26 Public Speaking Tips from an Actor & Professional Speaker

I may need to add a rider to my liability insurance policy for Carpel Tunnel Syndrome because people at the Think Big Speak Easy take so many notes.

Here is just one page of notes from one participant from the first two hours of day one:

  1. The speech starts with your bio before you walk on stage. Bio should be over the top powerful and impressive. Then open with something sincere and self-effacing to disarm the audience.
  2. You DON’T have to tell them what you’re going to tell them. Open with a surprise, a shock…an interaction, something that makes connection, entertains, exposes, etc.
  3. You need to cut lots of info OUT of your stories and better detail with specifics critical parts of your stories. How much do they need to know to get to the a-ha moment; less than you think.
  4. An entire story is designed to serve the end.
  5. Establish right away that you know what the world looks like for them—and what it could look like. Vividly paint the picture.
  6. You must reward them for doing something or contributing in some way.
  7. Use palm up instead of finger for pointing. Sometimes the finger looks like a gun and is rude in some cultures. Palm up serves up the floor to them in a more gracious way.
  8. People say “Yes” when we’ve affected them intellectually, emotionally or physically.
  9. If you’re teaching content (which has some differences from a “message” speech) outline first then go back and unpack it.  Outline and then make the case.
  10. Use props. What can you show, demo, depict with things rather than words.
  11. Use contrast/extremes to create excitement and keep attention. Contrast can be emotional, physically, structural. This is basic in every great play, film, and music composition.
  12. Keep your energy and speech moving forward. Never let the energy drop.
  13. Audiences like to think that events on the stage are happening spontaneously. They like to be surprised. The great actor does this brilliantly. The Speaker needs to as well.
  14. Love Michael’s phrase: STAND AND LAND. Let your punch lines, point lines and purpose lines land.
  15. You can move and talk at the same time (people do it all the time in real life) but not on or over the most important points.
  16. Don’t say, “I’m glad to be here.” Audience should see that in your presentation. No need to tell them.
  17. Don’t tell them you’re going to tell a story. Just tell the story.
  18. Every rule is made to be broken but to break a performance/stage rule you have to know the rules, why they exist and why you’re breaking them (only do it for a better result).
  19. Be very conscientious about connecting the dots or you’ll lose your audience.
  20. When giving info for people to write down, give them time to write it down for goodness sake.
  21. You can blow their mind in just a few minutes (example: TED talks). Never apologize for the amount of time you don’t have. They should feel that the amount of time you have is the perfect amount of time.
  22. Audiences love to be let out a few minutes early—even if they LOVE your performance.
  23. Enlist the self-proclaimed experts in the room. It’ll help knock the chips off their shoulders and get them on your side supporting your message.
  24. Slight embellishment and/or combining stories into one better story is fine. It’s a performance, a show. Go for what is most dramatic and effective to get your message across.
  25. Remember they don’t know what you know. It’s the first time they’ve heard your info.
  26. Show them what the world will look like if they DON’T change, if the DON’T follow your advice.

Remember, this was just one page of notes from one participant in the Think Big Speak Easy.

Have an opinion on this topic or something else to add? Post a comment.

36 thoughts on “26 Public Speaking Tips from an Actor & Professional Speaker


I have a tough time remembering to vary my voice so I dont sound monotone.

Michael Port

The voice will vary with your performance based on your intentions, emotional connection with the audience and more. It’s not something that lives outside of you. So, I suggest, instead of thinking about varying your voice, focus on using as many contrasting and extreme tactics as you can to move your audience. The movement of your voice should follow.


Voice fluctuations will especially unfold when we are not reading or reciting from a written out talk…but speaking spontaneously from our heart and our experience. I may bring a very skeletal outline with me to a podium, but only as a reminder of the flow … the connecting of the dots. I remind myself: “This is my thought theory, or my story… I know it! Speak spontaneously about it and it will come alive!


Great, great advice!

Kevin Langdon

I was an “observer” at this session of Think Big Speak Easy and it was really amazing!

Michael is a gifted coach and the entire event was outstanding.

Michael Port

Thank you Kevin. So kind of you to say. I can’t wait to see you again soon!

Terry Delany

I can’t make it to the February event. Please tell me there will be more later in the year!

Michael Port

Hi Terry,

I expect in some form, yes, as I’m continuing to teach speaking/performing. Haven’t scheduled any more at this point but you can expect me to.

J. Richard Byrd

Great advice Michael as usual. I find that when I speak I get so emotionally involved I sometimes forget the audiences there. You’re so right it is all about taking them on an intellectual journey through your presentation.

Leesa Renee Hall

Love, love, LOVE how you’re leveraging your past as an actor to teach us speakers how to create transformation from the stage instead of just relaying information. Your list was a great reminder of this.

And I, too, hate when a speaker says “write this down,” but then doesn’t repeat what we’re supposed to write down and then rushes on to their next point. So annoying.

Susanne Morrone

Thank you for these tips. Having watched and listened to you in person, you totally engaged the audience. You deliver the most “natural,” captivating, meaty presentation that made us all feel like we had known you all our lives.

Nikolas Stojsavljevich

Great post,

Thank you for this. Makes perfect sense for increasing the benefits your audience receives!

Marla Harr

Great suggestions and ideas for on-stage performance improvements. Michael I’ve been following you for years – always good advise.

Michael Port

After all these years Maria, it’s lovely to meet you!

Mia Sherwood Landau

Not sure if you should get all the accolades here, Michael, because your note-taker did a terrific job, too. Thanks to you both for a list I’ve printed out today. It’s a keeper!

Michael Port

Well, I did have to clean the notes up a bit 🙂


As a member of Toastmasters I love and agree with all of these tips. It frustrates me sometimes that our speeches are so stiff and technical. And when we are evaluated they are more about form and doing it a certain way than making it interesting. Thanks for these great tips.

Michael Port

I agree.

Leslie Vernick

Michael, thanks for posting these. I WAS there and even though I was sick, I got a lot out of it and highly recommend anyone who wants to up their speaking game to attend.

Michael Port

Thank you Leslie! Are you feeling better? Have you followed through on your promise not to use notes anymore?

Carol Greenaway

Thanks for these additional notes, Michael. Adding them to the pages I took.

I have happily paid for your expertise as both a business mentor and speaking coach. You didn’t pay me to write this 🙂

I attended the January ThinkBigSpeakEasy as a full participant and am still reflecting on and integrating all that I learned.

Don’t hesitant about going to an upcoming ThinkBigSpeakEasy event, particularly if speaking is a new arena to you. You will learn from watching others’ presentations and integrate sound practices right off the bat. If you’re experienced, Michael’s direct coaching will enhance your exisiting skills, teach you new new ones, deepen your personal style, and have you thinking about crafting presentations in a whole new way.

It could be the start of something big! Jump on in!

Michael Port

You’re the best Carol. Thank you for your generous comments.


Arltcies like this just make me want to visit your website even more.

Susan Hovey Cohen

Dear Michael, Love your sharing your tips. I am a big fan of the number 3. Two friends of mine told me I should put together a talk with my story and how it connects to helping those I am meant to serve. One of my friends said it should be a la Spaulding Gray. I told him I would do my own thing and your timing was perfect. As one of your clients said. It is so wonderful that you are leveraging your acting talents and helping us all move forward. Speak Easy workshops and your Think Big call on Mondays have inspired me to Think Big and GET OUT there now. I met you in Teaneck NJ after being a fan for years and as I said to you. Sharing your gifts as a dyslexic, actor who is also a martial artist is like finding my soul brother. I will find a way to do your class. In the meantime I am asking friends and family to be my audience as I put this together. It feels great and I want you to know how much I appreciate your being the caring, sharing, coach with a big heart and integrity who has inspired this huge breakthrough. All the comments here are proof that you ROCK and that we all love you and not in a weird way. We just know that we can trust you to lead us toward ethical business building that will add more good in this world. Be your True Self and Think Big. And get Booked Solid!

Michael Port

You are so sweet. Thank you for sharing so much and being so generous with your support and praise. Keep thinking big and we’ll “see” you on the Monday live streams.


It feels like I attended the event. Thank you so much for sharing these notes. Several outstanding ones for me are:

#2 – A couple of good ideas came to mind when I thought of opening with s surprise or shock! (nice)

#5 – What the heck am I speaking for if this isn’t my objective. I LOVE this point. (thank you)

#7 – I’ve been using palm up for years and have never understood why. Culturally, pointing was always rude. Perhaps that is why I automatically have been using this method. (thanks for clarifying this for me)

#25 – They don’t know what I know. Even if they do, they don’t know my personal spin or feeling about the topic (beautifully put)

Excellent post Mentor. I always appreciate your generosity Michael.

Matt Church

These Rock thanks for sharing – love the performer distinction and your acting pedigree (Sex in the city fans) makes you a master at understanding this point of difference. Very cool! M@

Michael Port

Matt, YOU are the master. Miss you. It’s just wrong that I’ll be in Melbourne in April and not see you.

(If you guys don’t know Matt Church you must remedy that right away. One of Australia’s premier speakers and best known thoughts leaders. You’ll find him at http://www.mattchurch.com.)


Interesting tips! I can see where you’re coming from with #16, but as someone who tends to be an audience member more than a presenter, I kind of like it when a presenter takes a more humble, mannerful tack, than the bang-me-over-the-head high octane approach.

But I guess it comes down to personal style on that one; some people can pull off the lack of thanks, and for some people it would be more natural to include it.

Michael Port

As audience members we certainly don’t want to get the, as you say, “bang-me-over-the-head” high octane approach. I’m not sure how you get that from #16: Don’t say, “I’m glad to be here.” Audience should see that in your presentation. No need to tell them.

To your point, each speaker should find their style. One of the tips, I can’t recall which number off hand, suggests that you find your unique style. Not everyone can be Tony Robbins (nor should they be). Sometimes the most powerful performers, speakers and presenters, are quiet, reserved and still.

Thanks for your thoughts.

Ben Russ

Great tips especially in number #17.
Don’t tell them you’re going to tell a story. Just tell the story.

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