• Garrett O’Hara

    Garrett O’Hara is the Chief Field Technologist, APAC at Mimecast having joined in 2015 with the opening of the Sydney office, leading the growth and development of the local team. With over 20 years of experience across development, UI/UX, technology communication, training development and mentoring, Garrett now works to help organisations understand and manage their cyber resilience strategies and is a regular industry commentator on the cyber security landscape, data assurance approaches and business continuity.

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This week we are joined by Emily Edgeley, an infosec analyst and manager turned public speaking coach. In this episode we tap into Emily’s expertise on story telling, why it’s important, how it works with specific examples for cyber. We then pivot into powerful presentations (something key for any CISO needing to get board buy in) including common presentation mistakes, messaging and how to use, or not use Powerpoint.

Check out some additional resources below recommended by Emily:

30 Storytelling Scenarios 

Power of Stories Masterclass 

Further Articles (Including Defining a Point, Structuring a Talk, Handling Nerves etc)

Content

The Get Cyber Resilient Show Episode #103 Transcript

Garrett O'Hara: Welcome to the Get Cyber Resilient podcast, I'm Garrett O'Hara. I've heard it often said, and I do buy into it that public speaking and presentation skills are very near the top of the pile for progressing a career, and for security leadership that is doubly so. Today we are joined by Emily Edgeley, who's an InfoSec analyst and manager turned public speaking coach. We tap into Emily's expertise on storytelling, why it's important, how it works, with specific examples for cyber and some of the gotchas. Then we pivot into powerful presentations as something that's key for any CISO needing to get board buy-in. We talk through common mistakes, messaging, how to be concise and how to use or not use PowerPoint. Over to the conversation.

Welcome to the Get Cyber Resilient podcast, I'm Garrett O'Hara. Today, I am joined by Emily Edgeley who's a public speaking coach. Welcome to the podcast, Emily.

Emily Edgeley: Thank you so much for having me. Good to be here.

Garrett O'Hara: It's absolutely wonderful to have you along. This is a topic that is very, very close to my heart, um, probably the number one recommendation I make to anyone when it comes to career coaching is go learn how to do public speaking, it's, it's probably the most important skill, uh, in anyone's kind of career, I, I reckon.

Emily Edgeley: Totally. Li- literally we are speaking all the time, we're communicating every single day so if there's hacks and ways of doing it better, I feel like that's something to explore for sure.

Garrett O'Hara: It definitely is. And, and we're, we're gonna get into that in some depth, um, really across kind of two main sort of categories, sort of storytelling, and then sort of powerful presenting and presentations. And I think there, there are probably two things that for anyone in a cyber security career, like it's just gonna stand to people to get kind of better at that. Before we kind of get into it though, um, it would be lovely for the audience just to hear how you got to where you are today as a public speaking coach, um, obviously you, you started somewhere else and I'll kind of let you fill in the blanks, but, uh-

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: ... it's been an interesting pathway to, to where you are.

Emily Edgeley: Sure. So yes, very, very different. So I did a pure maths degree out of school and then a masters of cybersecurity. And I, I was always a really shy child, so I did not like presenting and I was not very good at it. And I remember going into the corporate world and I would share information like any sort of, you know, person that likes maths and that is very structured would, it was very much informational. Now, I didn't really know that there was any issue with that to be perfectly honest until I saw a Ted Talk. I don't know if your listeners have heard this Ted Talk, but the Simon Sinek Ted Talk called How Great Leaders Inspire Action.

And I remember, I still remember where I was sitting when I was listening to this Ted Talk or watching the Ted Talk, so I was on level 36 of 55 Collins Street, hopefully it was in my break at work at the time, [laughs] this was about 10 years ago. And I remember being so captivated by his Ted Talk, so it was about an 18 minute Ted Talk, and I was glued to the laptop for those 18 minutes.

And then after the 18 minutes was up, I was so motivated to take action that I went and I Googled his golden circle and I pr- I printed it out and I stuck it to my laptop, because I wanted to make sure that every single time I was having a conversation with someone, every single time I was writing an email that I was starting with why. And that was essentially what his talk was all about. Now, later that afternoon or evening, I remember thinking to myself, two things. I remember thinking, "How did he capture my attention and make me want to change my behavior?" And then two was, "How can I replicate that?"

And so I went on this sort of journey and this quest to try and figure out, what was it that he did, and all roads were leading back to storytelling. And so, you know, I was like, "Okay, so it's storytelling, that's the secret to how he kept me captivated and how he changed my behavior." And so I thought to myself, "Okay, I need to get an ex... to be, to become an expert in storytelling." And so I did, you know, I did Toastmasters, I did the advanced storytelling series of Toastmasters, I did other storytelling courses, I read all I could and I started to apply it.

And I started noticing that, oh, you know, this, people are relating to what I'm talking about. People are saying, "Oh, that was so inspiring." You know, people were coming up to me afterwards saying, "I took on your advice." And I realized, "Okay, there's something in this." And even little old me who knew nothing about storytelling could learn the art and use it to my advantage.

And then, because I love helping people, I just started to share it. And then the more I started to share it, the more people started to ask for it, and then the rest is history [laughs].

Garrett O'Hara: There's something really wonderful about, um, you see people pulled into a career based on like, there's a resonance there, it's clearly something they're passionate about and good about and-

Emily Edgeley: Totally.

Garrett O'Hara: ... good at, and it's having a good effect on, on the world. Um, so here, here's maybe a very specific question. Like, can you define what story is? Because you, you've highlighted something, I think so many of us, um, get wrong, which is like information change people's minds. We know it doesn't, right?

Emily Edgeley: No.

Garrett O'Hara: At some academic level-

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: ... but we still show the charts and give the data, and wonder why nothing's really happened. When you describe story, what is that? I mean, you know, is it, you know, fables and all that stuff? Or like, how would you define storytelling in the context of like corporates-

Emily Edgeley: Yes.

Garrett O'Hara: ... in the sort of our jobs?

Emily Edgeley: So it's a really good question because I think everyone, as you say, perhaps has heard of storytelling and everyone might have their own interpretation of it so I will somewhat go back in time a little bit. So when I first learned storytelling, to me, it was like the Hollywood version of storytelling. It was very much, there's a lot of different steps required in the story. And I remember the first storytelling workshop I ever went to, and they gave us these massive sheets of paper to take away from us and on, you know, two sides of the pieces of paper, there was all these different elements that you need to include in a good story. And I remember thinking like, "Wow, but crikes, this is a lot, so it's gonna have to take me a lot of time to prep all my stories in the future."

And that's great, but in reality, you are never really going to use those Hollywood version types of a story, or they're gonna be very limited. So over time, over sort of a couple of years, I realized, actually a story doesn't have to have all these elements. It doesn't have to be something that you take five minutes to tell. It doesn't have to be elaborate with, you know, uh, you know, a twist in the plot, and a protagonist and all this type of stuff. So I have distilled down what a story is into three key ingredients, which really helps me to use stories way more often and this is what I teach all my clients. So to me, the most basic sort of bare bones of a story need these things, and a lot of these should make a lot of sense to everyone once I've said what they are.

So the first thing is characters. Now, when I say characters, you can almost have an equal sign and then think people, because not like Pixar, we're not telling stories about ants or anything like that. There, there should always be people in what we're... in the stories that we're telling, and that's what gives the story the human element, obviously. So number one, there should be characters. Number two, there should be a... ideally, just a three part structure.

So what I mean by that is there's a before, a during and an after, and the before should highlight some context or the sort of, you know, the status quo, what was happening beforehand. The middle is where there's some turning point or big problem or change or aha moment, and then the after is the resolution. And I'll share some stories as we go through in the podcast, which should bring this a little bit more to life, but there needs to be a, a, uh, transformation across those three parts of the structure. And I think what we do too much in generally the security and IT industry is share way too much of the middle.

So the middle could be something like we have a new tool, or the middle could be something like we have a strategy, or the middle could be we have an approach or a framework or whatever it is, that's the vehicle that gets people from point A to point B. But you need to make the point A and the point B, which is the either sides of the story clear, because at the end of the day, we think people are interested in the vehicle which is the middle sort of bridge bit, but people aren't really that bothered about that bit. That's not the bit that they're gonna emotionally connect to.

Garrett O'Hara: Yeah.

Emily Edgeley: They're gonna emotionally connect to what are humans i- i.e the characters doing with this vehicle, or how are they interacting with it? How will it change their life or their job role or what they do at work? So the three part structure is critical, and then the last thing is an element of time or time markers. And what I mean by this is, let's just think, not even security for a moment, and if I asked someone, if I asked you or any of the listeners, "Oh, you know, when was the last time that you had a terrible customer service experience or something like that? Or when was the last time you really experienced sec... the need for security?" You might tell a story and the actual experience might span seconds or minutes or hours, versus if I asked you a question like, "Explain to us your career history," in an interview as an example. That story, that experience could span decades potentially if you wanted to go back that far or years, right?

So if you can imagine that a story could span seconds or minutes, or it could span years or decades, you have to make that passage of time really clear to your audience, otherwise the story doesn't either make sense, or it doesn't have the relevant impact. And I'll, will give perhaps a more relevant example here. So let's just say you are trying to present something to the board, and you're trying to explain that perhaps we haven't been spending enough money in a certain area, and therefore it's not in a very good state, and therefore we need to spend some money and do some remediation to uplift in that particular area. Now, the passage of time is quite important for people to make decisions on, so how long have you under spent in a particular area, or how long has it been in a... or at three rating or whatever you want call it? And then how long will it take to remediate this with your new solution or with this funded project that you're waiting to get approval for?

If it's been five years that it's been in this state and with this spending, it can change it in the space of nine months. That's much more appealing than the other way around. It's been this way for nine months, and it's gonna take five years to remediate. So the passage of time is something that people generally don't add into their stories, but it's crucial to get the buy-in really.

Garrett O'Hara: Yeah, absolutely. And with that buy-in, um, and I suspect we'll get to this, but why not do it now? Um, the, the tool of storytelling really is a way to get change effectively. I mean, it's, it's part of what a-

Emily Edgeley: Absolutely.

