Level Up

February 11, 2015 in Author, Barbara Egel, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation

Barbara Egel, Coach at Turpin CommunicationIt’s pretty close to impossible to get all the way to your first real job without hearing the phrase, “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.” What people usually mean by it is look professional—like management—even if you are interviewing to be a line cook / intern / stockroom staffer. The idea is that by dressing a level or two up from what the position seems to require, you give the impression of being engaged and competent and having that little extra polish that will make you promotable someday.

I’ve never heard anyone say it about conducting business presentations, but I think the idea definitely applies: “Speak as if you have the job you aspire to.” All you have to do is listen a little to understand that speech habits are generational and that executives speak differently from junior hires. When you’re in your 20s, you are still socialized to speak like your peers. “Like,” “and stuff,” “you guys,” and uptalk are all habits attributed to millennials (and Gen-Xers like me, actually), and their use immediately marks the speaker as young. Young usually gets interpreted as inexperienced, unsophisticated, still in training, and kind of ignorable. Beyond these obvious generational markers, habits such as fidgeting, allowing sentences to run on after a thought is finished, avoiding eye contact, and not stopping to think are interpreted as indicating a green speaker and a junior employee.

I know you might be thinking, “But won’t it sound fake and weird if I get up to present and sound like Don Draper or Diane Sawyer?” Well, yes, but that’s the beauty of maturing. You get to sound like you only more confident, thoughtful, and authoritative.

Spend some time projecting ahead in your imagination. What do you expect to sound like when you have your own team to manage? When you move from a cube to an office? When your title starts with Senior or Chief or Principal? You know who you want to become in your work life. If you manage your habits, create your presentation materials, and adjust your internal monologue to be that person now, the potential for you to become that person—with all its perks and responsibilities—will be much more evident to those who determine your work future.

As you put together your slides, as you run through them for clarity and concision, be that person. You’ll be surprised at how many of your “junior” habits fall by the wayside and how quickly and easily you grow yourself up to be an excellent speaker—and still be yourself. Indeed, it’s kind of the Turpin tagline: “Find your focus” (decide who/how you want to be as you move forward in your career), “Be yourself” (not some fake uber-adult so you end up sounding like Ron Burgundy), “Only better” (the junior employee with senior potential, the kid who stands out in the crowd, and the one they can put in front of key clients).

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

A New Definition of Success

June 30, 2014 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Nervousness, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Training

Why a Performance Approach to Business Presentations Doesn’t Work

greg_owen_boger_300Presentations should not be confused with speeches. Speeches are a type of performance. Presentations are a type of conversation. That’s why we’ve redefined them as “Orderly Conversations.”

Unfortunately, many people, even industry experts, hang on to the idea that a presentation should be “performed,” that it can be perfected by scripting, rehearsing, planning when and how to gesture, and following rules. These rules can be about all kinds of things, like the “right” number of bullets, never looking at your slides, holding your hands a certain way, or pausing for dramatic purposes.

As Dale Ludwig writes in chapter 5 of our new book The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined: “When rules like these are applied without consideration of their effectiveness or appropriateness for an individual, they stop being the means to an end and become the end themselves. This makes presenting more difficult for the presenter and less effective for the audience.”

Three Types of Performers
What we’ve seen is that business presenters who follow a performance approach generally fall into three categories:

  1. The Nervous Perfectionist
  2. The Dutiful Student
  3. The Entertainer

Let’s take a look at the negative consequences of each type of performer and offer up a better way forward.

The Nervous Perfectionist
In the book, we write about Jennifer, a Nervous Perfectionist. She puts an extraordinary amount of time into planning her presentation and rehearses it several times before the big day. Her goal is to perfect her delivery.

Unfortunately, during her last presentation, Jennifer felt like a failure because things didn’t go as she’d planned. Her solution was to rehearse more the next time.

Jennifer’s assumptions look like this:
A New Definition of Success pic 1 6-30-14

Dale writes: “As Jennifer moved through each of these steps, she assumed she was gradually taking control over the process. But it didn’t work. What happened to Jennifer actually looks like this.”
A New Definition of Success pic 2 6-30-14

Dale goes on: “As you can see, Jennifer’s nervousness led her to rehearse, which turned her presentation into a performance. This made her more self-conscious and more nervous. Her decision to rehearse more for the next presentation just repeats the cycle.”

The Dutiful Student, a New Definition of Success and a True Story
Another type of performance-focused presenter is what we call the Dutiful Student. Dutiful Students want rules they can follow. After all, their thinking goes, there must be a better and worse way to do something. Give me rules and I’ll follow them.

