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Heroic Public Speaking

Lesson 14 of 23

Building a Story: Three Act Structure

Michael Port, Amy Port

Heroic Public Speaking

Michael Port, Amy Port

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Lesson Info

14. Building a Story: Three Act Structure

Lesson Info

Building a Story: Three Act Structure

Let's, do an improv hello? Give me the paper. I'll tell you who is going to be and you tell him what? Okay, so, here's, what you're doing? We're gonna have three people come up on stage and the three of you together are going to tell a story. One person will start and that at some point I were michael will say next. And wherever you are in the story, the first person drops it in, the second person picks it up, and then we will do next again in the third person. Well, then and you keep going. So if you hear if you're the third person you hear next goes back to the first and then the second and the third, then back makes sense. So yes, if it does, any questions about that say no. If you don't have them, I should have expected that from you. All right. First up. Sue dave and nathan. So, david nathan all right, get him fined, like find your life. Remember, remember, you learned how to find your light yesterday to make sure they found their life giving applause if they have good. All right,...

so we're going to give you a genre, and you want to keep the story in this genre, okay? Yeah we're starting with two people and then the next and then enough one one one one one one one so she's going to start then day's going to go when when uh when amy says next and then you're gonna go when amy says next then when is his next he's gonna go back to you so that makes sense so she's on then she leaves the stage and he no no everybody stays you stay up the whole time stay there you'll figure it out in a moment I promise okay so the sean was somebody giving a genre throw out a genre fantasy who not adult fantasy way have to give this reason but scifi fantasy that's scifi fantasy and the first line of the scifi fantasy is this it was a long, long time ago it was a long, long time ago no, you keep going oh, right and I was in the woods with my twins who were one and my dog no, you don't decide what we owe you going and the sun was rising and as we were walking down the hill there was a big german shepherd that was coming at us and the twins were crying the dog was barking the german shepherd was charging us and I needed to figure out what to do next. In actuality the german shepherd was not really a german shepherd from earth. It had landed from this planet many trillions of light years away and that german shepherd actually contained all the secrets to the universe that your little girls we're going to need to discover to make it through life and become full beings here on this planet and that german shepherd actually, while you may have seen it in fear it was approaching filled with love and delight and the miracles of life next uh after the german shepherd finished telling us all of these profound wisdom about the future of our children hey said he had to leave and we said can we come with you? Because obviously we formed a bond I hey, I know you have to stay here and fulfill this destiny that I have explained to you but I'll see you again in the future and anytime you need me I'll be in your heart like this you are on next uh rich and leah and know what genre should they have romance, romance romance on give me the first line it was a dark and stormy night uh here we go way start it was a dark and stormy night lia will start find your life because you are already hiding up an offstage was a dark and stormy night in the middle of the ocean and the sailboat how is becalmed there had been no wind the backup motor had stopped and there they were drifting next and it's been a very long day the previous day so how is little drowsy on as I dozed off and fell asleep I had the most amazing dream a dream I probably didn't want my partner to know at the time rich you must remember how truly amazing you are don't hide tell us the story come out showing us the stories come out and show all those women out there you're really beautiful I'm gonna stop you first so what I recommend you do is tell us this story that happened so tell a story that right so it's not riches not the main character he became a character and then we went into that if you guys were all in this story together that's great too but we started switching um first person to third toe yeah so we wanted once once you find that the stories in first person I should probably stay in first person and then unless there's this brilliant reason that it switches the third person and just naturally happens that worked they went from third to first and then state first I don't know first and second who's on passions on second I couldn't care less let's start again and the first line was it was a dark and stormy night is dark and stormy night you start the story and we're starting to start the story starting okay yeah says a dark and stormy night and there she was trying to find her way through this forest she could hear the owls they were screeching why're they screeching so loud oh my gosh squirrel no no I don't know what it is maybe it's a snake best and the snakes and squirrels are really going to mess up their romantic dinner that they're planning in the forest there were candles there was a table cloth now there's a squirrel eating the tablecloth that's not good owl flies into the candles, burst into flames going out he'll really, really quickly that's it. But then the snake saw the beautiful woman and realized he not only had to be a snake he could transform. And so the snake began rising up and slithering over to the woman, and began saying, shall we dance? Shall we dance in the moonlight next? And she said, well, you don't have hands on my dance with teo, but all right, let's give it a try. Shall we ring over? Ah, you know wow, I was in the sun all day today and it was flat, so I'm not sure how that's possible. So then, uh, the woman said, well, I'm really not a big fan of snakes so she picks up the snake by the tail, whips it around her head, chuck it, trying to get back to the fire that has erupted on their table trying to put the fire out her lover could be here any moment this has become the biggest disaster in her entire life doesn't and then she sees her lover coming up over the horizon right as jesus damping out the fire there's a little smoke cloud there she has no idea what to do next and her lover is dressed as a bear and he lumbers over and comes up to her and said, hey, stay with us don't you remember he says to her hey remember me do you know who I am? Don't I look familiar to you? I don't remember at all no no no no no get freaking me out I'd like to go to the dinner table with the tablecloth it's on fire it's feeling a lot safer there? I like that better than bears shall we have dinner together? I'd like to really have a nice evening with you next the bear rises up and pull the zipper down from the top steps out and is your knight in shining armor and I mean literally shining it's kind of a clanking on like give me a big hug baby tried the hunger ends up cutting her arm again this thing is going downhill like you would not wait and that was okay so so what do you find works very well well, when you're when when you're watching this and what do you find starts to slow down or take it off track hands and I'm going to call on people and then make sure you know where the mike's arse you can pass them around so humor, humor works, the humor just broke it up, but what makes humor? What makes it funny? The contest that you're right in the middle, in contrast, is often very funny at the same time, if the contrast it's so extreme that it feels out of place, it stops it in its tracks. Yes, santa from third to first person, which disconnected with the audience in my experience, yes, exactly right saman remember, so who wants to mike while you're standing? And then I want the mike and I love the moment when rich was listening to himself, and so the guy steps out of the barrys suit and he's a ninth timer and he hears hurt himself say that he transformed it into this literal night and that was just so listening, but not only to each other but to yours self he was in the moment, hiring he was in the moment and allowed what he was doing in the moment to propel him, for he trusted himself who wants to mike, he embodied lanky so what's very interesting is that when rich was doing that, he was he was telling the story about these characters and this experience and then also playing the character without playing the character throughout, which is very different. You're going in and out of character when you're telling a story to an audience, yes, you want to say something shot? That was exactly what I was going to say is there's a big difference between telling a story and acting yes, telling a story and acting a story out? I see what you're saying, not assure exempt us understand exactly what you're saying kind of what you were saying with riches when when it was just a character where we were, we were watching an improv play versus you telling a story, right? It was that that's when it when it switched back and forth is when it got confusing, because all of a sudden you were so in character and one of them, if it was watching a scene and you were behind the fourth wall, that could be really compelling, but if you're switching back and forth in this particular situation, it was a little bit harder doesn't mean it can't be done doesn't mean you can't switch back and forth in fact, I do that often I'll do this scene either with myself and the voices. You could do a monologue as if you were talking to somebody and then you come out and you talk to the audience so it can work but if the audience isn't clear on exactly what's happening so for example when you set up a bit if the audience doesn't understand that it's a setup it often won't work for example I saw a woman do ah youtube video and she was teaching public speaking and the point of her video is to demonstrate that if you do an opening in a particular way it could be very boring so the bit was that she does the opening that way and then she comes out of that character and says do you see how boring that isthe but the problem was when you started to the video you had no idea she was setting up a bit so I'm watching is going home my god this is terrible on if it's a video you're done you're gone so I would have never known that she was setting it up doing a bit and trying to teach me something okay what else yes please stand up too many details got too confusing it got really muddy and it was confusing for them to follow their own story and it was even more confusing for us that's a really important point when you're telling a story there are some details that are important and there are others that are not and this connects back to the idea of the through line that we were talking about when you tell your story, hit the specific details, you don't wantto kind of budget like, for example, if you were saying fifty years ago, my grandfather, he was looking for a sergeant, are there any out anyway? All right, you need to know the details of your story, use the ones that drives the story forward, that keep connecting it to the through line. But, you know, we don't need to know that the grandfather a that you didn't really know what he waas because then that conveys to the audience that you don't really know your story. And b we may not need to hear, for example, that he lost fourteen hairs out of his head every day if it's not related to the story. So that's part of the crafting of the story itself, what details do you use them? What do you leave out? Anyone else have something compelling? You want to say yes, there was also, and I'm trying to figure out how to phrase it, but there's this way that you want to be aware of the audience, but not self conscious, being in front of the audience because some of the people telling the story it felt like they didn't know how to interact with the audience like were they telling it to the other people on the stage of audience like where were they going exactly right and in that particular uh with respect to that we were slightly vague which is intentional we want to see how you naturally play into this dynamic yes please I think they all did a phenomenal job as I watched uh ridge I thought about the principal choose often choose early choose early choose often because some of the things you know that it was a springboard off of the things he just just say it and he allowed it to come out he didn't hold it he didn't think about it he allowed it to come out actually I think that was a message did you notice a pattern? Did you notice a pattern that occurred? Let me phrase it this way did you find there were particular places where amy and I said next and we we weren't sitting next to each other each time we were standing over here but it wasn't like she was saying next we just boot next and we would both saying we were both in the exact same place do you do you feel why we would say no it's at that point why do you think that was a place we said next day you have the mike there was a transition there was a beat and it was an important transition point in the story so we gave it to the next person please stand up well it also seemed like there was an opportunity too when it was passed to someone for them to say yes and yeah beautiful exactly to take that on because if they don't continue that same story it usually goes off the rails I saw another hand yes, please I was just going to say being in the audience to the staging and the blocking and placement of where they were a lot of times I was looking at the back of the head and so I was very disconnected when you're turned around from your audience and not connecting any more when you're on a stage you wantto do your best to make sure that everybody can have some ability to see at least part of your face and when you give speeches you're often in odd spaces so you're in a ballroom and it's you know the room is really really long and very, very shallow or you're in a club and there's round tables and just a big square room so we have ah term in the theater that we call it's called cheating open so here you'll notice I rarely if I'm going to talk you for a second it's only for a quick second and then I'm going to open back up so I want to make sure that everybody over here at least is open to this part of my body, and everybody here is open to this part of my body, so you're always trying to cheat open, and if there are times when you I want to or need to engage with this part of your audience, you then quickly come back and make sure you get a quick look over here that they know you're still with that now that said, this can be overdone, right? Because if you're thinking, I want everybody to be able to see me at all times, sometimes what you'll see is people talking teo the audience and they'll be doing this interesting kind of crossover step, which we just don't do in real life, right? You can walk, you can walk from one side to the other and still stay open to everybody, so watch here you give me the space for second stage watch watch how my feet moving my hips move from coming over here didn't go over here and I can talk to you and go like this, you see without doing this. So as long as you're walking like a normal person, yeah, and you're moving your hips, so for example, you don't turn like this you move your hips, you're moving your body's going like this on and you'll get better at that that your movement is very intentional have you heard a please? If you heard have you ever heard of speaking coach say something like don't walk and talk don't move when you're talking you ever heard that I don't get that as a human being? Are you able to walk and talk at the same time? If you're able to do that, you're also able to do it on the stage and I'm walking and I'm talking at the same time and now I'm walking backwards and I'm still talking and I haven't fallen down, but what they mean to say is when you're delivering something that's really important, stand and land right stand and landed and then move and you're over here standing land and then move because that is a normal way of being if I didn't if I moved if I only spoke when I was standing still and I spoke spoke spoke spoke so and now I'm going I'm going to move a block to took over here then that would mean this okay, so now blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, it's just not natural there. So there are these there's these things that I understand why folks are teaching it because they don't want you to walk over important things they don't want you to step on the important points just like when they say slow down they don't want you to drive over important points so they say slow down but then what happens is everything slows down so we understand why that advices given but we're just a slight reframe can be helpful yes say yes if it is okay good now three extraction gonna review three act structure because a story falls into a three extraction it has a beginning a middle and an end and the beginning is the situation this is when you get the exposition it's the setup and then there's a conflict that's act two something goes wrong there's a big problem and then actually is a resolution and it ends boy meets girl boy and girl fall in love and then have a horrible fight boy kills girl there's a fellow it doesn't always have a happy resolution by the way not every story ends well so we're going to do this game again but now you're gonna have a roll there'll be three people the first person will have the role to set up the situation the second person will create the conflict and the third person will produce the resolution you with me say yes if you are okay so now I want shawn mr awesome jim and michael all right, so come on up uh gentlemen and we need a genre for that suspense suspense so it's a thriller suspense now it looks like you guys going to the gap wait that opening line for them opening line give me an opening line she's never been so scared you're going to start michael she's never been so scared remember you set up a situation that you create the conflict and you produce the resolution and then it's out then we're done doesn't go back to my okay and three two one action so jean woke up in her parent's house she smelled bacon being made and went downstairs to see her mother who she hated then in walked her brother. But what was different about him was he had another man's face john travolta's face he didn't know why she didn't know why john travolta's faces on her brother. The problem with that was that she thought it was going to be nicholas cage is fit that's what was so start early and that's? What made things seem really strange? It wouldn't have been that bizarre to have john travolta's face on her brother that didn't seem like that big of a deal if it wouldn't have been the fact that she was expecting nicolas cage is face to be on her brother that might sound a little strange to you, but that's how she had seen him for the past seventeen years every morning he woke up with nicolas cage's face throughout the day he would generally transform back to who she's known him to be before that uh next thing wasn't so much of a problem given the fact that she was studying at the university of stanford called up a friend of hers at stanford medical center who happened to do face transplants now normally this would be a big issue because face transplants typically cost five million dollars but she knew about this little start up company that she would just post it on the internet and quickly raise money she had an instagram account she knew a young woman that would teach her howto post this on instagram she raised the money and luckily by the end of one week she was able to have the money she did the face transplant and everything once again was back to normal in san mateo. So so what worked about that dynamic in that story and what could have used some improvement let's start with what worked hands on past the mic kids if you want to say I want the mike so what works for me was that I had confidence that that there was a movement you know, some maybe because you'd set it up but there was a beginning that there was going to be a beginning middle and end however I was going to feel about it, I felt it was in good hands, so when you know that the person on stage knows where they're going, you're more confident good work for me that they all kind of stayed within the same story line they didn't switch to something completely different so they could keep carrying it was cohesive when they each knew what their role wass and that they each had a specific task to accomplish to set up the situation to set up the conflict and to resolve it they could do that in a way that float and of course in this situation they stole storyline from a movie called face off just lifted it no pun intended good what else hands yes please stand up unless you stayed more connected to you good now what could have used some improvement yes hands you want to say I want the light remember from yesterday the reel of the importance of taking the spacing I want the mike boom you jump up you take it and you're good yes I just felt like the conflict came too early I thought the setup would just make me feel like everything's fine everything's okay and then the conflict would hit me harder and then right yeah the conflict can happen in a way that should happen in a way that's different from the setup so did this story need mohr conflict? Yes because what happened is we got to the point where there was this confusion and there was a problem that there was the wrong face on this person but what happened when this woman discovered that the wrong face was there what if she picks up a baseball back and starts to beat him? All of a sudden you've upped the stakes you know it could be a million different things but that that element of upping the stakes of the conflict makes the story more dramatic more interesting what else could have used some improvement hands? Yes more contrast in the they were similar monitor are are they told the story? Yeah, so often a story has an arc so a play has an arc a film has an arc each character has an arc it's a term that's used it's the first thing you look for as an actor is what's what's my ark what is the journey my character takes? I want where they end up to be different than where they started and where they started needs to be here where the end needs to be here so there's somewhere to go and this doesn't mean it's good or bad this just means different different and so you're looking for that when you're creating when you're writing when you were organizing your ideas. So if it's a curriculum based approach the beginning maybe there's no clients the world is a bad dad place and the end of the world is filled with clients there's a beautiful, abundant secure place that's an arc that's a contrast think big revolution if you look at that sixteen minute excerpt, you can you can even see an ark in that excerpt, even if you don't see the whole sixty minute presentation, if for those at home, if you look at youtube, you looking think big revolution, you'll see this ark at the beginning there's this character who's a little bit week and a little bit insecure and doesn't do what he say he's going to do then he goes into this scenery, fights with the voices of judgment in his head and he's really low and and he thinks he's bad and stupid, I'll never be like these really great people and then he goes into being riel being really so you know what? I just got to be really you see how we're now going, we're starting to move up, I've got to be real, this is going to be really hard this is where the big conflict is am I willing to be riel? He is willing to be riel so then all of a sudden great things start happening love starts coming into his life fun starts coming into his life so there's an arc for the character and there's an arc for the shop good, yes, police I saw I saw an opportunity for physical contrast I enjoyed watching the story evolved and stuff, but then I just kind of saw three bodies not doing much, so they could have used that as a tool for more physics. Exactly. Yeah, did you as the performer of here, were you a little more confident knowing what your role wass then you might have if you were just sort of up there who knows what's coming next? Yes, like we were the opposite like, could I have done that had structure? It really wouldn't be so much easier when you know there's a structure, and it makes it easier, as michael said in the writing of them, as well as in the performing of them. So each small story that we tell should have some sort of situation conflict resolution, will overall presentation that we're giving should have situation might have lots of conflict throughout and then the resolution. So if you look at book yourself solid is a curriculum presentation, the situation is set up, and then the conflict occurs again and again and again and again, you don't have a red velvet rope policy. So what does that mean? The conflict is you're working with all these people that drain your energy that make you feel worthless that make you feel like you want to do bodily harm to some one that's a conflict, and then the next is you don't understand why people buy what you're selling there's another conflict we gotta solve this one and in each one there's a situation of conflict and a resolution and they keep building a building building until the very end and if you look at a short story I use a story from book yourself sound is an example because many people creative life have seen that and many of you have seen that I tell an aesop's fable and embellished hey stop stable about an old man, a little boy in a donkey I'm not gonna tell you right now don't give but if you want to see it, go by book yourself solid creative live and you'll see so the doggie story has the situation there's an old man, a little boy in the dock so you set it up you know there's this old man and you will have to go like this but you're just a little bit anybody there's his old man you know there's this little boy and there's a doctor that's it that's all the setup you know start to see that and what happens they want they want to go to town, they want to go to town, they haven't been able to go to town because of this conflict this is why but they finally decide to go why? I don't know maybe they saw a great motivational speaker you know, and so you could play, and now there's a there's, a reason. They think it gets them over that, but have conflict after conflict after conflict. This group laughs at them because of this. This group ridicules them because of this boom, boom, boom, boom, boom! And then finally, the story has a resolution, which is very unhappy resolution, but it's all to prove a particular point, and the point of that story is, if you try to please everyone, you might as well kiss your ass. Good bye, but it's all set up it's, all set up to get there. Situation, conflict, conflict, awful conflict resolution. You feeling great?

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

A memorable speaking engagement can transform a career – learn how to tell stories that stir up emotion and move listeners to the edge of their seats. Join Michael Port and Amy Port for the most engaging public speaking course you’ll ever encounter, Heroic Public Speaking.

Public speaking is notoriously difficult, but working professionals can rarely avoid it. Whether it's selling your work to a potential client, presenting a deck to collaborators, or giving a talk in front of a large audience, it is almost guaranteed that you’ll have to speak in front of others – learn how to do it well. In this Heroic Public Speaking course, Michael and Amy will teach you a system for engaging, persuading, and inspiring your audience, no matter the size.

In this class, Michael and Amy will help you craft a presentation that feels like a performance instead of speech. You’ll learn techniques for structuring a compelling presentation with tips on incorporating cliff-hangers, using humor to engage listeners, and constructing stories that tell a coherent story. You’ll also learn how the pros handle pre-show nerves and respond to the audience in real-time.

If you want to impress and inspire your audience, no matter the size, join Michael and Amy for their complete guide to turning your public speaking gig into a performance.

Class Materials

bonus material with purchase

Developing Your Big Idea - A Self Guided Worksheet

Guide to Making World Saving Speeches - 25 more tips


Practice Script 1

Practice Script 2

Ratings and Reviews

Student Work

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What a great class! An incredible amount of content shared in a fun, engaging way. Michael Port is a gift. I attended his Book Yourself Solid Immersion via telecourse and was impressed. However, seeing him on video adds layers of instruction that will benefit me not only in public speaking, but in other aspects of my business and life as well. Amy Mead really lazers in on specific improvements that get big results. Thanks to all for an outstanding class.


Wow.. When I first stumbled across Michaels videos I thought “this guy is almost TOO good.” The free information was so helpful that I rationalized with myself that I didn't have to sign up for the course, at least not right away. Eventually after my procrastination period I bought the class and was pleasantly reassured of my purchase. The content inside was just as valuable and fun! Not only that, watching the transformations of the students as they practiced their speeches was simply amazing. Michael and Amy work great with each other and have put together a top notch experience with Heroic Public Speaking.


Awesome course. I follow Michael Port and his BYS system and I was pleased to see he is sharing also his professional acting experience/tips to help us creating and delivering public speeches. This course is different from what you find on the market: both Amy and Michael are professional trained actors and they share lots of insiders tips (contrast, blocking, the importance of storytelling, rehearsing, etc). A true gem and great course. I hope they will do more with creative live in the future. this course (like the BYS) is highly recommended.