Your Presentation Is Not An M. Night Shyamalan Movie

January 3, 2017 in Author, Barbara Egel, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation

Your presentations key point shouldn't be a mysterySometimes, we get a little too excited about the material we’re presenting. In those moments, when the sales data is good beyond all expectations, the research findings uncovered lots of opportunities for growth, or the team has come up with the perfect solution to a client’s problem, the impulse is to build the story for maximum dramatic impact and present our big, climactic TA-DAAA! at the end. This is what a writer might do in a novel or story.

The problem with this approach is that your audience isn’t reading—where they can flip back to earlier pages or chapters and take notes—they’re listening to get business done. Therefore, suspense is not a great technique. Starting with the details and building to your conclusion is not only emotionally unsatisfying for your listeners, it also risks losing their attention or confusing them. You’re asking them to keep the facts straight as you gradually make the connections for them.

Instead, right after your introduction, start with your key point—the big a-ha, the jewel in the crown. This way, not only will listeners be emotionally satisfied right away, they will be eager to hear how you reached that conclusion. The support points will flow from your key point in a logical and easy-to-follow fashion.

So for your next presentation, save the suspense and make understanding as easy as possible for your listeners.

By Barbara Egel, Presentation Coach at Turpin Communication and editor of “The Orderly Conversation.”

Turpin Communication’s Culture – What We Stand For

November 29, 2016 in Author, Barbara Egel, Dale Ludwig, Greg Owen-Boger, Mary Clare Healy, News, Posts for Buyers, Sarah Stocker, Turpin’s Culture

Two recent events triggered the Turpin Team to discuss our culture, values, and generally what we, as an organization, stand for. It’s not that we don’t know who we are. We do. We live our values every day, but we never actually wrote them down … until now.

The Two Recent Events

  1. Greg Owen-Boger, VP Turpin CommunicationDale (Turpin’s Founder) and I attended an ATD regional conference in Chicago. Chris Yates, Chief Learning Officer at Caterpillar and coauthor of Rewire: A Radical Approach to Tackling Diversity and Difference, delivered the closing keynote. His message focuses on the notion that in order to achieve sustainable positive growth, leaders need to create a culture of openness, empathy and inclusion – which in turn enables corporate strategy and drives innovation. He also argues that living a culture of inclusion is simply the right thing to do. We agree.
  2. Dale and I were in a meeting with a new buyer. We’ve had a long-standing relationship with this organization for well over a decade, and this particular person had recently moved into a position to purchase our services. It was a lively get-to-know-you meeting. We’d been talking for about an hour when she asked the question. “What is Turpin’s culture?” As it happened, neither Dale nor I could answer this question very well. In that moment, we couldn’t find the words. All we could do was tell a few stories about how we encourage everyone to bring their most genuine, thoughtful, curious self to the work that we do. The client seemed satisfied, but we should have been able to address the question more directly.

These two events have made it clear to us that we should probably figure this out. It’s important to the company and our growth strategy, it’s important to us as individuals, and it’s also important to our clients.

Culture is More than Brand

In our workshops, we talk about how communication, both internal and external, can have an impact on both the individual’s brand as well as the organization’s. For example, if an organization wants to be perceived as highly professional and inclusive, its employees must communicate in a way that supports that brand promise. Dale and I discussed making our own list to describe how we want Turpin to be perceived, but that didn’t seem right. It seemed too top down and, frankly, that’s not who we are.

Turpin’s Culture as Described by Team Members

I shared our client’s culture question with Sarah Stocker, who is one of our Coaches and our Workshop Coordinator. She was able to answer immediately. That shouldn’t be surprising, I guess, since Sarah has been with us for eleven years.

That conversation with Sarah sparked an idea. Why not ask our team members to answer the question, “What is Turpin’s Culture?” So that’s what we did. After they submitted their thoughts, Dale wrote a piece in response. His take on our culture, which I completely embrace, is below. Sarah’s response is next, followed by submissions from other team members.

We hope you enjoy hearing from our amazing, and fiercely loyal team members.


Dale Ludwig, President of Turpin CommunicationDale Ludwig (President of Turpin Communication, Founded in 1992)

After hearing Chris Yates speak at the conference Greg mentioned, I read Rewire: A Radical Approach to Tackling Diversity and Difference. He and his coauthor, Pooja Sachdev, have written a great book. They build a strong case for diversity and inclusion without sugarcoating the personal responsibility each of us must take toward it. Here’s how they put it.

We need to purposely create a culture of equality, respect and inclusion, where our differences are not seen as a problem but as a competitive advantage: a quality that can be leveraged to enhance decision-making, problem-solving, creativity and innovation … It starts with a strong set of values.

As I read this book, I found myself tying what the authors said back to the work we do with our clients. We cannot deliver a successful workshop without creating a safe environment for each individual in it. In every class, we ask learners to be vulnerable. We ask them to try, possibly fail, and try again. We understand the commitment—sometimes the courage—that takes, and we do not take it lightly. To borrow from Yates and Sachdev, then:

We need to purposely create a learning environment of equality, respect and inclusion, where our differences are not seen as a problem but as a learning advantage … It starts with a strong set of values.

Based on what we heard from the Turpin team members, here is a list of our values.

We are committed to delivering the highest quality communication skills training and consulting in the industry. Our goal is to help people get business done as efficiently and effectively as possible. We do this by casting aside traditional thinking about business communication, building a new foundation, and focusing on results for each learner.

To reach our quality goal, our work must take place in a training environment that is safe and inclusive. While in the classroom, everyone must be free to be themselves, to ask questions, to fail and try again without judgment. Every learner has the right to be heard and understood. They deserve our respect and empathy.

When we create a safe, inclusive, respectful, and results oriented learning environment, we earn the trust of each learner and the right to ask them to change and grow. Without their trust, we cannot succeed.

Everything we do is fueled by the passion we feel for our work. We care about our clients’ success and the work they do. We are curious and deeply committed to placing what we do within the context of every learner’s work environment.

As you can see from other Turpin team members, below, the culture we create in the training room shapes how we work together every day.

Sarah Stocker, Coach and Workshop Coordinator at Turpin CommunicationSarah Stocker (Coach and Workshop Coordinator, team member since 2005)

When Greg told me about the struggle to define Turpin’s culture, my mind went immediately to our tagline: “Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better.” I was part of the brainstorming session that produced this tagline many years ago. I like it because it rings true for two reasons. First, it’s what we try to achieve with our workshop participants and, second, it’s who we are as a company. We help those around us grow and be the best version of themselves when communicating at work. We do the same for each other.

When I talk about Turpin with my friends or family, I always describe it as the healthiest environment I’ve ever worked in. What makes it so healthy?

  • We work collaboratively. Everyone’s opinion is heard and respected. We have our own roles and hierarchy, but leadership recognizes the value that comes from mining ideas from the group.
  • We love diversity. We recognize that we all have our own perspective and preferred way of doing things. Instead of being threatened by differing opinions, we embrace them. We know that incorporating different perspectives can only make us stronger, as individuals and as a company.
  • We are transparent. There are no secrets within the company. There is trust between colleagues and leadership, and we all want what’s best for the company.
  • We recognize our strengths and our weaknesses without ego or shame. When any of us makes a mistake, we own it. We freely admit it and focus on how to solve it going forward. And no one shames you for it.
  • We are passionate, authentic, and empathetic. We are always striving to do better and to find new ways of serving our clients. At the same time, we stay true to ourselves and to what we do best. We genuinely care about each other and the workshop participants we are trying to help. We insist on keeping our training rooms a safe place where everyone can embrace their strengths and work against their weaknesses without embarrassment. Both internally and in our workshops, we build each other up so we can be our best selves.

What’s really interesting to me is that without consciously making this our goal, our culture is fully entrenched in everything we do as a company. If you were to attend a staff meeting or one of our workshops, you would see all of the values above at work. And that makes me proud to be a part of Turpin Communication. 

