Business Meeting Contract: A Pledge for Greater Efficiency

December 5, 2016 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Infographics, Meetings, Posts for Buyers

This infographic is intended for printing and hanging in your conference rooms. Please let us know if you have any feedback.


Business meetings are held to get a specific piece of business done during a specific period of time.

Everyone attending shares responsibility for the meeting’s success. Showing up on time, being prepared, and silencing devices are important. But the person running the meeting also has an obligation to initiate an efficient, fruitful conversation.

And that requires earning trust.

Turpin Communication Business Meeting ContractDownload the printable version for hanging in your conference rooms.

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder, and Greg Owen-Boger, VP, of Turpin Communication and co-authors of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

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”

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.

Most of what I know about learning and development, I learned from 10th graders

March 5, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Facilitation, Meetings, Preparation, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

A_TEACHER_TALKS_TO_HIS_STUDENTS_IN_A_CLASSROOM_AT_CATHEDRAL_HIGH_SCHOOL_IN_NEW_ULM,_MINNESOTA._THE_TOWN_IS_A_COUNTY..._-_NARA_-_558210I often make the comment in workshops—especially when the class is for internal trainers or SMEs preparing to lead their own workshops—that the best teacher-training I ever received occurred at my first job, the three years I worked as a high school English teacher. No group of learners of any age or occupation is more brutally honest. No group has been more willing to tell me exactly what I was doing wrong in the moment as a classroom full of 15-year-olds. It was a humbling and great experience.

I know the Learning and Development field makes a clear distinction between child learners and adult learners (pedagogy vs. andragogy), and I won’t go into my concerns about those distinctions here. But I will say that what I learned in the high school classroom about what learners want and need from teachers is absolutely relevant for adults.

Here’s a breakdown.

1. They don’t want to be there.
High school English students don’t care about what you are there to teach, and they have no problem letting you know it. Some might acknowledge the benefit of knowing how to write clearly. Some might like to read. Some of them might even like to write. But from their perspective, those activities aren’t what sitting in class every day is about. Being in class every day was about the drudgery of secondary education.

I learned to respect this attitude as an honest, reasonable response to their circumstance. To do otherwise would be to assume that every student walked into my classroom ready, willing, and excited to learn. Which is absurd.

Business application: Business people are in a similar situation. Sometimes this has to do with questioning the need for what they are about to learn or the manner in which it is going to be delivered. It’s important to remember that they are also being taken away from their regular jobs to participate in training. As learning and development professionals, we must anticipate resistance and do all we can to be as efficient and relevant as possible. Remember: training is not a gift everyone wants. It’s work that takes people away from what they consider their real work.

2. Be very careful when asking for any type of activity or interaction.
I learned very quickly that the variety of teaching methods I had been taught to use—group activities, games, any type of self-directed work, all meant to enhance learning—were land mines. Sometimes this simply meant the students refused to take the exercise seriously. At other times, the class exploded in fits of reckless disregard for whatever I was asking them to do.

I learned that there are two reasons for this.

“Why should I bother?”
It is best to assume that asking students to participate directly in any way—from answering a question to participating in an activity—is an infringement on what they consider their right to sit silently at their desks. Active participation is work. Recognizing this is essential. There must always be a benefit for participation that is relevant for them.

“Is this going to put me at risk in front of my peers?”
For a 15-year-old, the biggest risk they face is embarrassment in front of peers. Think back to when you were that age. Most of your energy was probably channeled toward keeping up whatever appearance you chose to project. So anything you ask students to do in class that will set them apart, embarrass them, or make them look bad to others must be avoided.

Business application: When it comes to the things we ask learners to do in a workshop, are adults any different from the 10th graders? As we age do we somehow become more willing to suck it up and make the effort in the classroom? More willing to face embarrassment? I don’t think so. We’re just better at hiding our frustration and fear. Again, it comes down to relevance and efficiency. Will this activity, from an icebreaker to a table discussion, help me do my job? Will it be an efficient use of my time? If not, throw it out.

3. They expect you to be in charge and do your job.
Needless to say, the relationship between teacher and student is complicated. On one hand, sophomores want to be treated fairly and with respect. At 15, they are the center of each of their universes, so it’s important to keep their perspective in mind. On the other hand, they want you to lead them. They know that you are the one in charge, and they want you to act like it. This doesn’t mean that the teacher should rule with an iron fist, of course. It means that students know that things will go a lot more smoothly for them if you take the reins.

This was one of the most difficult things I had to learn because it involves an unspoken agreement. No student will ever say, “Please take charge. Please be the manager and leader this class needs.” But if they feel you have dropped the ball, you will know it. Every day in every class I learned that the first thing my students wanted me to do was take control—in spite of the fact that they themselves were the ones always struggling for control themselves.

Business application: For learning and development professionals this has to do with communicating that whatever you are about to do in the classroom is going to be managed well–you are not going to waste their time and you are not going to make them work harder than they have to. This is the “process goal” we talk about in our presentation skills workshops. When we apply it to trainers, it means that learners are more likely to buy into the training you’re delivering if they feel they can trust you. When they do, you will create the conditions for learning to take place.

[Tweet “Learners are more likely to buy into the training if they feel they can trust you”]

dale_ludwig_hi-res_colorI didn’t last very long in the high school classroom. Leaving, though, was not about the students or their attitudes. Working with them was the best part of the job, and what they taught me has served me well ever since.

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

More About When and How to Ask Questions During Your Presentations

April 1, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Introduction, Meetings, Presentation, Training

The article we shared on Facebook last week, Do you really expect me to respond to that?, sparked a question from Barbara.

Hey Dale, could we have a post soon on questions that aren’t manipulative? That is, how/when to place a question that helps you gauge your audience and gather information? For example, “How many of you switched to the new software at least a year ago? Within the last six months? Haven’t switched yet?” I can see that the information could be useful to the presenter in tailoring their talking points, but I can also see it as kind of annoying. So, best practices?

Barbara’s question is a good one for anyone who has ever gathered—or attempted to gather—information from audience members during a presentation or training session. As she points out, learning more about your audience’s knowledge or perspective really does help you tailor the information you’re delivering to their needs.

The challenge is to gather information in a way that doesn’t squander the audience’s good will.dale_ludwig_hi-res_color

Before I list a few best practices for this type of interaction, let me emphasize the fundamental issue involved: when you ask your audience to take an active role in the conversation, by answering a question or participating in a discussion, you are asking them to do you a favor.

In some situations, you are also asking them to take a risk. For example, “How many of you are struggling with the new software?” may be a question people may not want to respond to in public. They may fear they are the only person struggling or maybe they have been avoiding the new software for months and would rather not admit it.

Gathering information, then, needs to be managed in a way that makes the audience feel they are participating in a safe, necessary, and fruitful discussion. They need to believe you have done your homework, there is a reason they should respond, and you respect their time and effort.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.

  • Earn the right to ask for participation. As I said in my previous post, don’t begin with a question. Create context and establish the right tone first.
  • Explain why you need information from them. Will it make the conversation better? More efficient? Quicker?
  • Acknowledge that by responding to you, the group is helping you do your job. Just because they came to the meeting doesn’t mean they are ready to respond to your questions. Make it easy for them and be genuinely appreciative.
  • Don’t condescend. If all you’re doing is fishing for the “right” answer to a question, you’re misusing the interactive process and treating adults like children. This often happens during training sessions. The questions you ask should not feel like a test. Instead, they should lead to deeper understanding. For example, instead of saying, “Okay, so we’ve gone over the four steps necessary for this process to work. Who can remind the group what they are?” it’s better to say, “Does everyone feel comfortable with these four steps? If so, we’ll move on. If not, how can I help you be more comfortable?”
  • Finally, and perhaps most importantly, use the information you gather to shape the rest of the conversation. If you don’t, you’re not only wasting an opportunity, but you’re also disrespecting the effort the audience made to participate.

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

Youthful Skepticism

June 10, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Introduction, Preparation, Presentation

Last week I spent three hours working with a group of people just starting their careers, all in the non-profit sector. It was a real break from the usual business audience we work with in a couple ways. First, they were very young, many of them fresh out of college. So they had no problem challenging what I had to say.

Second, although their presentations were delivered to community-based organizations, their topics were very much like those we see in for-profit businesses. They focused on serving people better, being more efficient, and improving technology.

Before meeting with me, this group all took our online course. As part of that, they prepared a presentation and sent it to me. This gave me a chance to prepare feedback for them. Before I dove into their presentations last week, I asked if anyone had questions or comments about the online course.

A couple people in the group did, and it wasn’t exactly the kind of feedback I was expecting. They said they found the structure we had asked them to follow, especially the introduction to their presentations, very restrictive and regimented. “I would rather just start talking with my audience when I start. I’d give them an agenda, but that’s it.”[Tweet “Clarity, context, and relevance are necessary for every presentation, regardless of audience.”]

I probed a little and asked if the organizational structure felt like a straightjacket. “Yes,” they said.

We hear that a lot from class participants. People often feel we impose a strict structure for introductions, one that cramps their style.

After working with a few introductions and talking through the nuances of each, the group last week began to see that an introduction is just a framework, a framework listeners need. Further, while the goals of every introduction are the same, presenters are free to reach those goals any way they want. So there really isn’t a straightjacket, just goals to be met.

What struck me about this group of presenters is that they assumed there was a disconnect between our approach (all business) and their needs (all community-based-non-profit). What they wound up seeing was that clarity, context, and relevance are necessary components of every presentation, regardless of audience or purpose.

I’m looking forward to going back to this organization next year. It was good to work with a group of eager yet skeptical young people.

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

The 2 Levels of Defining Presentation Success

June 3, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Presentation, Training

Your success as a business presenter always exists on two levels.

  1. On one level it is determined by whether the stated goal of the presentation is reached. Did the buyer agree to buy, for example. Or, did your team see the need for the new procedure you’re asking them to follow? This type of success is fairly easy to measure.
  2. The other level of success is more difficult. It is a measure of how effectively you managed the process of presenting. Or, as we look at it, did you manage the conversation in an appropriately orderly fashion?

The second level of success often determines the first. I’m sure there are times when a poorly managed presentation achieves the goal it was intended to reach. But when you consider how the process felt to the audience—frustrating, inefficient, a waste of time—such a presentation can hardly be considered a complete success.

Presenting is Part of Your Everyday Work

The thing we need to remember is that presentations are part of everyone’s day-to-day work. So when presenters fail to manage the process well, they’re making it difficult for audience members to do their jobs. When that happens, audience members are stuck. After all, they are captive. They don’t have the option of walking out or flipping to a new channel. So what they often do is silently disengage. They might feel a sudden need to check their email or think about dinner, doing whatever they can to cope with a bad situation.

Most of the time this reaction has little to do with the goal of the presentation (level 1) and everything to do with whether the presenter is managing the conversation effectively (level 2).

For example, if you’re delivering market research to a group of sales people, your audience wants to understand the research, but they also want you to make understanding it easy. That level of success goes beyond the information itself. It involves:

  • Emphasizing context and relevance
  • Providing perspective
  • Leaving out information that isn’t useful to your audience (whether you want to or not)
  • Caring about their understanding and buy in
  • Being responsive to the in-the-moment needs of the audience

Business presentations are a collaborative process. Pulling your slides together and having a specific goal is only the first step, and that step alone will never guarantee success. A successful presentation is one in which the audience and the presenter work together in a fruitful, efficient process.

[Tweet “A successful presentation has audience and presenter working together.”]

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 1 of 4)

April 3, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

A Discussion of Turpin Communication’s Core Principles:
The Orderly Conversation

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin CommunicationThis post and the three to follow will focus on Turpin’s core principles. For those of you familiar with the work we do, this will be a review of ideas and processes you’ve already heard about. For other readers of The Trainers’ Notebook, these entries will describe what differentiates us from other presentation and facilitation skills training companies. Or, to put it another way, this series will answer the question, “Why do we do things the way we do them?”

I’ll start at the most fundamental level. Our first core principle is that a business presentation is an Orderly Conversation. This term became part of Turpin’s methodology several years ago. We adopted it because the term “presentation” is used to describe many different things, and the resources available to business presenters fail to differentiate among them.

That has left business presenters struggling with issues that can be traced back to the type of communication they’re involved in. Recommendations designed for a keynote address or a TED Talk, for example, are not those a business presenter can or should apply. The communication process itself is too different for that to work.

We’re trying to correct that by helping business presenters understand the unique challenge they face. Presentations succeed when presenters initiate a conversation with their audience and keep that conversation focused, efficient, and easy to follow. What makes a presentation a Conversation will always compete with what makes it Orderly, but the tension between the two is also what makes a presentation succeed. This applies to the whole range of communication situations business people face—live presentations, virtual meetings, training sessions, and even performance reviews.

The good news is our new way of looking at presenting has resonated with our clients. Once presenters know exactly what they’re dealing with, lots of other issues fall into place. How that happens has helped us answer some very important questions. Among them:

  • Why do individual presenters improve along different paths?
  • What’s the best way to manage nervousness?
  • What’s the difference between an interactive presentation and a facilitated discussion? What’s the best way to manage them?

I’ll talk about each of these questions and their influence on our core principles in the upcoming posts.

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

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