I hate using my webcam in virtual meetings and training sessions. Any advice?

November 19, 2012 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Presentation, Video, Virtual

In this video, Greg Owen-Boger, VP of Turpin Communication, offers up advice on how to work with your webcam during virtual meetings and training sessions.

Practice Makes Perfect… or not.

September 4, 2012 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Nervousness, Preparation, Presentation

 

greg 200x300A lot of people will tell you to “practice, practice, practice” because “practice makes perfect.”

When it comes to presenting, this is some of the worst advice you can get or give.

Practicing a presentation cannot possibly lead to perfection.

Here’s why.

Effective presentations are not speeches (which I suppose could be perfected). They are conversations. Conversations by their very nature are imperfect. They involve other people and are therefore unpredictable. They twist and turn. They stop and start. They go back on themselves. They jump forward.

You can’t predict any of that. Therefore, practicing a presentation until it is perfected is a foolish exercise.

The desire to be perfect and the pressure of other people telling you that you can be (should be) perfect puts the bar too high. And here’s what happens:

  • You put too much energy into reaching the bar,
  • which leads to nervousness,
  • which disengages you,
  • which puts you in your head trying to recreate the script you etched into your brain during practice,
  • which leads to a dull, lifeless, uninspiring meeting.

Hardly perfect.

It’s more than bad advice, though, it causes damage.
Strong words, I know. But I’ve worked with enough presenters to know that they drag around a lot of baggage from the bad advice and training they’ve received over the years. A lot of my job when coaching them is to undo the damage. I help people see things in a new way and I give them a new set of skills and techniques that will work uniquely for them.

If I were your coach
If we had the chance to work together, I’d start by asking you to redefine your next presentation as an Orderly Conversation. An Orderly Conversation is one that is carefully organized and flexibly executed.

When you think of presentations as Orderly Conversations, it changes how you think of (and use) your slides. They become thought starters that will trigger dialogue. They become support for the conversation rather than being the presentation. This new thinking will change the information you put on your slides and how you arrange it.

Let’s assume that your slides are complete and you feel that they will support the conversation you want to have. Now it’s time to review. Notice I said “review,” not practice. As you review your slides, look at each and grab a thought. That thought should launch the conversation you intended. If not, change it until it does.

As you think through each slide, avoid scripting yourself. Think of different ways of explaining each slide. Remember you’re not striving for perfection. You’re working toward flexibility.

Once the conversation begins, let loose and enjoy it. Trust that your slides will be there to support the conversation. Let it get a little messy, follow your listeners’ lead for a bit, bring it back around. You’ll be amazed at how much more fun presenting can be.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication

The BEST Way to Start a Presentation

September 15, 2010 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Facilitation, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Introduction, Myths Debunked, Preparation, Presentation

QUESTION:
According to most public speaking experts, the first 30 seconds of a speech are extremely crucial for the success of a presentation. So, what’s the best way to start a presentation?

ANSWER:
We get this question a lot in our presentation skills workshops.  I also read similar questions on discussion boards on LinkedIn.  Unfortunately on LinkedIn, it seems that everyone’s a presentation expert.  That leads to a lot of bad advice.  No wonder presenters are confused about how to begin.

Typical “expert” responses include:

  • Show a video
  • Ask an open-ended question
  • Ask questions about their day so far
  • Have people introduce themselves to each other

While these ideas – if kept in a business context – aren’t terrible, they’re not enough on their own.  Ideas that are terrible:

Ahhhh… Enough with the gimmicks already
Participants in business presentations are not children.  They are adults who deserve better.

While I’ll agree that the first few moments of a presentation should get you started on the right foot, gimmicks don’t work.  Instead, work to engage your listeners in a meaningful, interesting, relevant dialogue.

Presentations are NOT theatre performances
We need to move away from the idea that a presenter’s job is to entertain or WOW or dazzle. Preparing a whiz-bang attention grabber ahead of time will always seem contrived.  Plus, it ignores the fact that something took place prior to your presentation.  Remember, the curtain isn’t going up.  The spotlights aren’t just now coming on.  When you walk to the front of the room you’re doing so in the context of whatever happened before.  You need to acknowledge that and then move into your presentation.

Presentations ARE Orderly Conversations
Every presenter’s job is to spark a conversation.  If you read this blog regularly, you know that we define presentations as Orderly Conversations.  “Orderly” because they need to be carefully organized and thought through.  “Conversations” because they need to feel spontaneous and interactive right from the start.

So, what IS the best way to start an orderly conversation?
Be in the moment, refer to the listeners’ current situation, and talk about how your presentation is going to address that issue. Examples:

Be in the moment:

  • “It’s been a long day (it’s hot, we’re behind schedule, etc.), so I’ll keep our discussion about X brief.”
  • “John just discussed ABC; I’m going to talk about XYZ.”
  • “Hope you all had a good evening, this morning we’re going to turn our focus toward…”

Refer to their current situation and your response to it:

  • “As we know, sales are sluggish, but today we’re going to talk about a new promotion that will turn things around.”
  • “We’re all busy and most of us feel overwhelmed. I’m here to talk about a new process to ease the pain.”
  • “A lot of discussion has been about X for some time now.  Today we’re going to address the issue so we can move on.”
  • “The bad news is X, the good news is Y, and that’s what we’re here to talk about today.”

Give them a reason to listen and participate
Taking this approach with your introduction will give your listeners a reason to participate in the conversation without resorting to manipulation.

What are your thoughts?

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Eliminating Static: How to Help Listeners Tune into You and Your Presentation

August 3, 2010 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation

Ever listen to an AM radio program while you’re driving?  If so, you know how static can make it difficult to hear the program.  No matter how much you try to tune in (either by listening more intently or adjusting the dial) there are times when you just can’t hear or understand what’s being said.  So, you do one of three things:

  1. zone out
  2. grab the bits you CAN hear
  3. change the dial

It’s frustrating when this happens.  You’re being made to work too hard to understand, so you give up.

This metaphor can be applied to presentations.
Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President of Turpin CommunicationIf you’ve been in a workshop with me in the last few years, chances are good this concept isn’t new to you.

Think back to a recent presentation or training session you delivered. Were people tuned into you?

Yes?  Good job.
No?  Or not sure?  Ask yourself these questions:

  • Was I unintentionally causing static?
  • Did I make my listeners work too hard so they tuned me out?

Static – or what others might call distractions – can creep into presentations in a lot of ways.  Here are some of them:

Behavior during delivery:

  • Not pausing between thoughts can make you seem frenzied.
  • Pacing or wandering about the room for no reason can make you seem unfocused.
  • Saying too many “ums” or “uhs.”  (Read this post to see what we say about this, it may NOT be a static problem.)
  • Poor eye contact (bouncing quickly from person to person or looking through or over people) can make you appear disengaged or nervous.
  • Fidgeting with a pen, ring or remote can make you look uncomfortable.
  • Speaking with low volume or in monotone can make you seem timid.

Ineffective preparation:

  • Creating visual aids that are disorganized can make you appear unprofessional.
  • Designing visual aids with lots of animation or wild colors can make you appear juvenile.
  • Cluttering up your slides with too much information can confuse listeners.

All of these things can distract listeners and make them tune you out.

It’s your responsibility as the speaker to help listeners stay tuned in.
Having said something, doesn’t mean that it’s been heard and understood.  As presenter, you need to take responsibility for making sure that both things happen.

So, what are the ways to eliminate static?
First, you need to be aware of your listeners’ response to you.  You need to actually see and take mental note of how tuned in they are.  Look for their reactions, and respond accordingly just as you would in everyday conversation.

Second, if you notice that they are tuning out, help them tune back in.  You can:

Adjust your behaviors:

  • Pause longer and more often than you’re accustomed to.
  • Move with purpose, and when you get to your destination (screen, laptop, closer to a single individual) stay there longer than you naturally would.
  • Put down the pen or anything else that might cause you to fidget.
  • Increase your volume.

Tune into them:

  • Establish better eye contact and stay with the person through the end of a thought before moving on.
  • Get them talking by asking for feedback on your topic.  Rhetorical questions are not what I’m talking about here; ask genuine questions and look for thoughtful answers.

Ah… that sounds better.  What a relief.
Let’s go back to the scenario in the car.  You’re driving along listening to the AM radio show, and all of a sudden everything is clear with no static at all.  What a relief.  You can finally hear and understand what’s being said.

Work to be that clear every time you present.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Do you have any advice for what to wear (or not wear) for delivering presentations?

October 1, 2009 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, FAQs, Presentation

This question comes from astute reader, Jill M.

Thanks for the question, Jill.  We aren’t image consultants and don’t offer advice on what to wear during presentations unless we’re asked.  That said, there are many times when workshop participants comment (usually privately during coaching) on what they’re wearing when they see their own videos.  Most of their comments have to do with:

  1. Clothing that doesn’t fit well (by far the most common response we get).
  2. Clothing that’s too casual for a presentation.
  3. Clothing that isn’t flattering when you do the things you need to do during a presentation—pointing to the screen or leaning over a laptop, for example.
  4. Hair that hangs in front of your face.
  5. Clothing that’s too youthful or trendy for a presentation.
  6. Jewelry that is distracting to look at or makes noise.

The solutions to these issues come down to two things: (1) awareness of what’s appropriate and (2) awareness of yourself.  When it comes to what’s appropriate, pay attention to the people you work with—your boss, peers and clients.  Dress to fit in and when in doubt, err on the side of being too conservative.  Secondly, don’t assume that what fit last year will fit this year.  That’s the most important thing.  Beyond that, look at yourself as your listeners will see you.  This might be as simple as looking in a full length mirror before your presentation.  Or, if you really want to know how you’ll look, make a video of yourself wearing what you plan to wear for your presentation.  Record yourself from the front, side and back.  Record yourself walking, raising your arm to point at the screen and leaning over to look at your laptop.  My guess is that all the questions you have will be answered when you watch the video.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Up Speak Advice

December 16, 2008 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Mary Clare Healy


Question:
I have been working on this for a long time and getting nowhere. Every sentence I say sounds like a question because my pitch goes up on the last few words. I’m 32 years old, and it’s time for me to stop sounding like a teenage girl. It doesn’t help that I’m also a really tiny person; most people don’t believe that I’m 32.

Answer:
Thanks for the question. Sounds like you’re talking about something referred to as “up speak.” Up speak can make you sound tentative and inexperienced rather than firm and confident. You’re right to be concerned about the perception it leaves with people, especially when you’re a woman who looks younger than her age. So, what can you do about it?

This isn’t an easy habit to break, because you’ve probably spoken this way for a long time. But, with effort and some practice, you can change. Being aware of it is the first step. Now, it’s time to train your voice. The simplest way to do this is to record a new outgoing voicemail message. There are lots of short sentences there, so the potential for up speak is pretty strong. After you’ve recorded your voice, play it back and listen for up speak. If your pitch doesn’t drop at the end of your sentences, try it again. This is a good exercise because many people raise their pitch after they say their name.

Another idea is to imagine that you’re taking a step down at the end of your sentences. You might even want to try it on real stairs. As you literally step down, try to make your pitch go with it. This might feel odd, and you may feel that you’re draining all the enthusiasm out of your voice. But keep practicing. You’ll find the right balance. And be sure to ask someone you trust to give you feedback on how you’re doing.

by Mary Clare Healy, Trainer at Turpin Communication