Last week in a workshop, we met Sandra (not her real name). She is a Subject Matter Expert and accidental trainer. Several times she asked, “What’s the rule for… “

As proof of her allegiance to the “prepare, prepare, prepare” rule, she pulled out a three ring binder containing her training slide deck. Each slide, complete with script in the speaker notes, was laminated for safekeeping.

We asked her how long it takes her to get ready to actually deliver the training. She said with a sigh, “Weeks and weeks. It’s far too time-consuming, and I have a lot of other responsibilities.” She was clearly frustrated by this.

When we asked her how she felt when learners asked questions, she said she hated it because it pulls her out of her script. “I have to think a lot when I’m up there. If they interrupt me it just throws me off.”

As the discussion went on, Sandra and her classmates agreed that her process is inefficient and didn’t create the conditions for fruitful learning. In Sandra’s attempt to follow rules and perfect the delivery of her training, she lost sight of her goal, which was to teach, to inspire learning.

Create the Conditions for a Fruitful Conversation
We worked with Sandra to help her create the conditions for a fruitful conversation. The first step was to turn her focus away from herself and toward her learners. She needed to get out of her head and actually speak with them.

During the first exercise in class, Sandra’s instruction was to introduce herself to the group and to engage them in a conversation about her job responsibilities. After several attempts, she finally settled into the conversation. She actually saw them and their reactions. She responded to them in the “here and now.” They asked questions, and Sandra answered them with ease.

This exercise was recorded on video. As she and I watched it a little later she said, “I forgot about thinking, and just did it! I just talked with them.” She was amazed that she could actually stand in front of the group and hold a conversation. She wasn’t thinking about her gestures, or even what to say. She was engaged in the here and now of the conversation, and it came naturally to her.

As we continued to talk, she made a connection that will stick with her well into the future. She said, “You know … as I think about it, I do my best teaching at the bar after my sessions. Now that I know why that is, I have a new definition of success!”

The Entertainer
In the book, we also talk about Sophia, an Entertainer. The character of Sophia was inspired by a young man (we’ll call him Calvin) that I worked with years ago. He was in sales and approached his sales presentations as if he were a comedian on a stage.

Calvin had a larger than life personality, a toothy smile, and a presentation style to go with it. I remember he swaggered to the front of the room and asked if we were ready. When we said yes, he snapped into action. It was as if the spotlight had just been turned on.

I remember that Calvin’s boss caught me in the hall that day and invited me into his office for a chat. As it turned out, Calvin’s job was on the line. His buyers weren’t buying, and none of his co-workers wanted to work with him. Calvin was over the top and perceived as phony. Not exactly the type of person most people want to work with or buy from.

So What Does This Mean for You?
Dale writes: “The lure of the performance approach is control; presenters use it because they assume success comes from planning exactly what they are going to say and how they will say it in advance of the presentation. This also means, their thinking goes, that success can be reached fairly easily because all they have to do is remember the plan and follow the rules. The danger is that exercising this level of control over the process pulls your focus away from the here and now of the conversation and leads, for many people, to increased nervousness and heightened self-consciousness.”

The more effective and efficient way to prepare for and deliver your presentations is to think of them as Orderly Conversations. Your role, then, is to prepare for and lead a listener-focused, flexible and responsive conversation. And when you do, it will make all the difference.

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

The Orderly Conversation is now available at Amazon.com

A New Way to Look at the Orderly Conversation

June 4, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation

Greg and I had a meeting with our publisher and book designer yesterday. We’re getting very close to finalizing every image, sidebar, and pull quote (before we began this process, I had no idea what a pull quote was). We also talked about the back cover of the book. Along with the text included there, we’re including this image.

back cover 6-3-14

This image does a good job illustrating one of the core principles of The Orderly Conversation. The work you do in advance, during the planning stage, should bring order to the conversation you anticipate. It’s all about looking forward. Once the presentation begins, though, the plan must serve the conversation that’s actually taking place. That means bringing something created in the past into the present.

The challenge presenters face is balancing the two. Too much attention paid to the plan leads to stilted, scripted delivery. Too much attention on the conversation leads to a loss of order and focus. Successful presenters manage this process by staying fully engaged in the conversation and trusting the plan to keep it on track.

During your next presentation, keep the balance between these two goals in mind.

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”

Virtual Presentations That Work

December 16, 2013 in Delivery, Presentation, Talent Development, Training, Video, Virtual

Breakthrough to Engage Clients and Staff

Greg Owen-Boger had the pleasure of presenting a webinar for the Training Magazine Network last week.

It was a great session full of lively chat from the engaged group.

Click the image to access the hour-long recording. (Note that you’ll need to register.)

Virtual Presentations that Work

Comments from attendees:

17 minutes in Barb said: “Already worth the price of admission… I like the ‘do it like it’s live’ idea!”

Bart said: “Really a lot of good ideas – great session. Glad I tuned in!”

Mary said: “This webinar… really good.”

Haley said: “Thanks so much, this was so helpful!”

Tracey said: “Nice job! Well explained concepts and good examples.”

Sandy said: “Wonderful information. I learned some great tips. Thanks so much!”

Self-awareness and Engagement

November 25, 2013 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Nervousness, Presentation

greg_owen-boger_hi-res_colorLast week we talked about “Beth,” a nervous presenter. Beth is a smart, articulate professional, but when it came to presenting she struggled and became self-conscious.

The first hurdle we had to jump was to settle her thoughts so that she could be in control. We did that through active pausing.

Beth was amazed at how such a simple thing could give her so much control over her ability to communicate clearly and confidently.

That’s great, but Beth also needs to be able TO DO IT, even when the stakes are high. That will require a new level of self-awareness (not self-consciousness) and engagement than what she’s used to.

“You need to be able to recognize – even when things are swirling out of control – that it’s happening. That level of awareness is critical in order for you to take control back,” I said.

In our workshops we talk a lot about being engaged in the conversation. Even when the stakes are high, we need to be as comfortable and in control as we are in everyday low-stakes situations. We need to be able to shift our focus outward, look around the room, take stock, think, and most importantly, we need to make a connection with the people we’re speaking with.

Rather than thinking, “How am I doing?” we need to think, “How are THEY doing?”

That requires eye contact. Not scanning the room. Not looking over their heads, but real solid make-a-connection eye contact so that you actually SEE them.

We’ve written about it many times, so I won’t go into a lot of detail here. Here’s a good primer on engagement: http://theorderlyconversation.com/wordpress/why-we-do-what-we-do-part-3-of-4/

The bottom line is that in order to be an effective presenter, one who is truly in control and fully aware of what’s going on around them, you need to be self-aware and engaged in the conversation taking place.

Easier said than done, for sure.

Let us know how we can help you.

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

How Do You Want to be Perceived?

October 21, 2013 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

greg_owen-boger_hi-res_colorAs Workplace Learning & Performance Professionals, this is an important question to ask ourselves. Just how DO we, as an industry, want to be perceived?

Almost every workshop we conduct and speaking engagement we lead starts with a group discussion around this question. Answers are charted and discussed. Once the chart is hung on the wall for all to see, we can start to look at ourselves through this lens and identify two things:

  1. What are we doing to support this hoped-for perception?
  2. What are we doing that’s preventing us from reaching it?

Here’s an example: I recently presented a session called “Engaging Learners in the Orderly Conversation” to a group of highly engaged learning professionals at a local ASTD chapter. The chart we made included a lot of great words, but the two that spoke the loudest to this group were “respected” and “relevant.”

Our conversation that day eventually turned to the use of icebreakers. The group was fairly evenly split. Some love icebreakers, others don’t. There was passion on both sides of the argument. Eventually I asked the group if the use of icebreakers supported their goals of being respected and relevant.

“No.”

“Yes.”

Eventually someone said, “Only if the icebreaker supports the learning and is relevant to the group.” Finally the group was in agreement.

When we work with trainers and instructional designers, we encourage them to scrutinize everything. Every module, everything they do and say, every exercise and facilitated discussion needs to support their goals. If they don’t, they should be tossed out or restructured.

Making these changes is a difficult thing for people to do. It’s hard to let go of long-held beliefs, habits, and industry trends, but it’s a necessary thing.

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

Optics Matter

October 8, 2013 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings

greg 200x300Gretchen Pisano, a consultant colleague of mine, starts many of her consulting engagements with this quote, “Be present or be absent, but don’t be both.” Learn about Gretchen here:  Sounding Board, Inc.

I love that quote.

Next time you’re in a meeting, look around. How many of your colleagues are physically in the room, but not present?

They might be staring off or checking their email. They might even be playing a game on their smart phone.

Who knows? They could actually be listening, but you wouldn’t know it. They appear disinterested and disengaged, and that sends a message to everyone else in the room.

We all know this, of course, but it’s good to be reminded once in a while:

Optics matter.

It’s not enough to be engaged. You need to look engaged too.

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

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”