Interview With Neen James
STS – #107 – Steal The Show with Michael Port
00:00 Neen James: That little performance that we don’t all get to see, that’s the fun stuff. Now, maybe that’s just me, but I do believe social media is super valuable in connecting. You’ve heard me talk, in the past, about BDA, ‘Before, During and After’. And think about how much we can use social media to engage an audience, before we even step on stage.
00:22 Michael Port: Welcome to Season 2 of Steal The Show, with Michael Port. I’m your host, Michael Port.
Today’s guest is Neen James and she’s the author of nine books, including, ‘Folding Time’, and her most recent, ‘Attention Pays’. In 2017 she was named one of the Top 30 Leadership Speakers by ‘Global Guru’, because of her work with companies like Viacom, Comcast, Cisco, Virgin, Pfizer, BMW and even the FBI.
Neen Earned her MBA from Southern Cross University, and has Certified Speaking Professional Designation from the National Speakers Association. She has received numerous awards as a professional speaker, is a partner in the International education company called, ‘Thought Leaders Global’, and is a member of the prestigious ‘League of Heroic Public Speakers’.
Yes! She is one of our speakers. And she’s one of our faculty members. Did I mention that Neen is Australian? Why does that matter? Well, it means that she’s a bit mischievous. All Australians are a bit mischievous. And she’s pretty witty, and she’s a little bit cheeky.
She also considers herself an unofficial Champaign taste tester, and a really slow runner. Without further ado, here’s Neen James.
01:45 Neen James: Good day! How are you doing?
01:46 Michael Port: I’m doing great. I’m doing better because you’re here, actually in the studio at Heroic Public Speaking HQ.
01:52 Neen James: And this place is amazing! If you haven’t visited this place and you are listening, get on a plane. Like, so worth it!
01:59 Michael Port: I agree. I agree completely.
02:00 Neen James: You have to say that.
02:01 Michael Port: Now, I have, in my hand, a beautiful book called, ‘Attention Pays’. Gorgeous cover, love the design and it even is an autographed copy.
02:11 Neen James: So fancy.
02:12 Michael Port: And it was even autographed by me! Which is great, because sometimes I go into bookstores and I randomly sign other authors books. Like, I’ll go in and I’ll sign on of our friends’ names, you know? Like, Ron Tite.
And I’ll go to the desk and I’ll say, “Can I have one of the ‘autographed’ stickers and they look at me and go, “Are you Mr. Tite?” And I’ll say, “No, I’m Michael Port,” and they get very confused. So, in any event.
In ‘Attention Pays’, which is your most recent book, you discussed social media addiction. And you even cite a Harvard study that found that sharing information about ourselves on social media activates the same part of the brain that is associated with the sensation of pleasure. That same pleasure that we get from eating food or earning money or…
03:00 Neen James: Sex. You can say it.
03:01 Michael Port: Yeah. Sex, I’ll say it. But as a performer, that needs to keep up with other performers, at least I think people think they do, how do we balance not spending too much time in social media and also utilising social media in our branding, because, of course, branding is performance.
So, how do we find the balance? Because I got to tell you, I would be perfectly fine if social media just went away.
03:33 Neen James: I know you would! I get it!
03:34 Michael Port: Well, because, look, it’s not that I think it’s a problem, necessarily, like, it’s going to ruin society. I heard some of these EU politicians grilling Mark Zuckerberg and one of them says, “Are you going to be like Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, or are you going to be the one who is responsible for the downfall of civilization?”
I mean, he said it, sitting there, looking at him. I mean, like, how do I answer that? And he’s really trying, you know, he’s so smart. He’s trying to figure out how to answer, and he’s like, “My brain can just not compute that.
04:09 Neen James: Right. You know, I think that the one thing that I would encourage listeners to consider is, “Are you standing in service when you post?”
So, I once heard, you know the fabulous speaker, Toni Newman, and she shared once. She said, “Look, when you’re posting on social media, is it vanity or value?” Meaning, is it a vanity post, or is it adding value. What a beautiful… I’ve never forgotten it.
And she may have said it much more eloquently than me, but I do think that that’s a very cool thought process. Now, what’s funny to me is how speakers use social media, how performers use social media. Some people do it really well.
I love the behind the scenes and when you can see what’s really going on, or ‘a day in the life of’ a performer. I love that! I love Insta Stories for the sneak peek behind the curtain. That’s what I love. When people are posting photos of empty ballrooms, I don’t see the value in that. I just don’t get it.
05:04 Michael Port: Oh, yeah, because it’s, “Look at my gig today.”
05:05 Neen James: Yeah, like, “Look at me, look at me.” But I’d rather see your audience laughing. I’d rather see what they think about it. And so, I kind of think, when I’m posting from a location, it’s often, I might do a Facebook live, I might interview people that have been in the audience, I might ask my client something.
That little performance that we don’t all get to see, that’s the fun stuff. Now, maybe that’s just me, but I do believe social media is super valuable in connecting. You’ve heard me talk, in the past, about BDA, ‘Before, During and After’. And think about how much we can use social media to engage an audience, before we even step on stage.
And they’re all stalking you anyway, like if you’re a speaker they’ve looked at your YouTube channel, they’ve followed you on Twitter, they’ve looked at your Instagram posts. Chances are, before you’ve even stepped on whatever stage you have, some of the audience has stalked you anyway, and if you’re not that interesting, chances are they’re checking you out while you’re speaking, right?
And so we have to be diligent about protecting our brand and sharing things that are going to elevate the brand, elevate the message, instead of just, “Look at me! Look at me!”
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’ve done that, “Oh my gosh, this is not a humble brag! I’m so excited that this has happened to me,” post, but I think you need to balance it.
06:10 Michael Port: And I think that’s reasonable.
06:11 Neen James: Yeah, but I think you’ve got to be super careful that they’re not all… There’s a speaker that I watch, and this particular person’s posts are so narcissistic. Like, I’m like, “Oh my gosh! That doesn’t elevate your brand at all.” If anything, it repels. So, we have to be super careful about that.
06:28 Michael Port: So, you’re an expert in attention, and often speakers will use the stage as a platform to promote themselves. Which, in some situations, may be appropriate. In other situations it may not be appropriate, and I’m wondering what you think about the way that speakers use social media during their speeches.
Meaning, I often see slides that encourage people to take a picture and tweet the thing that’s on the slide, or the speaker will say, “That’s a tweetable.”
So, what’s your perspective on the use of social media as a tool for spreading the message? Or promoting yourself while you’re…? I’m interested. Pro or con? What do you think?
07:17 Neen James: You know, I think there’s no prescription, and there’s not a recipe I can give. But let me tell you some ways that I use it and that I have seen others use it really well. Our friend Scott Stratton does a brilliant job of posting tweets as part of his slide deck, where he has had conversations with someone.
And, yeah, it shows his Twitter handle, but he’s not saying, “Hey, you have to tweet this out.” So, Scott Stratton is a dear friend.
07:37 Michael Port: So he’s actually showing a screenshot of the conversation.
07:38 Neen James: He’s showing the screenshot of the tweet, but it’s showing his own social media, it’s showing that he’s influential, it’s showing that he’s connected.
I work, like you had the legendary Tami Evans on your show, one of the League members, and she’s known for some of those fabulous little mantra’s and Tami’s Tips, which is not what we call them, but when you think about those great words she uses, I spend so much time crafting my words, that there’s some phrases that I want to be memorable, repeatable and tweetable.
So, sometimes, very cheekily, I’ll say, “Ooh! That’s tweetable!” and the audience will laugh, and I’ll be like, “No, really, it is.” and os, for those people who are goin to be tweeting anyway, give them some fodder.
What I also do with some of my industries, some industries I work in aren’t so supportive of social media, or they’re very conservative, and so they are very diligent about what gets shared.
08:31 Michael Port: Or they have a lot of compliance issues, really, is what you’re saying.
08:32 Neen James: That’s exactly what I’m thinking. And so for some of my financial services, my credit unions, some of these people, what I find is, before I go on stage, I’ll find the person who’s tweeting. I’ll find the marketing director, I’ll find the person who’s capturing the messages, and I will say to them, “Okay, so Ally,’ if it’s Ally, “I’m going to say some things that are tweetable.” And I will give Ally a shout out.
So, in my keynote, I’ll say, “Ally, I think that’s tweetable. What do you think?” And then play with her and the audience loves it. So, I’m all about play, you know that about me. It’s just a big conversation when I speak. And so, I think there are ways to use it eloquently, but people are going to take photo’s of your slides anyway, because no-one takes notes any more.
They’re going to tweet out, they’re going to share things on Facebook. Make sure that what you’re saying is worthy of being shared and make sure that the phrases and the stories and even the jokes you share, if posted just that one little tweet, is it in context?”
I remember speaking for Salsbury University and all the communications students were in the room. Every single student had their phone out. They recorded literally everything I said.
09:32 Michael Port: Just like they were taking a video.
09:33 Neen James: Exactly. Now, I don’t know where they’re sharing it. I don’t know what they’re going to do with it, but what it does is, it makes you much more conscious of the words you choose, the things you say. How many times, in the media, have we seen things taken out of context.
So, let’s be super careful about this. And so, if you’re going to use social media, do things in advance, participate in tweet chats, follow the hashtag, those kind of things.
09:55 Michael Port: Do you remember the days when many speakers, and I think some of my contracts had this in the early days, would prohibit the taking of video. Do you remember those days?
10:07 Neen James: Good luck with that, yeah! No, that’s a thing, though. And I think still is.
10:10 Michael Port: And I think still some people are doing that. And I’d love your perspective on that, given the world in which we live today is so dramatically different than it was ten years ago, fifteen years ago.
10:22 Neen James: I think that we have to, as performers, understand, you are always, always, always being photographed, you are always being videoed. Let me give you an example. I was the keynote speaker, closing keynote speaker for a credit union conference. Michael, no, Magic Johnson was the opening – I knew he played basketball – and then I was the closing.
And obviously, being Australian, I’m a bit stupid when it comes to sports in America, but I was told who he was, ‘big guy, funny’. So I meet this guy, and then it became this…
10:46 Michael Port: Did you actually stand next to him? Magic Johnson standing next to Neen James would be like
10:47 Neen James: Yes! And it was hilarious! And so he comes up to me – I was the MC as well, just for the record.
10:54 Michael Port: For those who are just meeting Neen for the first time, this is the third time she’s been on Steal The Show, and of course she’s one of the League members, as I mentioned in the introduction. So, she’s a big part of our community and she’s one of our faculty members. So, I imagine you know her.
If you don’t, she’s about four ten and a half?
10:11 Neen James: And a half! Four ten and a half, that’s very important, yes.
10:14 Michael Port: I make sure to say that, because I do remember when you hit me with the stick, when I said, “Four ten,” so now… So, Magic Johnson standing next to Neen James would be like the greatest thing I could possibly imagine seeing.
11:27 Neen James: Hilarious. So he looks down at me and he says, “Oh, Neen, you’re my twin!” He’s funny, too. He’s funny. Let me tell you what happened though. In the sound check they had some shoes, we all got these super shoes and they had pair of his shoes on the stage. So, just mucking around, I put his shoes on and I was walking around the stage.
It’s just me and the crew in the back, and the meeting planner was in hysterics, everyone was laughing, he had his entourage there. It was really ridiculous, okay. I didn’t think anything of it, because the ballroom was empty. Except, the crew was videoing it. So you know what makes it into their promo reel is Neen James in these size 15 shoes.
So, my point about all of this is, which is hysterical, and I was giggling like a lunatic, that you are always being photographed, you are always being recorded, and so I think we have a responsibility to always be on. You’ve heard me say this, and I think we’re on before we’re on.
We’re on before we walk into the ballroom. We’re on before we actually set foot in the premises, we’re on at the airport, we’re on in the convention centre, we’re on in our hotel, and that is the privilege of being a performer, but it’s also the responsibility.
So, your brand is always on show. Social media is one component of it. When people meet you at the airport, they want to talk to you, they want to ask you questions about your presentation. Your responsibility is to engage and be kind and be thoughtful, because the meeting planner has paid you for more than just that one hour keynote, they have paid you for the experience, and that includes social media.
12:51 Michael Port: Indeed. I want to go back to something you mentioned when we started discussing tweeting, social media from the stage, et cetera. You mentioned our friend Scott and that he might put up a screenshot of a conversation that he had on Twitter with someone and then uses it as an example.
And I have a feeling some people might wonder, what conversation would you show? Why is he showing conversations with people, and how is that relevant to the audience?
13:21 Neen James: Sure. Imagine someone like Scott is making some very specific points about marketing and branding, right? And how we really need to have relationships with people and how everything is done in relationships.
Imagine someone like Joey Coleman, who we all know, another League member who is an expert in the customer experience, imagine he sees a fantastic tweet or he has a great conversation with someone that elevates the image or story or case study of customer experience. It then validates what he’s saying.
He might use the reverse, he might see an exceptionally bad thing that happened. Be very careful, people, though, if you use the bad ones then you’re opening yourself up for all kinds of drama. And so, even when I wrote my book, I mention a particular company who is exceptional at doing something, I had to get their written approval, and it had to go through 25 people just to give good news about this person, because they protect their brand.
So, when you’re sharing on social media, one of the things I think that happened is, the rules didn’t get set up. So, if you tweeted out, even if you deleted it, it’s still there, and people take screenshots of everything, which means, text messages you send, videos, you think that the Insta Story’s going to disappear, or SnapChat, but the reality is, people can screenshot everything.
So you need to be very diligent. I think it serves a place, and I think it’s got to reinforce a message. Other than that, it’s just clutter.
14:42 Michael Port: So, in ‘Attention Pays’, you mention the idea of personalising performance to build your brand. And you give fantastic examples to help establish this. So, even if you’re not a performer on the stage, why is it important to build a personal brand?
15:00 Neen James: Well, if you think about some of the core concepts that you share in ‘Steal The Show’, we’re all performers, whether you are doing a pitch for a client, whether you are at a networking event, whether you are sharing a message at your community, everyone’s a performer.
But a personal brand, to me, is something that I think a lot of people don’t give enough thought to. You are a walking billboard of everything that you stand for. Your values, your beliefs, everything comes out of you, the way you dress, the way you speak, the way you enter a room.
So often I’m hired by executives to help them on their personal brand, and no one’s had the tough conversation with them that says, “When you act like an idiot, or a jerk, in this meeting, it affects your personal brand. When you are unprepared for that presentation, it affects your personal brand.”
There’s so many negative things when it comes to a personal brand, people don’t think about. What I want the world to do is to hear your message, to hear the message, for you to be seen and heard, means you have to eliminate distractions.
So, one of the things I can ask listeners to consider is: what is it about you that’s potentially distracting people from your message. Is it your haircut, your glasses, your outfit, your word choices, your filler words, your body language, your body odour, you know, your physicality?
When you sit in a meeting, do you sit engaged and interested, or do you slouch back in your chair like you don’t care. And all of these are an extension of your personal brand.
What I also believe to be true, is, our income is impacted when we really elevate our personal brand. I have done literal makeovers and transformations with many individuals, and I’ve had them work with my stylist and all kinds of things, and I’ve seen their income increase dramatically.
In the same way, with performers, if you’re a professional performer, making sure you’re choosing what is consistent with your brand, on stage, off stage, that has a huge impact. You don’t have to wear the most expensive clothes, but you’ve got to wear things that are consistent with the people you’re serving and the brand that you’re representing.
16:53 Michael Port: Yeah, you know, you, in the book, have a section on the personal development plan. Which I think is absolutely fantastic and really, really well developed.
So, you know, it’s interesting, because, obviously you know and my listeners know that I came up in the theatre, and so, a lot of my training has been about understanding what role you play in a given situation. Because if you’re doing a one person play, well, then it’s just you. And you still, of course, need to understand what role you’re playing.
But if you’re in an ensemble, when I was in grad school at NYU, we were in an ensemble and there were 18 of us, and same thing with Amy when she was at Yale, and I think they had about 18 also. You’re together for three years, and you’re working together 16-hour days, six days a week. So you really got to know each other.
And every show you play a different role, and that role in that show is going to be different than the role you play in the group.
18:07 Neen James: Makes sense, yeah.
18:08 Michael Port: And then the role you play in the next show will be different, et cetera, et cetera. So, it’s very, very hard, I think, for many people to change the role that they play in a given group, when the role has already been established.
It’s harder for folks to think, “How do I work out of that? My whole family thinks I’m like this, so they’re always going to think I’m like that. How do I change that?”
18:28 Neen James: You can change it.
18:29 Michael Port: You can, exactly. So it’s interesting, it really strikes me, really right now, actually, of how much that has influenced the way that I think about personal branding.
Because, obviously it was clear to me that you can, if you understand the back story behind the character and what the character wants and how the character’s going to go after what they want, then you can get really clear on what your role is, and play that role.
18:57 Neen James: Sure.
18:58 Michael Port: Same thing for personal branding. Personal branding, I think, a lot of people focus just on what you do that other people see, or experience. And I was talking to a group of our students yesterday, we had a group from Fortune Management in here. And I was talking about the role that they play for their clients.
And so I said, “For example, you might develop a whole personal brand that soothes your client. Because you may have clients that really, really want a maternal figure who is going to say, ‘Listen, it’s okay, things are tough right now, but here’s my shoulder,’ and then someone else is going to need someone who can play the role of disrupter.”
And so, if we’re very clear on what role we need to play for our clients in general, and then specifically for each client, then, I think, we serve them better. I think it’s also easier for them to see us and go, “That’s who I want, that’s what I need.”
And so, it’s not just about how we want to be seen, it’s also, “What do they need?”
20:02 Neen James: And I think it comes back to what I said initially about the fact that we have to stand in service of an audience, right? And so, remember, as an actor, as a performer, you have the script, you know the back story. There are people who have seconds for you to make an impression in them.
You have seconds to get someone’s attention. They don’t know the back story, they don’t know your experience is, they don’t know your credibility, and so, very quickly you need to cut through the clutter and get their attention quickly and keep their attention.
And the way to do that, as a performer, is to have this repertoire of roles, right? So, on stage, you’ve seen me do this, I have so many roles I play. Sometimes it’s teasing the audience, sometimes it’s pulling someone out of the audience, sometimes it’s playing with the meeting planner, it’s often playing with the AV crew.
There are so many roles that we have as performers, now those of us who do it professionally, like all the people in the League. The person on stage is exactly the person they are if you meet them at midnight at the airport, it’s exactly the same!
21:02 Michael Port: You know, when I first started speaking after I wrote my first book and people who saw me speak were seeing me speak after they read the book, they would come up and say, “Oh my gosh, you’re exactly like I thought you would be from the book.” As if that was somehow special.
21:19 Neen James: I know, it’s crazy, though, that that was what people think. Because, I think what happens is – and you and I have worked on this, you and I have talked about this, right – is when people have read my book, they’re like, “Oh my gosh! It’s like you’re sitting there with me!” And I’m like, “I know! It’s supposed to be like that.” Right?
21:33 Michael Port: I know! I know!
21:34 Neen James: In the same way when I stand on stage. Now, what you and I also know is, when I try to be saying my words perfectly and remembering my lines and stuff, ughh, I suck! And so, I know that about myself.
21:47 Michael Port: Well, let’s not… Come on, you don’t suck.
21:48 Neen James: In my brain, I suck.
21:49 Michael Port: In your brain you suck, but you don’t suck. But it is…
21:54 Neen James: It doesn’t feel as congruent.
21:55 Michael Port: Correct! Yes! So each one of us has specific types of talents and we develop specific skills based on those talents over the years, so, there’s no one way to do the work, and we’ve got to find the way that works best for you and the the kinds of people you serve and the kinds of venues you go to.
22:13 Neen James: Exactly! That’s exactly right! I mean, I remember sitting watching Ron Tite. If you haven’t seen Ron Tite speak, I mean, oh my gosh! And my mouth was literally open for the entire duration. And I wrote pages of notes.
And, yeah, I was listening to what he said, but I was watching him as a performer and Ron is same guy off-stage, perfect on-stage, Joey Coleman’s the same, Tami’s the same, and when I look at the people in the League, it’s so cool that one of the consistent traits I see is, they’re good humans on-stage and off-stage.
And they’re the same, right? And I think we want more of that in the world, in the profession of speaking, in the industry, I would love it if more people were authentically them.
I saw a post on social media yesterday, about a dear friend, and a particular bureau was posting that my friend was exceptional, but what they also posted was that the opening speaker was a Diva, the AV crew hated them, blah, blah, blah. Now, this is on social media.
23:05 Michael Port: The bureau was doing this?
23:06 Neen James: Yeah. The bureau did this. Now, it wasn’t their selection. Interesting. But my point was, you are always, always on show, and we need to be aware that people are going to share what they experience of you and now they have this megaphone where they can share that with the entire world. So that consistency and that authenticity is vital.
23:27 Michael Port: Yeah, consistency is key. You know, it’s interesting, the few different things that build trust, certainly making commitments and fulfilling commitments is the number one way to build trust. If you want someone to trust you, just do what you say you’re going to do.
23:39 Neen James: It’s not that hard.
23:40 Michael Port: It’s not really that hard, no. And if every once in a while you have to renegotiate what you’re going to do, “I thought I could do it Tuesday, I need two more days.”
23:48 Neen James: But that’s accountability, right? Like, tell me what you’re going to do and have integrity and do it.
23:51 Michael Port: That’s right. And then the second is consistency. And of course, doing what you say you’ll do, consistently, builds trust, but consistency in all aspects of life. And so, this is what’s interesting to me: In our work at HPS, we are encouraging people to explore all the different facets of their personality. Because we are so much more than one thing.
24:14 Neen James: Right!
24:15 Michael Port: And, at first blush, some people might make the assumption that, “Oh, you’re asking me to be different people, or so different all the time?” and the answer, of course, is no. Because somehow people think that if you do explore different parts of your personality in full ways, then people won’t recognise you. You know?
And so, for me, “No, no, you will always be you, you’re just allowing different parts of your personality to come out, but it’s still always you.”
24:51 Neen James: Do you remember one of the rehearsals we had for that important event I did in Toronto?
24:56 Michael Port: Yeah.
24:57 Neen James: And one of the things that was one of the most game changing things, which probably sounds ridiculous as I say it out loud, but I’m going to tell you anyway. You made me stand on stage with my script, and you made me go a bazillion miles and hour. I had to talk super-super quick. And I was, like, “This is stupid! But I’ll do it, because I trust you and Amy,” right?
And in my brain I was, like, “He’s a lunatic, but follow direction, just, if you’re listening you probably thought the same thing about Michael. And I love him dearly, but it was so liberating, and as a result of that one exercise, where you made me talk a million miles an hour, then all of a sudden we found the freedom to go, like, “Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!”
And you showed me, and you’d even filmed it, which I didn’t know that. See? Always on show. But what was really cool about that is, I think, to performers, if you are really serious about performance, you have to get counsel and direction from people who are qualified to give it to you.
There are a bazillion people who want to coach you, teach you, train you. And, “You can make a million dollars,” and you can do this stupid program and this stupid program, and follow this so-called expert. And there are people ripping off people’s stuff all the time.
I remember when I spoke at NSA on their main stage, I stood on the stage and said, “Stop stealing other people’s stuff. It makes me crazy.” But I think, if you are going to elevate your performance, you need to get counsel from people who get it.
You guys get it. And you force us to do these characters, when you ask us to step out and do these roles, it expands us and it shows us more of what we’re capable of, which is fascinating.
26:27 Michael Port: Yeah. I appreciate that. I have one comment and one question. One of the things that you just said – you said, “Expands us,” and I think in large part, that’s our job, as performers, and it’s an opportunity as people. So, as a person, it’s not your job, you know, you don’t have to grow in any way, shape, or form, you can be exactly as you are today.
As a performer, I do think it is your job. It is part of your job description to continue to grow, and so, what we’re doing is, we’re expanding our capacity to be more open, more flexible, and it feels a little tough at first, because any time you’re stretching something…
27:09 Neen James: It’s uncomfortable.
27:10 Michael Port: Yeah, it can be a little uncomfortable, but then, all of a sudden, everything loosens up and you’re like, “Oh, I fit in this space. I stretched it out, it’s a bigger space, and I’m filling it up! This is fantastic!”
So then, of course, next, what do you do? You start stretching again.
27:20 Neen James: You have the courage to go again.
27:21 Michael Port: You start stretching again, it gets a little bit uncomfortable. And I think that is the part of the performer’s job. That is, I think, part of our job description.
27:30 Neen James: Right, and I think another part to expand on that is, we often make it look so easy, because we put in the work. We stand on stage and we have fun, they laugh, we play, it’s great, and then when people get off the stage, everyone’s like, “Oh my gosh! I want to be a speaker like you! Oh my gosh, you make it look so easy!”
Yeah, I make it look easy, because I put bazillions of hours into that.
27:47 Michael Port: Yeah, Michelangelo said something about – and I’ll paraphrase – he said something about, “If anyone had any idea how long it took for me to achieve my mastery, they would not think it so enjoyable.” You know, I don’t know what the exact quote was, but it was Michelangelo, back then, who said that. You have no clue how hard it is to get to that level.
So, the other thing that I wanted to ask, is not coming back to me right now, but it’s going to come in moment. Once we start talking about something else it will pop right back.
Ah! Here it is, this is what it is, and by the way, I’ve said this before on the show when I’ve forgotten what I wanted to say next, but that is a technique. You just say, “Oh, it’ll come back to me in a moment,” it does. It’s remarkable! It may take two seconds or it might take twenty seconds or thirty seconds.
28:34 Neen James: And it’s fun to play with an audience like that, too. It’s like, “Where was I? Oh!” and then someone says it, and, “Exactly! That’s exactly where I was!”
28:41 Michael Port: People ask me, you know, when people come for training they often ask me, “What do I do when I blank?” That is one of the most common fears.
And I’ll often say, “Well, what do you do when you blank when you’re just having a conversation with someone? You say, ‘Oh, hold on, what was I saying?’ and you think about it.” You don’t run off, or run away, “Oh, my gosh! Oh, shoot! I don’t know what to say!” and run away. You just think about it, “What was I going to say?”
And then, if you can’t remember, go, “What was I saying?” and they’ll tell you and you’ll be, “Oh, yes! That’s right,” and just go on. It’s the same thing on stage.
29:08 Neen James: So human.
29:09 Michael Port: And nobody has a problem with it on stage if you’re delivering great value to them. If you’re solving their problems you can forget twenty things, you’re completely fine. If you’re not solving any of their problems, and you remember everything you were going to say…
29:18 Neen James: Canned.
29:19 Michael Port: Right. It’s not going to be as effective as the alternative. So, this was my question – and obviously I have a perspective on this, and my perspective is going to be very biased, because I believe very strongly in our methodology, and you mentioned you need to pick people and know what they’re doing – so, how can people identify the right folks?
And I ask this question because Neen has been in this business for a long, long time, and has a lot of experience. And I’m not asking you to answer it so that it points people to us, but there’s a lot of people out there who can offer a lot of things, that might be helpful, and I want to make sure that no matter they’re looking for, whether it’s help on their performance, or their content, or something else in their business, or fitness, or whatever.
How do you identify the people that really know what they’re doing, that can advance your work and your position?
30:18 Neen James: For me, because I am very, very conscious that I have a limited amount of time and a limited amount of attention, that I’m going to choose to invest in the ones that are going to give me the highest return.
So, for example, when I first, first started speaking, the best person in Australasia, one of the top speakers in the world, was Matt Church. So, it was a no-brainer, you just hire Matt Church, right? Because I’ll go for the best. And I was starting and he was way out of my league, just for the record, but I was starting out.
Now, one of the things that I noticed, before I started working intimately with you and Amy, was that, when I would ask the absolute top performers in our industry, who did they work with, the Jay Baers of the world, the Scott Strattens of the world, they would say, “Michael and Amy Port.” Well, there you go. Done. Right?
And so, what I will always look for is, who’s best. Now, is it expensive? Yes. But here’s my thought: If I’m charging the kind of keynote fees that I’m charging, I need to be able to invest that and more multiple times a year, in order for me to be able to stand in service of my clients.
I think a lot of people are very happy to ask for their fee, but they’re not happy to pay their fees, for coaching. Now, I have worked with some great people, like Lou Heckler, he and John Allen, they are amazing and it’s a full immersion. You are literally in their house, and they’re great at it.
But I think what happens is sometimes, when a lot of people work with the same people, they look like the people they’re being coached by. And I can see, I know particular coaches in our industry, and I can see they’ve been coached.
What I’ve noticed about you and Amy, something that’s remarkable to me, is, there’s no, I want to say the word formula, it’s not the right word.
31:55 Michael Port: There is no formula.
31:56 Neen James: It doesn’t look like they’re being coached by the Ports. And that’s one of the things that concerns me about the industry. When people start to follow some of these so-called guru’s, they look like these so-called guru’s and that doesn’t really serve the audience, it’s not 100% authentic, and it certainly doesn’t serve our industry.
So, I want to challenge people that, when you’re looking for coaches or trainers or mentors, whether it’s your personal trainer, whether it is your coach, whether it is the content or the writer, find the people who are the best. Find the people who are at the top of their game and start to investigate, who did they recommend. And then, save your resources for the point that you can afford it and then immerse yourself.
