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”

Setting Up Training Exercises: Be Clear and Specific

May 7, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Training

Last week, Greg and I were teaching a workshop for a group of Subject Matter Experts getting ready to deliver training to people new in their roles. It’s one of my favorite types of classes to teach because the challenges for an SME/trainer are so clear.

During the last segment of the workshop we were practicing how to set up the exercises that are part of the training the SMEs are delivering. These exercises were relatively simple things: round table discussions about a particular topic or maybe practice applying new information in a real-world situation. Pretty typical stuff.

One of the main points that Greg and I were trying to get across is that trainers have to be very clear and specific when telling learners what to do during an exercise. Something as simple as “Group 2 should work with Group 1 on this exercise” can cause a major disruption when people stand up and struggle to figure out where they should go, what they should take with them, how long they should work and what their goal should be.

Then Greg said something that I thought was really insightful. He said,

When I was fresh out of school, I directed children’s theatre. The type of theatre where the kids are the actors. When I was giving directions I was taught to say, “All right now, everyone look at me. (pause and wait until they do) Now, when I say ‘go’ and not before, I want all the boys to go over by the piano and stand in a group facing me. (pause to let that sink in.) All of the girls should go over to the table and stand in a group facing me. (pause to let that sink in) OK… go.”

Greg acknowledged that the SMEs weren’t teaching children, of course, but the same level of clarity about what people should do and when they should do it can be applied in every training situation.

The take away was the SMEs should always anticipate confusion and do their best to avoid it by:

  • Standing still when delivering directions because it’s easier to get and keep every person’s attention that way.
  • Delivering directions before asking learners to do anything. If you’re asking people to move across the room, don’t get them on their feet and expect them to stay focused on what you’re saying.
  • Keeping in mind that adults are out of practice when following very simple directions, especially when they’re in groups. Kids, because they do it every day in school, are much better at it. Adults require more patience.

So the next time you’re setting up an exercise or asking a group of people to carry out a simple task, borrow some of the techniques that people working with children use all the time.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication