Today’s episode features a household name in the digital analytics community. Jim Sterne is known both for his tremendous contribution to the digital analytics community, as well as his ubiquitous presence at eMetrics, the largest global #measure-related conference.

Jim Sterne is a self-described “professional explainer”, a role I think a lot of analysts and marketers could identify with. He’s spent the last several decades helping organizations decode digital data, and been a driving force in the analytics industry for professional development and standardization.

If you’re like me, you’ve struggled with how to get your data message across to your clients and stakeholders in a way that gets absorbed, remembered and acted upon.

In today’s episode, Jim gives you a blueprint that will help you break through those blocks and really get ahead. He’s a master of clear, hard-hitting analogies which explains why Seth Godin declared him one of the “clearest thinkers around”.

Catch him next in September 2015 (with me!) at the LovesData Analytics Conference in…Australia!

And…action!

In This Episode, You’ll Learn:

  • How Jim’s unlikely high school theatre career helped his future career as a presenting professional
  • The right mindset for analysts to approach presenting data to stakeholders who aren’t savvy
  • The key to knowing what your audience really wants
  • How to avoid getting trapped in the weeds when explaining information
  • Why he routinely asks conference presenters to remove the first five slides of every presentation
  • His biggest pet peeves about how web analytics practitioners present data today
  • Confidence-building exercises to do before the big day (and it’s NOT imagining your audience naked!)

People, Resources & Links Mentioned In This Episode:

#PODCAST: Why @JimSterne Says Presenting Skills Are Table Stakes for #Measure Analysts Click To Tweet

How to Follow Jim

Upgrade Tip of the Day:

Practice in front a mirror two days before the big day (preferably under the influence OR really, really tired!) Your limited inhibitions will allow your personality and enthusiasm to shine through!

Thanks for Listening!

Thanks so much for joining me. Have some feedback you’d like to share, or a question for Jim? Leave a note in the comments below and one of us will get back to you!

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Special thanks to Jim for joining me this week. As always, viz responsibly, my friends.

Transcript:

Click here to view the transcript for this episode.

Lea: I am so excited for today’s guest. There’s hardly a digital analyst who doesn’t know his name. As he heads up the global eMetrics conferences in seven seven cities around the world, he is a self-described professional explainer. Well, I think a lot of analysts and marketers would actually identify with that. And he spent the last several decades helping organizations decode digital data and he has been the driving force in the analytics industry for professional development and standardization. He also happens to be the author of eight books including his latest, Social Media Metrix. And he’s been quoted by Seth Godin as one of the clearest thinkers around. And for this show’s point of view he has presented his unique perspective and internet marketing at conferences around the world. He lectured at Oxford and MIT and was named one of the top 25 hot speakers for the National Speakers Association. I give you Jim Sterne. Welcome.

Jim: Thank you very much. What a wonderful introduction.

Lea: Well, very deserving.

Jim: Thank you.

Lea: So as you know, this is a new podcast that’s designed to help digital analysts and marketers achieve their goals through presenting information effectively. And I think you are a fabulous person to help.

Jim: Thank you so much. And you are too.

Lea: Oh thank you. So everyone loves a great origin story. Tell us a little bit about how you actually fell into this whole analytics thing. And how presenting came to be a part of that career.

Jim: Well, presenting came long before but the analytics side is pretty straightforward. I tripped over the internet in 1993 and decided that it would be really cool for marketing and so I went out to find people who could tell me how to do good online marketing. And everybody I ran into kept asking me what I thought and so I figured out that’s what it’s like to be a consultant. You ask lots of important questions and then tell everybody what the other guy said.

I got my clients by public speaking at Internet World Conferences. And there was one other speaker that I always went out of my way to see, a guy by the named Matt Cutler, who just did a brilliant presentation regardless of the subject. He’s Vice President of Marketing Analytics, he was the founder of Net Genesis, one of the original, you know, competitor to Web Trends and Web Side Story. And finally he and I got a chance to sit down at dinner in Sydney to discuss how do we work together. He said, “Well let’s write a white paper.” So that’s kind of one of the standard things I do. I write white papers for technology companies to explain their technology. And we started out by interviewing 25 companies to find out what they were doing with their web data and all 25 of them said, “We’re overwhelmed. We don’t know what to do. There’s just too much data and we can’t manage it.” So we wrote this white paper in the year 2000 called “The eMetrics” and 5 pages of companies complaining that they didn’t know what to do with their data and 65 pages of what they should be doing with it. I realized this was the perfect time for me to narrow my specialty. I had been an internet marketing strategy consultant and by the year 2000 everybody who did not have a job was also an internet marketing strategy consultant. So I became an analytics consultant. Two years later that white paper became a book, my first formal web metrics, which was the same year that I started the eMetrics Summit. So it was because of a talented speaker that I got interested in this subject and sort of picked up the flag the eMetrics Summit 2002 in Santa Barbara. There were 50 of us. There were 30 vendors, 10 consultants, and 10 practitioners that we were all trying to sell things to.

Lea: Wow!

Jim: But we failed immediately because the vendors were all coming from the marketplace and the practitioners were looking for anybody who understood what they were talking about. They were the only people in their company doing analytics and now they were among friends and they could share stories and they can go into gross detail and the other person’s eyes did not glaze over. It was tremendously exciting. The eMetrics Summit started a community and the audience created the Digital Analytics Associations. So it’s a pretty in sync little sequence of events that led to…holy mackerel! That was 20 years ago almost!

Lea: Yeah, I mean there’s no question that the Digital Analytics Association when I joined it was the Web Analytics Association. Just the resources in the community available, you know. Throughout my career I’ve sort of been that one person doing analytics in the company and that sense of community has been so valuable. So if you are not a member and you have anything to do with analytics, I highly recommend checking them out and you’ll find a link there on the show notes page which will be leapica.com/005.

So that’s a fantastic story, and you mentioned that presenting actually came first and I know you’ve mentioned that you have a little bit of a background in theatre. So I guess one question was for presenting a business, did that come naturally to you or was that a bit of an evolution?

Jim: Couple of things. First of all, I’m the youngest of three. My sister had all the lead parts in every high school play. My brother came along a few years later and he had the second lead in every high school play. I came along a couple of years later and I run the lights. I was happy to be behind the scenes and playing with the technology and that was much more fun. Finally as a senior in high school, the drama teacher said, “You got to do this thing. We’re going to make you be Duke Orsino in a Shakespeare play called Twelfth Night,” and I went, “Huh?!” But I knew I would have help from my sister and my brother. And a friend of my older brother taught Shakespeare at Stanford so he could explain what was going on to me and I thought, “Okay I got this. Then maybe I can get a date.” So I step out on the stage and instead of running the lights, I stood in the lights and said, “Oh, this is awesome and fun!” So that was the theatrical side when I went to the university. I didn’t want to be an actor when I grew up. I would rather be in business.

Lea: Agree.

Jim: And when I got into a position of giving a presentation for work, it was at a user group meeting giving a presentation on software configuration management and version control. And there were about 200 people in the audience with an aisle up in the middle and a dog. And the dog was right in the middle of the room and next to the dog was a guy with dark glasses. Guide dog. Okay got it. And I started my presentation – I just aged myself – this was overhead projector with overhead foils.

Lea: I remember.

Jim: I put the foil on and I start giving my presentation and there’s this clocky-dee-clocky-dee-clock-clock thing sound in the room. I look up and the dog is looking at the man. The man has a keyboard on his lap. This is 1985 – we did not have laptops. But I realized he was taking notes in Braille on a keyboard that had audio response. So I like forced myself to X out. Next slide, next slide, okay finally it’s normal background, it’s great, I was on a roll. It was great. I got up about to slide 12 and suddenly there’s this disturbance. I realized the typing has stopped. That must mean I’m boring. And the next slide, next slide, and then he started typing again. As long as he was typing I knew I was okay. So this was my first “how to get real time feedback from the audience.” Later I learned to listen for shuffling of chairs and coughing. And now I know enough to look to see if they’re on their phones or they’re listening to me. But that first one it was just so in your face feedback that it made it very obvious about connecting with the audience.

Lea: So that is so interesting. Sometimes I wished I had something that obvious to help me get a read on the audience but what are, you mention shuffling of chairs, phones, other than that, are there any clues that you look for to gauge how your audience is receiving you?

Jim: The noise level. If there is no noise in the background they are listening to you. If they are murmuring to each other, if they’re clearing their throat, if they’re chatting, if they’re getting up to leave the room, audio signal you can get, and all the way over the other side which is just snoring. If you going to void, if you can be the noise in the room that means you got everybody’s attention.

Lea: That is fantastic, leaving the room. That is a sad one but it’s a good one. So one of the things I want to ask you about is, as I’ve started to go on this path to helping empower analysts to present better, sometimes I’ve hit some resistance that some of the ideas I put out there aren’t important for analysts. Like, “Why do I care about what font to be using,” or you know, “I don’t want to stop using bullet points,” – some things like that. And there’s valid reasons behind why I recommend that but do you think this is a critical skill or a nice-to-have for analysts that’s really going too far?

Jim: Well, it was that last part. Once you go far critical, absolutely critical. As you know, if a tree falls in the forest and there’s nobody there to hear it….You can have the most fabulous insight but if you can’t explain it clearly it’s as if you did not have an insight at all. If you cannot translate the work you’re doing into business value you will not get funding, you will not get resources, you will not get respect. And communicate well then people will start coming to you more and more for the next thing and the next thing. The ability to get the point across, I guess it’s a classic situation of getting down into the weeds too much.

Every sitcom that has any technology in it, the buffoon, the clown character starts going into this incredible detail and the lead person says,

“Okay wait. Just, you know, just lay it out for me.”

“Oh well, if you keep doing that you are going to die.”

“Okay, thank you. That’s all I needed to know.”

It’s the image going into the doctor and the doctor starts telling you about all of your test results.

“Your blood level, your cholesterol level and your enzyme level are low in your protein.”

It’s like, “Duh, what does it mean?”

“Oh, well you’re a sick puppy.”

“But yeah, what does it mean? Do I, can I take these pills or do I need surgery?”

“Oh, just take the pills.”

“Okay, that’s all I need to know. Thank you very much.”

But if the doctor says “surgery,” oh alright. We’ll now go to another layer of detail that I want to know.

The problem with numbers and analytics is, if you walk into my office with a spreadsheet and chart and graph and you show me the spreadsheet, you’ve just made me responsible for the numbers and I’m going to have to ask you questions about where the numbers come from and how valid are they and how is your confidence level and why don’t they agree with the other numbers I’m getting from all these software systems. That’s the wrong conversation. I’ve already lost. If I walk in and say I think this is the problem and I think this is the solution, I got numbers to back me up but I got a test we can run to see if I’m right…as manager I’m going to say, “Thank you and are there any more home like you?”

Lea: Right. So that actually stems into probably the number one complaint that I hear from my audience other than it takes too long to do things and that’s for another show, is the clients don’t get it. They’re asking me the wrong questions. They’re always changing their mind. I can’t make them get it. And something I’ve learned with just general relationship mindset is how you relate to them and educate them. So do you have any tips for helping to educate internal stakeholders that are either in the wrong role managing digital or just slow on the uptake?

Jim: We have to unpack that because there’s a lot going wrong in what you have just described.

Lea: Okay

Jim: They just don’t get it. The first thing that I look at is how am I inappropriately explaining it to them? How is it that why am I not putting in words so they understand? Maybe I don’t understand their goals. If I can understand their goals I can show them how the work I’m doing will help them achieve their goals and that works great.

If they just don’t get it then I’m trying to teach them the wrong thing. You know, the classic “don’t try to teach a pig to sing. It will never work and you only annoyed the pig.” If you’re talking to somebody who as a job is not connected to analytics don’t try to convince them analytics is fabulous. Try to convince them that you have a unique perspective on their job and you got some information that will help them make a better decision and will make them look good. So your job is to understand their goals and how they can achieve their goals and they already get that they know what their goals are but if you’re trying to explain cookie deletion, cache files, and proxy servers you’re having the wrong conversation.

Now you also mentioned if you’re talking to somebody who is in the wrong role that’s a shrug your shoulders and walk away. I mean there are some people who have reached their level of inability and you could try talking to their boss. You could try making the information you’re delivering even more basic so that maybe you can help them grow into that position that they should be in. But there are some individuals, there are some clients, there are some agencies, there are some entire corporations the culture doesn’t allow them to work with numbers happily. And I’m afraid that’s a find another client, find another place to work situation.

Lea: Okay. Well that’s very good to know. I definitely encountered places where I made lots of headway if I’m having the right conversation and leaving the analytics terminology at the door. But I’ve definitely encountered situations where it was the wrong person and moving on is what’s going to be the best way for me to move on.

And I want to point out something you mentioned, it’s that I love making it about what they need. How does it serve their job? Something I talked about in episode 2 of this podcast is one framework for presentation that you can use which is the hero-villain where you’re actually not the hero, the audience or your stakeholder is the hero and the villain is the problem with the site or crappy ad campaign creator that’s causing a problem and you are just the narrator. I know you’ll love this with the Greek theatre. You are just the narrator getting them to their solution basically. But it is they who are conquering the villain essentially. So that’s really great.

So you know, you also probably work with organizations at a hiring level because you’re so involved with you know, DAA assessment that’s coming out for competency framework, things like that. So does it start higher than analysts where organizations in hiring teams need to think more about requiring skills like that? Educating those on the job requirements so that it’s not just you who can segment data, you can use a tag management system. What are your thoughts on that?

Jim: This came up as a very lengthy discussion in the competency framework development program that we did, where the job of the DAA competency framework is to describe tasks that are required at each level of a career path and the knowledge required to that task and the skill required to do that task. It was analysis. It was math. It was data collection. When it came time to “Oh, you have to be able to work with the team. And you have to be able to manage people,” We said, “No, no, no.” Those things have been described elsewhere and we don’t need to reinvent that. So you know, if somebody wants to have better management skills they can go to a management skill you know, professional association, and business analytics. But when it came to storytelling, presenting, we said, “You know, yes. That can be done elsewhere.” You can learn that elsewhere but that’s such an important part of being an analyst that we need to make it part of our required skill set.

So storytelling and presentation skills are absolutely part of the hiring process because I have to decide what role to put you in. Now if I go to work for a giant corporation that has a thousand analysts and your only real main talent is segmenting customers, well that’s fine. I have a need for somebody who can sit in a corner and do that all day and I don’t need you to present your results to anybody. I just need you to type your results in and email it to me. And we all get along. But in most organizations there’s a handful of analysts and they all have to be quick on their feet and they all have to be able to present clearly and that is going to be part of the interview process. It’s not how good are you, how comfortable are you, but there’s a problem I’d like you to take in the other room for 15 minutes and come back and present the results that you’ve come up with. And it’s no, “Did you check the right box to get the right answer?” It’s what was your presentation to me like?”

Lea: Right. Did my brain collapse while you were talking to me?

Jim: Yeah.

Lea: So you know, it’s funny when I was talking to someone on the Web Analytics Demystified team, she mentioned that they don’t help stakeholders who wouldn’t know what a good presentation or good PowerPoint looks like because they’re all so categorically terrible. And that’s part of why some think that this is important because their bosses aren’t coming with them saying “Hey, why aren’t you using the Duarte’s School of Knowledge to blah blah blah?” And I think my argument there is they don’t know it because then they absorb it faster when they’ll be more interactive during the meetings. But again I guess its part of the competency framework or working with organizations equipping hiring managers to know how to recognize that. I guess if they gave an exercise like that.

Jim: Certainly. Again, back to the DAA Competency framework. We started with the project of what are the skills and knowledge required to perform these different tasks so that we could create a metrics of what are the jobs and within those of the tasks?.

The next step is a self-assessment tool where you going to click the boxes. This is what I do for a living. This is all. And then this is your position. What would you like to be doing? Well, I’d like to being doing this or I like to be doing this other stuff. Well, here are the things you’re not doing now that you need to learn how to do. The next step is creating job descriptions. And then after that we will be creating interview tips and tricks, interview guidelines. And this is extremely useful up and down the chain. If I’m in an analytics department and I go to human resources and I say, “I need two or more analysts,” and the HR people say, “Okay, what will they have to be able to do?” Well they’ll have 25 years of experience in site catalyst and they have to be able to dream in hour and okay great. Purple unicorn. Got it. Fine. But if there is a job description that they can say well out these 12 different job descriptions we need one of this and one of this, HR can just say fine, “We’ll post this online. Thank you very much.” And then here’s an interview guideline for the intake group to say “Oh we’ve gone through 200 resumes we whittled it down to 25 people. We interviewed 12 of them and here are the four that we think we should speak with now that the DAA has created tools that people can use to make that happen. 27:08

And yes, presentations skills and storytelling are an important part.

Lea: Music to my ears, that’s great. I can’t wait to see how that checks out and balances. So what would you say now? You have watched a lot of presentations having run so many eMetrics conferences. What would you say are your biggest pet peeves, knowing what you know now, you see practitioners and even industry experts making on stage and in the conference room?

Jim: I guess this first one is very personal. The introductory slides. I’d email my speakers for eMetrics Summit every time and I say, “Thank you so much for putting this together this great. Please delete the first five slides.” Because we all know the internet is growing fast. We all know that social media is important. We all know that you can’t measure, you can’t manage what you don’t measure. It’s like why? This is just clearing your throat stuff. Now it’s important when you’re talking to the vice-president of product management who’s never been in the meeting about analytics before. Great. But don’t, for us, no. So I guess that you don’t know your audience. Who are you presenting to?

And then finally and critically, what is it that you are trying to make happen? What do you want this audience to do? What decision do you want them to make? What action do you want them to take? What’s the call to action? And if you just say here are the numbers, blah! And they go ask, “so what?” What it does mean? They’re looking to you to have an opinion and give some advice. Based on these numbers my recommendation is… and the ideal presentation does not show the numbers at all. The ideal presentation is, I did a boatload of work and I crunched the numbers and my recommendation is we do this, this, this and this. And we should get a result of that, that, that and that. But if you go in detail telling me how hard it was to collect the numbers and how your confidence is kind of not really solid because you have this technical hiccups in this problem that you solve, and you’re so excited about being able to solve it, first of all I’m asleep, my eyes are glazed over, you made me responsible for understanding what you’re trying to tell me about these numbers and you’re just trying my confidence in the numbers. It’s just a must.

So I want the doctor to come back in the room and say, “I’ve looked at these films, I’ve looked at the scans, I’ve looked your blood work, and in my opinion is you need to eat less and exercise more.”

“Okay Doc, thanks,” but don’t try to explain twelve years of medical school to me.

Lea: That’s a very interesting analogy. I might be stealing that from you because I agree. I think we do sort of this dance where we going there and say “I want you to know how hard this was,” because I used to have a running joke on my team. I used to have a magic wand and a pot on my desk because when people had come over and say, “can’t you just do that whole crazy report in an hour and have it to me?” I would be like, “Yeah I got my wand right here.” But the thing is you’re so right. They really don’t care how hard it is. They care that you’re doing your job because they’re doing their job by being where they are. And it’s your job to help them do their job better and you’ll be rewarded for doing that.

Jim: So I need to pour the concrete for the foundation for this building. And I need you to dig this ditch. Now if the ditch is difficult then it’s slow. I don’t need you to tell me about the rocks and the pebbles and clay and the dirt. And how your shovel is tough. I need you to tell me, “Well if that is the condition, what does it takes to fix it? You know, we need a piece of equipment that can help move the earth better in order to beat your deadline.” Okay now I understand, but don’t go into gross detail. I hired you to do the job, tell me what you need to do to the job but don’t tell me how you’re doing it.

Lea: Right. Sorry I got a little off track. I was so engaged.

Jim: Stop that.

Lea: So something you said actually caught my attention which was don’t show them the numbers just give them the recommendation. But I have encountered audiences that are numbers oriented. Not necessarily analytics oriented but numbers oriented, and they do want to see the nitty gritty behind that. So how do you walk that line between burying them in a mountain of numbers versus giving them what they need to have the confidence about the figures and your recommendation?

Jim: It is a relationship. So we start with “tell us what the numbers are,” and the correct response is, “sure, the numbers are 7, 13, and 42.” “What is it you’re trying to accomplish, because I got a lot of other numbers that might be helpful too?” So I can tell you how many hits and how many people and how many products we sold. But if you tell me why you want to know, if you tell me what your goals are I can help you reach your goals. The relationship is earning their respect by showing them that you really do have a complete grasp of the numbers.

If you come across somebody who’s a numbers person, you have to be very careful because there are several types of numbers people. There are those who used numbers as a crutch. There are those who understand numbers. So I’m a visual person you know. If you show me a spreadsheet, I see kind of a gray blur. You show me a chart or graph I see relationships. I see trends and I can do that. My sister, she needs to hear stories. My brother looks at the spreadsheet and he can go right to AA423 and go “that doesn’t look right. That number doesn’t match up with the stuff up here.” I have no idea how his brain works but it’s not like mine. So what kind of numbers person are you working with? Are they a statistician? In which case that’s great, you’re going to work well with that person. Are they a bean counter? In which case you’re going to have a long conversation about how these are not the numbers. They are the statistics. They are the probabilities. They are the trends. They are the likelihoods. There are not formally 273,683 people who came to our website in the last hour. It’s roughly that. And if they want those numbers to match up exactly with X and Nelson and if not they are never going to be satisfied, you will need to take them to lunch and sort of lay that out until they get it. You are dealing in statistics not in accounting.