What was interesting to me, is that you allow people access at multiple levels. If you want to know about the business, buy ‘Book Yourself Solid’, if you’re a do-it-yourselfer, buy the book, work yourself through the book. Done. Right?
If you want an immersion, go to Heroic Public Speaking Live, the event, which I am privileged to be faculty, so I’m a little biased too, but it’s still one of the most world class programmes I’ve ever seen.
If you want to work one-on-one with you and Amy, pay a bazillion dollars, and fully commit to it. But, I think, for every person, regardless of where they are in their journey, they need to do their due diligence. Ask people who are at the top of their career to find out who they use.
Ask people of experiences, what sort of return on investment they’ve got, so you are doing a due diligence, but then there’s got to be a fit. There could be people out there who are great at what they do. I just don’t like them. They just don’t gel with me.
And I remember one particular speech coach. She said to me, “Ms James, I can never work with you,” and we joke about it, because I can’t say the same thing every time the same way. And their particular style of coaching is very much about the precision of every word. I’m not that girl. I am not that girl.
And so, we just agree that I can’t ever work with that person, and that’s okay. They’re great at what they do, they’re just not for me.
33:54 Michael Port: Yeah. This particular work is an art.
33:58 Neen James: Ah, so true!
33:59 Michael Port: And, so, that’s why, when we, right from the beginning, we always approached it as an art, and if it is an art, then there isn’t one way to do it, there isn’t one way to train, there isn’t one way to develop material. And so, what our job is also, as speakers, as creative artists, is to create material and performances that are unique experiences that only you could possibly create.
34:31 Neen James: Yes! That’s what I love! And I listened to the great interview you did with Tami, and you referred to the League as mutants. And I was, like, “Okay, that’s the first time I’m taking that as a compliment, just for the record.”
But I actually thought to myself, it’s true, because every one of us does something so different to the others, but yet, when we step on stage, we are having the time of our lives, our audiences are having a blast.
34:55 Michael Port: Well, like you mentioned before, you talked about consistency. So, to me, the people that are the most interesting, are these people that I think of as ‘mutants’. Because most of their DNA is like a regular human being, but then there’s something in their DNA that just makes them different.
Now, yes, you’re physically unique, because you’re four ten and a half, and you sound like you’re five.
35:20 Neen James: Correct.
35:21 Michael Port: But, that’s not what I’m referring to. That’s a bonus part of the package that makes you very unique, is your… Like, we work on imitating you and Ron, and we do that, but we can’t. It’s just impossible, there’s no way you can do it.
But, the way that you think, and the way that you behave, is a mutation. And I think it’s a positive mutation. I think it’s an evolved way of being.
So, those are the people that I’m looking for when I’m identifying, “Who do I want to bring into the League, and work with?” I’m looking for mutants, I’m looking for people whose DNA is mostly like everybody else, but there’s just something about them that’s different and they’re born that way. Like, what’s her name? The meat singer?
36:10 Neen James: Lady Gaga? The meat singer!
36:11 Michael Port: Yeah, Lady Gaga. At Ron Tite’s speech, he sings her line. He says, “I’m on the right track, baby, I was born this way.”
36:20 Neen James: Born this way. Yeah, it’s so true.
36:21 Michael Port: I think more people are this kind of mutant than they might realise. What’s unique about you and others in the League is that you’ve got to the place in your life where you are fully self-expressing that gene. And, I think, a lot of folks at the beginning of their journey, they feel that mutation in them, but they haven’t expressed it yet.
36:47 Neen James: Oh, my gosh! I was so there, too! And, I think, if you’re listening to this, this whole self-expression, self-evolve thing, yeah. And I’m also ancient, so there’s the benefit of experience. I’m the little old lady, walking, right?
36:59 Michael Port: She’s exaggerating. She’s little and she’s a lady, but she’s not old.
37:02 Neen James: I had to buy reading glasses yesterday.
37:06 Michael Port: What did you have to buy?
37:07 Neen James: I had to buy reading glasses yesterday.
37:08 Michael Port: Oh, come on!
37:08 Neen James: No, seriously.
37:09 Michael Port: I’ve been wearing reading glasses for a decade.
37:11 Neen James: Okay, stop! Anyway, my point is this, right? When you think about these amazing differences, these incredible things, when I started out, I was trying to wear the right thing, say the right thing, I was watching everyone else for what I thought was the right thing. And I wasn’t leveraging all the uniqueness that is me.
So, please understand, if you’re listening to this, it’s a journey. And it’s not something like one day I woke up and went, “Oh, yeah, I’m just going to be myself.” No, there’s the benefit of experience, there’s stages I’ve been on, there’s client feedback, there’s all of those things.
But I also want people to understand that the sooner that you step into the uniqueness that is you, the sooner you’ll make more money, the sooner you will elevate your message, the sooner your clients will ask for you back, because no one else is like you, so you have a competitive advantage.
And I think, too, I am so attracted to the way people think. I think in models. It’s weird, I know. It’s bizarre, but when people talk to me I’m starting to draw shapes in my head, like trying to sort their intellectual property in a way that I can process it.
Now, I understand, now, that that’s a ‘mutant type’ way of thinking. I didn’t at the time. But we all have these weird and wonderful gifts that we can share with the world that we don’t even think twice about them, because it’s intuitive, right?
And I think, if you can share that with your audience, people are so interested in what you think, how you think. Not just what to do, but why is that important? How is that going to change the situation, the challenge, the concerns they have? And so, if you can unpack your thinking for people, it’s really powerful.
38:38 Michael Port: Yeah. And I want to just mention Matt Church again. Your first teacher. If you are in Australia, Matt is the person to work with. He is a good friend of ours, he’s great friends with the business, I am a great friend of his business, in that I really believe in what he’s doing.
38:56 Neen James: The Thought Leaders Business School. There’s nothing like it on the planet. If you really want to commercialise your ideas. And I know American speakers that fly to Australia to do the programme. It’s a very unique, intense programme, and it’s kind of like going back to what you said before. You’ve got to choose the people you use for what you need for your business.
39:13 Michael Port: That’s right. That’s the thing. When I’m looking for teachers, I work as hard as I can, before I start looking for the teachers, to determine what kind of help I need. And this might sound obvious, but, I think, often, when we’re looking for help, we’re looking for generalised help.
39:33 Neen James: Or we go with whatever’s popular at the time.
39:37 Michael Port: Yes. But if someone says, “Oh, I need help with my speaking.” True. We all do. But that’s a general concept. What specifically do you need?
Now, here’s the hard thing about a craft like public speaking: Sometimes you don’t know what you don’t know. And that’s one of the things we hear very often when people get here. Because a lot of people come here because someone said, “You have to go to Heroic Public Speaking School.”
40:04 Neen James: And they’re right.
40:04 Michael Port: You know, if you boss says it, or your sister says it, or someone, they say you have to go.
40:05 Neen James: Yeah, sure, do it.
40:05 Michael Port: And so, sometimes they’ll come, even without doing a lot of their own homework, and they walk in and after the first day – that is one of the most common things we hear – go, “Oh my gosh, I didn’t even know I needed to know this!”
40:21 Neen James: Oh, my gosh! When I first saw Amy do her seven step rehearsal process, I sat in the room horrified, like, embarrassed for myself. I was like, “Oh, good Lord, I have so much work to do!” And I remember texting, Judson Laipply was with me, a dear friend, and I texted him and I was like, “Oh my gosh, I have so much work to do.”
