One of the most common questions we get from speakers is “How do I get a speakers bureau to represent me?” It can feel like a big mystery, especially when you’re new to the industry. So we reached out to the smartest person we know when it comes to partnering with speakers bureaus.

Martin Perelmuter is co-founder of Speakers Spotlight. His views on the speaking industry have appeared in numerous media outlets, and have been published in over 60 countries. Martin has been a guest lecturer at several colleges and universities, and was a keynote speaker at the Public Words Speaker Forum at The Center for Public Leadership at Harvard’s Kennedy School in Cambridge.

Most importantly, Martin is a kind and unapologetic optimist. His passion for people, ideas, and bringing transformational speeches to the world shines through in our conversation. And he drops so much wisdom about working with speakers bureaus—you definitely don’t want to miss this episode.

How You Can Steal the Show

  • Discover how speakers bureaus make decisions about choosing which speakers to pitch. 
  • Gain insight to how location can impact speaker rates.
  • Learn what steps you can take to make yourself more appealing to speakers bureaus.
  • Understand why having a top-notch, well-produced video is essential—and how to make a stellar video for yourself.

Listen to more episodes of Steal the Show from this season and previous ones at

Learn more about Heroic Public Speaking at

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In this episode…

[Martin Perelmuter] Speakers Spotlight

Other episodes of Steal the Show that’ll surprise and delight you…

Listener Q&A: Gimmick-Free Creativity, Showing vs. Telling, and Recovering When You Bomb

Steve Drum on Performing in High Stakes Situations

Create Transformational Experiences on Video

[00:00:00] Queena Bergen: We welcome you to imagine the places you couldn’t fathom being within a story’s reach. Cuz we believe that all people could have that dream guaranteed. If you take a beat, make big choices and crush your fears, you can reach goals. Still the show because change is inevitable. Evolution is a choice.

[00:00:25] Michael Port: Hi, this is Michael Port and you’re listening to Steal the Show, a podcast from Heroic Public speaking about how to guarantee a standing ovation for all the performances in your life. Welcome to another listener Q&A episode. And thanks to all who submitted questions, we hope to eventually answer all of them and we encourage you to keep them coming and listen until the end of the episode to find out how to send us your question.

[00:00:52] Now I’ve got Queena Bergen here with me again to help answer your questions. Queena is our creative Swiss Army knife at parole, public speaking, and we are lucky to have her with us. On Steal the show today. Queena. Hello. Hello 

[00:01:07] Queena Bergen: Michael. Thank you so much for having me today. I’m extremely excited for our next Q&A episode.

[00:01:12] Should we get into it? We should. 

[00:01:13] Michael Port: I do have to say that my hello was a little extra. I was like a little over the top, but I was, I’m just excited that, that we are doing this together. I’m excited that it’s a beautiful day and I’m just really excited to answer the question, so I might be feeling a little bit extra.

[00:01:28] Queena Bergen: I think extra’s a good thing though, Michael. Yeah. We tell our kids, you know, mom and dad are just a little bit extra. 

[00:01:33] Yeah, we need to be a little bit extra just so that you know what I mean? We’re, we’re there for everybody else too. You know, we gotta give, we have to have a little bit extra so we’re able to give it, 

[00:01:41] give it away.

[00:01:41] And speaking of extra, I think our first question touches on extra just a little bit. So why don’t we hear that first one? So first up is 

[00:01:49] a question from an anonymous listener from Anonymous Land. So let’s go ahead and give it a listen. 

[00:01:56] Anonymous: How out of the box, playful and fun can we get with our delivery and presentation?

[00:02:02] I wanna get my message across, add value, and be remembered, but I don’t wanna be another body on stage, speaking about. Something someone else has delivered before. I was taught at a very young age, You gotta have a gimmick, and I know you want your audience to remember you, but how creative can we get and at what point does it get risky or dangerous?

[00:02:26] Michael Port: Ooh, this is exciting. It seems like there are two questions in here for us to unpack. So first Anonymous asked how fun can they get with their delivery and presentation? And they were taught at a very young age that you gotta have a gimmick. They know that, that the audience needs to remember them. Yeah.

[00:02:47] Queena Bergen: But they don’t wanna be risky. 

[00:02:48] Michael Port: Yeah. So how creative can you get is one of the questions. And then, uh, the other is how do I make sure that I’m not talking about what everybody else is talking about? So you are talking about something that someone else is already talking about somewhere that is just the nature of ideas.

[00:03:07] It’s unlikely that your idea is so unique that nobody has ever considered it in the history of the world. And so it’s really important to remember that you don’t necessarily need to be different. To make a difference, you need to be honest. And what you are sharing needs to be true for the people in the room, and the vision that you are laying out for them needs to be remarkably compelling.

[00:03:42] Yeah. You know, a place that they want to go, and it’s very likely somebody else will also be speaking on a topic that’s similar, but the way they approach it. Will likely be different than the way you approach it. Yeah. Which leads us into this idea of playful and fun, but also the second question about creativity, uh, and that everybody needs a gimmick.

[00:04:08] So gimmick is an interesting word because gimmick usually is a negative. If we see something on stage that doesn’t feel honest, we usually say, oh, that’s a gimmick. 

[00:04:17] Queena Bergen: Yeah. Just to get somebody’s attention just to rile up the 

[00:04:20] crowd. 

[00:04:21] Michael Port: Correct. Yeah. And ultimately, uh, gimmicks don’t hold up. If you have a, a keynote that’s fill filled with lots of gimmicks, it’s not gonna hold up.

[00:04:30] Queena Bergen: People could see through that. 

[00:04:31] Michael Port: I’ll give you an example. Many years ago I was, when I was first working on my Think Big Revolution speech, there’s a section of the speech where. I wanted to introduce the concept, which by the way was not a new concept, but it needed to be addressed. You know, that you gotta be comfortable with discomfort if you wanna do big things in the world, you know, cuz you’re gonna be uncomfortable from time to time.

[00:04:54] And so I thought, well, maybe it’d be fun, you know, to put on a really, really tall pair of stiletto heels and wear them during that scene. Clearly I would look pretty uncomfortable and would feel pretty uncomfortable in those shoes. I mean, technically, I actually wouldn’t feel uncomfortable in those shoes.

[00:05:12] I mean, I might be physically uncomfortable, but I wouldn’t be psychologically or emotionally uncomfortable. But in this speech, I could play that I was, 

[00:05:20] Queena Bergen: yeah, 

[00:05:20] Michael Port: as an idea. And I tried it for maybe two weeks of rehearsal, but ultimately it didn’t work. It was just a gimmick. And so it didn’t actually add value to that section of the speech.

[00:05:32] I think it detracted from it because when people were watching it, they’re primarily gonna focus on that rather than the ideas. And so that. Got cut because it was gimmicky. Yeah. But when something feels honest, then people love it. For example, in that same speech, there was a section where I showed a video of a photographer who takes pictures of people who do not know each other in very close, intimate.

[00:06:05] Poses not, not sexually intimate, but uh, just physically intimate in some way. And they are remarkable photographs. You know, he’ll just find two random people, a 90 year old grandmother and a 23 year old biker dude in Grand Central Station, and he’ll say, Hey, can you, uh, pick up this woman? Hold her in your arms, cradle, hold her like she’s a baby, and I’ll take a picture and people do it.

[00:06:31] So I showed that and then I asked the audience, well, I told the audience, I said, okay, we’re gonna do it. And you can see them looking at each other like, we’re, we’re gonna do what exactly. I said, we are gonna get into those same poses with each other, and we’re gonna take pictures, and then we’re gonna share those pictures with each other so we can memorialize this experience we’re having together.

[00:06:50] And. It worked brilliantly. You know, people get into groups of five and they take these pictures, and at first they were a little uncomfortable, but then as it went on, they got more and more comfortable and kept come and would come up with their own poses. And the music was playing and it worked. So it wasn’t gimmicky because it felt honest.

[00:07:07] And of course, it’s important to remember that I did that toward the end of the speech because audience interaction should be proportionate to the amount of trust that you’ve earned. Mm-hmm. And if I tried to. Have the audience do that right at the top of the show, it would likely fall flat and may feel gimmicky because I hadn’t got them to that place yet, emotionally.

[00:07:28] And you know, if they don’t already know me, they, I don’t have enough trust earned at the opening of the speech. I need to earn that throughout the speech. Hmm. And so it’s important to remember that we’re trying to make these moments honest and performance is honest behavior in. A manufactured environment.

[00:07:48] Yeah. A thousand people sitting in chairs listening to one person speak on a stage with lights on them, and everybody else sits in the dark and doesn’t talk. That’s not human meaning. It’s not a normal way that people behave unless the construct of that situation. Requires that that’s how they behave.

[00:08:06] They’ve been conditioned to, so it’s completely manufactured. Yeah. But we as performers need to bring honesty to that manufactured environment so that people actually feel something real. And so you wanna be as creative as possible. You wanna go farther than you think you should go. You wanna make big choices and then make bigger choices.

[00:08:27] And you can always pull your choices back. Just like I tried the shoes and I pulled them back. But if you don’t make big choices, then you’ll actually just seem like you are doing what everybody else is doing, which is just speaking and sharing the same information. 

[00:08:44] So I’m, I’m actually kind of 

[00:08:45] Queena Bergen: curious though, when you were in that rehearsal, right, because yeah.

[00:08:48] It was in rehearsal, that you decided that it was like I was gonna pull back from the stilettos and, you know, go with another option. Mm-hmm. Like at what, how did you determine that that risk wasn’t worth what it was going? That you, you were going to get? 

[00:09:01] Michael Port: Well, two ways. You know, to be perfectly honest, you, when you have decades of experience and all the training you need, you can get a sense of whether something’s working or not, uh, even before an audience sees it.

[00:09:12] So I had a feeling that it was starting to get a little gimmicky, but also Amy was directing the piece, so she decided. It was gimmicky because she was watching it, and so we decided to cut it. Mm-hmm. So when you have a director, your director’s gonna be the, your eyes and ears, uh, they know the vision of the piece, they understand your audience, and they help you deliver a performance that.

[00:09:37] Creates a transformational experience for folks. But what I was saying is that to me, speaking is just sharing expertise or sharing information that you already know, and there’s a lot of people who know what you already know. So often when you do that, that’s when you seem like every other speaker. But when you actually craft an experience for the audience that first focuses on how they feel, then.

[00:10:02] Focuses on how they think and then focuses on what they do well, often you can create change because if information and just giving people the information was enough, then everybody would do everything that they knew to be the right thing, the perfect thing. We would know everything we need to know. We wouldn’t make mistakes.

[00:10:24] And of course, that’s not the way the world works, so. If we’re gonna change, cuz usually we have the information. Like I know I, I shouldn’t have had that, you know, extra little chocolate last night cuz I didn’t need the calories, but I still had it. Yeah. You know, I have all the information in the world that I need about what is healthy to put in my body and what’s not.

[00:10:45] Uh, but I don’t always, you know, adhere to the information. The only way that you’ll change your behavior is if you change how you think, but, You can’t change how you think about information until you change how you feel about it. You know what matters to you. And so our job is to focus on changing how the audience feels, then how they think, and then what they do.

[00:11:09] And the way that you deliver the content and the way that you make the audience feel through that delivery is what? Is gonna determine whether or not you can influence how they feel, so you can influence how they think and then influence what they do. So make big choices, crush your fears, take more chances, and as a result, you’ll create entertaining and.

[00:11:36] Educational experiences for audiences. 

[00:11:38] Queena Bergen: Yeah. And as you know, as they’re being authentic, they’ll definitely be able to separate themselves and they won’t truly be like everybody else that’s on stage. Yeah, 

[00:11:45] Michael Port: yeah. You know, the thing is, the word authentic is a bit of a complicated word for me. 

[00:11:50] Queena Bergen: Really?

[00:11:51] Michael Port: Yeah. Well, because a lot of times, you know, people will tell speakers or performers, you don’t just be authentic, but what exactly is that? What exactly is authentic? For example, let’s say you’re going to do a gig and. Your plane was canceled, the second plane was canceled. Mm-hmm. You had to do an all-nighter in a car that you had to rent, so you didn’t sleep.

[00:12:16] You have a cold, your daughter is at home with a cold and. You’ve got 18 other things that you’ve gotta deal with. Oh, and tomorrow, let’s say, is tax day and you haven’t, you know, filed your taxes yet. 

[00:12:29] Queena Bergen: This sounds specific. It sounds specific. This is very specific. I keep going. 

[00:12:35] Michael Port: No, this, this is the hypothetical.

[00:12:37] This is not about, okay. You okay? But let’s say all of this. Uh, is the case. Okay? And so the last thing you wanna do is get on stage because as much as you love it, you’re still a human being. And there are some days where your mind’s elsewhere. Mm-hmm. So if you’re completely authentic, you might walk on stage and say, Hey, listen, I gotta tell you.

[00:12:56] I mean, I know they’re paying me a ton of money to be here, but I don’t really wanna be here. I got a cold. I didn’t sleep last night. My planes got canceled. Uh, my daughter’s at home with a cold. I haven’t done my taxes. Uh, so what, you know what I’m gonna do? I’m just gonna try to get through the best I can and, uh, you know, let’s see how it goes, right?

[00:13:13] Like, if you’re totally authentic about how you felt in that moment, that probably wouldn’t be a great opening. So the performer, Is always going to bring certain parts of their actual life experience to the stage, and they are going to leave other parts of their actual life experience to the stage. Yes, they’re not actors, they’re not playing other characters, but they’re playing a version of themselves that is the appropriate version for the job at hand.

[00:13:43] And if they understand what their role is and they’ve built a speech that allows them to play that role easily and powerfully, it doesn’t really matter what’s going on in their life, they can always step into that role and for that hour, that is their entire focus and they are in service of that audience, and they don’t even think about anything else except, hmm.

[00:14:06] That service, which is why I encourage folks to consider that their job is not just to share information or else they will sound like everybody else. Uh, their job is to create a transformational experience, uh, that focuses on how the audience feels, thinks, and acts in a way that is unique to them. Yeah.

[00:14:24] Even if the ideas aren’t a hundred percent unique, because sometimes you need to hear something 10 times. Look, the fact of the matter is, as a thought leader, generally, people do not hear what you are saying. Until you are sick of saying it. You gotta say it over and over and over some. Somebody said, well, what if I get sick of talking about my topic?

[00:14:42] I said, I promise you, you will. Yeah, 

[00:14:45] Queena Bergen: absolutely. You don’t know how like a message is going to resonate with an audience, you know? Uh, and it can, you know whether or not they’ve heard it, you know, a dozen times before. You know, you saying it in that very moment can really make an impact. But sometimes you have to share information that.

[00:14:58] I don’t know, it’s just kind of dry, you know what I mean? Sometimes you have to share things that are just, doesn’t seem as fun as, you know, stilettos or, you know, photo pictures. So, um, that’s actually one of the questions that we have coming up next, so I’d love to hear what you have about that. Great.

[00:15:13] Michael Port: Let’s hear it. 

[00:15:15] Ellen: Hi, this is Ellen from Boston, Massachusetts. My question is, When you start a talk with a fun vibe, that exposes the absurdity of a problem. How do you keep from killing the mood when you need to introduce some dry academic information to support your solution? 

[00:15:32] Michael Port: Oh, this is perfect. Almost like we produced the show so that the questions would build upon each other.

[00:15:38] That’s brilliant. That’s remarkable. So listen, here’s the thing. I think that in the question, Ellen is an assumption. That I wanna challenge. The assumption is that academic information is dry. 

[00:15:55] Queena Bergen: Yeah. 

[00:15:56] Michael Port: The way that much of academic information is presented may be dry, but the information itself is not actually dry.

[00:16:06] In fact, the information could be really, really exciting. Because we get to peer into big, intractable problems with data, empirical data, that’s pretty cool. Now what do we do to make that data more interesting? Well, certainly, you know, people use visuals and sometimes the visuals can help, but you gotta do visuals really, really well to make them work.

[00:16:37] And often it’s not enough. I’ll give you an example and you know, I hope somebody at some point can tell me who did this because I saw a TED talk many, many years ago once, and I. There was a bit in the TED Talk that I thought was absolutely fantastic, and sometimes I share it as an example, but for the life of me, I can’t remember who gave the talk, cuz at that time I just wasn’t paying attention to it and I have not yet been able to find it, uh, after years of searching.

[00:17:07] So maybe somebody will tell me who actually did this. Mm-hmm. So the speech was effectively an a speech about the environment and that. Issues that we have as a result of climate change. You know, which many people have heard many times, uh, so he had this one example that he wanted to share, which is a pretty powerful example, but if you just hear it, it may not have that much of an effect on you.

[00:17:32] You know, there are some ideas that have what we call telling problems, meaning when you tell somebody the idea, they go, oh, okay. Yeah. Okay. Right. Like it makes sense to them, but yeah, it may not really have an impact on them. Or you tell them the idea and they’re like, oh yeah, yeah, a hundred percent.

[00:17:52] Absolutely, yes, yes, yes, yes. I totally agree. Well, they’re already on, you know, your side of the fence. But then there might be some people who are like, I just don’t get it at all. Nope, not, doesn’t make any sense. So sometimes you have ideas that have a telling problem. You usually solve the telling problem with some sort of signature bit, some sort of.

[00:18:12] Way of showing the idea rather than just telling the idea. I’ll give you two examples. So the first example that I was gonna give from was from this TED talk, this environmental, uh, science TED talk. And, you know, he wanted to introduce the idea that it takes a lot of oil. To make a Big Mac, not the kind of oil that you put on the grill.

[00:18:32] Not like Crisco oil, but oil that comes out of the ground that gets refined to power. Things like trucks and other machinery, et cetera. And. You know, he could have just told them, but instead, what he did is he had a little table and nothing was on it at first. So what he did is he goes, okay, I, I wanna tell you how much oil it takes to make one Big Mac.

[00:18:57] So he took a Big Mac from underneath the table and put it on the table and he opened it up so you could see the Big Mac sitting right there. This tiny little thing, you can see it. Then he took a glass pitcher. Filled with oil, a large glass pitcher filled with oil and one empty glass. And he put it on the table and they said, I’m gonna show you how much oil it takes to make one Big Mac.

[00:19:19] So he takes the pitcher, then he fills up the glass with oil, puts the pitcher down, uh, you know, rests his hands, takes a beat, and he says, no, not that much. Takes out another glass, puts it on the table, takes the pitcher, fills it up, puts down the pitcher, rests his hands by his sides. Takes a beat. Nope, not that much.

[00:19:39] Takes a third glass, puts it on the table, fills up the third glass, puts down the pitcher, rests his hands, takes a beat. Says, Nope, not that much. Takes a th a fourth glass, puts it on the table, takes the pitcher, fills it up halfway, puts down the pitcher, rests his hands, takes a beat, and says, yep, it takes three and a half glasses of oil to make this one Big Mac.

[00:20:05] I’ll never forget that image. Mm. Never forget that image. And I understood the big idea behind his speech, which to me seemed to be the fact that there’s often a lot of hidden climates. Issues in lots of different things that we would not necessarily consider. We often think about the big climate issues, uh, but just one Big Mac makes a difference.

[00:20:31] And if you think about all the big Macs in the world, that’s a lot of oil. So it really stuck with me. I thought it was very powerful. I’ll give you another example. Andrew Davis, who is my writing partner on the referable speaker and my good friend, you know, he’s generally speaks to chief marketing officers, uh, and uh, and those types of folks.

[00:20:49] And that he had a speech where, you know, he was trying to get them to realize that the marketing funnel in the way that it was historically considered or thought about it doesn’t really work in today’s internet age. And so, He talked to them about it in the speech for some time and you know, it would kind of like, some people would be like, I’m a hundred percent with you.

[00:21:11] Others were like, you’re totally wrong. You don’t know what you’re talking about. And then the majority of people were like, oh yeah, okay, I get that. Yeah, sure, that makes sense. But nothing was changing cuz they didn’t change how they felt about it. They had the information, but they didn’t change how they felt.

[00:21:24] So he decided to put together a signature bit So, I won’t go through the whole thing because I can’t do it justice here. You need to see Andrew do the bit and fortunately on YouTube you can find this bit. So we’ll put a link in the show notes to the bit that I’m referring to that Andrew does, and it’s called The Meatloaf Bit.

[00:21:45] That’s the name that it got. 

[00:21:46] Queena Bergen: It already sounds delicious. 

[00:21:47] Michael Port: It’s a delicious bit. What happens is he starts by talking to them about how Google is the comfort food of search. So he puts a big picture on the screen of mashed potatoes and meatloaf, you know, and green beans. And he says, you know, when I was looking for this photo, uh, I was looking on flicker at pictures of meatloaf.

[00:22:09] And you knows, look, this is not the perfect picture, but you know, it’s a good picture. It’s, it’s not a stock image, it’s a real picture. So it feels homey and it’s nice, you know, and it got, kinda got me hungry and I was like, you know what, maybe, maybe I should make some meatloaf. So, uh, he goes and looks up a recipe for meatloaf.

[00:22:23] Well, he reads the recipe from meatloaf and it says, well, you have to have a certain kind of pan. Says like, oh man. So he goes to Amazon and and buys the pan. This goes on for some time. He keeps popping around the internet to different places, and where he winds up is incredibly funny and profound for marketers when they recognize.

[00:22:45] How ineffective that marketing funnel is in today’s internet age. And so for the people who had previously kind of went, oh yeah, yeah, no, I get it. Okay, now they thunk themself on the head and went, oh my God, we’ve gotta change. This is really ridiculous cuz he shows the absurdity of it. So he takes something that has a telling problem, turns it into a showing solution because.

[00:23:10] On the screen. He’s going through every single webpage. So it’s like he goes here, he goes here, he goes here, he goes here. So you get this incredible tour that he’s narrating at lightning fast speed verbally, and by the end of it, they always clap. Yeah. By the end of the bit. Every single time. 

[00:23:25] Queena Bergen: Yeah, they, it sounds like 

[00:23:26] they both took those 

[00:23:26] risks.

[00:23:27] Michael Port: They both took those risks 

[00:23:28] and they put more fun into it. I mean, look, the audience is never gonna have more fun than you’re having. You cannot expect your audience to have more fun than you’re having. That is the most obvious statement I could possibly make, but you do need to think about it for a second and recognize that if you are not having an extraordinary time delivering the speech, your audience is not gonna have a better time than you are just not gonna happen.

[00:23:55] Queena Bergen: Or if you 

[00:23:55] already think your information is dry, 

[00:23:57] Michael Port: Yeah. Yeah. Like, sorry, I have to tell you this. It’s dry, but put up with it. Yeah, right. It’s not the best opening for a speech. 

[00:24:04] No,

[00:24:04] Queena Bergen: not at all. 

[00:24:04] Michael Port: I hope that was helpful for Ellen in Boston, Massachusetts. So thanks for the question. 

[00:24:09] Queena Bergen: Thank 

[00:24:09] you so much. I thought that was helpful, not only for Ellen, but for me because I think it was extremely important to learn about that doing things at the end, uh, instead of the beginning, gaining the trust with the audience.

[00:24:18] That’s awesome. 

[00:24:19] Michael Port: So here’s the break. When we come back, we’ll answer our final question for this episode about. Drum roll please. 

[00:24:28] Queena Bergen: Bombing on stage. 

[00:24:29] Michael Port: Oh, you know, there are three types of speakers and when we come back after the break, I’ll tell you what those three types of speakers are.

[00:24:48] We’ve got one more question for you. I love these episodes. They always get me thinking and talking probably more than I should, but let’s get to the third question. 

[00:24:57] Queena Bergen: Absolutely. So this one was sent in by Michael Bradley, hunt from San Antonio, and it really got me thinking because bombing on stage is arguably one of the most terrifying things any speakers thinking about.

[00:25:11] So let’s listen into the question. 

[00:25:13] Michael Bradley Hunt: Hi, Michael Bradley Hunt from San Antonio. You’ve talked about bombing a few times and shared personal anecdotes, and of course you, Amy and the entire team are so very, very committed to preventing that from happening to us. So it should be rare if you’ve prepared, rehearsed, et cetera, but at the same time, it seems somewhat inevitable due to circumstances maybe beyond our control.

[00:25:36] So albeit rare, what is your advice for bouncing back? 

[00:25:40] Michael Port: Whew. Yeah, it’s a big question. I think a lot of folks are nervous about bombing on stage. 

[00:25:46] Queena Bergen: Yeah. 

[00:25:47] Michael Port: You know, it’s, uh, it’s a pretty provocative thought, you know, to imagine yourself going out there and, uh, really actually bombing. And, uh, so I think we gotta, you know, define what bombing is before I tell you what the three different types of speakers are, because you know, you’re gonna give speeches that.

[00:26:04] You know, get a decided. Yeah, okay, that’s fine. You know, like people weren’t crazy about it, but like, you know, it was fine. It was good, it was fine. That’s not bombing. 

[00:26:13] Queena Bergen: Yeah, 

[00:26:13] Michael Port: that’s just like, you know, you read a book that was fine, but it’s not gonna be one of your top three books of all time. Uh, and so that will happen, you know, in some audiences just some days will just not resonate with it quite as much as in another audience on another day.

[00:26:27] There’s so many factors that go into it. Timing is a big deal and I’m sure you’ve experienced, you know, sometimes you. You turn on a TV show and you watch about half of the first episode and you go, eh, it’s not for me. 

[00:26:38] Queena Bergen: It’s not for me. 

[00:26:38] Michael Port: Yeah, yeah. You come back a couple years later, you just go, oh, did I ever see that?

[00:26:42] I don’t think so. So you put on the first episode, all of a sudden you’re hooked. 

[00:26:46] Queena Bergen: Yeah. 

[00:26:46] Michael Port: It’s just at a different time. Different needs, different things you’re thinking about different mood and the mood of an audience, you know, can matter. Uh, but you can never blame the audience if the speech doesn’t go well.

[00:26:57] And certainly you can never blame the audience if you bomb any speaker that walks off the stage. And the first thought that they have is, yeah, that wasn’t a good au, that was not a good audience. Uh, you got some thinking to do about your approach as a speaker or performer. 

[00:27:11] Queena Bergen: Yeah. 

[00:27:11] Michael Port: Because if your first instinct is to blame the audience, you’re not doing the work on the speech that you probably need to do on the speech.

[00:27:19] And so, look, there are three different types of speakers, speakers that have bombed. Speakers that haven’t yet bombed, but will and then speakers that have bombed but lie about it. 

[00:27:33] Queena Bergen: Hmm. 

[00:27:34] Michael Port: Now there could be a fourth speaker, uh, which is, uh, speakers that have bombed, but don’t know. Like, that’s, that’s certainly possible.

[00:27:41] Um, but I, I, uh, anybody that’s a boater will know that, uh, those, those three types of, uh, uh, of boaters at least cuz you know, uh, there are boaters, there are captains that have run a ground, captains that have not yet run a ground, but will, and then captains that have run a ground but lie about it. Same thing with the speakers and the bombing.

[00:27:57] Queena Bergen: Yeah. 

[00:27:58] Michael Port: So I have bombed, I bombed once. I bombed badly and the reason I bombed Wait, 

[00:28:04] Queena Bergen: wait. Can you, can you, can you explain real quick what bombing is 

[00:28:07] Michael Port: though? Yeah. Oh, sorry. I skipped that. People walking out of the room, you know, meeting planners saying, that was terrible. That was not what I expected. Mm. I’m really disappointed.

[00:28:18] Queena Bergen: Okay. 

[00:28:18] Michael Port: That was not what we wanted. 

[00:28:20] Queena Bergen: Okay. 

[00:28:20] Michael Port: That’s bombing. So I bombed, I bombed once and it was because I wasn’t prepared and I tried to do something different. I, I had a vision for what I wanted to do, and I thought at that stage, given my natural talent and my proficiency or even mastery over the craft of performance, I thought I would be able, I pull it off.

[00:28:45] Now, this is almost 20 years ago, uh, so it was a while ago. And, uh, and in my youthful arrogance, uh, I didn’t recognize the gap between the. What I saw in my mind and what I was actually able to produce. Now, this is a very commonplace for new artists to be experienced. Artists often have a gap between what they wanna create and where they are now.

[00:29:15] The difference is they recognize the gap. Yeah. An inexperienced artist often doesn’t even see the gap. And at that time, I didn’t see the gap between what I was able to do and what I envisioned I could do with that new piece. And so after that, it really did change my perspective. I asked myself, when I was an actor, would I have ever gone on stage in front of that size audience for a high stakes performance without having done.

[00:29:49] Rehearsal or much rehearsal. And of course the answer was no way. It would never happen unless you’re doing an improv show that’s a totally different, uh, you know, type of, and everyone knows Yeah. Everybody knows that they’re gonna hold you to that expectation. Correct. Exactly. So the, that changed how I thought about it, and it’s actually one of the things I think that.

[00:30:06] Drove the design of heroic public speaking because I did not want that to happen to any speaker, and I’m figuring if it happened to me with the experience that I have as a performer, oh boy, this is gonna happen to lots of speakers. The difference though, I think, is that a lot of speakers don’t take big risks, so they may not.

[00:30:26] Bomb as badly as I did. But they may just be delivering, you know, like a marginal performance, a subpar performance on a regular basis that eventually just doesn’t Yeah, take hold cuz people aren’t that interested in it. So what we wanna do is both, we wanna take the big, make big choices and take chances and play with the format to create something that really is remarkably unique.

[00:30:51] And very, very special and valuable. So people are wanted, it’s in demand and pay for it. We’ve gotta put in the work on the front end. That’s just all there is to it. You gotta put in the work because if you’ve put in the work on the front end, you will not bomb. You cannot bomb. Yeah. It will never be that bad.

[00:31:08] There is nothing I could do at this. Like when I go, when we do a core or we do a grad session or. If I went somewhere to give a presentation or anything, I know when I’m going in there that I’m so well prepared. I cannot bomb. There’s no way I might make some mistakes. You know, I might have people who go, yeah, I don’t really love his vibe, you know, whatever.

[00:31:31] But. I will not bomb. It’s impossible for that to happen because I put in the work and that’s what our students do. That’s what heroic public speaking students do. When you see a speaker who’s been trained and has fully embraced the training, you know, hasn’t sort of just skipped through and yeah, kind of hopped across the, the rough waters just by skipping stones or hopping over stones.

[00:31:54] But they’ve actually done the work. They’ve put in the work when they’ve come through that experience. It’s totally different dynamic for them. They know they will never bomb. They know it’s always gonna work. Some days it will work brilliantly. Some days it, you know, will work well enough, but it’s always gonna work.

[00:32:09] And that’s, that’s what you are trying to create as a professional. That’s the key. If you, you’re thinking about working as a professional in this field, then you gotta treat it like you are an elite level athlete because performers are, you know, it’s been said that actors are emotional athletes. Because if you do really, really deep emotional work on projects, like, you know, we watched the season finale of Ted Lasso last night, which is just a remarkable series.

[00:32:41] I could talk about this series for hours and hours and hours. The performers in that they go on such an emotional rollercoaster. Even though it’s a comedy, it’s not a. A dark and nobody’s like strung out on heroin in the corner. It’s, you know, it’s not that kind of role. Uh, they’re playing for the most part, really fun characters.

[00:32:58] But it also, there’s so much honesty in that show that the emotions that these actors are bringing to the story are their real emotions. They don’t think they’re those people, but the emotions are still real. And they’ve got, in one scene, in one episode, they’re depressed and they’re crying and they’re, you know, they’re lost.

[00:33:19] And then, you know, the next day they may be shooting, uh, a scene where they’re over the moon excited or angry, or they’re just going such an emotional rollercoaster. And so speakers are not gonna be, On, on a rollercoaster ride of that magnitude. Yeah. Magnitude or that extreme. Mm-hmm. But nonetheless, it is both a physical job being on stage and it is also, uh, an emotional and mental, uh, job.

[00:33:43] So, You gotta train the way that any professional would train in their given discipline. Yeah. So the stronger your mind is, the better you’re gonna do. So for example, if you’ve trained well, then you’re not gonna have the problem that a lot of people have, which is misinterpreting the. Audience’s experience.

[00:34:02] You know, we have up on the wall at Hero Public Speaking hq, where we do our training events, a framed picture that was given to us by Bob Baker, who’s one of our longtime students, a remarkable performer. And, uh, it was, it’s a framed. Cartoon from the New Yorker magazine, and it’s a woman on stage and she had just finished her speech and then all the audience in front of her, and they, she was getting a standing ovation from the entire audience, except one guy was sitting down in his chair with his arms crossed with a bit of a scowl on his face.

[00:34:36] Mm. And the little thought bubble above her head is, they hate me. They hate me. Just because that one person was sitting down. Now, first of all, we don’t know. He may have been constipated and just couldn’t get up, and that facial expression was a constipated expression. It wasn’t that he hated it, but even if he did hate it.

[00:34:56] So what? So what you’re, you are not in this business to get approval if you’re in this business to get approval, get outta the business. You’ve gotta be in the business to do the work. And if someone doesn’t get the work, you might be disappointed and bummed, but your job is then to work harder on figuring out how they can get the work.

[00:35:16] It’s not a personal relationship, oh my God, they don’t like me anymore. What does that mean about me? Yeah, it’s a job. And if, if you miss your goal, what do you do? You, you reapproach figure out how do I get to the goal the next time? And so you can’t go into this for approval. Uh, ask me how I know. Yeah, yeah.

[00:35:34] I know. You know? Right. Like, like when I started as an actor, there are not too many actors that go into acting because they don’t want approval. Yeah. Let’s, let’s be honest about that. And I think the same thing is true for a lot of the speakers. I think a lot of the speakers want a lot of approval. 

[00:35:47] Queena Bergen: Yeah.

[00:35:47] Well, they want meeting planners. They want the opportunities, they want the gigs, you know? Yeah. But then by what you’re saying, does that also mean that like bombing is. In your control? 


[00:35:55] Michael Port: think ultimately it is 

[00:35:56] Queena Bergen: because, like the question is, is that whether or not it’s inevitable, it’s beyond our control.

[00:35:59] It’s like it’s gonna happen anyway. You 

[00:36:01] Michael Port: know? I mean, that’s my, my, my three types of speakers is really a, just a cheeky joke because I think you, you absolutely can avoid full on bombing if you’re prepared. It might not be perfect, but you won’t bomb. If you’re prepared, you’ll only bomb. If you’re terribly under prepared.

[00:36:18] Queena Bergen: I heard a quote one time that just kind of resonates with me as you’re talking that like when under pressure people don’t rise to the occasion, you sink to your level of training. Yes. So it’s almost like what that baseline is. Yeah, 

[00:36:29] Michael Port: absolutely. It’s actually a military expression that’s used and you’re newer to rural, public speaking, so you probably ha haven’t heard me say that.

[00:36:35] But I generally bring that to almost every core to new students cuz it’s, it helps them recognize it. If you think about it this way, let’s take the military for example. So if the expression is, you know, if you don’t rise to the occasion, you sink back or fall back to the level of your training and. We have a lot of military veterans.

