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Want to take your content marketing to the next level? Learn tips from web marketing guru Marcus Sheridan.

Marcus Sheridan is a successful keynote speaker. He teaches companies on how to become the most trusted voice in their industry.

In this episode we discuss:

  • The difference between content marketing and video marketing. (3:51)
  • True or false – “If it’s not perfect, don’t publish it.” (12:48)
  • How to lead interactive workshops and connect with audiences. (28:29)

Find out more about Marcus Sheridan and his upcoming events.

00:00 Michael Port: Welcome to Steal the Show with Michael Port. This is Michael. Today’s guest is Marcus Sheridan, and the New York Times called him a web-marketing guru. And the story of how Marcus was able to save his swimming pool company, River Pools, from the economic crash of 2008 has been featured in multiple books, publications, and stories around the world. Since this achievement Marcus has become a highly sought after speaker and consultant in the digital sales and marketing space, working with hundreds of businesses and brands to achieve their potential in a rapidly evolving marketplace. Ultimately, helping them to become the most trusted voice in their prospective industry. Plus, he’s a very good friend of mine. What’s up, Marcus?


00:55 Marcus Sheridan: You’re what’s up, Michael Port.

00:56 Michael Port: Well, I gotta tell you, this is going to be the greatest podcast ever recorded in the history of the world. That’s what I got to say. Now listen…

01:12 Marcus Sheridan: Low bars, we set. Low bars.

01:14 Michael Port: Low bars. Well, listen, you’re pretty darn amazing at content marketing and you’re pretty darn amazing at speaking, at performing.

01:27 Marcus Sheridan: Thank you.

01:28 Michael Port: Yeah, you are. You have these two… You have the gift in both areas, which is I think very, very helpful if someone wants to be successful in this particular business. And for years you taught content marketing, online content marketing, written word content marketing, and you’ve recently made a move over to video in a very committed way.

01:55 Marcus Sheridan: Yeah.

01:55 Michael Port: And the videos you’re doing are fantastic, absolutely wonderful. Is the shoot… You’re calling it, The Balance with Marcus Sheridan?

02:01 Marcus Sheridan: The Balance.

02:02 Michael Port: Yeah, The Balance.

02:02 Marcus Sheridan: Yeah.

02:03 Michael Port: So, I’d love you to talk about the following: Number one, when you started making the move from text-based content marketing to video content marketing, how you thought strategically about doing that? What goes into that for you? And how others could, even if they don’t wanna do exactly what you’re doing, could learn from your example? And then, we’ll move into how that work has an influence on your speaking. And then, on top of that, I also wanna talk about some of the techniques you use to run workshops that are very, very interactive ’cause this is the thing that you’re remarkable at. So let’s start with the content.

02:56 Marcus Sheridan: Thanks, man. So, I think for quite awhile I’ve… Like many of us seen where video was going, and I think, too, because of the fact that we see more and more textual-based content out there, we have to all say to ourselves, “How do we stand out in a way that’s different than everybody else?” And so video is the obvious one, but at the same time, to me it’s so much more dramatically efficient if you know what you’re doing in terms of your ability to produce content that’s good and do it quickly.

03:38 Michael Port: Wait, so you’re saying it’s actually more efficient to produce video content than written content?

03:47 Marcus Sheridan: Yes. Grossly more efficient, but…

03:50 Michael Port: Why? Tell me why?

03:51 Marcus Sheridan: Of course there’s always a caveat, right? There’s always a caveat. So, let me just give you a sense for things. My little company, which is The Sales Line, which is a… It’s a consulting/speaking company, let’s call it that, Michael. And this year we’ll do about a million dollars in revenue. Now, I’ve got three full-time employees. One of those full-time employees is a videographer, there are almost no million dollar companies out there that have full-time videographers unless they’re a video company. [chuckle] So, it’s like, “Geez… ” ‘Cause all the time people say… I’ve got two companies. I’ve got my swimming pool company, which does about $8 million a year and then I have The Sales Line, which does about a million. I give these numbers simply because people will listen to this and they’ll say, “Well I can’t afford to do that. My business, my company can’t afford to do that.” So both of those companies have a full-time videographer, and we fundamentally feel that we can’t afford not to have them. And we live by the mantra of, “If you can’t show it at this point, it doesn’t exist.” Today, in this digital age, if you cannot show it, it doesn’t exist. And so we’re always thinking about that.

05:10 Marcus Sheridan: So, why is it so much more efficient? I’ll give you an example. So let’s say I’m on a trip with my videographer, and I’ll take this videographer with me on a trip. And it’s during those trips that I get inundated and behind. I get behind with emails, I don’t have the time to produce content, yadda, yadda, yadda. But what I can do is because I’m in the process of speaking… You know this well, when you are in the process of speaking to a group, right after you speak to a group your brain, your mind, your psyche is heightened, everything’s faster, everything’s moving better. And so I will take my videographer and we’ll do usually somewhere between three to five videos on the spot that usually take less than 30 minutes because as you know, using the principles that you teach and that are best practices, almost everything is one take. Almost everything is one take. And so for me to produce five blog articles in a week is almost impossible especially with travel, but to be able to do five videos in 30 to 60 minutes is very, very possible at this point.

06:17 Michael Port: So let’s just clear something up because I wanna make sure that folks… ‘Cause when you… You have the pool company and you have your speaking/consulting business. Speaking/consulting business is doing about a million a year and the pool company doing about $8 million a year, people say, “Well yeah, so this guy’s got a lot of revenue obviously, he can afford to have a videographer follow him around.” He even came fishing with us when we were in California, and the fishing expedition we were on went into one of the videos that you used for production. I still haven’t got my royalty check but, okay. [chuckle] So they’re gonna hear that and say, “Yeah, but I can’t afford to do that. Seems like video is very expensive, it takes a lot of work and manpower.” What do you say to that?

07:09 Marcus Sheridan: Once again, whenever you hear anybody say ‘but’ in this world that we’re in, Michael, “But we can’t do that because… “, there’s always another 100 people or companies or individuals or organizations in your space that are breaking those rules that you just stated. It’s a constant, it’s every single time. And so, you take somebody like Amy Schmittauer who started off as a paralegal, who now is crushing it on YouTube well over 50,000 subscribers, has become essentially a professional speaker now. She is full blown on the speaking circuit, and she’s still just doing these videos herself.

07:50 Michael Port: Yeah.

07:51 Marcus Sheridan: Herself. And she never hired a videographer, and the majority of people that do this don’t hire a videographer. There’s a reason why we have so many little teenage millionaires running around out there, because they are not afraid to take a simple piece of equipment and turn it into something magical in terms of engagement with their audience. We can learn a lot if we just watch teenagers. As adults we expect perfection. We tell all of our clients, Michael, that if you’re producing a video, on a scale of 1 to 10, the quality of the video, we’re okay with a 6 or a 7. The audio needs to be a 9 out of 10 or higher, but the quality, the production of it, the way it looks. The way it looks, we’re okay with a 6 or 7 out of 10, and that’s because if you look across the board at the most successful individuals and organizations that are doing video, and crushing it on video, it’s the ones that are okay with, “That’s pretty good. It might not be perfect, but that’s pretty good.” But it’s the same thing with content marketing as well, you just see that as well.

08:58 Marcus Sheridan: And that’s also why this whole idea of, “If it’s not perfect, don’t publish it.” Or, “If it’s not amazing, don’t publish it.” I think that is the death of art. I hate that idea, I hate that concept, I am not down with it, I don’t adhere to it, and those that are teaching it, I wish they would stop.


09:16 Michael Port: I love it. Yes. Now, okay. One of my boys is making YouTube videos already, 12 years old. And he records them, he edits them, he’s got a little professional mic that he uses, and he’s already putting them out there, because he sees the gamers making millions and millions of dollars a year producing content for other gamers, and these are kids. So he’s already there. He’s not as worried as some of the grown-ups that we know are about not being perfect.

09:56 Marcus Sheridan: I think there’s fundamentally two things there, Michael. Number one is what you just said, is this idea of perfection when it does not exist, and that’s never the goal. The goal when it comes to content, video, audio, textual, is never perfection, it’s progress. And so, as an organization, be it an individual or an entire company, you have to say to yourself after each time you hit publish, “Are we progressing towards that goal?” And if we are, it’s a great thing. Now, the second element of video of course, is that we, too, often allow personal opinions to screw up smart business.

10:28 Marcus Sheridan: And so what happens is, I’ll say something like, “Well, I’m not good on video.” Or, “We’re just not good on camera.” Or, “I’ve got a bunch of boring accountants on staff.” Or, “I’ve got this… ” Nobody cares how you feel about video. The only thing we know is that consumers do care, because if they don’t see it, it doesn’t exist. And so, as organizations, as CEOs, as leaders, all of us, myself included, we have to get past our opinions on all of these things, because at this point it doesn’t matter, Michael, if you or I like Facebook… Because I remember the first time that you and I had a conversation about social media and you were telling me, “I’m not naturally just like… I don’t gravitate naturally toward social media.” But I’ve watched you make strides and progress with it, because you understand that it’s not about your opinion, it’s just about what is going to help me grow my business and engage with my audience?

11:20 Michael Port: That’s exactly right. Yeah, man. So listen, what about the performance side of it? ‘Cause you mentioned… You said, “Look, we’re like one-take folks. When we’re in the zone, boom, we hit it and we’re out, and that means we can be pretty efficient with our time.” But what if, even if you could do that? Let’s just say. Hypothetically, let’s talk about Sally. Even if Sally could do that. As you say, she’s often very judgemental of herself, and because she’s doing it herself, she can just say, “You know what, didn’t like that, click delete, I’m gonna do it again. I didn’t like that, click delete, do it again. Didn’t like that, click delete.” But when you’re doing this with somebody else, you’re doing it with your videographer, then he’s like, “Good, I got it in the can.” And then he goes and works on it. You can’t… You could say to him, “Listen, I wanna do it again, George.” But George might say, “Listen, no, no, no we got it, we’re good, we’re fine.” And then that’s it. So you have that kind of accountability and to a certain extent, you have that constraint which can be very helpful. When you don’t have any constraints around your time with respect to artistic creation, often you don’t finish, you don’t complete it. So, how do you encourage folks to just get it done and out there and not worry so much about that? And then also are there any performance techniques that you have with respect to being on camera?

12:49 Marcus Sheridan: So there’s two majors that we teach clients. And one thing that we’ve really integrated a lot into our consulting, our retainer clients that we have right now over the last 18 months, is video training. At first, we were a content marketing company that happened to teach about HubSpot as well, and I see we’re becoming a visual storytelling company that happens to also teach content marketing HubSpot.


13:17 Michael Port: Yeah, yeah.

13:18 Marcus Sheridan: And so, at this point, we’ve had shocking success with clients. We will go into an organization and generally speaking, in a three-hour period we can produce somewhere between 15 to 20 videos without them having any prior training, which sounds relatively unrealistic to anybody that’s probably tried to do this in-house before. Now, how does it happen? Well, we have two major standards or rules by which everybody has to agree to. It’s similar to when they go to Heroic Public Speaking, they have to agree to certain things, Michael, well, they’ve gotta agree to certain things when we come into the door. The first thing that they have to agree, and this is far and away the most important, this is 90% of it. And that is, when you start a take on a video you’re never allowed to start over mid-way. So, you can’t just stop and say, “Nah, I screwed that up.” So, in other words, you’re always yes anding it in your mind, even if you did mess up.

14:23 Michael Port: That’s right. And of course…

14:24 Marcus Sheridan: You have to finish the take, always.

14:27 Michael Port: Of course, it raises the bar, because you can’t get out of it. You’ve got to get all the way thought that.

14:33 Marcus Sheridan: What’s funny is when we have a safety net, we use it.

14:35 Michael Port: Yeah, of course.

14:36 Marcus Sheridan: And as soon as you know you can start over, something happens with the brain and you start starting over a lot more.

14:43 Michael Port: Yeah, and you know the rule that you just shared is how it works in TV and film. When I did the show Sex and the City or All My Children or Law and Order or any of these shows, if I had said, “No, no, no, cut”, in the middle of the scene with Sarah Jessica Parker, right? It just… Or with Susan Lucci or whomever, I would have been laughed off the set or maybe yelled off the set, I don’t know, or beaten off the set. You just don’t do it. And…

15:18 Marcus Sheridan: I love that.

15:20 Michael Port: Yeah. I don’t even know if it’s a Screen Actors Guild rule that you’re not allowed to. It may even be in the rules, I don’t know, but you wouldn’t even consider doing it, so you wouldn’t have to check the rules. But, yeah, this is… It’s also something that, when we’re working with folks and they’re rehearsing, that we require, because when they’re rehearsing… And even just for speeches, not necessarily just for video, but when they’re rehearsing often they will just take a little pause ’cause they’re trying to remember what comes next and instead of staying with the “audience”, even if there’s nobody there because they’re rehearsing, instead of staying with their audience they go, “Oh, BEEP, hold on. What was my line?” And then now they’re in a completely different place. They’re not in the same emotional place that they were when they were actually performing. And so what we do is we ask them to stay in that moment, and if it takes a minute, or a minute and a half to try to find what comes next, you just wait.

16:25 Marcus Sheridan: You just wait.

16:26 Michael Port: You just wait. You stay connected.

16:28 Marcus Sheridan: I love that and it’s a cultural thing with organizations. It really, really is and when it comes to video. Once people start to get it, then they get a little bit more confidence and then even more, and then even more. Recently, I was with a real estate agent and we were doing a bunch of shoots at a bunch of her properties, okay? And so at the first property we start off at the first area, we’re gonna do basically, we’re just gonna do… She’s gonna show the property and I was doing the interview with her. And I said, “Look, you’re not allowed to start over, you understand the rules. We all agree on the rules? Good.” And so, we got going and then she stopped. And she said, “I messed that one up.” Okay? And I yelled at her, I yelled at her. And she knew I was serious. She was scared, but I was smiling, but I was yelling at her. And I said, “Don’t ever, ever… “

17:16 Michael Port: Yeah, well you have a way of doing that that’s unique. But not many speakers… Generally, I tell speakers not to yell at their audiences. You, no, not so much. You yell at your audience and smile at the same time and it just seems to work. It’s a unique thing.

17:34 Marcus Sheridan: It’s a polarizing thing. It’s a love or hate thing but at least, no matter what, they are moved. And in her case, it scared her so much… I guess, in some ways it’s like the Tony Robbins a glass of water in the face. And so with her she said, “Okay, I get it now, I won’t start over again.” And she… By the end of that day, Michael, and this is three hours later, and I think we did about 20 videos, and she’s like, “I’m good at this.” I’m like, “Yes, you’re good at this.” But that’s the first rule. The first rule is you’re not allowed to stop in the middle. The second rule is you are allowed to do a second take. The reason for that is I do believe that oftentimes a second or a third take is better than the first one. And we oftentimes by working all the way through it, we really learn how we’re trying to say the thing. And so, there’s many times when I’ll shoot a take and my videographer… I’ll say to my videographer, “What’d you think?” He’s like, “It was alright.” I’m like, “You know what? Let’s just do another one and let’s compare the two.” And you’re not emotionally attached to either one, you just allow yourself to say, “Okay, let’s do a second one, see how it goes.” Again, you have to finish it all the way through. “And then we’ll analyze them both.”

18:43 Marcus Sheridan: So there’s been many times where we’ll go with the second one or we just won’t go with it at all and sometimes we go with a third. So those are the general rules by which we live. I’ll tell you, I watch videographer companies come in to other… Sometimes, like in the past before we started doing this ourselves, I’d watch these videographer companies come in and they would literally have the people start over, over and over again, and it drove me crazy and I wanted to choke somebody’s neck, because it seemed like they didn’t understand the fundamental core of helping a communicator get through their bit. They just didn’t get it. And so I said, “You know what? We’re gonna be completely different than that.” And it’s been a lot of fun. It’s something I’ve really, really enjoyed over the last 18 months.

19:24 Michael Port: You mentioned not being emotionally attached to either take. This is something that artists, many artists do well. Is they are able to kill their darlings off. Things that they have a particular attachment to, but don’t really serve the work at that time and really should be cut. They’ll say, “Yep. I’m gonna cut it. I’m okay with that.” So, for those folks who maybe have a little hard time with that, they get emotionally attached because they spent a lot of time doing it. I’ve heard a lot of people say that. They show me a video and I say, “Well, I’m gonna recommend cutting this out. This, this, this, and this.” He goes, “Yeah, but I spent all that time on it.” Or, “It cost me a lot when I was working with the video crew.” Whatever it was. How do you stay emotionally detached from it, and how do you suggest other people do as well?

20:24 Marcus Sheridan: Man, this is… It’s a great question because it’s the same thing… That happens more prolifically with new websites. And so in other words, Michael, you get a lot of people companies that are doing a brand new website, they spend a lot of time and effort into it, they work with a company that doesn’t understand user experience. Let’s say they understand elements of design but they don’t understand user experience in design. They produce a new website, it stinks, they have me look at it and they say, “Marcus, what do you think?” And I say, “Well… ” And they’re like, “But we spent so much time and effort.” Same thing with video. So, this is where, I think as speakers, we have a choice as communicators and as performers.

20:58 Marcus Sheridan: The choice is, we can be obsessed about what they are thinking, feeling, and experiencing or we can be obsessed with ourselves and our performance and how do I look or it’s about me. It’s just about me, relishing in me. And so the one thing that I feel like I’ve always done well, and this is I think probably why I’ve had any success as a content marketer and as a speaker ’cause to me, it’s all just communication, is because I have this obsession with making sure the audience gets it, that they understand it. And so when I look at a take, I’m just watching a guy. He happens to look like me, he talks like me, but literally, I’m thinking, “Do I really understand what this guy is saying right now?” If I didn’t know about this particular subject matter before he started.

21:57 Michael Port: So you’re not looking at how your jacket looked or whether you looked good or that caught your right angle. You’re not looking for that stuff?

22:07 Marcus Sheridan: I’ll notice that stuff, but that’s not what I genuinely care about. Certainly not what I obsess about because anybody that’s ever been around me knows that I probably could get a better haircut or I could probably do a few things better. But what I am obsessed about is, “Do they get it? Does the light bulb come on?” And I think every great communicator when they’re done… To me, the goal is that the audience members look at each other and say, “Why the heck are we not doing that?” To me, that’s what I want.

22:43 Michael Port: Oh, that’s a beautiful goal. I love that. That’s really interesting. Instead of… Most people will say, and when I say most people, I’m not trying to put down most people. I’m just saying there are themes that we see when we’re teachers and sometimes highlighting those themes is helpful to people and they can decide, “Well, yeah. I’m sorta caught up in that myself maybe I want to let that go.” Or, “No, I’m okay.” But one of the things that we see is the speaker hoping that the audience member goes, “Oh man, that speaker was good.” Which is very different than you wanting one audience member to turn to another audience member and go, “Oh man, why aren’t we doing that?” Or, “We should be doing that.” That’s a very different way of seeing your role as a speaker. And I think it is something that should be highlighted for other folks who wanna do the kind of work you do because I think it’s one of the things that really helps you or keeps you relevant to them, number one, so incredibly important.

23:47 Michael Port: And I think it keeps you honest. And I think the best performers are the most honest performers that you have this ability, not a disability, this ability. You have this ability to be very open with your audiences. For the listeners, if you see Marcus speak, he’s very honest. And sometimes it’s hard to describe what that means, but I’ll put it this way, he doesn’t put on any airs, he’s very straightforward and… And I mean this in the best way, he’s quite simple. He’s not trying to do anything fancy to be fancy. He’s simply connecting with the audience and he does whatever he needs to do to make that happen. And as a result, he’s very, very good on his feet, better than most, I would say. So, that’s my little pitch for you there.

24:54 Marcus Sheridan: Well you know, Michael, I would say I appreciate those things. I’ve always had this… Like if somebody ever comes up to me afterwards and says, “Man, you’re a genius.” I feel like I have failed as a presenter, because it’s never, ever my goal to look smart. My goal is to always help the audience feel like the hero of the piece, whatever it is. I want them to say, “I can do this. This is so, so simple. This is so, so easy.” And I think it’s the one thing that I’ve done better than most, especially in the content marketing space.

25:34 Michael Port: Well, listen, if it makes you feel any better, I’ve never thought you were smart. So if that…


25:41 Michael Port: If that makes you feel any better.

25:47 Marcus Sheridan: It does, it does. Mission accomplished, Michael Port. Mission accomplished, man. One time I gave a… It was one of the nicest compliments I’ve ever gotten. So, I gave this talk at this conference in Dallas and this fellow comes up to me, and he was a major member of the Word Press, whatever, group. And he worked for Word Press, basically. And he said to me, he says, “That was amazing, that was the best talk on SEO that I’ve ever heard and you never once said the word SEO.” And I said, “That’s right, that’s right.” But that to me was a major compliment, because he took it as an intelligent talk on SEO. And it really was a lot about SEO, but I never said the phrase because I knew the business owners in the room. At that point, the moment I say SEO is the moment that I start to lose them, right?

26:33 Michael Port: Yeah, right.

26:34 Marcus Sheridan: So, it’s about can I boil SEO down into such a simple thing that everybody says, “Of course we should be producing content just like that, of course.”

26:45 Michael Port: Yeah. What about these workshops that you do? When we got to know each other, you were starting to do… Spend a little more time focusing on developing your craft as a keynoter, that you had mastered the workshop environment, the very interactive environment. You wanted to start to move also into the keynoting environment as well, ’cause they’re slightly different skills, and material is often presented in different ways in those two different environments. So, what do you think works really well? And this is a broad question, so it gives you a lot of latitude in terms of how you wanna respond to it, but what do you think works really, really well in a workshop type environment?

27:32 Marcus Sheridan: Yeah. So, I’m gonna do… I’m gonna say something that sounds like a brag, but I need to lay the foundation. So the majority of the audiences that I go in and speak to are sales teams and leadership teams that fundamentally hate the idea of anything that has to do with marketing, especially if you call it content marketing or inbound marketing or anything like that. What people do is, when they can’t get buy-in themselves, they call me and then I come get it for them. And so how do you give a workshop… And that’s what I teach, I teach these workshops… How do you give one where everybody in there fundamentally wants to disagree with you? They wanted to find a chink in your armor, they want to find a reason to disagree with anything that you say. And it comes down to two techniques that we teach, that I so firmly believe in. And I think they go way, way beyond the realm of workshops, but we happen to use them the most there.

28:29 Marcus Sheridan: The first technique that I teach is what I call The Columbus Principle, and I named that after Christopher Columbus. And I say Christopher Columbus, because he discovered America or he’s known for discovering America, and everybody in life wants to feel like they’re the ones that discovered America. In other words, we all want to feel like the thing that we just discovered was our idea. That it wasn’t forced upon us, that it wasn’t told to us and we had to receive it, that we just came up with it ourselves. That’s The Columbus Principle. So how does it work? Well, my workshops generally consists of about… Say it’s a three-hour workshop. There’s somewhere between 150 and 200 questions I’m gonna ask every single time. Each one of these questions and each bit or each segment starts with a question and ends with a question, every single time. Every single time. And the questions are tailored in such a way that I am always trying to get the person to say to themselves what I am trying to tell them without me actually telling them.

29:46 Michael Port: Alright, give me an example. Can you give me an example?

29:49 Marcus Sheridan: Let me give you an example. And we’re just gonna give you a dry run and I’m gonna… If it’s okay with you, Michael, I’ll just play the audience at the same time, okay?

29:56 Michael Port: Yeah, sure.

29:56 Marcus Sheridan: So, I’m gonna be the speaker and I’m gonna be the audience. Okay? So, as a speaker, I might say this. Now let’s say that I am talking about the need to talk about cost and price on your website. So, this is how I would sound as a speaker and this will take just a couple minutes, but it’ll be pretty fast and I’m gonna play both sides. “Okay so, in the audience, by a show of hands, how many of you over the last year or so have researched how much something costs online? Yeah, 100% of you. Great. Now, when you’re researching how much something costs online and you can’t find what you’re looking for, what is the emotion that you experience?” Now, inevitably everybody says frustration and I respond with, “Yes, frustration. That, my friends, is the F word of the internet, frustration. But tell me, what gives you the right in this moment to feel frustrated? What gives you the right, sir?” And then you, Mike, will tell me something like, “Well, I am the buyer. I am the consumer.”

30:51 Marcus Sheridan: And I say, “Yes you are the consumer. And in this moment of frustration, Michael, do you say to yourself, ‘I’m sure it’s on this here website. I’ll just keep on digging’? Do you say to yourself that?” And then you tell me, “No, I don’t say that.” And then I say to you, “Michael, in this moment of frustration do you say, ‘Oh, that’s okay they’re not talking about cost and price, they’re a value based business. I will call them instead.'” And everybody chuckles and says, “No, you don’t call them either, do you?” In this moment I say, “So what do you do?” And they say, “I keep looking.” And then I say, “And you look until when?” And they say, “I look until I find the answer I was looking for.” And then I say, “And when you do find the answer you’re looking for, generally speaking that company gets what?” And they say, “Well, they get my business.” And I say, “Yes.” And if we get to the core psychology of it all, the real reason why we’re getting so upset in this moment as consumers is because we know that they know as buyers the answer and because we know they know the answer and they’re not giving it to us. We now feel like they are…

31:48 Marcus Sheridan: And that’s right, the audience says, “Hiding something from us.” “And the moment you and I feel like anybody is hiding anything from us online, what happens?” And somebody will say, “Trust is gone.” And I’ll say, “That’s right. That’s why we’re here.” And then the final question is, “Good, I’m glad we all agree on this behavior. So, by a show of hands, how many of you in this room right now are talking about cost and price on your website?” Now, we’ll stop right there, Michael. That’s half of the segment. Now, you heard how many questions I asked and I did it in a fast way. It’s an extremely interactive style, but the whole style is built so that you look in the mirror and see how you behave online, how you don’t stay on that website, how you do not call them, and how you eventually will go to the person that gives you the answer, because at the end of all of this, I want you to be able to say… I’m gonna ask you at the end of this, and I only did half of it, I’m gonna say to you, “So, Michael, based on that, is it possible for you to talk about cost and price on your website?” And you’re gonna say, “Of course it is. Of course.” And it’s a win.

32:54 Michael Port: Brilliant. That’s brilliant ’cause the alternative would have been you coming out and saying, “Listen, here’s what you need to do.” Which is often how a speaker approaches it. “You need to be talking about cost and price on your website ’cause others are so you need to also. Okay? Thank you very much.” And then it’s done. And they turn off, they turn off, right? So, one of the things that we suggest speakers do is to spend a lot of time making sure that they understand how the audience sees the world. And that they, as a speaker, need to be able to demonstrate in one way, shape or form that they know how the audience sees the world. And what you’ve demonstrated is that, well, two things. One, you’ve had them articulate, through their hands and through the answers they give you, how they see the world. You’ve demonstrated that you understand the way they see the world. And then you’ve asked them, “Well, would you consider applying your world view to your website?” Because they were separating those two things.

34:08 Marcus Sheridan: Yes, that’s exactly right. And we do that, we constantly do that as individuals and as businesses. We separate what we want, our desires as buyers and consumers and decision makers, with the way that we ourselves treat our prospects, our customers, and it’s a mistake. It’s a big mistake. And so, much of what I teach, ’cause we do a lot of workshop training where we teach people how to give workshops. So, organizations will call me and say, “I wanna be better at workshops, I’m just not that good.” And so, I’ll help them design a workshop. And it starts with the ability to ask questions better, to help the audience to learn and discover what you’re trying to tell them without you actually telling them. So, that’s number one.

34:54 Marcus Sheridan: The second one, which is a little bit more difficult I think, Michael, is what I call the law of three. And the law of three basically states this: It’s not until you ask the third question that you start to get the answer you were looking for. And so, in other words, it’s really easy for me to say to you, “So, when you’re on a website and you can’t find what you’re looking for, how do you feel?” And you say, “Frustrated.” But you see if I stop right there, I am not successful. And so, constantly… If anybody has ever watched Tony Robbins, Tony Robbins may be better than anybody in the world, whether you like him or not, understands the law of three. In fact, his law of three oftentimes is a law of 30. In other words, he’ll ask the 30th question, so that he gets to the core and the person all of the sudden makes a discovery in their own mind like, “Oh my goodness. That’s what’s been happening this whole time. That’s why I am the way that I am.”

36:00 Marcus Sheridan: And so if we’re great communicators in a workshop setting, when we start to have a dialogue with an audience member, we will not just stop with the first question and the first answer because we know that’s not really the meat, that’s not the core. We haven’t gotten to the center piece of what we really need to hear, what everybody needs to hear. And that to me is magical, that’s really, really magical and most people never get to that point. Does that make sense, Michael?

36:27 Michael Port: It sure does. I was actually just sitting here and a lot of times when I’m doing these interviews, I’m in the moment but I’m also thinking about where I wanna go next. It’s part of your job as an interviewer.

36:43 Marcus Sheridan: Sure.

36:44 Michael Port: And much of what I hear, I’ve heard before. But this, when I was sitting and listening to you just now, I was completely engrossed and I was thinking, and I know you don’t want your audiences to think this, but I was thinking, “It’s brilliant. That’s absolutely brilliant.” Now of course, because I’m not your audience, I am your colleague, you can take that as a compliment because it really is just so good. It’s just so good.

37:19 Michael Port: Now, here’s the question I have for you. When you’re working on your material before you bring it into an audience, how much do you “script”? And I don’t mean necessarily write out word for word, but script this interaction because you need when you ask a question, you need to get the answer that you want. You cannot ask a question and get an answer that doesn’t work for the point you’re trying to make, so this is very important. Often people will ask a question to the audience and they get an answer that they didn’t expect and then they’re stuck. So, you were just able to rattle through this because clearly this was a particular segment, it’s a bit that you do with them to try to get them to a particular place, so you’ve memorized it. You know it. You know what’s coming and it’s a set up. So how much work do you do around that before you go in and present that kind of scenario to an audience?

38:20 Marcus Sheridan: I wish that I understood this about myself better, how much work goes into it. Because I know that the way that I approach it is… See, I build out like you talked about bits, I call them segments, it’s the same thing. And whenever I teach anything all of my segments… See a lot of people prepare talks, I don’t prepare a talk. I prepare a segment and then I’ll just slap segments together based on the time of the talk. And so I think a lot of speakers make this mistake, because they say, “I’ve got basically three talks.” I’m like, “No.” I know me, I have a certain number of… I’ve got about 30 different segments that I teach. I’ve got about eight hours worth of content right now that if anybody comes to me and says I need a four-hour or I need a two-hour, I need a 90-minute, it’s based on these segments and I know exactly how long each one takes.

39:09 Marcus Sheridan: Now, each segment has three different sections in it for me, this is just the way that I am. Almost every segment starts with a question and the question is a question of reflection of where they have to think about their own personal behavior. That’s the first one. The second part of the segment is a story. Generally speaking, the story is something that happened in real life, usually it happened to me or it happened to one of my clients because I like to use the most personal that I can, most often myself.

39:38 Marcus Sheridan: The third part of a segment for me is the question/challenge, that’s the call to action as somebody might call it, but for me it’s again, “So, Michael, based on what you just heard, is it possible for you to put cost and price on your website?” When you said what you said about questions, you’re exactly right. I know in every workshop I’m gonna ask a certain number of questions. These questions have been developed over the course of what for me now has been over six years. So if you figure I’ve got eight hours of content, there’s hundreds of questions, these hundreds of questions have evolved, and it’s evolved by having good and bad moments in front of the audience. Realizing that, “Okay, they didn’t respond to that.” So I had to come back and ask it in different way and then all of the sudden the light bulbs came on and they got it. And so I think the best presenters, certainly the best communicators, they just don’t take the question for what is worth and say, “That was the right way.”

40:36 Marcus Sheridan: Because almost always there’s a better way to ask a question and literally one great question can take multiple presentations before it’s just right. And unfortunately, before you give the presentation you don’t always know how the audience is going to react and depending on the size of the audience, depending on the tone, the mood, the culture of the audience, they might react differently to a question as well. But yes, you’re right, most of these questions have been at this point tested deeply, but I think because I’m such a strong believer in The Columbus Principle, it comes more naturally for me. I see the world in terms of questions and that’s the way I design out a presentation and the speech.

41:20 Michael Port: The was that you describe your style is similar to street theater. There are really two different types of theater. There is stable theater and there’s unstable theater. Stable theater includes plays, musicals. Unstable theater includes improv and street theater. Now, when you do a play or a musical you have your script, everybody speaks the same lines every night, the entrances, the exits are the same way, the cues are the same, the sets are the same. Now, it may change a little bit here and there each night, but fundamentally, it’s all stable.

42:06 Michael Port: Improvisation is the least stable. There are frameworks that you may follow, but it’s all created in the moment. Street theater includes a series of bits and the street performer is gonna arrange those bits according to the space they’re in, the audience that they have, if they have a lot of space that’s gonna influence the bits they choose to use. If they only have a little space, that’s gonna influence the bits they choose to use. If there’s a huge audience, that’s gonna influence the bits they use. If there are a lot of kids there, well, that’s gonna be different than if there’s a lot of adults. And what they’re able to do then is to say, “Okay, you know what? I’m gonna do the fire juggling bit first. That’s a great opening for the space, this kind of crowd will love it. Then, I’m gonna move into the magic carpet bit and etcetera, etcetera. And tonight, I’m gonna end with the disappearing kid bit.” Whatever it is.

43:01 Michael Port: So they have a lot of flexibility, but they know all of their bits so well because if you are gonna have an audience that you’re interacting with, you need to know your material so well that you can control that environment, that you can drive it forward. Otherwise, it makes the audience very nervous. If they feel that you’re interacting, but you’re not driving it forward and in charge of where you’re going. And that they can tell you’re asking specific questions because you’re taking them on a particular journey. If they feel that it’s open ended, and you’re kind of just making it up on the spot, it makes them less comfortable. So, that unstable theater becomes scary as opposed to exciting. So they want you to be on that tight rope because it’s exciting, they don’t want you to fall off.

44:00 Marcus Sheridan: This is great, I love what you’re talking about.

44:02 Michael Port: Yeah, that’s what you do, you’re a street theater guy.

44:07 Marcus Sheridan: I’m gonna have to read more about that because I enjoyed listening to you explain that. Because of course the whole time I’m nodding my head, and it’s like, “Yeah, yeah. That describes it pretty well.” I guess it was about two years ago when I started teaching these how to give workshops. And it all stemmed from some of my speaker friends came up to me… Well, not some. It kept happening at events. And they would say, “Marcus, I watch you go into the audience, you are putting yourself in a position to have potential mega failures or bad moments, and you always come out and that’s when the magic happens.” And the most magical moments always, for me, for the most part, occur with the audience. And that’s why I’m just obsessed with bringing them into the act. I feel like I have do it. Even if I know what they’re gonna say, I feel like I have to do it because that’s where I get my charge and I want them to feel… I think the other thing to me, Michael, is I love the idea that they feel that I’m on the same plane as they are, that we’re all in this together, that I don’t perch myself above them. Which sometimes that’s a good thing, sometimes it’s not. But for me, I like that.

45:21 Marcus Sheridan: And I gotta say one other thing about Columbus here, about this principle I believe so much in. Somebody says, “How do I know if I can do this well, Marcus?” Well, if you have children or if you have nieces or nephews, I want you to look at this. When they ask you a question like, “Mommy, daddy, why does the sun rise every morning?” How often do you immediately give them an answer? Or, how often do you respond with a question? And you see most parents immediately respond with an answer, that’s because we’ve just been almost trained to think, “Well, I’m the parent, I wanna give them the answer.” But the question is, is it possible for you to help your child at some point say, “And that’s why the sun rises in the morning.” There’s one other example of this, and this is a speaker example.

46:12 Marcus Sheridan: One time I gave this keynote in Utah, and of course they set me up for the dreaded Q&A at the end. So I had about 10 minutes of Q&A and the last person that asked me the question, he said, “Marcus, I’ve been listening to you this whole time. I’m the head of sales for my organization and, man, you’ve said so much tonight. If you were me, where would you start when you got back?” Now, almost everybody always says the same answer to that. They would just go down their little bit of what they should do when they get back. And I looked at him, and we’ll just call him Jeff, I looked at him and I said, “Jeff, that’s a great question. Something tells me that as you’ve been sitting here, you’ve been prompted with actions that you should take when you get back. So tell me what do you think you should do next?” And then he proceeded over the next two minutes to tell me what he thought he should do. And as soon as he was done, I looked at the audience and I said, “And that’s why we came here tonight.” Huge round of applause, done, done. And it didn’t happen, those moments never happened until I really started empowering the audience to discover the truth for themselves.

47:33 Michael Port: And there’s your Columbus Principle.

47:35 Marcus Sheridan: Yep.

47:36 Michael Port: I tell you what, Marcus, thank you so much for being here today. I am a big fan. Again, you’re gonna come back and we’re gonna talk more about this ’cause we could go on for hours and hours and hours. And I’m so happy that you’re doing more work out in the world, teaching people this. When I saw that you were starting to do more of this, I was really thrilled to see it. So, thank you for doing that, it’s gonna have a great effect on people.

48:00 Marcus Sheridan: Thank you, brother.

48:01 Michael Port: Everybody keep thinking big about who you are and what you offer the world. Thank you for your attention. I never take it for granted, I know Marcus doesn’t take it for granted. It is a honor and a privilege to be of service, and we will keep doing our absolute best. Bye for now.