Do You Have to Be Good at Presenting to Make It in Digital?

Paul Boag

This week on the Boagworld Show, we explore why presentational skills are so crucial to any digital professional and what exactly makes an excellent presenter.

This week’s show is sponsored by OmniFocus for iOS and Resource Guru.


Paul Boag: This week on the Boagworld Show we explore why presentational skills are so crucial to any digital professional, and then what exactly it means to be a great presenter. This week's show is sponsored by OmniFocus and Resource Guru.

Hello and welcome to the Boagworld Show, the podcast about all aspects of user experience inaudible 00:00:38, digital strategy, working in the digital, and whatever else I feel like talking about in any particular week.

My name is Paul Boag, and joining me as always is Marcus Lillington

Paul Boag: Occasionally he gets to pick a topic as well, so there we go. Not too often, obviously, because we don't want to encourage crosstalk 00:00:56 him.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, exactly. Don't let me get ideas above my station.

Paul Boag: No, exactly. We can't be having that. So, how are you Marcus? How's it going?

Marcus Lillington: Oh, stressy. Stressy stress stress with stress sauce on the top.

Paul Boag: Why is it stressy?

Marcus Lillington: We've had an issue with a site we look after. I'm not saying any more than that.

Paul Boag: No, okay. These things happen. With the best will in the world, sometimes things go wrong. There you go.

Marcus Lillington: It's sorted now, but it was all kind of like… And, anyway.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Absolutely. So-

Marcus Lillington: And how are you Paul?

Paul Boag: I'm good. Yes. Yeah. I've become obsessed with video, so I've finally, finally got a video setup. Because I want to start doing some Skillshare stuff, and that kind of thing, because I enjoy it. So I've been meaning to set up a proper video setup for ages, and I've finally got it nailed, which is really really good. So it means there's going to be some changes around here. So for a start, I'm going to start putting out a video, like I put out a podcast and a blog post. Not very long; just about a few minutes, every week. And that's going to go out on Friday, which means that I've got to move the podcast from Thursday to Wednesday, and the blog post from Tuesday to Monday. Did you follow that?

Marcus Lillington: Okay. Even though I've agreed to all these Thursdays Paul, for what crosstalk 00:02:32 seems like an eternity-

Paul Boag: No no no no no-

Marcus Lillington: No no no no.

Paul Boag: The release date will be a Wednesday. We can record it whenever we want. Whenever we feel like it, because that's the way of things. crosstalk 00:02:46 So we'll still record it on a Thursday.

Marcus Lillington: Thursday afternoon's quite a pleasant time to be doing it.

Paul Boag: Exactly. You don't want to be doing it on a Friday afternoon, because you're just waiting to go to the pub for the weekend. But a Thursday afternoon, that's good. I think a Wednesday afternoon would be even better, because the Wednesday is the hump day isn't it? So you never feel like doing anything on a Wednesday afternoon. Or I don't.

Marcus Lillington: I tend not to feel like doing anything on any day Paul, but crosstalk 00:03:10 that's how it happens. When you reach my age, that's what you've got to look forward to folks.

Paul Boag: Do you know? It is true. It is true. You reach a certain point in your life when you don't want to deal with any shit, basically. Anything that doesn't…

Marcus Lillington: Involve alcohol?- crosstalk 00:03:29

Paul Boag: Anything irritating, or anything that involves any kind of effort, no, I'm done with it. So, I swear that's why people become grumpy old men. It's like, "I just can't be dealing with your shit".

Marcus Lillington: Apparently, particularly men, because we have two X chromosomes, instead of an X and a Y chromosome, we have to learn how to behave. You don't inherit any learning how to behave behavior. So, if you take that one step further, us old men have to watch young people, especially men, make mistakes. And we go, "Err" at them, because it's like, "That's not how you do it." He said in a whiny voice. I don't know where I'm going with this.

Paul Boag: Or is it seriously crosstalk 00:04:19 that we're just stuck in our…

Marcus Lillington: This is pub talk, this is.

Paul Boag: Yeah, are we just stuck in our ways? Is that what it all means?

Marcus Lillington: That's inaudible 00:04:26crosstalk 00:04:26

Paul Boag: We don't want to deal with it any more.

Marcus Lillington: If what I just said was true, nothing would ever happen. There would be no change. crosstalk 00:04:34 So it's not true-

Paul Boag: And as Paul says in the chatroom, he loves the justification, he's going to cling onto this pseudoscience bullshit that you just came up with-

Marcus Lillington: I've crosstalk 00:04:46 read that somewhere 20 years ago, and I've changed it completely round the wrong way. And I probably read it, I don't know, on the internet. Maybe not 20 crosstalk 00:04:54 years ago.

Paul Boag: Yeah, probably. So yeah. There you go. So I don't know how to follow that. All right, inaudible 00:05:03. So just to say… Yeah, so- crosstalk 00:05:06

Marcus Lillington: Videos.

Paul Boag: Post on Monday, post on Wednesday, post on Friday. If you want to see my videos, then you can if you wish to subscribe to my YouTube channel at Personally, I'd just get it via the website, because YouTube is a cesspit, in my grumpy old man opinion. I'll use it, don't get me wrong. I watch things on YouTube. It's just never look at the comments.

Marcus Lillington: Oh god no-

Paul Boag: I don't… No.

Marcus Lillington: Just don't look at the comments of anything, anywhere, at crosstalk 00:05:37 any time.

Paul Boag: That is very true. crosstalk 00:05:39 Twitter is unbearable, at the moment isn't it? I just can't go on Twitter at the minute-

Marcus Lillington: I don't know.

Paul Boag: Well it's because of all this Brexit stuff. At the time of recording, parliament are arguing about a, well, the House of Lords are currently arguing about it. And Twitter is just this kind of stream of ranting and obscenities. Anyway…

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, it is.

Paul Boag: If you want to come to these live shows, because I know that it's a bit of an exclusive club, the live show thing, because we don't really make it very obvious when we're going to do it, or anything like that. You can find out at any time when the next show is going to be by going to

Now Marcus, I'm a bit worried about your thought for the day, right? Because all Marcus has written in the notes, as his thought for the day, is, "Stop hiring agencies." Now, I'm sorry to break it to you Marcus, but you do actually run an agency. I could say that, because I stopped running an agency, crosstalk 00:06:43 but you can't.

Marcus Lillington: You're a mini-agency of your own, so this applies to you as well Paul.

Paul Boag: Oh does it? Oh right.

Marcus Lillington: Now I just want to retire, Paul, so stop hiring in agencies. That's it. End of thought for the day. No, it's not really. Should I start on my thought for the day?

Paul Boag: Yeah. I did a brilliant segue for you, set you all up, and then like a real pro you say, "Paul, should I start? Should I start? Is it time to start now? Should I be starting now?"

Marcus Lillington: What, now?-

Paul Boag: Yes.

Marcus Lillington: Now?

Paul Boag: Yeah, now. Yeah-

Marcus Lillington: Okay. Right. This came from… and the reason why I picked this one is I actually stood on a stage, and gave this as a presentation at IWMW, with some other suppliers, so it was only a short 10-minute piece. So don't worry, this isn't going to last for 45 minutes. And I thought, at the time, it's also connected to, remember what I talked about last week? Or the week before? When I was saying when we had that kind of bad experience. Not bad experience, but tricky experience trying to interview really young students? I was talking about a couple of weeks crosstalk 00:07:53 ago?

Paul Boag: Yes, I do. I do-

Marcus Lillington: And then I thought, "Well, there are other things crosstalk 00:07:57 like that, though, that we've done over the years, where I've thought, 'You know what? We probably shouldn't have been hired to do this particular job'". So yes, this is a bit of a leading title, or a leading heading to this particular talk, or thought for the day. But it's really, what I'm trying to say is, stop hiring agencies for some stuff. And what are those things, I guess? So I'll go on to what I think they are. So…

Now, obviously-

Paul Boag: You didn't have your notes up, did you? crosstalk 00:08:30 You didn't even have your notes in front of you. Not only did you not know when to start, there were no notes, so you just didn't know what crosstalk 00:08:39 you were saying-

Marcus Lillington: I am more unprepared for today's podcast than I normally am, and that's saying something. But there you go. But at least I've got something to talk about. I might ramble around about on it, but there is a point here. So, I mean one of the fundamentals of hiring agencies is agencies tend to cost quite a bit, so you want to make sure that you get good value when you hire them. Because if you don't, if whatever you do, if the results of what the agency was hired to do aren't that great, then everyone, including us, can feel a little bit let down. So it's a good thing not to hire an expensive agency, or an expensive anything, when you might not get the results you hoped for. And it's not good for everybody.

So, what are the things that you shouldn't be hiring us for? One of the main things is you shouldn't be hiring agencies to do things that you don't have time for. Now, I'll explain what I mean by that. Obviously, if you're massively understaffed, then that's unavoidable. You have to hire in people to help you do the job that you might still be able to do. But, here's a few examples of what I mean.

So, agencies are often hired to do kind of new sexy stuff, while internal people are left juggling the less sexy stuff. If I use an HE example, because this was an HE conference, it would be the latest professor's obscure research projects; that's what the internal people get to do, when the agency's hired in to do the kind of sexy new public-facing website. And, though that's completely understandable, you don't want to be paying an agency to do unimportant, in air quotes, work, it's not good for morale. So that's a reason not to hire an agency.

Another one would be if you hire an agency to build something for you, that you then need to support, and you have to kind of go in circles, trying to learn what this thing was so that you're able to support it. But if you'd built it in the first place, it would've saved loads of heartache.

The main one is outsourcing, and this is kind of related to the two previous points, if you outsource, you're giving away, or you're not owning the knowledge. I think that's the point there. So, try to avoid doing that.

What else is there? User research, and this is connected to what I was saying earlier. User research is, this is a funny one, because there are some aspects of it where I think hiring third parties, agencies, is a really useful thing to do, but not always. And again, it's about this kind of ownership idea, and that understanding what the research is telling you, because it's something that needs to go on and on and on and on and on and on, and it's unlikely that you're going to hire an agency to do that. You might hire them to just do one thing, and then again you've got to kind of understand that, and carry on with it, when if you'd done that piece of research in the first place, then you'd probably have a greater understanding. And there's also that example that I gave last week of certain groups don't react well to old beardy scary people like me.

Paul Boag: Yeah. There's no guarantee that your in-house team is not going to be made up of old beardy people.

Marcus Lillington: This is very true, but in my experience they tend not to be.

Paul Boag: crosstalk 00:11:59 Sweeping generalization there-

Marcus Lillington: Telling them they're all young and beautiful, that's fine, isn't it?

Paul Boag: Oh you really are sucking up. "Please hire Headscape. Well, please, could we need inaudible 00:12:12"

Marcus Lillington: Anyway. No, I'm not sucking up. I'll do that on the final slide. Another one is content audits. Done a few of those lately, and I mean generally speaking I'm never really that sure of the value of content audits full stop, although I think we've worked out a way of making them more valuable. But don't get someone, an expensive person like me to audit a thousand pages; just get me to do 30, or 40, and set up what's the best way to do the audit, and then you do it yourself. Okay?

Paul Boag: I'm seeing that quite a lot at the moment in the higher education sector, because they've got this, have you come across the new government rules about accessibility, and that websites have to be accessible by September next year? And the number of organizations that just seem to be, "Oh, we need to hire someone to do an accessibility audit", when actually, A, I don't think just simply outsourcing it is the answer, and B, I'm not even sure whether doing an audit of that nature is the answer, because even if you found every accessibility problem with the site and fixed them all, the day after, someone's going to upload a massive big image without any alt tag on something and ruin the whole thing. So it's much more complicated than just, "Ooh, let's hire someone to fix this", you know?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, well I'm going to go off on a little bit of a tangent there, because the very same conference that I talked about this at, there was another guy who did a fairly lengthy presentation about the issues that many HE sites have got with accessibility, and listing many stuff that needs fixing, loads and loads and loads, it was thousands of issues across the board. Which is all absolutely right, they shouldn't be there. But I couldn't help thinking, "We've been here before, with things like this, and it tends to be ignored, and no-one is ever prosecuted, and not a lot happens." So it's kind of like if you make it all legal: "And you must do…" blah blah blah blah blah, it's too much pressure, and I think it actually has the reverse effect, and people just throw their hands in the air and say, "Oh, we can't deal with this, it's too big an issue." Rather than if you took on a kind of, "We are going to do our best from an accessibility point of view, and employ people to do that job" then I think you'd be more likely to get better results than if you just sort of, yeah, make it this overly legal thing.

Paul Boag: Yeah. We could do a whole show just on how to approach this kind of… I need to write a blog post on it, is what I need to do, because it's something inaudible 00:14:56 I was going to say it's something I'm very opinionated about, but it's quite hard to find something that I'm not quite opinionated about, so there's that. Anyway, sorry Marcus crosstalk 00:15:05 that was a tangent.

Marcus Lillington: Yes, that's all right. Only a couple more things. And another one is content. And this is feels like it's really obvious, but I included this because, don't hire an agency to do your content. And that applies to pretty much any business. I mean, okay, you might hire somebody really specialist, if you wanted drone footage, or videos, or something like that, crosstalk 00:15:27 less likely to have in-house. But if you want… Basically, do your own content. And again, this was at an HE conference, and I was sort of imagining that people would be going, "Yeah, of course. We know that. We know that." But I'd got an RFP from an HE organization, in 2018, so last year, that was asking for the agency to write all their copy for them. So it's still out there.

Paul Boag: I mean I haven't got a problem, I mean obviously, you might hire a content specialist to set the style of the copy, and to crosstalk 00:16:00 do all of that kind of stuff. What you're talking about is writing the day-to-day specific copy, yeah-

Marcus Lillington: And it comes back to that day-to day aspect of it. Are you going to hire us forever? Pretty unlikely. So, and we don't want to be hired forever to do a job that we don't really know about, what we should be writing content for your institution. So anyway, maybe fairly obvious on that one, but people are still doing it.

So, what?-

Paul Boag: That said, if someone wants to hire me to 50% of the time write bullshit on their website, I'm quite happy to do that.

Marcus Lillington: I bet you wouldn't be though, that's the point. All of this came out of doing a few jobs over the last two or three years when I thought, "I'm not really enjoying this. I shouldn't be doing it. crosstalk 00:16:44 Yes, it's paying a bill, but"-

Paul Boag: Because you're not providing real value.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, something like that. But anyway, so what should you hire agencies for? And it's really kind of things like research and discovery, consulting, kind of helping setting things up, like the content audit pilot that I mentioned. And doing specialist work, which could be a technology thing, or it could be something that you have no intention as an internal team of ever filling that kind of skills hole within your team, so fine, outsource that. One-off work works quite well, I've always found. So it would be like a branding piece, or aesthetics, or developing a pattern library, or something like that, so it's got kind of a start and a finish, and we have to kind of come in, and translate branding into how it's going to work digitally, and, "There's your library, or your start-off point for your library." That kind of thing can work. The main one is probably a kind of disruption-related point is that we, and we've been saying this for years, agencies can bring weight to your cause. So if you want to get something done, if you want to push something through, then yeah, we'll come in and tell them the stuff you already know.

And I guess, often, if you want to collaborate, and this is my final point, if you want a fresh pair of eyes, then yeah, maybe hiring somebody in to help you with that can help. So, yeah, I guess, yeah, I was link baiting, I guess, with the title. But it's just like there are some things that are better to hire agencies for than others, and that's it-

Paul Boag: Yeah. Absolutely, of course. So, let's just recap. One, your title didn't represent what you were actually talking about. Two, you were utterly unprepared. And three, you started pretty ropily. Today's subject is how to present well.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, but how do I leave everybody feeling? That's the thing, isn't it? They all feel like, "Oh, that was nice, and I might have learnt something." I'm not, Lewis 00:18:49. Lewis says, "Don't listen to him." I never do. So did you say something Paul?