Lea: Right.

Jim: And once you’ve made that connection and once they are confident you really do have a handle on managing the statistics well, then they will start listening to your recommendations more and more. This is what I say and I gave a test that we can run to see if I’m right. I think you should take this million dollars and spend it all over here instead of over there. But here’s $200 we’ll put to the test to see if I’m right. Oh, a million dollars based on 200 bucks sure could do that. And if I’m right again and again and again then finally they stop questioning because they’ve learned to trust me.

Lea: Right. And you know you keep mentioning putting in the words of “I have this theory or hypothesis,” which is echoing our good friend Tim Wilson of Analytics Demystified where it’s always going in and saying “I have a hypothesis that” and of course I’m blanking on the rest…

Jim: I believe this, that and therefore we might try this to see if it works.

Lea: Oh, he’s going to be mad at me. Thank you. That was perfect.

Jim: I want to circle back to one question that you asked that I answered half but not the other.

Lea: Sure.

Jim: About fonts and bullet points – if you want to run you should wear shoes. It’s a good idea. And if you want to run fast, you should wear running shoes. It’s a good idea. And if you tie your shoelaces tighter it will help you control your feet more. Is it critical to have your shoelaces tied really tight in order to run? No. But if you are in the Olympics it’s going to make a difference. So the people who advance the most use every tool, every advantage that they can get. And if changing the font and changing and not using bullet points and using better images helps get your point across then you are more believable, and if, this is where marketing, my life was marketing, and branding is a critical piece. Well, every time Lea gets up to give her presentation I know I’m going to get clearer, crisp information, and every time Dilbert gets up I going to be thoroughly confused and I going to be. So I’m just not going to Dilbert’s presentations anymore and when it’s time to give a promotion, Lea is the obvious choice. And I don’t know. I’m not identifying with Dilbert using bullet points and a stupid font. No, that doesn’t happen. But I know that I feel better, I receive information faster, I know that you are a better communicator, and if the little tricks and tips include don’t use bullet points and be careful what font you use and try to use more images than text, then those are the little tools that all add up to better branding.

Lea: I could not agree with you more. I actually said this recently on the Digital Analytics Power Hour Podcast which will also be on my show notes page, that the ones that want to get ahead do think of themselves as a personal brand and every advance that I’ve made in my career was due in some part to a presentation that I’ve made. And maybe that was the nature of the role I was in but that is across five companies I’ve worked for and even taking this big leap now. So I totally agree. It’s your decision to shoot for the Olympics. It’s where you want to be on that spectrum.

Jim: It’s also recognizing that a “presentation” is not necessarily in front of the hundred people with PowerPoint in the spotlight. It’s that casual conversation in the hall with your boss. Where you’re not saying, “Hey I found this interesting thing. What do you think?” You plan now what you’re going to casually say because that’s an important interaction and will have an impact on your career.

Lea: Absolutely. So one of the things I hear a lot about also from this community is problems with confidence. They’re naturally numbers oriented. Very happily tucked away and they love crunching numbers and I’ve been there too. So you know, do you have any tips for you know, achieving that confident authentic self for yourself when you’re stepping out there?

Jim: The first thing you should not do is imagine your audience naked. That does absolutely nothing for your confidence and will gross you out most likely. There really is only one correct answer to that and it is to present in front of audiences as much as you can because you can get used to it.

My wife was a horrible flyer. She’s just a bad passenger and I’ve got marks in my arms where she dug her fingernails in. And then we started flying more and more and you just get used to it. Now like me she’s asleep before the wheels are up because, “Oh, on plane I can relax.” I know what to expect. I’m on the stage now and that’s it. The lights are there, and the microphone works this way and my slides are working. Okay, I’m home. You don’t get that because somebody said just takes a deep breath and a big glass of water. That’s not going to help. What helps is to do it a lot and do it again and do it again.

So when you start my recommendation is rehearsal. When I was at that first user group meeting I went to, I rehearsed to the chair and when I felt comfortable, then I presented it to the couch, and when I felt like I got this down, I put the dog on the couch and it took three or four presentations before the dog stayed down on the couch to watch me. Then I could present to my wife and get actual feedback and find out how terrible I was.

The next piece of advice, this one is definitely out of left field but it really helped me, which is two nights before your presentation, and it’s important that its two nights before, present to the mirror drunk. And here’s why, because by then hopefully if you have rehearsed or not you have to know your material. But instead of getting up and saying, “here’s the interesting information that I found and here’s why I think it’s important to you,” you go in front of the mirror and you say, “this is cool information. It’s awesome and it’s like totally important for you,” and you look at yourself and you go, “I could never do that in public,” but you will put a little more emotion into it than you would otherwise. Because you will find where the exciting points are for you and those will translate in maybe instead of moving your hand a little bit you’ll move your whole arm. That’s big. That’s important. But of course as you can tell from my voice I’m not saying you slightly move your arm and that’s important. It’s very big. I’m using my, I’m trying to get some enthusiasm across. And that’s what people pay attention to.

If I want to know what you think I can read your blog, but I come to your presentation because I want to know how you feel about it. So I can read your words, or I can hear you say, “I think this is the most important thing you should remember. This is the most important thing you need to remember,” And like what? I’m ready what? Tell me what I want to know. It’s, it’s… so confidence is a little bit of acting and a lot of repetition.

So the solution for repetition is Toastmasters. Go to your local Toastmasters and once a week be forced to give a presentation about pickles and tennis shoes that doesn’t matter. That will help you get comfortable in front of people. My wife ran for public office and was just a terrible public speaker – just lost. And I, you know, don’t try to teach your spouse how to drive, don’t try teach your spouse how to give public presentations, just in order to keep the home front happy. She had to be out in public everyday, and within like a week and a half suddenly she’d get something quick and she just relaxed. And I said, why here I am in front of the audience again, let me tell you how I really feel. And now when she’s asked to speak she’s like, “Oh, give me the microphone!” This is the X and she’s brilliant in running meetings and you know, giving sermons in church and she’s just a fabulous public speaker now. But it comes from getting comfortable by doing it again and again.

 Lea: Absolutely, and I hear often complaints that there’s no time to practice and I’m of the mindset that you make time for things that are really important, like there is always time to take 20 minutes and run through something. I think it’s more about not being in a comfort zone or having tools to do that. So once you have a plan for doing that like who’d you played out. I think I can help get the ball and run.

Jim: You make a good point but that “I’ll make time for” I think is important. How you present is important, and until you believe that then no, you’re not going to make time for it. Until you believe that exercise is important yeah you’re going to be a couch potato. Until you believe that texting and driving is not a good thing. You’ll probably learn one day when you X or run over somebody then it will be important. So I guarantee that at some point in your career you will have to give a presentation and it will matter to your career.

And it might not be tomorrow, it might not be next week. So start practicing now while you have the time because when crunch hits, I mean if somebody walked up to me tomorrow and said, “Hey, this afternoon we’d like to give you a TED Talk. I’d just say, “No, sorry.” I need two weeks of doing nothing else to prepare for that level. And I’ve been giving presentations for 30 years. I’m very comfortable on stage but you going to get me up to that level. You’re going to put me on television now? NO – I need more prep time. Thanks very much. It is important. It is acting. It is communicating emotion. Communicating confidence. Communicating the things you think that are important by expressing how important they are to you and that takes practice. Practice is so much more important than talent.

Lea: Oh, couldn’t agree more. And I always think if I think I don’t have time to practice, if I hop down over to Facebook to melt my brain cells, or if I have a TV, then I have time to practice. That’s kind of a way I look at it. 

Jim: Yeah! Practice is more important than sleep.

Lea: Yes, definitely. So this is my last fun question. So I want you to think really hard here. So imagine this scenario. You’re performing in a new reboot of the Twelfth Night, you’re walking on stage and suddenly you’ve fallen back in time and you’re transported back to the precise moment before your past self is about to walk into your first big presentation. If you could talk to yourself what would you say?

Jim: “You’re going to be great. Go get ‘em.”

Lea: Alright.

Jim: You hold them. The audience is here. They want you to succeed. Show them that success. And I only notice from being an audience too. Somebody comes up on stage to get the big introduction and the lights go up and the person walks on the stage and you go, “Great. I’m ready to be entertained. I want this person to do well,” and they stumble and fumble and you just think, “Oh, that’s too bad.” And then you get mad at them. I’m here. Where are you? Why don’t you bring your A-game? But if you, if they walk out and I have seen more than my fair share of presentations, somebody comes out and they’re not trying to be funny and they’re not trying to entertain, but there just trying to be lively. They’re trying to infuse. It’s enjoyable. Even if the information they’re giving me is stuff I already know it’s fun to watch. Even if it’s about a subject matter I know nothing about. It’s really interesting to see what gets people cranked up. The guy who stands up with his notes and reads his paper, that’s why there should be firearms in his world. They don’t deserve to live. I’m sorry. The guy gets up and says you should wear shoes when you’re running. Let me tell you why and gets all excited about it. It’s like, I don’t care about shoes for running but he’s fun to watch. You know there are certain presenters.

So Matt Cutler, my favorite presenter, just could wrap the audience around his little finger because he was so enthused. Today’s current favorite? I guess it’s going to have to be Rand Fishkin. If you want to see what Rand looks like he does a Friday white board thing moz.com and he presents everyday, every week. But if you ever see him in person he’s mesmerizing. The man practices. He knows his content inside and out. He is incredibly intelligent that way. But he’s just a joy to watch because he loves presenting.

Lea: Yeah. He is amazing. So I definitely put that on the show notes page as well and I couldn’t agree more you know. I can even quantify the number of hours that we spend in corporate careers, in meetings and presentations. Why not look at the one you’re going to give as an opportunity to just light up their minds, change their hearts? You know we’re making this sound very lofty for analytic data but maybe it can be if they have that level of enthusiasm.

Jim: This is the problem that I come across with people who are not comfortable doing presentations. Who am I to change their minds or are these just the reports and there’s nothing in here? That’s really exciting, so that’s where what do you want them to do. Why are you bothering? It’s just, you know, here I am to give quarterly reports, which they email to me. Why are you wasting my time? But if you got that call to action in mind when you go in there, you want them to change how they see the world or what decision they’re going to make.

So again, going back to the advice that I give eMetrics audiences… What should I present? What will the audience be interested in? The answer is whatever you are most interested in the audience will find interesting. So the thing that you’re working on right now is some deep dark technical solution to a difficult technical problem and you show that to the vice president of product marketing, you’re not showing it to the right audience. But if you show that to a group of analysts at Web Analytics Wednesday, you’ve got exactly the right audience. They’re going to be eating out of the palm of your hand. But if you take that problem, what was the resolution? How did you get that to its X and therefore, Mr. Vice-President of Marketing, of product marketing, here’s what it means to you. If you shift your budget over, if you change the color of the button, if you change the messaging based on customer segmentation, I think, I really think, I really, really think that you can get a 12% lift and I think we should test that. “Sure, dude. Go right ahead. That would be fun.”

Lea: Right. Who’s going to say no to that?

Jim: Yeah.

Lea: Well Jim, that’s all the questions that I have for you today. I want to thank you so much for taking the time to be on the show.

Jim: It’s an honor. It’s a pleasure.

Lea: I think the listeners have gotten so much value out of this and so many resources and just wonderful mindset mantras to think about when they approach this work.

If you want to keep track of Jim on Twitter you can stalk him @jimsterne, j-i-m-s-t-e-r-n-e. I’ll also have links to his books on the show notes page at leapica.com/005. If you haven’t attended the eMetrics Summit yet I can’t recommend it enough. Also, if you are an analyst and you are not a member of the Digital Analytics Association (DAA) there’s so much amazing exclusive member content that’s coming out and the community itself is amazing. You’ll actually be able to catch both Jim and I if you’re in Australia in September. Shameless plug for the Love’s Data 2015 Conference Analytics Conference in Sydney and Melbourne and that’s the week of September 7th.

Lea: So again Jim, thank you so much for today and all the best to you. I’ll be seeing you soon.

Jim: My pleasure. Thanks so much for having me.

How do you help your stakeholders “get” your data? Any questions for Jim?

 

Lea is a digital analyst and marketer turned Data Storytelling Evangelist. She trains thousands of digital practitioners and consultants in the art and science of impactful data presentation through her blog and podcast, The Present Beyond Measure Show. Lea is also the creator of The PICA Protocol™, her practical prescription for healthy, actionable data stories that inform decisions, spark ideas, inspire action, and make YOU indispensable.