CHAPTER 1 - BE AN MBP
My Chinese Acrobatics coach Lu Yi, who is widely regarded as one of the top coaches in the world, taught me many things.
He said, “You have to eat the bitter,” “Talk does not cook rice,” and he often told me, “The good acrobat has strength, flexibility, and a little bit of the dancer.”
He was right. My time training and performing as a circus acrobat was spent building and honing those three skills.
It takes more than just three things to be an MBP. I wish I could whittle the following list down and make it as concise as Lu Yi explaining acrobatics, but each of these characteristics hold so much truth to who I am hoping you will become through reading this book.
I am not very fond of telling people “Don’t do this”, “Don’t do that”. The human brain does not respond to the word “Don’t” as strongly as it does to the word “Be”. “Be” is infinitely more effective.
Human beings seek to aspire, not have their ideas and dreams squashed.
In writing this section I set a boundary for myself to focus on conveying ideas in the affirmative. I will do my best to only tell you what I think you should do, as opposed to what you should not.
So, in the spirit of aspiration, the following pages outline what I think an MBP should be.
BE A POET
Metaphor is one of the greatest tools of a poet and truly of an MBP.
If an MBP is giving their presentation to an audience of plumbers, they will endeavor to come up with the correct metaphor to connect their ideas, just like a plumber knows when to use Pipe Thread Sealant instead of Pipe Joint Compound to connect pipes.
A brilliantly placed metaphor will make connections in the mind of an audience in a way that direct language cannot.
Also, a metaphor can make an image appear in the mind of the audience. The brain loves to connect the dots.
A metaphor is a puzzle for the mind. When the mind solves the puzzle, the content solidifies and that is the mind’s reward. This engagement makes the learning fun.
An MBP will recognize this list was written using an abundance of metaphors. These metaphors will make the following concepts stick in your mind like bubble gum in your hair.
BE AN ACTOR
Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, hero of Harry Houdini and widely regarded as the creator of the style of magician we all recognize today once said, “A magician is an actor playing the part of a magician.”
It could also be said that, “A presenter is an actor playing the part of a presenter.”
When an MBP stands in front of an audience they are playing a role. They have a job to do. They have been introduced as a leader, an authority, an expert. It takes practice and commitment to inhabit that role.
A good actor realizes that they must craft the character they will inhabit. It is the same for a presenter.
An MBP is not onstage to be their ‘authentic self.’ They are however onstage to be sincere and consistent, as well as to be the best and most necessary parts of themselves.
They embody this character so that they can efficiently and thoroughly connect the audience to the material they have created.
Like an actor, an MBP’s self disappears into the role. An MBP’s role is that of charismatic information disseminator.
An MBP knows that crafting character does not come naturally. Building a role takes time and effort.
BE AN OPERA SINGER
An MBP may not be classically trained like Camilla Williams or Pavarotti, but an MBP knows how to use their voice for great effect.
They can not only impressively project when the microphone stops working but can stir emotion and grip the audience with the sound emitting from inside them.
They know when to pause, when to breath, how to vary vocal intonation, and how to adjust pacing and volume.
At the most basic level, an MBP knows how to pronounce all the words they are speaking lest they lose credibility.
BE A CHEF
When crafting a meal, a chef knows which ingredients are too strong, too bitter, too spicy, or too sweet.
Like a chef, an MBP also knows how long to let something simmer, how to prepare an audience to embrace the ingredients and how to stack concepts to build flavor. They approach the presentation like planning a menu.
An MBP knows what image pairs best with each idea.
A presentation is like a curry, it has a thousand spices, but it has a taste that makes sense.
It is 3-5 courses and full of ingredients that all make sense together and do not overpower the palate.
They also will not overfill the plate. Too many concepts in a presentation and too many ideas will be messy. It will leave an audience uncomfortable, bleary eyed and overly stuffed.
An MBP serves a plate that is beautiful, full of flavor with all the right notes that connect and create an experience that is extraordinary.
BE A HAIRDRESSER
When I was in the Clown Conservatory, I had a teacher named Jeff Raz, who consistently cut bits and pieces from our acts. Through his cuts he shaped our work into usable material.
Often, it was our favorite parts and what we thought were the funniest bits that ended up on the floor only to be swept away.
We would be deep into knocking each other around or trying to figure out how to insert a pie fight into a fireman act.
He would come over, look at us and say, “Cut that. I agree, it’s really funny, but it doesn’t serve the story you are telling.”
He also was fond of saying, “If it’s not funny without music, it won’t be funny with music.”
We hated it, but he was right.
At our graduation ceremony, we presented him with a pair of golden scissors.
An MBP will connect the audience to the material by focusing on the message, the story to be told.
Everything that is done on stage should be in service of that ideal. Anything that does not serve that purpose is stray hairs and split ends.
An MBP knows what must be cut.
BE A SPONGE
There will be and are many times that an MBP will need help to develop their skills.
Asking for help should never be something to shy away from.
Reading this book shows humility, and that is an incredible ideal to achieve.
There are many, many books, podcasts, videos, clubs and more that can help take you further.
My grandfather always said, “If you think you are humble, you are not.” I always carry that with me, knowing I can always get better.
I also love this definition of humility, “Understanding who you are with a sincere desire to become who you could be.”
An MBP knows they need to put themselves in the company of people that will challenge them to grow, not allow them to stay complacent.
My Grandpa also used to always say, “If you hang out in a barbershop, you are going to get a haircut.”
An MBP’s inner circle is vital to their success.
BE A RESEARCHER
An MBP knows what has been said before about their topic, so that they are not merely repeating things. It is surprisingly simple, but it takes a lot of work.
It is great to have groundbreaking concepts, but they are almost always built knowing and mastering the past.
MBP’s are never satisfied with a Wikipedia search or the top Google link, they seek to fully understand their presentation topic.
They know their material without doubt, frontward, backward, upside down and inside out.
That does not mean they do not occasionally get stumped during the Q&A. However, it does mean that if they do, they are simply humble and admit their gap in knowledge.
They promise to find out the answer asap, and then they do it! They find out!
When an MBP uses facts, quotes, and statistics, they can back them up. They know if they are mistaken, their reputation and credibility as an authority will be called into question.
BE A FIREFIGHTER
In the year after high school, I worked on a forest fire fighting crew. We travelled all over the United States putting out wildfires.
We also performed controlled burns. We would go into an area and burn the forest in a way that would eliminate stray sticks, trees, and grasses (fuel) that could feed an uncontrolled random fire season blaze.
In a way, we had to read the forest the way an MBP reads a room, knowing their audience and how to manage the crowd to avoid disaster.
We also dealt with our share of arsonists, and there can sometimes be someone in your audience who wants to burn down the MBP.
They consciously or unconsciously want to take down the leader. It is not usually because they want the job, it usually has to do more with causing chaos or just like a childhood bully they are acting out because they feel bad about themselves and don’t want anyone to feel good.
Yes, these people exist. Yes, the MBP will encounter them and knows they cannot be eliminated. But like a good firefighter, you can deny them fuel.
An MBP will not engage with hecklers or critics, not unless they are fully prepared.
BE A STAGE MANAGER
When an MBP arrives on the scene early (and they are always early), they are organized and ready to put all their materials in their predetermined places.
When possible, they will have a written or digital stage layout. If stage techs are involved, they will each have been given a copy of the layout along with an outline of their presentation as well as a comprehensive write-up of the MBP’s needs.
The items placed in the performing space will be arranged in such a way as to make sense and lead to a minimal amount of extraneous motion.
An MBP never has to look for their pen, it is right where it needs to be, their laser pointer always has fresh batteries, and they know in advance what cables they will need the techs to provide to connect their laptop to the projector. It is likely they have a backup in their bag.
An MBP does not have to waste any time or movement because they are organized.
BE A STORYTELLER
Knowing how to tell a story well may not come naturally to an MBP, but you would never know it.
An MBP tells their stories often. They tell them even when not onstage, to anyone who will listen. This makes them well practiced and lends an air of natural comfortability to the stories they tell.
The stories they tell have a beginning, middle and end. They are also interesting, relevant, and often surprising.
When I mention my coach Lu Yi in my presentations, I describe him physically. I tell how he would hit me with his shoe if I did something wrong. He would also hit me with his shoe when I did something right.
I tell the audience about how he was my Mr. Miyagi and I was the Karate Kid. I tell them how he came into my life when I needed him most.
I set-up details that lead to telling the story of the most important lesson I learned from him. The lesson about forming a deep and invisible connection with my acrobatic partner, and how that lesson saved my partner’s life.
At the end of that story, I share the secret of that lesson and how it changed my life.
When I get to that part of the presentation, I have never had an audience do anything but lean forward in silence.
An MBP understands the power of a great story.
BE A COMEDIAN
I am not saying that every MBP is a brilliant standup comedian, though some are. I am also not saying that every presentation must have jokes or humor. Trying to be funny and failing or being inappropriate are credibility killers.
Understanding humor and how to use it is an integral part of being an MBP. Sometimes it is as simple as merely being able to laugh at yourself or the content.
It is good to be able to laugh with the audience. It shows humanity, empathy, humility, and charisma.
The reason we all laugh at funny people and their jokes is because of the surprise we feel when they portray or shine a light on the human condition.
It forms a simple bond between presenter and audience. The audience is connecting their humanity with the humanity of the presenter.
Too much jocularity and the audience will not take you seriously. Too little humor, or humor without commitment, and the audience will sense insincerity.
An MBP can use comedy to break the ice, show humanity, and lighten the mood.
BE A COMPOSER
When approaching the design of their presentation, an MBP is composing a symphony of thoughts.
It might surprise you to know that one of the greatest composers of the 20th century was Charlie Chaplin. He not only directed, edited, and starred in many of his films, he also wrote the music.
He had a deep understanding of structure, rhythm, and what physical comedians call “beats”. His comedic gags were structured and presented musically usually with a three-beat timing.
Chaplin, like any MBP, knew that the introduction must be strong to catch the audience, the rhythm and pacing must keep the audience engaged but not so fast or random that it loses them.
Most of all he knew how to create an ending that has strong emotional appeal. The ending should be strong in heart.
A presentation should move the audience to carry the message with them when it ends.
An MBP knows how to grab attention, keep their audience engaged, and make them feel something powerful.
BE A VISUAL ARTIST
When a slide is projected, an MBP knows never to read the slide to the audience.
The audience can read. If they cannot, why are there words projected on the screen?
Instead an MBP knows their content so well that they do not even need to look at the slide.
The images they use will surprise their audience, stir emotion, inspire thought and most of all, support their message.
Often, an MBP will use slides with images only, or with minimal words. They allow the images to make a statement, if they do not, the MBP would not use them.
An MBP carefully curates their images. They know an image merely complements the message. The image is not the message.
An MBP knows that if the message is not clear without the image, it is not clear with the image.
BE AN IMPROVISER
Like an improv troupe asking for suggestions from the crowd, an MBP does not fear interacting with the audience. They will ask questions and actively listen to the answers.
An MBP has no problem managing volunteers and having a dialogue.
The key to their strength is a concept known as, “Yes, and!”
Major corporations, industry leading companies and many management programs have begun using improv to teach creativity and collaboration. Their findings are incredible.
Using improv energizes teams, creates breakthrough ideas, and enables learning from failure.
Improv is more than just a way to co-create with attendees; it helps presenters rethink how they manage and communicate in every interaction.
An average presenter defaults to “yes, but” communications. They pretend to be supportive when attendees offer their thoughts. They may even nod, say the words “yes” or “I agree”, but then they move on.
Worse yet they might ignore the comment entirely or even quickly explain why the idea does not work. Then out of fear of status loss or fear that their concept will get muddled, they begin to steer back to their own ideas, or reassure attendees that their concerns are unfounded.
An MBP knows that to truly communicate, the key is connection. They are confident enough to let go of their message for a moment and engage with what an attendee is offering.
They are open to candid discourse without losing quality or outcomes.
BE A MAGICIAN
This one, for me, is less metaphor and more of a reality. As a comedy mentalism performer, what I do for a living is blow minds.
If I am not blowing minds, I am not doing my job. I secretly wish every presenter approached their presentations with this attitude.
It is after all, why I wrote this book.
I want every presenter to be an MBP.
Beyond the tricks though, I believe that an MBP must have surprises up their sleeve. The audience deserves a little razzle and dazzle.
An MBP lives to blow minds.
BE A CUCUMBER
An MBP will live the idiom, cool as a cucumber. They will deal with any problems, changes, and missteps smoothly.
An MBP will have learned from their mistakes instead of dwelling on them. They also avoid projecting outcomes, as they know that things can and will change. They understand impermanence.
“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.” -Buddha
The key to this monk like attitude is staying in the moment and out of the mind’s dark recesses.
An MBP stays out of the swamp with the many mysterious things and feelings our amygdala (our prehistoric lizard brain) conjures up.
Stage fright and nervous emotions are not uncommon for an MBP.
An MBP will know how to use nervous energy to their advantage and will project to the audience calm, confidence, and poise.
In my long list of skills, I am a professional sword swallower, one of only one hundred in the world. In many of my presentations I swallow a sword.
Unless a presenter is doing something dangerous like that, without the skill to back it up (something an MBP would never do), the presenter is hardly likely to die during a presentation.
An MBP can deal with fear.
BE A PHILOSOPHER
Of course, an MBP acts and speaks ethically. They also understand Aristotle’s Rhetorical Appeals.
Aristotle taught that a speaker’s ability to persuade an audience is based on how well the speaker appeals to that audience in three different areas: logos, ethos, and pathos.
Considered together, these appeals form what is called the rhetorical triangle.
Logos appeals to the audience’s reason. Logos can also be thought of as the content of a presentation. It focuses on how well an MBP has presented their content.
Ethos reveals the MBP’s character. Ethos can be thought of as the role of the MBP in the presentation, and the credibility of the content.
Pathos appeals to the audience’s emotions and their sympathetic imagination, as well as their beliefs and values. Pathos can be thought of as the role of the audience in the presentation.
By understanding how to use these concepts in a presentation, an MBP realizes the tremendous power of influence that they hold.
An MBP applies this knowledge for good and uses their power responsibly.
BE A POST GAME ANALYST
Like a coach reviewing the tapes from the big game, an MBP knows that winning does not just come down to training. Winning future games often comes down to reviewing the past to learn what went well and what did not.
I personally believe that mistakes and missteps will happen if you are making choices and taking risks. It is part of the process.
If you never review and course correct, or worse if you walk away in defeat never to play again, that is failure.
It is my belief that you only fail when you settle or give up entirely.
Therefore, it is vital to watch videos of practice and performance, to take notes immediately following a presentation, to read the reviews that attendees and hosts provide, unafraid and open minded.
An MBP knows that they cannot possibly know if they are winning if they never keep score.
And now that you know the basic concepts, the secret sauce, the cocktail party version etc. You do not need to read any further. Or do you?
An MBP would.
1 (636) 628 5955