World of Speakers E.95: Scott Allen and Maria Soriano Young | Delivering Digital Presentations

Ryan Foland speaks to Maria Soriano Young, Writing Center Director and freelance editor, and Scott Allen, assistant professor of management about their latest project.

When Maria and Scott first discussed working together on Scott’s new book idea, they had a very different view on what their collaboration would look like. What started like an editor-author relationship, quickly turned into a co-authoring effort.

The result was a book that researches and documents best practices for delivering digital presentations. Maria and Scott spoke to numerous speakers and experts and observed how they managed to master the online domain.

Tune in for a discussion about the process behind their latest title: Captovation: Online Presentations by Design.

Listen to the interview on iTunes or Soundcloud.


In each episode, we interview a professional speaker and reveal their very best tips and tricks.

You’ll learn to improve your presentation skills, keep your audience engaged, and grow your business to get more gigs and make more money.

Here is your host, Ryan Foland.

Ryan Foland: Ahoy everyone and welcome to a special, special edition of the World of Speakers podcast.

Two specials because we’ve got 2 guests and we’ve got all kinds of information about helping you to up your presentations digitally.

We’ve got Maria Soriano Young who is a Writing Center Director and a freelance editor.

And we’ve got with us today Scott Allen who is an assistant professor of management.

Today we’re going to be talking about this new, crazy, cool project/ book/ I’m sure journey about documenting, researching, interviewing, all things digital best practices when it comes to presentation.

Welcome to the show, I’m excited to learn, I’m excited to see how we can up our digital game.

Maria, Scott welcome to the World of Special Speakers.

Scott Allen: Thank you, Sir, it’s going to be here.

Maria Soriano Young: Thanks, Ryan.

Ryan Foland: Well, the nice thing about how we start this podcast is that it’s a storytime special.

I usually like to get an idea of who people are based on a story from their past.

Usually, I say it can be any story, but I’m actually particularly interested in the story of how you two met and how you two decided to go on this book-writing adventure.

I’ll let you take it from here, but I feel like I’m by a campfire, hopefully, smoke is not in my face, as we warm our hands and hearts and listen to your story of connection.

Scott Allen: Well, we met because I was working on an academic paper for a journal called The Journal of Management Education.

Maria mentored me through that process and we built a friendship.

Over the course of working on this project, I always like to say she kind of made my writing sound more human, and she’s just brilliant with words.

So we built a relationship and we had a great working relationship and I had this idea for a book about presenting online.

I approached Maria last, I believe it was June, Maria, maybe it was late May.

And it was just after, Ryan, as you know the world shifts, I’m doing a lot of consulting work, a lot of client work, a lot of front-facing workshops and keynotes, and such, and our work shifted, dramatically.

And so we saw this opportunity.

I approached Maria about co-authoring this book, I had a little bit of a book kind of in process, but we switched it immediately to,

“Well, how do we master this online domain? How do we do that effectively?”

That’s really where we started the conversation.

And again, I’ll never forget, I’m kind of standing in my front yard and it’s a beautiful day in June, and I bring this idea up to Maria.

And Maria, I’m going to turn it over to you and you can kind of finish that story.

Maria Soriano Young: Absolutely.

Well, one of the things that I want to mention is my mentoring of Scott and making his writing more human as he likes to say involved a lot of purple pen.

My editorial style is defined mostly by the fact that I would never, ever use a red pen.

I think it’s too mean, it’s much too editorial.

So Scott and I bonded over the purple pen because every time he would give me a draft of his article I would give it back and there would be friendly, purple writing all over it.

Scott Allen: All over it.

Maria Soriano Young: All over it. I tried to be really nice.

Anyway, we worked together on that article for probably about a year and a half until it was finally accepted.

So when Scott approached me about this book idea that he had been working on and wanted to turn it into something more, he asked me,

“Do you want to be a co-author or do you want to be an editor?”

And at first, after hearing about his project, I mostly just thought that I would continue with an editor role because that’s really what I’m used to, that’s what I like doing the most, so I kind of defaulted to that.

And he sent me the manuscript that he had in progress, I don’t even know how many pages you had at that point, Scott, it was probably 40 something.

And we just started working on it like crazy, we got involved with doing interviews over the summer together, over Zoom with so many different people.

And the more we both attended webinars and meetings, and thankfully lots of training sessions had to happen over the summer to prepare for a fall semester, the more I started to see that I actually had a lot to say on the topic.

So it really did become a very collaborative endeavor and something that I am really proud of for both of us, it really has turned into an incredible partnership and is already opening so many doors of opportunity for both of us.

So even though Scott and I have not actually seen each other in person since September, right, when you stopped over after we moved, and that was only for like 5 minutes, it’s amazing to see how this is growing.

Scott Allen: Yeah, and Ryan, kind of what we did was we just focused on 3 things, what are some of the tried and true components of effective speaking, what are some nuances that can occur when you’re online, in that medium.

And so we have a lot of conversations with senior executives at Gojo, they make Purell, with KeyBank, Fortune 500 executives at Medtronic, Goodyear, we had all these conversations with them about what they were seeing, they are VP of communications and such.

Aaron Beverly, a name you probably know as the 2019 world champion of speaking for Toastmasters, we had some national speech and debate champions that we had conversations with.

So it was really just this really fun summer of conversations about what people were seeing, the chief learning officer at NASA, what she’s seeing and what are the opportunities, and then how can we make a little bit of a difference as we help people transition.

You’ve seen this too, right?

I mean you’ve watched this for a year now, there’s so much opportunity whether it’s someone’s setting, their technology, whether it’s their delivery, any number of different dimensions to help up their game with their digital presence so to speak.

Ryan Foland: Yeah.

Let me dissect that backdrop.

First of all, the thing that comes to mind is that it’s almost like presentation and inception because you are interviewing people as you’re presenting yourself watching them present, talking about presenting digitally, right?

Scott Allen: We’re counting their “Ums”, yes, yes.

Ryan Foland: Exactly, right?

Scott Allen: Looking at their background.

Ryan Foland: And I almost said “Um” there, right.

You’ve never been in a Toastmaster held the role of the um counter, you don’t know what we’re talking about and you probably violate the ums in the world, but yes.

I’m curious about that process as you’re continuing to interview, you’re probably with each one learning more and then noticing more.

And I can see how it would be really like an adaptive process.

Did you continue to see and then find these tried and true, find the nuances, find the text, and then did you see yourselves instantly implementing them?

Scott Allen: Yes, so we’re having a conversation with Aaron Beverly and he looked just great, he was so crispy, he was so clean and we said,

“What are you using?”

And he told us, “The webcam”.

And so in real time, we’re getting this feedback from people like Aaron Beverly who are saying,

“Look, you do you have an Ethernet cable that’s literally hooked up to your laptop and your modem and your router. If you considered lighting, what is your webcam, what is your microphone?”

And we’re having these conversations with people and you’re exactly right, I mean, as we’re discussing these topics with a VP of a Fortune 500 company, their internet’s going in and out, their background is a white wall with nothing behind it.

So we started seeing this stuff everywhere we looked.

And Maria, maybe you can tell some stories about some of the texts you sent me all summer long as you were seeing some of this as well.

Maria Soriano Young: Yes, I think what I really started paying attention to was backgrounds and where people were participating in their meetings, and how they were situating themselves.

And I always have to, and I still have to do this, I have to remind myself that not everybody can control where they are able to attend a meeting at any given time.

And so that was always something that I wanted to make sure that we incorporated throughout the book itself, but it was difficult to overlook seeing someone attending a meeting from inside a clothes closet.

Scott saw people logging in from bathrooms.

I think the most memorable for me that really made me start to think about the layers of someone’s background and appearance on the computer, I attended a webinar for online learning and strategies for teaching to prepare for the fall semester.

The presenter had a red curtain covering the window behind them, so at least there wasn’t bright sunlight or anything like that, and the curtain actually also had a pattern on it, like some kind of geometric pattern very bright red.

But then the presenter was also wearing a red sweater that had a pattern on it, and not only was the pattern different, but the shade of red was slightly different.

It was very visually overwhelming and it took away a lot of the ability to focus because there was just so much going on and there was so much competing.

I really started to become a lot more aware of the very distinct and specific choices that you have to make in terms of not only being aware of what’s behind you but also what you’re wearing.

You don’t want to be wearing a white shirt and then blend into a white wall or something completely contrasting.

I’ve continued to pay attention to that, particularly because of the Twitter account Rate my Skype Room (@ratemyskyperoom) where they pick up other people’s backgrounds mostly appearing on like CNN and MSNBC, but you start to think about all of the components that are involved.

And because humans are such curious people, if you have it in your background, people are going to look at what’s in the background.

So that was probably one of the biggest things that I took away from the experience and I continue to look at it when I’m presenting myself and when I’m teaching when I’m presenting and talking about it with others.

Ryan Foland: Awesome.

Let’s hop into some of these particulars.

We know how you met, we know that somebody’s got a purple pen and that somebody probably goes far and wide and then is wrangled back in.

And then you talk with someone who is far and wide and then the purple pen probably becomes like a hot pink as your blue pen and her purple pain connect and it’s all on some Google docs centralized somewhere and it’s turned into a book.

But let’s dissect the book, let’s get the cliff notes of the book, let’s get the most valuable nuggets, the key insights.

I want to follow the structure that you mentioned which is the tried and true which we can hit quickly because we likely know, most of our listeners are already professional speakers or they’re on their way up, which means that they’ve probably got the basics.

So then I would really want to dig into the nuances, some of the things that are not obvious, some of the things that are really mystical that you’ve uncovered.

And then maybe some of the key things from some of these executives and leaders so that we have an insight to potentially some of our customers who we give keynotes to and do workshops for.

So we’re going to do something that I call — what is the game on the schoolyard where you hit the ball that is tied to a string on a pole and then it goes round and the other person hits it?

Scott Allen: See, I think of Napoleon dynamite when I hear that, that’s Tetherball, I think.

Ryan Foland: Tetherball, okay.

So we’re going to play a little tetherball here, it’s going to be tried-and-true tetherball.

That means Maria is going to say something and then she hits the tetherball, as soon as she’s done, Scott you’re going to come back with something different.

Now, as soon as one of you seems like you’re repeating something that’s already been said or that the other person has basically mentioned, then you’re out, essentially.

This is a first-ever tried-and-true tetherball digital match.

Scott Allen: This is the first year correct yeah?

I love it, let’s do it.

Ryan Foland: So let’s give somebody with the purple pen to go first since you’ve gone second for so long.

You waited for some of the words and you corrected it, so you’ve got a purple pen in hand, and you’re serving up the ball, whack, what’s the first — again this is the tried-and-true, the stuff that we know and we’re just reinforcing this here, what’s one?

Maria Soriano Young: A very strong and confident introduction.

Ryan Foland: Okay, strong intro, back to you Scott.

Scott Allen: Audience-centered design, which is a major theme of all of this, but you are designing for people who are accessing this from different places, people who are accessing this with different technology.

So do you have the audience and their experience in mind as you design this whole experience, whether it’s 30 minutes, 60 minutes, or 3 days?

So audience-centered design.

Ryan Foland: All right, the ball swinging back your way, Maria.

Maria Soriano Young: A clear objective that is presented in a very concise and memorable format, both at the beginning of a session, revisited at key points throughout the session, and then mentioned again at the end.

Ryan Foland: So tell them what you’re going to tell him and then tell them and then tell them what you told them.

Maria Soriano Young: Yes, exactly.

Ryan Foland: The ball is coming back right to your head Scott, what are you going to do?

Scott Allen: I am going to go with some Nancy Duarte and some Garr Reynolds here with clean, crisp, visuals that read like a billboard not like an eye chart.

Ryan Foland: Okay, and the ball is flying back towards you, Maria.

Maria Soriano Young: I’ll continue on with that, selecting what is on your slides very carefully, so ensuring that you don’t have a ton of text, very complicated graphics, lots of charts that people can’t read that you actually have to say,

“You might not be able to read this but — “

Ryan Foland: Okay, so unfortunately Maria, that’s too close to the last one that means he’s got one loop around.

Okay, it’s still a game but Scott it’s back to you, you have the advantage because you have one extra loop.

Scott Allen: I’m going mental method, is you’re thinking so clean that your message can actually honestly live in the minds of your listeners when they’re pouring a glass of wine and talking to their partner, spouse, or dog that evening.

Can they remember any of it?

So is your thinking clean, is it crisp and will it actually live in the minds of your audience?

Ryan Foland: Okay, that was a little general, but the ball is still headed now back towards Maria.

Scott Allen: Ah, Ryan.

Maria Soriano Young: I’m going to go with audience participation and considering how you want or if you want your audience to respond, participate, and how you would want them to do that.

So not just Q&A, but do you want them to answer poll questions, do you want them to answer questions in chat, do you want to use breakout rooms, and figuring out when in your presentation is the best time to incorporate this.

Ryan Foland: Okay.

Unfortunately, the judges say that is essentially an expansion of audience design which was the second hit.

So you’ve got 2 loops unfortunately against you.

Going back to Scott, Scott you’re on a roll, keep it going.

Scott Allen: I’m going to go with your setting.

Ryan, you’ve got a great setting there and it tells us something about you.

So what is your setting, is it designed with intentionality and what does it say about you as the speaker.

A first impression, at least some studies suggest it’s about .39 milliseconds.

So this is part of our new first impression.

So what’s your setting? Is it a bathroom? Is it a closet? Is it a white wall? Or is it something that’s a little more engaging?

Ryan Foland: All right, this ball on the shorter line is coming your way, Maria, now’s your time to continue to create the pressure.

Maria Soriano Young: Okay.

I’m going to turn away from all that and focus on devices and the reliability of the device that not only you are tuning in on, but thinking of what your participants might be tuning in on as well, and being mindful that some may have desktops, some may have 2 screens, some may have laptops, tablets or cell phones, that may or may not have video and audio capabilities all at the same time.

Ryan Foland: Boom, powershot, you’ve caught Scott off guard that means it goes over his head, he swings back, he’s now only 1 to 1 loop advantage.

Scott, what are you going to do?

Scott Allen: Well, I’m going to come back here.

Now I feel like I’m in a game of dodgeball.

So I’m going to start going for some delivery techniques eye to eye.

So in this domain, it’s your eyes on the eye of the camera, that is eye contact in this New World, nothing else.

Ryan Foland: Okay and that’s a quick one, back to you Maria.

Maria Soriano Young: If you have slides or if you have other visual aids, I know we’ve talked about slides before, this is not slide design.

But thinking about making materials available ahead of time by emailing them to either if you have a participant list directly or emailing them to the host or the organization, but some people have indicated, particularly in our interviews, that they like to have those materials in advance, some might like to print them out.

So considering that with your presentation timeline.

Ryan Foland: All right, and Maria screams, “It’s on its way,” as she hits the ball, smacking it back to Scott to show how in tune she is with her hit and her last play.

Scott, back to you.

Scott Allen: Well, I’m going to have to go at vocal variety here, which I think is one of the most important elements of any medium, whether that’s from the podium, a TEDTalk, or in this domain. If your pitch, pace, volume, if your pauses, if it’s not varied if your storytelling isn’t solid, isn’t sound, you’re in trouble.

You are more of a DJ in this medium than you are a monotone speaker going at a slow, ah, ah, pace. It’s a recipe for disaster.

And with all the distractions that people have around them, you better be a great storyteller.


Ryan Foland: The judges are going to call you on the fact that you actually tried to squeeze 2 in there, you talk about vocal variety but then you talk about storytelling, which was maybe a filler word that you were thinking as you’re distracted and you’ve lost your one loop advantage, it’s back to Maria, she could take a lead.

Maria Soriano Young: I’d like to talk about designating a co-host for the session. Well, you took what I was going to say with silence in the sessions, so I’m just going to take this one.

Ryan Foland: And the trash talk continues, ladies and gentleman, as the game gets more serious.

Maria Soriano Young: This is a professional working partnership but in all seriousness, designating some kind of co-host who might be able to advance slides for you, if you don’t have control of them, someone who’s monitoring the chat if you are allowing people to submit questions throughout, if you are not able to see that people have raised their hands on Zoom to speak, for instance, knowing that there is someone available to help you manage all of that.

Particularly if you are sharing your screen and all of the thumbnails of the participants are minimized, it’s very difficult to see as a speaker in that instance.

Ryan Foland: And what’s that, it sounds like we have 2 minutes left in this turbo play that means we are going to a lightning round.

This is one sentence nuance and ready, the ball is back to you, Scott, one sentence, something we haven’t said, it’s all tied up, 2 minutes left.

Scott Allen: Have you checked your technology and then checked it again?

Ryan Foland: Boom, back to you Maria.

Maria Soriano Young: Close with something memorable and signal that you are officially concluding.

Ryan Foland: As the judge there are 2 minutes until the end of the game, way to pull that one out. Scott, back to you.

Scott Allen: I’m going to go word choice, they are critical. The words you choose are critical. And it’s another way of keeping people engaged.

Ryan Foland: You just lost because you know you went on past the sentence there, that was a really aggressive compound sentence.

We’re splitting hairs here, Maria has 1 loop advantage, go on Maria, about a minute 30.

Maria Soriano Young: I’ll go with where your computer is placed when you have it on your desk, is it at a level where not the camera lens, but is it where you’re looking at the camera lens itself, and I just realized as I was saying that, that that was multiple sentences.

Ryan Foland: That’s more than a sentence, but we’re back to tie it up, it’s still 0–0, heated in the game, about a minute left, go, Scott.

Scott Allen: I had 1 and now I just lost it.

Ryan Foland: That’s it, we’re back to Maria, she’s got one loop advantage. Maria, are you going to continue to roll with it?

Maria Soriano Young: The title of your presentation is incredibly key, especially because it will be advertised often in an email.

Ryan Foland: Back to you Scott.

Scott Allen: I’m going to go with how you use the chat. I think the chat is an underrated tool, I think it’s wonderful.

Ryan Foland: Good way to close up, so you didn’t lose another loop. Maria back to you.

Maria Soriano Young: I think that poll questions can help you gain a lot of information about your audience and their knowledge and experience with the topic.

Ryan Foland: And Scott.

Scott Allen: Are you a person who is known as open to feedback?

Ryan Foland: Maria?

Maria Soriano Young: Oh no, I had one.

[beep sound]

Ryan Foland: Okay, that’s it. you lost it, you lost it and that is the end of the game and it is tied up and that’s how good partners you are.

I mean you go back and forth, that’s truly how it should work out. I have a list of quite a few and what’s nice is that most of those were familiar, they’re just good to be reminded of.

Scott Allen: Yeah.

Ryan Foland: So now we can get off the tetherball court, we can be less aggressive, but let’s get more specific.

Let’s talk about some of the nuances, some of the things that when you tell people or they read your book, they are like, “I had no idea about that,” or, “That is super meta, but I love it.”

Let’s talk about a couple of those.

Scott, you start.

Scott Allen: Okay.

So something that we’re working on that’s in conjunction with the book is some technology.

And that technology is designed to provide the speaker with feedback.

So how many space fillers did an individual use?

What was your pace of speaking?

What were some of the words that you included that signals your oral signpost, that signal structure, that signals emotion, sentiment analysis.

So a big piece of this is can we actually start to perform analytics around what’s just happened.

Of course, in Toastmasters, and I’m a Toastmaster, you have the um counter.

What’s interesting though is when you really start to perform the analytics, I think there’s a lot more there than we often know.

So I think one big piece of this is the book is one part of the resource and then we’re building this technology that will help perform the analytics on what just happened as well.

Never replace a human coach or at least not in the near future, but using AI and other technologies QR codes to provide feedback so that we can start really understanding what is it that someone’s doing that makes them perceived as a great presenter.

Ryan Foland: So using technology to listen to you while you’re talking to pull those analytics and give you insights about it.

Scott Allen: Well, we can get to some really cool places, Ryan, like computer vision.

So am I actually looking in the eye of the camera, well we can perform the analytics on that and we can tell you you looked in the eye of the camera 40% of the time.

Or you didn’t use hand gestures at all for that whole presentation, or your patch was relatively monotone.

You’ve been in this situation, right, you’re with a group of people, someone gives a presentation, it wasn’t all that great.

Someone says, “How did that go?” and everyone says, “Oh, that was wonderful, good job.”

Especially in corporate America where people really, truly aren’t getting authentic feedback, and that was going to be my last thing in the speed round, in the tetherball game is are we deliberately practicing when we’re on stage, are we deliberately practicing our vocal variety, are we deliberately practicing our movements, our hand gestures.

Oftentimes people giving presentations aren’t deliberately practicing anything.

If you’re a professional speaker you are, but getting someone you’re coaching, getting them to a place of practicing without intentionality in real time, it’s awesome.

Ryan Foland: Interesting.

It makes me think of, I studied Latin for 4 years and I’ve always been interested in Rome and we were, as we’re burning through all of our documentaries at Netflix and we’re getting creative with what we’re watching, we’re watching this kind of historical dramatization/ documentary about Rome and one of the earlier Roman emperors had gone to the Senate and he gave his presentation about how he wanted to thank the armies by giving them some sort of a gift.

Now the Senate ended up giving the gift under their name and then he fooled them by going behind and making them pay for a whole bunch of big games and whatnot, but the reason I’m telling you this is that when he gave his presentation on the Senate floor, the reenactment at least was like a 2 sentence speech that was not compelling at all and everyone stood up and they’re just like, [clapping] “Oh Jeez you’re just so great!”

It makes me think that the higher you are in your organization, the more employees that you manage the less likely that you’ll be getting the feedback that you need.

And for me, that’s the real takeaway.

Because I mean, everybody says the presentation was great, right?

I challenge you and you’re saying it might not be.

I think that’s a great point.

What do you think Scott?

Scott Allen: And there’s a really great scholar, his name is K. Anders Ericsson he just passed away.

He was the world’s expert on expertise.

So how someone works at the highest levels and he didn’t care about the domain, it could be chess, it could be wrestling, it could be a pilot, surgeon, he didn’t care, he was just fascinated with how people work at the highest levels.

So he wrote a book, if you haven’t read it, Ryan, I would really suggest it, it’s called “Peak.”

And it’s basically the recipe book for how people develop and grow, and build skills.

Ryan Foland: I think I have, does he document these avant-garde musicians and these kids that are fascinating, all these people?

Scott Allen: Yeah, he studied cellists, so there are 4 primary ingredients you want to create a world-class cellist, and this is a simplification of what I’m doing right now, but 4 primary ingredients; you’ve got time, repetition, real-time coaching and feedback, and then you’ve got working on skills outside of your current ability level.

So that’s like 15, 20 years of time, repetition, working on skills outside of your current ability level, and real-time coaching and feedback.

And oftentimes in organizational life, people don’t receive a couple of those, right?

They aren’t practicing anything with intentionality oftentimes, and they aren’t getting that authentic feedback.

We have some time and repetition but oftentimes they’re repeating bad habits.

So Maria I know you want to jump in, what do you think?

Ryan Foland: Yeah, Maria, get your purple pen in here, what do you think?

Maria Soriano Young: Well, Scott, one of the things that you mentioned made me remember mindset, and we talk about this in our book and I found myself incorporating this more consciously into even the class that I’m teaching this semester for undergraduate students who want to become writing center consultants.

I think a lot of what’s connected to feedback is you have to be receptive to getting that feedback because chances are you’re probably not going to get 100% positive reviews all the way across the board and if you aren’t in the mindset to wanting to learn, and if you’re not in the mindset to wanting to improve your skills, or if you have a fixed mindset of,

“I know that I am not a good speaker, I don’t like public speaking, it makes me nervous,”

that’s going to determine everything about how your presentation goes.

And one of our challenges at the beginning of our book is that we want people to enter our material and enter this presentation mindset with,

“This is not what I am that good at, ellipses, yet.”

We’re hoping that people who consume our ideas and use our database, use our system, read our book, will find that it is this practice, it might be 10 times of using the database, it might be frustrating, you might hate seeing and hearing yourself over and over again, but if you’re willing to put in the time and you’re willing to see that the more time and practice you do put in, you can improve on these skills, then that mindset will become much more of a growth mindset and you’ll become much more accepting that you can improve.

Ryan Foland: Yeah, I tell people that thoughts become words, words become things, so think the thoughts that you want.

And I’ll ask somebody straight up, “So are you a public speaker?”

And oftentimes, they’ll say, “No.”

And then I flip into the switch and say, “If you speak in public then you are a public speaker, it’s a scientific fact that you cannot argue either.”

The mere fact of speaking and so it just becomes nuance and it becomes something that will definitely become a limiting belief.

Now I think our listeners understand this concept of feedback, but how do they get better feedback?

What do they ask for?

I know there’s a technology component but are there any best nuance tips and tricks to get feedback?

Is a typical survey still worthwhile?

Is it in confidence, do you do it confidentially?

What have you seen is 1 or 2 or 3 good ways to receive this?

Scott Allen: What Maria just said is so incredibly critical do you have a growth mindset?

And so we here, especially as we’ve moved into the space of being online,

“Oh, online presentations aren’t as good.”

“Classes aren’t as good, participation is low.”

I think that’s a fixed mindset. Someone with the growth mindset says,

“You know what, an answer exists, we have to experiment, we got to try some different things.”

I mentioned earlier that the chats, we’re working on an article right now about how to use the chat more effectively as a leader.

You have data that when you basically ask the Zoom room a question you’re going to get crickets and it’s that Bueller moment, from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, it’s the economics teacher, and it’s just going to be crickets.

If you say to people, “Hey go ahead and put in the chat your thoughts on what we just discussed,”

You have 16, 20, 25 things just roll down the chat and it’s rich and then you can go through that and you can talk to it.

So again, engagement is just a little bit different in this medium and I think we have to have that growth mindset.

I said to my students at the beginning of my course last summer,

“I want this to be the best class you’ve ever had.”

Ryan Foland: It sounds like cognitive dissonance as well where whatever we think is going to be true, this fixed mindset, we actually look for the data that supports it.

There may be other data that doesn’t support it, but because you were convinced that there’s not as much engagement, you won’t see the engagement when it happens.

Scott Allen: And it also shuts you off from all those possibilities.

If I tell myself the story, “Well, online is not as good, engagement is not good.”

Ryan Foland: Then it won’t be, you’ll find the data that supports that.

Maria, your purple pen, anything on this?

And then I want to move on to another nuance.

So what are your final full hit on the ball as it just swings into a victory here?

Maria Soriano Young: Sure the rhetorician in me says that it’s all about the types of questions that you’re asking.

So if you want numbers, rate on a scale of 1 to 5, did the presentation meet your expectations.

If you want number results then ask on a number scale.

But if you want people to actually answer with words and to give you the explanation of,

“Well, this is what resonated most with me.”

“This is what I learned today.”

“I would like to see more of X, Y, Z. “

Then you have to ask the right questions and you have to ask them in a way that will make people want to respond.

And I tend to think that those more open-ended questions where people actually get to speak back to you, in a sense, those are what teach me the most about my classes, about presentations, about information and ideas that I’m sharing, because it’s like I said, it’s an opportunity to converse with people even if you don’t get to have an oral conversation with them about your presentation.

Scott Allen: And Ryan, if I can, one of my passions on the side is kind of technologies enabling disruptions, so blockchain, artificial intelligence, sensor technology, and we’re seeing some apps like Orai and Quantified Communication they have a platform that does some of this analytics, and it’s very, very cool stuff.

So we’ve been exploring this notion of can I put a QR code at the end of my presentation where the audience literally could just click and provide me real-time data, a net promoter score with maybe a little bit of space if they want to put in some qualitative feedback.

How can we leverage technology to accelerate that growth?

Because if all of a sudden I’ve had 80 people on a Zoom and they do a quick snapshot and they give me because it’s anonymous their really, truly unfiltered feedback, I can improve more rapidly, that’s kind of their coaching and feedback for me.

So how do we leverage technology to accelerate growth?

Ryan Foland: So is the technology in this case just a QR code that you’re referring to?

Because feedback is the formula of getting feedback.

Is it that it creates an easier way for them to do it and be anonymous?

You talked about AI and all these things and you’re like, “But there is a QR code.”

For me, that doesn’t ring like disruption.

Scott Allen: No, no, no, it’s one technology.

But AI definitely would be another technology that can be leveraged whether that sentiment analysis, again the computer vision and looking into quantifying a lot of what’s happening for the speaker.

And Google and Amazon and IBM all have in some ways kind of these off-the-shelf platforms that will do the computer vision, that will do sentiment analysis.

So when you’re saying, “I’m really excited to be here, it’s really, really fun,” is there any congruence in your face?

Because you didn’t smile.

Ryan Foland: Now is this something that as a presenter you are including in the presentation?

You say these are off the shelf, so you just run it in the background or it’s a program that you run on top?

Scott Allen: Yes so you can do a couple of different things, you can take the video of your Zoom presentation and then run it through a system and get the analytics.

And that’s how that can work.

As a presenter, yeah, at the end of my presentation I could have a QR code, I could say to the audience,

“Take a quick photo, give me some feedback,” we can then start looking at what were your analytics,

“Okay, you spoke at 120 words per minute, you said um 77 times in 17 minutes and you used no words to communicate any level of joy or optimism. And you’ve got a 6, or 5, as overall this was a great presenter.”

Well, we can start kind of starting to do the analytics on well what are the attributes people, who are getting 8s and 9s, what pace are they speaking at?

People who are getting 8s and 9s how often are they communicating, how often are they using hand gestures, what’s their eye contact like, what’s their pace?

So you get into some really cool opportunities.

Again, from kind of a coaching and feedback standpoint, that senior-level executive could put their presentation through the system and get the down and dirty on what they did.

It’s almost like a complete blood count you can say,

“Slow pace, lots of ums, no words that communicate enthusiasm — “

Ryan Foland: You need more vegetables and exercise.

Scott Allen: I think you were boring. I’m going to bet money on that.

Ryan Foland: All right, is there one more nuance something that’s just going to shock and awe everyone now before we move into how we apply for like how these presentation skills add to your bottom line?

Go for it.

Scott Allen: Maria this was your idea and I think it’s brilliant the participation.

How to be a great participant in online meetings.

And maybe what we heard from some of the senior-level executives.

Maria Soriano Young: Yes, absolutely.

They talked a lot about looking at what other people were doing when they were attending meetings.

My thought was as a participant, how you’re participating in the session, everything from do you have your video on to where are you sitting during a presentation, to are you responding to questions, are you interacting, all of that connects to your personal brand and even if the presenter cannot see everyone who is attending a session, they’re still getting a sense from the response style of are people interested in this topic, is it something that they’re paying attention to.

You can tell when people are distracted and if they have their video on, and their eyes are kind of darting all over the screen, or if they have glasses on you can see the reflection of their email inbox.

You can tell that people are not paying attention to you and that they’re doing something completely different.

So I think as a presenter, you have to expect that and you do have to keep it in mind, but as a participant, similar to what you would be doing if you were actually in the room face to face, what you’re doing in an online environment people are going to take notice of it.

And you don’t want the wrong person to see that you’re lounging on the couch or that you’re half asleep during an incredibly important meeting that is presenting the statistics that you need to know for your next big presentation.

Scott Allen: We had executive say to us, and I’ve had leaders, partners in big 4 firms say,

“Look, during this last 12 months, 11 months, people’s social capital has really gone down in my book and people’s social capital has really gone up.”

We had another person we were interviewing and this was one of what Maria was just saying, this individual said,

“Look, well our CEO is speaking I will scroll through and just look and see who looks engaged and who looks checked out. Who looks together and who looks befuddled.”

And so the impression management component of all of this, whether you are the presenter or whether you’re a participant, especially if you’re in organizational life.

It’s a very, very important consideration.

If you’re the director who has terrible internet that is constantly going in and out and no one can understand you, and it’s 8 months later now, 10 months later, and you don’t have the Ethernet cable, I believe it can be damaging to people’s careers.

And so I thought that was a really unique contribution, a perspective that was really valuable.

And then we went out and did some very informal polling of executives who manage people and what their impressions were, what was most important to them when it came to their subordinates.

What do they value most?

And it was things like, “I want them on camera, I want them to participate when we ask a question,” because again leader after leader we’re hearing from them, when they ask a question on the Zoom it’s just crickets.

Ryan Foland: Yeah, for me, as one of the most important parts of my speaking business is the networking and the connection, the relationships with other speakers.

I was on a call the other day with a number of speakers at an industry event and though I was a participant, you can see the opportunity to brand yourself in that group as someone who is paying attention and who is there.

And one of the things that I’ll do is in real time I’ll check out their socials or their LinkedIn, and I’ll connect with them and I’ll use those environments to be able to when it’s all done I’ll get this flurry of accepting and there is that, “Oh, that was that one guy.”

I think it is important from a speaker perspective, to know that when you are in the audience that you’re able to lead by example, and also if you’re in an event where there are multiple speakers and you’re either in the room or you’re up on deck, or I’ve been on webinars where there are 4 people and it’s your turn to talk and then you see some of the other people just completely tuning out and you’re like, wait a minute, I need to remind myself that I need to be engaged in there.

Let’s bring this to where it can end up being valuable from a monetary perspective, as a professional speaker.

Scott Allen: Sure.

Ryan Foland: The obvious answer is, of course, the better your presentation set up is and the better you are presenting, the more money you can possibly make.

But the people that you talked to with this book or some of the individuals where their income is directly tied to their presentation skills, aside from that obvious answer that the better you are the more money you might make, are there any insights that you got from talking with so many people that could really help somebody who’s building a speaking business be like, “Ah, that’s really important,” or, “That’s really important.”

Scott Allen: We heard from some senior-level executives at fortune 5s that they were really missing the skill of facilitation from their presenters, that they might do a decent job with their 15 minutes of content, but then they want to have some engagement and it just fell flat.

So again, I think that’s where that growth mindset is so important. Whenever I design a class I think of it as a recipe and sometimes it’s White Castle sometimes it’s a 4-star meal, right, but I’m always working to get to that 4-star meal.

And so I think that mindset is so critical, we’re not there yet but what experiments can we run to facilitate that engagement like we would in a natural way when we’re live?

What can we do to create that fun tone, that energetic tone?

I used to play off the energy of the audience and use comedic timing and all of that good stuff, I was cut off at the knees.

Now, I could have the mindset that says, “Well, I just can’t.”

No, “I’ve got to figure out a new way so that that mindset is step number one. I’m going to find it, it exists I just don’t have the recipe, yet.”

