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Do you feel lost sometimes on the stage? In this episode, we answer common public speaking questions

  • “What should I do with my hands?”
  • “Where should I stand?”

00:00 Welcome to Steal the Show with Michael Port. From speeches to job interviews to deal-closing pitches, how to guarantee a standing ovation for all the performances in your life. This is Friday Fan Mail. Common and comical public speaking questions and answers. You have questions, I’ve got the answers. And if you like the answers, head on over to and check out all of the bonuses I give you when you buy the book “Steal the Show”, content creation and storytelling templates, tickets to live events around the country, public speaking video documentaries, and online training programs, and much, much more. My goal in life to delight and entertain you and to help you think bigger about who you are and what you offer the world.

00:48 Today’s question comes from Stephanie Kaplan in Chicago. Hi Steph. Oh, by the way, for good communication, don’t shorten somebody’s name if they give it to you in full length. People do this often with me. I’ll say, “Hi, I’m Michael,” and they go, “Oh, hey Mike.” Didn’t I just say Michael? I’m not sure what I missed there. I don’t mind actually, perfectly fine. But some people do. And it also demonstrates that you may, A: Be a little bit presumptuous in how you can communicate with them so early on in the relationship. And two: It may suggest that you weren’t really listening or don’t really care how they introduce themselves. And you know how important people feel their names are. It is the thing that identifies us more than almost anything else in the world. So, if her name is Stephanie, I’ll call her Stephanie. If my name is Michael, call me Michael.

01:45 Here’s today’s question. She asks, or she says first, “I feel lost on stage. Where is the best place to stand and what do I do with my hands when talking?” One of the most common questions is, “What do I do with my hands when talking?” For most speeches, if you can, try to avoid speaking from behind the podium or any other type of furniture ’cause it puts a barrier between you and the audience. Now, people will often choose to stay behind the podium as a way of hiding from the audience or simply because they need to read their speech, I get it. But, a little more rehearsal can help you move from out of that podium.

02:28 Now, instead of reading your speech, think about what it would be like to have a well-rehearsed speech and learn blocking. Blocking is the term used for how you’ll move during your performance. If a speech is not blocked or rehearsed, you can see the telltale signs. Typically, you’ll see the speaker pacing or wandering around the stage, hiding behind the podium or other props if there’s something else on stage, or continually looking down at the ground or at the computer screen that has their slides in front of them. But when you block your movement, you’re moving in a way that enhances your message and it creates dynamics through contrast. It actually also helps you remember your material because it anchors it in different parts of the stage, and then you can continue to revisit that part of the stage when unpacking that content.

03:26 Now, blocking is a term that directors used in the 19th century. When they would organize the movement of the actors on stage, they would design a small set and then they would use blocks to represent the actors. No, I won’t take that personally or be offended by the analogy but it’s a term that caught on. So, what you do when you are working on a show is block it. It’s like when dancers choreograph something. You know where you’re gonna go at any given moment and it makes performing so much easier. You can riff off it. You’re not stuck to it, it’s not a constraint that holds you back, but it is a map that drives you forward. And if you wanna go off road for a little while, you can, but then you can come right back to your plan, right back to the map and you’re on your way.

04:22 So, I love how it helps you remember your material because it anchors it in different parts of the stage. And then, as you revisit that part of the stage, you unpack it and it helps you remember what you’re supposed to unpack at that particular moment and at that particular place on the stage or in the room. When I say on the stage, it could be the front of a hotel room or small conference room it doesn’t have to be on a big stage somewhere.

04:45 Now, there are some blocking no-nos. Don’t spend too much time too close to the front row if you’re not on a stage. Even if you are on a stage, don’t spend too much time right at the edge the audience may get nervous that you’re gonna fall off. I did, in fact, fall off a stage once it was actually my greatest theatrical moment of all time. I fell off the stage into the orchestra pit, you heard a big boom and then I said, “I’m okay,” just like the kids do and I got a great big laugh and then I had to run around and get back on stage and then I carried on. But, you don’t want that to happen to you. Fortunately, I didn’t get hurt. I was young at that time but now, I’m not so sure I would land quite as sprightly.

05:28 So, don’t spend too much time too close to the front of a stage. And if you’re in a room, say a hotel room and there are maybe 50 people in chairs or at tables, don’t spend too much time, too close to the front row if you’re not on a stage because it could make the people a little bit uncomfortable because they’re so close to a certain part of your anatomy and that may just make things a little bit tense. So, move back and also give them some space.

06:00 Remember the bubble, the bubble space that your kindergarten teacher taught you about? Always honor the bubble. Now also, make sure that you don’t spend too much time in one part of the stage because then your presentation can often come off as imbalanced, not balanced, and one side of the audience or people in the room don’t get as much physical connection with you because you’re farther away from them as if you’re avoiding them for the entire time. And don’t present in the dark. Finding your light is a theater term for making sure that you’re always lit. So hotels are notoriously bad. The lighting is… Unless they have a whole AV system set up to light you specifically, you’re often gonna be in the dark. Now, not completely dark, not pitch black, but you won’t have any light specifically on your face so you won’t be hot. That’s another theater term. When you’re in your light, you’re hot. When you’re out of your light, you’re not, so you need to find your light. So make sure you’re always lit because if you’re not, people have trouble connecting with you because you just seem like a figure up there rather than seeing sparkling eyes or bright, shiny teeth.

07:16 Now, as for your hands, don’t worry about them, seriously. If you’re truly connected to your audience and you’re passionately working to deliver on the promise of your speech, you’re not gonna be thinking about your hands and they’ll actually do what they’re supposed to do just like they do in real life. Being on the stage and walking around in real life is no different. Now, if you’re on a big stage with thousands of people, you might be more animated, you might be more dynamic, but you’re in your body in both places. And if you’re in your body, then your hands will do what they naturally do if you are engaged and trying to reach the people in the room rather than obsessing on yourself and what you are or are not doing with your hands.

08:05 So if you liked what I had to say, if you like this answer, I’ve got lots more answers in “Steal the Show” for all the questions you have about performance in everyday situations because the way you perform in high-stake situations determines the quality of your life. If you can do well when the spotlight is on you, if you can shine when the spotlight is on you, well then you can steal the show, and you know what that means for all the success in your life.

08:28 So if you’ve got more questions about those everyday performance situations and public speaking, then go pick up a copy of “Steal the Show” anywhere books are sold. At, I’ve got a whole bunch of bonuses for you, and I listed them out at the beginning of this podcast so I’m not gonna do it again now, but know that they’re of great value. So And I know that many people compete for your attention and for your time and that you’ve got many demands on your time, so I feel blessed and grateful to have the opportunity to be of service to you, and I never take that for granted. Keep thinking big about who you are and what you offer the world. This is Michael Port, signing off.