105 Tami Evans On Being Funny on Stage, Managing Isolating Careers, and What It Means To Be A Female Public Speaker

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About that big surprise that we mentioned…

 

“You can’t shortcut feet on the stage. You can’t wish or pay your way to being a better speaker. Speak, speak, speak—that’s the way to get good at speaking.” – Tami Evans

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Public speaking isn’t for everyone.

But before we cross it off our list, we have to make sure we’ve given it a fair shot. That’s because the best public speakers—while they may appear naturally gifted on stage, it is most likely hours and hours of rehearsal driving the performance. In public speaking, there is no such thing as god-given talent or a ‘knack’ for performance. Rather, success on stage boils down to work ethic, rehearsal, and practice.


On today’s episode of Steal the Show, we are joined by the humorous speaker Tami Evans to clear the mystery of performing on stage. With a Master’s in Classical Acting, Tami has been performing in some way, shape, or form for most of her life. She is the former president of the New York chapter of the National Speakers Association, and today works on the public speaking circuit.

In this conversation, we unpack all topics related to public speaking—what makes a great public speaker, why introverts do well on stage, how the public speaking industry is evolving to be more inclusive of diversity, and much more.

Learn more about Tami Evans and her humorous motivational speaking style here.

“When someone looks so effortless, it’s because they have put in so much time and effort to get it that way.” – Tami Evans

(click to tweet)

Steal the Points

  • Rehearse to the point of clarity where improvisation doesn’t feel intimidating.
  • The best way to begin something is to start it.
  • Try to have slogans that are easy to understand and remember.
  • Join the National Speakers Association (NSA) to make public speaking a less isolating career.
  • There is no clear path in the public speaker industry.
  • Content creation is a messy process that involves diving into the unknown.
  • Being authentic becomes easier through preparation.
  • There is becoming more equalization of gender and culture in the public speaker landscape.
  • Public speaking is shifting from a stylized, scripted talk into a more conversational delivery.
  • Many of the best performers are actually shy and introverted.
  • Adjusting on the fly becomes comfortable with more experience.
  • Some people are energized by interacting with other people, and others are depleted by it.

00:00 Tami Evans: While you can’t shortcut feet on stage, you can shortcut the learning curve, and when, for me, when someone can look at the work that I’m doing from the outside, and they can say, “I can see where this is really landing, and I can see where this is sort of confusing the point,” is gold.

00:27 Michael Port: Welcome to Steal The Show, with Michael Port. I’m your host, Michael Port, and, guess what? I have something special for you. And best of all, it’s not a Werther’s Caramel hard candy. It’s better, and it doesn’t require a root canal. Over the next six episodes, I’m going to introduce you to members of The League.

It’s a brand new venture, that I started with Amy Port, my wife and business partner, and we wanted to find the mutants of the public speaking world. The performers. There are a lot of great public speakers in the world, and then there are the performers that have something different, something that sets them apart.

So, Amy and I handpicked six established extraordinary public speakers and we’re working closely with them on their performances. These are the people that know that no matter where you are in your speaking career, learning more about craft can create a transformative experience.

And the first League member I’m introducing you to is Tami Evans. And she knows all about the power of craft. Tami shares her energy, passion, and humour to create an unforgettable experience for audiences.

Recently appearing on the Dr Oz show, where she taught him to chair dance, Tami lives her belief that laughter is a vital part of learning. Her entertainment based content celebrates and motivates participants; engages and empowers employees; it creates communication cohesion, it boosts confidence and it busts stress.

She has a broad professional history, which includes working as a university professor, communications specialist, professional actress in New York City, fashion designer for Banana Republic, personal assistant to Nell Carter, every kind of waitress you can imagine, stand in for Melanie Griffith (pre-Antonio), accidental illustrator and author of Half Full Of It: Activating Optimism And Other Hard Core Soft Skills.

She holds an MFA and BAA in broadcasting communications and theatre. Tami serves on the board of directors for the National Speakers Association and was president of the New York Chapter, 2015 through 2016.

Hi Tami!

02:50 Tami Evans: Hi Michael!

02:51 Michael Port: How are you?

02:52 Tami Evans: I’m fabulous!

02:53 Michael Port: I know you are! Because I’ve seen you speak, I’ve worked with you and I know you well, although, I haven’t always known you well.

03:03 Tami Evans: It’s hard to believe, but that is a true statement.

03:05 Michael Port: It is true.

03:05 Tami Evans: But it does feel like I have known you.

03:08 Michael Port: A long time, because we’re very sympatico. We have a lot of shared experiences. Now, when we first met it was at a meet up for a networking group that we’re in, and Amy and I were doing some Masterclass coaching with the professionals that were there and we were just doing laser coaching, a quick transformation.

So, we said, “Well, who wants to come up?” And, you know, people get nervous. And you were, like, “Me! Me! Me! Me!” And as soon as you got on stage, within a snap of the fingers I said, “Mmm… I want to work with her.”

That right there, that moment, is when I thought, “If we do the League of Heroic Public Speakers, I want Tami.” Because you can take directions so well, in part because you were a professional actor. So tell me what the experience was like the first time that we worked together at that meet up.

04:05 Tami Evans: Oh, I love it.

04:05 Michael Port: And there’s a reason I ask you this, to set something else up. So, not just… Meaning I don’t want the audience to think, “Oh yeah, he’s just asking her that because he wants her to say, ‘Oh! It was the most brilliant thing! That I’ve ever done in my life!'” No, it’s not for that.

04:23 Tami Evans: Well, I love this, I love it. It’s like turning the camera and now you get the other character’s POV, right? So I’m sitting there at this networking group and I don’t know these people all that well, but I do know that they are consummate professionals. And then you and Amy come and you give us some introduction and you say, “I’m going to do some laser coaching.”

Well, the thought that immediately goes through my head is, “Oh my gosh, yes! I cannot wait to get up there!” And the people that I was sitting there with were, like, “Are you crazy? You’re going up there?” And so, it’s so funny, the different states of mind, because I thought, “I want to work with these people.”

So, I got on stage, and began, I think it was just a clip of a story I was, yeah.

05:02 Michael Port: Yeah, a little piece of a story.

05:02 Tami Evans: A little piece of content that I had been using, but I knew it could be better. Within seconds you said, “Okay, stop. And try this and do this,” and blah-blah-blah and so I took the direction; which I love to take direction, anyway, because of training, as you said; and within mere seconds transformed the way that piece landed.

And it got a laugh before, but when we worked together, it was like music. And when the line landed, the audience erupted and it was at that moment, in fact, I think I was coming off the stage after we were done, I said, “Now I want you to work on everything that I do.”

05:44 Michael Port: Sure, sure, sure. I remember that moment very well. Do you think, you, like us, have a Masters in Acting. Which is very rare. There are not that many professional performers with MFA’s. Now, of course you’re not acting any more, like we’re not acting any more, but how did the training that you had as an actor prepare you for professional speaking?

So, what was really helpful about it, and is that the reason that you are so good at taking direction? And then, what do you think, what did you need to work on, in addition, when you were focussing on professional speaking, that wouldn’t have been part of your MFA training in acting?

06:33 Tami Evans: Yes, sure. So, being classically trained, you know, it’s a three year intensive process where you study all parts of the art of performing. And that means, the physicality, that means the mentality, it means the education around the study of the history and also, kind of, the evolution of what’s new.

And I had the amazing opportunity to be classically trained, and then the first real company that I worked for outside of my MFA, was with Jeff Daniels at the Purple Rose Theatre Company, and it was only new plays.

So I went from classics to brand new works. And I think the combination of those two things set me up with the perfect tool kit for being a speaker. Because I really believe that, I believe in rehearsal, I believe in preparation and rehearsal. And I believe – and, of course, you guys do as well – I believe in rehearsing so well, so much, that you can riff.

And by that I mean, when you are so clear around what it is that you want to say, and the ideas that you want to share, when you’re so crystal clear on that. And, for me, I particularly like to know timing, words, blocking, all of the other things that come with classical stage training.

But when you’re so comfortable in that, then anything can happen in the room, and it usually does, whether with an audience member or a piece of the set or microphone squeal or something happens, you are able to actually incorporate that into the talk and never miss a beat, never worry that if you kind of go off on a tangent or riff on something, you’re going to know where you are when you come back, and you’re going to be very comfortable doing that.

So, I think that my classical training is what helps me to understand and appreciate how important that is for me, as a stage performer in the speaking profession as well.

08:41 Michael Port: Indeed. What didn’t you learn there, that wouldn’t have been necessarily applicable to your work as an actor that you needed to learn, over time, when you shifted to professional speaking?

08:57 Tami Evans: Well, a big thing is that I had a really great team of people writing for me. Like, “Well, yeah!”

09:06 Michael Port: Chekhov was pretty good, Shakespeare, not bad, he had a couple good plays.

09:13 Tami Evans: Yeah, one or two. So, I have to say that the creation, not the creation of content, but getting the idea of what I wanted to share across in an educational, entertaining and succinct way, you really have to learn that. Well, I had to learn that. And what it started as, is I would just kind of tell the story.

So I would have a story that I would tell, and most times it would be engaging. However, it would be way too long, perhaps the point wasn’t clear, and when you are taking people’s precious time, it is really important that you respect that and really go out, I believe, onto stage with your ideas laser focussed, really clear and give them the most that they can get in the least amount of units, if that makes sense.

10:13 Michael Port: It does, it does. Now, there are a number of different ways into the professional speaking industry and there’s no one way to perform and there’s no one way to build your brand as a speaker, or even the model behind your business as a speaker. It’s still a very new industry, really.

How did you make the transition? What was your road to becoming a professional speaker, like?

10:49 Tami Evans: Yeah. So, I was working as a university professor, and also still doing acting, but more in the industrial video and voice over world. So, I kind of had those two things going on and I had a young son, so I was momming as well.

Now, I had met up with a friend from undergrad who had been a speaker for several years and I didn’t even know the profession existed. And we had lunch one day, and she said, “You have to do this. This is absolutely your calling.” And I went home, and I knew by the end of that lunch that she was right, so I went home and started kind of researching it and finding out about what this industry was; what this profession was.

And I really just, thank goodness we live in a time where, with the internet, you can find out, learn so many things about how to begin. And I just really, the best way to begin is to start, right? So, I just started. The very first time I spoke, I got all my friends together. I was living in Chicago, rented out a boardroom in downtown Chicago, I brought wine, it was after hours.

11:59 Michael Port: And treats.

12:00 Tami Evans: Yeah! Treats and wine! And they sat around and I delivered my speech, called, Escape From Someday Isle. Like, “Someday I’ll get a better job. Someday I’ll…”

12:13 Michael Port: You really are just the queen of one-liners. What did I call them last time you were here?

12:20 Tami Evans: Pithy, witty, pithy, I don’t remember…

12:23 Michael Port: I don’t know, you just have, like non-stop, you’ve got more slogans…

12:30 Tami Evans: I just love words, I love words.

12:31 Michael Port: Than any other speaker I’ve ever met in my life. And I liked your idea to call them Tami’s Tips.

12:41 Tami Evans: Yes, Tami’s Tips.

12:41 Michael Port: But it didn’t seem to go over with the whole group. But I wasn’t sure why. I was very confused, remember? I was like, “I don’t understand. What am I missing?”

12:51 Tami Evans: Yes, I do. You are not a woman.

12:54 Michael Port: Yes. No. Well, actually, I did want to make an announcement. I’m making a change.

13:01 Tami Evans: I’m so honoured to be part of this, finally.

13:02 Michael Port: Finally. No, no, but seriously. This is actually an aside that I want to go down, because one of the things we were working on in your speech, was trying to find a catch phrase that we could use any time you had one of your fun phrases, one of your great lines. Because people love to tweet them, they always do, at every speech.

And you said, “Well, you know, I was thinking of doing Tami’s Tips,” and I said, “Oh! That’s great! That’s a great idea! Yeah! I love it!” And you went, “Neeaah, but I think we’re missing something, Michael.” I’m like, “What?” I mean, literally, I did not know. And the whole table looked at me like I was crazy. So, I get that.

And the reason I bring it up, because A, it’s a great idea to have some sort of phrase that essentially brands your slogans and attaches them to you. And then the second thing is to be very, very aware that some of the phrases we use may have double meanings.

14:09 Tami Evans: Double entendre.

14:09 Michael Port: Yeah, or triple meanings, or it may be a slogan that was used fifty years ago in a different way. You know, like that slogan that Trump was using, I guess he’s still using it. It was the ‘Make America great’. It comes from somewhere else, and it has a sordid past. Now, whether or not it was chosen for that reason, I’m not going to get into that whole conspiracy angle.

But nonetheless, we need to understand that the things we say mean different things to different people. And so, I thought it was great that you noticed that and you said, “Oh, I’m going to keep looking. Haven’t found it yet.”

14:50 Tami Evans: Haven’t found it yet, but I will. It will bubble up. And the great thing about that, and love that your idea around this, is that people always, after we come off the stage, I’m sure people are familiar with this, you know, the attendees come up and they want to share stories and thoughts with you.

