3 Smart Strategies for Conducting Meetings People Won’t Hate

February 2, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Meetings

dale_ludwig_hi-res_colorI listened to a really interesting NPR story last week about workday meetings. It said that, “the average American office worker spends more than nine hours of every week preparing for, or attending, project update meetings.” That’s a lot of time. And the problem, as the story pointed out, is that most of these meetings last too long, they don’t accomplish much, and are run poorly. Much of the blame was placed on a lack of awareness among meeting facilitators.

So, if you run meetings, what are you to do? What should you be more aware of?

First, assume that the people you’re meeting with would rather be somewhere else … and that’s OK.

Don’t take it personally. People are busy, and meetings burn through a lot of time and energy. By making this assumption, you’re reminding yourself that it’s your job to keep things efficient and relevant for everyone. This might change the length of time you schedule the meeting for or the people you choose to invite.

Second, talk about the meeting process … not just the topic.

Talking about what’s going to happen and what is happening during the meeting will make it easier for everyone to engage and participate. Plus, you’ll sound like you know what you’re doing.

  1. Review your agenda when the meeting begins.
  2. State the goal of the meeting and—just as important—what you need from the group to reach that goal.
  3. When the meeting is over, clarify next steps and bring things to a close. Don’t rehash meeting content or bring in new information when everyone is ready to leave.

Third, stay on track or decide not to … either way, make it a choice.

  1. It’s easy to get bogged down in the minutia of meeting content, but, as the person running the meeting, keep things going in the right direction. When the group goes off on a tangent, think about whether the tangent is necessary to reach your goal. If so, let it happen. If not, rein them in. Question your gut reaction to the tangent. It may be leading you in the wrong direction.
  2. If you are the one wandering off track, though, stop it.

Remember, it’s your responsibility to communicate a sense of efficiency and relevance. When you do, you will create the conditions for a fruitful, efficient meeting.

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

How to Prepare a Flexible Agenda for your Presentations.

July 1, 2013 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Presentation, Video

Greg Owen-Boger, VP of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation,” shares some techniques on how to make your presentation agenda flexible and organic.

Youthful Skepticism

June 10, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Introduction, Preparation, Presentation

Last week I spent three hours working with a group of people just starting their careers, all in the non-profit sector. It was a real break from the usual business audience we work with in a couple ways. First, they were very young, many of them fresh out of college. So they had no problem challenging what I had to say.

Second, although their presentations were delivered to community-based organizations, their topics were very much like those we see in for-profit businesses. They focused on serving people better, being more efficient, and improving technology.

Before meeting with me, this group all took our online course. As part of that, they prepared a presentation and sent it to me. This gave me a chance to prepare feedback for them. Before I dove into their presentations last week, I asked if anyone had questions or comments about the online course.

A couple people in the group did, and it wasn’t exactly the kind of feedback I was expecting. They said they found the structure we had asked them to follow, especially the introduction to their presentations, very restrictive and regimented. “I would rather just start talking with my audience when I start. I’d give them an agenda, but that’s it.”[Tweet “Clarity, context, and relevance are necessary for every presentation, regardless of audience.”]

I probed a little and asked if the organizational structure felt like a straightjacket. “Yes,” they said.

We hear that a lot from class participants. People often feel we impose a strict structure for introductions, one that cramps their style.

After working with a few introductions and talking through the nuances of each, the group last week began to see that an introduction is just a framework, a framework listeners need. Further, while the goals of every introduction are the same, presenters are free to reach those goals any way they want. So there really isn’t a straightjacket, just goals to be met.

What struck me about this group of presenters is that they assumed there was a disconnect between our approach (all business) and their needs (all community-based-non-profit). What they wound up seeing was that clarity, context, and relevance are necessary components of every presentation, regardless of audience or purpose.

I’m looking forward to going back to this organization next year. It was good to work with a group of eager yet skeptical young people.

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Use internal agendas to reinforce your presentation’s structure.

September 24, 2012 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Presentation, Video

Greg Owen-Boger, VP of Turpin Communication, shows how using internal agendas can keep both the presenter and the audience on track.

It’s so difficult to keep everyone focused on conference calls and web meetings. Any pointers?

February 13, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Preparation, Sarah Stocker, Virtual

I agree. Keeping people focused on a conference call is a challenge. Here are a few ideas to make it easier.

First, make sure everyone is aware of the ground rules. Do you want to be interrupted? Do you want everyone’s phone on mute? Do you want everyone to introduce themselves? Letting them know what you expect, and that their involvement is welcome gives them some ownership over the content, which makes them more likely to stay focused. This recommendation is, of course, not going to be appropriate for ALL things, but it’s something you should consider.

Second, create an agenda for your call and share it with everyone. Creating an agenda will help you think through what you want to talk about and create a clear message. The clearer your message, the easier it is for your listeners to stay focused. Plus, an agenda provides your listeners with a framework for the call, much like the introduction to a presentation. In fact, you can use our 4 part introduction strategy for conference calls and web meetings as well as presentations.

Third, once you get into the content of the meeting, spend extra time making sure that everyone is looking at the right thing. If it’s a web meeting, make sure you set up each of your slides carefully. (Assume that attention has wandered and that people won’t realize that a new slide has come up.) If participants are advancing through your deck or handout on their own, be sure to tell them when to move forward and what slide you’re on. If their minds have wandered, hearing something like, “moving on to slide 4” will get their attention and give them the opportunity to tune back in.

Finally, do all that you can to keep your energy up. Make sure you are speaking loud enough for everyone to hear you easily; they can’t stay focused if they can’t hear you. If you can, stand up and deliver the presentation speaking and gesturing as you would to a live audience. That may give you the boost in enthusiasm you need to keep everyone with you.

by Sarah Stocker, Trainer and Workshop Coordinator at Turpin Communication

Provide Structure through your Presentation’s Introduction

March 16, 2010 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Introduction, Preparation, Presentation

As you know, a well-organized presentation has three parts: introduction, body and conclusion.

  1. The introduction gives your audience a sense of direction and purpose, and a reason to listen.
  2. The body is, of course, the main part of your presentation, where you deliver the details of your topic.
  3. The conclusion summarizes what you’ve said, outlines next steps and closes the sale, if necessary.

Because it’s natural for presenters to focus most of their time on the body of their presentations, they often miss the chance to take advantage of what their introductions can do.

The process of developing an introduction helps the presenter zero in on the core issues.
If you’ve participated in one of our workshops, some of this should seem familiar. While most presenters understand that a good introduction helps listeners get motivated and focused, what they often don’t realize is that the process of creating an introduction also helps them.

As I said above, the first minute or so of your presentation should provide purpose, direction and a reason to listen. The result is that your introduction gives listeners confidence in you as a presenter. It tells them that you know what you’re doing, you’ve done your homework and you’re aware of their perspective. And, most important, that you’re in charge of the presentation of information and not just the information itself. The distinction is crucial. It’s one of the things that distinguishes confident, engaged presenters from those who are trapped in their own little bubble at the front of the room and never break out of it.

From your perspective as a presenter, the process of preparing an introduction forces you to zero in on the core issues of your presentation. When you really think about what your presentation means to your audience – independent of what it means to you – you’ll have an easier time narrowing your focus, articulating a simple agenda and eliminating unnecessary information. The benefits of that process will be felt throughout your presentation, and the way to make it happen is by disciplining yourself to create a concise  introduction.

The Four Parts
The first step is to break your introduction down into 4 steps and create a slide for each one, making sure that you use brief, parallel bullet points on each slide:

  1. Title. The title of your presentation should be meaningful, referring to the goal of your presentation or one of the benefits listeners will gain from it.
  2. Current situation. This is a brief description of what’s going on with your audience at the beginning of your presentation. Sometimes it describes their frame of mind or a problem they’re facing. The more accurate the current situation, the more credibility you have.
  3. Statement of Purpose (or Recommendation in a persuasive situation)  & Agenda. You can determine the purpose of your agenda by completing this sentence, “At the end of my presentation, I want my audience to (what)?” Your agenda should contain the 3 to 5 main topics you plan to cover.
  4. Benefits to Audience. This slide lists what your audience will gain by doing what you’re asking them to do or understanding what you want them to understand.

Hanging It All Together
Once you’ve created these four slides, try them out to see if they work together to achieve the goals of a good introduction. You may find that you’d like to remove or rearrange slides depending on your topic, audience or goals. That’s fine. Just be sure that the final version of your introduction can be delivered in about a minute and gives your audience purpose, direction and a reason to listen.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication


Learn more at www.TurpinCommunication.com and www.OnlinePresentationSkillsTraining.com

Which Hat to Wear? SME or Trainer?

March 2, 2010 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Training

This post was inspired by a train-the-trainer session Dale Ludwig and I led two weeks ago.  We were working with a group of SMEs (subject matter experts) in the insurance industry as they prepared to deliver enterprise-wide training sessions.

Of course the SMEs knew a lot about their topics.  The problem was they wanted to share most of it with their trainees.  This desire is typical not only when training, but when delivering every-day presentations as well.  So, during the training session, we helped the SMEs switch hats.  They needed to take off their favorite, most comfortable hat (the SME Hat), and put on a slightly less comfortable one (the Trainer Hat).

When you switch hats like this you’ll realize that trainees and every-day audiences don’t want or need to know everything you know.  (Nor do they have time for it.)  What they need is to be engaged in a well-developed, listener-focused, concise conversation.

So, put on your Trainer Hat the next time you develop a training session or presentation.  Get clear on your objectives.  Think about what your listeners need to learn from you in order to take the action you want them to take.  From there, create an agenda that includes only the information that will help you reach your goals.

One thing that happens when you take off your SME Hat is that you feel like you’re not demonstrating your expertise.  Don’t worry.  When you zero in on what your listeners need and want to know about your topic, they’ll feel like you really care about their perspective and understanding.  And that’s a good thing.

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


Need help preparing for your next presentation?  Take this online presentation skills course today: “Preparing a Presentation.”