“An indispensable guide for introverts and extroverts alike.” — Inc. MagazineA Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Publishers Weekly Bestseller Every interaction is a performance, and much of our success—professional and personal—hinges on being able to inspire an audience. And while some people seem to be naturals in the spotlight, this ability very rarely derives from talent alone. Confident communication is a skill, and anyone can learn how to do it. In Steal the Show, New York Times best-selling author, top-rated corporate speaker, and former professional actor Michael Port teaches you how to make the most of your own moments in the spotlight. He makes it easy to give your presentations a clear focus, engage your listeners, manage your nerves, play the right role in every situation to give your message maximum impact, and much more. Drawing on his MFA training at the prestigious Graduate Acting Program at New York University, Port has engineered a system that the non-actor can use to ensure his or her voice is heard when it matters most. “The most unique and practical book written on the topic of public speaking and performance in everyday life. You’ll learn how to express yourself authentically, be more creative, and increase your confidence in all aspects of life.” —Howard Behar, former president, Starbucks Coffee “Michael cuts to the core of what you actually need to get ridiculously good at speaking and performing, and the results are even more dramatic than I’d envisioned. Steal the Show is the only book you’ll ever need when it comes to performance and public speaking.” —Jordan Harbinger, host of The Art of Charm MICHAEL PORT, the author of six books, including Book Yourself Solid, has been featured on all the major TV networks and is one of the most in-demand speakers working today. He runs a company of experts advising businesses on marketing, business development, and public speaking. Learn more at www.MichaelPort.com.
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About the Author
MICHAEL PORT is the best-selling author of six books, including Book Yourself Solid, and is one of the highest-rated speakers working today. His company advises businesses on marketing, business development, and public speaking.
Read an Excerpt
The Performer’s Mindset
We’re going to start with the performer’s mindset. This way, you’ll be prepared, psychologically and emotionally, to perform in ways that stir the heart and inspire action. In order to do this, your desire to perform needs to be stronger than your fear of criticism or failure, your voice must be powerful and in tune with your values and beliefs, and you’ll need to know how to play the right role in every situation. Once you’ve read through this first part of the book and adopted the performer’s mindset, you’ll see performance from a different, more empowering perspective and you’ll be on your way to stealing the show during the most important high-stakes situations of your life.
Find Your Voice
The most common missing element in the thousands of presentations and performances I’ve witnessed is the speaker’s true voice. But finding your voice can be a difficult for many people in business and life, even for those building careers as top executives, thought leaders, or performers.
Here’s an illustration of why finding and trusting your voice matters even to advanced speakers. A client of mine appeared on a major broadcast network, and her program excelled in numerous ways. However, during the first segment, I noticed that she was apologizing for telling parts of her life story, along the lines of “I’m sorry for sharing about myself again,” or, “I apologize for sharing this .?.?.” I chatted with her during the break and told her she was doing great. She asked if I had any notes for her. So I offered: “How would you feel about doing away with all of your apologies for sharing? You’re on the stage to share. That’s why you’re there.” Apologizing for sharing is a way of saying you’re sorry for your own voice.
Research has shown that women tend to apologize more than men. Two studies by the University of Waterloo in Ontario and published in the journal Psychological Science in 2010 found that, while men are just as willing as women to apologize, they have a higher threshold for what they feel they needed to apologize for.
My client agreed to try dropping the unneeded apologies and we talked about how anyone, including the two of us, can get caught in the perfection trap, wondering if we’re worthy of the moment. In public speaking or, say, during the interview process for a new job, it’s easy to get distracted and start questioning yourself: What can I say that hasn’t already been said? What can I do that hasn’t already been done? Why should I be here rather than someone else? Finding your true voice can help you realize that none of those questions is as important as how you say what you say to put into perspective the personal journey that raised those doubts along the way.
So what is finding your true voice?
For starters, it’s about letting go of your inner critic, the voices in your head telling you you’re not good enough, don’t know enough, and don’t have enough. It’s about saying Goodbye, thanks for sharing, to those inner voices carping that you might not be ready, qualified, or worthy of the next opportunity.
Letting go of thinking you don’t have enough to offer is an incredibly rewarding aspect of what I am sharing in this book. It allows you to embrace your gifts so you have the confidence and natural conviction that you can get results from your performances and speeches. 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. How many mothers sing the same lullabies to their children? A baby doesn’t care half as much about the song as she does about the sound of her mother’s voice.
Perhaps you are blessed with sturdy self-esteem, feel like you were born to stand in the spotlight, and don’t second-guess your performances. If so, feel free to keep your Superman costume. I suppose it comes easy for a lucky few. (Of course, it might just be bravado; the way you tell the difference is by assessing whether or not you continually raise the stakes and allow yourself to be comfortable with discomfort.)
Finding your voice is important for your results. If you want to play different roles authentically and amplify or downplay different parts of your personality to do so, it’s important to be comfortable with who you really are and what you stand for so you never lose sight of your values.
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. However, by learning how to be yourself when you perform, while also embracing the fact that you can be a chameleon who plays lots of different roles with different styles of behavior, you will become a powerful performer and speaker.
It might seem like a contradiction—be yourself but also be a chameleon. F. Scott Fitzgerald saw “the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function” as the sign of a well-developed intelligence. I suspect you have that ability. So, please, for the time being, just hold this idea in your head: that you can play different roles and still be authentic. The payoff will be the discovery of the abilities, strengths, and enthusiasm that you possess as a performer.
Some of us will, at times, add on layers of personae to gain others’ approval while hiding parts of ourselves that we think are embarrassing. Authenticity really comes down to this question: do you have the courage to talk about who you really are, not just who you want others to think you are?
This is different than sharing inappropriate information or
unnecessary historical details. It’s important to listen actively, to be curious about others, and to have a sense of proportion about how much you talk about yourself. We don’t need to know the details of Sam’s late-night rendezvous or how Susie feels like she isn’t worthy of the promotion she received. The former is inappropriate and something that Sam should keep private. The latter is self-destructive and should be discussed only with trusted mentors and advisors in order to overcome it; Susie could lose credibility with her subordinates if she discusses it with them.
At the same time, many extraordinarily successful people learn how to “own” the key elements of their backstory and make them part of their public personality and statements. In the right circumstances, when you’re open about your weaknesses, differences, or difficulties, people find you more approachable and they will connect at a deeper level with your message. We’ve seen in our own social history how accountability to personal truths propels a talented person to new levels. Robin Roberts’s career at ABC gained new clarity and credibility when she opened up about being gay. Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s success as the author of the bestselling book Lean In and the movement it spurred was due to her ability to communicate her own conflicts around children, intimacy, and marriage to women from vastly different backgrounds. She was willing to share that she doesn’t have it all figured out. It was Howard Shultz’s openness about the destructiveness of his own overreaching ambition that kicked off the Starbucks reboot that took place in 2008.
Table of Contents
Author's Note: All the World's a Stage xi
Prologue: Make the Most of the Spotlight Moments in Your Life xvi
Part 1 The Performer's Mindset
1 Find Your Voice 3
2 Play the Right Role in Every Situation 13
3 Crush Your Fears and Silence the Critics 25
Part 2 Powerful Performance Principles
4 Have a Clear Objective 41
5 Act "As if …" 49
6 Raise the Stakes 56
7 Say "Yes, and …" 62
8 Be in the Moment 70
9 Choose Early and Often 77
Part 3 A Master Class in Public Speaking
10 How to Craft Captivating Pitches, Speeches, and Stories 85
11 How to Create and Tell Stories That Make 'Em Laugh or Cry 106
12 How to Rehearse and Stage World-Class Performances 118
13 How to Produce Powerful Openings, Commanding Closings, and Amazing Audience Interaction 154
14 How to Improvise Your Way into the Hearts and Minds of the Toughest Crowds 169
15 How to Get a Standing Ovation Every Time-Really 183
Epilogue: All's Well That Ends Well 208
The Cheat Sheet: The 50 Public Speaking Tips You Can't Afford to Ignore if You Want to Wow Your Audience and Win Praise and Plaudits Every Time 213