Interview With Mitch Joel
STS – #114 – Steal The Show with Michael Port
00:00 Mitch Joel: Imagine you have a dog – some people do – and every time the doorbell rings, the dog barks. The dog knows, after fifty times, that there’s no harm, it’s just part of it’s old brand. The dog is essentially dumb, but you need the dog to bark, it’s a important part of life, survival. So, having this nervousness is a part of our survival mechanism. In fact, one of the most important parts.
00:26 Michael Port: When brands like Google, Starbucks, Shopify and GE want to leverage technology to better connect with their customers, they call Mitch Joel. He’s been called one of North America’s leading visionaries and ‘the rock star of digital marketing’ by Strategy Magazine.
But he is much more than that. Mitch is founder of Six Pixels Group, an advisory, investing and content producing company that is focused on commerce and innovation, although he prefers the title, ‘Media Hacker’. I want to know what that means. I’m going to ask him.
Prior to Six Pixels Group, Mitch spent close to two decades building, running and eventually selling his business. He was president of Mirum, a global digital marketing agency, operating in 25 countries, with close to 3,000 employees. Mirum is owned by WPP – I also should ask who WPP is.
Now, Mitch has been named one of the top 100 online marketers in the world, and was awarded the highly prestigious Top 40 Under 40. Mitch’s first book, Six Pixels of Separation, named after his successful blog and podcast, is a business and marketing bestseller. His second book, Ctrl Alt Delete, was named one of the best business books of 2013 by Amazon.
Mitch frequently is called upon to be a subject matter expert for publications like Fast Company, Strategy Forbes, The Globe & Mail, Steal The Show With Michael Port, and many others. He is a columnist and journalist for The Harvard Business Review, Inc Magazine, The Huffington Post, and many other magazines and newspapers.
Now, he speaks frequently, very frequently, to diverse groups like Walmart, Starbucks, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble, Twitter, Unilever, and every organisation and association in between. Since 2005 he has given anywhere between forty to sixty keynote presentations a year.
What’s up buddy!
0:02:22 Mitch Joel: Hey buddy!
0:02:23 Michael Port: So we’re together, which is great! Because, when you do podcast interviews with somebody who’s halfway across the world, you don’t get to see them. So the interaction is a little bit constrained.
0:02:36 Mitch Joel: I like it better when I’m not in person.
0:02:39 Michael Port: You do!
0:02:40 Mitch Joel: It’s so weird! Look, I spent ten years being a music journalist, interviewing hundreds, if not thousands of rock stars. My own podcast, 600 episodes for over a decade, and I like not seeing the person! I like the intimacy of being in a room with my headphones on.
0:02:57 Michael Port: Well, if you’re not there you can just sort of sit and look at your notes, write things.
0:03:01 Mitch Joel: Right, and I feel like I’m more free to be creative. I do live radio every Monday and the hardest thing is, like, I’ve got to look in the person’s eyes. But I like you, so it’s okay.
0:03:09 Michael Port: Well, what we find is… Well, thank you very much. That’s just because I have the same haircut as you, and the same glasses, and the same colour clothing, usually. But, what we have found is that the episodes that tend to be the most popular episodes, tend to be the ones where the guest was in the studio.
0:03:27 Mitch Joel: I believe it, I’m very much a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do person, so I totally buy into that, it’s just…
0:03:34 Michael Port: Tell me more about being a do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do type of person?
0:03:38 Mitch Joel: Like, if you said to me, “We need to work on our content,” I probably wouldn’t say to you, “Long form text,” but that’s basically all I do. Or, “Long form audio,” it’s all that I do. I don’t do any video, I don’t do any pictures and stuff, so that’s why I have to be honest and say, “Don’t do what I do, do what I say you should do, because that will do you better.”
0:04:00 Michael Port: Interesting. Well, you’ve found, I suppose, what works for you, but it doesn’t necessarily work for everyone.
0:04:06 Mitch Joel: Yeah, and that’s a big part of content in general, for me. I just feel that you have to find the thing that makes you want to create content . And that’s the struggle that brands have and individuals and speakers have.
It’s like they’re trying, more often than not, I feel like they’re trying to, “How do we do that video thing?” or, “How do we do that content that everyone’s going to like when I speak?” And I’m like, “I don’t think it’s going to work. I think you need to be you.”
0:04:30 Michael Port: That’s a really interesting distinction. Because it is, really, I’m sort of stumbling through this a little bit, in part, because we got back at two in the morning last night from this whirlwind tour. But I think it’s important, because I’ve had that experience myself, where I know I should be doing this thing, but I’m not really that motivated to do that thing.
0:04:51 Mitch Joel: Like, if you had to shoot this, and you didn’t like doing video, this would be miserable for you, and you’d be doing it only because you think, “Well, that’s what the audience wants.” Not good! Not good.
0:05:01 Michael Port: Right! Right, now, I like a video a lot when I see what we’ve produced, more than I like actually doing the filming.
0:05:11 Mitch Joel: I don’t know if I believe you, because you’ve been here for, like, 20 minutes and you’ve been talking, I’d say 80% of your talk has been about your gear and what you have and what you’re doing, and you built your own studio, and you’re really passionate about it.
I could equally do that, and I’m like, “I don’t want to do that.”
0:05:25 Michael Port: Yeah. That’s true, yeah, I’m with you.
0:05:26 Mitch Joel: But the other side of it, too, is that I often wonder if it’s not a protective skin that I put on me to not force myself to get on video, or to do other things. Like, it’s sort of your comfort zone, and how comfortable am I leaving my comfort zone? Probably not that great.
0:05:45 Michael Port: So, you’re a pretty successful guy, I mean, you sold a pretty big company and obviously you figured out what works for you over time, and do we settle, sometimes, when we get comfortable with something and we say, “Well, I don’t have to push myself too far.”?
0:06:05 Mitch Joel: All the time, yeah, all the time. I think, especially as you get older. Especially as risk becomes harder. You have a spouse, a partner, kids, a morgage. I do think that it’s actually the very advanced and very amazing entrepreneur that can hurdle those as if they had nothing to lose.
So, I think, or I find that, and we’re similar in age, I find that really hard as I get older and now, after 16 plus years, post-Mirum, building out Six Pixels Group, I find that my desire for risk is not exactly what I thought it would be.
And then all of the stuff that we did years ago to build the business, I’m like, “Wow, it’s really expensive to start a business,” I totally had forgotten. I had no muscle memory because it was so long ago.
So, yeah, I think that that’s true about me and I’m always enamoured and fascinated by people who aren’t like that.
0:07:00 Michael Port: Yeah, well, it just so happens, I think you’re sitting next to someone who is like that. Not because I’m special, but I think I’ve gotten more comfortable with risk as I’ve gotten older, because the risks I have been taking seem to have been producing fruit.
0:07:18 Mitch Joel: Better results.
0:07:18 Michael Port: Better results, yeah! And also, I think, at least for me, personally, I am more comfortable with who I am, now, than I was ten years ago, fifteen years ago, twenty years ago, so more of my decisions were couched in, “What’s the right decision to make?” or, “What are people going to think about this decision?” or I want to prove also, I put my face on the cover of my book, that kind of stuff, and now I’m much more results oriented, so I’m willing to take really big risks.
Like this keynote that we just did for NSA. I mean, that’s some crazy stuff we just did. Crazy stuff.
0:07:47 Mitch Joel: Crazy stuff. I just saw it on Facebook and that was enough. That was enough for me to say, “I don’t want to do that.” And so, part of it is that, clearly, you have a better self-esteem situation than I do. Which is definitely, you do, I’m saying that as an insult to me. You know what I’m saying? That’s the stuff I have to work on.
0:08:07 Michael Port: Now, has that been consistent for you throughout, or as you said, throughout your years?
0:08:14 Mitch Joel: Yeah. I’m a mess, I’m a total mess.
0:08:17 Michael Port: Even with all of the success you’ve had over the years?
0:08:20 Mitch Joel: Yeah, I sort of am still in that classical imposter syndrome. Someone’s going to walk in and go, “That’s not your bio. Come with us. We’ll just lock you away.” Half seriously, half facetiously, right? But it’s, I think, the other side of that neuroses and anxiety is, I think, what makes me good at what I do.
I feel that, if I didn’t have that fear of, “People must be hating this!” or, “I shouldn’t do that!” that if I didn’t care, I don’t know that I would be able to deliver. And I mean, after ten plus years of speaking 40-60 times a year, I get nervous, mics go on and it’s show time, I still get nervous, and I was sort of like, “Gee, this is a medicinal sort of stage fright thing.”
And then you see all these conversations. Like, I love watching the behind the scenes of stand up comedians and musicians, and all the musicians, like, I’ll be fascinated to watch three or four of the greatest performers. And they’ll be, like, “I still get nervous every time I go on stage.”
And the other person’s like, “It’s so important, because you still care. If you didn’t, that would be terrible.” And so, I think that, whether I’m writing a book, or an article, or having to prepare for a conversation, or sitting down with this, or doing a live presentation, I feel like I don’t love having it, but I feel like it’s my co-pilot, and I need it. I’m almost worried if it’s not there.
0:09:44 Michael Port: Sure! I’m the same. I still get nervous, all the time. We have a few friends in the industry who say…
0:09:51 Mitch Joel: Scott Stratten, I hate it!
0:09:52 Michael Port: Yeah, we hate you Scott. Scott you suck! No, we, just for those who don’t know, we’re actually close friends with Scott, we don’t actually hate Scott.
0:10:00 Mitch Joel: No, loved him a long time, loved him a long time. But Scott will say, if you take his BP before he goes on, and I’m just like…
0:10:09 Michael Port: Actually, you know what? I’m actually going to do that next time he does a speech, to see if it’s true. See if his pulse actually doesn’t change.
0:10:16 Mitch Joel: So, the problem with it, with me, was that I was like, “Well then there’s something wrong with me,” and I actually am coming to the point, now, where I feel like there’s actually something wrong with him.
0:10:22 Michael Port: I agree, it’s unusual.
0:10:24 Mitch Joel: I think he’s an anomaly.
0:10:25 Michael Port: Yes, he is! He’s absolutely, he’s a unicorn. I think, I mean, think of Carly Simon. She has petrifying stage fright. She has trouble leaving her property.
0:10:36 Mitch Joel: I heard that Bono throws up every gig, before every show he throws up, that’s why there’s no meet and greet before, it’s always afterwards, in the afternoon. And, again, as a guy who would go backstage and interview a lot of these people, I would always be, like, “Oh, can’t we just do it before the show? Why do I have to wait until the show’s over?”
