Wearing Two Hats: Facilitating Successful Meetings When You’re the Boss

August 19, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Facilitation

This article was originally published on MondoSpective.

Facilitating a group discussion always brings with it a unique set of challenges. Every group involves different personalities, perspectives, and needs. Facilitators have to work hard to create an environment in which a productive conversation can take place.

When the facilitator is also the boss, the process gets even more complicated. The atmosphere in the room will be affected by who you are. Inevitably, the people reporting to you will feel their response is being evaluated—even if you set up the discussion as a judgment-free brainstorming session. This will affect both how they respond and their willingness to participate.

While you can’t change who you are or your role in the organization, you can facilitate discussions with your team successfully. You just have to remind yourself that your responsibilities as facilitator are different than your responsibilities as manager.

Process vs. Content. The facilitator’s role is all about process. It’s not their job to add to or comment on that content. But it is their job to encourage participation and control the direction of the conversation. That requires two things: demonstrating trust in the individuals in the group and showing respect for their needs.

Demonstrating trust. A successful facilitator creates an environment in which information and ideas can be freely exchanged. That means that the individuals in the group need to feel their questions and comments are welcome. The level of participation from individuals in the audience will vary, of course. But what’s important is not equal participation from everyone, but equal opportunity for participation. So as a facilitator, you need to:

  • Be patient, curious, and unafraid to listen. Don’t waste the good will of the group by not listening, or glossing over nuance.
  • Demonstrate through your actions that all input can be useful. As a leader and manager, it’s often important to assess situations quickly. This is an asset in your daily responsibilities, but it can be a liability when facilitating. During a discussion it’s important to let ideas percolate a little.
  • Level the playing field by allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Remember, you’re the only person in the room who doesn’t feel a little vulnerable already.

Showing respect. The discussion you lead needs to be as efficient as possible. While the group wants to feel that they are free to contribute, they also want the conversation to achieve something. Because you are their manager, individuals might be reluctant to challenge your decisions as facilitator or point out that a topic has run its course. Here are some recommendations.

  • Do your homework. Respect the group’s time and energy by doing the work that’s required beforehand. This involves creating a framework for the conversation that communicates your goal, the problem you’re trying to solve, and what you expect from your reports during the discussion. This framework should be strong enough to keep things on track, but flexible enough to include unexpected turns in the conversation.
  • Remember that the framework exists to make participation easier for everyone. It should serve the conversation, not dominate it.
  • Appreciate the work the group is doing and the risks they’re taking.

Because you are the group’s manager as well as the meeting’s facilitator, there will be times when you’ll want to contribute to the content of the discussion as well. When you do, just acknowledge that you’ve taken your facilitator hat off. Say things like, “I can clear up that question for you, so allow me to speak now as your manager.”  When you’re finished contributing your manager perspective, put your facilitator hat back on.

Remember that the people involved in the discussion are your resource, just as they are when they’re going about their everyday responsibilities. When you’re facilitating, give them a safe, productive environment and the time they need to work through the ideas they’re sharing.

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

Virtual Presentations That Work

March 25, 2013 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Presentation, Talent Development, Training, Virtual

greg 200x300It’s one thing to be clear, concise, and in control of your message when you’re speaking to a group of people in a live conference room setting. It’s an entirely different thing to keep audience members attentive and engaged when presenting virtually.

It’s not just learning how to run the meeting software. That’s the easy part. The real issues are (1) getting people to want to participate and (2) communicating well using the technology so that what you say is actually heard and understood.

I led a webinar last week for CASRO, which is a professional organization serving the market research industry. In the session, we explore the skills and techniques it takes to communicate effectively in virtual settings no matter whether you’re conducting meetings, presentations, research results or video conferences.

Topics include:

  • Transferring face-to-face skills to the virtual environment
  • Engaging people you can’t see
  • Keeping people focused
  • Keeping things interesting
  • Developing visual aids for online delivery
  • Planning and executing interactions that people want to participate in
  • Using video conferencing tools
  • Pros and cons of muting attendee phones
  • Using tools such as polls, chat, hand raising and more
  • Using a host to manage the technology so that you can focus on content

What thoughts do you have about virtual delivery?

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

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

Presentation Skills Training: REDEFINED. (Part 4 of 5)

March 12, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5

This is the fourth in a series of five blog posts focusing on the skill-building approach business presenters need.

As I said in the first post of this series, if you find yourself in a presentation skills workshop where you are not working on preparing and delivering a real-life presentation, pack up your things and leave the class. I feel comfortable making this assertion because improving your skills as a business presenter is all about nuance and flexibility. Neither can be fully appreciated unless you’re working with content that’s real to you.

When I was teaching Public Speaking 101 to college students I was frustrated by the fact that my job was to teach students about public speaking, not developing their skills in public speaking. Granted speeches were delivered in class, but they were almost always merely another academic exercise for the students. For the most part, they didn’t care all that much about the topic they spoke about. They were interested in getting a decent grade.

You certainly can’t blame the students for that, but each grade had to be determined by behaviors that were objectively and fairly measured. This leads to standardization, prescriptive delivery, and speeches that very rarely had a demonstrable effect on audience or speaker alike.

Business presenters need something very different than that.

When you deliver a presentation, you’re doing something that is very much a part of your job. Your audience is equally invested in the presentation and its outcomes because it’s their job to be that way. What needs to happen during a presentation skills workshop, then, must recreate that environment as fully as possible. That begins, of course, with the topic of the presentation each person is working on.

When training opens up to an examination of real-life topics and audiences, the workshop can focus on subtleties like these.

  • When you prepare your presentations, are you able to focus on the audience’s need to understand what you’re presenting or are you simply focused on the information itself? Focusing on audience understanding is not intuitive for most presenters because it requires a hard look at familiar content from another’s perspective. That’s a necessary, but not always easy process.
  • Another issue concerning preparation: do you tend to over-prepare because you’re after absolute accuracy or do you tend to under-prepare because you understand the content so well? Understanding and adapting to what comes naturally to you is crucial for improvement.
  • During delivery, how does your familiarity with your content affect your ability to explain it to someone else? Do you go too quickly, making too many assumptions? Do you go into more detail that anyone needs? Are you able to adjust to the level of knowledge or interest of audience members? These questions can only be answered through practice and feedback using real-life content during the training process.

These are some of the issues that need to be surfaced during your training.

In the final post in this series, I’ll discuss how the coaching you receive during your training must focus on what you bring into the class as much as what you take away from it.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 5

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Is it worth taking the time (and other resources) to customize off-the-shelf training?

August 6, 2012 in Author, Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training, Video

In this video blog, Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication, discusses the best ways to tailor off-the-shelf training to the unique needs of your individual clients.

What Rules Do You Have For Creating Visual Aids?

April 9, 2012 in Author, Delivery, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Preparation, Video

Followers of this blog know that we are not a fan of rules. In this video blog, Greg Owen-Boger outlines some important things to consider when creating visual aids for presentations.

by Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President at Turpin Communication

How Do I Not Sound Scripted When Delivering Content Multiple Times?

February 20, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Myths Debunked, Practice Does Not Make Perfect, Preparation, Presentation

 

greg 200x300Q: I deliver the same information over and over. I know that I sound scripted, but I don’t know what to do about it. Any ideas?

A: I can relate. I used to be an actor. I toured one show – playing the same character – for a year and a half. Talk about saying the same thing repeatedly!

I continue to face this same issue as a trainer, although it requires an entirely different set of skills to sound spontaneous in the classroom than it did on stage.

There are two important things to keep in mind.

1) Presenters should not be scripted because presentations are not theatre. They are “Orderly Conversations” that need to be initiated and managed, not recited or performed.

2) Each audience is a unique group. While your content may be the same, your audience members aren’t. They each have a different set of assumptions and experiences as well as varying degrees of understanding of your topic. This means that you need to make sure you’re explaining concepts to each group in a fresh way. One that meets their needs, not the needs of last week’s group.

Here are a few ideas to help you keep things fresh and specific for each group:

  • Get them talking. Ask them about their experiences with your topic, positive or negative. Ask them about their level of interest. I speak at conferences quite a bit and I have no way of knowing beforehand who’s going to be in the audience. This technique helps me get a better understanding of where their interests lie so I can put more emphasis on them during the presentation. Sometimes I even ask them what order they’d like me to go in.
  • Actively look for peoples’ reactions to what you’re saying. When you do this, you’ll respond naturally just as you do in everyday conversation.
  • Encourage people to ask you questions throughout the presentation. Since you can’t predict what questions they’ll ask (or how the question will be phrased), you’ll be forced to explain ideas in a new way to meet the questioner’s unique point of view.
  • Reorder your slides so that you don’t know for sure what slide is next. This won’t work for everyone, but if you’re brave enough to try it, you’ll appreciate how well it keeps you on your toes.

Try one or more of these ideas, you’ll be surprised how fresh your presentation sounds and feels. The added bonus for you is that you won’t be bored.

What other ideas do you have for keeping stale content fresh?

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