Garrett O'Hara: ... an operator will use in their organization to, to make that happen and to influence more powerfully. What are some practical examples of sorts of things, uh, a CISO or a security leader walks into a boardroom or into an exco meeting-

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: ... and needs to effect change? Like, what are... like, are there specific examples or particular types of stories that work, you know, well in that sort of situation?

Emily Edgeley: Absolutely. So some really classic examples are things like incidents. Too often, we will give, we might start our dialogue or start the explanation at the incident, so this has happened, et cetera, et cetera. And then as another discrete bit of information, "Here's what we recommend, we need to do this action, this remedy," et cetera. A board generally don't have a very good understanding of the big picture, and I think it's perpetuated by the fact that we go in and we give them discrete bits of information. So that's a classic case where you would want to go back in time and give some of the context, the incident would be the middle of the story, and then what you're wanting to do would be sort of that vehicle that takes the organization from point A to point B. Then you'd want to give some of the point B, what will this organization look like once you've done this rectification, when you've taken this certain action?

The most important parts of a story are the beginning and the end, that point A and the point B, and I I'll, I'll, I'll go slightly off tangent just to make this point a little bit clearer. If we just think about the fitness industry for a moment, and I know we're not in the fitness industry, but I think this is a great illustrative example for people to have in their minds. So if you think about a sort of before and after in terms of like a, a fitness image, whether it's like a gym selfie or something like that, what people are really looking for is a visual clarity in terms of the before and the after. That is what will get people to buy into the transformation of the particular recommendation or the recommendations, if that makes sense. So the most important things to nail are the, what does point A look like, and what does point B look like with humans in it?

Garrett O'Hara: Mm-hmm.

Emily Edgeley: So incidents are a great example. You can also tell the story of other companies and what's happened with incidents. So the first example was incidents that have happened to your organization, and you string that out into a narrative. The other one would be where another organization has had an incident and perhaps the board wanna know, "Oh, oh gosh, are we... What, what would we do in that same situation?"

Garrett O'Hara: Yep.

Emily Edgeley: You would again, want to use the three part structure, include humans in it and have the time markers, if you can. The other really common situations could be things like a strategy. A great example with a strategy, so whether it's a new strategy or whether it's a strategy that's been existing for a while and you're wanting to give an update on that strategy, again, you don't want to just give the strategy which is the middle part of the story, you want to explain the context of the before, which led you to create the strategy, then the strategy, and then what the strategy's gonna lead you to.

Now, people listening, and I don't know if you're even, might be thinking the same thing. I get the pushback sometimes from people, "Oh, but they know that." You know, "Why rehash that same stuff again? People know why we're doing this." In a lot of cases, in my opinion, people either don't know, they don't have that full picture, or if they were told it at one point of time, it's absolutely still important to reinforce it again. So giving people that big picture, and going back in time and going forward in time is really fundamental to make sure that everyone's on the same page.

You can do the story format, honestly, for anything that you're wanting to explain. So if you are wanting to explain the need for extra funding, for particular resources, as an example, instead of just going into, "Okay, we need seven people. The cost is this. This is what they'll be doing. Here's the bullet points." Give some context as to what's actually happening and what's going wrong, and what pain also could happen in the future if the people are not hired. Then go to, if you do hire these people, what's possible? So as you can see, you can literally do it for anything that you're wanting to propose in the future, or any win that you're wanting to explain in the past, you always have to think of those three part structure. That's the best way that you're gonna show the impact of something.

Garrett O'Hara: As you're talking there, Emily, it feels like what you're describing is a way to move any audience, and in this case, it's a board from knowledge to feeling. And I feel like when you get to feeling, that's the, the part where people will actually take action and they'll get engaged, they'll buy into something.

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: And it's almost circling back in what you said right at the very start, you know, we, we try and use information and it doesn't matter if a board intellectually knows something and maybe even understands something, I think it's the bit where you elevate that to feels something.

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: And I suspect that storytelling is the, the way you get to that energy where, "Okay, we'll, we'll do something."

Emily Edgeley: Absolutely. I mean, at the end of the day, we all make decisions based off feeling whether we think we do or not. I know we are not in a very touchy, feely industry, but as human beings, we, we all act based on emotion. So yes, you need to, if you really want to convince people that there's an issue for which you have a solution, we go way too much into solution mode.

Garrett O'Hara: Yeah.

Emily Edgeley: We absolutely need... We know the reason why we know the pain, we know that, you know, perhaps security, i- isn't getting the attention it deserves, perhaps people are getting burnt out, perhaps that's causing attrition issues, perhaps that's causing some projects to go in with security issues. If you don't bring that to the forefront, it's also not even just an issue about not, they're not emotionally connecting, they don't have the full picture if you're just jumping straight to, "We need these resources." I, I know we're all time poor in these meetings, but if you have to have another meeting to talk about it again, there's definitely value in just quickly going over the, the story based aspect to that.

Garrett O'Hara: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. And so a couple of questions and maybe like, from a personal perspective, I grew up in the pubs of, of Ireland where I had friends who were just unbelievably natural storytellers, just phenomenal.

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: Like it's a tradition back there. They're called, um, um, [inaudible 00:20:09], it's, uh, like an Irish version storytelling. And I was always so envious of them, you know, because I just naturally wasn't that person. I was the guy, who'd say the, you know, the, the funny one liner, but I, I was really always, so self-conscious when it came to storytelling.

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: And I've met friends over the years here in Australia who seem in that mold where they're phenomenal storytellers, and I've sort of said it to them, "Hey, man, like you're incredible at telling stories." And it turns out they actually literally practice and prepare the stories that they then, you know, sort of shop around at parties and you know, the, the funny things that they say.

Emily Edgeley: Oh, so fascinating.

Garrett O'Hara: So here's, here's the question. Um, like in your experience, um, is there an element of literally preparing the story, you know, the characters, the three part, the, the sort of time, um, markers along the way?

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: Or do you get to the point, and I'm hoping the answer is you do get to the point, [laughs] but when you've used a framework like that, you just get used to doing it, so you don't have to have the story prepped, you can actually just on the fly. Can you use your framework to, to tell stories and how long does it take to get there?

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: Um, that's a lot of questions [laughs].

Emily Edgeley: No, that's fine. So I know exactly what you mean about people that are amazing storytellers, by the way, I have a friend that's exactly like that. So people can absolutely be natural storytellers, but you, you can get to that point, for sure. So yes, it's an art and a skill and it's something that you can learn, but I feel like I'm at the point where I might not have rehearsed a particular story, but I know how to turn information into a story on the spot, or I know how to turn... make a point with a story on the spot. So you can move from a place of it being very deliberate and you're feeling like, "Wow, I had to rehearse that three times for it to feel like it came out well," to a place where you think, "Ah. It's... That's actually quite easy to do it."0

So time wise, that's, it's a tricky one. It, it [inaudible 00:22:07] in my opinion, depends on how much you put into practice. So let's just say 12 months has passed, and you've practiced, uh, your storytelling skills a couple of times, well, you're probably not gonna have moved on very much. But if you are trying every day to inject a story or turn information into a story, then probably within three months, you're gonna be a, a pro at it, if that makes sense.

So it doesn't take that long, and in fact, you can make storytelling super complicated, but you can also make storytelling quite easy. And if you follow that basic story structure, it's, it's actually quite easy to then go, "Ah. I just need to go back in time, explain who was involved in this incident, and who was impacted by this incident, tell them then how long it took us to say identify this incident, and then time mark when we will resolve this and who will be involved and how it will be impacted."

That's not, that's actually not that challenging. If you then wanna sort of add on and add a few more extra ingredients, then obviously it gets harder. But as a very first basic step for people that are quite structured, it's quite methodical how you can start to tell a narrative.

Garrett O'Hara: And, and on that, one of the things I certainly find it happens to me is that when, when I do try the, the storytelling thing, sometimes I, I kind of feel like I'm losing my way in my own brain in terms of where I am, [laughs] or like, where's this thing going. Um, like any tips on that, you know, that sort of how to keep on track and-

Emily Edgeley: Yes.

Garrett O'Hara: ... and you know, if you lose your place, for example, how to get back to where you were.

Emily Edgeley: Yeah. So number one is you are more likely to go off track with a story when two things are in place or two things occur. So, number one, if you don't know the point of your story, then you are not really gonna know when you should end it or how you are meant to end this story, so that's, I suppose, uh, mistake, number one. Mistake number two is going and spending too long telling the story.

Garrett O'Hara: Yep.

Emily Edgeley: You, you have a much greater chance of going off track if it's a long story. And in my opinion, you can actually tell a story in 60 second, you don't need a long time to tell a story. So I would say a couple of things. Know your point beforehand and in conversational storytelling, so we are all telling stories with friends, right? So if anyone says they are not a natural storyteller, you are, but you might not think you are that entertaining as a storyteller. So we are all using dialogue in stories when we talk to friends. If you ask someone, you know, like, "Oh, what happened with that thing that you were updating me on?" You will get a blow by blow account of it which will include dialogue, it'll include time markers, it'll include perhaps where you were, how you felt. Like we all include these ingredients, but when we get in the corporate world, we sort of throw all that out the window. So I think knowing that we are all natural storytellers can really help, and sometimes you just need to fall back on those skills, if that makes sense.

Garrett O'Hara: It definitely does. As you're talking there, the idea of things like imposter syndrome and confidence kind of come into my mind where you, you mentioned, um, you know, sometimes it, it can feel like a story's taken too long and that right amount of time. There's probably, and, and, you know, you're obviously a coach for this so you work with a lot of people, is there an element of almost like, um, confidence building, personal development, where people need to get comfortable with holding a space and feeling like they've got the runway to tell a story? Versus something else I find and, you know, being vulnerable, I will do this where I get a little bit-

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: ... like, oh, you know, "Am I being interesting?" So I'll speed it up and then get to the point where-

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: ... I'm like, "Did I tell the story well?" Or, you know, [laughs] this-

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: Well, well, how do you play with that?

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: You know, that holding space, feeling confidence so that you can get to tell the story well.

Emily Edgeley: Yeah. So, I mean, one part of it is knowing that people actually want the story version. I think in a lot of cases we think, "Oh, I don't wanna..." you know, and I don't like talking about myself either, but I've got over that in a way, because I know people enjoy the story format much more which might be a little bit longer than the information part. So I think, and I go through a lot of things when I coach people, I go through exercises where it, it almost proves that to you. Like it's like telling information to your partner and then tell a story, and then let's have a chat about what you experienced. And then generally people will say, "Oh, the story bit was so much more interesting. It made me think about my version of it. And then we, you know, got in a conversation and I can remember the story versus the information."

So I always try and help people see and prove it to them that a story is far more interesting than the facts and figures side of things. And then another part to it is, uh, literally just about the practice side of things.

Garrett O'Hara: Yeah.

Emily Edgeley: So like anything, if, if, even if we took another example of like cooking, you know, you cook with yourself, you know, you might cook for yourself, fine, not stressful, cook for your family, might be fine. But if I said to you, "Okay, you've gotta cook for a hundred people and they're paying in a restaurant, you might get a little bit nervous." So, but if I gave you a menu and we figured out your approach, you practiced it in the commercial kitchen a few times, you'd probably be feeling a whole lot better.

So it's very similar with storytelling. If it's a new approach for you and you haven't been doing it and it is a conscious thing that you're trying to hit these different elements, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. So I, I think it's yet those sort of two elements, like recognizing that a story is, is really interesting, knowing what to include and what not to include-

Garrett O'Hara: Yep.

Emily Edgeley: ... is also important, and then having an opportunity to practice it. That would be the most fundamental things.

Garrett O'Hara: Yeah, no, I definitely get that. And you know, in, in that restaurant, if I was cooking for a hundred people, they'd need to be happy with like two minute noodles and toast [laughs] and, and then I'd be, I'd be okay, otherwise I'd be freaking out.

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: Like as you're talking there, um, so, you know, Grandpa from the Simpsons, uh, you know, where he is, uh, he tells these like... I don't know if you watched the Simpsons at all or ever have-

Emily Edgeley: I have, but long time ago.

Garrett O'Hara: ... but like Grandpa Simpson is kind of famous for the, you know, long waffly winding stories about when he was young, and you know, "We used to tie an, an onion to our belt back in those days, but there were white onions because you couldn't get the brown ones," and you know, just these really-

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: How do you avoid that?

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: You know, that thing where like it's punchy, it's concise and it's engaging versus Grandpa Simpson.

Emily Edgeley: Yes [laughs]. Okay, so it sort of comes back to a little bit of what I've talked about before. So number one is, if you, if... I think sometimes people get stuck in a trap of, they tell a story for a story's sake.

Garrett O'Hara: Mm-hmm. Yep.

Emily Edgeley: It's like, "Oh, I have this story. I'm gonna share it with people."

Garrett O'Hara: Yeah.

Emily Edgeley: And if you don't know the point of the story, and if the point, you don't believe the point's relevant for your audience, then that that's where you're gonna get off track 'cause you're gonna be like, "And this happened and then this happened and then yeah..." Like you don't even know, you know, where you're going. So you need to know, you need to start with the point. That would be probably my best advice is-

Garrett O'Hara: Yep.

Emily Edgeley: And we, we do this in general conversation. So if someone says something in general conversation that prompts us to think of a story, we are like, "Oh, I totally agree. This happened to me the other day." We'll tell the story linking to the point. So there always has to be a very strong anchor to a point before you're bothering to tell a story. It's not storytelling for storytelling's sake.

The second part is I know I, and I know my clients find a lot of comfort, sorry, in the structure.

Garrett O'Hara: Yep.

Emily Edgeley: So if you imagine that those three parts to the structure that I was talking about before are almost like containers. So literally think like, you know, a plastic Tupperware container. You have to put content into the beginning, you have to put some content into the middle, you have to put some content into the end. If you are thinking about that, then it's... I feel like it's quite hard to get off track.

Garrett O'Hara: Yeah.

Emily Edgeley: The other thing that you can do, if, if you find you get lost in your story, and, and I think people are at one of two ends. Some people don't put enough richness in their stories and then other people will spend too long telling the story and you think, "Okay, you could have wrapped it up earlier." If you are of the, the case where you go on a little bit, my advice is to write out your story in a sentence ideally with, with the three parts of the structure. So literally a couple of words for the chunk, number one, containing number one, a couple of words for chunk number two, and a couple of words for chunk number three. If you've understood that at a very high level, then you have boundaries and it's a lot harder to then get lost in the detail.

Garrett O'Hara: That's a phenomenal tip. I think that clarity, um, get it... puts you on rails and yeah. and stops you waffling.

Emily Edgeley: Yes.

Garrett O'Hara: Let's, let's pivot a little bit actually and, um, talk about presenting, right? So this is, you know, I suppose part of anyone who's in corporate at some point is probably gonna have to get in a room and present to customers, present to peers, to, to a board, to leadership, et cetera. Huge question. Um, what, what do you see as the kind of common mistakes that people make? Um, there's probably a very long list to those, [laughs] but like maybe they're the biggest, you know, the ones that are most impactful-

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: ... you know, for people to be aware of.

Emily Edgeley: Okay. So one of the, I mean, one of the biggest and most obvious visual mistakes is that people do death by PowerPoint. So that's something I see time and time and time again with my clients is they have text, very text heavy slides. And I know sometimes we can't get around this, as in, you might have to send a pack to a board or a committee meeting and they have to read it beforehand. So if that's the case, you are hamstrung, it has to make sense on the slides. But if you don't have to do that, then I would always recommend to keep your slides light on. The reason being is people will get distracted from what you've got on your slides and it's actually gonna be harder for your message to land, because they're trying to listen to you and they're trying to read it at the same time and that's actually quite challenging. So number one is always to try and remove the information from the slides if you can.

Another really basic thing is that people generally are topic centric. So let, let's just say, they're being told to give an update to the board on the state of identity and access management. And they will put in information and start sort of going through the slides, and filling out what they, you know, "Okay, let's give them this strategy page. Okay, let's tell them who's been involved. Let's give them some bullet points on the wins." And it's all this like hodgepodge of different information that they're gonna explain to their particular audience. That's a surefire way to confuse people and somewhat overwhelm people. It's a little bit like drinking from a fire hose [laughs].

Garrett O'Hara: Yeah.

Emily Edgeley: What you wanna do instead is have a very clear idea of, who am I presenting to and what will they do this information? If you can start with that, that should focus exactly what you're gonna share and you should tailor it for that particular outcome. So perhaps there's been some issues with delivery, and maybe you want to reinforce the confidence that the project is going to hit its target, or perhaps you are wanting to explain that it's not going to, and you need more funding and you want them to approve that funding. Then you would be only including the information that's gonna get them to that point, and you'd be thinking about almost again, if we link the storytelling into it, what's the problem? They need to understand the problem first, then what am I recommending? And then what's the benefits? What's that gonna take people to? If you can think about from the audience perspective and think about your objective and then structure it appropriately, it's a bit of a no brainer that you're gonna get the outcome that you're after in, in the quickest way possible, to be honest. So yeah, they would be my two biggest issues.

The third one is probably more just around the delivery side of things.

Garrett O'Hara: Yep.

Emily Edgeley: So people, and this is me included, people that are very structured and analytical that generally reside a lot in the tech and security world don't, and I found this fascinating, don't have as, uh, large facial expressions, they won't modulate their voice as much as different sort of personality types. So it's really important for people like that to go a little bit more than they normally would in terms of their like vocal variety, in terms of their like facial expressions, the audience need to see congruence from what's being said to how it's being said. So that would be another part is if you're saying something like, security is in a bad state and you are gonna give them a statistic, if you just say the statistic like it's potentially going to, or there's 500 million attacks in the last year, that doesn't make it sound very important or impressive. But if you say 500 million attacks, then people are going to take that and feel like that there's emphasis behind those words, so part of it is the delivery as well.

Garrett O'Hara: Yeah, definitely get that and, um, seeing it when it comes to like this industry, wonderful people, incredibly smart people who will get in front of an audience and then monotone it with just word, like walls of words-

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: ... and you see them steal their own thunder, because you're reading ahead and you've read the point that they're then verbally making [laughs] in, in the background.

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: You raised, um, something that I think is actually really important in, in this kind of context-

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: ... um, on your second point just then, which was, you know, in the time you're given and that, I think you said something like that's normally quite a short amount of time-

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: ... which it absolutely is. What's your tips there? Like how do you get a message across like super crisp? You've got, you've got your five minute slot or 10 minutes slot and, and really you need an hour, but like you don't have it. What, what do you reckon?

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: How do you do that?

Emily Edgeley: Okay. I would, I would be starting with a shocking statistic or a shocking statement or a question that goes to the heart of what the audience cares about. So let's just say you are talking about DevSecOps and your audience is not people in the security industry, you're talking to the business. Now, they don't care about DevSecOps, they care about going faster. Let's just say something like that. So I would always try and find what's an anchor that I can start with to hook people in and get them to pay attention to what I'm talking about. So that's number one, because if you start in a way where people are thinking, "This isn't that relevant, we, we don't have time for this." They're gonna interject and then the, the whole conversation's derailed. So I would always start with something that, that goes to the heart of what the audience actually cares about, so, so problem in an audience specific language.

Then I think you can allay some of their like, concerns that this isn't gonna be that relevant for them. And you may actually get longer than they had advised you in the first instance, but you want to then clarify the value of what you are gonna share in that five minutes. So problem, you know, you know, maybe it's, um, "Recently, 50% of our projects have been delayed. What I wanna share with you today is two things that we need funding for, which is going to drastically increase the success rate of our projects in just three months time." So if you can give problem, value statement very quickly in 30 seconds, 60 seconds upfront, and then get into that structure that I talked about of problem, solution, benefits, that doesn't need to take that long. You can always condense anything into a one minute pitch if you needed to. You just need to be able to... you need to get good at distilling down, what is the problem in a sentence? What's the solution, umbrella of the solution in a sentence? And what's the benefits in a sentence, as an example.

