Published July 12, 2020
Whether you’re giving a presentation to a large audience at a conference, your team, or articulating an idea, public speaking is an important skill set. In this episode, we are joined by Anne Ricketts to talk with us to share ways to be a strong presenter.
Ryan Burgess Welcome to another episode of The Front End. Happy Hour podcast. Whether you're giving a presentation to a large audience at a conference or your team or even trying to articulate an idea. Public speaking is an important skill set. In this episode, we are joined by and to talk with us about public speaking. And can you give us a brief introduction of who you are, what you do, and what your favorite happy hour beverages?
Anne Ricketts So my name is Ann Ricketts and I run a company called Lighthouse Communications and we help people communicate more effectively.
Anne Ricketts So everything from doing a conference presentation to simply feeling more confident, speaking up in meetings, favorite happy hour beverage is a negroni.
Ryan Burgess Cheers, that looks good. All right. Well, let's also give introductions of today's panelists Mars, you want to start it off.
Mars Jullian Sure. I'm Mars Jullian.
Mars Jullian I am a senior software engineer in the Bay Area, and all thoughts are my own, especially when public speaking.
Jem Young Jem Young senior software engineer on Netflix.
Ryan Burgess And I'm Ryan Burgess, I'm a software engineering manager at Netflix. In each episode, The Front End Happy Hour podcast. We like to choose a keyword that if it's mentioned at all in the episode, we will all take a drink. What did we decide?
Ryan Burgess Today's keyword is?
Ryan Burgess So from now on, if we say the word conference, we'll all take a drink and we'd ask you to join us. Obviously on this topic made a lot of sense because you helped a lot of us with our presentation skills or public speaking.
Ryan Burgess We've all been fortunate enough to take your course and workshop that you run with light hosts. And I personally feel like I've grown a lot from just doing that chorus. So before we dove in. You mentioned a little bit. Some of the things, the training, the lighthouse does. But I'm curious, how do others reach out to you and hire you in and get the benefits you provide?
Anne Ricketts Sure. Well, the Web site is LHCtraining.com. And my email is. Anne@LHCtraining.com.
Anne Ricketts And yet we do one on one coaching. Now we're doing a lot of virtual coaching because we can't be in person. We do in-person workshops like you all have taken. And then now we're doing virtual workshops have lots and lots of different formats.
Ryan Burgess Awesome. Yeah, we are still in quarantine, so we are virtual and we getting good at this or I'm not sure. Anne, how's it been pivoting to teaching remotely?
Anne Ricketts It's going pretty well, but it's funny. About four years ago I did a live webinar and I ran. I just didn't go very well at all because I was not prepared for it. And I'm not. If you know me well, I'm not exactly the most tech-savvy person. So it was really a struggle. And I ran out of the room and I told my husband I'll never do a virtual presentation again. And then Koven hit and I had about two weeks to get it together and then teach how people how to do virtual presentations.
Anne Ricketts So I just say every time I do it, I'm just feeling more and more comfortable. And now I, I even like it. How about you guys? How are you feeling about it?
Ryan Burgess I mean, I still struggle with it. I think I've gotten better at it, maybe more used to it. But I think for me what's been really hard is not being able to see that people's reactions that you normally would see in reading body language or just facial expressions as you're speaking, whether it be in a team meeting or larger audience. I'll think of one. I did a conference.
Ryan Burgess I think it was early March or I did a bit of a fireside chat. I believe there was three or four hundred people attending, but I didn't see anyone. And so that was like really awkward feeling for me. I was getting in my own head. Is this valuable information I'm sharing?
Ryan Burgess Because you weren't able to see those reactions of people nodding along or frowning or sleeping or, you know, like who knows?
Ryan Burgess At least you get some signals to say, like, okay, like move on or this is the right thing. I'm saying that's I think that's been some areas that I have found a little more difficult. Obviously, you get some of that, like even with us right now, you can read each other's faces a little bit, but it's not quite the same.
Jem Young There's been several conferences,.
All Cheers, cheers.
Jem Young And various like online forums that I've reached out saying, oh, you want to present be a presenter for this thing or you want to present on the topic or you wanted to speak on this. And I've turned them all down. I don't like remote presenting, Ryan, like you're saying. I prefer the in-person reaction to things because personally, I have a hard time with remote presentations because what sort of that and a YouTube video with that point, like, why am I doing it live? Why not just prerecorded and then edited it? And all these other things, I'm sure at will bite us on the benefits of being a good presenter. But for me personally, I'd much prefer to be there.
Jem Young I don't want to risk why do front of the Masters is because we fly to Minneapolis and we teach a course on some trending topic, but we do it in front of the class and then it's recorded and shared out. And that that makes such a big difference, especially when I have some big grandiose topic planned out and I see I'm losing people ten minutes in. I know that I can kind of step back, reevaluate what I want to do, and then kind of re-explain myself. But when you do remotely, you've got to focus on one or two people, but not everybody at once. You don't get a vibe. There's not enough. That's a technical speaking term. You don't get relief from the audience very well during remotely.
Ryan Burgess I thought you would have just said you didn't know if your joke landed or not.
Jem Young My jokes always land. I just assumed they were.
Ryan Burgess Yeah, I find that hard to believe that.
Anne Ricketts That's why a few years ago when I told that story, I ran out and said, I'll never do you do it again. As for the exact same reason. If you have one hundred of people, I mean, that's tough. And there might not be any way around it. But what I'm finding, I'm doing the workshops and zoom and you can see up to 50 people. And I know at Netflix, for example, you usually use Google Hangouts, but you can use Zoom. I think Zoom is really good because you can get that gallery view. And one of the things that's helping me gauge how things are landing is asking them to use clear physical signals. So, like, give me a thumbs up if you're on the same page, like thumbs down. If you're not like, how are you feeling about that? Use your hand as a gauge. Raise your hand. Just more physicality and you get a lot more clarity. And it just kind of keeps everyone awake. So that's a little thing that's helping me a lot in these virtual meetings.
Mars Jullian I find like I have a similar like we've been doing that sort of more work, too, in terms of like it being more physical with your responses. And I find that not only like if you're the person running the meeting and not only helps because a lot of people put themselves on mute. So keep, you know, whatever noise is in the background from coming into the meeting, it helps to, like, get answers to questions that you're asking.
Mars Jullian And also from like the participants side, it helps to, you know, to make sure that you're engaged and sort of like that you're paying attention because it kind of wakes you up like, oh, I have to do something now. I have to respond. No paying attention and sort of more engaged for the conversation after that for sure.
Anne Ricketts That yesterday I was observing my team do a workshop. And it may sound cheesy, but when she did it, it was amazing. She shared the goal of the workshop and she said, OK, if you've are onboard with that goal, give me a virtual high five. And everyone, there were 45 people. Everyone did it. And then she said, give your neighbor a high five. Give your other neighbor high five. So the gathering of you, everyone's giving high fives. And it was cool. It was really cool.
Ryan Burgess I love that it's a good idea even to Jem's topic of our saying, like speaking at a large event. I'm just I'm going to avoid our keyword. But, you know, I think about times of even like I think maybe even Anne, you've given this as like a tip is sometimes engaging the audience is like maybe, you know, show of hands or things like that were, I think, of those helpful tips to make sure that, you know, people are actually paying attention.
Ryan Burgess But it also the audience feels a little more part of your conversation or presentation that's happening.
Anne Ricketts For sure.
Anne Ricketts Other things you can do or polls do. Are any of you using polls in your presentations or have you seen others do it?
Ryan Burgess No. And now when you say polls is not more specific, like, I guess you could use it in both. Right. You could use it in the virtual presentation, but you could also be using it in like on stage physically as well, too. But I'm curious, like, are there tools that you're thinking of for the virtual side you're on?
Anne Ricketts On Zoom they have polls. And I know on Google Hangouts, I think you can use something called Slido or Kahoot. There's different there's different tools that you can use. But just, you know, is it A, is it B, is it C? And then the other thing is then you can have them say, OK, I want to know a little bit more about that, go into chat. And in one sentence or less, tell me why you answered the way you did. And then if you have a moderator, they can start to call out some of the answers. People love to hear their names. You can say, oh, ma said this. Gem said this. So just this is really can be a fun way to get people engaged.
Mars Jullian Yeah. I really like that idea because I think that some of those, at least on Zoom, there are quite a few features that, you know, not everyone knows about, like the raising hand feature, for example, or like a poll that using the yes no toggle. And I like the idea of expanding on it in the chat because you can really like add more context to what's going on in a meeting or a presentation. I've never heard that before, but that's really cool.
Anne Ricketts Yeah. And one more thing with the chat, I found that when I ask a complicated question out of the gate. So one of the things in the in-person we spend a lot of time talking about is how do you start? How do you set the tone with your hook? And I think it's the same or even more important for virtual, because most of the time people come into the virtual presentation and the speaker says, OK, we'll get started in a minute. And it's just dead silence, low energy. So instead, have some kind of e maybe it's an easy question like. And one in a couple words. How are you feeling today? They type into chat or it can be a question related to the topic. And then the other thing you can do is play music in the background on Zoom, it's really easy to share audio and people are like, oh, fun. Just just a little something to break that couple minutes that you have to wait until you get into your topic.
Mars Jullian Well, that's a great idea.
Ryan Burgess I'm doing this on my next my next meeting, I'm right there. There's going to be something. I'm totally taking that one.
Jem Young I like your part about the silences I hear. I see that a lot. Even on professional YouTube videos, I think I was watching one of President Obama's live speeches he gave last week or something.
Jem Young And there's like such a long delay. Like the presentation starting now. There's a good minute and you're sounding like one hundred thousand people watching live. And it's just, I expect better. So that's a good tip to play music. Keep the energy. But what other tips do you have for cheap energy? That's one thing. A problem I have even in meetings, if I'm giving a presentation, is like you might be full of energy, but like that just doesn't translate over the Internet. And what I'm if I'm giving a talk or something, I can, like, convey some energy and get people excited about it. But when you're talking to people at home, you don't know if it's raining where they are or there's a baby in the background or what's going on. So, like, how do you give some of that energy remotely?
Anne Ricketts Yeah. I would say keep it up. Ryan, you mentioned you start to get in your head because you think it's going terribly. So the first thing I would say don't jump to these negative stories that it's going awfully. It's probably not. It's probably going well. So keep that energy up, even though it may feel over the top, just like keep it up as the presenter and then having a moderator can help. Because as I mentioned, they can call out names and pull people in. And breakout rooms are an amazing way to keep people engaged. And in my experience, people are really hesitant to use them. And I'm not really sure why, because there's somebody so many benefits to it. No one is the speaker. You get a break. Great. You're off for five minutes. I get a chance to chill out, go to the bathroom, have some water, look at my notes. And people like it because they get a chance to talk, especially if it's well-organized and there's a really clear prompt. And then this is an actual advantage that we have in the virtual space that we don't in person, because normally in a in-person meeting or presentation, it's the same people who are always talking and people who maybe, you know, introverts or people who need a little bit longer don't have a chance to work out their ideas. But if you do breakout rooms, they get a chance to work it out and then you can get you know, it just can be more inclusive.
Ryan Burgess I like that, too. I do find when we've used breakouts at work is it's been some really great discussions that have happened. But I feel like part of it is even when we've done them, it's like hope this is going to work. I think part of it is that fear of just like there could be technical difficulty. And I think we need to get over that is like there could be technical difficulty. There has been technical difficulty.
Anne Ricketts I mean, if I can do the breakout rooms you all can do a breakout. Yeah. It's just in practice, like simulating the breakout rooms. The other really, really important factor I might've mentioned this before is clear directions, because if you have directions on a slide, once they're in the breakout rooms, they can't see it anymore. So having a Google doc or just simple. And there's one more point that I thought of in regards to Jim's question.
Anne Ricketts Like, how do you keep the energy up? Just less content? You cannot cover the same amount of content that you would in person because people are distracted, they're tired. And so limit, limit, limit.
Anne Ricketts Instead of having four agenda items on your meat in your meeting, maybe you just have one or two.
Ryan Burgess Which I think in general is probably a good practice no matter what. Whether you're in person or not is it's not easy to cut content like it's always that I forget the exact same. But you can write a massive email to someone and that's actually really easy to do. But to keep it clear and concise is is more work and to like a shorter email. But I think that's so important because the message isn't lost. And so it may take a little bit more time up front chopping down your presentation. So I think this goes back to what makes a stronger it makes a strong presenter in general is how do you make it clear for your audience to take something away? And so it sounds like and you're suggesting that it's really important in the virtual space, but I think probably in general we should be practicing that. But I'd be curious your thoughts on that and even what doesn't make a strong presenter? I think, like I would be you know, we kind of bring that up.
Anne Ricketts Yeah, I think everything is just amplified in the virtual space, you know. So if you're taking a little bit longer to get to your point, it might annoy people a little bit in person, but it's going to really annoy him online. So you just have to be really cognizant of all these things. But it's hard for many of you here and back to back meetings.
Anne Ricketts So you might not be able to prepare all your points before ever meeting. But if you're leading it. Just think about covering less ground, really making sure your points clear upfront and getting people engaged as much as possible. And then in terms of what makes a strong presenter over all, you know, one thing, I think a lot of people think that good presenters are just born that way. That either you're good or you're not. But I know from experience that that's not sure anyone can be a good presenter. The first thing is to know the behaviors that make you appear confident and that allow people to receive your message. So a lot of these behaviors that we talked about, the workshop like staying grounded on your feet, pausing, making eye contact so that you're connecting. These are a couple examples and knowing those behaviors, practicing them and getting better at them. And then the other thing that I think makes a really excellent presenter and this takes a little bit more time is to develop a conversational tone. So rather than going up in front of a group of people and it's seeming like you're regurgitating memorize content or you're giving a performance, making it seem more like you're having a conversation, even if you prepared it and practice it a thousand times, it just seems natural. What do you all think about that?
Ryan Burgess I love what you said about the I think the perception is people are like, yeah, you're a great presenter. And, you know, I'll just even use myself as an example. I've had people say, oh, you're a really good presenter. And I know. And if you ever a member in the first workshop I did, I was terrible. Like, I feel like I had a lot of filler words, wasn't as confident. And I think it's like it takes time and you have to work at that. And every time I go and present, I can get better and I can you know, I learn as I go and we know what could be better next time. And so it's really always interesting for people to compliment on that. And I think sometimes it's even. Oh, you're a natural speaker in it. I don't know that that's the case because I do think that we all come at it from different angles. And maybe you're in your journey, you're a little bit further along. But I think it actually does take a lot of work in practice. I still work on trying to remove filler words. My ones to go to are like I'm a little bit with the arms. Not too bad, but I use the word like a lot and I hate it and I try to remove it so much. I've even felt I've gotten better after listening to myself. What are we at like one hundred and ten episodes or something up front and happier. I edit these things and have to listen to myself dreaded. We hear myself say those filler words and it's I still do them, but I feel like they've gotten better over time.
Anne Ricketts Definitely.
Mars Jullian Yeah. I really like what you said and about the like behaviors that appear like help you appear like you have confidence because I actually think like they're very learned. And I can remember when I first started speaking to, like, how I feel on stage now is like very different. But the behaviors are really interesting because it projects one thing. But that projection comes back to you, I think. So, like, you get a little bit better every time. So you're projecting confidence, which is instilling confidence, which is sort of like making this like it's up. It's progress, not perfection, basically. But it not only helps the audience see you as confident, but also like helps build that confidence in yourself when you're, like, going public speaking and that kind of thing for sure.
Anne Ricketts For example, what Mars said about what you project affects how you feel. Simply like raising your volume makes me feel more confident. And it is an ongoing process. I mean, still, even as a communication coach, I have to work a lot on it. And then I have like today at a workshop that I felt did not go well. But that's OK. I got to get back on the horse. Next time we'll be better.
Anne Ricketts I just view it as a constant, constant process.
Jem Young I guess the confidence thing is huge. Not enough people think about that with a different politician. They think so much on the content, like I need to have this continent, this content, this content. Yet time and time again, I've seen the best presenters and the best presentations. They can give a talk on how to eat a sandwich. But B, but because they're such good presenters, I'm like, oh yeah, I got something out of that. Even though I knew everything about Sara because I'm in my thirties, I know plenty about these challenges, but I still learn something. And I think that's a mistake that I may be getting was that I thought a good presentation was all about the content and had to be good content and meaningful and people need to get it all that. And that's important. Obviously it's presentation, but it's it's really about how you present yourself and that alone makes people buy it and that makes them listen more, which makes them understand your content. So it's definitely confidence and presentation before the content. Not so you can't have one without the other, but it won't be a strong presentation for sure.
Anne Ricketts Ideally, you can have both. I see that all the time in my workshop. People are like they want to get every word perfect. And the analogy I use a lot instead of it is definitely confidence. But I think about connection because that feels a little less intimidating. Like you've got to connect with your audience versus you have to portray this perfect sense of confidence. And I use this analogy of like a couple. So let's say that the other person in the relationship is sharing content. They're talking at you. If you're in a period where you're not connected, you are not listening to that content. But if you're connected, then you hear it. It's the same thing with the audience and a speaker.
Ryan Burgess Right. I guess you can just, like, be speaking to the room if nobody's listening. What's the point?
Anne Ricketts Yeah, and if you're just getting through a script and the audience will do that for a couple minutes and then they'll start to tune out. So you really gotta connect with them.
Mars Jullian Sort of like talking, riffing on the content idea. Like one thing, I got a tip from someone a while ago. I kind of like really struck a chord with me that helps with the presentation is in every conference. Cheers, by the way, to sketch.
Mars Jullian If you take even one or two points away from a talk like that's still a success. And I feel like when I first started talking, I felt like every single piece of content had to be meaningful and not so much like what are the main takeaways?
Mars Jullian Like, we've kind of mentioned this before and then how do you build the story around that? So it's not just like every single piece of content has to be teaching something someone new, but more like creating. Narrative that allows people to take the larger, higher level points away from it that they can really carry with them. And then maybe even publishing your slides online later so that they can return to specific points. But it's the higher level stuff that kind of sticks with them. And that's like a lot of pressure off of presentations for me. OK. Not everything has to be the best sentence or delivery ever.
Mars Jullian It really has to be about the structure of the talk as well and how it's delivered and that connection that you're talking about.
Ryan Burgess And I also love what you're getting at there. Mars a bit too more arm around. Maybe it's the content side of things that especially when I think of talks that we do on technical details or engineering specific presentations, as I feel like some people are hesitant to give a presentation or give a conference talk. Cheers. Cheers. Because they're not the expert in the topic. Others know it more than them or whatever it may be. But I think that going to Mars is point is you can give one or two points to someone that's amazing. Like there was some takeaway. And I think even just the fact of sharing your own journey around a topic or giving your own opinion or thoughts on it can be so meaningful, even if I'm the best at react hooks. But Mars teaches me react hooks. I might learn something that I had a brand new perspective that I hadn't even thought about. And I think to me, that's something that I really liked. Mars is something I kind of took away from your points as well.
Mars Jullian Yeah, I think that's a good point. Sort of like in terms of encouraging people who have questions about starting public speaking, like they don't necessarily feel like they have anything to teach, but everyone has a different perspective to offer and, you know, even react hucks like I may use a hook and one way that someone's never, ever seen before and someone else may use in a completely different way and someone, you know, different perspectives. I think you also in the audience, like people are going to learn from that.
Jem Young It's a it's a balance. I'm more of a bestrode more advanced speaking because in the beginning I say, yes, if you're just starting off speaking, focus on your delivery and you're content, like try to balance those album. Don't don't make like the delivery in terms of content. Like, that's a mistake I've made before. And it's just terrible presentations that you haven't lived until you've given a terrible presentation because you feel it and you feel it and you feel it later and you think I could've done all these things well.
Jem Young And hopefully the next time you iterate. But it's OK if you just sort of public speaking. You will give a terrible presentation. It will happen. All right. But more advanced tweaking is some of the worst talks I've seen have been an excellent delivery.
Jem Young But the content was just shallow and it was just full of platitudes, which are things that sound very wise, but they don't really mean anything. Like, look both ways before you cross the street. I'd like you to like points made, like you're a thought leader, but they're just not really say anything honestly. Those are for more advanced speaking. That's some of the most difficult presentations that I have to deal with.
Jem Young When you're watching because you're like this person doesn't actually know what they're talking about, they're just really good at selling you something. But there's no content there. That's another danger that I would say. Be wary of once you start speaking a bit more. It's like it's really easy to do those types of talks where there's just there's no meat.
Anne Ricketts There's no there there.
Jem Young Yeah, maybe, maybe I'm doing too far into, like, thinking about how to do this Stretch six.
Anne Ricketts I think you bring up a good point that you should test your content on other people, because if you ask people who you trust and are going to be honest with you, they'll say, like, OK, what's the point? Like, what's the I don't know. If you all remember, we had this document that we I used when I coached speakers. It's called the Focus Questions. And it's like, okay, why should your audience care? What's something that will make your audience say, oh, I never thought of it that way. What's your insight? What's something fresh with something new? So I think you're always thinking about what's once you get more advanced again. Like, start off, it's OK. But as you get more advanced, you always want to be thinking about adding in a new element, approaching your topic in a way that others haven't, perhaps. And that's really what's going to make people go, oh, that that was really interesting.
Ryan Burgess I love that you brought up that the template that you mentioned. Anne, I still use that all the time, like I have it is the one that you gave us. Yeah, absolutely. I'll do it sometime. I'll use it sometimes for work presentations, but absolutely for conference presentations. I'll cheers. It's usually my go to my first thing that I do is start there. I have an idea. It helps me floorshow like what's what's the takeaway and what's the most important thing. Who's the audience. Those those core questions in that outliners is super helpful and valuable.
Mars Jullian Something in addition to that too. Like I like the template, but something you've said and to about practicing your content with people and something I like to tell newer speakers sometimes is that it really takes a village like a good talk is not is not born in a vacuum. And I experience that at Netflix, like giving practice runs, you know, with Javin Ryan. And they always give valuable feedback because they sort of like helped tease out the main points. They also can give feedback on your delivery and the the story arc or the narrative of the talk like really evolves over time, like especially with, you know, other people who are watching these practice sessions. And it's really invaluable to get like that fresh perspective on your content, because sometimes you can be so in the weeds and focused on the content. The individual slides and someone's like, wait, what's going on in the you know, the higher level? What's the story really about? And so, like, one of the biggest things that stuck with me too, is just like find people to practice in front of and do a lot of practice, do it all the time on it.
Jem Young Honest people, honest friends with audience feedback you don't want. Yes. Yes. People they're like, that was good. That was good. Just that's cool. But that's not helpful at all. When you're trying to rehearse a presentation. You what? People are going to be overly harsh, but we'll be honest with you, which. Right. Usually I practice with right in bars because I know they will tell me if it doesn't make sense.
Ryan Burgess Hey, Jem, do you remember the A B testing presentation I ran through with you?
Jem Young Yes
Ryan Burgess What did you tell? What did you tell me for feedback?
Jem Young What did I tell you?
Ryan Burgess I think you just said is awful. Like it was basic. Oh yeah. Brutally honest.
Jem Young It was terrible.
Ryan Burgess I mean, it was good, though. It was like really helpful.
Ryan Burgess Like we talked about why it wasn't just that Jem put it down,.
Jem Young You suck Ryan.
Ryan Burgess But he was like, this is not good, that you can do better.
Ryan Burgess And we talked about what could be better about it. But like, you need someone honest to give you that feedback. I actually think it's harder to give the presentation to people that are close to me because I know they're gonna be brutally honest. I think that's a lot harder than actually going up on stage to give it till a multitude of people they're like, I'm out like that. I don't want to talk to them. I just gave it. Even if I bomb on it, it's but it's like my peers giving that is so much harder. I've even I've ran through presentations with Anne in the past too. Like where I'm not something that you offer part of Light House's coaching on, on that.
Ryan Burgess And I was probably more nervous in that moment than actually going and giving it just because I know she's gonna be like Ryan, you know, I'm waiting for the feedback. And so I think that's actually but it's superimportant. It's super important to do that.
Anne Ricketts And most people avoid it. They do not do it. And then they're shocked that it didn't go well. To add a little bit a little bit more nuance to rehearsing, I would say first start off by saying it aloud to yourself, because you can catch a lot by just getting out of your head and actually saying it aloud. For example, once you hear it, you'll start to notice that some of the language sounds like written language, really formal, but it's not conversational.
Anne Ricketts So, OK, you can work through those things, figure out what your transitions are, then go to people you trust. And then I would say there needs to be a cut off because I've certainly experienced where I'm trying to please all the people who are giving me feedback and I kind of lose my own voice. And if that happens to close to the date of the presentation, I bombed. So I would say a couple days before. So, okay, great. I got feedback. I'm letting that go and now I'm making it my own and then go forth from that point where it.
Jem Young Ryan and I've had this discussion before about, again, the people your bouncing your feedback. Off of or giving a test presentation to you, you should know them well. They should be honest, but they should also know how to give feedback. There's definitely been instances. And right. I've discussed this at length of people giving feedback when deep, deep feedback on like your fundamental premise is wrong. When the presentation is tomorrow or the next day. And as someone who isn't giving feedback, you should probably be more emotionally aware of. Like, yeah, that's really not the best, best thing you do. Just like salvage what you can and say. Yeah. Maybe the ending could use a bit tighter of a wrap up, but just put anybody out there is giving feedback.
Jem Young Just keep in mind where they are in the presentation process and if they're near the end, it's probably not the best time to say like this isn't the best idea for a talk. Just. I just think this happened to me at South by Southwest. I got some, like, fundamental feedback the day before the presentation. And I'm like that. It's not helpful. Kind of threw your confidence a bit. But, you know, I'm Jim, so I have a deep level of confidence. But following that, what really helps when receiving feedback and if someone's if you have someone who you trust who says, I don't really get it, it's the have the fundamental. Can you summarize your presentation in one sentence? And I think and you taught us this. And Ryan definitely calls me on it all the time when I'm rehearsing for him. He'll say, what's my one takeaway from your entire presentation? And if you can't say it in a sentence, then you should probably rework your presentation to focus on that one point or maybe two points. But it super helpful when you're crafting a point and you're like, how do I get from beginning to the end? Well, what what's my main premise? What is the one thing I want people to learn? And Mars, like you said earlier, especially if you do it at a conference where there's 50 talks or something like that, people aren't gonna remember. Cheers. People argue, remember? Ninety nine percent of what you said. But if you can get them to take away one thing from the presentation, then you've done a good job.
Ryan Burgess So we've talked a lot about presenting media like our nice little keyword of conference.
Ryan Burgess But I'm curious, what's the difference between presenting to a meeting versus a conference? Because those are there's there's similarities, but there's also a lot of differences in and you may show up completely different to that. I'm curious and but also to the rest of the group. What how do you think about that? Like, what are the best ways to prepare for a meeting presentation vs. a public speaking conference type thing?
Mars Jullian All the keywords.
Anne Ricketts They are definitely different.
Anne Ricketts I think for a conference presentation, it's a little bit more of a performance and a few aspects. Number one, everything you do is gonna be a little bit bigger because you may have hundreds of people. You're on stage, you're opening story is going to have a little bit more entertainment value and might be longer. So all everything's gonna be bigger. And whatever you prepare is most likely what's gonna happen, what you're gonna do. But for an internal presentation, for a presentation and a meeting, it's it's a little more casual. It doesn't mean that you shouldn't prepare. You should probably also start off with the story. But rather than being two to three minutes, it's gonna be more casual, like, hey, as I was preparing for this meeting, the one idea that kept coming up for me was X. So you're going to ease into that story and a conversation away and then you've got to be flexible because you may think you've got 20 minutes, you've got 10. You may get interrupted with questions. And so it's having a plan, but being really flexible, too.
Ryan Burgess So Anne, I want to go back a little bit on the story piece there. And there's good reason for this because I think it is really important. And that's something that you talk a lot about in your workshop. And I will admittedly say I didn't buy it at first. I didn't think that you needed to have this story.
Ryan Burgess And I've seen presentations from others or myself when I haven't done that. It's such an important aspect of the overall presentation that I just want. I'm curious, like, you know, what does a story mean? And like, why is that so important?
Anne Ricketts It story. It's interesting. When in workshops people will usually they also don't buy it like, no, no, I'm not going to do that because it feels weird, it feels different. So people want to start off with like hey and thanks so much for coming. So today here's my topic. Here's the agenda. OK. Let's get started. I call those a lovely bunch of words. And Gem, you're talking about this earlier, like whatever doesn't mean anything. And then people start to perk up once you start to tell a story.
Anne Ricketts So why not cut all that crap before and just get into a story? It's not like some random story, but it's a story related to your topic. It's like an on ramp that gets everyone up to speed. So rather than thinking of it as this random thing that's not related. Think about it as an on ramp to get people up to speed on the same page onboard with what your presentation is about.
Jem Young It's like you said earlier, but I like we keep looping back on points because that's what a good presentation is like. It's just all these things. But and what she said earlier was it's really about the connection you make. And that's what the story does, is it sets a baseline and then you say, why should I care? And then you tell some story that people can relate to versus some, I don't know, like ups here. A technical topic you're covering, like tell people why they should care what this is about. But it really comes back to. I'll say this. The first presentation class I had with you and you made us all memorize some line. But just a couple sentences. A quote. Yeah. Yeah. And the quote I had was from Maya Angelou that I saw marriage to this day. It's that in the end, people will remember what you did. They won't remember what you said. Orvil remembers how you made them feel.
Jem Young And that is 100 percent true. Like in any presentation, technical or non, it's about that connection to the Jenny and that story. And people like, OK. I don't know. I don't know Ryan from the next guy, but I know a little something about him. And I know he's passionate about this topic because the story he told I'm going to listen a little bit more versus I'm some corporate drone who's just giving a talking about something. And then I'm gonna go home and I don't really want to do this. And like, that comes through. One hundred percent and someone's energy. So, yeah. The story of a story is like, absolutely true.
Anne Ricketts I was thinking about that quote before. I'm so glad you brought that up because that was on my mind, too. And it doesn't always have to be a story that you start off with. But, yeah, it's about connecting. Also, when you tell a story, you tend to use more conversational language.
Anne Ricketts Back to this idea again, it's not like optimize leverage and people start to just sit there listening and like intellectually they get it, but they're not really connecting to it.
Ryan Burgess So, yeah, it goes back to Jem's point of like, how do you get the energy of the room that can do it right there? I think that story, it hooks people's you come up with the good energy because you're telling the story, but it hooks you versus I'm Ryan. I'm gonna talk to you about react hooks. That's boring. Get that later. Let's start with the story and really get people energized and excited about the topic.
Mars Jullian And what I find kind of interesting, too, to think just occurred to me is that like the story allows your passion for the topic to show through, which I've heard a lot in terms of like creating engaging with the audience as opposed to what is actually, I think, more of a qualification for talking about it than your actual qualifications of Iowa's seniors. Like, I'm not as a software engineer. It's like I feel really passionately about this. And I think that's actually more interesting to someone than, you know, what your title is, where you were, you know, how are you.
Mars Jullian But in the industry, that kind of thing.
Anne Ricketts The slide with the picture and all the bullet points are much better.
Mars Jullian We all have.
Anne Ricketts And that's OK. But if you have if that comes later, I think that's OK. But I one of the things I would say, it's not about you as the speaker, it's about your topic. So if you're thinking in that way, you wouldn't start off with explaining who you are. You start up on the topic and then you can say who you are after.
Ryan Burgess So another thing I'm curious about, and this is something that I don't know, that I've given it a ton of thought, but we obviously have a pretty global audience and it could be non-native English speaking listeners out there. Any communication tips you would give for non-native English speakers who are listening?
Anne Ricketts It kind of relates to what we were talking about before, about this need when we're speaking publicly, whether that's in a meeting or presentation.
Anne Ricketts We're so concerned about coming across perfectly, having our English perfect every words. And the script is perfect. But again, people aren't going to remember every word. They're going to remember how overall how you came across the same thing with your English. You may mispronounce a word, and that's OK. You may not know the perfect vocabulary word and you use a more simple word. And that's OK. As long as you're getting your message across and you're coming across in a way that's connecting and seems pretty confident, that's more important. So just get out there practice and the more you do it, the better your English is going to be. But I see that all the time in Silicon Valley, where non native English speakers say, oh, my English is so bad and I'm thinking, what? Your English is perfect. So know that it always seems worse in your head than it does to your audience or most of the time.
Ryan Burgess And it's probably good to not surface, not to like say, oh, my English is poor because then it's already disqualifying you a bit or and you're losing that confidence. I'm assuming that's probably not the best thing to say.
Anne Ricketts Yeah. I always say avoid disclaimers. I mean, there's one if you make a mistake and you make a self-deprecating joke. No big deal. But to start off saying your English is poor either. It's not. And people are like, what are you talking about?
Anne Ricketts And that was wasted time or. Yeah, just calls their attention to it when again, it's not about you, it's about your topic. So tell a friend that. But don't start off the presentation on that note.
Ryan Burgess So before we dove into pics, we've got a ton of amazing advice, I think just unpacking in this episode. But I'm curious for all of you what's like one piece of advice for our listeners that you would share, whether it be presenting or just public speaking in general? What's one piece of advice that you would love to share before we dove into pics? Just one is just what I just want to share.
Mars Jullian I mean, I think I've heard I already said it on this podcast, but the one that really sticks with me is it really takes a village. Like good talks really don't happen alone.
Mars Jullian And the feedback that I've gotten from coworkers like Ryan and Jem and in the workshop with Anne just the practice is so invaluable and the feedback you get not only on your presentation style, but on the story and the way that you're telling it. I don't know. I just I couldn't I don't think I could have done any of my conference talks without it. So that's the one thing I really that's the one piece of advice I would always give. Someone enters.
All Cheers. Cheers. Cheers.
Anne Ricketts I love that advice.
Jem Young Yes. I remember calling Ryan presentation terrible, actually. I think what I said was, you've done better and you can do better. But in the end, it turned out that was one of the best presentations you've ever given. But by far, like, it was just amazing. I was probably better than all my presentations, which I don't believe that is the best thing. It is a competition and it's a competition every time. I think I just for just one advice for presentation. A lot of people listen to the show, the front and happy are our regulars. They're engineers. So I remember thinking about my early days, like I only care about technical things. Lots of skills. All that matters. My job is how well I can code. That is 100 percent not true. A good example is let's say you create some great algorithm and it saves the company millions of dollars. Cool. But how are you going to get people to implement that if you can't explain that to them? And that's universally true across any engineering ideas. It doesn't matter how smart you are. If you can't explain it to people simply and you can't get them to buy into that idea, then it doesn't matter. Go code in the woods for all it matters. I just think as engineers, we neglect presentation skills far too much. It is absolutely one of our core competencies that we should master along with coding.
Anne Ricketts Yeah. So get out there and do it. So piggybacking off Jem's point, I would say, you know, if you're an engineer or actually whatever your role is, do something that scares you a little bit. So maybe if you've been focusing on your technical skills, simply speaking up in a big group meeting feels scary. So so do that. Make that a goal. Tell somebody on your team who's going to hold you accountable to reaching that goal. Maybe it's volunteering to give a conference talk ten years and it's going to be stressful leading up to it. It's going to feel scary, but you'll do it. And it may not be the best presentation you'll ever give to everyone's point before, but that's where you've got to start. So just do something that scares you a little bit and do it once a year so that you keep advancing your skills.
Ryan Burgess Wow, those are some good points.
Ryan Burgess It's hard to pick just one good piece of advice. I'm going to go into a little bit different direction that I don't think anyone's really surfaced is, I think, something that I found really helpful. It goes back to the you know, what's the takeaway? What's the point being made? I think it's really important in that summary is to reiterate the takeaways for people, especially when I think to those larger onstage talks that we would be doing it. I mean, I look at the room, they're on Twitter. They're they're not always paying attention. So it just re-emphasize what are the main takeaways and recap that I think that is really helpful to it gets to that point of what's the clear message. I'll tell them again. All right. Well, in each episode, the front end happy hour podcasts, we like to share pics of things that we found interesting and we like to share with everyone listening. Let's go around and cherrypicks. Mars, you want to start it off?
Mars Jullian No, but I will. I, I've actually been quite focused on work for the past week, so I don't really have too many pics. My one pic being the wine that my mom so graciously brought to me in the middle of this episode, which is from a company called Companion Wine Company, and canned wine is becoming like the quality and canned wine is actually like it's exploding, which is great. And it's one of the best PR gurus I've had in a really long time. And it's called skin contact. And Jeb is laughing at me, referring to ignore that. And it comes in like a four pack so you can order it online if you're really interested. It's like out of like a full bodied peno. Agree. That's a little pink because it has some contact with the grapes still.
Mars Jullian So if you're interested in trying out some of the stuff that we drink here on front and happy hour or just some of the stuff that I drink here on front end happy hour. I would highly recommend this particular brand of Kidwai.
Jem Young Yeah, and Mars, I wasn't laughing at the factory's been canned wine, which is hilarious.
Ryan Burgess I was.
Jem Young I mean, I was to be honest, I'm a big fan of it's always sunny in Philadelphia. And they had an episode where they started pouring wine into soda cans so they could, like day drink all the time. And by the by the end, they upset everyday drinking soda cans. But it's actually wine and soda on Twitter. We'll get this number like, hi, Jeff.
Anne Ricketts I've only seen a couple episodes, but the philanthropist, I don't want to say what that was.
Jem Young I know. I know what you're talking about. I have three picks today. The first one is a TV show on Netflix. It's called the Midnight Gospel. It's actually a cartoon. It's by Pendleton Ward, who created Adventure Time that most people are known by.
Jem Young But this one, he plays a random character. It's kind of a mishmash of different themes. But the overall theme is he picks one person who is really knowledgeable on the topic and there's some sort of background story that has no meaning on the topic. It's more like it's just filler to keep keep the keep you entertained because they talk about deep things like Hinduism and life and death, rebirth, drug's effect on the psyche, like whether or not it should be legal or not. They go to really, really deep topics, but it's to the background of kind of like a zany cartoon. So it it kind of hooks you in and you're kind of watching the cartoon, but you're also like, huh? You know, if they ever thought about, ah, the thing that causes pain and our burden is that we know we'll die some day and we just as humans, we never accept that.
Jem Young Like, they get really, really deep. So Midnight Gospel is not I wouldn't say it's like watching. It looks like a kid's cartoon, but it's really, really heavy. But it's excellent. Just if you watch one episode, I think you'll get hooked. The second pic is it. It answers a question I've always had, which is what do executives do, actually? And I always wondered that, like Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, worth four point six billion or something like that. What does he actually do? Like what is the day to day of an executive?
Jem Young And this blog post goes into that and they answer it in really interesting way. That's not what I thought. I won't give away kind of what executives do in the day to day. But it's just fascinating because I just never think like, what does my director do all day? They're not coding. It's just I think we have at least me as an individual contributor, have a fundamental misunderstanding about what executives do, what their role is and understanding that helps me do my job better in terms of like how they see me and the work I do and how that translates across into organization. It's a pretty short read and it's pretty entertaining. So that's a yes. You can find out what executives do. My final pick is a Valley Silicon Pick. That is the segment where I pick things that are so expensive. They probably should exist, except that we in Silicon Valley have too much money. So what's a problem we all have in our day to day life? Right. Early, we're talking to how your microwave went out. And you're talking about you'll you know, how much your refrigerator costs. Well, what if I can give you a device that does both of these in one? Yeah, I have your interests. Oh, well, y y yeah.
Ryan Burgess I think the question is why. Because like I look at that in a microwave, it's fairly small. So a fridge at the microwave, you're not going to fit much in there.
Jem Young And you're right. You're right. You won't. You will. But for twelve hundred dollars you can have the SUV. The SUV is billed as your family's robot chef, which is absolutely not true. But essentially what it does is you do all the prep work, you put all the food together into their proprietary containers because, of course, they're proprietary and you put the food into this device. And some of it keeps cold. Some of it heats up. And it does it all in one kind of box. And I know you're thinking you're like, I have a microwave and I have a refrigerator. What do I need this for? Well, you don't. That's why it's fairly so. I'm not kidding. It's twelve hundred dollars and that's all it is. It is a microwave and refrigerator and one. But it's not big enough to be that terribly useful. And you still have to cook all the food ahead of time and then put it together.
Jem Young And it's just I guess it's like a crock pot, but it's a microwave.
Mars Jullian Why do I have the two functions and one thing like. I don't know.
Jem Young I don't I don't know either.
Ryan Burgess But is it Wi-Fi enabled?
Jem Young Oh, of course it's Wi-Fi. Oh, totally. Here's the number you need that Petraeus. Well, if everybody buys on, you know, said send me a review because you obviously have more money than me @JemYoung on Twitter.
Ryan Burgess Tell him that. Yes.
Anne Ricketts So my picks. I got two unorthodox on Netflix. Have any of you seen it? I just watched it and I loved it. Four episodes. It was just so amazing. And I learned a lot about the you population religion. It was very interesting. The other pic I have is kind of old school, but I love Fresh Air on NPR with Terry Gross. I just love it. Even though the topics are serious, her voice is very soothing and calming. And I learn a lot about communication from her because she has great pauses. She's just great. She's a great interviewer. So that is my pick.
Ryan Burgess I don't think I've heard that one. I'm going to go listen to that.
Mars Jullian I agree with you. And it's very, very soothing. And she does have a grievance, always very well structured.
Jem Young She's one of the greatest interviewers were of our time. Krisher like, she just interviews everybody. She does it so well, even people that, you know, she doesn't agree with. You can kind of kind of hear it. She still like is to have like a civil dialog with a good pick.
Ryan Burgess All right. I have two picks. One is actually really funny because they how I came about this is I was Googling. This is on topic. I was Googling. I felt this about maybe a year ago. It was something that I wanted to be a little more clear and concise on the points that I was even making in a meeting.
Ryan Burgess And so actually, Google that. And I came across a video called How to make Clear and Concise Points that put together. It's good, though. It's like two minutes to three minutes long and it gives some really great tips. So I'm going to pick that, sorry Anne.
Anne Ricketts Oh, my God.
Anne Ricketts It's like 2014. I'm doing a live fireside chat at my apartment.
Ryan Burgess I think it's great. And it was just hilarious. It's like I got to just do a little more research on how I can make more clear and concise points. And sure enough, there's some great advice there.
Anne Ricketts Thanks, Ryan.
Ryan Burgess Then another pic I have maybe on topic, especially we've been talking about virtual meetings and having to speak and make clear points. I think investing in a good mike is really important. And one that I will recommend is when people ask, is the blue yeti mic. It's something that's it's a great USB, mic. Really easy to use. And it's one that we actually used for a good year or two. I think we were using Blue Yeti's when we recording the front end Happy Hour podcast. We have since changed, but I think they're great mikes for use of just plugging in your computer and going.
Ryan Burgess Before we end the episode, I want to think and for joining us, it was a pleasure having us and sharing a lot of great knowledge work and people get in touch with you.
Anne Ricketts So Anne@LHCtraining.com is my email. And then the Web site is LHC that stands for Lighthouse Communications, LHCtraining.com. Thanks for having me, Ryan.
Ryan Burgess And I'm correct to say that people can hire your company to come in even at their company to give workshop virtually or hopefully at some point in person.
Anne Ricketts That's right. We're doing virtual workshops right now and virtual coaching. And then at some point we'll also go back to in person. I bet we'll do a combo.
Ryan Burgess That's cool. I mean, you can extend to, you know, new countries and cities. Like, you don't actually have to physically be there, which is pretty exciting, too.
Jem Young I just think it's important to point out on front and happy hour, we don't have advertisers. We have never taken a single dollar from anybody for it. And we actually almost never promote a company. But I would also second and Lighthouse Communications Mars, Ryan, and I are all graduates more or less.
Ryan Burgess Hopefully, we passed.
Jem Young Hopefully, we will do okay.
Anne Ricketts A plus.
Jem Young We are all much better presenters for having taken this class. And I think you can tell if you. It's really hard to tell because you don't know when you took the class. But I can see my work from before and after the classes like. I'm a much better presenter for it. So thank you.
Anne Ricketts Thank you, guys. That's so nice.
Ryan Burgess Well, thanks for joining us and thanks for sharing awesome tips for our listeners, too. Thank you all for listening. Today's episode you can find us at FrontEndHappyHour.com. And subscribe to us on whatever you like to listen to podcasts on whether be Spotify. I don't know. Google Play. Apple podcasts. You can also find us on Twitter @frontendHH. Any last words?
Jem Young Ryan. Are you still bitter? You're still bitter about that feedback I give you. I can tell you. I can hear it.
Ryan Burgess I have trouble sleeping at night Jem. I still. It's just it keeps me up at night attempting to learn in the class.
Anne Ricketts You've got to start with a positive feedback. Then go.
Ryan Burgess And hey, it didn't warrant any. Anne, there is no reason for that.
Jem Young I said he smelled nice in the beginning. Ryan, you smell nice. Now onto your presentation.
Ryan Burgess Yeah.