And then, as I got into the performance part of business presentations, I was like, “I don’t want to see anybody.” You’re in your mindset, you’re getting ready for a show. And, again, even the construct, if I have friends, now, who have become famous, because I sort of grew up with them, and I’m like, “Well, at least when I go to an event, it’s not like, yes, I’m the keynote, but they’re not really there for me, they’re there for the event, and I’m just sort of part of the program.”
These people, you bought the ticket to see Bono. And that’s, like, 60,000 people.
0:11:20 Michael Port: Yeah! That’s a high stakes situation.
0:11:24 Mitch Joel: Every night, or you know nine months this is going to rolling. I mean, that, to me is just like… I’m really comfortable in my role as a business speaker. Because I do not want…
0:11:33 Michael Port: Hold on one second, who is, someone is messing around with our computers somehow.
0:11:39 Mitch Joel: I thought it was like Joe Rogan where you throw up pictures of really cool things as we’re talking.
0:11:43 Michael Port: Is that what Joe does? I’ve never watched his….
0:11:46 Mitch Joel: Yeah, so he’ll talk about an article and then his guy behind will throw the article up, it’s like, “Yes!” It’s very, very cool, and very well done, yeah.
0:11:53 Michael Port: Oh, that’s cool! Yeah, so I think it is, I just think it’s worthwhile to demonstrate to folks that being nervous, or having fear, is a perfectly normal part of being a performer and that there is no, from what I have seen, there’s no correlation between how much talent you have and the amount of nerves you do or don’t have.
You can have an enormous amount of talent, an enormous amount of craft, great skill, and have a very, very high level of nerves and you could have less talent and less skill and have no nerves. And, Scott, we’re not saying that’s you. You have lots of talent and and lots of skill.
But they’re not connected to each other, necessarily. Although, generally, the better prepared you are, the less nervous you are, but being nervous and having some anxiety can be slightly different.
0:12:47 Mitch Joel: Yeah, you want to be nervous about how well you perform and how much the content engages the audience. You don’t want to be nervous about the fact of whether or not you know your stuff. You don’t want to be there.
I’d say the best analogy that I’ve heard for this, all of this stuff, stress in general, is imagine you have a dog – some people do – and every time the doorbell rings, the dog barks. The dog knows, after fifty times, that there’s no harm, it’s just part of it’s old brand. The dog is essentially dumb, but you need the dog to bark, it’s an important part of life, survival.
So, having this nervousness is a part of our survival mechanism. In fact, one of the most important parts. And the thing, for me, is what are you going to do? Are you going to kick the dog? Scream at the dog? Or are you going to be, like, “Hey buddy, it’s okay, just the doorbell. You know that, you’re better than that.”
So, one is the self-talk and how you deal with the barking dog. And the other thing is that, everyone has a different dog. Some dogs don’t bark that loud, some are real yappers. Some are super annoying, some charge the door. And again, your choice is, you can either try fight and resist the dog, and try give it away – it’s not going to work, because you’ll get another dog – or you can try and be loving to the dog.
Which goes back to the self-esteem stuff, it goes back to your self-talk. So, I always use that metaphor. I’m like, “Oh my dog is just barking a little bit louder before this gig today,” and “It’s okay, buddy!” And then I’ve got work to do.
0:14:08 Michael Port: Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with you or the dog, for barking.
0:14:11 Mitch Joel: Exactly, it’s just who he is.
0:14:12 Michael Port: That’s right. So, why ‘Media Hacker’? Why do you prefer that term?
0:14:17 Mitch Joel: It was something that I had been… I always hated titles, like president or then you have ‘Chief Customer Experience’, and I don’t know, I just thought, that, because of what I do, and really what I do, if you can envision a triangle, it’s sort of brands, consumers and technology.
So, how do brands change in a world where consumers are using so much technology? Has technology changed the relationship between brands and consumers? That’s sort of my little prism of what I talk about and what I write about.
And I was trying to think of a fun way, versus trying to explain to somebody what Twisted Image was, and then Mirum was, and then, sort of, it’s a media hacker, you know? So you get this sort of hacker, the Facebook, the fun vibe, and you get the sort of media world in there too.
So it was just a fun way to… It gets good laughs, by the way, in an intro.
0:15:05 Michael Port: It does?
0:15:06 Mitch Joel: Yeah, like on stage, people almost like, it’s almost like it warms them up from a serious intro, you know? Intros can be really serious and formal and you sort of get up there and I feel like there’s certain components of the bio when I call myself a Media Hacker, that makes people think, “He’s probably more like us than I think.” And I like that stuff, I always like that stuff.
0:15:25 Michael Port: Yeah, of course, you’re nothing like them.
0:15:27 Mitch Joel: Yeah! I’m much superior. Exactly, yes! Otherwise they would be on the stage.
0:15:33 Michael Port: Exactly, yes! No, but it’s interesting because hacking is, historically the idea of hacking is you’re not doing such a great job at something, you’re kind of like a hack. Over time it’s changed.
0:15:48 Mitch Joel: Yeah, and in the tech world, hacking was more about finding a quick and new and different way of approaching something. And then iterating on it, until it becomes part of the norm. Then it actually switched, you’re right, it started where you were, then it went to where I was, and then, just with all the breaches in hacking, people were like, “I don’t know,” but then again, I think people know that the word is somewhat ambiguous.
0:16:12 Michael Port: And, let’s be clear, that you are truly a master of the craft of marketing, of content marketing, of the world of technology and how it’s influencing brands and consumer behaviour, et cetera.
0:16:26 Mitch Joel: Yeah, I try. It’s a hard world to keep up in. People say, like, “We’re struggling with it.” I’m like, “I’m struggling with it.” It’s a lot of stuff happening, it changes fast, and I think the big thing that has allowed me to have the trajectory that I’ve had from a public speaking point of view is, you know, my stance isn’t that it’s fast and consumers are adopting a quick death. I think that’s basically table stakes, and there’s a lot of my peers that do that.
What I think is different about my approach is that I always bring in the added layer, and it has changed how they buy, or how they consider buying. And I think it’s that little extra, that, when I’m building the slide or that component of the story that really brings the audience in.
Because, ultimately, you can tell them things are moving fast, and things are changing fast, that’s not a solution. But if you can show them how they themselves buy differently, or how you buy differently or how I buy differently, and how they could deploy a model like that, that’s different.
So, a quick example is, I talk about the idea of, “What’s the first thing your parents told you when you were a kid? Never talk to strangers. Rule number two was, never get into a stranger’s car.” And then I show an image of a tweet where a person says those two things, and underneath it it says 2018, and it says, “Literally use the internet to summon strangers so that we can get into their car.” That’s Uber.
And it gets a good laugh, it’s funny, and it works, but that sort of idea, we sort of push things to the side, and then we see how silly it is! It’s true! I actually rent out rooms to complete strangers, in my home, to sleep in. Only a socio-path would do that, and yet it’s Air BnB.
And I think that that’s the sort of added thing that I want my audience to really hone in on. So, whether or not they can build the next Air BnB, they may be B2B, they may be highly regulated. It’s not about that, it’s just, thinking, that, “Hold on, if it has been done that way, what are our opportunities? What are the paths that have now opened to us?” because consumers have now fundamentally adopted that mindset and mentality. And I love it, I love talking about that.
0:18:28 Michael Port: So, how has technology influenced the world of speaking? What’s changed? I mean, how long, when did you start speaking professionally?
0:18:38 Mitch Joel: Thirteen, fourteen years ago.
0:18:40 Michael Port: So, thirteen, fourteen years ago, it was a different world. There was no social media, you couldn’t just pop up a video online quickly, you couldn’t livestream. So, what’s changed and how should we think about technology and the influences of technology on our work as speakers?
0:19:01 Mitch Joel: I would take it from a broader perspective, like, when I go back and I think about it, what was I trying to do? I was trying to do what Seth Godin and Tom Peters were doing. I’d watch Seth Godin tell these really funny, quirky stories, and I thought, “You can do that in a business presentation?”
And his slides were really different. Wasn’t a lot of bullet points, was no template. It was a big image, it was a big word, it was a bouncy ball. Then I saw Tom Peters do 500 slides in 40 minutes. And same, tons of text sometimes, sometimes just one word. Different colours, very crazy fonts. That was a technological innovation, I mean, it really was.
They were using Powerpoint in a way that nobody had really thought about using Powerpoint. They were taking images and using them in slides which now is very commonplace. But they were really one of the few that was doing that, and it was really amazing to watch them do that. So that was one. Two was…
0:19:57 Michael Port: Before you go into two, I just want to make a note, in case you can hear, it just started pouring heavy, heavy rain. We’re in July, now, it’s hot, so you might hear that, because we have a metal…
0:20:12 Mitch Joel: I love ambience to a show, so I’m down with it.
0:20:14 Michael Port: Perfect, perfect.
0:20:15 Mitch Joel: Dogs barking, doorbells ringing, I love all of that.
0:20:17 Michael Port: This is the kind of rain that probably won’t last that long, because it’s just breaking the heat.
0:20:21 Mitch Joel: Yeah, and if the ark comes, we’ll bale, because we’ll go two by two, you and I!
0:20:25 Michael Port: Exactly, since we’re pretty much the same animal.
0:20:28 Mitch Joel: So, that, to me, was the first real innovation, using slides and technology, and again, what came really close after that is people started embedding videos, people started embedding audio files, and I think I really feel like that was a major leap in presentation skills. The ability to really create almost a true multimedia experience on stage, any individual, like, I could do that, was huge.
You’re right in that social media changed the game a lot, too, from whether it’s terribly live tweeting from on the stage, which is a misery and I hate it and I don’t know why you would want distractions on stage, I don’t know why event organisers thought this was a good idea. I get why, but it never made sense to me.
Two, then YouTube. I mean, you and I actually met when you were writing your sales books. And a lot of the way I would find out about people is by going to YouTube and watching interviews with them, speaking presentations, on and on and on. And so, I think that if you really even look at the past decade, I’d be challenged to see another industry as disrupted by technology than speaking.
Think about webinars. Think about livestreaming. We were talking a little bit about that. Your ability to basically take a laptop and turn that into a real global business, is huge! It’s unbelievable! It’s going on here at HPS.
0:21:52 Michael Port: Yeah, if we turn the cameras around, we’ve got three cameras set up, wirelessly feeding into a hub.
0:21:59 Mitch Joel: But, this is bananas! You could basically have two iPhones and get a similar result. But, I mean, I’m even sitting here with your amazing mics and your set up, laughing, and going that for 600 plus episodes, I’m basically head-set and just Skype right into my laptop and I think the sound quality is great.
0:22:16 Michael Port: Yeah, no doubt.
0:22:17 Mitch Joel: So, technology from, like, what does it mean to a speaker is, on one hand, sort of like the music business, where it’s never been a better time to be a speaker. Because you can build and package and promote yourself unlike anything you’ve ever seen.
But there’s never been a worse time to do it, because everybody can do it.
0:22:34 Michael Port: So, how has it changed the marketing and the sales process for speakers?
0:22:41 Mitch Joel: Again, it’s one of those things where, if you think about a world where you wanted to promote your services as a speaker, what would you do? Now you can build the list, you can send up personalised messages. I can, actually, by keywords, against all my competitive speakers and have a little ad in Google that pops up there.
“Love Seth Godin? Check out Mitch Joel, another bald guy. “I actually have a funny story about that. Did I ever tell you the Seth Godin story? Seth and I had the same talent agent for many years. And, Seth is a different calibre speaker, as we know, he’s real up there in terms of fees; he’s also very specific.
He doesn’t want to sleep out if he doesn’t have to. He’s got his own peculiar ways of being that I completely respect, because that’s who he is. And so the joke is, because we had the same agent, “Listen, just tell them that if they want a white, bald, Jewish version of Seth Godin, you’ve got someone.”
And Seth jokingly now says that he’s the American version of the Canadian Mitch Joel, and I’m like, “That’s not the joke.” But he does joke like that.
0:23:38 Michael Port: That’s very kind, he’s very generous. But it is true, we work with another speaker who is Canadian, I won’t mention his name.
0:23:47 Mitch Joel: Is it Ron Tite?
0:23:48 Michael Port: No, not Ron. I won’t mention his name because I…
0:23:51 Mitch Joel: Let me guess! I like this game! What can I win? What kind of show is this?
0:23:54 Michael Port: But no, he sold over a million books.
0:23:57 Mitch Joel: Oh, I know exactly who it is. He’s great!
0:24:00 Michael Port: Exactly. He’s great! One of the things he said is, the speaking bureau that he chose to go exclusively with represents two people who speak on the same subject that he does, but are more famous than he is, at even higher fees. So if they called and said, “Listen, we’d like so-and-so,” they can go, “Well, he’s 65grand,” and they go, “Yes, well we can’t pay that.”
“Oh, we’ve got…”
0:2:24 Mitch Joel: I love being a sloppy second. In fact, I’ll tell you, the number one mistake I see when I mentor people who are looking for a bureau is, they’ll show me their analysis and one of the main things they’re looking at is, “Can I fill a void that the agency may have?”
And I’m like, “No, what you actually want is, you want to know that their sales rep is constantly calling, let’s say, to get Bill Clinton on the stage,” let’s use that as an example. Maybe not a great example these days, but let’s say it was, and you’ve got something on politics, they can’t afford him, but that’s the sort of track, that’s exactly where you want to be.
Again, that’s one of those unknown knowns in the business that I’m constantly fascinated with where people are constantly trying to find this very unique or specific niche. And I’m, like, “Look, these are busy times.”
0:25:07 Michael Port: Well, that’s actually a mistake that I made when I was an actor. So, when I got to grad school I was twenty-five or something, and when I sat down with my first meeting with all the agents at the agency that was taking me on, called Paradigm, Richard Schmenner who was a senior at the agency at the time, he said, “So, who are you like?”
I said, “I’m like me. What do you mean?” He said, “Who are you like?” I said, “Well, I’m a character actor, that’s why I went to grad school. I don’t want to play just one thing, I don’t want to be known for just one thing.” He said, “No, who are you like?” He just kept asking me the same question and I finally realised, and went, “Oh, yeah. Well, I guess maybe a young Alec Baldwin?”
You know, I had hair then. So, they really needed some sort of…
0:25:56 Mitch Joel: Anchor, they need an anchor.
0:25:57 Michael Port: Yes, because what they’re doing is, they’re going to all the casting directors and saying, “Listen, we’ve got the next Alec Baldwin, we’ve got the next so-and-so, we’ve got the…” And when people are casting films, they say, in the breakdowns, “an Alec Baldwin type,” because they can’t get Alec, so they’re looking.
0:26:13 Mitch Joel: Book proposals are the same way, right? Like, you always have to have at least one page in there that says what’s your comparable. And people are always like, “No.”
0:26:21 Michael Port: Yes! There’s no one like me.
0:26:24 Mitch Joel: Exactly, “It’s the first time anyone’s ever written on customer experience.” And, I think what an editor wants to hear is, “Oh, it’s like The Automatic Millionaire meets Malcolm Gladwell.” And I know people hate that, but you do, they need anchors.
And especially, I think, what happens is, there’s a lot of ego that plays into this, and again, maybe it’s the Canadian in me, maybe it’s the sort of imposter syndrome, maybe it’s the self-esteem want in me, but I’m the first person to say that, “Oh, I talk about this or that,” and someone will say, “Well, isn’t that generic?” or, “Aren’t there a million people that do that?”
And I’m like, “It is true that there are usually people who do what I do, but I’m only me.” I talk with a timeline of how you create content, and at the beginning you do want to be in a place, like, if you think about brands, consumers and technology, my triangle, when I started doing that in 2002-ish, let’s say, there weren’t many people talking about the topic.
There were, but there weren’t many. Over the course of the fifteen plus years, I have become a unique voice in what has become a validated niche. And I think that that trajectory, people also don’t get when it comes to speaking.
Like, in a perfect world you would like to have, “Only I can speak about my topic,” but ultimately it is clumped into something – leadership, management, marketing, presentation skills. What you want is someone to say, “We need someone in presentations but we want someone unique.”
0:27:46 Michael Port: Yes, and that’s when you can say, “Well, I’ve got an idea for a business. No one’s ever done anything like it!” Well, there may be a reason nobody’s ever done anything like it. So, there are certain topics that are very, very important to the kinds of audiences that we speak to, and they generally stay within those categories and they’re looking for unique voices inside every one of those categories.
0:28:10 Mitch Joel: Right. And there are limited categories, right? So it’s like people, it’s leadership, it’s management, it’s innovation.
0:28:18 Michael Port: And innovation is going to pave the way for management.
0:28:22 Mitch Joel: Yeah, exactly. So that’s where guys like a mutual friend of ours, like a Jay Baer is a great example.
0:28:27 Michael Port: Who just was voted into the Speaker Hall of Fame.
0:28:30 Mitch Joel: Congratulations!
0:28:31 Michael Port: Congratulations, Jay, we’re so proud of you!
0:28:32 Mitch Joel: It’s amazing to watch him really sort of think, and I could see that his wheels are going, and, “How do I take where I was in maybe digital-social, open it up to utility, open it up to customer experience, open it up to management,” and he’s on this really beautiful, you know, like The Price Is Right, the yodelling guy, just moving up the hill, “Yodel, yodel,” and he’s moving up.
And that, to me, is really powerful and it’s a lesson that I think all speakers should think about. You want to be a unique voice as a speaker, make sure you can put yourself in a bucket, so that whoever it is calls you and they go, “We need somebody to talk about leadership,” that at least your name’s coming forward in that, and not, “Well, I don’t really fall into leadership or management or any of that. I’m sort of this.” You got to.
0:29:16 Michael Port: Yeah, you know and if you are very effective at what you do, you can keep recreating yourself throughout the course of your life, and the more successful you are, the easier it is to do.
0:29:29 Mitch Joel: Oh, you know, this is funny, you know, you’re reading the bio and you’re wondering what WPP is. So, WPP is the largest marketing communications network in the world, it’s just like a 20 billion dollar plus business. Their CEO, who just exited the business in a not so great way, but he was the highest paid CEO of all time, and you’re sitting there going, “I haven’t heard about it.”
0:29:31 Michael Port: And they purchased Mirum.
0:29:33 Mitch Joel: They purchased my agency, which became Mirum, it originally was called Twisted Image. And this I’m tying in with your story. What happened is, that I thought about how involved I was with the industry, and again, at the point I had a huge blog and a podcast and we were growing as a business and things were great, I had been speaking a ton.
And I knew WPP and I knew the agencies within it – the JWT’s the Ogilvies, the Kantars, but I never ran into them. And it’s such an important thing to realise, too, is that Tom Peters, you were talking about this longevity and how long you can go.
I love Tom Peters, I feel that it’s an amazing world that I could look on my iPhone and see an e-mail from him; that he knows who I am; that my protein form exists in his zeitgeist. And in fifteen years I don’t think I’ve every been in the same city as him, as a speaker.
In fifteen years I think I’ve seen him speak once, maybe twice, maybe three times. Here we sit, right outside of Philadelphia, somewhere near New Jersey. How many events are happening within fifty miles of here? Two hundred?
You can go forever, and people do worry that… And I should caveat, I think there’s two things that I’ve been speaking. One is, I think you can be a speaker of the times, which I think I do. Sort of like the now stuff, and how does it play out? And then you can have the perennial stuff. Which I love Ryan Holiday for, because he’s sort of named the perennial seller.
Scott is a great example of an perennial speaker. Or Sally Hogshead is another example. Evergreen content that you could literally do a million times a day in a million different places, and, trust me, you can go for forty years like that.
Now, again, I don’t think that I can’t not go, it’s just that still people want to hear what’s now and what’s happening, but the more you can switch it to be perennial, or just keep yourself relevant, if you’re a speaker of the times, which is, there’s tons of futurists who we know, twenty years later, are still doing it.
You can keep going.
0:31:47 Michael Port: It’s interesting, I actually heard someone call you a futurist once, and I was like, “I don’t think that’s how…”
0:31:51 Mitch Joel: No, I’m a presentist!
0:31:53 Michael Port: Right, right! Because you’re so on the cutting edge of what is happening now, people often think of it as futuristic thinking or way of being, and most entrepreneurs are futuristic, because you’re always thinking about, “What’s coming? What’s next? What are we doing? What’s up?”
0:32:10 Mitch Joel: I like what’s next! What’s next is a very long and wide runway in speaking. It’s always going to be there, people are always saying, “So here we sit. Digital happened, the web happened, mobile happened, social happened, e-commerce happened. So you’re done, Mitch?”
Oh, well we have AI, now we have Clockgen, now we have VR, now it just goes on and it doesn’t end.
0:32:32 Michael Port: Yeah. Well, you know Terry Brock?
0:32:34 Mitch Joel: Sure!
0:32:35 Michael Port: Well, Terry Brock, he just won the Cavett award at NSA. It’s a very big honour, and he’s been serving the community for a very long time, and I bumped into him this week, at NSA, and I said, “What are you up to?” and he goes, “Oh, I’m doing this whole thing with blockchain and cryptocurrency.” I was, like, “What? Who are you?”
And he said, “I’m involved in this company,” and I was, like, “Wow! That’s really…” And he’s reinventing himself and he’s older than we are.
0:33:01 Mitch Joel: Yes, you’ve got to stay sharp. And same, I’m advising a company that’s got a provisional panel on blockchain. I’m advising a company that’s got some creativity stuff happening with AI, and it’s not that I’m like, because I’m so smart, I’m doing it because I’ve got to learn this stuff.
0:33:18 Michael Port: Yeah, well, you’re pretty bright too!
0:33:20 Mitch Joel: And the only way to do it is to do it. Did we answer any of your questions, yet, Michael?
0:33:27 Michael Port: Yeah, I’m going through them, and none at all, no. You’ve been on the board of many different marketing initiatives, as an advisor and and investor – this is actually a written question, because you just hit the blockchain thing and this is one of the things I’ve got in here – so, including blockchain, artificial intelligence, smart audio voice, FinTech, and it seems to appear that you’re not only on top of technical trends, but ahead!
So, I think that you are a futurist, but that’s not how your position yourself, necessarily. Because you know more about what’s coming than I do.
0:34:02 Mitch Joel: Yeah, but that’s not a futurist. A futurist, to me, is more somebody who can talk about, “Okay, we know what, let’s say, blockchain is today, but here’s really what it’s going to be.”
I don’t know if I like making those bets. Where I’m good, is telling you, as a business person, right now, if you want to get involved in virtual reality, what the true opportunity is right now. I’m good like that. And I like that.
0:34:25 Michael Port: And it actually fits your personality, because you are a very pragmatic person, and you really like to be grounded in reality, and most predictions are not accurate. I mean, we know that. Financial predictions, technological predictions.
0:34:39 Mitch Joel: Did you love YouTube when you saw it?
0:34:42 Michael Port: Not really. I thought it was kind of stupid.
0:34:43 Mitch Joel: I hated it. I saw YouTube, and, again, I’d been doing work with Google, I saw YouTube, and I was like, “It’s a four by four screen, there are buffering issues. You could buy…”
0:34:53 Michael Port: You know, for Millennials, Skyler is back there at the end of the Theatre, and he’s going, “YouTube’s incredible!” But it wasn’t like that when it started. Sometimes you’d have to sit there and wait.
0:35:04 Mitch Joel: Shaky cams, people shooting really bad videos, and again, from a tactical standpoint, for $800 you could walk into a Best Buy and buy an HD TV and off you go to the races, so why? So, I always use part of that as my anchor in my brain. Like, “You didn’t see YouTube coming. You did not like SnapChat,” which I talk about in my presentation still.
It’s like, “Okay, so I send you a picture, once you see it, it disappears forever, you’re eight people, there’s no revenue, I don’t even understand why you would want to have that happen, where this picture goes away forever and Facebook wants to acquire you for 3 billion dollars, and you say no.”
So, if I were a futurist, I would be like, “Of course, well that’s, what do you mean?” To this day, I have to be able, and you also – I have to be, and you as a speaker listening – you have to be able to know what you’re good at. And I don’t think I’m good at placing bets like that. I think I’m really good at seeing something like YouTube, once it gets a bit more mature and accepted.
0:36:00 Michael Port: And figuring out, “Oh, wait a second, what you can do with this…”
0:36:04 Mitch Joel: Yeah, exactly, we can do something with this.
0:36:05 Michael Port: So, right. Because that is really what’s most important for most of us, is what do we do with what we have access to now? And yes, we want to prepare ourselves for the future, but if we are effective using what is cutting edge today, generally we will stay ahead of the curve.
0:36:24 Mitch Joel: Yeah, and speakers, we know a lot of them who build their lists, speakers who do live streaming, speakers who give cool webinars, speakers who have really visually impacting digital platforms, just are killing it, and they’re doing great.
And there’s a reason for it, because they’re connected, they’re staying connected, they’re constantly communicating whether it’s to the audience or potential event planners. And I still think, within that, there’s so much opportunity.
You know, again, I just watch my speaker friends in Speak & Spill, which is a private Facebook group, just how we manoeuvre in the world, and I’m like, “It is a big world.” It is a big world with a lot of ways to connect and I think that if you do anything, think about what’s your triangle. What are the three areas that you focus on?
0:37:10 Michael Port: Rearticulate that for them, because I think it’s an important concept and I think it will be very helpful.
0:37:16 Mitch Joel: So, when you ask people what they do, they say, “Oh, well I talk about innovation, I talk about management, I talk about, blah, blah, blah.” I think that if it’s more than three, it’s completely forgettable, so I just draw a picture of a triangle, and I go, “What are the three points of that triangle?”
So, for me, it was brands, consumers, and technology. And then, what I love more is, within the triangle, to have a bullseye. So, for me, the bullseye was, for many years, marketing. So, the idea is that, I will not speak, write, talk or create any content that, in a perfect world, hits all three, with the bullseye. But, as you sort of evolve and create a lot of content, it’s okay if you sort of maybe even just have one. So I can just talk about a brand and it’s fine, because it is in my atmosphere.
So, when you creep out and try to do so much or have so many things that you wind up watering down what your message is. So, if you can nail that triangle and bullseye, is job one. Job two is figuring out what type of content are you good at creating.
So, again, people hate it when I talk about this, especially people who really do content marketing, but I literally start with text, images, audio, and video. What do you like to create? And then long form, or short form? And, what’s your formula?
So, my formula is the triangle to bullseye; and then it’s, I know I’m long form; text and audio, I do a lot of writing and do a lot of podcasting and audio stuff. That’s my thing. And, should I ignore video? No. Video becomes more popular, should I ignore it? No!
But if you are tremendously successful, or at least building success within that, and that’s your comfort, because you’re just good and you have a passion for creating it. Like, as much as I love sitting here, my brain is like, “Can’t wait to write.” It’s just who I am. The nature of who I am.
So, when you can nail that as a speaker and really drive your platform home, you can win. I find that lot of times what happens is, the speaker has their core, which is usually based off of a book, and that lane becomes really tight.
And every day that I see content from them, they’re stretching. It’s like a movie, right? When you watch a movie and they take the theme and they just go a bit out of the rails, and it’s like you can feel, you’re like, “This is not going to end well.”
0:39:17 Michael Port: Jumping the shark?
0:39:18 Mitch Joel: Yeah, and it’s hard, because they’re like, “I have this book, I want to promote this book; it’s my speeches,” but I think if you open it up with the triangle and that bullseye in the middle, it gives you some leeway on that freeway.
0:39:33 Michael Port: You know, Andrew Davis was on the podcast recently.
0:39:36 Mitch Joel: He’s great.
0:39:36 Michael Port: He’s great, he’s also keynoting at HPS Live in October, on the business of speaking. He’s not in the business of teaching it, but he’s so analytical and intuitive, and strategic and tactical; he’s really extraordinary.
0:39:56 Mitch Joel: He makes you feel like a slacker. I heard the conversation, and I just felt like, “Oh, man!”
0:40:01 Michael Port: Exactly, yeah. Oh, you heard the episode. You know, actually, before we did that day, I was saying to him, “How was your morning?” He said, “Oh, it was great! I got up at about four and I rehearsed for a couple of hours,” and he does that every day. Which is extraordinary. And I said, “You work hard, I’m really impressed.”
And he said, “Well, actually, I always think everybody’s working harder than me.”
0:40:21 Mitch Joel: No, Andrew, you’re the only one.
0:40:23 Michael Port: Yeah. “I think that may be why I work so hard, but I think everybody’s working harder than me.” And I said, “No.”
0:40:30 Mitch Joel: But I think we work differently, though, right? So, like, if people, like, I use Pocket to save stuff, it’s great to save stuff, and whenever I see a data point or something I think is going to be good, I tag it to a slide. And if you clicked on my slide tag in Pocket, there’s probably a 100,000 things in there.
So, again, you might think, “Wow, you’re working really hard, I’m like, “Well, no. Andrew’s working really hard, all I’m doing is tagging this thing.”
0:40:53 Michael Port: Yeah, I think he’s working harder. Just kidding.
0:40:55 Mitch Joel: But again, to some people, they’re like, “Wow, you’re putting a lot of effort into your content.” Well, it’s interesting, people do it in different ways.
0:41:00 Michael Port: Someone asked Ian Altman that. So Amy and I gave a 30 minute keynote at the NSA Annual Conference this past weekend, and it was a very, very unusual keynote.
0:41:14 Mitch Joel: Yeah, you were topless.
0:41:16 Michael Port: I was topless.
0:41:18 Mitch Joel: Your wife simulated orgasms.
0:41:19 Michael Port: Well, no, a standing ovation she simulated.
0:41:21 Mitch Joel: Oh, okay. So all I saw was a picture of her screaming and someone saying, “The Sally…”
0:41:25 Michael Port: Yeah, but it looked that way, just want to give some context to the audience.
00:41:28 Mitch Joel: Yeah, because now it sounds like I’m a creep. I’m not a creep Amy.
0:41:32 Michael Port: No, not at all. So one of the things, we used a few different movie scenes and we spoofed them. So, instead of arguing about what they were arguing about in the movie scene originally, we rewrote them to argue about our points as related to speaking or performing.
0:41:50 Mitch Joel: Oh, that’s hilarious! You’re crazy!
0:41:51 Michael Port: So, for example, we opened with a scene from Jerry McGuire, and I played Cuba Gooding Jnr in the shower, and she played Tom Cruise. So, that’s why I didn’t have any clothes on, but we built a set piece that looked like a tiled shower, and then I stood behind it, and then, of course, it showed me from the waist up, so it looked like I had no clothes on.
And the audience didn’t see me enter the stage, because I hid behind it, as the set piece was brought on, and then I just popped up.
0:42:19 Mitch Joel: I can’t wait for the video of this.
0:42:21 Michael Port: So, yes, the video you guys will have the video in a few weeks. And then, after that scene, then we break down the argument, talking to the audience, so that it’s a really very casual conversational approach, so they get all this contrast between watching a scene from a play – I mean, it’s obviously from a movie, but since it’s on stage, it’s a play – then, what they’re more used to, with a speaker talking to them, back to another scene, et cetera, et cetera.
So, the second scene was a spoof on When Harry Met Sally, but it was When Michael Met Amy. And so we did the diner scene, but instead of it being about faking an orgasm, it was how audiences often fake the big “Oh!”
0:43:02 Mitch Joel: Oh! That’s brilliant!
0:43:03 Michael Port: And so, what she did…
0:43:04 Mitch Joel: How long did it take you guys to write that? That’s insane to me.
0:3:06 Michael Port: It took me about five months. So, the reason I mention this is because that’s a one off. We may do that as HPS live for our students just to show them some of this work, because they’d love to see it.
And last year we did a performance for them, that was important to them, and one of the reasons we do this is because, if we’re going to ask people to take risks and be bold we have to take bigger risks and be bolder. We can’t ask people to do things that we won’t do ourselves, or don’t do ourselves.
So, someone asked Ian Altman, who is a friend of ours, because they knew that he knew us, he said, “Why did they do all that work? I mean, that was one of the most dialled in performances I’ve ever seen! That’s like going to watch a Broadway show! That must have taken months of work.”
And he said, “Well, first of all, that’s how the Ports approach the work they do, they’re not going to go on stage in front of 2,000 people, no matter whether it’s a one time thing, whether it’s free, or paid, or whatever, because they have certain expectations for themselves.”
And the person was just very surprised that we would do that much work, for one event.
0:44:15 Mitch Joel: Let me ask you something: How much better of a keynote speaker are you today, that you were when you were doing the Book Yourself Solid thing?
0:44:22 Michael Port: Oh, much. Much.
0:44:23 Mitch Joel: And it’s while, because you don’t do it any more. That’s amazing to me.
0:44:26 Michael Port: I don’t do it any more. Oh, much better.
0:44:29 Mitch Joel: Like, to me, I see it, because I’ve seen your video.
0:44:31 Michael Port: Yeah, when I look back at what I was doing ten years ago as a speaker, I was, because I was a trained performer, I always had an ability to use the stage, physically, in a way that was unusual, but I wasn’t doing things, ten years ago, that were so unusual or so different than what most other speakers were doing.
It wasn’t until I really started digging back into my history, where I came from as a performer and as a content producer and sort of bringing more of those elements in, until it essentially brought me back to an earlier part of my professional life, and then appropriated that work into what we’re doing now.
And that reason I mentioned earlier is that I feel like I’m more willing to take risks now, because I’m more comfortable, I actually feel safer, more secure, and I’m willing to go out there and bomb, but only, only if I take risks that are worth taking for the audience, in service of them, and that I am so prepared that I feel proud of the work I do, no matter what kind of feedback I get.
0:45:43 Mitch Joel: And do you think that that would have worked in, I want to say, a more corporate setting?
0:45:48 Michael Port: Not that same speech. Of course, because the content was very inside baseball. A lot of, most of the humour was specifically for speakers and especially around NSA, because we even did the A Few Good Men scene, so we called it A Few Good Speakers, and I played Colonel Critic, the Jack Nicholson character, and Amy played, again, the Tom Cruise character, but we called her character Lieutenant Performer.
So there was the fight between being a performer and a critic.
0:46:16 Mitch Joel: Right, which I’m terrible at.
0:46:18 Michael Port: Yes, we’ve talked about that.
0:46:20 Mitch Joel: Because I was a rock critic. So, my intuitive is, when I see something is, not to say what’s wrong with it, but to try to deconstruct it. Like, when I’m watching someone speak, one is, if I’m not taking notes on your content, I’m feel like I’m not really getting value.
Two is, because I’m a speaker, I’m watching what you’re doing and I’m also taking mental notes, critically, because either I do that, or they do that – not to tell them, I would never give anybody unsolicited feedback.
And then, three, I’m watching the overall room. Because I think that I’ve seen great speakers, that we both know, kill it in one room, same speech, die in another. And so I sort of always, and even when I’m speaking, I’m probably working on three or four of those levels at the same time.
0:47:07 Michael Port: That’s not the kind of criticism that we’re discouraging people from engaging in. The kind of criticism we’re discouraging people from engaging in is criticising other people and their work, instead of working on improving yourself.
Because it’s very easy, and our theory is, look, people, when they’re up on stage here, they’re doing their best, even when we don’t think they are. Who’s going to come up here in front of an audience and not try their best?
0:47:34 Mitch Joel: Yeah. It’s hard to do. Like, I did it with you, and I think I told you after, it was really intimidating. It was a room full of professional speakers, it was you guys. I know you had seen me before, but not in the context of coaching. So, it’s hard to get out of your own head. I mean, it’s an amazing experience.
0:47:51 Michael Port: I know, it absolutely can be. So, to answer your question, would we do that in a corporate environment? It’s very unlikely that we would go quite that far with the things like turning the orgasm scene into a standing ovation scene.
So, she is, instead of orgasming, she’s going, “Oh, yes! Oh, brilliant! I have never seen anything like that!” and she’s like, “Whoohoo!” she starts screaming and then the last line is, “Even Tony Robbins never made me feel that good!” Sits down and takes a bite of an apple. The audience loses their mind, loses it!
0:48:24 Mitch Joel: Scott’s good at that, too, by the way. He’s really good at the inside baseball on both being a speaker and with the audience and what they’re about. He does that.
0:48:31 Michael Port: Yeah, but we’ve done that kind of thing for corporate audiences, but not in a way that was quite as risque.
0:48:40 Mitch Joel: I’m also wondering, do you feel that the client, who is ultimately not really the audience, usually it’s an organisation, do you feel that they have an appreciation for this? And I think that some of the conflict I often have when I think about my own work and extra-curricular training, is that, ultimately I’m a business professional speaker, and what I think they’re most concerned with is, for that one hour, “You’re good.”
Not that you’re good, that they’re good, they’re safe. Like, “Oh, we brought in the marketing guy, he did well.”
0:49:10 Michael Port: Yeah, see, I think part of it is placement and positioning. So, one of the things that Andrew Davis mentioned, which is what I think I was going to mention earlier and I don’t think I did, is, he talked about this FEE model: Fame, Entertainment, and Expertise.
And when the meeting planners are considering us, they’re considering, “Okay, how famous are they? How entertaining are they? And how much expertise do they bring to the conversation?”
So, what Andrew said is, “Listen, I’m not famous, like an astronaut, or an Olympian, or a president. I’m well known within my small circle of colleagues, and I’ve written a couple of books, but you don’t bring me in because I’m attracting the big crowds.”
You know, you bring in Seth to a marketing conference because people will go to see Seth.
0:50:01 Mitch Joel: Right, Jim Collins.
0:50:03 Michael Port: Jim Collins, Marcus Buckingham, Bill Clinton, et cetera. So, fame. Then they’re asking, “Well, how entertaining are they? Is this speaker going to entertain the audience?” And then they want to know how much expertise do they bring.
So, he said, “Well, listen, you’re not bringing me in for the fame. Bring in Magic Johnson.” Because it doesn’t matter what Magic Johnson talks about. It’s just, “Oh! There’s Magic Johnson, so cool!”
0:50:30 Mitch Joel: I’ve done the stage with all these people, doesn’t matter.
0:50:32 Michael Port: Correct. “And then,” Andrew says, “You bring me in, because my expertise and ability to entertain the audience at the same time. So, I’m the second up.”
0:50:40 Mitch Joel: I have different perspective on this.
0:50:42 Michael Port: Yeah, go ahead.
0:50:43 Mitch Joel: My perspective on it, and maybe this is being jaded, is it’s not that at all. I really believe what happens nine out of ten times with speakers in, let’s say, my fee category and below, is someone gets a call that says, “Hey, we’re doing this event, it’s a two-day event, it’s going to be in Philadelphia. I need someone to talk about marketing innovation, I need someone to talk about politics, I need someone to talk about… My overall budget is this, can you put together a platter of people.”
And I think that if my fee and my area of content is a match, that’s what gets me the gig.
0:51:22 Michael Port: I don’t disagree.
0:51:24 Mitch Joel: I think it’s probably nine out of ten, like, I don’t want to inflate my own tires, and go, “People are calling out of control after hearing me speak at Six Pixels,” I mean, sure it does happen, people have heard me, someone makes a referral, it does happen.
But overall, what I see in the mass market of speaking is that you sort of have your own cog that just fits in this wheel and that, more often that not, it is really predicated on what they want to cover and what their budget is, and that’s basically it.
0:51:50 Michael Port: Yeah. Well, I don’t disagree. I think there’s probably more overlap in those two ways of looking at it.
0:51:55 Mitch Joel: Yeah, you’re right, in how to think about it, yeah, for sure.
0:51:57 Michael Port: And I can’t speak for Andrew, I can only speak for myself. I would intuit that some of the meeting planners or decision makers aren’t necessarily thinking through that process consciously, but when they’re evaluating you, they’re probably on some level asking those questions. “Well, is the audience going to know who they are? Are they really going to seem more expert than the people in the room?”
0:52:25 Mitch Joel: So I have another theory that I love. So, you don’t happen to know who Avinash Kaushik was?
0:52:29 Michael Port: No.
0:52:29 Mitch Joel: Avinash was one of the big analytics guys at Google, still a big guy at Google, and has been there forever.
0:52:34 Michael Port: Oh, does he speak a lot?
0:52:36 Mitch Joel: Yeah.
0:52:36 Michael Port: Actually, Avinash, by the way, Avinash, someone introduced us once, we were supposed to connect and you didn’t follow up, so you owe me an e-mail.
0:52:42 Mitch Joel: That’s not like Avinash, not what he usually does. But, anyway, early days, we’re talking over ten years, I didn’t know who he was. You sort of hear the name, Avinash Kaushik, not easy to say, most people just call him Avinash, he gets up on stage, he’s sort of lanky and tall and a Googler, so you expect all that.
And he just tears the stage up. He’s unbelievable! An amazing speaker. One of my favourite speakers is Avinash, I love the guy. And we became really good friends, but in the early business of talking about speaking, I said to him, “You know, what makes you so killer is that people know Google, so they’re like, ‘What’s it going to be? Like a sales pitch?’ but when you get up on stage, you’re so good that the surprise factor is what builds and builds in your career.”
And that’s the other component that I think has worked a little bit for me. It worked a lot for someone like Scott or Ron Tite, now. Where they’re like, “I don’t know who Ron Tite is, I’ve never heard of Church And State.” He’s from Canada, like, “I’m not sure, I might have seen his book, I’m not sure I have.”
But then when he’s on stage, he kills.
0:53:48 Mitch Joel: Yeah, he kills. And I think, when the audience has that leap from, “I’ve never heard of this person. The bio was interesting,” to having you stand and deliver, that does better than the fame one. Because the fame one is usually disappointing.
0:54:03 Michael Port: Yeah, well that’s after the speakers have been booked. It’s how the audience responds, which is often different than how the meeting planners think about the bookings in advance. They might not think, “Oh, that one who we’re bringing in because they’re the expert, well good, they’re also entertaining.”
They may not realise that Ron’s going to come in and kill it from a performance perspective. They might be thinking, “Oh, he’s the expert on branding and marketing.”
0:54:31 Mitch Joel: But let me tell you something, because I sit behind the scenes a lot, whether it’s through associations or friends who have businesses, who run events – so I have one of my close friends who runs really big, full day events – and I will always see the feedback after. Not even my own performance, but others’, which I will not disclose.
But I can tell you that somebody like a Ron will score multiples higher than the headliner, always. Because of expectation all the time.
0:54:53 Michael Port: Yes, same thing happens to Andrew. But they don’t know that. They don’t know, the decision maker doesn’t know that going in.
0:55:01 Mitch Joel: Correct.
0:55:02 Michael Port: So, when they’re thinking about, “How much are we going to pay this person, they’re coming in for the expertise, throw our money at Magic Johnson, because that will bring audiences into the seats,” but then Andrew comes in and kills it and his evaluation is intense.
0:55:16 Mitch Joel: Well, within a year, Andrew will see his fee double, he will see his star rise. The only part of it that doesn’t work out, is that Andrew has a harder job of building his brand. I think, ultimately, what takes you to that next level is your brand.
I think I could stand on the stage here where we are at HPS, and work my butt off, and leave blood, sweat and tears on this stage, and I’d walk out and still get the same fee, unless my brand got bigger. I think I’d get infinitely better, totally.
0:55:41 Michael Port: Well, that’s the fame piece. That’s what he’s saying.
0:55:45 Mitch Joel: But that’s the new breed. The new breed is the fame, but they kill as speakers, too.
0:55:49 Michael Port: Correct, fame and entertaining and expert.
0:55:51 Mitch Joel: Yeah, we’re seeing that.
Michael Port: So, that’s the other thing, that I think is something that’s worth discussing, and I’d love your perspective on this, is what speakers are competing against. Because now, if you go, you can go to see Derek DelGaudio on Fourteenth street off Union square at a small theatre, for an hour and fifteen minute show, one person show, that is filled with magic and illusions, and the most significant messages you could possibly consider reflecting on.
0:56:24 Mitch Joel: I’ve watched you rant and rave about this, yeah.
0:56:26 Michael Port: It’s incredible! And then you watch Darren Brown, who’s a British illusionist.
0:56:31 Mitch Joel: Correct, yeah, he’s great, Netflix.
0:56:32 Michael Port: And he will blow your mind and there’s message after message after message, and lesson after lesson after lesson, and it’s a speech. That just happens to be delivered by somebody who is a master illusionist and can have you experience their ideas in a way that you couldn’t if you just explained it.
0:56:54 Mitch Joel: They’re making it harder for us to get up on stage, yeah. They’re making it harder.
0:56:58 Michael Port: So what do you think we do in order to deal with the fact that audiences, I think, are expecting more and more and more because the entertainment that’s produced for them, overall, is so much more significant?
0:57:14 Mitch Joel: It’s so hard. People who know and follow my work, who ask me about speaking, I always defer mechanically to things like stand up comedy and magicians. Always.
0:57:23 Michael Port: Yeah, always.
0:57:24 Mitch Joel: So, I read a ton of books on those topics, I watch a ton of videos, I’m very, very engaged with that type of sausage factory and how it comes together. And I think the trapping is to make the assumption that when you go and speak at a corporate HQ for their annual event, that you have to do that.
I throw a bit of a wet towel on that, I’m not sure. I think, in a great moment you can deliver a very powerful message just standing there as a professional business speaker. Versus, I’ve seen the flip side, where people are trying to amp it up, because of all these comedians and because of all these magicians, and it just doesn’t fit the room.
0:58:05 Michael Port: Fitting the room is essential,
0:58:06 Mitch Joel: Because these people who are showing up, aren’t paying to drink and laugh. They’re not paying because they heard you’re a great illusionist, and it just so happens you have a great story, or you’re great at delivering it.
That’s not [it]. They’re in that seat, usually, someone forced them to be there. It’s the gig. Like, you’ve got to leave your family for three days and come to Philadelphia and sit in this hotel room. “Have fun!”
So, I’m not saying that we have a harder job, or an easier job, I’m just saying that the expectation that we’re going to get up there and create all that performance, I’m always very cautious of, because I feel if it’s not intuitive and you’re really, really good at it, it feels really fake.
And if I can smell that stink, I don’t think I’m the only one. So the example is, and I hope I’m not calling someone out, because I don’t know who it was, but I saw a video where it was a concurrent session in a hotel room, and the person sort of did like a WWE wrestling entrance with music and [all] this.
I was uncomfortable, and the room is like, half empty, the seats aren’t filled, there’s no real energy, there wasn’t music before, and they’re trying to make a statement. And I just felt like, “You just dug such a hole for you to try and figure your way out of, versus just stood there and said, ‘Good morning, everybody,’ and here we go,” you know?
And I think that that, to me, is always the performance challenge. And I love what you do, because I think one is, you’re very in touch with understanding that that room, and the audience, is critical. And I think other people might just let that person run away with it.
Like, “Hey, bring the theatre to them,” which is fine.
0:59:40 Michael Port: We’re also very, very concerned with the individual, and how they want to express themselves, because no two speakers should be alike. It just would be insane to try to be like someone else, because you think that that’s the better way, because there is no one way to do it.
And so, what we’re looking for is, “What’s unique about this particular performer? What’s unique about this speaker?”
1:00:09 Mitch Joel: It’s always the quirkies, right? It’s always their quirks and their things.
1:00:13 Michael Port: That’s right, and how do we amplify that in a way that’s organic? And with experience comes the ability to intuit in certain situations so that you can make better decisions. I’m reading right now, Thinking, Fast And Slow, by Daniel Kahneman. Greatest book. Everybody needs to read this book.
He and Amos Tversky, who is his research partner, were probably the fathers of behavioural economics, and one of the things that he discusses is intuition, and how intuition really is just our ability to make decisions based on previous experience. That’s it.
And so, the more experience you have, if you’re a master chess player, you can look at the board, and you know exactly what to do, and if you don’t have that experience, you often don’t know how to make adjustments.
So, part of our job as performers, I think, is to be able to adjust to the medium that we’re in, to the environment that we’re in, and be able to perform in a way that affects those people in the way that you’re charged with affecting them.
And so, for example, I remember, it was probably about twelve, thirteen years ago, I went to give a keynote, and there were, like, twelve people there. Twelve people! And the keynote that they had asked me to come in and do was a very theatrical keynote, and it just would not have worked. It just would have been weird and kind of uncomfortable.
So, I just said, “Here’s what we’re going to do. There’s a huge whiteboard up here on the wall. I want you to think of your three most important questions as relates to this topic, and I want you come write them on the wall. Just write them on the wall, every single person, write them on the wall.”
And then what I did for the next sixty minutes was that I went and answered every single question, and I said, “Here’s what’s going to happen: When you hear your answer and I don’t even have to be on your question – you might get the answer because I’m addressing someone else’s question – I want you to run up, doesn’t matter what I’m saying, and cross it off.”
So, by the end of this presentation I was just sitting there like this, in front of a wall this size, with questions all crossed off, all 100%. Of course, many of the questions are the same, so you got five people run up at the same time to cross off their answer.
And the reason that I was able to make the change, is because I had enough experience to know that what I had planned wasn’t really appropriate for that environment, here’s what would be more appropriate and effective, and with experience comes the confidence to call an audible on the fly.
1:02:46 Mitch Joel: To know what’s right.
1:02:47 Michael Port: To know what’s right, and to be willing to do that and, as a result, it’s fun and I can still be theatrical in the way that I would normally be theatrical in any conversation with anybody, because it’s my personality.
So it’s the adjustment, and it’s understanding, you know, even if you’re blocking out a presentation, you’re staging it, well, you might have a ten foot stage, and you might have a hundred foot stage, you’re just going to expand and contract based on the platform that you’re on.
1:03:16 Mitch Joel: It’s such a, I mean, I know you teach it as the white belt stuff, but it is the black belt stuff. I have seen speakers who work that room of fifteen people, and the next day they’re doing those six thousands, and you can feel that they’re not getting sucked into the air.
Like, I’ve done eight to twelve thousands, and the first time you walk up on to that stage, there’s a lot of air. There’s a lot of open air, and you have to really work a different way. Your content is semi similar, but you’re working at it in a very, very different way.
And, again, that, to me, is the direct link to stand up comedy. That’s the putting in your reps, just rep, rep, rep, rep.
1:03:57 Michael Port: Which is why, if you want to write books, it’s probably a good idea to read books. If you want to be a speaker, you’ve got to see everything! Watch everyone, be open to everyone.
1:04:08 Mitch Joel: I’ll tell you, the greatest thing about my career, which is, again, it’s not going to happen for anybody. My first gig was like 6,000 people with Dr Phil and a full day, huge event, but even recognising my lack of skill in that moment, even though I did well, I had a lack of skill. I was always, like, “I’m going to sit and watch every single speaker, I’m going to read every single book, I’m going to get them on my show.”
People ask me, “How do you do 600 plus episodes of your podcast, every Sunday? It’s insane!” And I’m like, “I have a question about a business every week, and all I do is, let me find the most informed person.”
1:04:46 Michael Port: I was surprised that you were able to listen to the Steal The Show episode with Andrew. Like, “How do you have time?” You know? Because that’s what you do!
1:04:55 Mitch Joel: Yeah, and I mean, that’s also, I have a background in martial arts – I know, I look like it – but, again it was always, ‘be the student’. That whole Zen, always, always, always, for sure.
1:05:05 Michael Port: Ah, that’s beautiful. That’s really nice. And you know, sometimes coming into an environment with not knowing how it’s typically done, can actually be to your advantage, and it can lead to your disadvantage.
Now, watching everybody and everything has advantages, and we want to be careful that we don’t get sucked into the vortex of what is typical. So, for example, Amy and I were at this big event this past weekend, and we haven’t presented in any kind of hotel room in a long time.
I mean, big stages in big ballrooms with thousands of people, but they’re massively produced, so it’s very different than a breakout session with 250 people in a long hotel room, with a little temporary stage and a screen stuck in the corner and low lights and horrible wall paper, and the carpet’s gross, and it’s too cold, whatever.
So, we haven’t been in that environment a lot of time.
1:06:11 Mitch Joel: It’s not a fertile environment for creativity.
1:06:14 Michael Port: Correct. Which is why we built HPSHQ, because we will never do something in a hotel. And I was thinking, “Wow! This is very interesting, because this is the organisation that is the organisation that is supposed to set the standard for speaking, and yet, all of these breakout rooms are about as depressing as you can imagine.
With audio that didn’t work, generally, very well. And I’m not ragging on them, I’m just saying, that’s the the environment. And so, if you’re new to that world, you’re going to go, “Oh, this is the way you’re supposed to do it, this is normal.”
1:06:46 Mitch Joel: I’ll tell you a great example of this, which was my worst gig ever. My worst gig ever happened last year. Last year I was invited to speak in Chicago, really well known hotel, beautiful hotel, and I was the lunch keynote.
Now, I have it in my write, or in my contract, very specific, that when I’m speaking, you cannot be eating, there can’t be service, it as to be eat-speaker, or speaker-eat, something like that. I walk into this venue, 2,500 people, all round tables, eating.
And I’m like, “I’ve been pretty clear on this.”
“Well, we’re trying something new,” and I’m like, what am I going to do, walk out? I mean, I’m there, I can’t be the prima donna, I’m going to deal with it.
So, I get introduced, I get up on stage and, I’m not even joking, not because I’m good or I’m not good, I don’t care what people think, nobody looked at me. They were finally having lunch. They had never had a keynote lunch before, so no one really knew. They just thought, “Someone’s on stage,” I mean, I could see them, five feet away from me, eating, talking to each other.
1:07:48 Michael Port: Painful!
1:47:49 Mitch Joel: So, I talked earlier about, when you’re on stage you’re talking, and as you’re listening to yourself, you’re listening to your content, you’re thinking about what’s coming next, you’re thinking about your body language, or blocking your position, you’re thinking about the room. I had another fifth voice, that was my voice inside my brain going, “I cannot believe how loud this audience is. They’re not even hearing me!”
To the point where someone got up off the floor and came on to the stage!
1:08:16 Michael Port: To do what?
1:08:17 Mitch Joel: To basically, she basically stopped me. And I was like, “Is this happening?” And she was like, “I am the president of the association, I know you’re working really hard up here, I want to just have them pay attention.”
So she started to break it up, “Everybody, please pay attention.” It got better, but it was still… And so, I got off stage, my agent was there. She was, like, “Oh, my gosh, I’m so sorry,” everybody was waiting for me to come off stage as if there was a gurney to carry me off and I would be done, right?
And I was just like, it became humorous on stage. I was just like, literally, all I can remember is me saying in my brain, ‘I can’t believe how loud the audience is.'” I literally thought I could go to Chicago O’Hare, give my presentation in between terminals, it would have been the same thing, like, that bad.
Now, what I didn’t know is, they had recorded, and so my agent says to me after, “You know, they recorded that.” I’m like, “Destroy the video!” That was my worst, that was terrible!
So, fast forward six months, and my bureau calls and says, “We want to update your speaker reel,” and I said, “Great!” And they were like, “Do you have any content?” And I’m like, “No, I actually don’t,” which made me really nervous.
And they were, like, “Oh, we’re just asking if you have extra. We have ten of your shows from this year.” I’m like, “You do?” They’re like, “Yeah, we have ten full hours from different gigs, and we’ll put something together.” I said, “Great!”
So they put it together, and if I tell you that the primary of it is that gig in Chicago. You know what happened? I was working my ass off up there. I was trying to win them over. And I guess, to the person who was editing it, who didn’t have any context, was like, “He’s the most energetic, and most moving and trying…”
So when you talk about that sort of thing, the slides were the same, I was dressed the same – I always dress the same – it was all that stuff, but there was something.
1:09:59 Michael Port: Yeah, it’s the fight.
1:10:00 Mitch Joel: I was fighting for my life up there.
1:10:02 Michael Port: That’s such an important part of performance, and that’s one of the things that you learn as an actor. And, you see, you did this organically in that particular environment.
1:10:12 Mitch Joel: It was fight or flight, I was fighting for my life.
1:10:14 Michael Port: What the actor does, when they get a script, is, they read the script, they start to analyse the character, and they try to figure out what does that character want. Now, the writer has written, they didn’t say, ‘The character wants this,” but through the text it should be clear what the objective of that character is.
And then, the performer’s job is to pursue that objective, by any means necessary, in order to achieve it. But, if the writer’s good, then they put lots of obstacles in their way, which produces drama, conflict, et cetera.
Now, of course, in life we want no drama, but on stage it’s great. And, on stage, when you’re a performer, you’re trying to produce drama. And when we say that, it’s not just, we’re not saying…
1:11:01 Mitch Joel: Visually flailing your arms.
1:11:02 Michael Port: Correct. We’re not saying you’ve got to be jumping up in the air or Bob Fossey.
1:11:06 Mitch Joel: Or amp it up 20%.
1:11:07 Michael Port: No, you’re creating some sort of conflict for the audience, that you’re helping solve. Because, part of, sometimes, your job as an educator is to bring the conflict, or the issues that they have, to the surface and then help them solve them.
And in order to do that, often you have to work hard to pursue that objective. And so, what the actor does, which is what you were doing in this same speech, is, the actor chooses objectives and then they choose actions that they think will achieve those objectives. And, if the writing is good, the first one that they try, the first action they play, probably won’t be successful, so they try another action, and another action, and another action.
So, for example, let’s say, we were brothers, because we could be, and our father left all of our money to you. All of it. And I want some of that money, so my objective is to get that money from you. So, what do I do?
The first thing I might say is, “I’m going to flatter him, I’m going to make him feel like a rock star, because I think that he’s going to then give me the money.” Well, it doesn’t work, so now I have to choose another option, so now I’m going to make him feel guilty.
Okay, that didn’t work, I’m going to choose something else. And that’s what’s exciting to the audience, all of these different actions produces all of these interesting experiences for them to watch.
So, now, if you’ve got an audience and you don’t have to work for their attention at all, it just washes over them.
1:12:38 Mitch Joel: Yeah, but what was weird in this situation was, I was literally up there going – and that’s why it’s important, as a speaker, to have these moments that are humbling, where you’re just like, “They actually don’t care if there’s a speaker.”
1:12:53 Michael Port: No, you know, David Mamet says that if you want to be a creative artist, you’ve got to produce your art, and then be humiliated, over and over and over again. Because if you’re not humiliated, then you’re not really doing your job, because you’re playing it safe all the time.
So, it’s just interesting, because, I think it’s Andrew Stanton, from Dream Works, in a TED Talk that he gave, he talked about, he said, “Well, if you imagine that a perfect film is a four, well our job is to give the audience two, and we expect them to give us two.” You’ve got to make them work for their lunch.
Because if you give them four, it’s just going to wash right over their heads, they sit back, spoon feed. But if you only give them one, they don’t understand what’s happening, they’re not willing to commit to you, because they’re not sure that you’re committing to them.
So, I think it’s the same for us in our work.
1:13:40 Mitch Joel: I just, I do think that, again, it is one of those moments when you realise that speaking professionally, while it engenders a lot of these rules, it falls outside of them as a media. It really does. It’s just, I mean, the truth is, God forbid, if something happens to me this afternoon and I can’t do my gig tomorrow, there’s someone else, and no one is going to be like, “I really came to see [Mitch]. I can’t believe it.”
And, you know, Scott and I will talk about this, Ron and I will talk about this, Ian and I will talk about this, Sally and I will talk about this, where you do have to be able to have the humility to know that you are somewhat interchangeable. Like, we want it to be about us, but it’s often just not.
1:14:21 Michael Port: It’s never really, actually.
1:14:24 Mitch Joel: In this gig in particular. It’s a weird one, it really is. Where you can really be at the top of your game, and if, God forbid, something happened to you and the person went up on stage and said, “I’m really sorry, but unfortunately Michael can’t be here today. We’re very lucky to have Mitch Joel here,” within four seconds of Mitch being on stage, Michael would be… Even if they knew before.
1:14:39 Michael Port: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
1:14:40 Mitch Joel: And that makes this business weirder than others, because if it were a concert, and they were like, “Bono can’t be here tonight, but we’ve got a great singer from the opening band,”people would still be, like…
1:4:48 Michael Port: But not if you brought out Bruce Springsteen. You know, you’re bringing out people of the same level, that’s the key.
1:14:54 Mitch Joel: Yeah, but it’s usually not that. It usually ultimately isn’t that. You know, there was a time on tour, on the last tour with Tommy Lee, something happened, and they had Glen Sobel, who is an amazing drummer, had Alice Cooper and all these people play, and he’s amazing, but it’s not, you know?
1:15:08 Michael Port: Yeah, sure.
1:15:19 Mitch Joel: So, there is that weird thing, though, in this where you sort of have to have it in you that as much as you care, and as much as you’ve got to work that craft and be awesome at it, the audience probably doesn’t care. It’s tough.
1:15:21 Michael Port: Yeah, and also, you know, your client is the person who brought you in, and the audience is often their client.
1:15:28 Mitch Joel: Yeah, and the audience will give you that 7-10 if you’re good, but that’s not what it’s about.
1:15:31 Michael Port: And, you know, we also should do as much as we can to understand why we’re chosen, because then we understand that organisation or those people. But, often, we don’t know and they won’t even tell us.
So, for example, after this particular weekend, we were told by a few people from the board, “Listen, the reason we brought you guys in is because we wanted you to disrupt that status quo.” And we said, “Yeah, well we’re not disrupters, that’s not what we do.That’s not our agenda, we have no desire to do that.”
They said, “Yeah, your presence is just disruptive. The way that you guys perform is disruptive, because it breaks some of the script.”
And if it’s effective, then it’s going to be disruptive, because people go, “Oh! I didn’t know there was also that! That was also accessible, that was also there!” And so, they didn’t tell us that, because, I think, that if they did I might have said, “We’re not coming.”
Because that’s not, we don’t want to be those people, that’s not our goal. Our goal is to serve them as it relates to X, but not just to be disruptive, and if that happens, that’s fine. So, I’m glad they didn’t tell us, because then I would have felt a little bit…
1:16:43 Mitch Joel: Yeah, like, did I deliver off the… Yes, that was the thing, too, with Seth Godin and Tom Peters, where it was to the event planners, or to me, as the speaker, going, “This is very disruptive.”
1:16:54 Michael Port: Yes! But they don’t try, I don’t think, see that’s what’s so interesting to me, is that, yes, I mean, Seth is always looking for a unique way of doing the work that he does.
1:17:04 Mitch Joel: Purple cow. He’s got to purple cow it.
1:17:06 Michael Port: He’s always looking for a purple cow, but I don’t think he would, before he starts working on a speech, go, “Ooh, what am I going to do that’s going to disrupt everything?” That’s like looking for conflict.
1:17:16 Mitch Joel: Correct. It’s very organic and original.
1:17:19 Michael Port: Correct, because I think there’s a big difference, and we hear a lot how people talk about distinction and unique selling propositions and trying to be different than everybody else, I think, is very, very dangerous for the performer to try to do that as their primary objective or modus operandi.
But if we are serving the audience completely, and we’re doing it in a way that is fresh and unique, it may be disruptive. But that’s not what, you know?
1:17:45 Mitch Joel: True. And that’s the thing, too, when you think about your content, as a speaker, I’m always looking, I’m always looking for that story that, like, “I didn’t know that!” Or the story that’s become a real powerful narrative in how I think about my things, but I don’t think I’ve ever expressed it to an audience.
And whenever I get feedback, it’s always, like, I will get people talking about, like, I used to show people the ‘Free Hugs’ video. I was one of the first that did that. Or the story about Arnel Pineda who became the singer in Journey because of being discovered on YouTube, or Bethany Mota who was a big YouTuber.
Now, I don’t do any of that content any more, but I get asked for it all the time, because I always think that if I can’t be that memorable, because my brand isn’t at that level of fame, the stories can.
And I will literally get stopped in the street, like, “You told me that story, and then I started seeing Bethany Mota everywhere,” or, “You said that thing and then…” and that, to me, is such a powerful lesson in the development of a speaker’s tool kit. Which is, it’s so easy to talk about Apple or Steve Jobs, or Jeff Bezos, or Amazon.
1:18:50 Michael Port: Right. One of the things you do very well, is something that Oprah does. Have you ever been compared to Oprah before?
1:18:55 Mitch Joel: No, this is like, I’m starting to blush already! This is weird!
1:18:58 Michael Port: And she did this at the Oscars. It might have been the Golden Globes, I can’t remember where.
1:19:04 Mitch Joel: I’ll take either!
1:19:05 Michael Port: Yes, so, Oprah, when she was giving her acceptance speech for a lifetime achievement award, she was telling us a story about her as a little girl, sitting on the floor in her kitchen, watching the TV, and, you know?
1:19:21 Mitch Joel: I remember the story, yeah.
1:19:23 Michael Port: And what she did is, she shared a part of, oh, gosh, I’m blanking out her name right now, I feel terrible. Who was the activist who wouldn’t get up?
1:19:35 Mitch Joel: Rosa Parks.
1:19:36 Michael Port: Rosa Parks, thank you very much. So she was telling the story.
1:19:40 Mitch Joel: You’re close to Philadelphia, you’ve got to nail that one.
1:19:41 Michael Port: I know, I apologise. So, she was telling the story, but what she did is, she inserted an element of that story, that was true, and incredibly significant and very relevant to the moment at hand, that most people didn’t know.
So, she took something that was already in the collective conscious that we thought of in one way, and she showed us something else. You do that.
1:20:03 Mitch Joel: Thank you.
1:20:04 Michael Port: That’s something that you do very, very well, and that requires a lot of reflection, a lot of thought and consideration on how that story, and the context around the story, it’s not just the outcome, but it’s the context, and that’s something that you do very, very well.
And I think speakers should watch you to see how you contextualise the stories you tell, and the work you do.
1:20:26 Mitch Joel: That’s kind of you. The lesson that I would take in decoding that – because I’m thinking how do I do that – is, I usually am able to take the thing that I am interested in, that isn’t related to my triangle and inject that.
So, again, like a music store because I have such a long background in music, or, again, having a niece who is in her twenties who is really into this sort of influencer thing. So, I’ll be like, “Who’s this influencer?” Or she’ll send me a link to a YouTube video and I’ll be like, “What…” But I can make the connection.
1:20:57 Michael Port: Yes, you connect the dots very well.
1:21:00 Mitch Joel: And if you can take those things, they are there. So people, I mean, it’s a thing that gets to me the most, is a sort of generic case studies, right? I mean, the Amazons and Bezos, the Apple, you know? We want to talk about creativity, like, Steve Jobs, and simplicity, or the Albert Einstein quote, and there are so many more amazing [stories].
So, my favourite story on originality or creativity, is how Tom Peters has this whole bit that he still does twenty years later, on the Ziploc bag. Greatest design invention of all time is a Ziploc bag. I mean, he talks about it for twenty minutes, and it’s brilliant!
And he’s right. It’s so simple, the clicking sound it makes, how it pops, how you get different sizes, and it’s this thing, where, whenever I think I have to explain an original idea, I can go Steve Jobs, or I can try and find what’s my Ziploc bag.
And I always think like, “What is the Ziploc bag?” And again, it may be treading on something that is familiar to me, because I love, let’s say hard rock and heavy metal, or obscure bass music, or whatever it may be, but within that thing, is this thing.
1:22:00 Michael Port: It’s a wonderful way to bring your personal hobbies and passions into your work. Because when you talk about it, it’s going to light you up.
1:22:07 Mitch Joel: And you own the content, because you already know that the audience doesn’t know who this person is, and you own it, because you already love it.
1:22:12 Michael Port: Yes. Proprietary.
1:22:12 Mitch Joel: Exactly.
1:22:13 Michael Port: Love it. So, Mitch Joel, thank you so much, you’re the best! I appreciate you doing it in front of the cameras.
1:22:19 Mitch Joel: I can’t believe we’re here! I feel so special being here! Thank you for having me, it’s beautiful here!
1:22:23 Michael Port: And hopefully the sounds of the rain was relaxing.
1:22:26 Mitch Joel: I love it!
1:22:27 Michael Port: And intimate for the audience.
1:22:30 Mitch Joel: When I was in Thailand, I was actually in Phuket a while ago, many years [ago], and I had this thing where I was recording Sunday, come hell or high water. I had a mobile recorder with me, and I recorded myself walking on the beach and the wind and that.
And to this day, people will say to me, “When I think about your show, I think about that walk on the beach you did fifteen years ago.” So, rain, any time you can, I love that stuff, and people remember the rain. It’s good!
1:22:53 Michael Port: That’s great! So, you have a new, you just did a new site for your speaking work, didn’t you?
1:22:57 Mitch Joel: Yeah. So, check out mitchjoel.com, all the stuff is there. There’s a link on that to Six Pixels Of Separation, which is the blog and the podcast.
1:23:03 Michael Port: Especially for those of you who think of yourself as really serious content speakers, who also want to be great storytellers, but don’t necessarily want to bring an enormous amount of theatricality into your work: Watch Mitch!
1:23:21 Mitch Joel: Yeah, this is the friction that Michael and I have. I don’t want to be theatrical!
1:23:24 Michael Port: But he doesn’t have to be, that’s the thing. There’s no obligation to be hyper theatrical. But I think, nonetheless, you are absolutely wonderful, and people should be watching your work to learn from you, because the intellectual significance that you bring to the work, is an opportunity for us to learn from.
1:23:54 Mitch Joel: I appreciate that.
1:23:55 Michael Port: And I think that it’s very easy to slap content together, and then try to make it work through personality, or charm, but, what we find, is that, when we work with the best people in the world, we often spend days or weeks or months on their speeches before we even get to working on the performance side.
And that’s something that surprised us when we started working with A-listers. We thought, “Oh, the A-listers will come in with the content dialled in. We can just work on the performance.” No!
1:24:30 Mitch Joel: No, and I feel it, too. I got to say this, one good turn deserves another. The work that you and Amy have done, I read everything about the space, I follow it, I’m really a nerd for the speaking world, and I feel like what you guys have accomplished in such a short period of time, is just, even when I think of the handful of people that I would refer someone to, the work that you and Amy are doing, it’s so good for the business, it’s so good for people, it’s so good for speakers.
It’s so good if you have to stand up occasionally at work, to come here and do the work, is just such a gift, so thank you.
1:25:02 Michael Port: Thank you. Look, I think one of the reasons our organisation is so effective, is because the people who are teaching are truly masters of the craft.
And when you combine that with the fact that we believe there are no formulas – there are processes that we can use to develop our content, to rehearse our material, et cetera, et cetera, and if we work through those processes, generally, the work that we produce is very effective. It’s not always, because it’s an art.
1:25:35 Mitch Joel: Yeah, you can have the best content and be the most relevant, and I call it virtual crickets and digital tumbleweeds, it just doesn’t connect with the audience.
1:25:43 Michael Port: Every single person is unique, and we will never, never ever try to get somebody to do something that they really don’t want to do, or is not in their wheel house.
:25:52 Mitch Joel: But sometimes when people do that, it is what makes them good, too. Like, sometimes you have to…
1:25:58 Michael Port: Oh, no, no, we push, but it’s when we know it’s there. It’s like this, I mean, you ran a large company for a long time, with our team here, I expect a lot. Everbody knows that my expectations are going to be higher than most. But I will never ask somebody to do something that I don’t think they’re capable of doing.
I will only ask somebody to do something if I know they are capable of it. Because it’s not fair to ask somebody something that they’re not really prepared to do.
1:26:22 Mitch Joel: That was a major lesson in the Steve Jobs book, with Walter Isaacson. Of just being told to do something that was impossible, but Steve intuitively knew that they could accomplish this goal, and it was about elevation.
Just the same, as a speaker, you’ve got to be constantly elevated.
1:26:37 Michael Port: Yeah, cool! Hey, Mitch, I love you. Thank you so much for being here.
1:26:40 Mitch Joel: Thank you. Thank you, so much. Awesome!
1:26:41 Michael Port: Alright, buddy.
* * *
1:26:43 Michael Port: Thank you for listening to Steal The Show with Michael Port. I’m your host, Michael Port.
This podcast was produced by Laura Bernstein, our director of communications, 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.
Make sure to reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook, @heroicpublicspeaking, and leave us a review on iTunes if you like the show, and rate it. If you like the show.
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I love you very much, and not in a weird way, but I love you for being the big thinker that you are, and standing in the service of others as you stand in the service of your destiny. Bye for now.