And so for me, that’s absolutely core.

Ryan Foland: Maria, what are your thoughts?

Any thoughts on some of the most important elements when it comes to being able to be more marketable and more profitable as a speaker?

Maria Soriano Young: Yes, absolutely. I would say what you can control and what you can’t, that’s something incredibly important to be proactively aware of.

So that goes for everything from your setting to the time of day of your presentation who is around you or in your house when you’re doing your presentation, the light in your room, the angle of your computer, kind of starting by taking inventory of all of that.

And there are so many pieces that can factor in, so if you’re presenting in the middle of the day and the sun is going to be coming in real strong from one side what measures can you take to make yourself look better on camera so that the light is not a distraction?

How can you be in a place that is as undisturbed and quiet as possible, especially if you have animals or other people in your house?

So I think one of the most important things to elevate your presentations and to elevate yourself as a speaker is taking that into account from the very beginning so that the best that you can during that given moment, your attention is as much on the attendees to the presentation as possible.

And it will come through if you have very clearly thought about what’s in your background and your lighting and how your materials are put together, that will matter.

Your presenters will notice because you’ll come across more confident, you’ll come across calm and if something comes up, hopefully, it will just be a fluke and you’ll be ready to deal with it and you apologize you acknowledge and move on.

Ryan Foland: One of the things that I found as an actual value add is leveraging the actual technology in setup.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve been buying this and buying that and trying this and trying that, and I’ve invested a lot, but that’s been paid for multiple times because when I’m able to get these larger gigs it’s at a whole nother presentation level.

One thing we didn’t really talk about but one thing that I find is, and one of the most exciting elements of online presenting is controlling my camera.

I have a multi-camera set up, I have an ATEM mini pro switcher, I have a green screen that I can hoist like a sale, I have my iPad that offers as a fourth screen, I can picture in picture myself on top of that screen and I can do it all here in my little cockpit, my entire thing can stand up, can sit down, can move and just that ability to control the input of the webcam, I think a lot of people are not taking advantage of.

My next article, it’s like for 4000, 5000 words at this point because it’s so deep, but I think we have a hesitancy to invest in some of the technology like cameras are expensive, this ATEM mini switcher is expensive, you add that up it becomes thousands of dollars.

But then when you’re charging somebody $10,000 and you’re able to perform in the show, this is a setup that your audience has never seen before.

I gave a company, like a 20 person company software and I charged them a lot, and afterward, the guy contacted me and he said,

“I’ve seen presentations for the last year plus and no one has ever controlled the camera the way that you did.”

So thoughts on that, because we’re all stuck with an input, but it’s when you get creative with that input that Zoom in, Zoom out even my lights in the background, they are Alexa smart lights that I can control off my phone so in real time I can dim and have color themes.

And I was talking with somebody who they said, “Oh, this big event, if we had it live we’d have music, and we’d have fog machines,” so I went and bought a fog machine.

I have a fog machine ready to go!

Just did a 3 days of training yesterday and I ended it up with like, “You guys so much information I swear it’s like we’ve been on fire,” and I hit the button it’s right here and the fog machine came up and it was just like crazy.

So I’m curious, as we’re sort of coming to a close here, I was expecting some of the technology advances of controlling that screen because we all have like this screen is our stage, but some people are very dynamic on stage and some people get into the audience and so that’s my little rant on that, but maybe some thoughts on controlling your camera as we look to wrap this thing in a nice bow here?

Scott Allen: Well, I think that’s a great example you’ve just modeled for us learning.

I have not come across another presenter that is using multi cameras other than a magician that we attended a couple of events for, Justin Willman, he’s been doing some pretty incredible things virtually with 1000 people online for 25 bucks each, I mean he’s just killing it.

But he’s gotten creative, he’s imagined and again the creativity that you just communicated is awesome.

It’s wonderful, and there’s so much more in there that we could be doing.

Because what you just said also we have control, we have control in a very, very different way than we do when we kind of walk into the ballroom and you don’t have control.

So again, we can create great learning experiences, incredible, better learning experiences in some cases, if we have that mindset.

And so whether it’s some of the nuances of working with prezi in Zoom versus what I’d seen kind of using that live, there are some really cool options there.

Or mhm, you’ve seen that platform and some of what they’re working on.

So the creativity and the innovation that’s going to happen around this space I think is a lot of fun.

Bottom line though for me, are you still brutal?

I always say to the people that I speak to you afterward in a nice way,

“Please be brutally honest with me — what worked, what didn’t, what should I consider, what should I do more of?”

And mining that feedback from those folks helps us then better design the recipe.

Because if they say to you, “That was awesome, that was the coolest thing I’ve seen last year,” then you know,

“Okay, that’s my part of my shtick.”

Ryan Foland: Right.

Scott Allen: Maybe I have some rush playing and some lasers and then you know that’s really cool.

But I think getting that feedback and figuring out what people do enjoy,

“Oh, multi camera that’s awesome, that’s so cool.”

“Okay good, I’m onto something, the recipes coming together.”

“This is going to be a 4-star meal.”

Ryan Foland: And I think this idea of a recipe, the nice thing about a recipe anybody can change it up a little bit, there’s the guideline.

Another couple of thoughts that came to mind, there’s somebody in Canada who is charging top dollar and he actually rents out an entire theater and he brings a whole film crew and he gives a live presentation to an empty audience and that’s patched in and so you’re like, “This guy is literally on stage.”

And it’s that environment.

Also, one thing we didn’t really touch on was technology as in native features within Zoom.

And there are always new features in Zoom.

If you haven’t updated your Zoom, I was showing people that there are these new filters that they stole from Snapchat and you used to have a snap camera to come in and then that would be cool and you can turn into a cat but Zoom is smart enough to include it.

There are people like my mom who is so self-conscious of how she looked I showed her that there are actually beauty filters within Zoom.

So you can adjust your light setting in Zoom.

Now, these are all going to change, but one thing I always encourage people to do is to update their Zoom.

There’s a way to virtually present, you can now connect its beta but you can connect your PowerPoint slides through Zoom in the advanced share feature, and then it pulls you and puts you on to your PowerPoint.

Scott Allen: Yeah, like you’re down here.

I saw Garr Reynolds did a video on that the other day, I think, yeah.

Ryan Foland: It’s going to keep changing, but I think that unless we have this, you talk about a growth mindset, I’ll call it an upgrade to your software mindset, is that whatever you see right now is going to change tomorrow.

But if you’re not refreshing and you’re not looking at the most updated version, it’s kind of out of date.

What’s exciting to me about what you guys are doing is you’re helping people find access to data-driven information from experts who are in the highest levels of leadership so that we can be the best presenters but also present ourselves as guests in a way that we can then continue to build a brand as someone who is professional, someone who is a high energy, somebody who is adding value to the conversation and participation.

Maria, final thoughts from you before I hit the tetherball so hard everybody ducks inherently and it just winds around until it becomes a victory?

Maria Soriano Young: Absolutely, Ryan.

The bottom line that I’ve definitely learned through this process and even with my own experience is online presentations have truly expanded what is encompassed by the design phase.

Before we would often maybe only need to think about what we were going to say, sometimes if we were using visual aids we would have to think about what would be on the visual aid itself.

But now, we have to think about what’s in our background, we have to think about time of day, we have to think about our setting, we have to think about the way that we look, what we’re wearing plays into that setting.

We have to think about where we are appearing on the screen, where our hand gestures are, how big our facial expressions might need to convey something differently.

I think it’s challenging for people to expand the design that they put into their presentations because there are just so many dimensions to think about.

And the more conscious we become and the more time that we spend and the more intentionality that we are willing to put in, the better our presentations are going to be and the more successful our shift to online will become.

Ryan Foland: And from a speaking perspective that can translate into higher honorariums, into more deals, into more impact, into sharing your story, into inspiring people, into motivating them.

So yes, we’re talking about nuances, we’re talking about tried and tested things, we’re talking about stuff you can go Google.

We’re talking about stuff that you already inherently know, but at the end of the day it’s when you take that information and you try it, you practice it, you practice it over time, you get feedback, you refresh your browser, you download the new software, you’re open to new opportunities, that’s where things are going to change.

And I think that as I look back on this last year and a half, things have grown but it’s become somewhat normalized.

And the good news for speakers is that whenever there’s a normal, there’s always an opportunity to break outside that norm and be known as that guy, that girl, that person who’s able to bring a new type of presentation.

And I’ve always enjoyed referral business and you have an opportunity every time you present for somebody to be like that guy I’m going to think top of mind when I need somebody to present or somebody to recommend.

Scott Allen: Yes.

Ryan Foland: Well, this has been a fantastic conversation and a solid tetherball game but tell us where we can find more about this book, how we can get it, and where to look for this new technology that you’re developing, and how to find you two?

Scott Allen: Sure, so the easiest place to go is just and it’s captOvation.

So it’s almost like attract applause, captivate innovation as a combination.

So is where to find our resources, the technology, information about us, that’s the easiest place.

Ryan Foland: Remind me of the title of the book.

Scott Allen: “Captovation: Online Presentations by Design.”

Ryan Foland: Okay, and then, Maria, where would people find you online?

Are you a LinkedIn, are you a Tweeter, are you Facebooker, Instagramer or what?

Maria Soriano Young: All of the above, but our Captovation materials are available on a separate Captovation LinkedIn page.

We also have a blog that goes along with the website.

Our book is available in multiple formats on Amazon for paperback copy, we have an Audible version if you prefer audiobooks, then we also have the Kindle version.

Scott and I are both also on Twitter and we have Captovation on Twitter.

And yes, we both have our individual LinkedIn pages as well, so we’re kind of all over the place.

Ryan Foland: We’ll make sure all that stuff is in the show notes.

And for those speakers who are listening and for you two, if you’re not yet on SpeakerHub it’s a place to be found, it’s a place where you can search for speaking opportunities, it’s a place where events are searching for speakers.

So you can go to, you can get your profile, you can share your profile, there are over 26000 speakers and there are thousands of organizations and events that connect on that platform.

If you want to find me, if you want to hire me, if you want this high energy ginger to fill up your Zoom screen, you just go to that’s where you find me and make sure you subscribe to the show, if you like this you’re going to like the other 90 of them that we’ve produced.

And just as though these 2 individuals have been talking with experts about those experts’ expertise, my goal is to find experts in the speaking business to help you build your speaking business to be something that you’re proud of, something that you can make a living on and something that you can drive some serious impact.

So wherever you are in the world, you are a speaker if you speak in public, thanks for listening, subscribe and if you like this rate it, show your love.

Scott, Maria tetherball soon, Twitter sooner, thanks for all your inside information and keep up the good work with this book.

Maria Soriano Young: Thanks so much, Ryan.

Scott Allen: Thank you, Ryan, a lot of fun.

I had no clue we were going to play some tetherball.

Ryan Foland: And I didn’t either, right.

You never know, you always got to be ready for a digital tetherball game and in your next book that can be one of the creative ways to spark some engagement.

Scott Allen: It’s a good title, digital tetherball.

Ryan Foland: All right everybody, keep speaking, speak up, and keep practicing.

Only you can stop forest fires and only you can continue to find success on the stage.

I’m going to stop talking now, ready, I’m going to look for that red button, I’m going to end it, click, I’m going to end for all.


A bit about World of Speakers

World of Speakers is a bi-weekly podcast that helps people find their own voices and teaches them how to use their voice to develop a speaking business. This special series of episodes has been created to help speakers navigate the coronavirus crisis.

Connect with Scott Allen and Maria Soriano Young:

This was originally posted on SpeakerHub Skillcamp.

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