tone, timing, and pacing and change up your visual elements and the speed of your movement on the stage and surrounding areas, whether platform, conference room, or classroom.

Prospect for story ideas in sources such as:

  • People—first friends, teachers you admired, your college roommate, your first girlfriend;
  • Places—childhood summer camp or local hideout, a favorite family vacation spot, a relative’s house you enjoyed visiting, first apartment you lived in when you were married;
  • Things—your favorite baseball glove, your diary from your teen years, a fishing rod, a sweater your grandmother knitted for you, the ill-fitting suit your dad gave you that you wore at your first job;
  • Times/ events—a car accident, the first day of middle school, your daughter’s confirmation, the day you dropped your first child off at college, an illness.

Refine the story :

  1. Choose stories that demonstrate the philosophical or practical application of your promise. You’ll find events when you can stretch to fit in a story you really like, but if you’re speaking regularly to the same audience, they’ll be turned off when they realize you’re using your standard story over and over. However, if you’re speaking to new audiences, why fix something that isn’t broken?
  2. Communicate a passion and urgency for the story and a need to deliver it. You may have heard one person tell a story to little effect, while another can make the same story work because he loves it and invests it with lots of energy and contrast.
  3. Raise the stakes as you’re refining your story using the three-act structure. Is your setup vivid and simple? Is your conflict told with enough detail and timing? Is your resolution as short as possible?
  4. Sculpt the story to serve the through-line. Consider how to shape the story to support the changes you are asking the audience to make or the point you’re trying to get across. If possible, I advise using stories from your own life—then it’s fair to embellish and dramatize a few details to make your point. But stories about others can be just as effective.
  5. Use the three-act structure in writing and telling stories. Act one: identify the given circumstances, the setting, time, people, and place. Act two: amplify the conflict, a challenge, struggle, different values, and different goals. Act three: reveal the resolution, a change, progress, or transformation.
 If you go through the rehearsal process effectively, you deepen the grooves in your mind around the words you’re memorizing, the movements you’re blocking, and the emotional connection you’re making to your material so you can confidently deliver your presentation with less self-consciousness. By creating these new neural pathways and connections, you’re helping your brain so it doesn’t have to work as hard to do all the things you want it to do when you perform. You’re creating new muscle memories you can access effortlessly with unconscious competence. The rehearsal process builds one very thin layer of experience at a time, strengthening those pathways every time you work through your material.

The seven steps rehearsal process:

  1. Table reads
  2. Content mapping
  3. Blocking (I’ll also address props, costumes, and use of multimedia)
  4. Improvisation and rewriting
  5. Invited rehearsal (maybe even with a coach or peer with actual training)
  6. Open rehearsal (with people in your target audience)
  7. Dress/ tech rehearsal


If you’re happy you’re here, show them you are. If you only have a little time, don’t waste it on filler.


End cleanly—if anything feels like it was left unsaid, it needs to be said, but before the applause. Anything after the applause is lost as the audience has already moved on.
My recommendation is not to take questions at the end. It’s better if the Q& A is a separate segment, if possible.


The first rule of improvisation is AGREE. Always agree and SAY YES. When you’re improvising, this means you are required to agree with whatever your partner has created. So if we’re improvising and I say, “Freeze, I have a gun,” and you say, “That’s not a gun. It’s your finger. You’re pointing your finger at me,” our improvised scene has ground to a halt. But if I say, “Freeze, I have a gun!” and you say, “The gun I gave you for Christmas! You bastard!” then we have started a scene because we have AGREED that my finger is in fact a Christmas gun.
Use improv to stay mindful and tuned in. The more you are inclined to say yes, and . . . , to act as if, and stay in the moment on a daily basis, the more you will notice, the better you will pay attention, and the more mindful you will be of what others in your life are saying and doing. Yes, the improv principles lead you to a kind of mindfulness where you have more presence and live more in the present. Employing these principles actually works when you do it consistently.
If a time comes when you are scheduled to speak and you are distracted by a business problem or a personal worry or a pressing deadline, use the principles as I have done at times—act as if this is the biggest speech of your life.

Pre talk routine:

  • Do have a light meal at least two hours before your performance.
  • Do choose easily digestible foods that settle your stomach. Don’t eat spicy or heavy foods that will distend your stomach or cause discomfort.
  • Do hydrate with water or herbal teas.
  • Don’t have caffeinated beverages at least one hour before your performance: I’ve known lots of folks who thought quaffing a venti from Starbucks or a can of Redbull would provide a timely jolt of energy, only to make themselves overcharged and jittery for the actual performance. Trust me, your adrenaline will already have you on full alert. Furthermore, caffeine tightens the vocal chords and can constrain vocal quality.
  • Avoid all dairy foods except in tiny quantities (like a little milk in your tea) the day of your performance; dairy generates mucous in most people and will affect vocal quality.
If an audience member is talking too loud, making a fuss getting into his seat, or otherwise breaking the mood in the room, don’t explain, ask forgiveness, or apologize. Use silence to quiet someone. Wait until they’ve stopped making noise. Do not compete with them. You can use your hand to indicate that they need to stop. Good speakers require that you listen to them and will not speak if there’s noise in the room.
The key is to show the audience how happy you are. Don’t tell them that you are happy to be there.
Finally, when you have finished your presentation, accept and enjoy the applause. Then, when it’s time to leave, turn and go. Don’t linger or look back.


  • Leave a great final impression. After your strong finish, if you have the opportunity, walk among and talk to as many audience members as possible. Answer questions and let people share their ideas about your subject matter. You had your time onstage, now give others the floor, especially if they disagree with you. Just airing their thoughts will make them feel good about their ideas and better about your speech, even if they didn’t agree with everything you said. Don’t get into any debates, just listen.
  • Make sure to thank everyone involved, especially the tech team. Don’t just throw your mic on the podium or leave it somewhere on the platform.
  • If you used a laptop, remember to take it with you. I’ve left a few behind in my day.
  • Giving a speech can be emotionally draining. Eat something nourishing after your performance and get some rest, but make sure you don’t just retire to your hotel room right away, especially if you aren’t feeling great about the performance. Isolation can make you feel worse. As I’ve already said, in most cases it’s better for you to touch base with a colleague, friend, or mentor. Holing up in your room often starts the negative analytical process of picking apart your performance.

Final checklist to ensure that you’re ready to steal the show:

  1. You DON’T have to tell them what you’re going to tell them. You’ve heard the old adage “Tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; then tell them what you told them.” It makes perfect sense and is perfectly appropriate in some situations and can even be helpful. However, not all speeches need to open with a “here’s what we’re going to do today.” In fact, sometimes taking the audience on a journey that they don’t expect can be exciting. If the speech is good, you don’t need to tell them what you’re going to do. When you go to see a movie it rarely starts with the cast telling you what’s going to happen for the next ninety minutes and that everyone dies in the end. And I am sure you’ve seen a movie trailer that has ruined the movie for you.
  2. Cut, cut, cut! I often see (and you often see) extraneous detail added into stories and speeches that disrupts the flow. Cut to the meat. Cut to the chase. Include specifics at critical parts of the story. You don’t need to pad out your speech to make an impact. Instead, you need to focus—with intention—on what’s important. Your audience needs a lot less information to get to the “Aha!” moment than you might think.
  3. An entire story is designed to serve the end. Whatever precedes the punch line must serve the payoff. Do I need to know what color socks you’re wearing? Or how long it took you to get here today?
  4. The speech starts with your bio, before you walk onstage. That means that your introduction (known as your bio in the trade) should be powerful and impressive. Don’t worry about sounding too proud of yourself: you can immediately disarm the audience with something sincere and self-effacing in the opening of your speech.
  5. Establish right away that you know what the world looks like for them—and what it could look like. Vividly paint the picture. All world-saving performances are transformational experiences for the audience. Start out by showing “Here’s what you’ve got today,” and “Here’s how it could be.” This builds immediate rapport and hooks the audience’s interest. You know them. You understand them. You’ve got their backs . . . and you’ve got a better way.
  6. Reward your audience for participating or contributing in some way. Now, you don’t need to throw treats into the mouths of audience members to get their attention. But they are sentient and intelligent living beings who need simple acknowledgment if you want them to interact and contribute. Imagine being asked to participate in something—whether it’s holding a door open for a friend or running a major project—and not even getting a nod of thanks in return.
  7. Use open hands with your palms up instead of your finger for pointing. Sometimes the pointed finger looks like a gun. It’s also a rude gesture in some cultures. Instead, extend your hand with the palm up as if offering up alms. It’s more gracious, more inclusive, and more giving.
  8. People say yes when we’ve affected them intellectually, emotionally, or physically. Can you include those three elements in your presentation? Can you give them intellectual gristle to chew on? Can you make them gasp or cry or laugh with an emotional connection? Can you get them physically engaged (you can tell by the way they’re sitting) with your ideas and message? If not, it’s probably because you’re reading this cheat sheet before you’ve read the book.
  9. Outline your content and then unpack it. If you’re teaching content (which is distinct from a message-type speech), outline your material first, then go back and unpack it. This isn’t the same as “tell them what you’re going to tell them.” It’s a learning plan for what’s coming next. It serves as both a high-level overview before you get granular and a teaser for the exciting content still to come.
  10. Use props. What can you show or demonstrate or depict with objects rather than words? Can you stimulate your audience visually as well as auditorily? Props aid recall: If you want to be remembered, you can be visually arresting (without dying your hair) by using props to drive your points home. Most speakers don’t do this. That’s just one of the reasons why you should.
  11. Use contrast and extremes to create excitement and keep attention. Contrast can be emotional, physical, and structural. This basic story-arc technique is integral to every great play, every great film, and every great piece of music. Consider your performance like a roller-coaster ride. Can you take me to the edge of a cliff before artfully lowering me, with love and care, to a safe place? Can you make the highs higher and the lows lower?
  12. Keep moving forward. Never let your energy drop. You’re on stage to take your audience to their final destination. Keep your foot on the gas pedal. You’ll have uphill moments when your speed slows but the power and intensity increase. You can be both calm and energetic simultaneously.
  13. Audiences like to think that events on the stage are happening spontaneously. They like to be surprised. The great actor does this brilliantly. You, as a speaker, need to do this as well. The best way to be effortlessly spontaneous is to rehearse to the point of mastery. How often do you have to stop and think about “spontaneously” adjusting your shoelaces? Never. When you know your material, you can deliver it like it’s the first time every time you perform it.
  14. Stand and land. Let your punch lines, point lines, and purpose lines land. That means you don’t move while you’re delivering them. You remain physically rooted to the spot so that your body reinforces the gravity of your words.
  15. You can move and talk at the same time. People do it all the time in real life. The idea that you can’t walk and talk at the same time is ridiculous. But don’t sway, and don’t move when you’re landing your most important points (see number 14 above, Stand and land).
  16. Don’t say, “I’m glad to be here.” Show them that you’re glad to be there instead. Your audience should see it in your actions and hear it in your words. Besides, what’s the alternative? That you’re not glad to be there?
  17. Don’t tell them you’re going to tell a story. Just tell the story.
  18. Be conscientious about connecting the dots or you’ll lose your audience. If you’re presenting a series of interconnected concepts or stories or characters, make it as simple as possible to understand. Remember: even though you know your story inside out, your audience is hearing it for the first time.
  19. Give them time. If you like to encourage note-taking during your performance, make sure you give people enough time to write down what you want them to write down. Spell things out if necessary. You’ll lose your audience very quickly if they’ve got their heads stuck in their notebooks or laptops.
  20. Never apologize for the amount of time you don’t have. The minute you apologize for what they’re not getting, your audience will start to feel that they’re missing out on something. They should feel that the amount of time you have is the perfect amount of time. You can blow their minds in just a few minutes. Look at all those great TED talks for inspiration.
  21. Let them go early. Audiences always like to be let out a few minutes early—even if they love your performance. There are no prizes for endurance in performance. Let them leave a few minutes ahead of schedule; they’ll thank you for it.
  22. Enlist the self-proclaimed experts in the room. There’s often somebody in the audience who knows more than you—or thinks they do. Get them on your side. Talk them up. Kill them with lavish praise. It’ll help knock the chips off their shoulders and get them to support you and your message.
  23. Embellishment is positively OK. You’ll paint a more vivid picture with brighter colors. It’s a performance, a show. Be honest, but embellish for the sake of your performance. You can combine multiple stories into one story if it produces a better result. Go for what is most dramatic and effective to get your message across.
  24. Remember that they don’t know what you know. It’s the first time they’ve heard your info. Don’t assume prior knowledge. It can only help your message if you’re comprehensive and to the point.
  25. Don’t use acronyms. Or, if you do, explain them the first time around. Take the time to make them clear.
  26. Show them what the world will look like if they don’t change. Make it clear that if they don’t follow your advice, or come with you on your journey, their world will probably remain the same as—if not get considerably worse than—it is today.
  27. Study standup comedy. Watch standup comedians for their approach. Watch their setup, delivery, and payoff. See how they own the stage. Standup comedians can even turn a water bottle into a tool for creating magic moments.
  28. Be careful using idioms. Across cultures—even cultures that share a language—there are big idiomatic differences that can turn your message opaque for an audience that doesn’t “get it.” If you’re an American talking to a British audience about bangs, bleachers, boondoggles, or fanny-packs, you’ve likely lost them already.
  29. Don’t make jokes about difficult topics. Stay away from jokes that are awkward, insensitive, or otherwise confrontational. If you want to make yourself the butt of your jokes, that kind of self-deprecating humor can work very well. This doesn’t mean you can’t lighten up the mood when talking about difficult subjects, but that’s different than poking fun or making jokes at other people’s expense.
  30. If you tell them you care about something, you also need to tell them why. It’s not good enough to say, “I’m a strong proponent of women’s rights.” You’ve got to hook them in with your reasons. Your why is what makes your beliefs more powerful and your case stronger.
  31. Boom, boom, BANG. The rule of three is one of the most important performance techniques you can use to grab attention and make people laugh. It’s powerful, it’s potent, and it packs a punch. (See what I did there?)
  32. Understand stage blocking. You need to remain physically open so everyone in the room can see you at all times. That means you don’t hide or turn to face anybody other than your audience . . . unless for dramatic effect.
  33. Deliver big moments center stage (usually). Centering yourself physically on the stage is the same as bolding and centering a headline in a newspaper. It says: “This is important—pay attention!” When you designate center stage as the pivotal place for your performance, you can more effectively use the rest of the stage to support your main message. There are always exceptions to this concept, so be sure your blocking works before the big day.
  34. That said, don’t head straight for center stage. When getting onstage for the first time, avoid making a beeline directly to the center before starting your speech. It looks stiff and clunky.
  35. Learn how to rehearse. Rehearsal is the absolute key to performance. It’s not just repetition, but training. If you have to stop a rehearsal, start back up at the exact same emotional, physical, and energetic state. Otherwise, you’ll lose the through-line and arc of the speech.
  36. When you land a joke, bask in it. If public speaking is notoriously difficult, making people laugh when you’re performing is devilishly tough. So, when you nail a joke, be sure to bask in the moment.
  37. Voice and speech training are not something you master in an hour. It takes some time. I studied voice and speech daily for three years at NYU’s Graduate Acting Program, and I’m still learning. Voice and speech training can make you sound more substantial so people will pay attention to you. It can also help you manage your nerves.
  38. Don’t push. Pushing is a theater term for overacting. When you push, you can’t show emotion. When you push, the work feels false and self-absorbed. It’s insincere. Insincerity is the enemy of truth. Truth is integral to performance.
  39. Just because you’re feeling it, they might not be. Major emotion for you as the speaker doesn’t always translate to major emotion for your audience. It’s only in rehearsal and practice that you find out what works and what doesn’t. You might be moved to tears while your audience is bored to tears. Big difference.
  40. Get everything in before the audience claps. Then, get off the stage quickly. Don’t let them see you doing housekeeping or making routine announcements. It breaks the theatrical experience. You’re the performer. They’re not interested in watching you collect questionnaires from the audience.
  41. You can also stay onstage at the end if you invite them to join you there. That way you’re hosting the party. You don’t want them grabbing you in the restroom: nothing dissipates magic like a damp handshake in the gent’s.
  42. Anyone can make a sexy sizzle reel. (If you’re on the professional speaker track.) Meeting planners want to know you can hold the stage for an extended period of time. Make sure you can show them video of five to fifteen minutes of continuous performance where you deliver a strong message and truly engage the audience. No speaker gets hired just because he has a good video editor.
  43. Get right to it! Most speakers waste time on too much exposition and preparation and the audience starts thinking, Let’s go already! Instead, hit the accelerator hard and launch straight on. Let them know what they’re in for by what they experience from you in the first thirty seconds.
  44. Stop using the storyteller voice. It’s false. Tell a story to ten thousand people the same way you’d tell the story to your best friend. Don’t use some dramatic made-up voice. Study your favorite speakers. They make you feel like it’s just you and them in the room.
  45. Reduce. You have no time for self-indulgence. You must be clinical and surgical with your material and your message. Don’t use overly obfuscating verbiage when you can say things simply. We get attached to bits that really don’t further the story or resonate with the audience, perhaps because they’re funny or easy for us or have a special meaning to us. But it’s not about us. It’s never about us. It’s about them.
  46. You don’t have to slow down. Most speech teachers tell you to slow down. Sometimes that makes sense. But if you’re worried about speaking too quickly, you’re focused on the wrong thing. Instead of slowing down, focus on pausing. Speakers who speak too slowly have a soporific effect. I speak quickly. But I pause at the right places. That creates rhythm. I slow down when it serves the speech to slow down. Audiences can easily absorb the important points if you give them pause time.
  47. If you have to explain a joke, it’s just not funny. No joke gets funnier with explanation. Choose a better joke or let it go altogether.
  48. Never turn your back to the audience unless it’s intentional to make a point or convey an emotion. When you need to move upstage (that’s toward the back of the stage, away from the audience), walk backwards if possible. Try not to turn your back.
  49. Never yell at your audience. If you need to get everybody’s attention after a coffee break, for instance, simply raise your hand and stand silently. People will get it and follow.