If you can get that out really quickly and people have bought into it, then they're gonna wanna know, "Okay, how do we do this?" And then you might get more time to explain how, or perhaps you come back in a different session and explain the how.

Garrett O'Hara: Yep, no, I definitely get that. You mentioned something that is a sort of pet peeve of mine. Um, despite the million active listening courses that we all do in corporate worlds, you will inevitably, you know, be in a presentation or, you know, sort of parlaying information. And there's those people these days who are just obsessed with saying something, it doesn't necessarily... you know, their, their purpose in life just seems to be speaking-

Emily Edgeley: Yes.

Garrett O'Hara: ... rather than, you know, kind of adding value. We all know, we all know that experience [laughs].

Emily Edgeley: Yes [inaudible 00:40:04].

Garrett O'Hara: But you get 10 minutes, right? Um, and that is a, that's a real problem these days, I would say, in any meeting is the bit where you need to get to the end which is an outcome, but you know, that's sort of, everybody wants to talk and, um, some of it's useful, some of it's not.

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: What are, what are the ways you can keep your talk or your presentation, I should say on track with those folks who... or when you get cut in or cut over-

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: ... when you really need to get a point across to them. Are there like any techniques there?

Emily Edgeley: Well, I, I think part of it comes down to, if it's... the shorter, the timeframe, the perhaps more prep you need to have done to make sure you get it in that timeframe-

Garrett O'Hara: Yeah.

Emily Edgeley: ... if that makes sense. So part of it comes down to preparation before you go in there and I don't mean preparation of slides. If you spend, or people do 90% of the time on the slides and then they have 10 minutes to try and reverse engineer what they're gonna say to those slides, then they wonder why they're freaking out, or it doesn't come across well. So I would spend 90% of my time, figure out what I'm gonna say, and then 10 minutes to mock up a slide or 10% of the time to mock up a slide. If you can start with clarity on what you want to get out of the conversation, that's the most important place to start. I think people just go topic, like I mentioned before, and then they get lost in the detail.

So if you start with who, who's the audience, what do they care about, what's my objective? So I always have three things that I identify, who, what, why. If you can define those in a sentence and the why needs to be compelling for the audience, so why would they approve this? What, what's, what's the value that they're gonna get, et cetera? Then I would be writing out a structure personally, so that I'm quite clear on, "Okay, I only have a minute to talk on the problem. I only have a minute to talk on the solution. I have a minute to talk on the benefits and the other two minutes can be for the opening and the closing of what I'm gonna say."

So I would always have a very clear structure, have a concise and punchy hook and opening at the start, and then summarize it at the end. That is a great way to package up a lot of context into a short amount of time, but you still touch on all the right elements.

Garrett O'Hara: Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. Um, looking at time, this is probably gonna be the last question, but it's probably the biggest, uh, if... in some ways. PowerPoint, um, you know, you, you said death by PowerPoint, I personally hate it.

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: And I mean, I know we need to use it and you know, it's an incredibly, incredibly powerful tool, but I think it's become a crutch for speakers rather than to your point-

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: ... the story, what you want a message to be, that's the thing-

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: ... you're spot on. So much of the time in this industry, it's like, oh, I'll put together a deck and it's like, you know, that's maybe the wrong way to think about it. What are our options? Like, how do you... um, is there ways to avoid PowerPoints?

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: Uh, go away for completely alternative tools?

Emily Edgeley: Yes.

Garrett O'Hara: Like what, what, what do we have in the arsenal of things a public speaker can do to not necessarily-

Emily Edgeley: Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: ... use... You either use PowerPoint or use it as a crutch?

Emily Edgeley: So, so I, I used to love PowerPoint like anyone did in the corporate world, and then I went completely in the opposite direction and I didn't use it at all. And I remember at the first sort of talks I did, I remember one REA group where I gave a talk on storytelling for half an hour and I had no slides. And I thought that, that's great 'cause I've just got all the stories. The stories are interesting, I don't need slides. And then I've swung back somewhat in the middle because people will remember things for longer if you have some visual stimuli for them-

Garrett O'Hara: Mm-hmm.

Emily Edgeley: ... because the- there's other parts of their brain that are lighting up at that point of time, so slides are not bad and I, I just want to make that point clear, however, how we use them is definitely bad. So it's not about another sort of tool, it's not that PowerPoint's not good in like Canva or I don't know, Visme or something like that is better. It's just more how we use them. So some fundamental things to keep in mind is, you should be doing your structure completely separate to your PowerPoint slides.

Garrett O'Hara: Yep.

Emily Edgeley: ... because the PowerPoint slides, you're gonna get completely lost. And I see this time and time again, where people have repeated sort of similar information in different sections and then it gets really confusing because it's like problem, a bit of the solution, the solution's not even clear, and then they go back to the problem again, 'cause that slide, you know, got inserted in there for some reason. And that doesn't all make sense unless you do a visual structure really early on, and then design your slides around that. So the, the, one of the most fundamental things is do a structure on one piece of paper and make sure it all flows and that it makes sense and that you sort of get that and then design your slides based on that.