[00:36:56] We have generals, uh, admirals, Lieutenant Colonels, really quite decorated officers who’ve come out of, you know, decades of service. And let’s say, I don’t know, Steve Drum is known as Drummy. So let’s say Drummy, who’s in Navy Seal Master Chief retired, said to me, Hey, listen, I, I gotta go back in and run Seal Team 10.

[00:37:16] Uh, we’re short on a couple guys, so. You know, Michael, can you meet me in the mountains of Afghanistan? I’m gonna give you our location. I just need you to get there. When you get there, I’ll give you all of your, your equipment, your firearms, and I’ll give you your comms and, you know, your, you know, ready to eat meals and things like that.

[00:37:33] I’m not gonna train you on any of the stuff. I know you don’t know how to use it, but I’m sure you’ll be fine. You’ll figure it out as you go. You think I’m gonna make it outta the mountains of Afghanistan? 

[00:37:43] I

[00:37:43] Queena Bergen: say bye to you, Michael. 

[00:37:44] Michael Port: Yeah, that’s it. I will have to write, say all my B goodbyes before I got on that plane cuz I’m not coming home.

[00:37:49] Yeah. So I’m gonna sink back to the level of my training and I have no training that would equip me for that. Yeah. So it’s always gonna be the case. I, if you think you’re adrenaline. Is going to help you rise to the occasion. It’s not gonna make you a better speaker. It’s just gonna make you more either aggressive or more hyperactive, anxious, or more anxious.

[00:38:10] It’s gonna do something to you, but it’s not gonna make you better at your job. So if you pace, it’s gonna make you pace more or more aggressively. It’s a little bit like taking a drug and the drug just. Exacerbates or accelerates whatever you’re thinking or or any of your behaviors. So adrenaline can help you get focused.

[00:38:28] So you may feel like you are focused, but the problem is just cuz you feel like you’re focused doesn’t mean that the audience is actually getting the experience that they need if you haven’t prepared. Yeah. So if you walk off stage and you say, Woo. That was amazing. I crushed it. I don’t remember any of it.

[00:38:45] I have no idea actually what I did, but it was great. I can promise you that’s not the experience the audience had. If you can’t remember what you did throughout the whole speech, you were not in control of that performance. Because a prepared performer can see themselves performing while they’re performing.

[00:39:01] A prepared performer will get off stage and say, you know, in about the 32nd, 30, somewhere, 32 to 35 minutes, uh, I think I, I, I’ve reversed these lines. It should be in this other order. Lemme make a note of that. I gotta go work on that next week. You’ll know it, you’ll remember it because, You are present in that moment.

[00:39:18] When you’re driven by adrenaline, you’re generally not actually present in that moment, in the way that is helpful. It just gives you too much energy and often can produce deleterious effects on a speech if you’re not prepared. If you’re prepared, it can add to the intensity, which can be helpful. But you can see I, I come down on the side of preparation.

[00:39:39] Queena Bergen: Yeah. It’s the best thing for each one of the individuals that we were responding to today. I think today’s questions were absolutely incredible. Not just for the folks that came and answered them, but like for anyone who’s listening. I know personally, I took away a lot of information. Those 

[00:39:55] were awesome.

[00:39:55] Michael Port: Well, I think that’s a good note to wrap 

[00:39:57] up on Queena. Thank you so much for helping me answer these questions. Uh, is there anything you wanna share before we wrap up? I’m 

[00:40:05] Queena Bergen: just super excited that we were able to answer Michael Ellen and, uh, these anonymous questions that we had in really, really great.

[00:40:12] But there are also options for other listeners to ask more questions. Michael, would you let them know? 

[00:40:18] Michael Port: Yeah, of 

[00:40:18] course. So if you’d like to ask a question, here’s what you do. First, write out your question. If our team picks it, your question will be played for tens of thousands of listeners around the world.

[00:40:27] So write it out first. This way you can be sure to ask what you want to ask the way you want to ask it. Then record your question as a voice memo on your phone. Tell me your name, where you’re located, and what your question is, and do it in a nice, quiet place. And then speak directly into the microphone at the bottom of your phone.

[00:40:44] And please try to keep your question under one minute. Max and then email your voice Memo to us at questions heroic public That’s questions heroic public Our team will review your question with gratitude and appreciation, and we may feature it on a future episode, steal the show.

[00:41:02] We’ll be back next week when we’ll hear from co-owner and co-founder of Speaker Spotlight, Martin Perlmutter about the evolution of speakers bureaus and what you need to know about working with them. 

[00:41:16] Martin Perelmuter: There has to be a mutual respect for what each other brings to the relationship, right? And like what we do isn’t necessarily easy, and what you do as a speaker isn’t easy either.

[00:41:25] And we couldn’t do your job and you might not be able to do ours. 

[00:41:28] Michael Port: The Steal The show podcast team is Laura Dolch, Dylan 

[00:41:31] Gallimore, 

[00:41:32] queen of Bergen, and me Michael Port. The show is edited and mixed by audio autocracy. Our opening music includes original spoken word poetry from none other than our Queen of Bergen.

[00:41:45] For more episodes, hit subscribe or follow wherever you’re listening right now. And if you’d like to stay in touch, email us at questions harrow public Until next time, keep thinking big about who you are and about what you offer the world. Bye for now.