Note: I have been working with Jack Milner of the UK since the spring on the manuscript for his book, “2D to 3D: How to Be a Virtual Presentation Superstar.” Jack is a performer-turned-communication-coach who provides organizations with the tools to influence, persuade, and engage—whether through storytelling, presenting, or communicating within teams. His book acknowledges how rapidly the world pivoted to online meetings and presentations with the onslaught of COVID-19 and offers impactful tips to help them stand out in a virtual world. Working with Jack has been a great experience. Recently, my summer intern, Emma Listokin, interviewed Jack and what it was like to work with me. This is their conversation, verbatim.
When did you get into writing and why?
I got into writing when I was a teenager, so initially, I liked writing angsty and depressing stuff involving drugs and stuff like that—things I knew nothing about. At 14, a teacher did an exercise, and you couldn’t help but write a bit of nonsense. It was supposed to be a two-page essay, and in the end … it was 20 pages long. The following week my teacher handed back my work and said, “Jack, is it alright if I read your story to the class?” I said, “Yeah, yeah absolutely!” He read my piece to the class, and they all roared with laughter, and that was the thing that got me started, that moment. That’s what I like, and that’s what I want to do.
What prompted you to write a book? And why?
Like with most things for me—it was an accident! I was supposed to write a book about presentation skills from a different angle, and then COVID arrived, and one of my clients—Samsung—asked for a handbook on virtual presenting to go along with the course. I quoted 5,000 words and it ended up being 20,000 words. They were delighted, and then I thought, “You know, this is the beginning of a book here.” Others encouraged me, and I took the idea seriously. Then I got in touch with Janice, and I thought Janice felt like the right fit.
How much of your book was written when you contacted Janice?
I think most of it was written, a really bad version of it, maybe not really bad, but most first drafts are pretty rubbishy.
How did Janice help you hone in on an illustration style for the book?
I needed an illustrator for the book, and my neighbor connected me to two university students who are illustrators. I said to both of them that I don’t care what they come up with; it could even be animals. One came back to me with what you’d expect in a business book: a bit presentation like, but nice graphics. And I thought, “That’s good enough.” The other one came back and said, “I was going to go with snails, but I’ve decided because you said you were going to have a photograph of a frog to come back with frogs.” I said to Janice that I think I’m going to go with the first design, because my mentor said, “Jack, whatever you do, don’t do cartoons!” Janice came back and said the second design is really funny and original and quirky and matches my personality, and she helped persuade me toward the frogs and connect the theme to my manuscript. One of the mantras for this book is, “Janice is always right,” because it’s true!
What stage is your manuscript at now?
It’s now at the stage where I’ve written close to the final draft, but there might be some final tweaks. It’s with a PR firm now that is shopping it around for publication through a traditional or hybrid company. Janice helped connect me to this firm because she thinks my book could have a wide reach.
How did Janice help you advance your project to this phase?
She genuinely cares about you and the work. If she gets frustrated, which she really never does, it’s more, “C’mon this can be better, and here are steps to make it better.” The first draft she shared a lot of things that could be improved and gave points that could be clarified. There were a lot of notes on the first draft, most of which I followed through on. Janice’s grammar is much better than mine, so she’s great for eyeing the grammatical errors. She instills confidence: A writer needs to be told what’s good about his work. Because without that, it’s much harder to write.
What did you consider the most valuable part of working with Janice on your book?
It’s two things. Firstly, having a clear process and deadlines so that you have a working structure to help you focus. And the second being Janice pushing this to be magic. We found a small moment of magic, and Janice spotted it, and that led from this book going from being ordinary to being much more than ordinary and that came from her inspiration and encouragement. Sometimes you need that encouragement to take a risk.
What kinds of suggestions did Janice make? Did you act on all of them? If you had differences, how did you resolve them?
We didn’t need to resolve anything. Janice gets writers and is a very good writer herself and all she’s trying to do is help you get your vision across in the way you want it and sometimes needs to nudge you.
In what way did your manuscript turn out differently from what it would have been if you had not worked with Janice on it?
I think if I hadn’t worked with Janice and worked by myself, it would have been okay, but what Janice has done has helped me put Jack into it and helped me be a bit more confident. I’m quite proud of it. That’s quite a big deal.
What are your hopes for next steps?
I’d love it to get published. I’d love it to make a difference and sell a few copies, and up my fees for my master classes, and if it does all of those things, I’d be happy.
Anything else you want readers of Janice’s blog to know?
Janice helps you be you. … I’ve really enjoyed the chat and banter. She’s a really good person, a good human being. She’s fun, and she really likes people to be themselves and encourages that. She’s got a good sense of humor. I highly, highly recommend working with Janice. She’s also 100 percent honest.