And I loved, Michael, you had the idea that people will come up and say, “Here’s my…” whatever that brand’s sort of thing is, that they’re going to come up and share those. And I love that idea for interaction with my audience.

15:26 Michael Port: Yeah, that’s fantastic. So, you were the president of the New York Chapter of the NSA.

15:33 Tami Evans: That’s correct.

15:34 Michael Port: And you’ve been very involved with the NSA for a long time. Did you join NSA very early in your career or did you come to it later?

15:41 Tami Evans: I joined it pretty early, but I don’t think you can join it early enough. I think that is one of the first steps that I would recommend to any emerging speaker, or any advanced speaker who wants to up-level. And the reason is that this profession is, and you’ve already stated this, there is no clear path on how to get where you want to go, right?

So, we’re all here, working, a lot of times, in isolation in our home offices, or on the road, on clients’ sites, and we’re the speaker. So, there’s a lot of isolating aspects of this profession. So, to come together with a group of people – I call them a room of fabulous freaks – that we are all able to have conversations about this profession, because we’re all, while in isolation, we can all come together and share those kinds of ideas.

So, I always encourage people to find a group of like-minded professionals to network with and National Speakers Association has been such an important part of my career and development. Because everyone shares. It is such a giving, sharing group.

I have not experienced that in another professional, you know, sort of outside of speaking, in any other, I’ve had a few different career things and have never experienced that level of sharin. And the idea that there are so many events where people need a speaker, that there’s enough for all of us.

And also, we can, usually, if you’re the keynote, most times, you only do one year and then you have a few years off. You can come back in a few years. But you’ll need to be referring each other and so that referral system is huge as well.

I’m a big fan of the National Speakers Association, but I also think that you can find like minded people, again, on the internet there’s a lot of places to find groups you can belong to that really can help support you in your profession. Because, listen, it is a rollercoaster. There are some really, really high highs, but then there’s February.

18:00 Michael Port: Well, Amy renamed February this year, for us, because we spent most of it in Miami, so she called it Miamuary.

18:07 Tami Evans: I love that!

18:07 Michael Port: And that’s going to be a new thing, because she just, you know, she takes me to warm places during the winter, so I don’t lose my mind.

18:15 Tami Evans: That is really, wise, you guys have it figured out.

18:17 Michael Port: And she’s smart, she says she’s doing it for me, but I think, if she gets me in the sun, I think she’s happier. I think that’s what she’s telling me.

18:25 Tami Evans: Oh, yeah. Yeah. She is a smart woman.

18:28 Michael Port: So, you know, I’ve never been involved in the NSA. I spoke at one NSA event a number of years ago, at the National event, and then I spoke for the Philly Chapter, because our dear friend Neen James is very involved with them, so pretty much whatever Neen says, you just do. You know how that works?

18:47 Tami Evans: Yes. I do.

18:49 Michael Port: So, for those who don’t know Neen James, in the industry it’s referred to as ‘being Neened’. “You’ve been Neened,” is what they say.

19:01 Tami Evans: Yes, that’s right.

19:02 Michael Port: But this year, Amy and I are giving a keynote.

19:05 Tami Evans: Hey, I know! I’m so excited! You’re going to just… NSA is in for such a treat. You’re just… Oh, I’m so excited for this.

19:13 Michael Port: Now let’s set the expectations pretty low.

19:18 Tami Evans: Alright, okay. You’re alright, it’s okay.

19:18 Michael Port: It’s the July Annual Conference in Dallas and so we’re going to do a keynote there and then we’re going to do, also, some breakouts on performance and rehearsal as well. But let’s not talk up our speech too much yet, because I’ve been writing it. And I’m not sure it’s worth talking up just yet.

19:36 Tami Evans: Gotcha.

19:36 Michael Port: It needs some more time before it’s good. But what I’m working on right now, is something that I’ve never seen done, we’ve never done it, and so it’s going to be one of those things that it’s either going to be absolutely, fantastically brilliant, or it’s not going to work at all, and then I’ll have to go back to the drawing board.

I’ll make sure, whatever we land on for the keynote will work. But what we’re doing right now, I’m not sure it’s going to work. So we’ll see. And, you know, this is the process. That’s the thing that I think you have really been embracing, especially as of late.

20:14 Tami Evans: Oh, it has changed everything.

20:16 Michael Port: Yeah. And it’s a messy process, the content creation. We don’t know if what we’re working on is going to work. And if everything that we worked on worked, you’d be some kind of savant. I mean, I know a lot of very prolific people and I don’t know a single person that has ever tried anything cool and made all of it work. I don’t know anyone.

So, you’ve really been embracing that lately in the content creation piece, if it doesn’t serve the audience, then it goes. Period.

20:56 Tami Evans: Yeah, and that’s that process, and so it really is about process. And I always tell people you can’t shortcut feet on stage. so you can’t just wish your way or pay your way to being a better speaker.

21:12 Michael Port: What was the phrase you used? You can’t shortcut what?

21:14 Tami Evans: Feet on the stage.

21:15 Michael Port: Feet on the stage. Right. Time in the trenches. Exactly.

21:20 Tami Evans: Yeah. You’ve got to actually, which is why I speak, speak, speak, speak. That’s the way to get good at speaking.

21:29 Michael Port: Folks will, if they do that, they’ll get to the point where they’ll actually, they may even feel more at home and comfortable when they’re standing on a stage, than they do off the stage.

21:40 Tami Evans: Most certainly. That is true for me. For sure.

21:43 Michael Port: And if anybody who’s listening feels that they’ve got even a little bit of that in them, that will continue to grow, that will expand, for sure.

So, I have a quote that I want to read to you. It’s actually a little bit long, but I think it’s worth it, and I want you to address a couple of things afterwards, based on what this brings up for you. And I won’t tell you who the quote is by, at first. You’ll have to figure it out. And then tell me who it is at the end.

22:22 Tami Evans: Alright.

22:22 Michael Port: And if you can’t figure it out, then I’ll tell you. But, I have a pretty strong feeling that you’ll be able to. Especially based on the first three sentences. Okay, here we go.

“I’m not Barack Obama, I’m not Bill Clinton. Both of them carry themselves with a naturalness that is very appealing to audiences. But I am married to one, and I’ve worked for the other. So I know how hard they work at being natural. It’s not something they just dial in. They work and they practice what they’re going to say.

“It’s not that they’re trying to be somebody else, but it’s hard work to present yourself in the best possible way. You have to communicate in a way that people say, ‘Okay, I get her,’ and that can be more difficult for a woman. Because, who are your role models? If you want to run for the senate, or run for the presidency, most of your role models are going to be men. And what works for them, won’t work for you.

“Women are seen through a different lens. It’s not bad, it’s just a fact. It’s really quite funny. I’ll go to these events and there’ll be men speaking before me, and they’ll be pounding the message and screaming about how we need to win the election, and people will love it. And I want to do the same thing, because I care about this stuff. But I’ve learned that I can’t be quite so passionate in my presentation.

“I love to wave my arms, but apparently that’s a bit scary to people, and I can’t yell too much. It comes across as too loud or too shrill or too this or too that, which is funny, because I’m always convinced that the people in the front row are loving it.”

So, who is it?

23:58 Tami Evans: It is the purveyor of the pants suit, that’d be ‘Hills’ – Hillary Rodham Clinton.

24:04 Michael Port: Exactly right. So look, politics is different than the professional speaking industry, certainly. But what she’s talking about is, first she’s talking about authentic behaviour in manufactured environments and working on being more authentic, through preparation, which I just think is lovely.

And then she starts to address the issues that she has found, that she needs to consider and contend with, over time, because she’s a woman in a world that has, historically, been dominated by men.

Do you see any similarities to the speaking industry, and, if so, what are they? Yeah, let’s start with that: similarities. Are there any similarities?

24:58 Tami Evans: Oh, absolutely. I think, absolutely the truth. And, look, the greatest thing is happening in the speaking industry where the pendulum is starting to swing a bit and there’s a bit more equalisation of gender and culture and all kinds of diversity on the stage. We have a long way to go, really, let’s be honest.

But the idea that – speaking as a woman, because I happen to be one – I feel that, on the stage, there needs to be – especially with me, because I’m a humourist – there has to be some gravitas that goes along with that in order to anchor people into the fact that – and I call myself out on it, I say, “I know some of you are sitting there saying, ‘Alright, chirpy, you don’t know what’s going on in my life.'” Because, you know, I do have a big, energetic personality, and I need to be aware that I also need to have some groundedness, some strength on stage.

Now, I will say it is a bit of a personality and a character thing, you know, with people really rallying with the shouting and the cry. I mean, if we go back and we look at the Golden Globe speech that Oprah Winfrey gave, my goodness. I mean, that was one of the most powerful bits of oration I’ve ever seen in my life, and she was shouting to the rooftops.

And for her, and her character and her personality, that worked wonders. It was beautiful. Now, if I tried to deliver that same piece of writing in that way, it’s going to fall a bit flat, or perhaps it might seem shrill, or whatever it might be, for me, because my delivery style is very, very different from that.

I think one of the points that Hillary was making, is that I really, I want to repeat this, because the better you are at something, the easier it looks from the outside. And the only way to get better is preparation and practice and rehearsal and feet on the stage. So, when someone looks so effortless, it’s because they have put in so much time and effort to get that way.

And I’m sure it’s happened to you, I’m sure it’s happened to your listeners, that after you get off the stage, how many times have people said, “I should be a professional speaker. I can do that. I know I can do what you do!” and I say, “That is fantastic! And here’s how you start and here’s where you go,” and I think people are surprised more often than not, at the amount of work that goes into the art of this business.

27:49 Michael Port: Yeah. You think? Like, “That’s so great! You just get paid to talk!”

27:53 Tami Evans: Yeah, right.

27:54 Michael Port: Well, yeah, that’s true, but it’s not quite that simple. I don’t think, you know, until you get really, really famous, they actually want you to come up with what you’re going to say yourself. Once you get really, really famous, they’ll just let you sit in a chair and answer questions, and they’ll still give you your half a million or your million dollars, you know?

28:15 Tami Evans: Oh, is that what you’re at right now? Just kidding!

28:17 Michael Port: Oh, no. We were clearly not referencing me. Just FYI. Not to confuse anyone. Although, if anyone would like to offer me a million dollars for forty-five minutes of answering questions in a chair, I would be happy to take it off your hands for you.

So, yeah. You know, look, we see changes, but they’re not necessarily happening overnight and they’re not happening in all environments.

28:44 Tami Evans: You know, I think, Michael, one of the things people really… The thing, for me, is I watch some of my colleagues who happen to be men, and I think, “Ooh, okay! Ooh, I like how they did that, I like how they did that,” but really, you can only be the best version of yourself.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, you just have to be the best version of yourself and men shouldn’t try to be something they’re not, and women shouldn’t try to be something they’re not. And I think the style of speaking is also changing. Quite drastically.

29:23 Michael Port: Yeah. So let’s talk about that.

29:25 Tami Evans: Sure.

29:25 Michael Port: What do you think it was like, and how do you think it’s changing, and what into?

29:30 Tami Evans: I believe it was more of a performance in the way that it was stylised and didn’t veer from the script very much. I feel that it was sort of, you could plot that. Many, many famous speakers, you could plop them down into any room and see just about the same talk every single time.

And what I think it’s moving toward, which I’m delighted, for us as speakers and for the audience members, is that it’s moving into a customisation not just about that audience, but a customisation of really getting to know who it is you’re talking to and being willing to have parts of the talk be more of a conversation, rather than a delivery.

And I think people are really much more, their, how you would call, ‘BS meter’, is much more tuned. And so, if they feel that the speaker is ingenuous in any way, they’re going to just dive into their phone and start doing some e-mail.

And I think you really do have to be authentic up there, and you have to know your stuff, you have to know the people you’re talking to, and you have to be willing to engage in conversation with the audience if that’s what happens.

30:53 Michael Port: What is something that might surprise people about you, that you continually have to work on, as a speaker?

31:03 Tami Evans: Well, that is… So, I’m sure I’m not alone. In my profession, I am an extrovert. In my personal life, I am introverted. So, one of the most powerful things that I have learned is interaction with the audience, is the best part of speech prep. It’s also the best, most magical moments that happen during a speech.

So, coming from the world of classical training, or professional acting, there is the willing suspension of disbelief, like, “You sit out there and enjoy my performance, and I will be up here performing, and we are not going to interact, we’re not going to engage one another, because that would be rude to the performance,” so it took me a couple of years to break that wall and get down into the mosh pit of the audience.

And I do it ahead of time, first of all, before I get on stage, and this is thanks to my dear friend, Christine Cashen, who said, “Go into the audience, and go to the North table, go to the South table,” and now it’s funny, we have a term for it. We call it, ‘compassing the audience.’ And interacting with them on that level, sitting down at their table before I go up, really grounds me, and also makes them, I’m their friend by the time I get to the stage.

But your question was, what do I have to work on. And what I have to work on every time is getting my nerve up to go and meet people; go and sit and talk to people. I can stand in a stadium, and feel completely comfortable, but walking into a class reunion or a networking event, my hands are shaking.

So, that is something, I know, to be the best speaker that I can be, I need to engage on that level, intimate level, with people that I don’t know. And it’s something that I am constantly pushing myself to do, with amazing results. So, it’s gotten easier, it’s gotten easier, but it’s something that, every time I think…

Some people are energised by interaction with other humans, and some people are depleted by interaction with other humans. And so, I just have to be aware that, after a great deal of interaction, I need just a little bit of quiet time to kind of get my batteries recharged.

33:26 Michael Port: I think you’re definitely not alone, and I think many people are surprised when they hear that many performers are often very shy and often very introverted.

What advice would you give yourself, at the beginning of your speaking career? Not from, well, if you want to share something from a technical, practical, professional perspective, that’s great, please feel free.

I’m also interested in what you would want your younger self, at the beginning of this part of your career, to know about how to think and see the world; that maybe you didn’t really know, or you knew, but didn’t embrace earlier, and now, as you’re more mature and more confident, more successful, you’ve embraced more.

34:18 Tami Evans: I would have told my earlier self to engage with the audience sooner. Because it really is the magic. I think this profession, when you have reached a certain level of experience, maturity, whatever that may be, we start receiving payment that people on the outside of our industry would think is a large sum of money for what, we’ve already said, seems, like, so easy.

What I really would recommend is, investing back into my craft, my skill, my business. Taking the time to find the right professionals, and then hiring them to help me become better.

Because, the learning curve, while you can’t shortcut feet on stage, you can shortcut the learning curve. And when, for me, when someone can look at the work that I’m doing from the outside, and they can say, “I can see where this is really landing, and I can see where this is sort of confusing the point,” is gold.

Because, as we’ve said, to take the audience’s time and their emotional investment in you, I feel that I owe it to my audiences to deliver the best that I can, and by hiring a professional to do that. That’s what I would have invested in that earlier in my career.

And I think it’s above the videos, above the outfits, above the postcards and the marketing materials, to have that talk that makes you feel like you are just solidly there and that you delivered it in a way that you best could. Great work leads to more work. It really does.

36:15 Michael Port: Yeah, do good work. There’s a couple of different kinds of speakers. There are speakers, just like actors, who will get hired a lot. They audition very well, so to speak. Great at sales conversations, great marketing materials. And then there are others who might also get hired a lot, but they get rehired even more often.

If your gigs are producing gigs, then you know you’re doing something right. And if that’s the case, then you don’t need to do quite as much marketing. Because if you get yourself ten gigs, then each of those gigs produce three other gigs, well, there’s your thirty, in addition. So it does make a difference, for sure, your ability to perform when you are called to the stage.

So, with respect to that, I’m really interested to know, what was a peak moment for you, and what was a pit moment for you? Like, was there a particular moment, or series of moments, where you felt really high on the work, and your path, and your accomplishment? And was there a moment that was a pit moment, that maybe you bombed a speech, or maybe it didn’t go very well, or maybe you got some feedback that was really upsetting?

And you can start with whichever first. You can do pit, or peak first, that’s completely up to you.

37:53 Tami Evans: Alright, yeah, well, the great thing about out profession is, the bigger the bomb, the better the story!

38:00 Michael Port: That is true! That’s true.

38:03 Tami Evans: So, I was working in Montreal and it was an all-staff event, and it was outside.

38:15 Michael Port: In Montreal. What month?

38:17 Tami Evans: It was in September.

38:20 Michael Port: Well, September in Montreal is January in New York.

38:23 Tami Evans: Yes. And they wanted to have this outside meeting. And so, they did have a tent put up, which is good, because it was torrential rain. Torrential rain. So, I arrive, and I’m the closing keynote. It was a dirt ground, the water was an inch thick, and good thing I had my Rockies on, and I’m looking at the AV cords are sitting in puddles, and everybody still, you know, we’re working, we’re keeping the spirits high.

Well, the group; so, everyone is drenched and they have an activity to do; they have to go across the river to this huge market. It’s kind of like a farmers’ market, but it’s covered and it’s all this fresh food. And, as a team, they have to prepare a meal. They have to get all the ingredients, they have to come back and prepare this meal.

39:18 Michael Port: A little team building exercise.

39:19 Tami Evans: Team building exercise, which is great. So after, it’s long, you know, it’s a few hours that they were working on this, and the great thing about Canadians, and also Europeans, is that lunch includes wine. So they’re cooking, and they’re wet, and they’re tired, and they’ve been drinking all afternoon, and here I am coming.

And the rain is blowing sideways into the tent, and I get on my little, tiny platform to deliver the closing keynote and people are sitting in their chairs and you know that sort of food combo mixed with afternoon wine nap phase?

39:55 Michael Port: Sure. Yeah.

40:01 Tami Evans: Yeah. Yeah, that. So I just was like, “Okay,” and what I did is, I delivered the keynote, and I thought, “Okay, I’ll just be more energetic and try harder.” And in retrospect, it was okay, but I am definitely used to a different kind of reaction from an audience.

And what I really felt like I should have done is, gone into the audience, brought a couple of people on stage, and just kind of played with them and kind of done an ad hoc play, stuff like that.

40:34 Michael Port: Yeah, no, right. Adjusting on the fly is so important, and as you get more experienced, you get more comfortable with that and more confident in your decisions to make changes based on what you’re seeing in real time. And that’s a really important thing to do, so it’s a good lesson for folks.

40:58 Tami Evans: So that leads me to my peak moment. Which is, I was working for, I think I can say it, it’s BELFOR, it’s a huge company that comes in and helps when there’s been a disaster, a natural disaster, floods or fires or something like that. And it’s an international company, and it was all of the office managers for the whole company were coming together.

And the president of the company was talking to me out in the hall before I went on stage, and he said, “All the individual offices, they usually have one person that’s running the whole office,” the office manager, “and they’re really the point for everything, and everybody else is out on site and they’re doing things, and I just, I really want them to know how important they are. I want them to know how much we care about them, because they do so much and they don’t get the appreciation that they need, and I’d love if you can find a way to express that.”

And so, as I’m walking to stage, I’m like, “Okay, how am I going to do this?” And I ended up closing the talk and it just came to me. And I think it’s exactly what you said, Michael, it’s being prepared to be flexible enough to allow things to happen in the moment and go with it.

And so, I ended the talk by saying, “You are so loved. This company loves you so much. And the only way that I can really share with you the level of importance that you hold in this company is that, imagine that BALFOR is a patient in an operating room, and BALFOR, the patient, is on the table.

“And when you think about you, you’re not the surgeon, and you’re not the nurse or the anaesthesiologist. You’re not the person that runs all the beeping machines. What you are for BALFOR, you are the beating heart of this company and you are so loved.”

And there was this audible gasp in the room and people were smiling and there were people crying. Oh my gosh, it was like this… The president was so happy, and I’ve loved that moment, because I have never given that metaphor before, I had never even thought of anything like that before, but by taking the words that he gave to me and just kind of creating something in the moment.

And you know, Michael, how, when you are doing something for the first time, it’s always a little risky, because you’ve never done it before, so that was a real high for me that I took a risk and it really helped them understand how much the company cared about them. So, for me, that was a real peak.

43:39 Michael Port: Tami Evans, you are a delight! Tamievans.com, T.A.M.I.E.V.A.N.S. dot com, if you want to reach out to her you can do so there. Thank you so much for being here.

43:50 Tami Evans: Oh, my pleasure! Anything! Thank you!

43:53 Michael Port: You are very welcome.

Thank you for listening to Steal The Show with Michael Port. I’m your host, Michael Port.

This podcast was produced by Laura Bernstein, with sound production and marketing by Kast Media. Music is mixed by Shammy Dee, and we recorded today’s episode at Heroic Public Speaking HQ, the most impressive public speaking facility in Lambertville, New Jersey, and, perhaps, the world.

Special thanks to our guest, the candid and confident Tami Evans, and to you, for listening and learning how to be a performer in your spotlight moments.

Make sure to reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook, @heroicpublicspeaking, and leave us a review on iTunes if you like the show. Let us know what high stakes performances you are currently crushing. Like Russ, who listens to our podcast while running and mowing the lawn. But, hopefully not at the same time.

Oh, and make sure to visit heroicpublicspeaking.com/live to come to the event, October 1st, 2nd and 3rd, in Philadelphia. Enter the promo code, ‘steal the show’, and you’ll get 10% off your ticket price.

I love you very much. But not in a weird way. Bye for now.

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