Level Up

February 11, 2015 in Author, Barbara Egel, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation

Barbara Egel, Coach at Turpin CommunicationIt’s pretty close to impossible to get all the way to your first real job without hearing the phrase, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” What people usually mean by it is look professional—like management—even if you are interviewing to be a line cook / intern / stockroom staffer. The idea is that by dressing a level or two up from what the position seems to require, you give the impression of being engaged and competent and having that little extra polish that will make you promotable someday.

I’ve never heard anyone say it about conducting business presentations, but I think the idea definitely applies: “Speak as if you have the job you aspire to.” All you have to do is listen a little to understand that speech habits are generational and that executives speak differently from junior hires. When you’re in your 20s, you are still socialized to speak like your peers. “Like,” “and stuff,” “you guys,” and uptalk are all habits attributed to millennials (and Gen-Xers like me, actually), and their use immediately marks the speaker as young. Young usually gets interpreted as inexperienced, unsophisticated, still in training, and kind of ignorable. Beyond these obvious generational markers, habits such as fidgeting, allowing sentences to run on after a thought is finished, avoiding eye contact, and not stopping to think are interpreted as indicating a green speaker and a junior employee.[Tweet “Speak as if you have the job you aspire to.”]

I know you might be thinking, “But won’t it sound fake and weird if I get up to present and sound like Don Draper or Diane Sawyer?” Well, yes, but that’s the beauty of maturing. You get to sound like you only more confident, thoughtful, and authoritative.[Tweet “You get to sound like you, only more confident, thoughtful, and authoritative.”]

Spend some time projecting ahead in your imagination. What do you expect to sound like when you have your own team to manage? When you move from a cube to an office? When your title starts with Senior or Chief or Principal? You know who you want to become in your work life. If you manage your habits, create your presentation materials, and adjust your internal monologue to be that person now, the potential for you to become that person—with all its perks and responsibilities—will be much more evident to those who determine your work future.

As you put together your slides, as you run through them for clarity and concision, be that person. You’ll be surprised at how many of your “junior” habits fall by the wayside and how quickly and easily you grow yourself up to be an excellent speaker—and still be yourself. Indeed, it’s kind of the Turpin tagline: “Find your focus” (decide who/how you want to be as you move forward in your career), “Be yourself” (not some fake uber-adult so you end up sounding like Ron Burgundy), “Only better” (the junior employee with senior potential, the kid who stands out in the crowd, and the one they can put in front of key clients).

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

No Easy Button

November 15, 2013 in Dale Ludwig, Myths Debunked, Nervousness, Preparation, Presentation, Training

easy-buttonRecently, Greg and I delivered a facilitation skills for trainers workshop to a group of Subject Matter Experts. This group had been called upon to deliver training to less-seasoned employees in the organization.

Although the training content was technical and detailed, it was also highly nuanced. The goal of the training was to help learners not only understand the details, but also help them know how to use them to make complex business decisions.

During our needs assessment discussion at the beginning of the class, one of the SMEs put it this way:

“We’re trying to teach people that there is no Easy Button. They need to learn how to think about this information so they can be confident using it to make decisions.”

As I charted that idea, I thought about how the same thing is true for our workshops. A lot of presenters are looking for the Easy Button. They want simple answers to complex questions. The problem is, many of the simple answers aren’t the right answers. Presenting and facilitating are too complex and improvement too individual for that.

Here are three of the most common questions we’re asked and our think-about-it-this-way responses. If you’ve participated in one our workshops, these probably sound familiar.

“How can I eliminate nervousness?” Instead of thinking of nervousness as something you can eliminate, think of it as something to be worked through. If you’ve participated in one of our workshops, you know that the key is engagement. Presenters need to figure out what they need to do to engage their listeners.

“How much should I rehearse?” First, we have to define what you mean by rehearsal. If you define it as the process of perfecting your presentation before it’s delivered, then you shouldn’t rehearse at all. However, you do need to be prepared, and the best way for you to prepare is affected by your Default. Improvisers prepare differently than Writers.

“Is it okay to have eight words in a single bullet point?” Instead of counting the words in a bullet point, think about how you’re planning to use it. Can it be easily read in relation to the other bullet points in the list? Does the bullet make understanding easier? Can you make it smoother or simpler? The number of words you wind up with is secondary to these more fundamental issues.

In the long run, our training is about simplifying improvement for everyone. It’s just that getting to a simple solution that is also the right solution for you takes thoughtful consideration.

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

Why We Do What We Do (Part 3 of 4)

April 29, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

A Discussion of Turpin Communication’s Core Principles:
Engagement

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4

Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin CommunicationThis is the third in a series of four posts focusing on Turpin’s core principles. In the last entry I talked about how every presenter brings a Default Approach to the process and that understanding what it is focuses your improvement. In this post, I’ll focus on what it means to be engaged in an Orderly Conversation.

It seems that everyone is talking about engaging people these days. Businesses use social media to keep customers engaged. Managers want their employees to be fully engaged. Trainers want to engage learners. Each of these uses of the word have to do with how someone else (the customer, employee or learner) responds to something you do. It has to do with motivating them or maybe just keeping them interested.

We use the term to describe what happens when a two-way interaction begins. When presenters engage in conversation with their audience, they are not pouring information into passive listeners. They are not merely grabbing that person’s attention. An engaged presenter initiates a genuine connection with the audience. Both presenter and audience member share a moment in time, both equally engaged.

This level of engagement brings the audience into the conversation, of course, but it also affects how the presenter feels and thinks. Engaged presenters are able to think and speak spontaneously because they are reacting to the people they are speaking to, just as they do in everyday conversation. This, in turn, makes presenters feel confident and comfortable.

It’s for this reason that all presenters, especially nervous presenters, need to take command of the skills that help them engage. Once the conversation begins, the anxiety, self-consciousness, and second-guessing associated with nervousness melt away. You are able to stay focused and rein in the discomfort and distraction of nervousness.

So by focusing on engaging listeners in the conversation, we accomplish two things. First, we help presenters develop the skills they need to work through their nervousness. Second, we release presenters from the generic, prescriptive rules found in traditional training classes. Engaged presenters trust themselves to be confidently self-aware and in control.

Part 1Part 2, Part 4

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder 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

Presentation Baggage Causes Barriers to Learning

January 30, 2012 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Posts for Buyers, Preparation, Training

greg 200x300Recently I had a lively phone call with a potential client. It was clear that he had done his homework and had some pretty tough questions for me and the other presentation skills training vendors he was looking at.

Here’s my favorite: “What’s the biggest barrier you face when working with people in your workshops?”

I love this question. First, it forces me (and our competitors) to acknowledge the reality that training isn’t always easy and that challenges do exist. Second, it shows me that he’s not just checking training off his list. He’s truly interested in finding a partner he can trust to bring about long-term behavior change.

Answer this question right, I thought to myself, and we’ll be his vendor of choice.

My answer came rather easily because it’s something we talk about a lot around our office.

The biggest barrier when working with business presenters is dealing with all the baggage they carry around with them.

Here’s what I mean.

Most business presenters endured Public Speaking 101 back in college.

  • Always start with an outline.
  • Memorize the opening of your speech.
  • Vary your intonation to be more interesting.
  • Nervousness should be avoided, so look at peoples’ foreheads, not in the eye.

Some have lived through ineffective rules-based corporate training.

  • “You need to hold your hands like this.”
  • “You should pinch your fingers together so that you won’t be nervous.”
  • “Never ever put your hands in your pockets.”
  • “Never ever turn your back to your audience.”
  • “Always stand to the right of the screen.”
  • “Never look at your slides.”
  • “You need to look them in the eye for at least 3 seconds.”
  • Never say ‘um.’

Many have been given feedback by their managers.

  • “Present more like Sam. He’s dynamic and funny.”
  • “You sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
  • “You need to smile more.”
  • “You move your hands too much.”
  • “You don’t move your hands enough.”
  • “Speed up.”
  • “Slow down.”
  • “You stood in the light of the projector. Never do that.”

All of these experiences – the rules, the bits of bad advice– pile up and become their baggage, their barriers to learning. These presenters can’t possibly be effective and confident because of it.

So, what’s the solution?

The bulk of what we do in our workshops is to give people permission to let go of the baggage so they can settle into the conversation.

We call it: Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better. We’ve blogged about this before, but here’s what we mean.

Find your focus means to settle your racing mind and be present. Engage your audience here and now. Don’t think ahead, and don’t beat yourself up for what you just said.

Be yourself means to stop trying to emulate someone else. Just be you.

Only better means that once you are engaged and comfortable, you will be able to manage the challenges of presenting. You’ll be able to read the non-verbal cues from your audience. You’ll know when you’ve said enough and it’s time to move on. You’ll know if you need to slow down. You’ll recognize that you’ve walked into the light of the projector and need to move out of it. You’ll be self aware and in control.

This process helps people let go of the baggage, and it makes all the difference.

If you’re a workplace learning professional, what barriers to learning do you see?

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