005 How to Rehearse for World-Class Performances (Part I)

005 How to Rehearse for World-Class Performances (Part I)

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Nervous about your upcoming speech? How to rehearse for it? This episode teaches you the first 2 steps to successfully rehearse for world-class performances.

You will learn:

  • How to create meaningful experiences for your audience, every time;
  • What a professional actor wouldn’t do, and you shouldn’t do either as a speaker;
  • How to confidently deliver your message with less self-consciousness;
  • What to do with your nerves before high stake performances;
  • Why natural communicators may not become top speakers.

00:00 Welcome to Steal the Show with Michael Port. I’m Michael, and this episode is about how to rehearse and prepare for any type of performance; speeches, interviews, negotiations, and even first dates. Now, here’s the thing, I’m supposed to give you this teaser about all the things that you’ll learn and the reasons you know you need to rehearse, but I don’t think I need to, ’cause I think you know you don’t rehearse enough, you’re not prepared, and you need to be. So I’m gonna give you a seven-step protocol that will get you into rehearsal, rehearsing, and prepared for any high-stakes situation. But first I must tell you, that this entire podcast is based on the book, ‘Steal The Show’, written by me, Michael Port. I think you should go and read it, it’s fantastic.

00:43 I tell you what, this is what I do, with all of my books, it’s my sixth book by the way. If you read it and you don’t love it, if you don’t get great value from it, then just send me an email, at questions@michaelport.com, and tell me what book you want me to buy instead, and give me your address, and I will buy it from Amazon and send it to you. Now listen, I’m not buying you a $100 coffee table book, it’s gotta be a similarly priced book that will help you do what you wanna do. So, if you don’t like my book, tell me what other book on public speaking performance you want and I’ll send it to you. That’s how strongly I feel about you being able to steal the show when the spotlight is on you. I want you to be able to succeed no matter what, no matter whether that comes from me, or from somebody else. You dig?

01:25 And another reason to buy ‘Steal The Show’ is because, I give away lots of bonuses when you do, and you can find out what those bonuses are, I’ll give you a little hint; templates to tell stories to help you create your content, tickets to live events around the country, masterclasses where you see me coaching people live on stage to become better speakers, videos on public speaking, and so much more. So my goal is to delight and entertain you, and of course help you see how fantastic you are. So how to rehearse in stage world class performances.

02:00 When I started speaking, I already had five years of experience running meetings for hundreds of employees at a time, five years of experience as a professional actor, three years at NYU’s Graduate Acting Program, where I earned my MFA, under the tutelage of some highly-esteemed instructors, and another few years in college where I majored in theater. Now that translated into thousands of hours of studying and training in voice, speech, acting, singing, although I wasn’t very good at it; movement, body awareness, dramaturgy, directing, and more. Now when I began speaking professionally I could pull it off, because in addition to my training as an actor and a performer, I learned how to produce content, and I’m pretty quick on my feet, and I can usually make people laugh, but pulling it off is different from deserving, earning, and owning the stage.

02:52 Now I wasn’t masterful, because I hadn’t yet put in the hours to learn the discipline of public speaking. I did not connect, that the time it takes to develop and rehearse a world-class theatrical production, equated to delivering a speech, or a similarly high-stakes performance, but I do now, and I hope you will discover the same thing, because if you wanna steal the show, and create meaningful experiences for your audience, and if you wanna truly own your careers spotlight, I hope you’ll prepare differently than you’ve likely done in the past, and this means rehearsing in a way that leaves as little to chance for your big moment as possible. Just to give you an idea, I spent roughly 400 hours, over 5 months, preparing my ‘Think Big Revolution’ keynote; and by preparing I mean, I wrote, content mapped, used blocking techniques, directed, produced, audio, visual elements. I used improv methods to continue to develop and improve the content. I memorized the material. I rehearsed on stage and received feedback from invited audiences. But remember, it’s not just putting in the requisite time and effort, it’s how you rehearse that matters. Now listen, I don’t expect you to do hundreds and hundreds of hours of rehearsal, I’m a professional speaker you may not be. If you are, I do expect you to, yes; but if you’re not, no, I don’t expect you to.

04:15 But I do encourage you to do more than you’re doing now. I’m only sharing this extreme example with you to demonstrate the amount of time that goes into creating world-class performances, and I’m just simply suggesting that you consider dedicating more time to your preparation. That’s all. If you wanna see an excerpt of the ‘Think Big Revolution’, you can go to michaelport.com, it’s on the page there somewhere. ‘Think Big Revolution’ on the page at michaelport.com. It’s a 60-minute excerpt of that speech, and you get a sense of why it took so much time to prepare.

04:50 Now, let’s get this out of the way. What expectations do you have about rehearsing for your presentation or performance? Do you rehearse in your head? Do you rehearse on your feet? Do you rehearse out loud? Do you rehearse in front of a mirror, which is probably the second worst piece of advice ever given; the first is, think of your audience naked in their underwear when you’re nervous, doesn’t make any sense to me. And then in the mirror watching yourself doesn’t make any sense either. You’re watching yourself be yourself, and you’re trying to respond to yourself being yourself, I mean it’s almost like a weird existential film that makes no sense. Don’t do that.

05:34 You will not find a professional actor who rehearses in front of the mirror. There are only really two reasons you’re gonna see an actor rehearse in front of the mirror, either number one to admire their jawline, and number two, to work on prosthetics and changing the way their face looks to inhabit another character, you’re not doing that. Now, interestingly enough, I’d say seven times out of 10, the reason the actor is looking in the mirror, is probably the former, to admire their jawline. Now, I’m sure you’re fabulous looking so just stare at yourself in the mirror, but don’t rehearse in front of the mirror, it doesn’t make any sense. You need to rehearse in front of real people, and we’ll get to that, ’cause that is one of the steps in the rehearsal process.

06:18 You know what’s interesting? Sometimes people who think that they are natural communicators, they are the ones who don’t progress, they stay average. The ones who progress the fastest often are the people who don’t see themselves as natural communicators because they will work more on their presentation. The natural communicator just says, “I’m great. I’ve got the gift of gab. I’m just gonna go up there, I’m just gonna wing it.” And every once in awhile, it works, sort of. And some of the moments will work ’cause you can get people laughing, but is that really all you wanna do? Don’t you want to do more than that? Do you want to settle for average? I don’t think so. I really don’t.

07:06 So there are seven steps to successful rehearsals that produce great performances. I think I’ve convinced you, for the most part, that you should rehearse. If I haven’t, let me try something else. One of the biggest questions that I get, that my staff gets is, “What do I do about my nerves? I’m really nervous and anxious before I give a speech. What should I do?” So, if anxiety or nerves are part of why you are here listening to me, then going through the steps for an effective rehearsal will help you master the inner game of performance, by redirecting your mental focus.

07:46 See, you often psych yourself out worrying about the speech, rather than working on it. I’ll say that again because it’s really important. Sometimes you psych yourself out worrying about the speech, rather than working on it. You may obsess over how you’re going to perform; who’s going to be in the audience, how you’ll be received, what you’re gonna wear, what your slides should look like, and this continues to feed your stress, which sets you up for more avoidance behaviors, rather than moving you forward, and this way you keep adding to your anxiety rather than creating confidence. So the best way to reduce anxiety, listen carefully, write this down, tattoo it on your face, whatever it’s gonna take, the best way to reduce anxiety is to actually know what you’re doing, and how you’re gonna do it. Shocker! Think about it, if you felt prepared, if you felt completely confident going up there, I think you’d be less nervous.

08:48 Now, most performers have butterflies before they perform, ’cause they love performing. It’s important to them, and that’s not a bad thing. I have butterflies, before I perform, even if I know what I’m doing, but it’s what those butterflies mean to you that matters. To me it just means I’m excited, and I’m looking forward to going up there and letting those butterflies out, and let them fly around the room. But if I think those butterflies mean that I’m gonna be bad, or that something’s gonna go wrong, well then it’s just gonna get worse, and of course it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, isn’t it? So it may seem obvious, but the fact is our brains work this way.

09:29 So if you go through the rehearsal process effectively, you deepen the grooves in your mind around the words you’re memorizing, the movements you’re blocking, blocking is a term for how you move on stage and where you move on stage, and the emotional connection you’re making to your material, so you can confidently deliver your presentation with less self-consciousness. And you’re creating these new neural pathways and connections, you’re helping your brain so it doesn’t have to work as hard to do all the things you want it to do when you perform. You’re creating new muscle memories you can express effortlessly with unconscious competence, which means you can get up there and do it without even thinking about it. Now so that rehearsal layer builds one very thin layer of experience at a time, strengthening those pathways every time you work through your material, so it’s an important part of the process, keep it in mind.

10:25 Alright. Wanna know what the seven-step rehearsal process is? Are you ready? Are you excited? Okay! Here we go. Number one: Table reads. Number two: Content mapping. Number three: Blocking. Number four: Improvisation and re-writing. So number one was table reads, number two is content mapping, number three is blocking, number four is improvisation and re-writing; number five is invited rehearsal, maybe even with a coach or peer with actual training. Hmmm… I wonder where you could find a professional public speaking coach? Oh! Heroicpublicspeaking.com. What a great idea. I’m so glad you mentioned that. Number six: Open rehearsal. That’s with people in your target market. And then number seven: Dress or tech rehearsal.

11:15 So number one: Table reads. Number two: Content mapping. Number three: Blocking. Number four: Improvisation and re-writing. Number five: Invited rehearsal. Number six: Open rehearsal. Number seven: Dress and tech rehearsal. Now you notice I repeated each one of those a number of times. That’s an important technique to use. Repetition is very helpful, and you want to repeat more often than you think you should, because people are stupid. No, I’m just kidding, people are not stupid, but the brain needs some time to process this information. There, I just gave you some time. Was that enough? Good. Here we go.

11:54 Number one: Tables reads. So you’ve got your speech written or your talking points, outlined, your script or other form of content, maybe you use a mind map. And the first step, which I’ve adopted from theater and screen, is the table read. A table read is when actors sit around tables in a large room and read through the script out loud, and what it does is it lets the actors make sense of the material, and it allows the writers and the creative team to hear how the script sounds. So a table read serves a number of good purposes. The actor doesn’t attempt academy award winning performances at the table read, instead they just try to get a good feel for the story, the relationships between the characters, the rhythm, the pacing of the language, and more.

12:44 Now, you try it. You sit in a quiet space, not at a Starbucks, not at your local diner, but in a quiet space, maybe the dining room table, it’ll work just fine. Just put your children on eBay and sell them for the highest price you can get and the house will then be quiet. Okay? So you’ve got good lighting, you got good seating, you’re not gonna be interrupted. You can do a table read with a trusted mentor or friend, who will listen, and provide only high-level general impressions, you don’t want a lot of feedback at this point. You can also table read alone, and you can make an audio recording, and you can listen to the playback, to review on your smartphone or your computer. And I want you to sit and read like this for a few reasons.

13:33 Number one: Reading aloud lowers expectations and allows you to start working on the material by easing into it. If you just start up on your feet, you’re gonna expect that you’re supposed to give a performance, and you’re not gonna perform that well because you’re not yet at a performance level, and you may be frustrated with yourself thinking you’re not very good. I mean think about it, do you expect that the cast of ‘Cats’, the first time they ever got the script in their hands, were ready to do a full production for a full house on Broadway? Of course not. It’s an absolute piece of crap when it starts, that’s the theater, and the performers know that, and they’re okay with that. The messiness is part of the process. So be okay with it just being at the early stages of rehearsal. Okay? Good.

14:36 Now, step number two: Content mapping. After a few table reads, then you’re ready to start mapping your written material for a live rehearsal. Now you do this by marking up the printed pages with notes, on how you wanna deliver your spoken words; the sounds, pace, emphasis. Content mapping allows you to work deeper into the experience of your presentation as you speak it. You’ll learn what makes certain passages sing and others fall flat. You’ll discover the poetic words and the phrases in your material, and you’ll also discover the run-on sentences and you’ll fix those. See, you’ll see how to tighten up your opening story, or add a little extra pause to the punch line that you’re gonna land. Your goal is to arrive at a map of the vocal presentation of your speech; the words you emphasize and the words you throw away, the pauses you wanna use every time.

15:39 But many things will change from performance to performance, but working through and sculpting the backbone of how you deliver the performance, the words specifically to start, you’ll start wiring your brain for performing the content, not reading it, that’s important. You’ll start to wire your brain for performing it by doing content mapping. Remember the first step was the table read, you’re just trying to make sense of everything that you’ve written to make sure that it makes sense. In step two you’re doing your content mapping. You’re identifying the following elements: The beats. Beats are pauses, long and short. They’re moments that emphasize a point, turn into a transition, or allow a listener to absorb an idea. That was a beat, right before I go into operative words.

16:32 Operative words are the most important words in a sentence to communicate the meaning, as you believe it to be. The ways to make a word operative, include your volume; so it doesn’t mean just… “Loud, it could actually be quiet.” You see, an operative word can be delivered in lots of different ways, and I’m gonna give you a specific example in a minute. But volume, pitch, tone, linking, extending a vowel, or sharpening a consonant. I’m gonna read an excerpt from my ‘Think Big Revolution’ keynote, and I want you to listen for the operative words. And if you wanna see this text actually annotated with my original content mapping, you’re gonna have to buy the book, because it’s in the book. If you buy the audio book, then you get access to a link where you can download a PDF of it, along with some other cool templates. So, that’s a little pitch for you to go buy ‘Steal The Show’, hint-hint.

17:39 Well, here we go, are you ready? This is from Steal the Show. Joseph Campbell once said, “The privilege, the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” Well this, is who I am. What I just told you, what you see in front of you, what’s in my books, they’re all just parts of me. I’ve believed in this presentation for a long time. I have believed in thinking big for a long, long, long time, long before I was able to do it, because I, Michael Port, stand for thinking bigger about who you are, and about what you offer the world. You see, I want to think bigger in my world, and I want to help you think bigger in your’s. Everything I do in my work, in my personal life, is driven by this purpose. I decided to stop being big, and actually start playing big instead. Look, I’m not gonna stand up here and tell you that I know what thinking big looks like to you. I don’t know what your dreams are, but I know that you have them. And I also know that I’m not somehow special, I’m not the only person that is willing to stand for something.

19:05 Now, I over-emphasized a little bit, some of the operative words, and the beats, but that was to help you pick them up. Now I’m gonna through some of this, and I’ll point them out to see if you heard. So I said at the beginning, Joseph Campbell once said, so Joseph Campbell once said, there’s no real operative word there, but I make sure that I can clearly articulate his name, so Joseph Campbell once said, “The privilege,” there’s an operative word, and I also put a beat after it to emphasize it. The privilege, the privilege of a lifetime, no particular operative word in there except lifetime gets a little more emphasis, but you get a beat, you see. I’ll read it again. Joseph Campbell once said, “The privilege, the privilege of a lifetime is being who you are,” are is the operative word.

19:58 And then I move on to say, “Well, this is who I am.” This and am are operative words. What I just told you, told is operative. What you see in front of you, what’s in my books, their all just parts of me. And so, what this does for you, is really help you have a map that you can use when you’re working on your performance. Now, what do you do if you don’t write out word for word your speeches? Well, then you don’t do too much of this particular technique; however, I would like to see you record your presentation, if you use an outline, then transcribe it, and then go back and do the content mapping on top of that, so you get cleaner, and cleaner, and cleaner with your presentation, with your word choice, with your operative words, with your transitions, and then you have something that is sculpted, that is crafted, that is beautiful.

