Martha Myers, Founder and Owner of the cleverly named MaRTHA Myers Consulting Services, is a graduate of shiftED Academy and a member of shiftED’s Coterie, an exclusive membership group for alumni.
Martha is not only her name but an acronym for Maintenance and Reliability Technical Health Assessor. Spearheading the NS Chapter of the PEMAC - Asset Management Association of Canada, where she currently serves as President, Martha is also an Instructor for PEMAC’s Maintenance Management Professional (MMP) Certificate Program.
I had the great pleasure of interviewing her recently and we talked about her work and her presentations.
Tisha: Martha, thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Tell me about the work you do.
Martha: My primary focus is asset management in a municipal environment. I work with municipalities to create processes that will help them make long-term spending decisions on their infrastructure, including water, wastewater, stormwater systems, roads, facilities, parks, recreation, and so on.
Tisha: That sounds like really interesting work. How do presentations factor into that?
Martha: Over the past year I’ve delivered some full-day workshops for the Atlantic Infrastructure Management (AIM) Network over Zoom with operations and maintenance staff for water and wastewater systems, helping them with a process to create a maintenance program for those systems. We (the AIM Network) also have multiple workshop-type presentations for municipalities for different elements of their asset management road map. One would be focused on, let’s say, level of service and, one may be focused on climate change and how that impacts their current and future projects. Asset Management includes various processes, so the workshops break down these processes into smaller strategic elements.
Every municipality has different types of physical assets which are in varied condition, so, in the workshops, they are developing their long-term strategic plan for their budgeting process. We help them prioritize what they have, based on level of service and risk, and come up with that long-term plan.
As a business owner, I do a fair bit of networking and I also speak at industry events, such as MainTrain, PEMAC’s national Maintenance, Reliability, and Asset Management Conference, the Atlantic Asset Management Conference which is put on by the AIM Network. As an Instructor for PEMAC’S MMP (Maintenance Management Professional) Program, I co-instruct the final course required for certification, which is Module 8, the Capstone Project.
Tisha: So, it sounds like it's a mix of different audiences and objectives. Tell me about any upcoming presentations that you have? Do you have any on your calendar right now?
Martha: As I mentioned, I recently co-presented three workshops through the Atlantic Canada Water and Wastewater Association (ACWWA) and the AIM Network, and we’re delivering two more specific to wastewater systems. These will follow a similar pattern as to what the earlier workshops were but tailored specifically to wastewater.
Tisha: Speaking of patterns, leading up to a workshop or any kind of a presentation, is there any sort of best practice or anything in your preparation that works for you?
Martha: I definitely wear something comfortable that I’m feeling confident in! And I like to get up very early and be prepared. I print off my list of participants and see which municipality they’re from, and do some research from their municipal websites.
Thinking about those workshops, I believe the most valuable thing that came out of them was the information that the participants shared during the workshops. It’s really important to get everybody to share information because you learn so much from each other. Bringing everyone together with a common background and knowledge but at different levels, you learn something from each other. That’s what I love to see. We also send out a survey after the workshop, and getting feedback from the participants is valuable, and helps us learn how to make it better next time.
Tisha: Martha, these are all really great points. It’s so gratifying when you see that cross-pollination of ideas happening and people really getting interested and engaged with the content. Martha, you’ve mentioned a couple of things that stood out for me: something as simple as choosing what you’re going to wear on the day of how that can bolster your confidence and, perhaps something that requires a bit more careful consideration, which is going through your audience analysis. Printing off a list of names, trying to understand a little bit more about them so you can tailor the content is a really great strategy.
You went through the full loop because, on the other end of it, when you’re finished with that workshop, the evaluation or survey gives you insights on what worked, what didn't, and how you can make it better - instead of putting undue pressure on ourselves to have this perfect presentation right out of the gate. Oftentimes presenters put this enormous stress on themselves to have it perfect in that first iteration and it creates so much noise that you're not really in the game and paying attention to what’s happening on the day of. So, I love hearing that.
Martha: That’s true. Leading up to it, I am constantly asking myself, “do I have all the words right?” but when you can just relax and get a conversation going, when you get in the groove, it's like, “Oh, wow. If I do more of this relaxing thing beforehand, I know that it will be OK." Like we've talked about in the Coterie, it gets a bit easier every time.
Tisha: Yes, there is a common misconception that some people are born being a good presenter, right? I don’t subscribe to that version of reality. I think that some people, at a young age, maybe had more opportunity to practice those skills, perhaps they were in a more supportive environment that built up their confidence level earlier than some other folks. I’ve been at this for a long time and I still get nervous and have those hesitation moments and I think anybody that tells you that they never get nervous or they never have concerns about their presentation, I don’t think they’re being really truthful.
The interesting thing is that your audience usually doesn’t know what’s happening behind the scenes so if you roll with it, they’re going to roll with it with you.
Let’s come back and talk about the Coterie. What was your path to getting in?
Martha: For me, the path was taking the Presentation Booster Program in 2019, and then the Coterie came up so I joined with some of the graduating members from that cohort. I had just started my business and, being on my own, it was great to be able to get together with other people doing presentations. Just having that support group and knowing that you weren’t alone and getting tips and tricks from everybody and from you, of course. That’s what I like about it.
Tisha: And you've availed yourself of one of the Coterie benefits, the opportunity to be a guest speaker at one of our monthly Clinics.
Martha: I did, yes. Seems like a while ago now but I was preparing a presentation for a potential client and was able to practice it with the group and get feedback from everybody on that. So, that was definitely a bonus and something that I encourage all members to do. Everyone is just so supportive and honest and you get great tips. Being a Coterie member is helping me to succeed by having a safe environment to practice, to get honest and sincere feedback from like-minded professionals, even though they may not work in the same industry or have the same type of role. Everybody is there for the same reason.
Tisha: Martha, based on your experience, what advice would you give to someone who fears public speaking?
Martha: Well, I would say practice. It gets easier. Honestly. When I set up the Nova Scotia PEMAC Chapter, I remember having that first in-person get-together and introducing myself, being in front of everybody, how nervous I was to do that. You know, "break-into-a-sweat" nervous! But with practice and pushing through those fears, it helps. I can tell that I’ve come a long way. I’m still not the best public speaker, by any means, but practice does help. Whether it’s in the mirror or with your partner or finding groups like the Coterie, it just gets easier the more you practice.
Tisha: Totally agree with you! Let’s move into the rapid round of questions. Do you have a favourite presentation gadget or piece of technology?
Martha: I wouldn’t say I like too many gadgets. I’m pretty old school but I do like using polls in presentations. I love word clouds too. I love seeing those build in real-time.
Tisha: Mac or PC?
Martha: Oh, I was always a Mac person and I still am a Mac person but I have a PC now. I love a Mac, I tolerate a PC.
Tisha: When it comes to creating your presentations, do you gravitate towards PowerPoint, Google Slides, Keynote, or something else?
Martha: Definitely PowerPoint. It’s my go-to. There’s still so much to learn, which you have been teaching us, but I definitely like PowerPoint.
Tisha: Are you more comfortable presenting online or in person?
Martha: I think that is such a good question. It’s been so long since I’ve done in-person, so I don’t know anymore. I would say it used to be in-person. I like seeing people’s faces, face-to-face, rather than on the screen. But I’m getting used to online.
Tisha: Do you have a favourite quote?
Martha: I like “results don’t need perfection, they need action," by Michelle Cederberg, who was a guest speaker at one of the Coterie Clinics. I have it written in the back of my notebook!
Tisha: I love it! She’s so good. I met her at the Canadian Payroll Association’s annual conference in Edmonton. She and I were both presenting that year. I absolutely fell in love with her and her energy. She cuts to the chase and is just so positive. Great quote!
Is there a book that you have most recommended to other people?
Martha: I do! It’s called Uptime by James Reyes-Picknell and John Dixon Campbell. It’s about asset maintenance and reliability so I probably recommend that book the most. But on the non-technical side, it would be Presence by Amy Cuddy. I love that book. It really spoke to me. I should read it again!
Tisha: It is one of those books that you can read more than once. Last question, what’s on your bucket list?
Martha: When I look at my bucket list (which I have on my phone), they are all pretty much related to travel! One is fairly local and should be easily accomplished, and that’s to bike across PEI. Want to do it with me?
Tisha: Wouldn't that be great! Okay, but only if we take a side trip to Les Iles-de-la-Madeleine afterward!
Tisha: Martha, thank you for taking the time to chat with me today.
Martha: Thanks for having me.