Science Says Eye Contact is Crucial

February 1, 2016 in Barbara Egel, Delivery, Facilitation, Meetings, Myths Debunked, Presentation

barbara_egel_132_BWThe January/February issue of Scientific American MIND (may require a subscription) has a whole spread (pp 8-9) on eye contact: how long is effective, how it affects us physiologically, and how it works in conversation. I’m happy to report that the science backs up what we at Turpin Communication have been teaching for years in our presentation skills workshops. Scientist Alan Johnson notes, “Gaze conveys that you are an object of interest, and interest is linked to intention.” Can you see how this kind of interest draws your audience into participating in your presentation? And can you see why tips like, “look at the tops of their heads,” is not nearly as effective? 

Engagement with your audience is the key factor in ensuring that they trust you, that they pay attention, and that you pick up signals when they are confused, questioning, or enthusiastic. Tom Foulsham, another of the scientists cited, talks about “this kind of dance people do” as they exchange eye contact in conversations. I would extend that metaphor to say that if you are the presenter, you are the lead dancer, and the more deftly you manage the conversation through eye contact, the more your audience will follow your lead. 

Check out what Dale Ludwig, Turpin’s President and Founder, and the Minnesota State Senate have to say about eye contact.

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

Let’s Get Serious About Live Instructor-led Training

September 8, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, News, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, The Orderly Conversation, Training

Dale Ludwig, Founder of Turpin Communication and Co-author of The Orderly Conversation was just published in Training Industry Magazine.

Training Industry Magazine article by Dale Ludwig

Here’s an excerpt.

Let’s Get Serious About Live Instructor-led Training

With so many modes of training delivery available to learning and development (L&D) professionals – online, blended, synchronous, asynchronous, mobile – it’s common to ask whether a traditional face-to-face workshop is necessary to meet the needs of the business. In many cases, it’s not. When it is, though, we have a responsibility to make this mode of delivery worth the investment in time and resources.

To that end, training professionals spend a lot of time thinking about the needs of adult learners. What some of them do not fully take into account, though, is that the adults with whom they work are not merely “adults.” They are Busy People at Work.

Busy People Work - Turpin CommunicationThese learners have unique perspectives and specific needs. Unlike adults in non-business learning environments, they view training as a job responsibility, important for their work and their advancement, and are very busy. Time spent in training is time away from their regular responsibilities. Understanding and empathy for this type of learner must be the driving forces behind training design and delivery. When they are, trainers earn the trust and good will of their learners. Without trust and good will, learners check out of the process.

 

The article goes on to discuss five key concepts for designing and delivering training for Busy People at Work.

  1. Make it a conversation.
  2. Plan to succeed on two levels.
  3. Frame the conversation.
  4. Be engaged and responsive.
  5. Don’t let activities destroy good will.

Read the full article, found on page 21, here.

The Minnesota State Senate Has Something to Say About Eye Contact

May 12, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery

dale_ludwig_300As you probably know, we believe that eye contact is one of the most powerful tools a business presenter has. During an interactive presentation—or even during a meeting—eye contact with the others in the room helps you engage, gives you control over the process, and brings everyone into the conversation. When you’re responding to a question or comment from someone in the room, we also recommend that you direct your eye contact to everyone. This technique helps you maintain control and keep the needs of the group in mind. 

Because eye contact is such a key skill, I was fascinated by an NPR story the other day. It seems that the Minnesota State Senate forbids members from looking at their peers during debate. They must, instead, direct all of their remarks to the Senate President, the person at the front of the room.

What’s behind this rule? These Minnesotans understand the power of eye contact. 

It all has to do with keeping things orderly. Without receiving eye contact from the speaker, senators are encouraged to focus on the content of what is being discussed. The goal is to eliminate the nasty attacks and rancorous behavior that can occur when things get too personal. (If you’ve ever seen British Parliament members hurl insults at each other from across the room, you know how personal these debates can be when people are facing each other.) By following the eye contact rule, senators have an easier time staying focused on the message, not the person delivering it.

I don’t recommend following the Senate’s rule during your presentations. But understanding how far senators are willing to go to keep their debates on track is a testament to how powerful a tool solid eye contact can be.

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

Feeling a Little Silly at the Front of the Room? Three Very Serious Ideas About Enthusiasm

April 27, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

A few weeks ago, I was delivering a workshop for a group of soon-to-be trainers. Each of them was a subject matter expert (SME), and they were preparing to deliver training to groups of people within their organization. On the first day of the class we were focused on helping the dale_ludwig_hi-res_colorSMEs strengthen the skills required to get comfortable at the front of the room and engage the group. For one of the men in the class, I’ll call him John, this raised some issues.

We were talking about enthusiasm. John was not particularly unenthusiastic, but he was the type of person who got a little less enthusiastic and a bit quieter at the front of the room. We see this all the time. What interested me was John’s reaction to my recommendation that he crank up the energy just a bit.

“I don’t believe that should be necessary. It is their job to come to my class and pay attention. When teaching, I shouldn’t have to be someone I am not.”

In many ways, I agreed with what John was saying. First, he was right to believe that the business of the class he was teaching was serious and important. He was also correct to believe every person in the class had a clear job to do: listen and learn. No doubt about either of these assumptions.

Where I differ with John is that he equated an enthusiastic trainer with an entertaining trainer. Here’s what I mean:

When trainers attempt to entertain a class, they always miss the mark. This type of entertainment can take many forms: pointless activities, inappropriate humor, relentless ice breakers, and—as we see with John’s concern—calculated enthusiasm.

Enthusiastic trainers are not entertainers. Their passion and excitement for the task shines through because they want to help people understand something new. Their enthusiasm generates interest and is infectious. Because it is the result of being deeply engaged with the group, this type of enthusiasm serves a very practical purpose. It simply makes listening easier.

Here’s what I say to trainers and presenters with John’s concerns:

  1. Enthusiasm must be genuine and it can spring from many things—what you’re saying, the people you’re saying it to, the task at hand. Find a way to tap into any or all of these things.
  2. When you’re the one at the front, you are responsible for the atmosphere in the room. Do what needs to be done to set the right tone.
  3. Think of enthusiasm as the fuel you need to keep the conversation going. Let it boost your volume, vary your vocal inflection, and bring life to your gestures.

So, yes, while the learners in John’s class did need to “listen and learn,” it’s his job to make that process as easy and inviting as possible. This has nothing to do with adding fluff or insincerity to delivery. It’s about creating the conditions for a fruitful conversation.

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

 

Keep these 3 things in mind when using PowerPoint in informal settings

March 11, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Introduction, Meetings, Preparation

Here’s a question I found intriguing on LinkedIn. It’s from a woman named Alexis.

We do mid-year meetings with our customers, to review the services we’ve delivered and make sure expectations are being met/exceeded. In the interest of consistency, we’ve developed a PowerPoint template with key topics to include – the expectation is that it be customized based on the customer. Often, we don’t project, but rather use the slides as a handout, to ensure all key points are being met, and to leave the customer with a takeaway in writing. Some of our employees are naturals at referring to slides when needed, in whatever order the conversation goes, but a few are struggling with using PowerPoint and not just following through, slide by slide, letting the presentation dictate the conversation (rather than the other way around). I would be grateful for any tips or articles anyone has that might help these folks.

dale_ludwig_hi-res_colorAlexis:

First, I really like the way this question is phrased. It’s clear that you know these meetings are conversations, not one-way presentations of information. The challenge you’re talking about—centering on how a slide or a handout should be used during an informal meeting—is common. In some ways, these sorts of meetings are more difficult to manage than a formal presentation to a larger group because the chances are very good the conversation will go off in an unexpected direction.

Here are a few best practices.

  1. Frame the Conversation: At the beginning of the meeting, the presenter (I’ll call that person the “presenter” even though this is an informal conversation) should take control of the conversation by quickly establishing context, a goal for the meeting, and the takeaways for the audience. Include this information on the first slide in the deck. This will build a framework for the conversation. As the conversation proceeds, the presenter simply needs to be aware of how what is happening spontaneously fits (or doesn’t fit) into the frame. They should also refer to the frame by saying things like: “We’re meeting today to talk about how things have been going in the last couple months …” and “Should we move on to my next point?”
  2. Bring Visuals into the Conversation: As the conversation moves along, be sure to draw attention to the visual when appropriate. It’s important to let the customer know when they should look at the visual and what they should be focusing on. For example, saying something like: “Let’s jump ahead to the third slide in the deck. As you can see across the top, we’ve been doing well meeting the deliverables we discussed last fall.” This will help presenters take advantage of the focus and clarity the visual is there to provide.
  3. Be Aware of Your Default: You mentioned in your question that some of the presenters are comfortable going with the flow of the conversation, bringing the slides into it as needed, and that others move forward slide by slide by slide. This is extremely common. People approach these sorts of conversations differently. We’ve come up with labels for the most fundamental distinction and found that most people fall somewhere between them. We call the first type “Improvisers” because they thrive on the give and take of the interaction. We call the slide-by-slide people “Writers” because they are most comfortable when there is a plan they can follow. Neither Default is better than the other. Just different.
    • Improvisers: It’s easy for an Improviser to get the conversation going and then … get lost in it. The good thing is their level of engagement with the customer is high and they’re very responsive. The down side is that they often get caught in the weeds. Improvisers need to trust the plan they have created to help them stay focused. For an Improviser, doing well often feels like they’re being restricted. While that might be slightly uncomfortable for them, it’s usually a good thing because it means they’re more focused and concise.
    • Writers: Flexibility within the frame is crucial for Writers. Having a plan is a good thing, but it shouldn’t be allowed to squelch the conversation. Before the presentation, Writers should take a step back and consider how the information they’re delivering fits into the frame. At this point don’t worry about the details, just the overall shape of the presentation. Imagine delivering content in a different order, in response to a specific question, or with a different emphasis. Doing so will help a Writer look at the content in different ways and build flexibility.

As you know, there is no perfect presentation or perfect meeting. Unexpected things happen during a lively conversation. The thing to do is to have a strong plan and be ready to adapt it on the fly.

 

Thanks for the question, Alexis!

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

Carrots, and, um, Sticks

October 21, 2014 in Author, Barbara Egel, Delivery, Presentation

Barbara Egel, Coach at Turpin CommunicationRecently in a Speaking with Confidence and Clarity workshop, I was coaching a young man who was counting his “ums” as he watched his video. This was a continuation of something that had gone on in the main room with the whole class: they were counting each others’ “ums” and “uhs.” As he quantified his errors, I realized that he was taking part in the very natural—and completely unproductive—behavior of beating himself up for irrelevant transgressions. After all, the “ums” weren’t that distracting. If he hadn’t pointed them out, I would have missed most of them.

Focusing on the mistakes just makes more of them

The problem with taking note of every “um” (or “uh,” “like,” “and stuff,” “you know”) you say is that you issue yourself a little mental punishment, like a tiny electric shock, every time you do. Punishment instills fear, and fear pulls you out of your engagement with your audience, often leading to more of the behavior you were trying to limit. In other words, focusing on your bad moves gives them way too much power and increases the chance they will happen again.

So what’s the solution? Reward.

I suggested to this learner that rather than falling into the self-defeating spiral of counting his “ums,” he should instead find moments to reward himself for staying engaged and on track (in spite of the “ums”) with a big helping of oxygen. Yep, just take a breath. A breath is a pause, and pausing is a powerful engagement technique. Not only will he pull away from the disengaging punishment spiral, but he’ll actually be moving in the opposite direction toward meaningful engagement. This will boost his confidence, literally feed his brain, and calm his nerves. 

Treat yourself!

My challenge to you, then, is to escape the punishment cycle and find your during-your-presentation reward in a nice big breath. By doing so, you will give yourself time to think, engage, and really connect with your audience and yourself.

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

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”

Nervousness VS the Active Pause

November 21, 2013 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Nervousness, Presentation

greg_owen-boger_hi-res_colorI was working with an extremely nervous presenter in a recent Mastering Your Presentations workshop. She described her presentation experience like this: “My head races and swirls, and then it switches back on itself. I know that words are coming out of my mouth, but I don’t have any control over them. I must sound like an idiot.”

We hear that sort of thing a lot. This presenter is not alone.

The path forward for this presenter was clear. There would be no improvement if we couldn’t find a way for her to manage her nerves. Notice that I write “manage” and not “eliminate.” There’s little I can do or say to a nervous person that will eliminate their nerves. The root cause of the nervousness and the psychological and physiological responses people have is too deeply ingrained in who they are.

What I can do is help them manage the nervousness so that it can be worked through. Over time, their ability to work through their nervousness will lessen its effect on them.

So, back to our workshop participant. Let’s call her Beth. Beth is a smart, articulate analyst. I noticed before the class started as she bantered with the other attendees that she was funny and charming.

But once she got up in front of the class during the first exercise, she crumbled inside. “I feel so dumb,” she said.

The other class participants came to her rescue. “No, you’re not dumb. Not at all. What you said made perfect sense.”

Beth replied, “But that’s the problem. I don’t know what I said.”

I stepped in. “Beth, your brain is a good one. You wouldn’t be in your current role if you weren’t smart. When you’re in a low-stakes conversation with someone at work, do you feel in control of your thoughts?”

She answered that she did.

“So what we need to figure out is what you can do when you’re under pressure that will help you gain control so that you’re as comfortable as you are in regular low-stakes conversations. We’re going to start with a pausing exercise.”

I instructed that when I raise my hand, she is to pause.

She started talking about a current project she was working on. I raised my hand. She did what many people do, she froze.

“Let’s stop,” I said. I went on to explain that a pause shouldn’t be like hitting the pause button on a DVR. “This is an active pause. You should breathe and think. Gather your thoughts. When you’re ready, you can begin speaking again.”

She tried it, and eventually she settled into the conversation. Her personality started to peek through and her description of the project was clear.

“Were you in control of your thoughts?” I asked.

“Yes. That was amazing,” she said.

Everyone in the class agreed. The transformation, in such a brief period of time, was amazing.

In the battle between nervousness and an active pause, the active pause won.

“Here’s the deal,” I said. You’ve experienced what it’s like to pause, breathe, and gather your thoughts before moving on. Now you need to remember to do it when nervousness sets in and the stakes are high. That will require a new level of self-awareness and engagement.”

Self-awareness and engagement will be the topic for next week’s article.

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

No Easy Button

November 15, 2013 in Dale Ludwig, Myths Debunked, Nervousness, Preparation, Presentation, Training

easy-buttonRecently, Greg and I delivered a facilitation skills for trainers workshop to a group of Subject Matter Experts. This group had been called upon to deliver training to less-seasoned employees in the organization.

Although the training content was technical and detailed, it was also highly nuanced. The goal of the training was to help learners not only understand the details, but also help them know how to use them to make complex business decisions.

During our needs assessment discussion at the beginning of the class, one of the SMEs put it this way:

“We’re trying to teach people that there is no Easy Button. They need to learn how to think about this information so they can be confident using it to make decisions.”

As I charted that idea, I thought about how the same thing is true for our workshops. A lot of presenters are looking for the Easy Button. They want simple answers to complex questions. The problem is, many of the simple answers aren’t the right answers. Presenting and facilitating are too complex and improvement too individual for that.

Here are three of the most common questions we’re asked and our think-about-it-this-way responses. If you’ve participated in one our workshops, these probably sound familiar.

“How can I eliminate nervousness?” Instead of thinking of nervousness as something you can eliminate, think of it as something to be worked through. If you’ve participated in one of our workshops, you know that the key is engagement. Presenters need to figure out what they need to do to engage their listeners.

“How much should I rehearse?” First, we have to define what you mean by rehearsal. If you define it as the process of perfecting your presentation before it’s delivered, then you shouldn’t rehearse at all. However, you do need to be prepared, and the best way for you to prepare is affected by your Default. Improvisers prepare differently than Writers.

“Is it okay to have eight words in a single bullet point?” Instead of counting the words in a bullet point, think about how you’re planning to use it. Can it be easily read in relation to the other bullet points in the list? Does the bullet make understanding easier? Can you make it smoother or simpler? The number of words you wind up with is secondary to these more fundamental issues.

In the long run, our training is about simplifying improvement for everyone. It’s just that getting to a simple solution that is also the right solution for you takes thoughtful consideration.

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 3 of 4)

April 29, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

A Discussion of Turpin Communication’s Core Principles:
Engagement

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4

Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin CommunicationThis is the third in a series of four posts focusing on Turpin’s core principles. In the last entry I talked about how every presenter brings a Default Approach to the process and that understanding what it is focuses your improvement. In this post, I’ll focus on what it means to be engaged in an Orderly Conversation.

It seems that everyone is talking about engaging people these days. Businesses use social media to keep customers engaged. Managers want their employees to be fully engaged. Trainers want to engage learners. Each of these uses of the word have to do with how someone else (the customer, employee or learner) responds to something you do. It has to do with motivating them or maybe just keeping them interested.

We use the term to describe what happens when a two-way interaction begins. When presenters engage in conversation with their audience, they are not pouring information into passive listeners. They are not merely grabbing that person’s attention. An engaged presenter initiates a genuine connection with the audience. Both presenter and audience member share a moment in time, both equally engaged.

This level of engagement brings the audience into the conversation, of course, but it also affects how the presenter feels and thinks. Engaged presenters are able to think and speak spontaneously because they are reacting to the people they are speaking to, just as they do in everyday conversation. This, in turn, makes presenters feel confident and comfortable.

It’s for this reason that all presenters, especially nervous presenters, need to take command of the skills that help them engage. Once the conversation begins, the anxiety, self-consciousness, and second-guessing associated with nervousness melt away. You are able to stay focused and rein in the discomfort and distraction of nervousness.

So by focusing on engaging listeners in the conversation, we accomplish two things. First, we help presenters develop the skills they need to work through their nervousness. Second, we release presenters from the generic, prescriptive rules found in traditional training classes. Engaged presenters trust themselves to be confidently self-aware and in control.

Part 1Part 2, Part 4

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