Building Authority Through Public Speaking, with Michael Port

October 12, 2022
PRODUCED BY JOSH DOUGHERTY

Michael Port is the author of nine books, which have been translated into twenty-nine languages. A few of them have become perennial bestsellers and made it onto such lists as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today. Some have won awards from 800-ceo-read and Amazon. After delivering thousands of paid speeches on the world’s biggest stages, Michael and his wife, Amy, built Heroic Public Speaking HQ , a performance training center, to develop and nurture the next generation of professional speakers along with CEOs and founders, bestselling authors, business owners, and people leading movements and advancing important causes. More at www.HeroicPublicSpeaking.com.

What you’ll learn about in this episode:

  • Tips for staying focused and energized while working at a high level across many things at a time 
  • The difference between a thought leader and and influencer
  • The formula for creating a sustainable speaking career
  • The importance of intentionality behind the speaking process
  • The two things that reduce nerves when you're going to give a speech
  • How you develop fractals for speaking so you can effectively spread your ideas and help your overall efforts at building influence as a leader

Additional resources: 

Transcription:

Intro:

Welcome to A Brave New Podcast, the podcast all about how big ideas, brave thinking, and marketing smarts help businesses grow. Here is your host, Josh Dougherty.

Josh:

Hello and welcome to another episode of A Brave New Podcast. My name is Josh Dougherty, your host, and today I have a real treat for you. I'm joined today by Michael Port, who is someone that I've gotten to know over the last two years through a program called Heroic Public Speaking. He leads this organization and performance training center, along with his wife, Amy, and they have really invested in creating what I believe is one of the best training programs for public speakers around the world. He is also the author of nine books. They've been translated into 29 languages.

He's been on bestseller lists for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and USA Today, and has done a ton of other stuff throughout his career. But he just brings a ton of wisdom, knowledge, and depth to the subject of how do you deliver a transformative experience through a speech, through a presentation, through all those things. So, today we're going to dive into a bunch of that together, and I'm so excited to have him here with me and to give him a chance to share some of the wisdom that he has in spades during the conversation. So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce you. Hey, Michael, great to have you on the show today.

Michael:

Thank you so much.

Josh:

Cool. Well, I'd love to dive into the conversation and talk a little bit about how you stay focused and energized at things. You've spent a lot of time on the keynote circuit, writing books. You now run a really highly regarded public speaking program, and I think one of the things that I'm always curious about is how you stay focused and energized to work at such a high level across all those things over time.

Michael:

Well, Josh, you assume that I do. That's your first mistake. No, look, I've always had a drive. I've always been really turned on by new ideas and the pursuit of those ideas and the creation of products and experiences for the people I serve. I love all that stuff, that just turns me on. So, I think I'm curious and that drives me.

And at the same time, I've had lots of burnout over my career. I've been an entrepreneur for almost 20 years, and before that I worked in the corporate world, and before that I was a professional actor. And so, I've gone through lots of different chapters in my life like most of us have when you get into your middle ages. But the mistakes that I made were generally driven by doing too much, and that's what created the burnout.

So, what I have learned over time is to do fewer things, better. To make bigger and longer commitments to the most meaningful initiatives, both personally and professionally. And as a result, that's helped me continue to stay curious and want to explore new solutions for the problems that the people I serve have. And that's exciting, to solve problems. I just love that. That's really fun.

Josh:

I think that focus or that creating space by reducing the commitments, allows you to really pursue that curiosity. For me, as a creative person, it's the same thing. You get overloaded and you lose your ability to generate new ideas and to really push things, right?

Michael:

Yeah, that's right.

Josh:

Cool. Well, so you think about someone who might be ...they look at your experience and want to have a similar type of impact. I'm obviously biased having been through HPS and having been impacted by the work that you and Amy do on a day-to-day basis. But if you look at someone who's maybe wanting to say, "Okay, yeah, I want to accomplish that, but I don't know how to start climbing that hill. I don't know how to get going." Maybe they've thought about that book for a long time, but they haven't been able to start writing or they've thought about getting into speaking. What's your advice then about how to get started or to take those first steps?

Michael:

Sure. Two things come to mind quickly. Number one, apprentice, no matter what kind of experience you've had, no matter how old you are, apprentice under somebody who has done or is doing the thing you want to do. I find that generally the fastest path towards a real deep, true understanding of what it takes to succeed in that particular field or in that craft. And you might say, "Well, I'm 40 years old, I'm 45. What do you mean apprentice? I'm not a child." Well, no, of course not. But if you can be by the side of somebody who has experience in an area that you'd like to be experienced in, you're just going to pick it up much more quickly.

And so, if there's an opportunity to say to somebody, "Hey, listen, I want to go into this field or this particular space, I would love to hold your coffee cup, which means if there's stuff that you need doing or you need somebody on a project in these particular areas, I'm in. You don't have to pay me anything, I just want to learn. I just want to absorb." And not everybody's going to say yes, but if you find the right person, you might develop a really strong relationship that actually helps accelerate your progress in that particular space. And in fact, if that person becomes your champion, they can usually put you on a platform that launches you really quite quickly.

And so yeah, you got to do a little bit of legwork, develop some relationships, ask some questions, and demonstrate your competency. But I do think that is very effective. It's what I did when I started, it helped me a lot. I wish more people did it. I think it's such an effective way of developing skill and also wisdom because you're by the side of somebody who's made a lot of the mistakes that you would make. And it's generally better to learn from somebody else's mistakes than make them yourself.

Josh:

Totally.

Michael:

Unless you're very, very stubborn, and you just want to make them yourself, that's totally fine. I've got a son like that. He's like, "Nope, I'll do it myself. Thank you very much."

Josh:

I feel like most of us start out that way, right?

Michael:

Yes, we often do. And what happens as I think you mature is you realize, "Oh, I'd really love to avoid all that pain and that time wasted." So maybe actually, as you get older, you might recognize, "Oh, actually yeah, I would definitely hold somebody's coffee cup. I don't care how old or experienced I am. I may be the CEO of a mid-sized company, but I want to learn how to do this, so I'm going to go hang out with that person for a while," and spend a half day a week or something, or one day every two weeks.

The second thing is to think and act like a thought leader versus an influencer. So, a lot of times when people want to come into the space of authorship or speakership, they make this assumption that they need to build a platform first. And that's often what they're told. "Oh, you want to go into speaking? You need a platform. Oh, you want to write a book? Well, you need a platform." And what does that mean exactly? That you have lots of people following you on TikTok, or Facebook, or Twitter? Maybe but there's a big difference between a thought leader and an influencer.

So, the way that I see influencer culture is as a very self-directed space. An influencer generally is trying to get people to pay attention to them. "Look, follow me, watch me. Look at me do this thing that's going to get your attention." And you can be very successful at that. You can become very well known. You can make a lot of money doing that.

It's very different than thought leadership because a thought leader focuses on ideas and solutions to often very intractable problems that exist in a particular space. So, what a thought leader does generally, is challenge the status quo and offer alternative or new solutions. And so, what that person does is they focus on the work. They focus on creating products that cannot be denied. They focus on creating products that people want and then share. I mean, look, you're a brilliant marketer, so you know better than anybody, best marketing in the world is when somebody else tells you, "You've got to check out this thing."

Josh:

Totally.

Michael:

"This thing changed my life." That's much more effective than any other kind of marketing one could possibly do. You cannot buy that kind of support from an audience. And so, one of the things that Andrew Davis, who is my co-author on my most recent book called The Referable Speaker, he's a genius, visionary thought leader. And we decided to write this book together called The Referable Speaker. And it was really written for the professional speaker, but for those who are entrepreneurs and who use speaking a lot to advance their brand or book more business, all of the same principles still apply in the book because you've got to get people to say yes to you.

And the question we wanted to answer with this book was, well, what's the formula for creating a sustainable speaking career? That's what we wanted to know. And so we went about researching that, and we discovered that it's a really very, very simple proposition. You need to be able to deliver what we call a referable speech. A speech that, every time you deliver it, generates new inquiries to give that speech, so that the speech does the marketing for you. Because when you look at the data, the top ways that meeting planners select their speakers is through referral.

One of our colleagues, Jay Baer and BigSpeak, did a study, BigSpeak's a speakers' bureau. They did a study, and they asked meeting planners where they find their speakers. And their top three reasons were different types of referrals. So, it was either someone in the organization that they were working for saw that speaker and said, "You got to hire Josh Dougherty. He's amazing. He was the best, you got to hire Josh." Or another meeting planner or colleague in the industry said, "Oh my God, you got to hire Josh. I saw him, he's incredible." Or they saw you themselves.

Nowhere was it through paid ads or even blog posts. It was all through referrals from people who had witnessed the work. And so, it's a trade-off and this trade-off exists in many different industries. I'm sure you've experienced this with the people that you work with. You've got this trade-off between spending your time marketing and spending your time in this case, working on the speech or just working on the product. And you've got to find an appropriate balance.

Because what I find is that most people spend all their time working on the marketing in this particular space and very little time working on the speech. And as a result, they might get a lot of first gigs. People will hire them because they got their name out there, but then they can't get second, third, fourth, fifth gigs because the speech doesn't generate new inquiries, stage side leads, new inquiries to speak at other events. And as a result, they might get a bunch of first gigs for about a year or so, but then they peter off and they have trouble maintaining any kind of gig flow.

And so, our suggestion is work first and foremost on the speech itself, because if you can get enough opportunities to deliver that speech and the speech is a referable speech, you'll produce enough momentum to leverage the power of compounding gigs, which looks like this. You do the speech once, and because it's such a referable speech, you get four new inquiries to speak. So, let's say you book two of those. Okay, now you just do two more speeches. Maybe you get four leads each time you do those two, that's eight leads. Now you book four of those. Now you do those four, now you got 16 leads. And of course, you may book eight of those. And the self-sustaining repeating pattern of this compounding gig flow is what supports a sustainable speaking career for those who want to do it on the regular.

But even if you don't care about getting paid to speak, but you want to use the speaking to advance the business that you are either a part of or you run, you got to get on stages, you got to get on big stages. You got to get on stages where there are people in the audience who are the people you're trying to reach. And so, the product you're putting on that stage has got to be as good as the work you do when they hire you. So, just the work you do is remarkable, and the speech you deliver needs to be as good as that work.

So, a lot of times I think what happens is people who are not professional speakers but have a senior role at an organization, or they own an organization, or run the organization and they want to be out there in the speaking circuit. Hey, because it's good for their personal brand. I mean, it's great if you can build a big brand as a thought leader. If you're a CMO somewhere, you can go anywhere, any company will hire you. Or you're trying to advance the brand of the business or both.

What we often see is the speaker who's in that situation thinks that they're being hired because of their title and that their title is enough. And so, one of the things we see at Heroic Public Speaking regularly, is folks come to us who've had success in their particular field, maybe they were a director, or an executive, or maybe in the C-suite, and they've been getting asked to do gigs regularly for a long time. But then they decide, "You know what? I'm going to do more of this and I'm going to move into thought leadership." So, they leave their company and within a few months, those inquiries dry up and they're confused. They don't understand why. And they say, "But Michael, I was the director of everything important at the coolest tech company." And I-

Josh:

And you say, "Exactly."

Michael:

... "You're not anymore." Because look, if you can hire last year's chief technical officer from the coolest company of all time or the current chief technical officer of the coolest company of all time, you're going to hire the current chief technical officer. So that brand, when you're no longer associated with it, will not help you get as many gigs as you would like. And so, that's when the quality of the product matters even more.

So, you can get away with delivering something mediocre if they're just hiring you because of your title and they just want that title on their roster. But you don't want to deliver work like that because work that looks like this. It looks like, "Oh okay, whoa. I said yes to this gig. Geez, I didn't realize it's coming up in two weeks. I better put something together for this. So, let me open up Keynote if you're a Mac person, or PowerPoint if you're not. And let me get some images, make some slides, okay and I can put my key points on those. Maybe I'll put a bunch of bullet points because that'll help me remember what's on the slides. And then I'll use those slides as my notes when I'm speaking. And then I'll just wing it inside because I'm a subject matter expert, so I can speak to this, no problem."

And that can work sometimes. Some parts of it may work better than other parts, but generally, what happens is you leave the stage and you say, "I know I could have done better. I mean, that was fine, but I probably could have done better." Now, people may still come up to you and say, "Oh, I love that story about Coca-Cola," or, "I love that thing you told about ... that anecdote you told about your sister." And you think, "Oh, I must be pretty good. They told me I really liked it." They didn't say, "This speech changed the way I see the world." They say, "I like the story you told about your sister. Oh, I like that case study." If you're not hearing, "This speech changed the way I see the world," then it's probably mediocre, and/or it sits squarely in what we would call Expertville.

Now, here's the thing. When you think about conferences, conferences have a number of different speaking slots. You have the keynote spots and if it's a two-day conference, you have a morning keynote or an afternoon keynote on each day of the conference. And then, generally, there are breakout sessions throughout the day. Many, many breakout sessions. You may have 30 breakout sessions or 60 breakout sessions depending on the size of the conference. And there might be some panels, interviews, things like that.

And when a meeting planner is booking these spots, they're pulling from a few different buckets. And it's important to understand the point of each of the different types of sessions and the kind of speeches they put in those sessions and the kind of speakers they put in those sessions.

So, for example, a breakout session is generally a how-to type session. It's generally an expert-driven session. It's generally a session where the expert shares current best practices, like seven tips to getting more followers on LinkedIn, or seven ways to get more YouTube subscribers. Very expert based and it's very helpful for people who are not exposed to that particular discipline. It can get them up to speed on best practices and they will say, "Thank you. That was helpful. I got a lot of tips. That was great. Excellent."

When the meeting planner, however, was booking a keynote spot, they're generally looking for a visionary. Someone who lives in what we call Visionary Town. And the visionary, as I mentioned before, they generally challenge the status quo, whereas the expert in the breakout room says, "Look, here's Expertville, here's what's going on. Here's the best practices."

The visionary comes along and says, "All that can work, but I'm going to challenge something really big that might even seem intractable inside our industry. And then I'm going to offer you an alternative approach, or a new solution, a new approach, that changes the way you see the world and as a result changes what you do." And that visionary will come and paint a picture of what the world can look like.

The expert in the breakout room says, "Here's what the world looks like right now." The visionary comes along and says, "Here's what the world can look like." And it is rare that someone can give a 60-minute visionary keynote that they're winging, after putting together a slide deck a week or two before the conference. That just generally doesn't happen.

So, for those people who want to do visionary work and want to be seen as a thought leader, not just an expert ... Because here's the thing, Josh, I would say even 10 years ago, being an expert was a big deal. Certainly 20 years ago, it was huge. 60 years ago it was massive. Now, not that big a deal.

Josh:

Totally.

Michael:

You can go on YouTube and you can learn almost anything about anything. One of my other sons has been teaching himself how to play guitar for a year. He's never had a teacher. He just does it online. And I say, "Who do you listen to? Well, who are the different teachers you learn from?" He's like, "Oh, there's a whole bunch of them. There's one who's called this name and I don't know, there's like five others. I don't really remember their names." He doesn't remember who they are because they're just doing expert type stuff. "Look, here's how you tune the guitar and here's how you ... " It's not bad, it's perfectly fine. You can build a business around being an expert. It's absolutely fine. I just make that distinction because it's important to understand how meeting planners are thinking about these different spots. So when you're thinking about the kind of sessions you're designing and the kind of work you put into that session, having context around it is very helpful.

Josh:

Yeah, super helpful. I think that breakthrough idea is the most important part. I talk about this with my clients all the time too. You can't do great marketing without a brand that has a meaningful idea behind it, right?

Michael:

Yes.

Josh:

That people really believe in and it's going to change how they perceive themselves even, not even just how they perceive the world.

Michael:

That's why you're a great marketer. That's the difference it seems to me, between a great marketer and someone who is not a great marketer. Because the great marketer really understands that the way you see the world as an organization is what influences the choices you make and the way people respond to you, not how clever your headlines are on your Google Ads. I mean-

Josh:

Totally.

Michael:

... for some types of businesses, yes, but for businesses that are driven by big ideas, it's a little different.

Josh:

Totally. If you want to get out of commodity land, you've got to come up with a bigger idea. So, a lot of people in my audience will ... are digital marketers who are spending a lot of time online. I think it's fairly apparent that getting on stages and doing speaking is a very powerful way to share ideas. But can you talk a little bit about why, when someone says, "I can do a bunch of stuff digitally, I can produce some digital content, I can spread my idea that way. Why would I want to get up and pursue more speaking gigs as a way to build the brand and share that idea?"

Michael:

Sure. Well, I'll give you a real-world example from our business that might help demonstrate the difference. So, we run events and we have a headquarters with a theater and rehearsal rooms. And we run these two-day events that someone can come to if they're referred to by somebody who has been an alumni. So, for example, you have the ability to refer people to Hero Public Speaking.

Josh:

Totally.

Michael:

There are no commissions. We don't pay for it. But this way, people coming in are the kind of people with whom we would do our best work because the people we've already worked with know what that work is all about. And so, when people come, we'll do say, 50 people at a time in these two-day events. And then about 60%, 65% of those people on average will then come and do more work with us.

So, sometimes it's 55%, it's been up to as high as 82%. But we really are very metric oriented, so we track this. Now, when COVID hit, we needed to change to a more virtual model for that introduction to our services. We do a lot of virtual work with our clients, but only after they first come to us. It's just part of the work that can be done online because some of it you don't need to be in-person.

But when we switched to the video stream of the same event, when COVID hit, we had to put many, many more people into that live stream in order to produce the same amount of opportunities for the business. So, instead of 50 people in that room, where then 65% of those people would come work with us, we would have to put a thousand people on the virtual to have the same number come and work with us. So, it's just a much bigger audience and much ... there's a lot of people there who either couldn't work with us in another way or didn't really get it because they weren't in-person with us. It could be a whole bunch of different reasons. But I just mention this because as good as that live stream was, or those live streams were, I mean, we did super high production, high-quality live streams, being in the room is such a different experience because it's rare that you transform by watching a video, or a live stream, or a webinar. The transformation usually happens when you're in the room. And the best thought leaders, the people who are having the biggest impact, whose companies get the most value out of them being out on the road speaking, are the people who can create transformational experiences for their audiences.

Josh:

Yeah, I mean, I think there's a thing about sitting in an audience when you're listening to someone speak and you do active processing in a way that you don't ever do on a video. It's the same for me. I'm a little bit old school, but I'll advocate for reading a paper book forever rather than listening to an audio book because there's an active process when you have to have your attention fully focused somewhere.

Now, it's incumbent on us as speakers to keep that attention and to honor that attention that people are giving us but it's a really valuable thing. I would echo, when I first came to HPS for that initial intro, I was blown away by the intentionality behind the process, which I don't know if I would've gotten on a live stream. Maybe I would've gotten a taste of it. But I had always assumed, having been around tons of conferences, doing some speaking myself, that some people are just innately good at this thing. And that's true, there are people who are innately good. But I was blown away by your ... the similar approach that both ... that you and Amy and the rest of the team take to fusing in the discipline that comes from acting into this public speaking approach. I'd love it if you could share a little bit about what's behind that intentionality and why it's so important for crafting that speech that's going to transform how people look at things.

Michael:

Sure, yes. So, I do agree with you that there may be some people who are more inclined to be fully self-expressed on a stage in front of people. So, there may be some people who are excited by that idea and other people less so. But what I don't believe, is I don't believe some people are just innately good at it, and others are innately bad at it. I think that many of us have been influenced over the years in such a way that it's created a particular relationship with public speaking and performance that can change.

So yeah, if somebody has a lot of natural talent, they may be able to create transformational experiences a little bit more quickly. But at the end of the day, this is a craft just like any other craft. And certainly, having talent helps you get better at that craft. But after 20 years of doing this, what I've seen, because I've seen the trajectory of many people over long periods in their career, is that the people who put the most work into the development of the craft create much more transformational experiences for their audiences, than people who have natural talent and rely on it and wing their speeches.

So, I could take somebody who you would initially look at and say, "That person has no talent. That person should not be on a stage." And if you give me a little time with them, I can help them develop a speech and be able to deliver that speech, that would make them look like they were the ones with the natural talent compared to somebody who does have natural talent but hasn't actually prepared well, doesn't have craft. So as a result, yeah, they may be charming, they've got natural presence, but they're pacing back and forth on the stage. They don't unpack all of their ideas completely. Their speech isn't organized, they're not getting to their punchlines well, their stories are a little bit rambling. Just the natural things that occur when you do something extemporaneously.

And that's fine in certain circumstances, but not on a keynote stage. You can't hide on a keynote stage. And sometimes, an inexperienced speaker will come off the stage and feel like they nailed it because their adrenaline is pumping. They're like, "Oh man, I nailed it. I was amazing. I don't remember any of it, but man, wow, boom, I'm pumped up." It's just adrenaline. And if you don't remember what you did and you watch it back, you might be surprised how it was not nearly as effective as you might have thought.

Or, for example, if you ever say, "Well, it wasn't a great speech because the audience wasn't great today, I didn't get enough energy from them." It's another demonstration of somebody who doesn't have craft. Because what you're doing is you're expecting the audience to do the work for you. That's not their job. You need to be able to deliver the exact same level of performance, whether there's one person in the audience or 1,000 people, no matter what they're doing. If they're looking at their phones the whole time or they're sitting on the edge of their seat, you've got to be able to deliver the exact same level of performance and that requires that you know what you're going to do before you do it.

And so, often people ask me, "I get really nervous before I have to speak and so I want to know how to reduce stage fright." Let me tell you something, I get nervous before I speak. I was nervous before this interview, Josh, and I know you. You were one of my students, and I've done probably a thousand of these, and I have my own podcast, but I was still nervous.

Josh:

Absolutely.

Michael:

Okay, I don't want to screw it up. I want to make sure I do a good job for Josh. Why? Why? Because I care. Hey, I don't want people to be like, "That Michael Port, he's an idiot. I heard he was really clever. I don't understand." I don't want that. Of course, I want people like, "Oh, that was great." So, I want a little approval myself, I've got to admit it. I try not to work for the approval because this is the worst thing you could possibly ever work for. Got to work for their results, not your approval, but it's in there somewhere. And then also, I'm excited to be able to get to new people and introduce them to some of these concepts that may be provocative, but could be tremendously helpful. So, I'm a little bit nervous.

But the two things that reduce nerves more than anything else, when you're going to give a speech, number one, is knowing what you are going to do before you do it. If you know what you're going to do before you do it, you tend to feel relaxed because you know what you're going to do. It is such a simple concept. Any grown adult would say, "Of course, that makes perfect sense." But then when they develop their speech, they actually haven't done that. So, that's why they're so nervous.

And then the second reason is because the focus is on yourself rather than the audience. It's, "I want them to like me. I hope they don't think I wore the wrong clothes. Wait, I don't want them to see my sweat stains under my armpits. I want to make sure everybody laughs." You're worried about things that are about you and you're doing the laughter because you want them to think you are funny. That generally creates more anxiety because now you're getting self absorbed. And if you can, instead, put your focus on the audience, not on yourself, so you become just a vessel for the audience's experience because your job is to change how they feel, so you can change how they think, so you change what they do.

A lot of folks focus on the thinking part. They think, "Well, I'm going to give them ideas to think about, and I'm going to give them some really great tools and some resources and that should probably do it. That's good." The thing is though, is that you know many people do not think differently until they feel differently about the thing you're asking them to think about.

So, our job, first and foremost, is to influence how they feel so we can influence how they think, so we can influence what they do. And it's in your preparation. A really good idea is to focus on how do you want them to feel at any given moment throughout the speech? And then what do I want them to think at any given moment throughout the speech, and what do I want them to do at any given moment throughout the speech? If you know those three things, even if you didn't rehearse and spend a lot of time preparing, but you put together an outline and you still knew what those three things were at the really key critical moments, you'd give a much better speech.

Josh:

Yep, I think the other really interesting thing beyond that is it's all in service of an idea too. So, when you're out serving and sharing an idea, you're freed from that self-absorption a little bit too, because it's like, "I want to build this connection with my audience, and did I do a good job of sharing the power of the idea that I am committed to as a speaker?"

Michael:

Yes. Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. Connection is made when the audience believes that you understand the way the world looks to them and that you can help solve their problems. An audience doesn't care about you until they know you care about them. So sometimes, speakers will open with an origin story of some kind. Some story about themselves. And it's not that it's wrong, and it's certainly not that it's bad, it's not like there are bad things to do and good things to do. We look at it the same way that any professional performer looks at their work or a creative artist looks at their work, which is our job is to make a series of choices. Those choices inform the experience the audience is having. If the choice works well, we keep it. If the choice doesn't work well, we make another choice, and each choice leads us to the next choice.

So, we don't think in terms of good or bad, we just think about choices. The sum of the experience that the audience has is the sum of the choices we make. And if you can make really clear choices about how you want them to feel, and then make really clear choices about what you want them to think, and make really clear choices about what you want them to do, you can focus on those things rather than yourself.

Josh:

Yep. Yeah, I love that. So, I'd love to zoom in as we move on into a couple of concepts out of the book that you just finished and released last year with Andrew. I know in The Referable Speaker you talk about this fame factor as one of the things that you need to be able to be successful as a referable speaker. Now, I think a lot of my audience, I love CMOs, they bring a lot of ideas, but I think sometimes people are like, "Oh, you're a dime a dozen CMO." And so, they get stuck thinking, "I've got to have this huge amount of fame to be able to speak if I have this big idea."

And one of the concepts I think that's so valuable from the book is this ... You talk about fractals, and how do you develop fractals for speaking so you can effectively spread your ideas without maybe having Jay Baer fame. Because all of us would love Jay Baer fame, or Andrew Davis fame, but we don't all have it. So, can you unpack the concept behind fractals and how someone can work on building those out for their speaking and their overall efforts at building influence as a leader?

Michael:

Yes. So, there's two really important concepts I want to address. So, let's unpack this. Number one, when a meeting planner is picking their keynote speakers, they are pulling from four different baskets because they refer to these keynote speakers as anchor speakers. They're going to anchor the conference. The first basket is the A list ... Excuse me, is the actor, athlete, and astronaut basket. So, if you're a famous actor, famous athlete, or a famous astronaut, you're in that basket. You get paid a lot of money because you put butts and seats. You're there because of your celebrity and the speech is secondary, but the meeting planner needs you to help put butts in seats and create some buzz and excitement.

The second basket from which the meeting planners pull is the A-list alternate. Now, the A-list alternate is somebody whose name you might not immediately recognize, but when you hear the next four to six words after their name, you go, "Oh yeah, yeah, I know exactly who that is." So, for example, Yancey Strickler is a name that I would use as an example here, because I've never heard anybody tell me they know who Yancey Strickler is. Now, maybe if I'm deep in Silicon Valley, people will know who Yancey Strickler is, but he's one of the founders of Kickstarter, kind of a big deal. But if you don't hear the next four to six words after his name, you would have no idea. So the A-list alternate is that someone, when you hear their name, you say, "Oh, yep, I don't know who that is." And then you hear the next four to six words go, "Oh, right, I do know who ... " So, that's the next basket from which they pull.

And then the third basket is the industry icon. The industry icon. Now, the industry icon is a big deal in their industry but may not be relevant for another industry. So, a CEO of Domino's Pizza is a really big deal in the fast food industry and is definitely going to get hired to keynote a fast food industry conference. But a wellness conference, a yoga conference, maybe not so much. So, the industry domain is usually specific to that particular industry. And that person gets hired because they can put butts in seats and people are excited to hear from this industry domain expert.

The fourth category of speaker is the one that every single, non-famous professional can be in, but they've got to do some work because this is the surprise-and-delight speaker. This is the speaker that when they come out, you might not know who they are. If you heard the next four to six words after their name, you still might not know who they are. But when they speak, they delight you. They create the transformational experience because they do two things really, really well.

Number one, they are insightful, meaning you continue to have insightful moments throughout the whole speech. You go, "Oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, oh, aha." That's what the audience is doing throughout. And they're entertaining as well. So, what happens is you take a picture with the astronaut and go, "Hey, look, mom, it's me and an astronaut." And then you go back to the office and you talk about that surprise-and-delight speaker.

If it's Andrew Davis, you're like, "Oh my God. So, Andrew Davis just talked about something called the curiosity factor or the curiosity gap. And he had this contextual model, let me draw it for you, and let's talk about it. We’ve got to implement this into the business." Because that speaker carries the ideas for the meeting planner because they need the other folks to put butts in seats. And so, the meeting planners love those types of speakers, those surprise-and-delight speakers, because they're a lot cheaper than the A-listers or A-list alternates and industry icons. And they're more reliable because they deliver the same quality of speech every single time. So, when a meeting planner meets an industry icon, I mean, excuse me, meets a surprise-and-delight speaker, they want to hire them regularly. They'll say, "Listen, I got 10 gigs this year. Can you do them?" And so our job is to be surprise-and-delight speakers.

So, I think it's important to understand that first, that it's not a good idea to try to compete with a celebrity for a spot because they're picking that person for a different reason. And if you know what spot you should be going for, then you can build a speech that works in that spot. And if you want that surprise-and-delight spot, then you need to build a surprise-and-delight speech and a surprise-and-delight speech is also a referable speech. And there are certain components in a referable speech that makes it a surprise-and-delight speech. So, that's number one.

Number two, fame is a continuum. There are different types of fame. So, we have worldly fame. And if you're wondering if you're worldly famous, if you're not sure whether or not you're worldly famous, if you're listening right now and you're like, "I don't know, I might be worldly famous, but how do I really know?" Well, go to the mall. And if you can walk around the mall without being mobbed and needing security to protect you from all of the people that want to be near you, you're not worldly famous. If you can just walk through that mall, you are not worldly famous.

So, most of us are not worldly famous. Andrew Davis and Jay Baer are not worldly famous. Nobody knows who they are when they go to the mall. I mean, once in a while, somebody ... "Hey, wait, are you Jay?" "Yeah." "Oh, right. Oh yeah, right. The suit. I recognize the suit." But that's about it.

The second type of fame is domain fame. Now, domain fame is really interesting because some people have more domain fame than other people. So, I would say Seth Godin has way more domain fame than Andrew Davis. So, Seth Godin is going to make a lot more money for his speeches and get offered even more speeches. He's just more domain famous, but he's still not worldly famous. He just looks like another skinny bald guy, but he's domain famous.

And then the third type of fame is what we call fractal fame. Now, why do we use this word fractal? Do we have to use this special word? Yes, we do, because a fractal in mathematics is a self-sustaining repeating pattern. And the reason we chose this term is because when you speak to or serve a particular fractal, a segment of a domain, a small segment of a domain, you can build up a lot of fractal fame really quickly. It's much easier to build fractal fame than domain fame. You need to be fractally famous in a whole bunch of fractals to get domain fame.

So, if you build in a number of different fractals, eventually the whole domain will know who you are and then you're a big deal. And then maybe you write a book that becomes a number one The New York Times best seller for 17 years, and you become a little more worldly famous. That would be cool. But in the meantime, what is your fractal and how do you get fractally famous?

And the folks who are listening to this, if they're in marketing, they understand this concept, they know this. The thing that's different about speaking is that, let's say, you are focusing on a multifamily housing as fractal. Well, you go in and give speeches in the multifamily housing unit, you get lots of stateside leads for other events in that same fractal. So, you become better known in that fractal.

But what also happens is if you have a referable speech, somebody will come up to you and say, "Hey, listen, Josh, I'm not in multifamily housing. We are in larger developments, but this speech totally changed the way I see marketing and you've got to come and speak at our big annual event. Are you available, and what's your fee? Blah, blah, blah." So, now all of a sudden, they want you and you're in this other fractal. Well, you go to that fractal, you start speaking there, somebody comes up to you and says, "This was amazing. We've also got a big developer conference. Are you available on January 22nd? It's in Provo, Utah. What's your fee?"

And next thing you know, you're doing more speeches in that fractal and you build fractal fame there. So, eventually you'll start to build up domain fame, and maybe you'll become the next Seth Godin. But I think it's a mistake to try to go after the domain first.

So, we introduce a concept in The Referablel Speaker that's called the referral tree. And the idea is that all of the branches of the tree are different fractals, and the trunk of the tree is the domain. So, if the domain was finance, well then there might be hundreds of branches that are different fractals inside of finance. Mortgages, investments, FinTech. I mean, there's so many different fractals in there. And so, you can focus on one, two of those fractals to start and then keep building more and more fractals, and you work your way down to the bigger branches from out, the external, small branches, until you then eventually become the one in the domain that everybody's coming after.

Josh:

Yeah, awesome. Well, we're almost out of time here. I want to finish up with maybe that you've shared a bunch of nuggets of wisdom throughout the whole conversation, but if you have someone who is maybe in that CMO spot and they're thinking, "I may actually want to pursue this speaking thing as more than just a ... I'm going to conferences to talk about my expertise that I have, I'm interested in it." What piece of advice would you give them as they're contemplating that change in getting ready to start out on that journey?

Michael:

Sure. I would say if you're contemplating starting out on this journey into thought leadership, I would strongly suggest that you do not think it is about you. Instead, focus on the products you create. And those products might include speeches, books, or other types of media that help you share and spread your messages, so that you really do look at it like somebody who is creating products that solve problems for the people you serve. And then you get out of the space of trying ... even if it's not intentional, inadvertently making it about you and your story and building yourself up and putting yourself out as the big superstar.

Put the work first, it's something that I learned over time. It's the opposite of what I did when I started, because I saw everybody has their face on their books and they build a big name and they're famous. And that's so cool. I don't know, I thought that's what you were supposed to do. But then over time I realized, oh, nobody really cares. They don't really care. It's all about the work at the end of the day.

And for people who are intellectuals, that's actually a lot more fun. You get to do deep work. If you're a CMO and you're thinking about leaving that role, and you want to go out and start a career in speaking, you're not going to have to do a lot of paperwork anymore. Now, it's deep work around big ideas and getting those to spread. So, I think it's a pretty cool opportunity.

Josh:

I mean, I think that's the best work for anyone who has a craft. They want to be able to dive into it as deep as possible and continue to do it.

Michael:

This is a craft like anything else. And it might take you some time to master the craft, but if you're serious about it, you'll say, "I'm willing to take a good year studying to really become at least proficient in this craft and not just wing it as I go along."

Josh:

Totally.

Michael:

Because that becomes pretty unsatisfying after a while.

Josh:

Yeah, yeah. So, final question I have, and I ask this to everyone, it's a corny question, but I love to hear the answers people come up with. I'd love to hear what you think your superpower is.

Michael:

I think I can see things in people what they don't see themselves. I feel like I'm really, really good at that. And I love that because, generally, the things that you see in people that are exciting are often things that they discount, they don't recognize about themselves that are so unique. I love individuals and I love quirky individuals. I love when people are fully self-expressed and getting to help somebody be more fully self-expressed is incredibly exciting. I just absolutely love that, so it's I think probably that, I think that's probably my superpowers.

Josh:

Amazing. Yeah, I would say that, having spent months with you working on stuff, you see that again and again, pulling that nugget out from someone where they're like, "Oh, that's interesting? I can certainly do that." So, as we close out, how can people connect with you or what's the best way for them to learn more about Heroic Public Speaking if they're interested?

Michael:

Sure, heroicpublicspeaking.com is a great place to go. You can start there. If you do want to come to Heroic Public Speaking headquarters for an event, just contact Josh, and if he thinks that it's the right environment for you, he'll make an introduction to us. If you want to start with some reading, you could start with The Referable Speaker. You can also read Steal The Show. That book came out in 2015. It was on The Wall Street Journal bestselling list, bestsellers list. It's really a tour of force about public speaking techniques for the non-professional.

And then The Referable Speaker really does focus on the professional. But if you're an entrepreneur or you are an executive who's speaking a lot and want to use it to advance your brand or to build your business, then that book could serve you very well also.

Josh:

Awesome. Well, Michael, I appreciate so much you giving up some of your time for this conversation. It's been an absolute pleasure to have you.

Michael:

No, it was my pleasure. I'll always jump at the chance to talk to you, Josh.

Josh:

All right, Well, thanks so much.

Michael:

You're welcome.

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