And what I realised, and I think is often the case in many of our industry, is, if we are good at a speech, if we’re good at a performance, we’re like, “Awesome.” What we don’t do, is the rehearsal, because, I, like others, thought, “Well, it’s going to look staged, it’s going to look plastic, it’s going to look canned, and that’s not who I am.”
But, when Amy unpacked her seven step rehearsal process, it literally blew my mind. I never tire of watching her do that, it always kicks my butt. And even still, working with you both now, getting on my feet, walking it through, doing invited rehearsals, all of those strategies, are things that, I think, we get comfortable and we think, “Oh, I’m okay, I’m getting paid and I’m doing great, yeah!”
But, you know, it’s the elevation of the craft, and that’s why I love you focus on the performance of speaking, not the business of speaking. You have people that can help with that, but that’s not what you and Amy…
When you and Amy pull someone out and do a master class, it’s transformational! And there’s no formula, right? And that’s what’s so beautiful to watch. It is art.
41:36 Michael Port: So, here’s the thing. For us there’s a big difference between formula and process. And a formula would be something like, ‘you always walk in this same way on stage’. If you make an ‘H’ or a ‘W’, or whatever – I don’t know if anybody actually does that, so I’m not being critical or making fun of anybody – if every body does it like this, that’s a formula.
A process is very, very different. In order to develop craft, you need a process. Craft is not something that you can just go out and grab onto. It’s a very amorphous concept. So, how do you develop craft? Well, you develop a process. Do you have a process for creating material? Do you have a process for rehearsing the material? Do you have a process for, et cetera, et cetera.
And we have these processes, because we went and trained as professional performers. You cannot beat yourself up, nobody should beat themselves up for not knowing the seven-step rehearsal process if they have not gone to Yale Drama, or the Grant Programme at NYU or Juliard.
42:48 Neen James: But once you see it, then you have to do it. That’s the thing, right? So, that’s one of the things that I love: having the privilege of working with you both every month, but also attending HPS and being faculty, with Heroic Public Speaking is a privilege as well.
Working with the grad students, you know? What I have also loved watching, is watching people come through the programme and seeing how transformed they are. Not just in the delivery of their message, but as humans, because what I think people don’t budget on is the instant community.
It is that they find a group of people that really want them to do well. That they find a peer group, that they have mentoring, that they are also very, very clear that you and Amy are the directors, and that any relationships they build are very beneficial, but I’ve seen people find a new level of confidence. I’ve seen people find a new level of self esteem.
And that’s been really fascinating to watch. None of the things you can put in the sales copy of a brochure, right? It’s the benefits of doing it. But I still learn, every time I attend Heroic Public Speaking. And I think this will be my third one in October? At the time of recording.
So, I think that, when you have the opportunity to learn from people who are brilliant at what they do, soak it up. See it and learn. Don’t challenge, just sit and absorb, and then filter through what you need to take away and what you need to work on.
44:11 Michael Port: One of the things that you do, that is absolutely brilliant, is set very specific and strategic e-mail auto-responders when you’re out of the office.
44:27 Neen James: I do!
22:28 Michael Port: And I would love you to tell our audience about what you do, because I think that they might find it effective as well.
44:36 Neen James: Sure, so, you know, the worst thing you can ever do is put an out-of-office that says, ‘OOO’, like, ‘Out Of Office’. Because I got one of my clients, I got a bounceback that said, “OOO”. And I said, “In Australia…”
44:47 Michael Port: It actually said ‘OOO’?
44:49 Neen James: Yeah, Out Of Office, because they’re too lazy to write “Out Of Office”. And so, it was so crazy to me, because ‘OOO’, in Australia, triple ‘O’ is like 911. If you call triple ‘O’ it’s an emergency. It’s like, “What’s wrong? What’s wrong?” and I was like, “Oh, it’s the stupid, lazy out-of-office. That’s just dumb,” right?
So, here’s my thinking. Out Of Office needs to be an extension of your personality, right? It’s another personal branding opportunity, right? So my clients, even when they know I’m on vacation, will send me a message, just to see what my bounceback is.
And so, also, if I’m even away from my e-mail for several hours, if I’m serving a client, I will say, “I’m with a really cool client today. Super excited about this! But here’s all the ways we can connect with you.”
But I will also share bits of my life. “I’m hanging out with my god-daughters. We’ve gone to see the ballet.” Or, “I’m in Hawaii with my sister,” like, there’s a little bit of a sneak peek behind the curtain of my life as well. And often, what people say to me when they read these e-mails, is, “Oh my gosh! It’s the funniest e-mail! It’s fun and it makes me smile.’
And we all hate e-mail, but imagine if we just talked on e-mail like we talk to humans and had a conversation. In the same way, your out-of-office can be very strategic in positioning you with industries you’re working in, the kind of performance work you have, the kind of deliverables you have. You can have links in there if you want to.
46:03 Michael Port: You know, the reason I think it’s a really good idea, is not because it’s what will help you with your prospecting. You know, it’s not some sort of marketing strategy that’s going to bring in all sorts of new people, but what it helps, is it helps the people that you already have communication with, know what you do, who you do it for, when you do it, it helps reinforce it. And you might say, “Oh, come on! Everybody knows what I do.” No, they don’t, really.
46:35 Neen James: No. Ask some of your family. They probably have no idea what you do.
46:39 Michael Port: Yeah. They may say, “Oh, my daughter’s a marketing expert.”
46:42 Neen James: Yeah. They don’t really know. I was speaking at an event – it was a very interesting event – and the association – in this country there is an association for everything, let’s just put that on the table.
46:52 Michael Port: Seriously. It’s true. But do you know how many? About 60,000 or some crazy number.
46:56 Neen James: Oh, it blows my mind! So, I was speaking at this association, and my bounceback happened to say that I was at this particular association. And, I don’t know why or how, but someone from a bureau had messaged me. They got my bounceback, and they called and said, “We lost a job because you were speaking at this event,” and I was like, “Oh. Sorry.” Not sorry. Sorry, not sorry.
But they were like, “Okay, we need you to come in and meet with our team.” And it was very fascinating, because of the bounceback message, because they were like, “We tried to put people in there.” And my point around this is, you never, never know when someone’s e-mailing you. You never know what they’re paying attention to and this is why, like I said earlier, you’re always on show.
And so, you’ve got to think about these opportunities. Every out-of-office is another touch point. Your voicemail is a touch point, your e-mails are a touch point, your speeches, your thank you notes, your gifts, these are all touch points. And we have to think about how are we paying attention and are we really showing people that they’re important to us, even if it’s an out-of-office.
47:55 Michael Port: Yeah. I remember, when Facebook first added that Check-in feature, how nervous people were about checking in, because they thought, “Well, everybody’s going to know I’m not home. I’m away on vacation and my house is going to get robbed immediately.”
So, if you’re worried about that, and if you think the kind of people that e-mail you directly are the kind of people that would break into you house, then don’t do this.
48:22 Neen James: Yeah, good call.
48:23 Michael Port: Or, add a line on the end that says, “Yes, I’m away, but I have a very big attack dog, and a really good alarm system.”
48:28 Neen James: Wouldn’t that be hilarious? One of my dear friends works for the FBI, and she and I were talking about this whole concept about personal security and social media and safety and things like that.
And one of her good pieces of advice was – especially because I’m a chick who’s travelling all by myself a lot of the time – was, “Hey, post if you want. When you’ve left.” And I actually thought that was really, really smart. So, I think, and it seems so obvious, I know, but I do a lot of Insta Stories and stuff like that.
And then what happens, though, if I post in this town, and then all my speaker friends are like, “Why didn’t you tell me you were in this town?” and then you get abused from all the people that you love. It’s like, “I’m in and out, I’m in and out, people.”
49:01 Michael Port: And they know.
49:02 Neen James: Exactly, I know. I was teasing Scott Stratten about that. I was, like, “Wait, you’re in Philly?” He’s like, “Well, not really.” But what I think we need to be considerate about is that people are always watching. And you don’t know who’s watching, and you can control the attention to a certain point, by what kind of messages you share in the world.
49:19 Michael Port: Yeah, good. So, one more topic I want to address, is working on a keynote after you’ve written a book about that subject. Because that’s something that…
49:28 Neen James: Ugghh… You can’t see my eye-roll, people, but that’s what’s happening.
49:33 Michael Port: I think they heard the, ‘ugghh…’. So, they got that. But, we went through this process together over a period of time, and since working on writing that keynote about attention, based on your book, ‘Attention Pays’, how has the process been, distilling the book down into keynote form, and what has that process taught you about performance, and maybe about attention.
50:02 Neen James: Oh, it’s vomitous. Here’s the thing, I thought…
50:06 Michael Port: In a good way?
50:07 Neen James: Yeah. No! No! But it’s great when you come to the other side of it, so let’s just be super honest. I write the book and it’s case studies. And the way I write and the way I talk are very similar, but it’s super fancy writing with editing, and exclamation points and stuff, right?
So, thinking I’d done the work, I was like, “Oh, my gosh! This book is full of beautiful contextual models, great tweetables, great case studies.” And then you sat me down and said, “Wait, you don’t have to actually say what’s in the book.” I’m like, “What do you mean? I’ve just done all this work, are you kidding me?”
And what we realised, was, my best performances when I pull people out on the stage, when I play with the audience, when I use their intellectual property and show them how brilliant they are, and I give attention to them that way – you can’t do that in a book.
And so, for me, it was very liberating, but it was also really tough. Because I thought, “Oh my gosh! I’ve written a book! I am set for the keynote. Just regurgitate some of the book, and tah-dah! Done!” No, no donesville. I had to start again.
Now, what was beautiful, though, in our last session you and I talked so much, with Amy as well, about, really, one thing that has always been important to me is that everyone be seen and heard. And at the end of the day, that’s still what my keynote’s about. How do you see people? How do you hear people? And that’s a very subtle message throughout the entire book, but it’s a very prominent message in my keynote. And that is, what do you see? What do you hear? What do people see? What do people hear? How do people see you? How do they hear you?
And so, I feel like it was this massive circle, where we started out with the content, and the book is good! I’m really proud of my body of work there, and I think people are responding to this so beautifully, which has been amazing to me.
And different things are resonating with different people. I think it’s very timely in the conversation right now, but the keynote is an experience, the Neen James experience on stage is not me regurgitating my book.
Now, some people might be able to get away with that, and God bless them, that’s awesome. Not my reality. The book is a compliment to what I do. It’s not what I stand on stage and talk about.
52:01 Michael Port: That’s right. So, it’s interesting, again we believe, just like in public speaking, in book writing, there isn’t one way to do it, everybody’s got their own process. In fact, our friend Seth Godin, if he’s asked about his writing process, he says, “I’m not telling.” Not because he’s trying to keep it secret, but because, he says, “You’ve got to figure out your own process, by writing.”
52:24 Neen James: Yes. Right is right.
52:26 Michael Port: Hacking your way into it, may not produce the mastery.
52:31 Neen James: I was pretty excited, he endorsed my book. Like, front page.
52:32 Michael Port: That’s pretty cool. Seth is, he’s…
52:34 Neen James: Good human.
52:35 Michael Port: What is it? He’s a giant among men.
52:38 Neen James: And women. Just adding that.
52:39 Michael Port: Of course. I mean, women are so far elevated above the giants, you can’t even put them in the same category.
52:47 Neen James: Nice save.
52:48 Michael Port: Thank you so much. So, okay good. So, actually I am going to do one more question.
52:53 Neen James: Sure! I’m in your hands.
52:54 Michael Port: I guess I fibbed. I said that was the last topic. But I do want to talk about your VIP systemisation. You have this really, really interesting way of keeping in touch with very important people and you outline it in the book. And I’d like you to address it, because I have been very fortunate to be on the receiving end of such care.
53:13 Neen James: VIP. So, we all have VIP’s, Very Inspiring People, in our life. And my belief is that we want to stay in contact with them. We have the best intentions, but what happens is, life gets in the way. And so we have to systemise thoughtfulness.
Now, I know that sounds really mean. But we need to create systems to be able to be thoughtful with people that are important to us. I have a list of advocates in my life. These are advocates that sometimes they’re inside my industry, sometimes they’re outside my practice, but these are people I want to diligently stay in contact with.
So, I literally have an old fashioned spreadsheet, it’s not fancy, and what I do is, I have have their name, and literally every month I reach out to them about something. Now, it could be, when my friend Joey Coleman published his book, I bought fifty copies of his book and then I would send it to those people.
It could be I see a brilliant TED Talk, like when you and Amy did your TED Talk. I would share that with some of these advocates. So, it doesn’t have to cost money, so to speak, but what I’m doing is, I’m showing them that they’re important to me, by staying in touch. It’s a calendar appointment.
Now, here’s the other thing that happens. When I’m out and about, because these people are so important to me, if I see something that reminds me of them, then I’m going to go, “Oh, my gosh! That’s really cool! I’m going to get that.”
So, one client is important to me and is a huge fan of the Spurs, which, apparently, is a basketball team. And so, I found this artist who does these beautiful drawings and got some framed and sent across to them. Mind blowing. Right? Because I saw it out and about, and so I think there’s ways that you can stay top of mind for people, but you have to make it a system.
And so, for me, that’s a calendar appointment, I keep the contact details in my phone constantly, so that I can send them a text, I can shoot them a video, I can tell them I’m thinking about them. But I also make sure I strategically introduce them to each other.
So, it could be that… Melissa Agnes, a dear friend of ours, wrote a brilliant book called, ‘Crisis Ready’. I think it should be compulsory reading for every high school, every university, every business owner, every corporation. So I bought some copies, had her sign them, and then I sent them to these advocates.
Why I sent it – so I sent one to the president of High Point University, Nido Qubein, because I think it needs to be curriculum in schools and he will be able to see that. I sent it to my friend, Freebird who’s teacher of the year in North Carolina, because he has an influence on curriculum.
And so, I think we have to consciously be thinking about other people and how we can serve them first.
Now, these people are also very generous and, in return, but not expected, they will say, “Hey! Have you met my friend, this,” or, “Have you thought about this,” or, “Can I help you with this.” My job is to treat these people like they are the most important person in my life, which means scheduling time to make it happen.
55:43 Michael Port: So, what is your process? How do you manage this group of people? How many people can one manage? Because if you’re, like, “So, here’s my list of 2,342…”
55:54 Neen James: I can’t do that. I’ve got twenty.
55:54 Michael Port: What’s the right… Twenty?
55:56 Neen James: Yeah. And some people have fifty. Well, God bless you if you can remember that many people. I can’t. And I think we have thousands of people who are important to us. We have hundreds and hundreds of social media connections and all that type of thing, but if you really, really had to drill it down, I think I can actively work on twenty people at once.
And here’s the other thing that will happen. Once a year I’ll go through that list and I will edit it out. So, I may have developed such a great relationship with that person, I don’t need to have them on the list for next year, because I’m naturally seeing them. I’m naturally connecting with them.
But, I think, when you’re growing a business, you’ve got to be very, very strategic, as a performer, on the business as well. You can be an exceptional speaker, in my industry, but if you can’t grow a business, if you can’t sell a speech, you are going to die. That’s going to happen. You are not going to be able to pay your mortgage, feed your kids, do whatever you need to do.
And so, what I learned very early, and that was through the benefit of working with people like Matt Church, is that it is also about the business. So, having advocates, and having systemised thoughtfulness is a business decision, it’s a commercial thing. Does it cost me money? Sure. Does it pay me back? Like, hundredfold, hundredfold. You bet.
57:10 Michael Port: Yeah, of course. And also, it feels good to do nice things for people.
57:14 Neen James: And surprise people, right? And to do things like, just pop something in the post, because no one does that any more, right?
57:19 Michael Port: What are the excuses that sometimes we make around this kind of thing? So we say, “I don’t know what to do for people. I don’t know what to get for people.” And I think that – and I say this in the most loving and respectful way – a little bit of a cop-out?
57:33 Neen James: Oh, gosh! And that’s so lazy! Just write a handwritten note. I mean, it costs you nothing.
57:37 Michael Port: Even if it’s just, “Hey, I really think you’re awesome and I appreciate you. Peace out.”
57:41 Neen James: Yeah. And here’s the other thing that I do. I think video is the future. And so, I will pull out my phone, shoot a video, whether hair and make-up is done or not is irrelevant, and I will say, “Oh my gosh, I was thinking about you! This would be really cool for you!” And then I text it. So, I shoot a video and I text it.
57:55 Michael Port: Yeah. You’re particularly skilled on your video, director camera bits. You do it very, very well. I recommend people watch how you do it.
58:06 Neen James: You’re kind. It’s just literally playing it out and just being myself.
58:08 Michael Port: No, I know, I know, but…
58:10 Neen James: It’s not produced.
58:11 Michael Port: No, it’s not produced at all, so I’m not referring to the production, I’m referring to actual performance of it. It takes commitment doing that kind of thing on a regular basis, to continue to develop that skill, and you see that in these videos.
58:23 Neen James: But the secret is, it’s not about me. It’s got nothing to do with me! It’s about them! That’s the secret! If you make it about them, it’s easy-peasy.
58:31 Michael Port: Yeah. And, you have the skill to deliver it. I think, that’s significant as well.
58:35 Neen James: Okay. Thanks.
58:36 Michael Port: So, listen – I just wanted to call you kid – so, listen, kid, we got to wrap up.
58:41 Neen James: I know. So fun!
58:44 Michael Port: This was the third one you’ve done with us. You did one on contextual models, we put a link in the show notes to that.
58:48 Neen James: Yeah, that was fun.
58:49 Michael Port: That was fantastic. If you don’t know what a contextual model is, a contextual model is a visualisation of your intellectual property, of your ideas.
58:55 Neen James: Yes! People need to see your content. To get attention for your message, you need a contextual model.
59:00 Michael Port: Exactly. I did a whole version of ‘Book Yourself Solid’, my first book, that was illustrated, filled with contextual models.
59:08 Neen James: My favourite of the two. And I own both of them, but the illustrated one was, “Hello! I get it now!”
59:11 Michael Port: Well, I got to the point where I had done two editions of the original, and I thought, “Well, there’s got to be another way for people to consume it. Maybe not everybody wants to read 75,000 words. Maybe they want to look at some of the concepts.”
And then I still did a third edition of the regular one, a couple of years later, but there are two and some people buy them separately and some people buy them together, depending on what they like, but I am a firm believer that visualising our ideas makes them so much easier to consume.
So, that’s an important podcast episode to listen to with Neen. And then we did one episode that primarily focused on women in the speaking business.
59:50 Neen James: We got such a response to that. I still get messages about that.
59:52 Michael Port: That’s still one of the most popular podcast episodes that we’ve done, I believe.
59:55 Neen James: That was fun.
59:56 Michael Port: Yeah. So, we’ll put a link to that in the show notes as well. I think this is, guys, you might have just tuned out when I said that episode was about women in the speaking business. And you go, “Well that’s not me, I’m not a woman,” et cetera. No, you should be listening to that as well, because it’s essential that we understand our industry and it’s essential that we understand what everybody in our industry goes through.
Because if we’re going to elevate the industry, we need to elevate each other. And so, it’s very, I think, important for us as men, to understand how the female speakers in the industry, experience the industry, and acknowledge those differences, and if there are differences that probably shouldn’t be differences, we’ve go to smooth those out.
1:00:42 Neen James: Well, so many of our friends have stepped up to ensure that when they’re being invited to participate in a genders and panels, so many people are advocating, whether it’s male or female. We have some dear friends who are being active and doing that.
And it’s always a question I have. And I understand, I’ve been a token female under gender, and I’m, seriously, okay with that. But I also understand that we have a responsibility to provide diversity to our audiences, and I believe meeting planners need to look at their speakers and ensure that they’re representative of the membership of the attendees.
So, it’s not whether you’re a man or a woman, but so you have everything represented in your actual offering.
1:01:20 Michael Port: And, you know, even if your audience is relatively homogeneous, not particularly diverse, isn’t it even more exciting to bring in more diversity to that group, because it’s not particularly diverse, so there’s just a lot of opportunity for us to up-level the whole industry. And I think that’s a great episode to listen to as well.
So, neenjames.com is where you should go. Go buy ‘Attention Pays’ anywhere books are sold, and I’ve got a whole slew of tabs.
1:01:51 Neen James: Oh, look! It’s got little sticky notes in it! Ah! You read it.
1:01:54 Michael Port: Oh, yeah! That’s the one she signed, and she also put a nice little lipstick note on it. Which is pretty cool. So, listen, thank you so much.
1:02:01 Neen James: My privilege.
1:02:02 Michael Port: Is there anything about the book that people can get at your website, to download, any freebies.
1:02:08 Neen James: Yes. If you go to neenjames.com, is that forward slash, or backslash? Whatever that slash is.
1:02:14 Michael Port: It’s a slash.
1:02:15 Neen James: It’s a slash. Whatever the slash is, neenjames.com/attentionpaysbook, then there’s a whole lot of thing s you can get there for free. We’ll put a link in the show notes.
1:02:23 Michael Port: Fantastic! Thank you so much, Neen. You be blessed.
1:02:25 Neen James: My privilege. Thank you for everything you’re doing in the world.
1:02:29 Michael Port: Hey! Thanks for listening to Steal The Show with Michael Port. I’m your host, Michael Port.
This podcast was produced by Laura Bernstein, with sound production and marketing by Colin Thomson and his team over at 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, frankly, the world.
Special thanks to today’s guest, the sassiest and savviest Aussie, Neen James, and to you, for listening and learning how to be a performer in your spotlight moments.
Hey, make sure to reach out to us on Instagram and Facebook, @heroicpublicspeaking, and let us know what high stakes performances you are currently crushing. Like Sophie, who said she can’t wait to see us at HPS live, this October 1st and 2nd, and 3rd.
So, check out the event page at heroicpublicspeaking.com/live. And let us know about your achievements. So head on over to Instagram or Facebook, or send us an e-mail at email@example.com, because we love to hear from you.
And I love you, very much. And not in a weird way, but I do love you for being the big thinker that you are. Bye for now.