For Leaders Who Expect Better Communication from Employees: 5 Ways to Achieve It

April 18, 2016 in Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings, Posts for Buyers, Preparation, Training

2 levelsAs a leader, you expect your employees’ business communication to be effective and efficient. But is it?

Too often, it’s not. (I’ve written about the business implications here.)  However, it doesn’t have to be that way. To be effective and efficient, business interactions must succeed on two levels. Helping your employees understand this concept is the first step toward improving their communication,  whether it takes place during meetings, presentations, training sessions, important one-on-ones, informal hallway discussions, and even voicemails, instant messaging, and email.

The first level of success is easy for employees to understand. It’s about achieving the goal—being clear, concise, and persuasive enough so that others buy, agree, align, or learn.

The second level is also easy to understand, but more challenging to master. This level is about skillfully managing the process so that a fruitful conversation takes place and business gets done. This level is about ease and efficiency.

5 elements contribute to the second level of success.

1. Create the conditions for a fruitful conversation
Business rarely gets done through one-way communication. It requires a rich dialogue and conclusions drawn from multiple points of view. This means that the leader of the conversation must find ways to encourage others to contribute. This is more than saying, “Please ask questions,” or “What do you think?” It’s about creating a safe environment for people to share their thoughts freely and without judgment. Empathy, silence, and good listening all play a role.

2. Establish context
It’s common for people to show up to a meeting or presentation not knowing why they were invited or what they’re supposed to accomplish. Effective communicators establish context from the very beginning. They explain (even when it seems obvious) why the meeting has been called, what they’re trying to accomplish, and what’s led the group to this point already. Here’s an example: “Thanks for joining the meeting today. As we all know, we have a problem in the supply chain. Our goal today is to understand the variables so that we can fix the problem and get the manufacturing floor back up and running quickly.” Sometimes the context is mundane, but important to establish nonetheless. “Good Monday morning. Welcome to the staff meeting. There’s a lot going on this week, and I want to make sure we’re all ready for what’s coming. Let’s get started.”

3. Earn trust and goodwill
Nobody wants to go to another meeting where they feel their time is wasted. Over time, the leader of these meetings can chew through an awful lot of trust and goodwill. “Not Larry again…” If you feel a direct report is turning into a Larry, address it swiftly. Explain that time is money, and that their disorganization is causing frustration.

4. Make it easy for colleagues to participate in the conversation
Making decisions isn’t always easy, but the process of making them doesn’t have to be confusing. Likewise, a team update shouldn’t be difficult to follow. Every meeting needs structure and clarity. Agendas should be used. Supporting documents should be clear. Graphics should be clearly labeled and easy to grasp. If meeting attendees have to work too hard to understand the basics, they may give up.

5. Manage the give and take of the interaction
Meetings are a process, not a product. This means that the give and take of the conversation is an integral part of them. It also means that meetings can get messy. A little mess is OK. Slogging through the muck can often uncover important discoveries that lead to better outcomes. However, if things get too messy, the goal can get lost and everyone can feel stuck. Employees must learn to strike a balance between allowing too much conversation and controlling it too much. Often, simply acknowledging the situation can help control it, for example, “We’ve talked through a lot of issues, let me summarize so that we can move on.” Another example might be: “You’ve brought up a terrific point, and I think we should talk more about that. We’ve got 20 minutes left, and we still have two more agenda points to cover. Let’s make a group decision. Should we continue down this path, or table it for now so that we can end on time?”

Meetings cannot be perfected. But business shouldn’t grind to a halt because they are poorly facilitated. Using the concepts outlined here will help you coach your team to more effective and efficient communication. [Tweet “Meetings can’t be perfected. But things shouldn’t grind to a halt due to poor facilitation.”]

How else have you solved poor communication at work?

Dale Ludwig, Turpin Communication’s Founder, applied this concept specifically to presentations. Read what he had to say.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

No Acting Please: 3 Key Ways To Be An Effective Presenter Without “Performing”

October 6, 2015 in Barbara Egel, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Practice Does Not Make Perfect, Presentation, Uncategorized

Any number of books and articles about business presentations focus on skills and outcomes that really belong to the world of theater. Such resources may tell you that you need to be entertaining, invent a presentation persona, or use acting techniques to jazz up your presentation. For example, they may tell you to rehearse when and how you Slide1gesture or move, to pause for emphasis after a particularly pithy statement, or to script your presentation and perfect the line readings.

