My Mother’s Attic Part 3: The Elocutionists, a Cautionary Tale

July 16, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Myths Debunked, Talent Development

Part 1, Part 2

This is the final article about the perils of business presenters following the same path as the elocutionary movement.

The great thing about The Ideal Orator is that its approach, from our twenty-first-century perspective, is completely over the top. Anyone reading this book today would recognize its unnatural exaggeration of delivery behaviors, its focus on how a message should be delivered apart from what that message is.

What the book helps us see, though, is something much more subtle. Whenever a prescriptive approach is applied to something as individual and spontaneous as business presentations, we run into trouble.

Here’s what I mean.

  1. The Orderly Conversation that should take place between you and your listeners becomes a performance. Performances are very controlled things. They are not driven by the connection between you and your audience. Instead, they are driven by the plan that was made in advance. When you perform, you take yourself out of the conversation.
  2. The search for the rules governing the presentation process is a perfectly understandable thing. Rules make things easier. The thing is, presenters need to discover their own rules, not follow the rules for someone else. The rules you follow are determined by who you are and the habits you’ve developed. When you follow rules that aren’t right for you, you will feel and look uncomfortable. Maybe not as uncomfortable as the kids in my mother’s elocution classes, but uncomfortable nevertheless.
  3. When business presenters deliver a performance or attempt to follow one-size-fits-all rules, they undercut their ability to make decisions in the moment. If you’ve participated in one of our workshops, you know that engaging listeners is one of the most important processes we work on. When you’re engaged everything you do is a response to what’s happening with your audience.

As you know, Turpin’s tag line is “Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better.” So the next time you’re looking for rules governing delivery, make sure you’re focusing on what works for you, what helps you feel comfortable, and what gives you the control you need to manage the twists and turns of the Orderly Conversation.

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

A Book Worth Reading

July 9, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation

Earlier this year I read Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference, by John Capecci and Timothy Cage. This book is written for people who tell their personal stories to advocate for a cause or organization. One of the examples from the book is a woman who advocates for heart health after having a heart attack. Another is a cancer survivor who advocates for Gilda’s Club.

One of the terrific things about Living Proof is the authors’ insight into the challenges advocates face. They know that it’s incredibly difficult to get up in public and tell personal, often emotional stories. This sensitivity is balanced, though, by absolutely practical recommendations about what the advocates need to do to succeed.

 

LivingProofOne of my favorite parts of the book talks about two types of stories that don’t work as well as they should: raw stories and canned stories. The reason raw and canned stories fall short is because they draw the listener’s attention to the advocate and away from the story. With a raw story, the speaker seems fragile or out of control. With canned stories, the speaker seems overly prepared or slick. In both of these situations, the point of the story is lost because the advocate was either not controlled enough or too controlled.

As I read this book I couldn’t help thinking about its business applications. In our workshops, we talk about every presenter’s Default Approach. The Writer Default relies a little too much on what has been prepared. The Improviser Default tends to wing it. Managing your Default requires the same balance of flexibility and control that advocates need to use, especially when you go into a presentation that you know will be difficult. Capecci and Cage focus on the same tension in Living Proof, giving all presenters, not just advocates, a new way to think about what they do.

Here’s a link to the Living Proof website. I encourage you to check it out.

www.livingproofadvocacy.com

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication