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Making great presentations and eating frogs

November 16th, 2018

My business partner has started eating frogs and I wanted to join in!  Most of us have skills or capabilities we feel we would like to work on in order to grow but we are fearful or anxious about them.  As Mark Twain (the well-known author) once said “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning”, in other words try not to dwell on the challenge, just dive in and focus on what life will be like once you have conquered it!

Public speaking was to me an absolutely huge challenge, like Kermit the frog after having worked out with Arnold Schwarzenegger for a year whilst taking steroids and drinking protein shakes three times a day. It was time to serve up frogs legs and Jenny Martin at Skills Matter gave me the chance.

Jenny’s ‘How to Give Engaging Technical Talks at Conferences and Meet-ups’ is a 2 day course open to everyone, you don’t have to be looking to give very technical talks, it is just as great for non-techies of whom I am one.

We were a diverse group which included folk from Project Management, Development, Business Owners and people who worked in Testing.  It was really reassuring to discover some people were just as scared if not more anxious than myself.

“According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking.  Number two is death.  Death is number two!  Does that sound right?  That means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in a casket than doing the eulogy.”

  • Jerry Seinfeld

The course was split into two – planning and then delivery:

Day 1 was focused on planning, Jenny shared really practical and easy ways to conquer putting a presentation together. A really useful practice is to not hit the keyboard too early!, to try putting ideas down on paper first, scribble, draw, just empty your mind and then to move to a Mind mapping tool if you want to. I found this really useful, not having to make sense too early really helped me relax and enjoy the process.

We were taught so many things, from researching your audience to focusing on what you would like them to take away from your talk.  There are different stages to practicing which was great to appreciate, it helped to prevent panic at not getting things right the first couple of ‘run through’s’ as well as helping to increase confidence on the day.

Day 2 was delivery focused.  We found out our communication is delivered across three channels: verbally, vocally and visually. Most presenters spend most time focusing on what they say which is important but that only attributes 7% of total communication. How we say our message accounts for 38% and our expressions and actions account for 55%.

Jenny reassured us that we don’t have to morph in to some exuberate and elaborate exhibitionist, she encouraged us to recognize our own characters and make the most of our strengths, just being aware of high status behaviours and low status behaviors is helpful.

Attending the course made a real difference, my confidence level has increased, I feel empowered to try other new things and I have met really great people who I know I can reach out to when/if needed.

In conclusion, this course has given much more than I envisaged.  I can not only use what I have learnt to structure presentations but I can ensure I deliver messages to people which they can hear whether I am informing and educating, looking to persuade and influence or motivate people in whatever forum.

Massive thanks to Jenny and Skills Matter for this epic course, I will use the energy I have discovered to present with confidence, I highly recommend stepping out the comfort zone in whatever way to you can and to search out frogs of your own, Kung Pao Frog legs anyone?

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The requirement was to scale the delivery team of professional testers quickly (16 people). There were a number of projects with a key client that needed resource. The brief was to recruit both technical tools based testers and manual QA people on a permanent basis. The company wanted to recruit on a permanent basis. We needed to find people who were client facing and happy to work on different client sites, ostensibly to work away from home during the week.

Within 3 months we had all the people they needed and fulfilled the requirement. After just 2 weeks trust and confidence was at a level where the client asked us ‘just to book interviews in’ they felt they didn’t need to see the CV’s before agreeing to meet the candidates.

A great result with a very happy client.

Head of Delivery | International Testing Consultancy

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