The, the second thing to think about is then, okay, if you wait and do your structure, the slides are for your audience. I think a lot of speakers will, will put their text in there so that they can be reminded of what they need to say, whereas that's not where a PowerPoint slide is. It's not a speaker's crutch as you say, it's there to help. It's really meant to be a visual representation of the words. So our ears are happy with words, our eyes want pictures. So instead of talking about something with lots of texts, bullet points on the slides, put a visual diagram if you're trying to discuss, discuss, or explain a relationship between something. So I always go by this rule and I remember when I read it years ago, I threw out all the other rules people had told me about PowerPoint. Your slides should be like a billboard and if you think about it, a billboard only takes a couple of seconds to glance at which is why they're useful, because you can glance at it and still com... remain completely paying attention to what someone's saying.

So I know that's not always going to be possible, but the other two tips should be possible. Only go to your slides after you know what you're gonna say and you have the structure for it, and then design them with the thought in mind that they're there to provide a, a extra element for which my audience can understand and retain what I'm saying.

Garrett O'Hara: Yeah. So it's augmenting the speaker rather than the crutch, definitely. I said last question, but actually there's one more-

Emily Edgeley: That's fine.

Garrett O'Hara: ... I think that's, that it's important to, to kind of cover. for a lot of people, um, you know, it's off quoted. They, they get surveyed and a lot of people would prefer death over public speaking. I think that's probably exaggerated, but-

Emily Edgeley: Yes.

Garrett O'Hara: ... you know, people are petrified of getting in front of a room-

Emily Edgeley: Mm-hmm.

Garrett O'Hara: ... and, um, giving a presentation or a talk. Any, anything for new speakers or even people who've been doing this a long time, but still feel that, "Oh, oh my God," you know the nervousness, um-

Emily Edgeley: Yes. Yeah.

Garrett O'Hara: ... to feel, either feel more confident or maybe just appear more confident?

Emily Edgeley: Yes. So part of it, one is learning the art of public speaking and storytelling. So by understanding how to pull together a good presentation that can absolutely calm some of the nerves and make you feel like, "Ah, what I'm saying is fascinating, like I've packaged it all together, it's interesting, it's relevant. It's useful for my audience. I'm, I'm telling them something that addresses a particular pain point. I'm using stories. I've got questions, analogies, all that." Like that absolutely changes your confidence levels when you know what you're doing, and you have a set structure, and it's easier to remember and all that good stuff.

So part of it is, and I know that's helped for me and absolutely helps my clients like once you know what you're doing and what to avoid, that can absolutely help you. The second thing is practice absolutely helps calm nerves. So if you're gonna go, you know, into something and sort of think that you can wing it because that's what you want to get to in the future, it's fine if you... that might be a future goal. But for a lot of people, especially people that have it all together, if you ask them, you'll find they do a lot of preparation to make it look like that. So practice is another thing.

The third thing is our mind is such a powerful tool, but it can also really derail us. And for people that don't get nervous when presenting, their mindset is very strong and they probably thinking to themselves like, "Ah, she'll be right like I got a presentation to do tomorrow like, you know, that's fine." Whereas for someone that does get a little bit more anxious, our minds can really work against us [laughs] so, you know, negative self talk or like worrying about what's gonna happen. There's a lot of mindset related techniques that can help in that area, and one of them, really simple one for people to, to start practicing is to focus on what they want to happen rather than what they don't want to happen.

So a lot of people might think about like, "Oh, I don't wanna go red," or, "I don't wanna forget what I'm saying." If you are worrying about that, and probably don't have time for me to go into the science about it, but I... there are science that backs up that, that's actually gonna almost make that happen, so really easy tip is just focus on what you want to happen instead in the lead up to it. And you are statistically more likely for that to actually then happen.

Garrett O'Hara: So positive. Yeah, positive visualization, almost like in sport. Um-

Emily Edgeley: Yes.

Garrett O'Hara: ... which happens to be the positive outcome. Emily, this has been, um, an incredible conversation. It's something that is so close to my heart, um, so really appreciate, uh, you taking the time and phenomenal insights.

Emily Edgeley: No worries.

Garrett O'Hara: Um, I love the simplification of story, um, I'm definitely gonna be using that. Um, so thank you for that, but um, just really, really interesting conversation and thank you for taking the time to, to talk us through that.

Emily Edgeley: No worries. It's been wonderful. So yeah, absolute pleasure.

Garrett O'Hara: Awesome. Have a good one.

Emily Edgeley: Thank you.

Garrett O'Hara: Thanks so much to Emily for joining us and as always, thank you for listening to the Get Cyber Resilient podcast, jump into our back catalog of episodes and like, subscribe, and please do leave us a review. For now, stay safe and I look forward to catching you on the next episode.

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Chief Field Technologist APAC, Mimecast

Garrett O’Hara is the Chief Field Technologist, APAC at Mimecast having joined in 2015 with the opening of the Sydney office, leading the growth and development of the local team. With over 20 years of experience across development, UI/UX, technology communication, training development and mentoring, Garrett now works to help organisations understand and manage their cyber resilience strategies and is a regular industry commentator on the cyber security landscape, data assurance approaches and business continuity.

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