9 Habits of Highly Effective Business Presenters

February 17, 2014 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation

A friend and fellow CCASTD board member sent this article to me, 9 Habits of Highly Effective Speakers, and asked what I thought.

If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, here is a snapshot of the nine “habits.”

  1. They are authentic.
  2. They choose phrases carefully.
  3. They keep it short.
  4. They rewrite. And they rewrite some more.
  5. They build rapport.
  6. They tell stories.
  7. They organize.
  8. They practice.
  9. They learn from the masters.

These 9 ideas are terrific if (and this is a BIG IF) you are delivering a speech. The author of this piece is definitely talking about speeches. He says so right at the beginning of the piece. He mentions graduation addresses, TED talks, and the State of the Union.

Those are perfectly reasonable types of speeches to study. But when was the last time you actually delivered a speech?

It’s important not to confuse speechmaking with business presenting.

They are two very different forms of communication. Unfortunately, too many times they are lumped together, which is one of the reasons professionals struggle so mightily with their business presentations. They require a different set of skills and techniques. Speeches are written and read (or perhaps memorized) whereas presentations are initiated and facilitated.

They are also judged on different scales. Speeches are successful when they are well crafted. Business presentations are successful when they get business done in an efficient manner.

If you go back and look at the nine habits, they could be substituted as advice for writers. Again, good advice for speechmakers. Not so good for presenters.

You need something better.

So, here is our list.

9 Habits of Highly Effective Business Presenters:

  1. Engage your listeners in a conversation, don’t deliver a performance.
  2. Keep it about them, not about you.
  3. Speak spontaneously within the framework of your preparation.
  4. Design visuals to keep you on track and to spark the right thoughts during delivery.
  5. Bring visuals into the conversation to enhance, clarify, and support.
  6. Create the environment for a fruitful conversation.
  7. Pause to think and control knee-jerk reactions, even when emotion creeps in.
  8. Respect what others have to say.
  9. Look for clues that your audience understands, not just hears what you’re saying.

At Turpin Communication we don’t work with speeches. We work with everyday getting-business-done presentations. Or as we call them: Orderly Conversations. This redefinition will make all the difference for you. Hope this article sheds new light on the work that you do.

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”

Why We Do What We Do (Part 1 of 4)

April 3, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

A Discussion of Turpin Communication’s Core Principles:
The Orderly Conversation

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin CommunicationThis post and the three to follow will focus on Turpin’s core principles. For those of you familiar with the work we do, this will be a review of ideas and processes you’ve already heard about. For other readers of The Trainers’ Notebook, these entries will describe what differentiates us from other presentation and facilitation skills training companies. Or, to put it another way, this series will answer the question, “Why do we do things the way we do them?”

I’ll start at the most fundamental level. Our first core principle is that a business presentation is an Orderly Conversation. This term became part of Turpin’s methodology several years ago. We adopted it because the term “presentation” is used to describe many different things, and the resources available to business presenters fail to differentiate among them.

That has left business presenters struggling with issues that can be traced back to the type of communication they’re involved in. Recommendations designed for a keynote address or a TED Talk, for example, are not those a business presenter can or should apply. The communication process itself is too different for that to work.

We’re trying to correct that by helping business presenters understand the unique challenge they face. Presentations succeed when presenters initiate a conversation with their audience and keep that conversation focused, efficient, and easy to follow. What makes a presentation a Conversation will always compete with what makes it Orderly, but the tension between the two is also what makes a presentation succeed. This applies to the whole range of communication situations business people face—live presentations, virtual meetings, training sessions, and even performance reviews.

The good news is our new way of looking at presenting has resonated with our clients. Once presenters know exactly what they’re dealing with, lots of other issues fall into place. How that happens has helped us answer some very important questions. Among them:

  • Why do individual presenters improve along different paths?
  • What’s the best way to manage nervousness?
  • What’s the difference between an interactive presentation and a facilitated discussion? What’s the best way to manage them?

I’ll talk about each of these questions and their influence on our core principles in the upcoming posts.

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

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

Helping Employees Gain Respect by Improving Their Communication

May 14, 2012 in Author, Delivery, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Preparation

 

greg 200x300As a communication consultant working with presenters, facilitators, and trainers, I have a lot of interesting conversations with business leaders about their employees.

The conversations may go something like this: “Greg, I know John is smart. He has great ideas and is always willing to put himself out there, but in meetings he doesn’t communicate clearly. He’s erratic, talks in circles, and apologizes for having an opinion. I’ve seen this happen a lot, and it’s causing his manager and peers to lose respect for him. How can you help me help him?”

Sometimes the conversations are like this: “When Mary and I talk in my office she’s confident and clear. But when she presents at meetings she falls to pieces. Mary is a high-potential employee, but her inability to speak to a group is holding her back. Can you help her?”

In both situations people have lost the respect of co-workers because of their poor communication skills.

Another scenario:
A few weeks ago I was working with a woman who is the Administrative Assistant to the CEO. “Jan” is roughly 50 years old, very well-dressed, and in charge.

At the beginning of the class, Jan participated fully in the conversation that I was facilitating. From the comfort of her seat she spoke up, listened attentively to the others, and responded clearly and confidently. She displayed a great sense of humor too.

But then things changed.

Later in the class we were doing an exercise in which everyone gets up in front of the room and introduces themselves to the group. Jan was last to volunteer. While this exercise always generates a few butterflies for people, Jan was a mess. She was very nervous and had tied herself into knots. She shifted her weight and looked down at the floor. Her voice was shaky, she became soft-spoken, and it sounded as if she were speed-reading through a script. Her sense of humor was gone. So was her personality.

Afterwards, she described herself as having just had an out-of-body experience.

When I asked her if she remembered seeing anyone’s face, she responded, “No, not at all.”
When I asked her if that was a common experience, she confessed, “Yes.”

Jan had turned her focus inward.

In her attempt to defend herself against the presence (or even the hint) of nervousness, she made the situation worse. Much worse. She forgot that she was speaking to real people, turned her focus inward, and had a complete meltdown. Suddenly she was not the articulate, confident person I met earlier, but someone else entirely.

Jan’s experience is not unique.

If you’ve ever experienced anything like that (and who hasn’t) you know it’s real. And it’s debilitating.

The good news is that debilitating nervousness is not a permanent condition. In the brief time we had together, Jan learned to speak as clearly and confidently to the group as she normally does in low-stakes conversations.

The key is to think of presentations as conversations that are taking place with real people in real time.

When Jan was nervous, she was speaking in a vacuum—unaware of her listeners and focusing solely on what she had planned to say. My solution was for her to turn her focus outward and speak to the individuals in the room. She needed to look people in the eye and actually SEE them. She needed to recognize their reactions and see how they were responding to her. When she did that, she was able to connect and respond.

The level of engagement that Jan achieved—something that happens automatically in everyday, low-stakes conversations—plays a crucial role in presentations. Although the people in the room are the cause of nervousness, presenters should not think of them as passive viewers whose sole responsibility is to judge. Presentations, like everyday conversations, are an exchange of information that can’t ever be perfect. When presenters focus on engaging their listeners, they’re able to break through the barrier of nervousness, turn their focus outward, and manage the process. This, in turn, makes them feel (and look) comfortable, confident, and in control.

Jan did that, and her improvement was astonishing. She became a person who would be respected in any presentation situation.

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

How can I keep my enthusiasm where it needs to be?

April 23, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Preparation, Sarah Stocker

There is no one-size-fits-all solution; different people need to do different things to increase their enthusiasm. Here are some things to consider.

Are you disengaged?
Presenters who are disengaged can appear stiff and uncomfortable. When you are engaged your natural communication skills and enthusiasm will emerge. For more on engagement, read Dale’s post, Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better.

Is it a volume issue?
Speaking louder is often the easiest way to increase your enthusiasm. Boosting your volume requires you to put more energy into your voice and makes you sound more passionate about your topic. To start your presentation on the right path, simply focus on the person farthest away from you in the room and speak to them. Doing this will naturally bring your volume up to an appropriate level.

Do you appear more enthusiastic when you increase your movement a bit?
Purposeful movement can add energy to your presentation. For some people it gives them a positive way to release nervous energy (instead of fidgeting or pacing). For presenters who tend to be stiff, it can help them loosen up. Some examples of purposeful movement are moving toward the screen to point something out or moving toward a specific individual to connect with them.

The thing to remember, and this is something that’s true for everyone, is that presenting is hard work. If you’re not tired after a long presentation, you’re probably not working hard enough. A presenter asked me recently if she needed to fake it when she just wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic about her presentation. I said absolutely yes. You still have to look natural and be yourself, of course, but sometimes you have to pull your enthusiasm out of thin air.

by Sarah Stocker, Trainer and Workshop Coordinator at Turpin Communication

Engage in the Conversation

March 5, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, FAQs, Preparation

As you know, if you’ve ever participated in one of our workshops, we talk a lot about the use of engagement skills, eye contact and pausing. We say that using these skills to engage listeners in the conversation reduces nervousness, brings listeners into the conversation and helps you avoid the hazards of a canned performance.

Recently I picked up a public speaking text book written in 1915 by James Winans. The title is Public Speaking, Principles and Practice. I won’t go into the details about how I landed on a text written almost a hundred years ago, but I can say I was pretty happy with what I found in it. Winans has something to teach us.

Winans comes from the perspective that public speaking is “perfectly natural” and an extension of what he calls “that most familiar act” of conversation. That’s right in line with what we teach in 2012. What really impressed me, though, was his precise definition of what it means to be engaged. For Winans, engagement requires two conversational elements:

1.    Full realization of the content of your words as you utter them, and
2.    A lively sense of communication

In other words, presenters need to (1) think about what they’re saying as they’re saying it and (2) they need to speak for the purpose of communicating with someone else.

You may be thinking that this is incredibly obvious and really not worth pointing out. But think about what happens when these two elements are missing from a presentation. Without the first, the presenter may be performing something that’s been rehearsed over and over again. Or floating along on autopilot, not really thinking about what he or she is saying. Without the second, the presenter is operating in a vacuum, not responding to the audience, not adapting to the situation, not caring whether anything is communicated or not.

So what Winans is teaching us is what engagement requires, what presenters need to think about and where their attention should go to be engaged in the conversation. His ideas enrich our sense of how eye contact and pausing work as the two engagement skill presenters rely on.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Flexibility in PowerPoint Slide Preparation

January 9, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Preparation

This is part 3 of a 3-part series. Part 1. Part 2.

This is a follow-up to the post I wrote last month about preparing to be flexible. Here, I’m going to focus on a new way to think about the slides you use.

If we’re going to take the “conversation” part of the Orderly Conversation seriously, we need to think of a presentation as essentially the same process as sitting down and talking with someone across the desk about your topic. This sort of conversation happens all the time during our workshops. Before participants get up to the deliver the presentation to the group, I always sit down with them and look at the slides they’ve prepared. The first questions I ask are usually, “So what is your presentation about?” “Who’s your audience?” and “Why are you delivering this?” After I get a basic understanding of the presentation’s topic and audience, we go through the slides one by one. As we do that, if I get lost, I ask “So what’s your goal with this slide? Why did you prepare it this way?”

What’s happening during this process is an easy conversation about each slide in the deck. Participants aren’t nervous because they don’t think of this as an actual presentation. They’re just filling me in on what their intentions were when they created the slides.

The thing is, though, this is exactly the way presenters should deliver their slides during a presentation. While they may not have someone sitting next to them saying, “What was your goal when you put this slide together?” that’s the question they need to answer.

It comes down to a time issue. Slides are something you prepare at one point in time for a conversation that will take place at another point in time. Acknowledging that distinction, that separation, is a great way to keep the slides in perspective and the presentation conversational. When you talk about your intentions with your slide, or how the slide fits into this particular moment in the presentation, they become something you use to make your point, not something that must be followed no matter what. For example, saying things like this are helpful for you and your audience:

  • When I created this slide, my goal was to draw attention to…
  • I pulled data together from a couple sources here to show you…
  • We started talking about this information a couple minutes ago when Doreen asked about…

So remember, you’ll gain flexibility when you acknowledge that the slides you deliver are the product of work you did in advance of the conversation. From there, you can go where you need to go in the conversation.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Prepare to be Flexible

December 19, 2011 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Preparation

This is part 2 of a 3-part series. Part 1. Part 3.

This is a follow-up to the blog I wrote a couple months ago about extemporaneous delivery. That post was about the fact that there isn’t a lot of agreement about what “extemporaneous” delivery actually means. Some sources say that it involves preparation and the use of notes. Others believe that it’s an impromptu approach to delivery with no preparation all.

What I find interesting is that the options described in those definitions are precisely the options business presenters have to think about during a presentation. How should they prepare? What are the goals of preparation? How should their “notes”— PowerPoint slides or handout—be used during delivery? These questions all have to do with balancing the orderly part of a presentation with the conversational part of it.

The first step is to prepare to be flexible. That means a couple things.

  1. It means you never know exactly what may happen during a presentation. While you need to anticipate your listeners’ situation, you can never completely predict it. So, preparing to be flexible means that you go into the presentation ready to adapt.
  2. Being ready to adapt means having a plan that will go with the flow of the conversation.

What does this mean in practice? Here are the three things you should do:

  1. As you know, it’s important to acknowledge the audience’s current situation in the introduction of your presentation. Remember, though, that the current situation can change quickly. For example, there may be people in your audience you didn’t know would be there or maybe something happened in the presentation before you that affects yours. Be ready to recognize the new situation and respond to it.
  2. Treat your agenda as a simple road map, as one of the ways to reach your destination. You may find when the presentation begins that you need to backtrack a little or take a detour. As long as you keep your destination in mind, it doesn’t matter how you get there. Reaching your goal is more important than blindly following your agenda.
  3. Think about different ways to explain the information in the body of your presentation. Imagine how your explanations would change if they were delivered to different people or in response to specific questions from your audience. This will increase your flexibility when you’re deep into the conversation and need to adapt to various people and perspectives.

In my next post on this topic, I’ll discuss what the “extemporaneous” delivery of slides and handouts requires.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

So, The Short Answer Is Yes.

December 13, 2011 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger

greg 200x300Maybe this is just a pet peeve of mine. But I really wish presenters would get to the point when answering questions.

In our presentation skills workshops participants often say they worry about being accurate when answering questions. In our experience they’re worrying about the wrong thing. They know more about their topic (usually) then they give themselves credit for. What they should be worrying about is not annoying their listeners by rambling on and on.

How? By providing the short answer first, then making the decision (or not) to go into more detail. Here’s an example:

Question:
“What’s the outlook for the coming fiscal year as it pertains to growing market share?”

A typical long-winded Answer:
“Market share is something we’re all focused on moving forward. As we all know we’ve been struggling with this for a long time and competitor X is not showing any signs of weakness especially since launching their much-hyped SuperWidget. As a side note, I’ve heard all they did was make it prettier without really changing the design.

Getting back to your question, as we know, we’ve got a lot of innovation in the pipeline. At last count I believe we had 3 new products and 5 brand extensions. We’ve improved our distribution capabilities through our partnership with MoveItNOW, and our new alignment between marketing and sales (thanks to members of this team) is working well.

Over the next fiscal year, we should be well positioned to grow market share. So to answer your question, the outlook is excellent.”

The speaker builds his case carefully and eventually gets to his answer, but he takes a long time doing it.

A more concise answer:
“The outlook is excellent.”

You’re probably thinking that this very short answer doesn’t provide enough detail. You may be right. But, as I said above, it should be a decision to say more, not a knee-jerk reaction.

If your listeners look like they want more detail, the answer might look something like this:
“The outlook is excellent.

(The speaker pauses to think and make the decision to expand upon the answer.)

Despite competitor X launching SuperWidget, we’ve worked hard to position ourselves for market share growth. Examples, as you know, include our new focus on innovation, our improved distribution capabilities and the alignment between marketing and sales. Because of these initiatives we are well-positioned to grow market share.”

The short answer provides framework for the longer answer.
In this example, the short answer—“The outlook is excellent”—provides context for the details presented in the rest of the answer. Think of it as the thesis sentence for the answer, it’s placement at the beginning of the response makes the longer answer easier to understand.

If you’ve attended one of our workshops or are a regular reader of this blog, you know that we think presenters need to take responsibility for maintaining their listeners’ attention. As Dale, our President, often says, “listeners are a little bit lazy and a lot distracted. Do what you can to keep them engaged.”

I agree. Keeping your answers short and easy listen to is one way to do that.

What are your thoughts?

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

Extemporaneously Speaking…

October 18, 2011 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation

This is part 1 of a 3-part series. Part 2. Part 3.

When I’m not in the classroom these days, my focus is on the book I’m writing for business presenters. A few weeks ago I was working on one of the early chapters, the one in which I try to explain what it is about business presentations that makes them challenging and unique. If you’re familiar with our approach, you know that we treat presentations as Orderly Conversations. Not speeches. Not performances. But a conversation between presenter and audience that must be prepared, initiated and managed.

So there I was struggling through a paragraph when it occurred to me that I needed a word to describe what happens when an Orderly Conversation is delivered. If it’s not a performance and it’s not entirely off-the-cuff, what is it? The best word I could come up with was “extemporaneous,” an old-fashioned sounding term I hadn’t really used since leaving academia over 20 years ago. I’m sure you remember that students in Public Speaking 101 are encouraged to be extemporaneous; to deliver their speeches in a way that sounds spontaneous, even though they’re prepared.

So, I went to www.dictionary.com to get the definition. What I found was helpful, but not in the way I’d hoped.

Extemporaneous
–adjective

  1. done, spoken, performed, etc., without special advance preparation; impromptu: an extemporaneous speech.
  2. previously planned but delivered with the help of few or no notes: extemporaneous lectures.
  3. speaking or performing with little or no advance preparation: extemporaneous actors. (emphasis mine)

All of these definitions focus on the tension between preparation and spontaneous delivery, but they do so in conflicting ways. The first mentions that being extemporaneous means delivery “without special advance preparation.” The second focuses on planning in advance and the possibility of using notes during delivery. The third claims that a speaker can be extemporaneous without any preparation at all.

What’s interesting is that these definitions are wrestling with the question every presenter struggles to answer: What’s the best way to manage the tension between preparation and delivery?  What type of planning or preparation works? How much should you prepare? Should you use notes? What about rehearsal?

These dictionary entries point to the complexity of this challenge. In future blog posts I’ll talk about what it means to be “extemporaneous” and what you can do to keep your presentations both orderly and conversational.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication