How Do You Want to be Perceived?

October 21, 2013 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

greg_owen-boger_hi-res_colorAs Workplace Learning & Performance Professionals, this is an important question to ask ourselves. Just how DO we, as an industry, want to be perceived?

Almost every workshop we conduct and speaking engagement we lead starts with a group discussion around this question. Answers are charted and discussed. Once the chart is hung on the wall for all to see, we can start to look at ourselves through this lens and identify two things:

  1. What are we doing to support this hoped-for perception?
  2. What are we doing that’s preventing us from reaching it?

Here’s an example: I recently presented a session called “Engaging Learners in the Orderly Conversation” to a group of highly engaged learning professionals at a local ASTD chapter. The chart we made included a lot of great words, but the two that spoke the loudest to this group were “respected” and “relevant.”

Our conversation that day eventually turned to the use of icebreakers. The group was fairly evenly split. Some love icebreakers, others don’t. There was passion on both sides of the argument. Eventually I asked the group if the use of icebreakers supported their goals of being respected and relevant.



Eventually someone said, “Only if the icebreaker supports the learning and is relevant to the group.” Finally the group was in agreement.

When we work with trainers and instructional designers, we encourage them to scrutinize everything. Every module, everything they do and say, every exercise and facilitated discussion needs to support their goals. If they don’t, they should be tossed out or restructured.

Making these changes is a difficult thing for people to do. It’s hard to let go of long-held beliefs, habits, and industry trends, but it’s a necessary thing.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Melt the Icebreakers Already

June 18, 2013 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

greg 200x300I have had the pleasure to present a session called “Engaging Learners in the Orderly Conversation” for several ASTD chapters this year. It’s designed for an audience of trainers and those who coach trainers and SMEs.

A common discussion that comes up during this session is around the use of icebreakers and energizers that our industry has become so fond of. (Just google “ASTD icebreakers” and you’ll see what I mean.)

Some people in our industry love them. Some don’t.

During the session I make the case that if we, as Workplace Learning & Performance Professionals, want to be respected, we need to value learners’ time. One way we can do that is to not waste it with silly and irrelevant icebreakers.

There’s one particularly awful icebreaker that I’ve suffered several times at conferences. People are to pair up and spend 10 seconds looking at each other. They are then told to turn away from each other and change 5 things about them. For example, move a ring to another finger, take off a jacket, and so on. Then they are instructed to turn back to each other and discover what has changed about their partner.

The point? Change is hard. And here’s the thing: we’re adults, we know change is hard. So how might we make that point quicker? I’d say something like “I think we can all agree that change is hard.”

I suppose I could agree that we need to lighten the mood once in a while. I could also agree that we need to energize learners from time to time. But, as a learner, if you ask me to do irrelevant and/or embarrassing things such as laughing yoga, sharing my favorite Christmas gift as a kid, tell you something unusual about myself, do jumping jacks while yelling “ha,” or recite a nursery rhyme multiple times using different voices and inflection, I may do what I’ve seen others do in these very common situations:

  • Sit there with my arms crossed
  • Roll my eyes
  • Check my phone
  • Walk out

I might also:

  • Question your judgment
  • Think twice before attending another session with you

So, what are better ways to lighten the mood, energize learners, and earn their respect?

  • Explain why they’re there, what they’ll learn, and how to apply it to their jobs. Do this first thing.
  • Acknowledge their knowledge and expertise. Remember: they are not blank slates.
  • Ask them to hold you accountable for not wasting their time.
  • Send them on a break.
  • Listen fearlessly to their ideas.
  • Connect dots.
  • Respect their differing points of view.
  • End early.

There’s always at least one person in each session who will defend their use of icebreakers by saying that they only choose ones that are relevant to the training content. OK, I’ll go along with that as long as the activity doesn’t waste time or make people feel awkward in front of their peers. Unfortunately, most of the ones I’ve seen don’t meet those criteria.

So, what are your thoughts? Are icebreakers ever OK with you? If so, tell us about them in the comments below.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Calling Things by their Proper Name

May 13, 2013 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation, Talent Development

greg 200x300“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” Confucius

I’ve heard this quote used in many contexts. I suppose that’s for good reason. What we call things matters.

For example, many types of communication are called “presentations,” and that’s caused a lot of trouble for business people.

A TED talk is very different from an industry conference breakout session, which is very different from a getting-work-done presentation to your team, which is very different from a sales presentation one might give sitting down across a desk to a single person. Unfortunately, each of these has been called a “presentation.”

To muck things up even more, our university system and the Learning & Development industry don’t differentiate. They use speechmaking rules and techniques when training for all types of presentations. As you may have read in The Orderly Conversation Blog before, it takes a very different set of skills to plan for and initiate these different types of communication events.

Add all the bad advice and chest thumping over PowerPoint (see this discussion on the ASTD LinkedIn Group) and we have a real mess on our hands.

So, what to do?

Here are my thoughts: Let’s agree to name the types of communication events we’re talking about. We’ll start by figuring out how formal they are and how much interaction is involved. Then we’ll figure out what skills and techniques are useful for each.

If it’s a one-way communication event without interaction from the audience and a rather high degree of formality, then it’s a speech or a lecture.

TED talks and keynotes fall into this category. While these events, in order to be effective, need to feel conversational, they actually aren’t because there’s no real dialogue taking place. The speaker does not react to the audience in a way that changes the course of the speech.

Learning to master speechmaking requires a certain type of training and rehearsal.

On the other hand, if it’s a two-way communication event with genuine interaction from the audience, it’s a presentation.

Most getting-business-done presentations fall into this category. They are, of course, prepared but because of their reactive nature, they also zig and zag in response to input from the audience.

Because of the conversational nature of these types of presentations they tend to be informal. The role of the presenter in these situations is similar to that of facilitator.

Learning to master these types of presentations requires a different set of skills. Rather than rehearsing to get it just right, presenters prepare to be flexible and responsive to the individuals in the audience.

The Beginning of Wisdom is to Call Things by their Proper Name
We’ve found it useful to take it one step further and define business presentations as Orderly Conversations. Orderly because they need to be carefully thought through and prepared. Conversations because they only succeed when a genuine dialogue takes place between speaker and audience. Once presenters are comfortable with both sides of the Orderly Conversation concept, their ability to manage the process is assured.

Dale Ludwig, Turpin’s founder, and I are in the process of finalizing our new book entitled “The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined.”

Our goal is to clear up the confusion so business presenters everywhere will gain a better understanding of what it takes to be an effective communicator.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Video: A Core Competency for Learning Professionals?

April 23, 2013 in Author, Find Your Focus Video, Greg Owen-Boger, Talent Development

greg 200x300“Producing didactic video is a skill that will be as important as designing workbooks that aid learning.”

I love this quote. It’s the first sentence in an article by Jonathan Halls on the ASTD website. Halls is right. Video in eLearning isn’t going away; and, as learning and performance professionals, we need to get better at producing it.

The challenge is that video has been expensive and always seemed a little mysterious. When I’ve spoken at industry events about this topic, I’ve seen that there are a lot of learning professionals hungry for help. The good news is that a lot of the new technology available to us makes it easier to produce effective video on a limited budget. We just need to get comfortable using it.

If you’re new to video and need to plan, shoot, edit or be on camera, here are some resources for you.

What other ideas do you have about producing eLearning video?

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communicationand co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Greg to present at the Greater Detroit ASTD chapter January meeting

January 11, 2013 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, News, Presentation

Join Greg Owen-Boger on January 16, 2013 at the Greater Detroit ASTD chapter January meeting in Troy, MI. Greg will be presenting Engaging Learners in the “Orderly Conversation” – Tried & True Techniques for Engaging Today’s Learner.

Program Summary:

As trainers, we need to stay relevant in today’s tough market and take responsibility for moving participants from ho-hum observers to engaged learners. But how?

One way is to conduct training sessions as if they are “orderly conversations.” An orderly conversation is one that is (a) carefully organized, well-designed and documented and (b) flexibly executed with lively participation and input from the entire group. When trainers and facilitators engage learners in this fashion, learners are more likely to invest in the learning outcome and apply what they’ve learned back on the job.

The tricky part is that we each thrive with one side or the other: the orderly or the conversational. In other words we each have a “default approach.” While the influence of a trainer’s default is felt throughout the process, it is often too subtle and unconscious to be noticed. This highly interactive session will help you explore what your default means for you and what you can do to manage it to your advantage in the classroom.

Participants will leave the session with:

  1. A clear understanding of what it means to conduct an orderly conversation.
  2. An understanding of their default approach and how they can capitalize on their strengths and improve their weaknesses.
  3. An action plan for moving learners from ho-hum observers to engaged and passionate learners.
  4. Learn new language for coaching SMEs.

Heart of Illinois ASTD: “Engaging Learners in the Orderly Conversation”

August 31, 2011 in Author, Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, News, Preparation, Training

August 31, 2011

greg 200x300Dear Workplace Learning Professionals at the Heart of Illinois ASTD chapter,

It was a real pleasure meeting you yesterday as we discussed “Engaging Learners in the Orderly Conversation” at your monthly lunch & learn. Thank you for participating in the lively discussion. I love seeing such passion from peers in the industry.

I was sad to have to turn the meeting back over to Dave Goranson, your chapter President. We could have continued talking for hours! (Or at least I could have.)

For those of you interested in the slides and handout, here they are. (They are very large files.)

My colleagues and I blog often here on The Orderly Conversation blog so feel free to join via the RSS feed.

We’re also very active on LinkedIn and Facebook, so I encourage you to look us up.

Thanks again. I look forward to our next orderly conversation.

Greg Owen-Boger

VP & Trainer, Turpin Communication

Find your focus. Be yourself.Only better.

O: 773-239-2523|M: 773-852-9688

What people are saying:

“Great presentation – very thought provoking in terms of balancing control versus encouragement”

“Outstanding in every way!”

Let’s Meet Up at ASTD International Conference & Exposition May 23-25 in Orlando

March 24, 2011 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, News, Preparation, Training

If you’re heading to Orlando for the American Society for Training and Development conference, let’s meet up. We’ll be in booth 1227.

ASTD Exhibitor, booth 1227

Want to check us out ahead of time? Don’t blame you. Our virtual tradeshow booth is here, and it contains all sorts of information about our presentation and facilitation skills training workshops.

Find out what we mean when we say:

“This is communication training. REDEFINED.”


Also, Dale Ludwig, Turpin’s Founder and President, will be speaking Wednesday, May 25. If you are a trainer, or a training manager, you won’t want to miss this exciting session.

Trainer, Know Thyself: Why Your Default Matters
Wednesday, May 25, 10:30am – 11:45am

In this session, you’ll take a fresh look at what it means to be a successful trainer. At the heart of every training session is the need to be organized, prepared, and on track. At the same time, trainers need to engage learners in a genuine, spontaneous conversation. In other words, there is a strong tension between your “orderly” training plan and your “conversational” delivery.

One way trainers balance this tension is to blend didactic instruction with group discussion and activities. But success lies in execution, and the best-laid combination of methods often falls out of balance because of your default—the way you personally respond to the tension between the orderly and the conversational. Your default is a measure of your comfort, habits, strengths, and weaknesses. Awareness of it explains why some trainers thrive by keeping things on track—planning, details, time management—while others thrive being spontaneous, engaging listeners and encouraging discussion. While the influence of your default is felt throughout the process, it is often unconscious and uncontrolled.

This session will help you explore the influence of your default and what you can do to manage it to your advantage in the classroom.

Dale Ludwig is the founder and president of Turpin Communication, a presentation and facilitation training company. Over the past 20 years he and his partners at Turpin have developed methodologies that challenge much of the conventional wisdom in the field. Working with presenters, facilitators and trainers, Turpin’s work (1) focuses on the orderly conversation that must take place in today’s business environment, (2) acknowledges the default approach that every presenter and facilitator brings to that process and (3) helps communicators develop the skills they need to engage listeners in a productive interaction. Dale has a PhD in Communication from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

773-445-8855  |

Visit Us at ASTD International Conference & Exposition, BOOTH 732

May 3, 2010 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Mary Clare Healy, News, Preparation, Sarah Stocker, Training

It’s official.  Turpin will be exhibiting at ASTD International Conference & Exposition May 17 – 19 in Chicago.

Bring a copy of this blog entry to booth 732 and receive FREE access to our online Comprehensive Presentation Skills Course.  ($399 value)

Having attended the conference before, we fully understand the value it can bring to an organization.  Whether you’re there to attend seminars, participate in one of the certificate programs, network with other professionals in the field or learn more about training providers, the conference has something for everyone.

This year we decided it was time to set up an exhibit and introduce our Presentation & Facilitation Skills Training (both our live workshops and our new online courses) to a broader audience.  That’s where we hope you come in.  We’d love to meet you and explain what we mean when we say:

Turpin is Not Your Average Presentation Skills Training Company

Oh, it’s true we train people to be better presenters and group facilitators.

However, unlike others in the field, we have a fluid definition of what it means to present and facilitate.  We understand that presentations involve discussions that require a facilitator’s skill, and group facilitators can only succeed when they are comfortable in their role as presenter and leader.  At the heart of the presentation and facilitation process is what we call the “orderly conversation.”  By defining the process in this way, we’re able to embrace the tension that exists within every business presentation and discussion—the tension between the need to be orderly (clear goal and careful structure) as well as conversational (unpredictable and spontaneous).

Defining business communication as orderly conversations allows the skills learned to be applied to a variety of other business situations including sales meetings, project status meetings, performance management conversations, elevator speeches, brainstorming sessions, training and so on.

How can we work together to help your employees manage the give and take of their orderly conversations?  Give us a call, email or visit us at booth 732 to get the conversation started.

773-239-2523  ||

One more thought… Are We a Good Fit For You?  Let’s Find Out.

One of the best ways to know whether a training vendor is a good fit for your organization is to participate in one of their workshops.  That’s why we’re giving away full-access versions of our online Comprehensive Presentation Skills Training Course.  We’re sure that once you see how we approach Presentation Skills Training, you’ll recognize the value in partnering with us to develop your employees’ communication skills.  Print out this page and bring it to us to receive your free course.  (By the way, that free session is a $399 value.)

Visit our Virtual Tradeshow Booth at