Adopting a Performer’s Mindset
One of the most famous quotes from the most quoted playwrights is, “all the world is a stage, and all the men and women merely players.” For former TV and movie actor-turned-coach and keynote speaker Michael Port, the world of business especially is a stage, and stagecraft is the key to success. In his seventh book, Steal the Show, Port shares the secrets of acting and stagecraft “to guarantee,” as the subtitle declares, “a standing ovation for all the performances in your life.”
While most people would hardly think of themselves as actors, there is clearly a parallel between giving a speech, acing an interview, or making a presentation to your bosses and climbing on stage to perform Hamlet. There is some kind of a script, there is the audience and there you are, trying to make a connection with the audience.
In Steal the Show, Port does an excellent job in providing practical, real-world advice to turn any non-actor into a successful performer.
It begins with acquiring a performer’s mindset, Port writes. The first step is to find your voice. Many non-actors might believe that acting is about pretending to be what you are not. For Port, however, the best acting emerges from authenticity, not pretense. In fact, acquiring a performer’s mindset is not about “finding” your voice but more about stripping away the “false personae” that are hiding your voice. Port tells a compelling story about a speaking client, Lori, who shakily clutched her note cards and could barely speak. Port snuck up on her and took the cards away; with no cards to lean on, Lori began speaking from her heart, unveiling a story of being slapped as a child and being told that no one wanted to hear her speak.
A performer’s mindset, writes Port, is also about understanding the “roles” that you want to play — whether it’s the hope someday of being CEO or the more short-term goal of being the best sales closer in the company. Succeeding in your ideal role requires clearly identifying why you want the role and what you hope to achieve.
Port then introduces the performer’s paradox, which is also part of the performer’s mindset. The paradox is that performers want to perform but at the same time want to avoid the risks of disapproval and rejection that come with performances. To be successful, performers need to make a choice: Do they want results that can only come from taking performance risks, or do they want to ensure approval?
What’s My Motivation?
It’s a comic cliché for a self-important actor to declare, “What my motivation?” In truth, it’s impossible to perform without clearly understanding your objectives. Having a clear objective is the first of six principles of performance that Port covers in the second section of his book. Another of Port’s performance principles is the “as if” principal — that is, acting “as if” you are the person or in the situation that you want to be in. The willingness to take risks is another important principle. If it’s time for your annual report to the board, why bore them with another PowerPoint presentation? How about developing a short, creative video instead?
In the final section of his book, Port gives a “master class” in public speaking, covering topics ranging from crafting stories and rehearsing to producing powerful openings and closings and improvising.
Steal the Show is well-written, well-organized and filled with compelling stories: As an author, Port matches any performance he might have given in Sex and the City.
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