Paul Boag: Anyway. Right, let's talk about today's topic. I was just looking for a transition really, between what you were talking about and what I've now got to talk about, and that was the best I could come up with. We're talking about presenting today, which is one of the essential skills that you need really whatever your role is. We've all got to do it sometimes.

Marcus Lillington: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Paul Boag: So as it's the format that I seem to have stumbled upon for this, we're going to first of all look at why presenting matters. Then we're going to look at how to improve your presenting skills, and then we'll look at some resources. Although I've got an interesting perspective on resources this time, but I'll come to that later.

Marcus Lillington: Okay.

Paul Boag: Let's talk about why presenting matters. I think there's two types of presenting that most of us have to do in our job, to varying degrees. One type of presenting is what I call public presenting, right? So standing on a stage, in front of a large group of people, or a reasonably large group of people, and presenting in that kind of formal way, like Marcus did at IWMW. Then the other type of presenting, which is the much more common type, is presenting at work, when you're interacting with colleagues and things like that. That in my view in particular is the type of presenting that nobody can avoid, and we've all got to do that to some degree. The public presenting, if you really really hate it, which I know a lot of people do, you can avoid. But I do think, it's like one of those things you can avoid learning to drive, but it isn't half helpful if you can do it.

So let's have a quick look at those two things. I do believe that not everybody needs to be a public speaker, and that's absolutely fine. And don't let people pressure you, or make you think you have to do that. As somebody who obviously does a lot of that kind of thing, yes, you get some kudos from it, but not a lot really. There's so many people doing public speaking these days. Yes, you get to put yourself in front of an audience, but crosstalk 00:21:08 there are other ways of doing that.

Marcus Lillington: I think that's true. I think if you have a natural aptitude for it, then damn well do it, because then you're more likely to be asked to do it again, and people will talk about you, and that kind of thing. But if you're… I mean I'm kind of one of them: I'm all right, but I'm no better than all right, so I don't fret about not public speaking that often; I'll fret once a year, pretty much, and think, "Oh, I really should be doing something." But I think there are better ways of using your time if it's not really your bag.

Paul Boag: I mean that said, there are benefits to doing it, right?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah-

Paul Boag: But they're benefits that you can also get in other ways. So let's quickly look at the benefits, because we're supposed to be looking at why presenting matters. If you do public presentations, it can improve your career opportunities, because A, you're perceived as having more authority within your own organization, because you've spoken elsewhere, but also it's putting you out into the world in front of other people that may well want to hire you. I mean that's particularly true of you're in my kind of position, or Marcus's position where we're running our own business. But even if you work in-house, that's where your next job can come from, doing something like that, because it increases your profile, basically. I think it's also quite good for increasing self confidence if you can do it, and you can get comfortable doing it. And it's also an opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge on a particular subject. But if you look at those things, career opportunities, profile, self-confidence, and demonstrating your knowledge, those are all things that you can achieve in other ways. So, Marcus is right: if you're a square peg, don't try and force yourself into a round hole; it's just not worth it.

However- crosstalk 00:23:08 Sorry-

Marcus Lillington: Just going to add, I suppose, or choose your opportunities to speak carefully, I suppose. Because demonstrating your knowledge, that's something that you can do without being super entertaining, and it might be that the audience in inaudible 00:23:25 particular conference or whatever is really there just to understand that kind of very specific thing that you know about, and then that's fine. But if it's like you're expected to go up there and make people laugh, and that's not your thing, then I would avoid those, that's all.

Paul Boag: Yeah. And we're getting into how maybe, a bit, but you crosstalk 00:23:47 can't be other than you are. You've got to go in your own direction with that kind of stuff. But we'll come back to them more later.

I think the more interesting area for me is that work presenting, when you have to present at work. I mean, that's absolutely invaluable; you're going to need it to convince other people. I want to, I don't know, rebuild the website from scratch. You're going to have to convince people that you should be doing that, and that's going to involve a degree of presentation. I think it's quite important for gaining respect as well, to be able to talk with confidence and authority, in front of your colleagues. And half of the time, and I remember very vividly, Leigh once saying to me when I worked at Headscape, he says, "You can go into a room and say exactly the same thing as I've just said, and they'll agree with you and disagree with me, and why is that?" Now, part of the reason was because I was more senior than he was, and I think that naturally carries some authority to it. But at the other part is presentation; is your ability to bullshit, as I like to call it.

Marcus Lillington: So that's it; just be good at bullshitting.

Paul Boag: Yeah, well that's what being good at presenting is, to a large degree. So, it's not right. It shouldn't be that way, because Leigh is equally, if not superior in knowledge and expertise in his areas. And so, yeah, they should listen to him, but it is what it is. It also, I think, presenting internally at work, it is good for your career prospects. I think it begins to make you stand out from your colleagues; it begins to make you seem somebody that might grow in a leadership within the organization. Again, that isn't always a real correlation. Just because somebody's a good presenter doesn't mean they're a good leader. I'm a great example of that. I'm a fairly shitty manager and leader, and I can say with a certain degree of confidence that many of the speakers that you would probably list in the UX field, I know are shocking at managing people. So the two don't actually have a relationship, but people perceive them as having a relationship. And then, being willing to stand up differentiates you in the workforce; it makes you stand out. So it's very much a skillset worth doing, and worth exploring, and it is something that we're all going to have to do to a lesser or greater extent.

But before we get in… Sorry, go on Marcus- crosstalk 00:26:36

Marcus Lillington: I was going to say, can I add one more thing on it? Because this is just my, this is why we should talk to each other before we do the podcast. I thought-

Paul Boag: No.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, no, we won't. I was just saying we should. I thought that from kind of like work presentations, what you meant by that, I'm not saying what you just said wasn't right, because if you do stand up and give a kind of proper presentation internally then that's going to differentiate you; but I thought there was going to be a sort of angle of presenting your work to this, which isn't crosstalk 00:27:07 necessarily doing a presentation. It could be just literally crosstalk 00:27:11 to the boss crosstalk 00:27:12.

Paul Boag: Yes. And it does go into that kind of territory as well, absolutely. And Bob 00:27:17 has pointed out in the chatroom that you do that primarily to help people understand what you've done and why you've done it. Which is, he's absolutely spot on, I can't disagree with that. I left a massive big hole in my preparation. Thank you for pointing that out everybody.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah. It's just that idea of, if you can't explain to people why you've done what you've done, then it's going to drive you insane. So you have to be able to present what you've done. So yeah, crosstalk 00:27:47 that was my only point to add.

Paul Boag: And both designers and developers are pretty shocking at that, for different reasons. Designers are bad because they do a lot of things on an intuitive level, and aren't very good at expressing it. Developers are really bad because they can't express it in English; they can only express it in techy language. And so it's something we've all got to get better at.

So, what do Headscape have in common with Apple, Ogilvy, Saatchi & Saatchi, and NASA? The answer isn't anything sexy at all. It's not like, "Oh yeah, they've both won major awards", or anything like that. But they do all use Resource Guru, which is our sponsor for the day, yeah. And it's a really great team management product. It's got loads of capability. So the inaudible 00:28:45 they all use Resource Guru for things like it's got this clever calendar thing that helps with scheduling your team's projects, and making sure everything works, and all goes smoothly. Alongside that kind of fast resource scheduling, it's also got features like leave & absence management, calendar sync, and powerful utilization reports. I'm pretty confident that probably Headscape used maybe 1 to 2% of its full potential, because I know what a group of Luddites they are. But I'm sure-

Marcus Lillington: Harsh.

Paul Boag: I'm sure that Saatchi & Saatchi inaudible 00:29:28 and certainly NASA, will use it much more effectively-

Marcus Lillington: You can accuse me of being a Luddite, but not all of the Headscape people. That's mean crosstalk 00:29:38 mean Paul.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Yeah. No, that is fair.

Marcus Lillington: How do crosstalk 00:29:42 you feel now?-

Paul Boag: I'll say that. I feel very bad. If you're ready to try it for yourself, head over to, and you can get a 30-day free trial. And much to my joy, it's a 30-day free trial, without entering a credit card. Dark patterns. If you decide you want to go for a paid subscription, then if you do sign up, use the promo code boagworld2019, because you'll get 20% off your lifetime subscription, which means that it's, well, it's 20% cheaper permanently. I don't know why I felt the need to explain what lifetime subscription is. There you go.

Right. So, let's talk about how to improve your presentational skills, right? I'm going to divide this into two sections, right? Stuff I do, and stuff that you should do, but I'm terrible at. Right?

Marcus Lillington: Okay-

Paul Boag: Because otherwise, if I don't make that distinction very clear, I'm going to feel very hypocritical very quickly, all right? So let's first of all do the stuff that I do, right?

One really good thing if you want to get good at presenting, is you need to expose yourself to other people's presentations, right? You need to attend other presentations, right? And if you happen to be doing a public speaking slot, right, try and hear at least some of the speakers before you, because audiences really like it when you reference stuff that has previously already been said. So you can normally you kind of just vaguely mention it. But that's a bit of a specific thing. They key is you need to listen to a lot of different talks. I mean TED Talks are the obvious place to start.

Marcus Lillington: So you can be inspired, in air quotes, by them.

Paul Boag: No, you can rip them off blatantly.

Marcus Lillington: That's what I meant-

Paul Boag: I have no problem with that whatsoever. What is it? You're building on the shoulders of giants, or something-

Marcus Lillington: Standing on-

Paul Boag: That's what you're supposed to say. Standing on the sho… So that makes it fine, right? The other thing that I do do, I am good at this, is to be enthusiastic about your subject, right? There's nothing worse than a speaker who doesn't care, right? And doesn't emote, and doesn't show that they're passionate about what they're doing. And that applies whether you're talking about public speaking or in a work situation, right? So, I tell the story. I must've told this story before on the podcast, but I once had a client say to me, "How can I say no to you Paul? It would be like kicking a puppy." Because I get so enthusiastic about the stuff that I'm talking about. So absolutely do that.

Marcus Lillington: Can I play devil's advocate on that one though? I agree, but some people aren't that enthusiastic or passionate. They're just not. It's not how they are. So, do they have to put that on? Or should they be themselves?

Paul Boag: No. There are different ways of expressing passion, and enthusiasm. I do it by jumping around like a overexcited bunny rabbit. Other people do it with their intensity of what they say. I once had a tutor at college who always spoke very quietly, but very intensely. And actually, she was an excellent presenter, because you all leant forward. When I speak, everyone leans back. So…

Marcus Lillington: That's so true.

Paul Boag: Yeah. So actually, you can do it, you can express that enthusiasm in different ways. It might be literally in the words you say, rather than the way you say it. But thank you for pulling me up on that, because, yeah, it's very easy… There's more than one way to skin a cat. Which always just strikes me as a terrible saying, but inaudible 00:33:49crosstalk 00:33:49.

Marcus Lillington: It's not skin the bunny.

Paul Boag: The next-

Marcus Lillington: crosstalk 00:33:53 That's what you say to small children-

Paul Boag: The next point…

Marcus Lillington: Sorry. inaudible 00:33:56

Paul Boag: Next point. I'm just ignoring you now Marcus. Next point is to actively engage your audience, right? And again, this applies whether you're talking about a work situation, just a conversation with your boss, or whether you're talking about an audience, right? Obviously when you're doing it on a smaller scale in a work environment, then you are actually having a conversation. This whole thing about, "Wait to the end for questions", bullshit to that. You want a dialogue; you want a conversation. In a work environment, you want that presentation, in inverted commas, to turn into a conversation.

Marcus Lillington: That's so true inaudible 00:34:35 crosstalk 00:34:35 sales presentation, which is another thing actually, I suppose. It's a bit like a work presentation isn't it? But, yeah, exactly-

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: All that, "Oh, we'll save our questions up for the end" is like, "Oah." If you can actually get people chatting, and forget about what's on the screen, then you're more likely to be onto a winner.

Paul Boag: Now obviously that's got to be a bit different if it's a public presentation, but you can engage people in asking rhetorical questions, kind of does it. You're not actually expecting people to answer. You can ask for audience participation, but just be careful if you do that. You've got to be very sensitive to the audience that you're working with. So for example, in the UK, really the only participation you're likely to get are hands up and hands down. No-one's going to shout out answers. No-one's going to have the bravery to be the one that sticks their neck out. But if you were in America, you could absolutely ask people those kinds of questions.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: The next thing is to be entertaining. Now, again, entertainment can be in lots of different ways; there's lots of ways of doing that. My method of entertainment, as is already apparent, is almost a bit kind of bumbling, and kind of spontaneous, and ill-considered, and it's that kind of thing isn't it? It's the enthusiasm, again. But I've seen other presenters that are entertaining by telling a story. Not a joke, but a story. Or, I've seen other… one of the best presenters I ever saw was when I was a teenager actually, and he would start to tell something, and said, "Put a pin in that, remember it. We're going to come back to it later." And then he went off on a completely different subject for a bit. And then he'd put a pin in that, and come back. And then tied it all together at the end. So there are so many different ways of being entertaining. I saw another person that used their slides to be entertaining, where they had one word on each slide. And basically it was almost like, I don't know how to even describe it, but it was like closed captioning for his entire talk, but amusing. I've seen people like Sam Barnes, who relies on animated GIFs.

It's really important that if you want people to remember what you've said, they've got to be engaged with you. And entertaining them is a very powerful way of doing that. But, again, you've got to pick how you're going to do that, depending on your situation and your audience. If you're very nervous about it, I recommend getting comfortable with the room, beforehand. Even now, even though I present all the time, if I'm doing a big public presentation rather than just a sales pitch or whatever, I always try and go to the room beforehand, just see my setup, see my environment. The other thing that I would recommend is to get yourself a reliable tech setup. Nothing-

Marcus Lillington: Ooh yeah-

Paul Boag: Yeah. That can get you time and time again. It's absolutely horrendous. And nothing will make you more uptight before you're doing some big presentation or something like that, than, "Oh no, this isn't working" or, "That isn't working", or, "This isn't connected to the projector" and oh, it's just awful.

Marcus Lillington: Always bring your presentation on a USB stick, in PowerPoint format.

Paul Boag: Yes, as a backer. And try not to rely on the internet throughout-

Marcus Lillington: Oh yeah. Or audio-

Paul Boag: Because that… Yeah, or audio. There are so many things that can go wrong. But although I bring that as a backup, I always try and present with my own equipment, because I know my equipment works.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, try that first, but if it doesn't work you've got something else to inaudible 00:38:32crosstalk 00:38:32

Paul Boag: You've got a backup, yeah. Always try and give people something very tangible to take home at the end of your presentation. And to be honest, I don't know why this isn't a list of stuff that I do, because I try to do it, but I'm not always very good it. I can get a bit hypothetical, and not very practical sometimes. But try and do that. If you're doing a public presentation, never sell. Obviously if you're doing a sales presentation, feel free, because that's why people are there. But if it's a public thing never sell. Always keep your slide simple, and never just read from your slides. So many people, it's like death by PowerPoint, by bullet point.

Marcus Lillington: So many people still do that. Drives me up the wall. And it's often when I'm watching a sort of internal presentation as I'd gone in as the third-party agency, and it's like, "Uh." They're always terribly designed, and people just read out what's on the screen. It's like, you should've just brought them in on paper and read them out. Anyway-

Paul Boag: Yeah. Yeah. We don't need to be looking at what you're going to say. Always start and end strong. So Andy Budd I saw give an excellent start to a presentation where he walked onto the stage. Too often speakers start by going, "Hi everybody, oh I'm on after lunch and you'll all be sleepy" and I've been known to do that as well. But in this one presentation Andy just walked on the stage, and he said, "So I was staying in a hotel in the Maldives." And he just went straight into the story, right? No preamble, nothing: just straight into this what was a really compelling story about user experience, right? I think it was the Maldives, doesn't really matter anyway. But you get the idea. And again, you want to end with something really compelling. Stories are a really good way of doing that. A joke can work as well. There are lots of different ways.

And I think the last thing I would say about public speaking is that it's really important to realize that your audience wants you to succeed.

Marcus Lillington: That's such an important point, isn't it? Because every-

Paul Boag: Yeah.

Marcus Lillington: People don't like public speaking because they think they're going to make themselves look like an idiot. But if you stumble, everyone will allow for that, and they might even warm to you a little bit. So that's so important a point.

Paul Boag: Yeah. And I think they do warm to you, especially if you show you don't care; that you're relaxed about it. Because think about it for yourself, right. You go to an event, right? You want to hear interesting talks, right? But also, we've all been in that talk where the person is massively nervous, right? And you get nervous for them, okay?

Marcus Lillington: Yeah-

Paul Boag: You desperately want it to go well for them. You start empathizing with them. And so, I think it's important to recognize people want it to be a success, they want it to go well for you. And no, they're not out there for judging you. The other thing that I haven't got on my list, but I will say related to that, if you're worried, talk about your story, because nobody can say you're wrong. It's your story; it's your experience. Talk about your opinions, right? They can disagree with your opinions, but they're your opinions. You only ever get into trouble with public speaking, or blogging, or even social media, when you say things as absolutes, right? "This is the right way to do things." Then you'll get people jump on you.

Right, anyway. So that's stuff that I do. Stuff that I'm terrible at. Don't worry, it's a shorter list, because obviously I'm pretty amazing, let's be honest. Stuff that they recommend that you do that I don't do. First one, practice, right?

Marcus Lillington: I agree with that-

Paul Boag: I never… Yeah. But, people, you should do, right?-

Marcus Lillington: Yes, you so totally should do. If you were in a play, you wouldn't go onstage and just wing it. You'd want to hear the words as they come out. And the reason why it's good to practice is because you will change your presentation probably completely, because you'll go, "That doesn't work. That doesn't work. Ooh, if I do it like that…" That's the reason to practice, as well as obviously kind of going through the words.

Paul Boag: I mean I'll be honest with you about why I don't do it, is because if I practice, it undermines my confidence in what I'm saying, right? The more I go over it, the worse I feel about it. I think, "Oh this is shitty. This isn't really good." And I start tweaking and messing around with it, and I make it overly complicated. So I guess the piece of advice there is you've got to know yourself, and what works for you. And the other kind of piece of advice is ignore advice. If it doesn't work for you, don't do it. And there are several examples of that in this list. But yeah, that can be a really helpful thing, just to go over it until you're comfortable with it, till you're familiar with it. And yeah, a play is a good example. But there are other people that do improv, and I'm more of an improv speaker I guess. But, that I think is I'm weird- crosstalk 00:43:58

Marcus Lillington: I'd also say, give the presentation to somebody else. Don't just practice it on your own.

Paul Boag: Yeah. That's a good piece of advice. Yeah, absolutely. The other thing that you could do, which is how I ended up developing my speaking style. I don't do it any more, because I've kind of got beyond it. But, believe it or not, as a child, I was a very nervous child, right? And I had a stutter, when I got nervous. But I discovered, in time, and through practice, that I could take that nervousness, and turn it into energy and enthusiasm. Right? And so if you look at how I speak today, I'm bouncing around all over the place, and I'm constantly moving, which by the way is another thing they say you shouldn't do, because it's distracting, and I gesticulate all over the place, which again is something that you shouldn't do apparently. I don't know. But I think that's borne out of the fact that when I started, I was incredibly nervous, and I turned that into a kind of nervous energy. So maybe that will help you, I don't know.

The other thing is don't be afraid to pause. Right? Perfectly fine. It's perfectly fine to take a breath. Not something I personally do. And actually, it's good for the audience, because it gives them time to digest and think about things, right? Try and replace all of your ums with just silence instead-

Marcus Lillington: That's what I was going to say, because I'm a dreadful ummer, and it's like, "If only I could just shut up for a minute." Because if you'd listen to really good speakers, they'll often pause.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Absolutely. He said with a poignant pause that I immediately filled, because I can't help myself. So, there you go. And this is another thing that I'm terrible at, don't try and cover too much. I always put too much in my presentations, always. I overwhelm people. That old adage of say what you're going to say, say it, say what you said, is really good. I mean in a 30-minute presentation, really you're only saying one thing, right? Maybe two? So I think there's this real fear of running out of content, right? But in truth, I think your audience would be much happier if you finished early than overrun. Never, ever run long, right?-

Marcus Lillington: Yes. Especially at a public speaking event, when everyone's waiting to get their cake.

Paul Boag: But in the meeting as well, you can end up hogging a meeting. Or a pitch, a sales pitch, they might have people back-to-back all day. So yeah, there's a few kind of little hints that I found very useful when it comes to presentation skills, so hopefully it'll help.

But, before we just, I'm going to, I don't have many resources to share with you if I'm honest, and I'll explain why in a minute, but we'll just mention the second sponsor that we've got, which is OmniFocus again. I love OmniFocus. So OmniFocus is a professional to-do manager that helps you accomplish more every day, is what their tagline is. And I actually really agree with it, I love OmniFocus. They've got OmniFocus for IOS, so it's on the iPhone, the iPad, the Apple Watch, they've got it for the Mac as well, and inaudible 00:47:35 wonderful, get it. Right? That's all I want to say: just crosstalk 00:47:39 get it. Give it a go. That's it, we're done.

So some of the benefits are lower stress levels. I cannot say how big a deal that's been to me. But better planning, it makes it easy to review what you're doing every day. You get more done. You just get more shit done with using a tool like this. They've got loads of all the stuff that you'd expect, like actions, projects, flagging, due dates, batch editing. The batch editing is really useful. Notes, that kind of stuff. But they've also got tags that is like a second layer of organization that you can use in any way you want. You might want to do, tag it by person, or inaudible 00:48:17 it by location or energy level. It's got a great forecast view, so you can see the next few days coming up. You can see things that've been flagged, if you want to flag stuff to kind of pin it there. It's got a great review function, so you can periodically review everything you've got. It's got your notifications. You get the idea. And then there's Pro stuff as well. The Pro version is so powerful. If you deal with a lot of different things, then you want to check out the Pro version. Especially if you've got lots of different things in different areas of your life. And then obviously it syncs like you'd expect it to. So anyway, go and check it out at

Right, just before we wrap up, I wanted to mention some resources. If you Google presentation skills, you'd get just so much, just so many people that write and talk about this kind of stuff. So really it's not a lot of point me adding much to all of that, because there is so much. Andy Budd, who I mentioned earlier, has actually written a pretty good post, not about presentations, although he has written about that as well, but particularly about breaking into the speaker circuit. Right? If you want to start speaking at events, he's got really quite a good post on that. So I'll put a link in the show notes to that. But I would be a little bit cautious about reading too much about presenting, because you can make yourself worse; you can make yourself look more nervous. I once had to do a day training on public speaking, and it totally ruined me. I'm a reasonably good presenter, but he tried to force me into a mold that just wasn't me. He wanted me to stand still, and keep my hands together, and speak slower, and yeah, sure, that might have helped; but it wouldn't be me. So that's why I'm a bit hesitant about looking around too much, and giving you too many resources.

The only other little resource I want to give you is I want to give you a link to a remote control. A presenter's remote, right? It's stupid, but it's the best remote in the world, right? It's the Logitech Spotlight. I'll create the link for it: I love this remote because it just works, every time, flawlessly. And it's only got three buttons, one of which I never use, which is to highlight stuff on the screen. But the other two buttons are go forward and go back, and the go forward button is frigging massive. You cannot screw it up. It's just a wonderful thing, so I had to include it. It's a bit of a throwaway really. But that's all I wanted to say on resources. Basically there's the Andy Budd thing, which I'll link to in the show notes, and that remote, but I don't think I want to share anything else, because be yourself; be your own special snowflake everybody.

Marcus Lillington: Aah.

Paul Boag: Go on then Marcus, what's your joke?

Marcus Lillington: Yes, this one's from Bruce Lawson, so you've probably all heard it before. I went to see the doctor, and as soon as I went through the door, she said, "You're here about a curvature of the upper back, aren't you?" So I said, "Wow, how did you know?" And she replied, "Call it a hunch."

Paul Boag: Oh no, that is truly daft. He does great jokes. It's worth following Bruce Lawson on Twitter, for-

Marcus Lillington: Just for the jokes-

Paul Boag: His jokes.

Marcus Lillington: Yeah.

Paul Boag: Yeah. Absolutely. Always really great, proper dad jokes, as well. And obviously his fashion sense is the other reason to follow him, because you will never see such, shall we say unique fashion choices?

Marcus Lillington: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Paul Boag: I think.

Marcus Lillington: And talking of-

Paul Boag: From a middle-aged white man, yeah-

Marcus Lillington: Excellent public speakers, he's one of them. If you ever get the chance to see-

Paul Boag: Yes. I tell you what blows me away with Bruce Lawson is that he does live coding, right? You know how awful it is having someone look over your shoulder when you're trying to type? Imagine trying to code live onstage, right? And then, just to add a little bit extra danger and twist to it, he's got a neurological condition. Is it ME? I can't remember-

Marcus Lillington: Not sure.

Paul Boag: But basically, he has the shakes, right? So he's live coding, on the stage, with shakes. It is the most incredible thing you've ever watched. It feels like an extreme sport. Anyway, there you go-

Marcus Lillington: Yeah, he's worth seeing.

Paul Boag: That's Bruce. Anyway, thank you guys so much for listening to the show. I hope you're going to find it useful. And I hope it's encouraging you to maybe experiment a little bit more with presentations, because it really isn't as scary as it may seem.

Right, next week. Next week, that's it. Next we're going to look at psychology. So I'm going to give you a crash course on psycho… I don't know how the hell I'm going to do that. But anyway, we're going to look into psychology, and I'm going to make loads of sweeping generalizations. It's going to be great-

Marcus Lillington: I'm so looking forward to this-

Paul Boag: But I'm…

Marcus Lillington: I'll have my note pencil out. So at two minutes 40, edit. Two crosstalk 00:53:52 minutes 57, edit.

Paul Boag: Edit. And then there'll be a lot of things like, "Well, because of X and Y chromosomes, people act differently" and a lot of that crosstalk 00:54:05 kind of stuff-

Marcus Lillington: I started this week. See, there you go-

Paul Boag: Lot of science bullshit. Yeah, we'll come up with some stuff like that. Yeah? But I'll explain why you need to be paying attention to psychology inaudible 00:54:15, and point you in the right direction and some stuff that you can check out.

Okay, that's it for this time. Thank you very much for listening, and goodbye.

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