One of the most important skills you can develop is the ability to present. I don’t necessarily mean standing in front of a packed arena addressing thousands, although that may happen. I am talking about the ability to dynamically and succinctly present your points in such a way so as to influence others. This may be at a shareholders meeting, a company retreat, a training session, or one-on-one with one of your direct reports.
It is a common case where business leaders have come up through finance or legal and have incredible knowledge in their specific specialty, however, their presentation skills have not advanced at the same pace as their business acumen. Their presentations are dry and lack the critical emotional impact to have the desired effect on their audience. This month’s submission, Steal the Show by Michael Port, is a book that addresses this problem head on.
Port has written six books and is in great demand as a public speaker (not a shock). He also runs a company that advises businesses on marketing, business development, and, of course, public speaking. Steal the Show is absolutely packed with insight and knowledge garnered from years of performances and experiences that have made Port the success he is today.
The first of three sections begins with “The Performer’s Mindset” (note that Port refers to you as the performer). Great presenters engage their audiences, be it one person or many, through a carefully crafted performance. You are playing a role. Like any great actor you will need to be in a specific mind space to excel at this effort. Port goes on to explain how to find your authentic voice. You need to believe you have something unique to offer; something that will benefit your audience and make them glad they gave you their valuable time. This section continues through chapters on playing the right role in every situation, crushing your fears, and silencing your critics.
The next section gets into details of “Performance Principles.” One of my favorite chapters is “Act As If…” Port states, “When you are acting as if, you are using your brain’s amazing powers to anticipate and create a different way of seeing the world and/or a different way of behaving.” The “fake it till you make it” concept is a powerful adage that allows you to be more than you are in advance of mastering a particular skill or achieving a specific position. This can dramatically enhance your message delivery.
Chapters 10 through 15 offer “A Masterclass in Public Speaking.” You may not be aware, but most people have a greater fear of public speaking than they do of death! It’s true. I have had the opportunity to conduct seminars on public speaking for several Fortune 500 executives. If public speaking is one of your phobias, I can assure you that you are not alone.
With chapters like “How to Craft Captivating Pitches, Speeches, and Stories” and “How to Improvise Your Way into the Hearts and Minds of the Toughest Crowds” you will find real and applicable processes that you can immediately apply to your own presentations. Most importantly, you will learn that you can have a dramatic effect on the lives of the people in that room. You can leave an impression that will last far beyond the moments you stood in front them.
The book wraps up with a section that is like candy to any presenter. It is a cheat sheet with “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.” That is a rather outrageous statement, but Port delivers. These are short, two- to three-sentence quips that will cement the message in your mind and provide a quick reference you can easily review before every performance — be it a simple interview or a massive speech.
Port closes the book with these words: “A performance can be about wowing an audience, but it can also be about simply connecting with one person. Most importantly, you don’t have to be an entertainer to be a performer. And you don’t have to think of yourself as a performer today to use what I teach in Steal the Show tomorrow.”
I am a speaker. Frankly, a damn good one. My success from the stage has provided me with some of the best moments in my life. I enjoy it immensely and am paid very well for it. And yet, this book taught me things I had never considered. I would submit that becoming a better presenter can have a massive impact on your future success.