Frankly, I don’t get it. If you are an engineer, an accountant, an IT person, a marketer, that’s what you chose to do in life. If you had wanted to be an actor, you’d be acting.

[Tweet “Extraneous “acting” techniques pull focus from Effective Presentations. #business #presentation”]

Many of us at Turpin come from theater backgrounds, either as professionals or as serious amateurs. For that reason, we know how hard acting can be, and we certainly know that it’s not for everyone. In fact, distracting yourself with acting exercises takes time, energy, and brain power away from the three things you should really focus on:

  1. Engaging with your audience as your authentic, expert self
  2. Delivering your content clearly with a comfortable level of flexibility
  3. Managing the conversation and questions that are a key aspect of business presentations

Thinking about maintaining an artificial persona or worrying about whether or not you are entertaining distracts from those three key goals. And if you are already a nervous presenter, feeling you need to be “on” in a way that isn’t natural to you will definitely not help with those nerves.

[Tweet “Forget “performing” and engage your audience in conversation. #BusinessPresentationsRedefined”]

And frankly, bad acting is a lot worse than no acting. If you feel you come across as stiff or expressionless when presenting, the key is to free yourself of extraneous concerns and engage your audience in a conversation. Adding the pressure of performance will only add pressure, not ensure success.

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

Webinar Recording from PresentationXpert

June 23, 2015 in Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings, News, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Video, Virtual

PresentationXpertGreg Owen-Boger, Turpin Communication’s VP and Dale Ludwig’s co-author, was invited to talk about The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined as part of the PresentationXpert Webinar Wednesday series.

There were a lot of great questions asked during the session, and it’s becoming abundantly clear that there’s a huge need in the business world to improve efficiency and effectiveness of presentations, meetings, and training sessions.

Here’s what a few people had to say after the webinar:

“Amazing … I cannot thank you enough for the amazing and professional job you did in today’s webinar.”
Sharyn Fitzpatrick, Webinar Chick, Marcom Gurus

“Nice to see a pro in action.”
Dave Zielinski, Editor, PresentationXpert

View the recording from the June 17, 2015 webinar hosted by PresentationXpert.


About the Book

The Orderly Conversation is a groundbreaking resource for business presenters.

It offers a new approach to the getting-business-done presentations you deliver – an approach that’s more appropriate for the real world of business and more practical for every type of presenter and presentation.

The business presentations you deliver are not static or one-way. They are an exchange of information that have much more in common with informal conversations than formal speeches. They require a preparation process that looks ahead to the conversation that will take place and a delivery process that is flexible and responsive.

The authors’ goal with this book is to call out many traditional assumptions about what it takes to succeed and replace them with something better.

Success ≠ Perfection

November 19, 2014 in Author, Barbara Egel, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Uncategorized

barbara_egel_132_BW“I want my presentation to be perfect.” This is something we hear from our course participants now and then, and I reckon more people think it than actually say it. Most of the time, when people talk about a “perfect” presentation, they seem to mean that their presentation goes exactly the way they envision it in their heads before they do it. Usually this includes being letter prefect, absolutely fluid and fluent, starting as planned and getting all the way to the end without interruption, and fielding a few softball questions at during Q & A while everyone looks on admiringly.

Effective Works Better Than Perfect

This is not a bad vision to have, it’s just kind of boring and it can sell you short as a presenter. Instead of thinking about “perfect” presentations, consider what goes into a successful, effective presentation. To me, that would look more like this: [Tweet “Instead of “perfect,” aim for a successful #presentation.”]

  • You have a solid grasp of your subject matter.
  • You know your audience’s pain points and key concerns, and you have crafted your presentation to address them with appropriate audience-facing organization and language.
  • You have an introduction that will make clear your plans for the presentation and what the audience will get from it.
  • You know how to engage the audience using eye contact and remembering to pause for their sake and your own.
  • You are flexible and engaged enough that if a question or comment changes your direction, you can flow with it and return to your planned content when you’re done.
  • You will field questions with respect for everyone including yourself—allowing yourself time to think before you speak.
  • You look forward to the hard, “curve-ball” questions because you welcome the challenge and the chance to prove yourself.
  • People walk out knowing what they need to do next and feeling empowered to get started.

Set a Bigger Goal Than Perfect

A successful presentation is one in which the needed information is imparted and the important conversation takes place to the satisfaction of all involved. This is, if you think about it, a much bigger goal than the “perfect” presentation I described in the first paragraph. There is a sweet spot between preparation and the ability to roll with whatever comes during your Orderly Conversation. Managing that leads to successful—not overprepared, inflexible, boringly perfect—presentations. [Tweet “Find the sweet spot between preparation and rolling with it. #presentation”] [Tweet “Perfect = boring and inflexible: #business #presentation”]

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

Coaching SMEs to be Expert Facilitators of Learning

May 13, 2014 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training

UPDATE: Back By Popular Demand

Greg’s been asked back to deliver this same session two more times at the 2015 Association for Talent Development International Conference & Exposition (ATD ICE).


ASTD ICE 5-13-14I had the pleasure of speaking at the ASTD (renamed ATD mid-conference) International Conference & Exposition in Washington, DC last week. The audience for my session included instructional designers and leaders within the training & development function. The topic was about ways to coach SMEs to be more effective in the training room.

The session, as you can see from the picture, was packed. Over 200 people attended, and more would have joined had the room moderator not closed the door and turned people away. I was reminded (again) how hungry the training industry is for help working with their Subject Matter Experts.

Why Bother with SMEs?
There’s good reason to involve SMEs in the training process. They bring credibility, depth, and enterprise-wide perspective. They can also cause frustration for everyone involved, including the learner. And when learners are frustrated, learning doesn’t happen as fully or as efficiently as it should.[Tweet “when #learners are frustrated, #learning doesn’t happen as fully or as efficiently as it should.”]

The Challenge We See
In our experience, working with SMEs to improve their effectiveness in the training room, my colleagues and I have discovered a few things:

  • Materials, slides, and facilitator guides are rarely created with the SME’s delivery style and experience level in mind.
  • SMEs want to do a good job as trainers, but they don’t fully understand what the job is and what’s expected of them.
  • They usually focus too much on the information rather than the application of the information to their learners’ jobs.
  • They don’t understand how to frame the information to provide proper context to the learners.
  • They often aren’t given proper training.

In short, organizations aren’t setting the SMEs up for success. They’re not getting the resources they need to be effective presenters and facilitators of learning. This, in turn, leads to dull learning events and the loss of learners’ good will.

The Solution
Let’s not beat up on SMEs too much. They mean well, but they need help.

On the instructional design side, they need materials designed to support them and their unique needs. Design elements that work for professional trainers don’t necessarily work for others outside the industry.

In the training room, once the session starts, they need to understand that they wear two hats.

  1. The Expert Hat is the obvious hat that they wear. This is the one they wear when they are talking about data, details, and their area of expertise.
  2. The Trainer Hat is less obvious, but a much more important hat. This is the hat they need to put on to provide context, connect dots, and to facilitate learning and the application of the information to the learners’ jobs.

Once they understand their dual purpose in the training room, SMEs are much better able to facilitate learning.

Contact us at info@turpincommunication.com to learn how we can help your SMEs be more effective in the training room.

Postscript #1: SMEs From the Ground Up
I was glad my session at ATD ICE was on Tuesday because that gave me an opportunity to sit in on Chuck Hodell’s session on Monday. He wrote the recent book SMEs From the Ground Up. If you work with SMEs, I highly recommend it. He has some fresh thinking that’s well worth taking a look at. During his session, Chuck talked about ways to manage SME relationships, set expectations, and celebrate their accomplishments.

Perhaps his most impressive thinking, though, is around redefining who the SMEs are on any given project. He writes, “… SMEs are both content-related and process-related. The programmer, the writer, the teacher/trainer and the manager are all SMEs in ways that matter in our work. Identifying and working with all of these specific types of SMEs provides endless possibilities for improved products and processes.”

Postscript #2: Is that Flat Stanley in the Picture Above?
Yes! Not only did I get to speak with 200 learning & development professionals, I got to do it with my Great Nephew Jayce’s Flat Stanley! It’s a cool project. If you’re not familiar with Flat Stanley, click this link: https://www.flatstanley.com/about

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

2013 Planning Your Training Initiatives

September 17, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, News, Preparation, Presentation, Training

Is it really possible that summer’s over and that we’ll be heading into the 4th quarter in a couple weeks?

Wow.

If you’re like most of our clients, autumn is planning time for next year’s training initiatives. We thought we’d help you out and get the conversation started.

Here are some quick thoughts:

    • For the fourth year in a row, client-site workshop fees are staying the same in 2013.

  • We launched Find Your Focus Video. As you probably know, we have become pretty good at creating eLearning videos. Now we’re offering video production and consulting services to our clients who work in the eLearning field. This is no ordinary production service, though. What sets us apart is our on-camera coaching. If you’ve ever had to be on-camera, you know how challenging it can be. We’ll take the mystery out of it for you. Learn more here.
  • Last year we developed a more robust workshop catalog to better serve our clients. While sessions are always tailored to meet each group’s needs, we’ve made it easier to envision what your sessions might look like.  Think of these descriptions as the starting point for tailoring conversations.

Here are the workshop titles and links to their full descriptions.

Mastering Your Presentations
No-nonsense strategies for presenting and facilitating in today’s business environment

Presentation Training for Sales Professionals
Practical skills for facilitating your sales conversations

Speaking with Confidence & Clarity
Fundamental skills for the nervous or novice presenter

Presenting Globally
Getting your message across the cultural gap

Narrative Presentations
Using stories to capture and motivate your audience

Presenting & Training in a Virtual Environment
Adapting your face-to-face skills to the online world

Presentation & Facilitation Skills Training for Trainers
No-nonsense techniques for engaging today’s learners

Advanced Meeting Facilitation
Strategies for encouraging participation while controlling the process

Running Effective Meetings
Fundamental skills for beginners

  • We continue to offer public workshops. We have two-day mastery-level workshops and one-day novice-level workshops. These are excellent options for when you don’t have enough people to fill up a class of your own. Click here for details and schedule.
  • Budget and travel continue to be an obstacle for many. If this is the case for you, check out our eLearning options. Single and multi-user licenses are available

We think that covers the highlights. We look forward to 2013 and helping your presenters and facilitators find their focus, be themselves, only better.

Sincerely,

Dale & Greg
773-455-8855
773-239-2523

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

Practice Makes Perfect… or not.

September 4, 2012 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Nervousness, Preparation, Presentation

 

greg 200x300A lot of people will tell you to “practice, practice, practice” because “practice makes perfect.”

When it comes to presenting, this is some of the worst advice you can get or give.

Practicing a presentation cannot possibly lead to perfection.

Here’s why.

Effective presentations are not speeches (which I suppose could be perfected). They are conversations. Conversations by their very nature are imperfect. They involve other people and are therefore unpredictable. They twist and turn. They stop and start. They go back on themselves. They jump forward.

You can’t predict any of that. Therefore, practicing a presentation until it is perfected is a foolish exercise.

The desire to be perfect and the pressure of other people telling you that you can be (should be) perfect puts the bar too high. And here’s what happens:

  • You put too much energy into reaching the bar,
  • which leads to nervousness,
  • which disengages you,
  • which puts you in your head trying to recreate the script you etched into your brain during practice,
  • which leads to a dull, lifeless, uninspiring meeting.

Hardly perfect.

It’s more than bad advice, though, it causes damage.
Strong words, I know. But I’ve worked with enough presenters to know that they drag around a lot of baggage from the bad advice and training they’ve received over the years. A lot of my job when coaching them is to undo the damage. I help people see things in a new way and I give them a new set of skills and techniques that will work uniquely for them.

If I were your coach
If we had the chance to work together, I’d start by asking you to redefine your next presentation as an Orderly Conversation. An Orderly Conversation is one that is carefully organized and flexibly executed.

When you think of presentations as Orderly Conversations, it changes how you think of (and use) your slides. They become thought starters that will trigger dialogue. They become support for the conversation rather than being the presentation. This new thinking will change the information you put on your slides and how you arrange it.

Let’s assume that your slides are complete and you feel that they will support the conversation you want to have. Now it’s time to review. Notice I said “review,” not practice. As you review your slides, look at each and grab a thought. That thought should launch the conversation you intended. If not, change it until it does.

As you think through each slide, avoid scripting yourself. Think of different ways of explaining each slide. Remember you’re not striving for perfection. You’re working toward flexibility.

Once the conversation begins, let loose and enjoy it. Trust that your slides will be there to support the conversation. Let it get a little messy, follow your listeners’ lead for a bit, bring it back around. You’ll be amazed at how much more fun presenting can be.

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