Dana Peters (Director of Sales, team member since 2013)

I thrive here because the “Turpin way” is an excellent fit for how I work. At this point in my career, I choose to only invest my time and talent in an environment where:

  • My contribution is valued and my opinion matters.
  • The behavior of the smart people around me matches the words that are spoken.
  • Doing things right and delivering a high quality product for clients is important and at the heart of everything.
  • Taking the time to understand what the client needs and building relationships is valued.
  • Fair and ethical business practices are a given and non-negotiable.
  • Everyone on the team is charged with a job and a set of responsibilities and then allowed to do what they need to do to get the work done. Micromanaging isn’t present, trust is.
  • I am involved, free to ask questions and communicate thoughts without having to choose my words.
  • A little respectful debate is welcome.
  • My commitment to my family and other things that are important to me are valued, respected, and never questioned; rather, they are encouraged and celebrated.

All of this adds up to an atmosphere in which I can contribute fully and effectively.

Mary Clare Healy, Facilitator and Coach at Turpin CommunicationMary Clare Healy (Facilitator and Coach, team member since 1996)

It has been so fun to think about this! For me, Turpin’s culture rests on three pillars, which provide the foundation for Turpin’s approach to client engagement and internal decision-making.

  1. Passion. Turpin facilitators not only enjoy what they do, they enjoy doing it together. And it shows. This is reflected in each encounter and every step of the process. It’s clear that for the Turpin team it’s not just a job, or about checking a box; rather, it’s about unleashing the best in each individual.
  2. Respect. The facilitative approach allows Turpin to dig deep to get to know our clients and each of the individuals involved with a particular project. We demonstrate respect and have earnest curiosity, which allows us to learn about what each person does and how they do it so that we can help them improve.
  3. Commitment to results. Turpin understands that there’s a bottom-line reason for clients to seek our services. It is this understanding that results in a pragmatic approach with no fluff or filler. The training programs are all about successfully reaching the goals that have been set.

These three observable behaviors are modeled by leadership as well as everyone within the Turpin organization.

Barbara Egel, Coach at Turpin CommunicationBarbara Egel (Facilitator, Coach, and Account Manager, team member since 2014)

For me, Turpin’s central idea is “keep it simple.” Every course we teach has this as a cardinal rule.

This approach also extends beyond the training room. Conversations about internal issues often ripple out in several directions, but all of us know the ultimate goal is to arrive at one targeted, even elegant, solution. Externally, I think clients feel this as well. By keeping it simple, we are able to fit in with a variety of corporate cultures, adjust to constraints that may be less than ideal, and fold in whatever is going on in the moment: an acquisition, a firing, a product launch, or just a bad day. We are not a day or two’s distraction taking up the conference room; we are a part of the client’s team ready to do our part in helping them meet their goals.

We also keep it genuine. The people you see at the front of the training room or in the coaching room are who we are 24/7. There are no wacky personas, no fake enthusiasms. For me, this is a huge aspect of building trust, and trust is key to learning, especially with emotionally-fraught tasks such as a business presentation. Similarly, having known Dale and Greg for decades, I can attest that who they are as my Turpin bosses reflects their real values, beliefs, and hopes, and this is the reason I trust them completely. It’s also the reason that if I have an idea to make something better, I offer it, knowing they will listen, consider, and respond appropriately.

In sum, a company built on a foundation of simplicity, effectiveness, and authenticity is one that doesn’t have to worry about juggling its image or covering its, um, assets. It’s also a philosophy immune to the influence of the latest corporate trends because it is beyond trend. The essence of Turpin today will be the essence of Turpin twenty years from now, and it will still seem revolutionary then.

Milena Palandech (Facilitator and Coach, team member since 2011)

Before Turpin Communication was founded, Dale Ludwig was a colleague, a mentor, and a dear friend. I admired Dale greatly (still do) because he cared deeply about the learners that participated in his training programs. Dale was different than most of my former colleagues. Far too many trainers I knew were focused on entertaining their learners and performing for higher class scores. Dale’s sole concern was the learner and helping each of them reach their goals. He didn’t need to shine. He simply wanted the learner to shine.

That selfless determination and focus – doing what is necessary to help Turpin’s clients and their client’s employees shine – has become a foundational principle at Turpin Communication. Dale and Greg have created an organization that is truly committed to helping people “be themselves … only better.” They ensure that the classroom environment for Turpin programs is a safe place where learners will be encouraged and challenged. They consistently draw out the very best in people.

Blaine Rada (Facilitator and Coach, team member since 2015)

I find what Turpin values to be unique and refreshing. In the crowded marketplace of communication skills training, Turpin doesn’t just provide a template for how to be a better communicator, but rather a personalized approach with the goal of helping people find and leverage their unique strengths. Their approach is challenging yet encouraging, respecting the dignity of each individual while focused on producing results.

Kevin Vogelsang (Operations Manager, team member since October 2016)

I’ve only been a member of Turpin Communication for a brief time. However, the feelings inspired during this time and the interactions I’ve experienced have had quite an impact, and have very much fortified my own beliefs and convictions.

I was a math major, and I have substantial anxiety when it comes to speaking. This made the prospect of an interview with Greg and Dale (two individuals with decades of experience in all manner of communication) more than a little daunting. Meeting them was such a pleasant experience though. The atmosphere during the interview was so welcoming that I felt immediately comfortable despite my previous dread and anxiety. It became immediately clear: I would be lucky to work for this company. To find a job anywhere else with similar openness and warmth would be nearly impossible.

As part of my training, I observed a presentation workshop. It was an excellent experience. I was barely involved in the process, yet I was blown away by everything that occurred. I felt connected to the participants, and I was engrossed as they practiced their presentations, improving from one attempt to the next. Dale and Greg created an environment where everybody cared about each other and their success.

After just two months of actually working for Turpin, it has been made clear that my initial perception of the company was correct. The team is genuinely caring and empathetic of each other and the clients. I am thankful to work in this type of environment, which is essential for my own personal happiness and well-being.

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

“The Patience for Clarity:” Slow Down to be More Effective

April 25, 2016 in Barbara Egel, Delivery, Meetings, Nervousness, Presentation

barbara_egel_132_BWIn a recent workshop, I coached a learner who was a really strong presenter from the start. She was particularly good at articulating how she wanted to be perceived by her listeners and what she needed to work on to improve. Her main issue was speed. She was excited about her topic, which is great, but that excitement caused her speaking pace to rev up to the point where she could be hard to follow.

She described what she needed to achieve as having “the patience for clarity.” That is, she herself needed to be patient and composed enough to slow down and be clear, to rein in her excitement and use it to power a well-paced presentation.

This got me thinking about audience focus and our own insecurities. So often, when delivering introduction slides, people use phrases such as, “Then I will quickly explain the new initiative,” or “I’ll take just a few minutes to describe our findings.” Why is everyone in such a rush? I have a few thoughts for you to consider, some related to managing the Orderly Conversation and some more psychological.

  • People who are more junior seem insecure about the idea that they’ve earned their time in front of that audience, so they want to whip through their presentations as quickly as possible. As our smart learner figured out, this results in the audience getting lost or falling behind in their understanding of the material. This leads to presenters wasting audiences’ time rather than conserving it because they haven’t gotten what they need from it. You have earned your place at the front of the room; keep it by being clear and measured.[Tweet “You have earned your place at the front of the room; keep it by being clear and measured.”]
  • A lot of presenters are afraid of not making it to the end—of not getting through all their material, either because they themselves get distracted or because they know they will get interrupted with lots of questions or discussion.
    • First of all, quite simply, some portion of questions will be about clarifying or re-explaining things you’ve already said, and the faster you speak, the more likely it is that people will need such clarification. Having “the patience for clarity” to begin with just might result in fewer clarifying questions.
    • Creating a solid outline and introduction for your presentation gives you a strong sense of the whole. Thus, if you do start feeling pressed for time, you can still deliver everything you need to, just with less detail.
    • Learn to trust your slides and the level of detail you have built in. If you find yourself padding your presentation with more detail than you need, stop and move on.
    • Learning to manage the give-and-take of discussion will allow you to get through what you and your listeners need without rushing.
  • Nerves can cause some people to speed up. Pausing to breathe is your best friend when this happens. Not only does a good hit of oxygen relax you, but taking a moment to pause will slow down your speech overall. Pausing after each slide or thought also gives your audience an opportunity to take in and process what you just said.
  • Speeding up too much causes some presenters to lose crisp diction, so listeners literally don’t understand what’s being said. Slowing down helps enunciation, which allows listeners to take in all your valuable content.

Of course we sometimes have learners who need to speed up or who seem like low-energy presenters, but more often than not, we have to slow down the speed demons. Remember, you have earned the opportunity to present so make it as easy as possible for your audience to listen and understand by taking your time up there.

By Barbara Egel, Presentation Coach at Turpin Communication and editor of “The Orderly Conversation.”

Taking Time is a Sign of Respect

March 22, 2016 in Barbara Egel, Delivery, Presentation

In our business presentation workshops, we sometimes do an exercise in which we stretch the length of a pause—way beyond what would ever be comfortable or necessary—in order to show our learners how pausing helps eliminate a variety of presentation habits they want to avoid. We also teach people that in a presentation or meeting setting, after they’ve been asked a question, they should pause to think about the best answer, taking into account the whole presentation, the entire audience’s need, and the level of detail the question requires in the present circumstances.

Later, in the coaching room, when I’m one-on-one with our learners, I often hear, “But if I pause too long, I feel like I’m wasting my audience’s time.” My reply to that is this: You owe your audience the highest quality response you can give, and if that means taking a couple of seconds to ponder what that should be, your audience gets it. If you watch presentations or talks given by powerful people, there’s often a lot of silence. Some of this may be for dramatic effect, sure, but some is definitely the speaker taking time to formulate their next thought to guarantee that it’s the highest quality content they can offer.

[Tweet “When answering questions, there is something inherently respectful…in taking a moment to think”]

When answering questions, there is something inherently respectful—almost complimentary to the questioner—in taking a moment to think. It signals that you take the question seriously, that you’re not delivering a canned answer, and that you listened to the question all the way to the end.

Remember, if you’ve been given 15 or 30 or 120 minutes to present, you own that time, and it’s up to you to use it as efficiently and effectively as you can. Sometimes, that means giving yourself a moment in order to give your audience the best you’ve got.

By Barbara Egel, Presentation Coach at Turpin Communication and editor of “The Orderly Conversation.”

Science Says Eye Contact is Crucial

February 1, 2016 in Barbara Egel, Delivery, Facilitation, Meetings, Myths Debunked, Presentation

barbara_egel_132_BWThe January/February issue of Scientific American MIND (may require a subscription) has a whole spread (pp 8-9) on eye contact: how long is effective, how it affects us physiologically, and how it works in conversation. I’m happy to report that the science backs up what we at Turpin Communication have been teaching for years in our presentation skills workshops. Scientist Alan Johnson notes, “Gaze conveys that you are an object of interest, and interest is linked to intention.” Can you see how this kind of interest draws your audience into participating in your presentation? And can you see why tips like, “look at the tops of their heads,” is not nearly as effective? [Tweet “”I’m happy to report that the science backs up what we have been teaching.” #eyecontact”]

Engagement with your audience is the key factor in ensuring that they trust you, that they pay attention, and that you pick up signals when they are confused, questioning, or enthusiastic. Tom Foulsham, another of the scientists cited, talks about “this kind of dance people do” as they exchange eye contact in conversations. I would extend that metaphor to say that if you are the presenter, you are the lead dancer, and the more deftly you manage the conversation through eye contact, the more your audience will follow your lead. [Tweet “”Engagement with your audience is the key factor in ensuring that they trust you.” #presentations”]

Check out what Dale Ludwig, Turpin’s President and Founder, and the Minnesota State Senate have to say about eye contact.

By Barbara Egel, Presentation Coach at Turpin Communication and editor of “The Orderly Conversation.”

Fewer Slides ≠ More Efficient Presentation

December 1, 2015 in Barbara Egel, Delivery, Myths Debunked, Preparation, Presentation, Uncategorized

slideshowAmong many of our learners, there is a persistent belief that the number of slides in one’s presentation is somehow related to the amount of time the presentation will take. While there is some connection when it comes to big differences (a 600 slide deck will probably take longer to present than a 6 slide deck), an additional three or four slides—or even ten or fifteen slides—may not actually have an effect on the time it takes to present. In fact, having too few slides can make presentations less efficient.

A few examples will illustrate what I mean:

  • SITUATION: A slide includes a pie chart, two tables, and a list of bullets. First of all, the presenter may have difficulty remembering the story she wants to tell with such a busy slide. She may start in the wrong place, spend too much time talking about tangential issues, or have a hard time thinking of a way to wrap up the slide and articulate its implications. Further, a slide that busy is going to be frustrating for her audience to read and take in.
    SOLUTION: Focus on the elements that tell a specific story. Perhaps the pie chart and the bullets that relate to it make one key point. The tables can be on a separate slide (or two) because they tell a different part of the story.


  • SITUATION: After presenting the data, a presenter concludes with one slide with bulleted lists of positive and negative outcomes. While the presenter focuses on the positive, audience members read the negative list. The presenter’s point is missed because people are caught up in their emotional reaction to the negatives.
    SOLUTION: If there are slides that are likely to generate strong emotional responses, put each emotion on one slide. That way, you can shape the story of each to make sure you are heard and that the degrees of positivity and negativity are interpreted appropriately.


  • SITUATION: There are three key insights that came out of recent research, so the presenter puts all three on a bulleted list. But there are lots of subpoints for each of them, so the slide gets very busy and wordy. The audience not only starts reading ahead, but starts a discussion of Insight #3 when the presenter hasn’t finished everything he has to say about Insight #1.
    SOLUTION: Just because you have a list doesn’t mean it all has to go on the same slide. Consider a sort of mini-agenda slide that gives the list broadly in just a few words. Then each point can get its own slide on which all the nuances and subpoints are outlined. This is not only easier for the audience to take in, but also much more manageable and efficient for the speaker.


  • SITUATION: A complicated new process is being taught to IT teams. The steps of the process are outlined on the slides fairly well, but the presentation goes right from one step to the next without any recap. People are asking questions about parts of the process from four slides back because they didn’t even realize they were confused.
    SOLUTION: Adding a summary slide after each step that recaps what was just said in a simple, memorable way will a) make sure everyone is on the same page, and b) signal to anyone who has questions that now is the time to ask before the presentation moves on.

These are just a few examples of the kind of thinking you should be engaging in as you create your slides. Making a presentation efficient comes from making your slides easy to deliver and easy for your audience to follow and remember.

[Tweet “Having too few slides can make presentations less efficient.”]

By Barbara Egel, Presentation Coach at Turpin Communication and editor of “The Orderly Conversation.”

No Acting Please: 3 Key Ways To Be An Effective Presenter Without “Performing”

October 6, 2015 in Barbara Egel, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Practice Does Not Make Perfect, Presentation, Uncategorized

Any number of books and articles about business presentations focus on skills and outcomes that really belong to the world of theater. Such resources may tell you that you need to be entertaining, invent a presentation persona, or use acting techniques to jazz up your presentation. For example, they may tell you to rehearse when and how you Slide1gesture or move, to pause for emphasis after a particularly pithy statement, or to script your presentation and perfect the line readings.

Frankly, I don’t get it. If you are an engineer, an accountant, an IT person, a marketer, that’s what you chose to do in life. If you had wanted to be an actor, you’d be acting.

[Tweet “Extraneous “acting” techniques pull focus from Effective Presentations. #business #presentation”]

Many of us at Turpin come from theater backgrounds, either as professionals or as serious amateurs. For that reason, we know how hard acting can be, and we certainly know that it’s not for everyone. In fact, distracting yourself with acting exercises takes time, energy, and brain power away from the three things you should really focus on:

  1. Engaging with your audience as your authentic, expert self
  2. Delivering your content clearly with a comfortable level of flexibility
  3. Managing the conversation and questions that are a key aspect of business presentations

Thinking about maintaining an artificial persona or worrying about whether or not you are entertaining distracts from those three key goals. And if you are already a nervous presenter, feeling you need to be “on” in a way that isn’t natural to you will definitely not help with those nerves.

[Tweet “Forget “performing” and engage your audience in conversation. #BusinessPresentationsRedefined”]

And frankly, bad acting is a lot worse than no acting. If you feel you come across as stiff or expressionless when presenting, the key is to free yourself of extraneous concerns and engage your audience in a conversation. Adding the pressure of performance will only add pressure, not ensure success.

By Barbara Egel, Presentation Coach at Turpin Communication and editor of “The Orderly Conversation.”

It’s Not That You Made a Mistake, It’s How You Recover

August 27, 2015 in Barbara Egel, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Practice Does Not Make Perfect, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Uncategorized

Recently, I had an opportunity to observe Greg coaching a very Type-A businessperson. In her one-on-one session, the question arose of how to deal with mistakes. During her in-class presentation delivery, she had experienced a brain blip and given an amount in thousands when she meant hundred-thousands. She had stopped, smiled, and said something like, “Well that would be a surprise, wouldn’t it?” corrected the number, and moved on. Greg complimented her on the save, saying, “Your professionalism comes out in your recovery from a flub, not in the fact that it happened.”

That is, the most effective business presenters are so engaged with their audiences and have constructed slides that work so well for them that if they trip over their tongues, get lost for a moment, or even say the opposite of what they really mean, they can recover smoothly and easily.

Well then how do you get to this point? One of the things we talk about a lot is the difference between speeches and presentations. Speeches are formal, scripted, read verbatim, and don’t involve audience interaction until the end (if then) with moderated Q&A. Business presentations are orderly conversations designed to move the work at hand forward. They also have different best practices for preparation: for speeches, you rehearse; for business presentations, you prepare and practice.

  • Rehearsal is designed to get you letter-perfect for your speech. You might think about where to pause, how to gesture, and what kinds of vocal inflection you want to use, like an actor preparing for a role.
  • Business presentations require you to . . .
    • Prepare your material in a way that it helps you engage and stay on track and helps your audience follow, learn, and understand.
    • Practice so you have a sense of the overall flow, adapt to who will be in the room, and get yourself comfortable with the goals of the presentation overall.


A flub in a rehearsed speech is hard to recover from for all but the most experienced because a speech is inflexible and not designed for interruption, recap, or clarification. Therefore, a flub comes out looking like—a flub.

In a business presentation, you have prepared to be flexible—you know your stuff and you also know that you’ve created your materials to help you stay on track—so a flub is just one of the many things that can happen to which you respond in the moment, stay engaged with your audience, and move on. If it’s a big flub, they’ll smile with you and be impressed with your ability to recover and move on. If it’s a small thing, and most flubs are, they probably won’t notice at all.

If you find that you’ve said “accounts payable” when you mean “receivable” or Thailand when you meant Taiwan, correct and keep moving forward. Your audience will only remember that you were smooth in your self-correction, didn’t lose focus, and kept the whole room moving forward and making progress.

By Barbara Egel, Presentation Coach at Turpin Communication and editor of “The Orderly Conversation”

4 Reasons to Break Annoying Presentation Habits BEFORE You Present

August 19, 2015 in Barbara Egel, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation

Often, our learners walk into Turpin workshops expecting to focus on the little habits that are hard to break: saying “um,” “uh,” “like,” or “you know” too much; using uptalk (that habit that makes every statement sound like a question); fidgeting/not standing still; keeping hands in pockets; making a particular face or gesture. Our response is to say that when you are truly engaged and practicing both good, meaningful eye contact and thoughtful pausing, those habits tend to fall away. And most importantly, when you are presenting in a real work situation, we want you focused on engagement and explaining and discussing your content, not being distracted by concerns about goofy little habits.

However, if you’re someone in whom the habits are clearly really ingrained or you want to work on your particular habit just to make sure it goes away, I advise that you work on it in your real-life, low-stakes conversations. This has several benefits:

[Tweet “Work on little, annoying habits in your real-life, low-stakes conversations.”]

  1. If you truly do work on your habits in normal conversations at work and at home, by the time your next VersB Chalkboardpresentation rolls around, the problem will be gone or at least seriously diminished.
  2. It will keep you from fixating on negative observations about yourself during your presentation, which is a guaranteed way to disengage from your audience and end up spinning inside your own head. That spinning kills your effectiveness much more certainly than any amount of uptalk or “like” ever could.
  3. Working on these things when talking with your friends or discussing work with colleagues informally is a safe way to improve your presentations when the stakes are low.
  4. You will be perceived by everyone you encounter as more adult, more authoritative, and more credible once your speech and stance have been permanently rid of these habits. A side benefit is that it works wonders with the cable guy, your significant other’s parents, and snooty restaurant hosts.

[Tweet “You will be perceived as more adult, more authoritative, and more credible.”]

In short, if there’s a presentation habit that’s driving you nuts, bring it out of the presentation space to work on in your day-to-day life so that by the time you’re in front of an audience, you, like, um, totally trust yourself to be on top of those habits, right?

By Barbara Egel, Presentation Coach at Turpin Communication and editor of “The Orderly Conversation”

When You Didn’t Make the Slides You’re Delivering

August 7, 2015 in Barbara Egel, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Improving Your Visual Aids, Organizing Your Content, Preparation, Presentation

Sometimes in workshops, we discover that our learners are working with slides or whole decks they didn’t create, and some of these slides are not only unnatural to deliver but also confusing in their layout, organization, or even in the information they include. If you’re confused by a slide, your audience is not going to get much from it either.

[Tweet “If you’re confused by a slide, your audience is not going to get much from it either.”]

How, then, do you get past both the informational confusion and the delivery challenges to make that slide as natural a part of your deck as the slides you made yourself?

We have a few suggestions. We talk about The Orderly Conversation succeeding on two levels: the business goal (make the sale, get buy-in, teach the process, etc.) and the process goal (earn trust, make it easy, manage the conversation).

Presentations Succeed on Two Levels

Similarly, we can talk about slide delivery working on two levels.

Effective Slide Delivery Requires Two Levels of Thinking


  • The first is the obvious content goal: understanding the data, knowing how conclusions were reached, believing in recommendations.
  • The second is the design and delivery goal: understanding why a slide is laid out the way it is, what key message it’s intended to communicate, and how it fits within the larger goals of the presentation as a whole.

Sitting at your desk, you can usually figure out the first goal, and if it comes from higher up in the company, you trust the data to be reliable and true. However, your ability to deliver the slide depends on your understanding of the second goal. How did the person who created the slide intend for it to be delivered? Were they even thinking in terms of intent?

[Tweet “How did the person who created the slide intend for it to be delivered?”]

If you can, try to talk with that person. To really understand their slides, ask the following questions.

  • “Help me understand what the intended takeaway is for this slide. What should the audience learn or believe after it’s delivered?”
  • “How does this presentation of the data support that takeaway?”
  • If the slide has more on it than you think is needed to make its point, “How did you intend for this [graph/chart/text box] to feed into the point you’re making?”
  • “How does this slide fit with the one before it and the one that comes after it?”
  • “How can we rewrite slide titles to clarify the main point of this slide in the context of the deck?”
  • Finally, if they’re not understanding your questions, or if you are still unclear, “Could you run through this slide (or couple of slides) as if you were delivering it to my intended audience?”

This should help you understand the slide design and how it fits with the goals of the presentation overall. It’s also possible that your questions could lead to a reconsideration and even a redesign of the slides in order to help you—and your audience—get the most out of them.

By Barbara Egel, Presentation Coach at Turpin Communication and editor of “The Orderly Conversation”