Moderating a Panel: 3 Unconventional Best Practices

January 21, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Facilitation, Meetings, Talent Development

Last week Greg (Turpin’s VP) moderated a panel discussion hosted by the Chicagoland Chapter ASTD (CCASTD).

As I observed, I realized that the discussion was one of the best I’d ever attended. It was good, not only because of the insightful panelists (and they were), but also because of how Greg kept the conversation orderly through the use of some unconventional techniques. Here’s what I mean.

moderating-1-20-14

  1. Direct everyone’s focus. As you can see in the photo, Greg positioned himself in the audience. We were in theatre seating with a center aisle. As you probably have seen in other panel discussions, panelists tend to speak directly to the moderator. Had Greg been up front, the panelists would have had to turn to the side or back to address him. Being out in the audience opened them up to the group. Placing himself in the audience also helped Greg monitor what was going on with the group as a whole.
  2. Make it as conversational and intimate as possible. While there was a raised stage behind them, the panelists were seated at audience level on stools. Having them sit on the same level as the audience, but slightly elevated, made the conversation feel more intimate. Also, the panel took place after dinner. While it took a few minutes to move from the round dinner tables to the theatre seating, the new seating arrangement made it so much easier to listen. No one was forced to twist uncomfortably to face the panelists.
  3. Help us know who’s talking. The panelists’ pictures, name, title and company were projected behind them in the same order they were sitting. This helped the audience remember who everyone was and the angle their answers and comments came from. This was such a simple, practical idea. How many times have you forgotten who individual panelists are after they have been introduced? If you’re like me, every time. Panelists’ bios and pictures were also provided on handouts. I was able to learn more about them, if I wanted, as the discussion went on.

I think the evening’s success was the result of Greg’s taking the time to think about how he could make the panel discussion as easy as possible—from the panelist’s perspective and the audience’s. By breaking the fourth wall of the stage, he was able to bring the discussion to the audience, making all of us feel a part of it.

In the photo left to right:

  • Michelle Reid-Powell, VP of Talent Management and Organizational Effectiveness, The CARA Group
  • Aaron Olson, VP and Global Head of Talent Management, Aon Corporation
  • Greg Owen-Boger, VP, Turpin Communication
  • Panelist blocked by Greg:  Tara Hawkins, Training & Development Graduate Program Coordinator, Roosevelt University
  • Toni Fico, Director, Performance Solutions, U.S. Cellular
  • Brittany Horner, Associate Principal, Caveo Learning
by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

What We Can Learn (and Not Learn) from Michael Bay

January 9, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Introduction, Myths Debunked, News, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation

You might have heard about the public speaking nightmare film director and producer Michael Bay experienced at the Consumer Electronics Show January 6.

A word of warning, though, if you’re sensitive to watching someone have a meltdown and walk off stage without delivering his message, prepare yourself. I found it really painful. And it’s only 80 seconds long.

The responses to this that I’ve read online have focused on Bay’s need to rehearse more, his over-reliance on the prompter, and the fight or flight instinct he followed. You can read an article by Nancy Duarte (of Slide:ology fame) and others’ responses here.

Be Careful, Business Presentations are not Speeches

As someone who works with business presenters, I think the responses to Bay’s situation are a great opportunity to reassert a distinction we always emphasize in our workshops—the distinction between speeches and presentations.

  • Don’t assume that what would have helped Bay will help you. Remember the presentations you deliver are not speeches. They are Orderly Conversations. As such, they require an entirely different approach. Bay was trying to deliver a scripted message that was intended to sound conversational, not really be a conversation. While extensive rehearsal may have helped him, it won’t help you. The presentations you deliver are far too unpredictable for that.
  • Bay’s performance is a good warning for people who believe in scripting or memorizing the beginning of a presentation. Your presentation’s introduction is an important time. During that first minute, it’s your job to bring the audience into the conversation by responding to them and the environment you share right now. This cannot happen when you’re scripted. Even if you can appear to make it happen (which requires acting skills), you will not be fully engaged in the moment. Because of that, it’s really difficult to respond appropriately to the unexpected.
  • Bay trusted the prompter and it failed him. You need to trust yourself. Managing the unexpected—something business presenters face all the time, speechmakers not so much—requires staying engaged and giving yourself time to think. I’m sure when Bay watched the video of his performance, he knew exactly where he went wrong and what he should have done instead. We see this happen all the time reviewing participant videos in our workshops. It’s easy to know, after the fact, what should have happened. So it’s not a matter of coming up with something new when you’re stressed. It’s a matter of settling your thoughts so you can tap into what you already know.

So while Bay’s performance is a cautionary tale for speechmakers, for business presenters it’s an excellent reminder that your first responsibility is to initiate a conversation with your audience. Once that conversation has begun, it’s easy to bring what you have prepared into it.

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of 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”

New Service Demystifies Video Production for eLearning Professionals

June 5, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Find Your Focus Video, Greg Owen-Boger, News, Training, Video

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
News Release – PDF

Media Contact:

Greg Owen-Boger, VP
773-239-2523
greg@turpincommunication.com

Chicago, IL – June 6, 2012 – Anyone who’s tried to create their own professional video knows how challenging it can be. Greg Owen-Boger, VP of Turpin Communication, knows firsthand how true that is. “In 2007 we started creating video for our online courses, which were originally designed to accompany our live workshops in a blended learning format. We had never done this before, but we knew we needed to keep our budget under control. That meant we needed to produce the video in-house.”

That was the beginning of a multi-year learning process for Greg and his team, which consisted of several people including Dale Ludwig, Turpin’s founder and president. “We had to learn about cameras, lights, sound, scriptwriting, editing and learning management systems. It was a lot to take in when you’re starting from scratch,” says Ludwig. Eventually the team had their studio in place and the equipment and scripts ready to go.

“I was the on-screen guy,” says Ludwig. “The most frustrating part for me was trying to engage the learner through the lens of the camera. It was a pretty humbling experience. I looked and sounded awkward. It was important to us that I not read from a script word for word because we wanted the video to be as conversational as possible. But every time we’d play a clip back, I’d feel defeated.”

Then the thought occurred to them. “We help people gain control and appear confident and comfortable in live presentations and training sessions all the time,” says Owen-Boger. In fact the company has been doing so for 20 years. “We ought to be able to coach people on camera just as we do in live training situations.” They tried using the same techniques that had worked so well in the past, and realized it worked on-camera, too.

And that’s how Find Your Focus Video came about. “We’ve been through the learning process ourselves. Friends have asked us to help them through it. Now we’re making the service available to a wider audience.” One of their first clients, Dana Peters, CEO of Mondo Learning Solutions, says, “… (Turpin) supported the entire process from script development to delivery of the finished product, but what really impressed me was their ability to coach me through the foreign process of talking to a camera … all with amazing patience.”

When asked if this new venture could be called a production company, the answer was a resounding no. As Owen-Boger says, “We’re a communication training company. We’re simply expanding our services to help people communicate more effectively on video.” While they have the know-how for video production, “the differentiating factor is that we provide on-camera coaching on top of the production services. That’s unique. We give people the skills and confidence they need to be their best on video.”

About Turpin Communication
Since 1992, Turpin Communication has been helping business professionals be more comfortable, confident and in control when delivering presentations, facilitating meetings and running training sessions. Training services include live client-site workshops, online asynchronous courses and individual enrollment workshops in Chicago. Now these services have been expanded to help on-camera speakers engage viewers through a camera lens.

www.turpincommunication.com

Common Presentation Challenges

October 28, 2010 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Nervousness, Preparation

Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President of Turpin Communication

In a LinkedIn discussion recently a question came up about the most common challenges facing business presenters.

Many people claimed nervousness, lack of knowledge, unexpected questions, PowerPoint, sentence structure (?) and so on. These are challenges people face, for sure, but these simplistic responses fail to get to the heart of why presenting is so challenging for so many people.

Here’s how I responded:

As a presentation skills trainer/coach, I think one of the most common challenges people face is that they prepare for a speech instead of a presentation. Speeches are scripted, rehearsed and performed. Presentations (which is what most of us deliver day-to-day) need to, of course, be organized well, but they need to be delivered in a flexible, spontaneous, conversational way.

So the challenge I see most is that people know how to prepare for a speech, but they don’t know how to prepare for a presentation. This leads to anxiety, nervousness, analysis paralysis and boring, stiff, unengaging and unsuccessful presentations.

In our work, we help presenters make adjustments to how they think about the process and this makes all the difference.

Faithful readers of this blog know that we consider presentations to be Orderly Conversations. Here are some related articles:

Follow Greg on LinkedIn

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

Successful Presenting Starts with Understanding Your Default Approach

April 19, 2010 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation

One thing that sets Turpin apart from other presentation skills training companies is that we think of presentations as Orderly Conversations, because they share characteristics with both writing and conversation. Like a written document, a good presentation is thoughtfully prepared and structured. It is clear and accurate. Like a conversation, it’s also spontaneous, interactive and unpredictable.

Defining presentations in this way helps us answer some of the most fundamental questions presentation skills trainers face:

  • How do you explain why techniques that work for one presenter don’t work for others?
  • Why is it that the old maxim “Practice makes perfect” isn’t always true?
  • How is it that someone can be a dynamic speaker, but after listening to them you have no idea what their point was?
  • How do you deal with the fact that people approach the presentation process with totally different assumptions?

Questions like these have been ignored for too long.
The answers lie in accepting every individual as they are and building the training process around each presenter’s Default Approach. Participants come to a presentation skills class with various levels of experience, different educational backgrounds and unique personalities. All of these things influence the way they think about and execute the presentation process. Their combined influence results in a unique Default Approach, their gut response to the idea of preparing and delivering a presentation. While there’s nothing wrong with anyone’s Default, presenters need to be aware of them if they want to improve. Here’s a quick description of the two basic defaults, Writers and Improvisers.

First, there are the Writers.

Writers thrive with preparation and organization. They are naturally thorough and often feel there is never enough time to prepare. Writers incorrectly assume that the success of a presentation lies in what they do before they deliver it.

The Downside
Because of this, Writers tend to stick to their plan regardless of what’s happening in the room.  Unfortunately, things never go as planned, leading to an inflexible approach and high levels of anxiety.

Adjustments
During preparation, Writers need to remind themselves that their presentations will never be perfect, no matter how much they strive for it. They need to simplify their slides and focus on what listeners will gain from the information they’re presenting, not simply the information itself.

During delivery, Writers need to focus on the big picture instead of the details, and stop trying to say things perfectly.

The Results
When they make these types of adjustments they will naturally feel that they haven’t (1) said things as well as they could, (2) provided enough detail and (3) demonstrated their knowledge. The good news is that even though Writers may feel this way, they’re probably doing just fine. And their listeners will appreciate their clear, concise conversational delivery.

On the other side are the Improvisers.

Improvisers thrive with the conversational connection they create with listeners. Chances are good that they are fairly comfortable presenters and don’t worry too much about preparation. But, Improvisers incorrectly assume that they can trust themselves to be clear and concise.

The Downside
Unfortunately their confidence leads to ineffective preparation, and rambling presentations. Some Improvisers delay or avoid preparation altogether. The result can be a set of slides that don’t quite hit the mark. Once the presentation starts, Improvisers tend to lose their focus, go off on tangents, forget about their slides, and confuse their listeners.

Adjustments
An Improviser’s improvement starts with the realization that a well-prepared presentation is not a straitjacket. Instead, preparation should result in a strong, flexible framework for the presentation. This is especially important for the introduction, a time when Improvisers really need to set clear direction for the rest of the presentation. Also, Improvisers will do themselves a huge favor by using slide titles that focus on the main point for each slide.

As they deliver their presentations, Improvisers need to refer to their slide titles to remind them of their point. When they’ve done that, they’re free to improvise.

The Results
When they make these types of adjustments, Improvisers may feel that their slides are getting in the way of the conversation, maybe even that the slides aren’t really necessary. In spite of this, though, Improvisers should remember that listeners need structure. It’s the job of every presenter, no matter how engaging he or she may be, to make listening and understanding as easy as possible. And that means paying attention to what’s on the screen.

Be Yourself

When presenters recognize and successfully manage their Default Approach, the preparation process will be more efficient and their presentations will be more comfortably and effectively delivered. Helping presenters understand and manage their Defaults is one of the ways Turpin has redefined presentation skill training. And, it’s another way that our training helps presenters be themselves…only better.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication