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How to authentically create the emotional response in your audience, and not to take on any “negative energy”? Michael and Amy share public speaking tips.


00:02 Michael: Welcome to Steal the Show with Micheal Port. I am Michael. And today, I am visited by Amy soon-to-be Port, my lovely, lovely bride-to-be, and also the co-founder of Heroic Public Speaking. She is much more talented than I am, she’s much prettier than I am, definitely much more intelligent than I am, and she’s much more charming than I am. So if you don’t know Amy, here she is. Hi, Amy.

00:31 Amy: Micheal always tells us that the bad setup to give someone before they come on is to say like, “Here’s the funniest person in the world, here’s the most charming person in the world,” ’cause that’s awfully hard to live up to.

00:40 Michael: I did it on purpose. I know it is, isn’t it? I set you up for complete and utter failure. I’m terribly sorry about that. But it’s not an impossibility, I’ve never seen her fail at anything, ever. Because the fact of the matter is, as a performer, there is really no failure. You are never perfect, you are just going out to do your best work in service of the audience whether that’s one person or 1,000 people. Interestingly enough, I hope they find this interesting enough, in one of my Facebook groups, the Facebook group that I’m a participant of with other professional speakers, one of the fellows asked about being in the right emotional state during a speech. He said, “How do I make sure that I stay in the right state? And how do I make sure I feel the way I should feel? And… ”

01:37 Amy: And not absorb what the audience is feeling.

01:41 Michael: That’s right. ‘Cause sometimes the audience is really energized, sometimes they’re down, it’s after lunch, or… Different cultures respond differently to speakers in different ways. So sometimes we go in there expecting the audience to do our work for us, and we can’t accept that. And then of course, we often will make all sorts of assumptions about what the audience is or is not thinking, and that can be very dangerous. And so, sometimes we feel like we’re taking on the audience’s energy, and if their energy is low, then we start dropping in energy. And then we feel like we have to manufacture the energy and push the energy, and transfer our energy to them. And there were a lot of great tips, I think, that were offered by folks in the group.

02:36 Michael: And we wanted to talk about how an actor handles this, because an actor who is working in a show, arguably performs much more often than a speaker does, even a professional speaker. Because an actor, when they’re in a show, say, if they’re in a Broadway show, they’ll do eight or nine shows a week of the same exact performance, same exact… See, they don’t improv it at all. A speaker can go and change it around, do a little bit of this, a little different. They can interact with the audience, they have lots of techniques they can use to change the state of the audience, but an actor doesn’t. And there’s a fourth wall generally in most shows, so the actors have to create a particular experience for the audience without actually interacting with them.

03:28 Amy: And create the same emotional state, the same emotional response consistently. You won’t see professional actors go in and perform a scene radically differently from one night to the next.

03:41 Michael: Yeah, you’d hope not.

03:42 Amy: They have to be able to recreate. That would be a really hard person to be on stage with.

03:46 Michael: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Now remember, we’re not teaching you how to be an actor at all. We’re not suggesting that you should go out and be an actor. But we approach performing from the actor’s perspective, and so we wanna give you a look at how the actor creates the right kind of emotional state for themselves when they’re performing, and how they affect the audience. Because our job is to try to get people to think differently, to feel differently, to act differently, and we can’t force them to do it, and we really can’t transfer our energy. And this idea… So think about it this way: An inexperienced actor will often try to get into an emotional state like, “Okay, I’m gonna get really worked up and really angry right now, and then I’m gonna go do the scene,” or “I’m gonna be really sad, and then I’ll do the scene,” or “You know what? I’m gonna cry during the scene because that’s gonna show people that I am sad, or this is emotionally difficult.” But it doesn’t necessarily transfer, doesn’t necessarily translate to the audience. And sometimes the performer’s having this experience, but the audience is not connecting, and they’re wondering, “What’s happening up there? What’s going on?” So it becomes what we would call in the theater [05:05] ____. It becomes about you and how you’re feeling, as opposed to how the people in the audience are thinking or feeling.

05:12 Amy: So what the performer, what the actor tries to do is to affect the other person that they are on stage with or the other people. They try to get them to do something or say something or feel something, and that determines the behavior then that genuinely comes out of them. The difference here is that an actor’s doing that with another actor on stage, and the public speaker does that with the audience.

05:37 Michael: That’s right.

05:37 Amy: And it works, and is authentic because it’s what we do in real life. I may be talking with Michael and want to make him feel loved, or I want to get him to take out the garbage, and…

05:48 Michael: And make him feel guilty for not doing it. And it works very well, it’s very effective.

05:54 Amy: But I don’t think about, “Okay, I’m gonna put on an angry face. I’m going to bring up a certain state of energy to try to transfer that to him.

06:04 Michael: That’s right.

06:04 Amy: No, I just…

06:06 Michael: She thinks about her objective; what she wants to get me to do, to get me to think, to get me to feel. And then often, what happens is the performer or the person in real life will face obstacles, and then we need to overcome those obstacles. And then we try different tactics in order to achieve the same goal, because the first tactic we tried, maybe that didn’t work. Okay, well, I’ll try to get the audience to think differently about X. Well, that didn’t seem to resonate. Now, I need to try to get the audience to feel differently or to think differently about the same thing, but now I need to try a different tactic. So maybe I try to use sweetness, and I try to connect with them around some of the benefits that will occur as a result of thinking differently or acting differently. Well, you know what? It doesn’t seem to be changing them because maybe it turns out those benefits are so far removed from where they are right now that they don’t think it’s possible. So now let me try a different tactic.

07:09 Michael: Let me try a tactic where I’m gonna start to push some buttons. I gonna start to… I’m gonna get them to realize what the consequences of not adopting this world view will be. Now let’s see if that lands. Now, ideally, you’re designing a presentation so that this is worked out going into it. But sometimes an audience will respond to some parts of a presentation more than others, and a different audience will respond to different parts more than others. And so, you may have to change your tactics, change your approach in that presentation, but your objectives will always stay the same. And so, what happens is when you’re going after that objective, you’re driving toward it. You’re trying to make that happen. You care deeply about the outcome, and that will change your state. So, before you go on stage, if you work yourself up into some kind of energy like, “Okay, I got a high energy. I’m gonna go out there with a high energy. I’m gonna keep that energy really, really high,” that doesn’t actually have anything to do with affecting the audience.

08:05 Amy: That’s right.

08:06 Michael: And you can have fun with the audience, but the reason you have fun with the audience, or the reason that your energy is high is because of what you’re trying to achieve with the audience, what you’re trying to get them to do. And that will change their state, and its result will change your state, and of course, it changes your state, and the result that changes their state. So it’s a backwards and forward process.

08:27 Amy: It also communicates as a much more genuine, authentic performance. So, because you’re not play-acting at it, you’re not trying to drum up the emotional state. It’s all about your relationship with the audience and the effect that you want to have. So, one of the things that you’ll sometimes see is or experience yourself is when you look at into the audience, if they still seem really lethargic and like they are texting or wanna be going to sleep, you may bring up more energy. But that’s not about, “Okay, I gotta bring up more energy,” it’s a stronger tactic. “How do I wake them up? How do I get them to feel that what I’m talking about is important and inspiring?” Or “How do I spank them into waking up?”, as I’ve heard a couple of speakers do. But what are the techniques that you use? What are the tactics you use?

09:15 Michael: We call this “the heroic public spanking”. [laughter] That’s what that’s all… If you’re just tuning in, our company is called Heroic Public Speaking. So, one of our…

09:25 Amy: But there has been a spanking or two.

09:27 Michael: There was, there has been. Now, actually this isn’t not a bad example. So, during our done for you video program, one of our students was on stage performing for the video crew, he’s being filmed, and then we edit these incredible demo videos for them. Oh, we don’t edit them, the film crew edits them. And he was getting stuck, he’s getting stuck in the same kind of energy, the same patterns over and over again, and he was starting to forget was he was gonna do next. And I gave him some coaching from the house, from the seeds, and it wasn’t really working. So I went up there and I grabbed his arm really hard, and I say, “Does that hurt?” And he’s like, “No, not really”. And like, “Does that hurt?” “No”. Now listen, I’ve got 20 years of martial arts. I was right on a pressure point. There’s no way that that didn’t hurt. But he was so… Well, I don’t know what the word was…

10:29 Amy: He was just stuck.

10:31 Michael: He was so stuck that he didn’t even feel pain that much. He was frozen. And so, I said, “Okay, can you just bend over a little bit?”. He had no idea why. He thought I was gonna ask him to do a breathing exercise or something. And I just spanked him as hard as I could and I said, “Are you ready to go?” He goes, “Okay.” And his energy was completely different after that. It just woke him up. It was a [10:51] ____. So I had an objective there. If I went up there and acted the energy that I wanted him to act, that’s not gonna transfer to him. I need to do something to him to change his state of being. So we are not suggesting, please do not go and give a speech and spank every member of the audience, go, “Yeah, but I listen to Steal the Show with Michael Port, and Amy was with him, and they said I should spank people.” No, please don’t do that. But it’s the objective. It’s what you’re trying to achieve and you try different goals to do that. So a lot of the audience interaction techniques that we teach you are designed to have an effect on the audience. And of course, all audience interaction must be proportionate to the amount of trust that you’ve earned, and with that particular student, we’ve been working with them for a long time, so I earned enough trust to spank him right on the ass.


11:40 Amy: Now, sometimes you look out into the audience, and if you can see them, if the lights are such that you can actually see their faces, you may see faces that seem to be non-responsive. You may see faces that seem to portray that they’re not connecting at all. It’s very interesting because what will often happen is those are the people who come up to you afterwards and say, “You completely changed my life.”

12:01 Michael: That’s right.

12:01 Amy: People listen. The way they look when they’re listening is different. So as you work to get the response that you want, whether it’s changing how they feel or what they’re thinking or how they behave, you may or may not see that in front of you. So that’s where another skill of the performer comes in; your imagination.

12:20 Michael: That’s right. This is the… In Steal the Show, the chapter on acting as if, helps you learn how to do this. To imagine, A: That you have the confidence that you need to deliver what you want, but also you’re having an interaction with that person, and… Okay, let’s look at it this way. So if Amy and I are performing together, let’s say we’re doing Shakespeare or something. And let’s say Amy is really… Well, she is, let’s say. So Amy’s very, very competent, she is really doing a great job developing this character, and she’s going after her objectives. And she’s really, really clear about her motivation, it’s very powerful and it’s really strong. But she’s not getting much back from me. Let’s say I’m not a very generous actor, and often, audiences are not generous. And you want them to give you…

13:19 Michael: You see it, there are people in the front rows, and they’re very generous and they smile and they really engage, and then there are other people that they just don’t give you much. That’s just… They don’t think they have any responsibility to give you anything. They may just not be the kind that really wants to help you out up there, even though they want to get something from you, perfectly fine, we don’t resent them for that at all. But you can’t expect that they’re going to give you what you need. And if Amy was performing with me, she can’t expect that I’m gonna give her what she needs. Because if I was doing a great job, I’d be giving her all of the obstacles. I would be stopping her when she’s trying to get somewhere, and then she’d have to try something else, and it would be very, very complete as an experience for both performers. But if I’m not giving her something, then she’s gonna have to imagine that she’s getting what she needs from me in order to perform the way she needs to perform, in order to deliver that character fully.

14:22 Amy: So, what would give him that in this circumstance would be if he was playing an objective as well, if he wanted something from me, and very often, that’s what you see in well-written plays.

14:32 Michael: You mean, if I did it properly, if I was doing a good job, yeah.

14:34 Amy: Yes, yes. Because if what he wants is different than what I want, well then there’s drama in the scene. We’re both trying to get something from each other and it’s not happening, so we keep trying different things. It’s what you see in well-written plays or screenplays or TV scripts.

14:49 Michael: And when you get to a high level of performance as a speaker, the type of audience interaction you’re able to do with them will actually have them giving you what you need in order to move the story forward. Because, for example, at the end of the Think Big Revolution keynote that I do, I… Or I can give an earlier example in the Think Big Revolution. There’s a part where I ask people in the audience to stand up, put their hand over their heart, and say what they stand for, their name and what they stand for. Now, this comes about three quarters into the keynote, because I wouldn’t ask them to do that at the beginning of the keynote because I wouldn’t have enough… I wouldn’t have earned enough trust in order to make that kind of request to boldly ask them to stand up. Sometimes in a theater filled with 3,000 people, to declare what they stand for, that’s kind of a big deal. Three quarters in, if I’ve done my job, I’ve earned that ability to ask them, and the courageous people will start, and then that will inspire other people and that will inspire other people, and when they do that, that affects me. Because it is so courageous, it is so honest, it is so inspiring, well, that then fuels me.

16:03 Michael: So I’ve created this dynamic where I fuel them, they fuel me, I fuel them, they fuel me. And then at the end of the Think Big Revolution keynote, there’s a dance sequence, which is really fun, and I perform a dance at the beginning, and then that fuels them to get up and dance. And when they get up and dance, well, that fuels me, and it keeps going back and forth. And so, that’s part of the dynamic of audience interaction. It’s not just getting them to do something, it will also have an effect on you if it’s done well.

16:33 Amy: Now, sometimes the lights are in your eyes and you can’t see the audience faces at all. And so, then…

16:40 Michael: That’s where the… That’s where acting as if really comes into play, yeah.

16:42 Amy: That’s where you react as if, exactly. Because you will imagine what every face is doing, imagine when you’re getting the feedback you want and when you’re not getting anything back at all. How does that propel you? So it doesn’t become about this issue of, “Well, I’m absorbing… I think they don’t get it. I think they’re not inspired.” So I’m absorbing that and my energy starts to decrease. No. If you imagine or rightly see that they are not connecting with what you’re saying, if you’re connected to an objective, that will propel you to work harder, that will propel your energy up to communicate and get what you want more.

17:18 Michael: And you’ve gotta love the audience no matter what.

17:20 Amy: Yeah.

17:21 Michael: If you, as I said earlier, if you start expecting them to behave in a certain way in order for you to do your job, then… Let’s just say you are a professional, that’s what you do if you’re listening, you’re professional, then you’re not yet a professional. That’s not what a professional does. And if you are a complete amateur and have no desire to be a professional, one of the things that you now know is that it’s not their responsibility to make your speech good. And that’s the job. So you may have an audience that is… You don’t know what their day has been like. They may have just found out that morning the company’s getting audited, and you’ve got to give a speech in the afternoon, and you don’t know why they look like death warmed over. Is that the expression?

18:06 Amy: It is.

18:06 Michael: It is? And if you start resenting them for it and giving them a hard time, and… Every once in a while, I’ll see a speaker who is not getting what they want from the audience, he’s like, “Come on, people. You gotta give me something. You gotta… ” And they don’t really have to give you anything.


18:22 Michael: It’s not what they’re there for.

18:24 Amy: And is that a tactic that’s going to get you what you want?

18:27 Michael: Yeah. And if it is, then use it. So we’re not saying, don’t say something like that, unless it’s said in a way that moves them farther away.

18:37 Amy: Yes.

18:38 Michael: So this is art. We always say, part of our job is to break the rules. That’s what we’re doing. Any time you perform anything, you’re breaking the rules. The first job interview that I ever went on when I left acting, I completely broke all the rules. I figured out what the rules were, and then I decided how I was gonna break the rules so that I would stand out. But it was a choice. It’s not just, “I’m gonna be a rebel and do whatever the fuck I want.” Now I got an explicit lyric [19:02] ____. Darn! Shoot!


19:04 Michael: Maybe, hey, you could beep that out, the editor, when you work through this. Just beep out my little curse there. But yeah, so… What was I saying? I don’t remember what I was saying.

19:13 Amy: That we don’t just go out there to break the rules to be rebellious. Break the rules if it will work better than what you’ve been doing before.

19:21 Michael: Yeah. And it was interesting because in the group where this discussion was going on, these are all professionals. These were people who are working. And both you and I commented, and I think what we were talking about in terms of pursuing objectives was a new concept. The way that I saw other people talking about the idea was a new concept. Not that their concepts were wrong, let me be really clear about that. But if you don’t have the background that we have, you wouldn’t have been taught that necessarily. And in the world of speaking, it’s not necessarily taught, and I think it… Well, it is for us, and it should be, we believe, because it makes a dramatic difference. One of the fellows in the group who is one of our students, he wrote in, he said, “You guys might not be able to understand this until you experience it, until you actually do it with them, because the feeling of pursuing an objective when you’re speaking is very different than the feeling of trying to create an emotion, or trying to create an energy.” And that never feels good. So, something to think about. If you read “Steal The Show” by Michael Port, that’s me, you will progress significantly in this area and many others, so I highly recommend that book. I think it’s a very good book. It’s dedicated to Amy, which makes it an outstanding book. People ask her to sign it versus me.

20:45 Amy: It’s hysterical. People stop me on airplanes now and say, “Are you Amy?” People who have been at one of our live events or something like that, and they’re like, “Would you sign the book?” I’m like, “I didn’t write the book.” And they’re like, “No, sign on the page where it’s dedicated to you.” I’m like, “Okay.”


20:58 Michael: Oh boy. So anyhow, you see how people like her better than me, which is why I’m the luckiest guy in the world. So we both believe we are the luckiest people in the world because we have the opportunity to be of service to you. We very much hope that what we are offering you helps you in all aspects of your life, because performance is about so much more than just public speaking. Today we’re talking a lot about public speaking for an audience, but your life, the story, the narrative that is the story of your life is, in large part, made up of how well you perform during high-stake situations in your life, and if you can use the techniques of acting as if, if you use the techniques of saying “Yes and,” which is another one of the principles that I outlined in “Steal The Show”, and many others, you can go into virtually any high-stake situations and steal the show. And that’s what we hope for you. That’s what we hope you can do. Anything else you wanna say before we go?

21:56 Amy: Have a beautiful day.

21:57 Michael: That’s very nice. What a beautiful ending. So, listen, go on over to When you buy a copy of “Steal The Show”, you get a whole bunch of bonuses there. If you wanna find out more about our training programs, go to

22:14 Amy:

22:17 Michael: I was just testing. I really… I knew that.

22:20 Amy: You wanted to make sure I wasn’t gonna say, “And have a beautiful day.”


22:24 Michael: So yeah,, we’ve got online courses, really, well, very affordable, but yet comprehensive online courses. We have live events all over the country, and we have higher level programs, graduate level programs for people who are interested in doing more training and immersing themselves in this kind of work. So keep thinking big about who you are and what you offer the world. I love you very much, and not in a weird way. No, I was talking to you, I wasn’t talking to Amy. I was talking to you. But I love you for being the big thinker that you are, for standing in the service of others as you stand in the service of your destiny, and because you’ve given us the opportunity to serve you. Bye for now.

23:03 Amy: Goodbye.