Summer Reading Series: Steal the Show

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Have you ever admired the confidence and poise of a stage performer, wishing you could “perform” like that for your next major speaking engagement? In his book, Steal the Show, Michael Port teaches us how to do just that.

To be candid, I have often pushed back when colleagues and clients compared delivering a presentation to a stage performance. I saw that as projecting a false façade; showing people something other than who you truly are.

Yet Port’s book did not advocate being false. Quite the contrary! It was grounded in authenticity. Port’s advice centers around putting your best self forward so you can remain confident and adaptable in the moment.

What presenters can learn from performers

Port had me convinced from chapter one about the value of adopting the performer’s mindset for public speaking.

The book opens with “Find Your Voice,” a discussion about second-guessing ourselves and doubting the value of what we have to say. Steal the Show tells you how to crush your fears and silence your inner critic — offering actionable tips for expressing yourself in a way that delivers big results for you and your career. Here are 3 examples of Port’s techniques for bringing your authentic self forward, that resonated with me the most.

  1. The value of rehearsal

Who would think of doing a live stage performance without rehearsing? Stepping up to speak requires the same kind of extensive preparation.

Port has developed a 7-step process for rehearsing that will take both first-time speakers and seasoned professionals to the next level. He provides insights about wardrobe, memorization, and an unbeatable strategy for using visuals (similar to Professionally Speaking’s Glance and Grab).

Here are some highlights of Port’s rehearsal process:

  • The “table read:” reading your presentation out loud to yourself several times to tweak your content before practicing in front of others.
  • “Blocking:” choosing specific points on stage to give you a framework for movement that’s authentic rather than awkward. Unlike fully choreographing a performance, blocking for a presentation is about moving with purpose instead of aimless pacing.
  • The dress and technical rehearsal: practicing on the venue stage with equipment. I loved the way Port takes tried-and-true public speaking principles and updates them for modern situations, like making sure you understand the room and how to operate the technology you’ll be using.

Professionally Speaking Tip. Rather than striving for perfection, rehearsals are about being familiar enough with your presentation that you’re confident and ready to connect with your audience.

  1. The skill of improv

We tend to think that excelling at improvisation is a talent some are born with, or not. The truth is, improv is a skill you can develop.

What exactly is “improv” (what I like to call “pivoting”) for public speaking? It’s about being open and ready to seizing the moment, being present to your listeners and making your content relevant to what is happening in the room.

Anyone who presents regularly knows there are guaranteed curve balls. Don’t be that person who sticks with the plan even when the situation calls for a change. Improv is having the confidence and flexibility to pivot and adjust your presentation in the moment, to deal with the unexpected, relate new information, or simply be spontaneous.

Port’s advice? Always say yes to whatever is handed to you, and figure out how to use it to your advantage. “Build on whatever is happening and make it better.”

Professionally Speaking Tip. I’ve always been an advocate of being spontaneous as a speaker. Read more in these related articles: SpeakerByte: Be Spontaneous and Calling an Audible.

  1. How to be a team player

Port talks about speaking as a “team sport,” and I found that analogy to be particularly relevant. As speakers, we sometimes get wrapped up in what we plan to say or do. As a result, we can forget to recognize the many other people involved in this process: other speakers, production staff, crew, and of course the audience.

Connecting with everyone on the team can help you hone your content, improve your delivery skills, ensure everything runs smoothly, and ultimately increase your confidence.

Read these related articles to learn more: Leveraging Your Production Company for Presentation Success and Know Your Presentation Role: Deliver On Expectations.

My final shout out about Port’s book is his “cheat sheet” that summarizes the 50 public speaking tips you can’t afford to ignore. What a useful resource when you want to “steal the show” at your next presentation!

Summer Reading Series

Steal the Show by Michael Port is the second book in the Professionally Speaking 2016 summer reading series. Below are discussion questions we invited participants to consider while reading. Please share your thoughts about the book or concepts discussed in this post.

If you haven’t joined us yet, there is still time. Find the details here and join in on the conversation.

Discussion questions

  1. What prompted you to read Steal the Show? What did you hope to learn? Did the book deliver for you?
  2. What situations in your own life might you envision using (or have used) the lessons spelled out in Steal-the-Show? Have you tried any of his tips?
  3. What is the most striking, insightful, or powerful piece of information you came across in reading Michael Port’s book?
  4. If you had the opportunity to talk with Michael Port, the author of this book, what would you ask him?

Please share your thoughts in the Comments section below. I’m excited to hear your thoughts and insights on this fascinating book!

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Stephanie Scotti says:

    Gail, couldn’t agree with you more. Quite a different “read” when positioned between Presence and Originals. Glad you found it useful. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  • Gail Morgan says:

    The title, Steal the Show, captured my interest immediately. I thought it would provide tips and tricks to improve my presentation skills and it did not disappoint! It was actually a much easier read than anticipated…very useful skills and strategies in a well-organized layout. I have utilized several tips in my presentations. I like to be in the audience to make a more personal connection. Understand stage blocking reminded me that everyone in the room needs to be able to see the speaker at all times. It was also interesting to learn that I should let them know what they are going to experience “in the first thirty seconds” of the presentation. The most challenging strategy for me is to establish what the world could look like for the participants and what the world will look like if they don’t change. Powerful thought and what a contrast! Steal the Show was a great read! Thank you, Stephanie, for including this book. Definitely a must read for anyone interested in expanding their “connection” skills.

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