20:51 Now lets move on to lists. The use of beats emphasizing timing, and rhythm, helps you deliver elements of a list with the emphasis that you want. So lists build, lists aren’t the same thing. So even in the subtitle of the book, the subtitle of the book says, “From Speeches to Job Interviews to Deal-Closing pitches.” That’s a list, they’re not all the same. If I said, “From Speeches to Job Interviews to Deal-closing Pitches,” they sound the same, but if I say, “From Speeches to Job Interviews to Deal-Closing Pitches,” each one is slightly different. And anytime you’re introducing a list you want to make sure that you can emphasize each word in a slightly different way based on the meaning of the word and the point of the list, so that there is differentiation in that list, there is contrast in that list. And then of course you have parentheticals, the vocal shift we make when we share an idea as if it’s in parenthesis. So you’ll hear me do that often. Instead of giving you an example now, I want you to listen for it in my episodes and go, “Oop-da! What he just said there,” that was a parenthetical, and I could hear the vocal shift; I could hear the tone change. I could hear the pace change. I could hear the rhythm change, and it really helped me understand what he was saying.

22:17 And then there’s repetition. Repetition is the use of beats and emphasis to vocalize repeated words, such as my use of long, long, long, time before, in the script that I just read to you, from the ‘Think Big Revolution’. I linked them together, but I used repetition initially in the writing of it. Then there’s rhythm, that’s the pacing you use to vocalize one syllable, and multi-syllable words in a sentence, so you savor the texture and the tension of how you deliver long sentences and short sentences, and you weave them together.

23:00 It’s interesting, often when somebody is a fast talker, somebody who speaks quickly, a speech coach will tell them to slow down, and I understand what they’re getting at but I think it’s misguided advice. What they are attempting to say is pause, because the power is in the pause. I speak quite quickly, I’m from New York. If you talk slowly in New York, nobody’s gonna listen to you. The first day of college I met a guy named Dave Blakey, great guy. He was from Lubbock, Texas. I said, “Hey Dave, how are you?” He goes, “Well, I’m fixing to go to dinner.” I’m like, “Okay, that sounds great! See you Dave, bye.” And speed is perfectly fine. Too slow can actually be problematic, because people often feel like you should get to the point. Remember ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off’? “Bueller, Bueller.” He goes through this list, I’m like, “Dude come on, just say, Bueller, Bueller, boom-boom-boom.”

24:00 The key is pausing. So I can talk very quickly. Right now I’m talking quickly. You can understand everything I’m saying, but if I get to something that is important… I pause, so you can consume what I just said. And then, of course you have rhythm, and rhythm is very powerful. You wanna use lists, parentheticals, repetition, rhythm, and you will start to create something quite magical.

24:25 And that my friends, wraps up part one of, “How to rehearse and prepare for any type of performance; speeches, interviews and even negotiations.” Tune in for part two, or you might be left with your pants down in front of the audience, and you don’t want that to happen. And remember, everything that I’m teaching you here is based on ‘Steal The Show’. Shine in the spotlight moments of your life. Nail key performances; speeches, job interviews, deal closing pitches. So go pick up a copy at StealtheShow.com or anywhere books are sold. And remember, please, give me a great review, five stars, I accept nothing less. I will not take less than a five star review, anything else I reject. And also go subscribe, so as I drop more episodes for you, you can get them immediately, you can be first up, and you can listen, and you can be way ahead of the pack. I love you very much, not in a weird way, but I love you for being the big thinker that you are, and I want you to keep thinking big about who you are and what you offer the world, if you do, you will steal the show. This is Michael Port signing off. Bye for now.