We had a chance to sit down with esteemed British esports host and streamer Frankie Ward at Excel Esports’ Neosurf Cup for an insightful interview.
Frankie told us how she went from producing shows at big broadcasters like BBC and Twitch to taking the stage as a freelance presenter herself, how students can get a career in esports and her ‘charm and disarm’ interview technique. As part of our Women in Esports campaign, we also asked her about working as a female in this space and the importance of inspiring younger girls to get involved in esports.
You can watch the full video interview and read Frankie’s quotes below.
How Frankie got into esports and advice for others looking to do the same
“To be honest, you need to be talented and you need contacts as well, it’s about networking. I got into Twitch because I did League of Legends Worlds coverage for the BBC in 2015 at Worlds. Then I was researching for that, discovered Twitch and really wanted to work in gaming after that project.
A couple of months later, I decided to actually look into it. Twitch had this job going, it was essentially a producer role and I applied for it. I didn’t hear back for months, then the interview process began in April. I had five interviews. It was intense but amazing.
Basically I didn’t have enough budget to put hosts on stage for events like EGX, where the shows were three days long and they could be eight to 12 hours long. So I just popped up on stage occasionally. ESL UK asked me to stage host their Hearthstone Premiership and that was kind of where it started. Before then, I worked with Ginx TV and a few people knew me from my producing work.
So when I lost my job – they closed like 40 jobs in one day – I used the contacts I had from being a producer and said: ‘Hey, I’m not a producer anymore, I’m going to try hosting, so if you need someone…’
“No matter what you do, no matter what role you’re doing, just throw everything into it, be a good team player. And then if you do decide you want to change your role, if people know you have a good work ethic, they like you, they want to work with you and you can back up your work with for example a showreel, then chances are they will want to give you a shot.”
Our video interview with Frankie Ward
On interview techniques
“I suppose a technique I developed was called ‘charm and disarm’, which is all about getting someone feeling comfortable then making them spill their guts in front of you! Or you can throw a curveball in once they feel comfortable with you.
“I could be quite direct and I totally softened, because I had to develop long-term relationships with players – in a professional way thank you very much! So it’s important to strike a balance, I don’t want to go too easy on people but I’m a lot more open with my questions and I actively listen. That was the one thing I really took away from BBC interview training.
“One of the things I really like to do when I’m in a stage hosting role, I want to go out to the audience and make them feel like they’re part of the show. It’s about hyping them up and making them feel comfortable.”
“Be flexible. If [the interviewee] says something interesting, just pick up on it. Usually in interviews, I say as little as I can, because it’s not my job to tell the audience what happens, I want the players to do that.
“I learnt from doing exit interviews at IEM Katowice that I was too protective of the players there. I had this player on a temporary contract and didn’t know if he was continuing with his team after Katowice. I asked him if it was okay to talk about that before the interview and he said yes. But in that interview I was too much of a cheerleader, and actually that wasn’t my job, my job was to give him a platform, not to tell him everything was going to be okay. So exit interviews are ones I don’t really plan. I just give them the floor.”
Top 8 tips for aspiring presenters
- Feedback.“You need to give yourself feedback, do VoD reviews, like players do after a match. Learn to watch yourself, review what you’re doing. Make notes on what was said, as I often forget what was said in an interview straight away! Often I’m running on little sleep in a different country so it can be hard. I review what I’m doing then I can improve over the course of an event. Asking for feedback from production is really important.
- Do your research!
- Be nice to work with.
- Don’t be late for call times.“Obviously do say if you need something, but have a think about what production needs as well. I want producers to tell me what kind of tone they’re going for.”
- Network and build contacts.
- Create a showreel.“Promote your brand. When you’re cutting a showreel, it’s not always about the best work you’ve ever done, it’s about showing the work to the person who’s hiring you, showing them what they’re going to get.
- Learn to be at ease with yourself.“Doing things live is so hard. With stage hosting, usually you don’t have an auto cue and it can be harder than TV. TV is structured and quite scripted, so you can read pre-written words. But with esports, as long as you know your stuff, you’ve got it. So, research and be at ease with yourself. Be you – and enjoy it.
- Focus on your strengths.
“Have a think about what you want to do. I sometimes hear people who want to do everything, they want to cast, stage host, desk host, do interviews they’re all different things. Okay I’m a hypocrite as I do three of those things. I don’t cast. Goldenboy can do all of those, he’s incredible and he’s been doing it the best part of a decade.
“Do the thing you think you’re strongest at or enjoy doing the most. Find the thing you want to do and focus on that. If you get asked to do something else, you can take that opportunity.”
Check out some of Frankie’s work in her showreel here:
On Women in Esports
“I’m 31 so I don’t know what it’s like for teenage girls for example to find people to play games with now. It’s probably easier than when I was younger as you can just go online.
“The hardest thing is of course, you get comments. I get comments based on my voice. When I’m playing Counter-Strike, I’m silver 3, but I still top the server and if people listen to me – cos I know my strats! – then we do alright.
“You can mute people and just play your heart out, and if you’re good then you get noticed. But it’s a long slog and really hard. And as a woman I think it’s sometimes demotivating because you think, no one is going to want to play with me at the end of the day, even if I’m the best player in the world.
“If you’re the best player in the world then people are idiots not to play with you.
“Once the comments start, it’s hard to shut it off and keep playing. But if people do that to you, the team aren’t going to play as well. You have to persevere and keep going.”
“Occasionally what will happen is you’ll find people you click with, just add those people to your friends list and play ranked with them. Start playing ranked platforms like FaceIT and if you’re good enough you are going to get noticed.”
On mixed rosters
“I remember when Geguri didn’t get picked up by a team at the start of the Overwatch League and they said it’s because she wasn’t a good fit for the team. Maybe she wasn’t, but I think we need to start seeing more mixed rosters. When she came into Shanghai Dragons there must have been so much pressure on her shoulders because she’s representing all women. It’s hard for other women to be the thing you can’t see.
“Some women will go out on that stage and are going to break the glass ceiling for other women and show them it can be done. It’s also a cultural thing as well, getting to start playing and learning and being with teams at an early age. I think it will change, I’d like to see mixed rosters. All-female rosters are fine, I’m not bothered about what gender representation there is in a roster as long as they can win.
“You have to fight very hard and play very well.
“When I go out on stage as a host, there is part of me that’s conscious. I definitely want to make sure I’m representing and doing great work.
“There are some incredible women in this industry in terms of hosting and things like that. We see each other and support each other, even if we’re not working the same show together.”
“If you’re a female player and you’re doing really well, there are going to be women that recognise that. So please keep going, if you want to be a pro player, do it!”