Carrots, and, um, Sticks

October 21, 2014 in Author, Barbara Egel, Delivery, Presentation

Barbara Egel, Coach at Turpin CommunicationRecently in a Speaking with Confidence and Clarity workshop, I was coaching a young man who was counting his “ums” as he watched his video. This was a continuation of something that had gone on in the main room with the whole class: they were counting each others’ “ums” and “uhs.” As he quantified his errors, I realized that he was taking part in the very natural—and completely unproductive—behavior of beating himself up for irrelevant transgressions. After all, the “ums” weren’t that distracting. If he hadn’t pointed them out, I would have missed most of them.

Focusing on the mistakes just makes more of them

The problem with taking note of every “um” (or “uh,” “like,” “and stuff,” “you know”) you say is that you issue yourself a little mental punishment, like a tiny electric shock, every time you do. Punishment instills fear, and fear pulls you out of your engagement with your audience, often leading to more of the behavior you were trying to limit. In other words, focusing on your bad moves gives them way too much power and increases the chance they will happen again.[Tweet “Focusing on your bad moves gives them way too much power and feeds their ability to happen again and again.”]

So what’s the solution? Reward.

I suggested to this learner that rather than falling into the self-defeating spiral of counting his “ums,” he should instead find moments to reward himself for staying engaged and on track (in spite of the “ums”) with a big helping of oxygen. Yep, just take a breath. A breath is a pause, and pausing is a powerful engagement technique. Not only will he pull away from the disengaging punishment spiral, but he’ll actually be moving in the opposite direction toward meaningful engagement. This will boost his confidence, literally feed his brain, and calm his nerves. [Tweet “Find moments to reward yourself for staying engaged and on track with a big helping of oxygen.”]

Treat yourself!

My challenge to you, then, is to escape the punishment cycle and find your during-your-presentation reward in a nice big breath. By doing so, you will give yourself time to think, engage, and really connect with your audience and yourself.

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

Presentation Skills Training: REDEFINED. (Part 5 of 5)

March 19, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

This is the last article in a series about the characteristics of successful business presentation training. The question I’ve set out to answer with the series is “How do I know I’m getting presentation skills training that will give me the skills I need to succeed on the job?” In the last entry, I focused on why real-life presentation content is a must. In this post I’ll focus on why understanding what you bring to the workshop is just as important as what you take away from it.

As I said before, your response to the content you deliver must be taken into consideration. When it isn’t, training becomes an academic exercise, one that may be interesting, but ultimately not that useful.

This same idea applies to your improvement as a whole. Your personal responses to the challenges of presenting have to be taken into consideration. This begins with the surface-level, but it doesn’t end there. Only by digging a little deeper, to find out what’s beneath what you’re feeling and thinking in the moment, can real improvement be achieved.

For example, nervousness is a common response to presenting. It is also a complicated response, unique to everyone who experiences it. Some presenters are nervous about what they’re saying, not quite sure if they will be able to stay focused on the plan. Others are nervous when they’re the center of attention. Still others are nervous about the audience or a particular person in the audience. Once the cause of your particular type of nervousness is found, you can be coached to focus on the behaviors that will help you manage it. Without understanding what’s behind the nervousness, coaching is hit or miss.

Another example involves presenters second-guessing themselves. Many of the people we work with tie themselves up in knots of self-doubt. They worry that they aren’t making sense or that some point or other didn’t come out the way they’d hoped. Coaching these presenters begins by figuring out if what the presenter is feeling is accurate. Are they really stumbling? Sometimes they are. But most of the time they aren’t. When that’s the case, the presenter just needs to understand that it’s in their nature to monitor themselves a little too strictly. And that means they can trust themselves more than they think. When they do, their confidence and comfort increase.

We always tell the people we train that we want them to be themselves. They don’t need to change who they are to succeed. My point here is that being yourself begins with knowing yourself. Success begins with an understanding of your visceral response to the challenges of presenting. On this level, there are no right and wrong responses. There is simply your response. Training should help you understand what that is and what you can do to manage it.

So to wrap up this series, remember that successful presentation skills training has these characteristics:

  • It focuses on presentations, not speeches. They are not the same.
  • It builds skills from the inside out.
  • It focuses on the nitty-gritty challenges of real-life content.
  • Coaching begins with an understanding of your unique response to the challenges of presenting.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better.

April 15, 2010 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation

A few years ago I wrote this paragraph for the Reference Guide we distribute to all the participants in our Presentation Skills workshops:

One of the first questions we ask before a workshop begins is, “If you had to choose one thing to take away from this class, what would it be?”  When we started asking this question, I was surprised to learn that the answer was almost always the same.  People wanted to be more comfortable.  They wanted the image they project as “presenter” to be the same as the image they project the rest of the time.  They didn’t want to become someone flashy or unusual.  They wanted to be themselves when they were presenting, just without the loss of control and the nagging belief that they weren’t quite succeeding.  They were confident that they would be effective and persuasive once comfort was achieved.

I’m in the process of writing a new version of the Reference Guide now.  I’m excited about it because it will include some new ways of thinking about and improving presentations.  One thing that won’t change, though, is the idea that presenters want to be comfortable, to “be themselves.”  This goal has become so central to our approach that it’s part of our new tag line.  Find your focus.  Be yourself.  Only better.

What this means for training

Life in the presentation skills classroom would be so easy if we could say to participants, “OK, I’d like you to deliver your presentation now, and don’t worry about making it fancy or anything, just be yourself.”  But, it doesn’t work that way.  A lot of things happen to your “self” when you walk to the front of the room to deliver a presentation.  Nervousness gets in the way, affecting the way you look and sound.  Sometimes your mind goes blank or your thoughts start racing ahead .  You may speed up, speak too quietly, freeze in place or forget to look at people.  The pressure you feel also affects what you say.  For example, the drive to be clear and accurate might lead you to say more than you need to.  Or you may go off on a tangent and forget to use your slides.

These reactions, and all the others you may have experienced, are manageable.

First, you need to know what is happening to you.  This isn’t as easy as you might think.  Your everyday self-awareness is often taken over by uncomfortable self-consciousness when you’re presenting.

Second, you need to know what to do to engage your listeners in a genuine, conversation.

If there’s a secret to being yourself at the front of the room it’s engagement.  Here’s how it works.

Find your focus.
Finding your focus means knowing what to do to get engaged. For most people it comes down to two skills: eye contact or pausing (or a combination of the two). These skills work differently for everyone, so our job in the training room is to help people experiment and discover what works best for them.

Be yourself.
Once presenters are engaged, they feel comfortable.  They’re aware of their listeners, but not distracted by them.  Their thoughts settle down, and they can think on their feet.  When this happens, their personalities and natural communication skills emerge.

Only better.
When presenters are comfortable and engaged, they’re able to respond appropriately to the presentation environment.  They’re aware of their position in the room and are free to move about comfortably.  They’re free to focus on their listeners, slides and message.  They know instinctively what they need to say or do to get their ideas across.  Further, they’ve tamed any habits or delivery distractions that may have plagued them in the past.

In short, when presenters focus on engaging their listeners, they feel and look comfortable, project the confidence that’s within them and take control of the unpredictable, spontaneous process of presenting.

They have found their focus.  They are themselves.  Only better.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication