Lecture is not a four-letter word: 3 ways to succeed when you’re doing the talking

September 9, 2015 in Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Myths Debunked, Talent Development, Training

I had a conversation over the backyard fence with one of my neighbors a couple days ago. She was home for the weekend after her first two weeks of college. The conversation focused on the campus, her new roommate, and her classes. As far as the classes are concerned, she said that most of them were large lectures, an entirely new experience for her, and one that was going to take some time getting used to.

That got me thinking about my freshman year. I remember sitting through a lot of lectures. Some of them good. Some of them difficult to listen to.

Those of us in learning and development hardly ever use the term “lecture.” It’s a bit of a pariah, equated with boredom and what’s called death by PowerPoint. The assumption by most trainers and learning designers is that lectures are always dull. So, when they do occur (as they must), they have to be enlivened with exercises, activities, energizers—anything to break the monotony of listening to the instructor speak. Too often, this leads to wasted time and learner frustration.

It shouldn’t be this way. Delivering information through lecture is not only efficient, it also allows for nuance. Good lecturers are able to adapt what they say to the group’s perspective, emphasizing relevance and context when they are not immediately obvious. [Tweet “Delivering information through lecture is not only efficient, it also allows for nuance.”]

For example, let’s say that you’re involved in onboarding new employees. One of your jobs is to deliver a class focusing on the industry as a whole. It involves a lot of history, competitor research, differentiators in the market, a lot of information that new employees should know—although it isn’t entirely clear to them why they need to know it now. If you were to have them read this information instead of hearing about it from an instructor, they may not be able to put it in context. A lecture about this information, delivered well, would do that. It would help the audience make sense of and prioritize their learning.

Another example involves the use of Subject Matter Experts in the classroom. SMEs bring depth of knowledge and experience to the lecture format. Done well, their lectures can bring complex information to life. (Which, come to think of it, explains why some well-regarded university professors are terrible teachers: They are SMEs who never learned how to lecture.)

Three keys to lecturing well
So what can we do to make this type of delivery better? How can lecturing be a useful, effective, even an enjoyable part of the training process? Here are three ways to do it.

  1. Understand that lectures are not speeches. They are a type of conversation. You may wonder if it’s possible to have a conversation when you’re doing most of the talking. It is. Just stay focused on your learners and their responses—verbal and nonverbal. If you’re using a script (memorized or not) or relying heavily on your notes, stop it. Speak spontaneously, just as you would if you were delivering the training information to a single individual.
  2. Draw your energy from the group. Trainers often say to us that the information they’re delivering is boring. They assume that bringing any amount of energy or enthusiasm to its delivery is impossible because the content is dull. I don’t buy that. The enthusiasm you bring to the process doesn’t come from what you’re saying. It comes from your desire to explain what the information means to the learners. It’s about your desire to make them feel that it’s relevant and useful. [Tweet “The enthusiasm … comes from your desire to explain what the information means to the learners.”]
  3. Make it easy to listen and remember. The surest way to lose people during a lecture is to ignore purpose, context, and structure.
    • Emphasize what you want learners to take away from the lecture. Be specific. This goal is not the goal of the entire class, just the lecture you’re delivering.
    • Put the information you’re talking about in the context of their work. Why is it important to them? Be specific and practical.
    • Give them an agenda. If your learners were taking notes based on your lecture, the notes should be a clear reflection of your outline. Again, think about how easy it was to take notes in some college courses and how impossible it was in others. Be the lecturer who communicates structure and emphasizes priorities.

Listening to one person deliver information even for just a few minutes can be a major challenge. But avoiding any sort of sustained delivery of information—or interrupting it too often to “energize” the group—isn’t the answer. The key is to stay focused on your listeners’ and their needs.

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.[Tweet “When trainers attempt to entertain a class, they always miss the mark.”]

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.[Tweet “When you’re the one at the front, you are responsible for the atmosphere in the room.”]

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”

 

Presentation Skills Training: REDEFINED. (Part 3 of 5)

February 20, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4Part 5

This is the third in a series of five blog posts focusing on the distinction between the academic approach to public speaking and the skill-building approach business presenters need. My goal with this series is to talk about why the application of Public Speaking 101 approaches in the corporate training room fails to meet the needs of business presenters.

This post will focus on what are traditionally called “delivery skills.” These are the physical and vocal skills you use to communicate in every face-to-face interaction. If you approach your presentation as a performance instead of a conversation (as I discussed in my last post), your focus will be on how these skills look and sound to your audience. The success of a performance of a speech involves, for example, establishing eye contact with your audience to appear trustworthy, pausing to emphasize your points, controlling gestures to appear professional, and bringing enthusiasm to your voice.

What’s missing with that approach is consideration of what these skills do for you, the presenter. Let’s look at eye contact and pausing. During our workshops we talk about these skills as engagement skills. When they are used well, they help presenters relax, focus, and bring their listeners into the conversation.

The use of these skills, in other words, is about much more than simply how they make you look and sound. They are essential for the conversation. Through their application you are able to keep your thoughts and focus in the here and now. If you’re only thinking about how these skills appear to others, it takes you out of the moment and turns your focus inward. This weakens your connection to listeners and turns the conversation into a performance.

For most people, after you’re engaged in the conversation, your other delivery skills take care of themselves. Gestures occur naturally and vocal enthusiasm is appropriate and genuine. So rather than thinking of these skills as the polish you apply to performance, think of them as the welcome result of being engaged in the conversation.

In the next post I’ll talk about the need to bring real-life presentations into training.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4Part 5

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

How can I keep my enthusiasm where it needs to be?

April 23, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Preparation, Sarah Stocker

There is no one-size-fits-all solution; different people need to do different things to increase their enthusiasm. Here are some things to consider.

Are you disengaged?
Presenters who are disengaged can appear stiff and uncomfortable. When you are engaged your natural communication skills and enthusiasm will emerge. For more on engagement, read Dale’s post, Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better.

Is it a volume issue?
Speaking louder is often the easiest way to increase your enthusiasm. Boosting your volume requires you to put more energy into your voice and makes you sound more passionate about your topic. To start your presentation on the right path, simply focus on the person farthest away from you in the room and speak to them. Doing this will naturally bring your volume up to an appropriate level.

Do you appear more enthusiastic when you increase your movement a bit?
Purposeful movement can add energy to your presentation. For some people it gives them a positive way to release nervous energy (instead of fidgeting or pacing). For presenters who tend to be stiff, it can help them loosen up. Some examples of purposeful movement are moving toward the screen to point something out or moving toward a specific individual to connect with them.

The thing to remember, and this is something that’s true for everyone, is that presenting is hard work. If you’re not tired after a long presentation, you’re probably not working hard enough. A presenter asked me recently if she needed to fake it when she just wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic about her presentation. I said absolutely yes. You still have to look natural and be yourself, of course, but sometimes you have to pull your enthusiasm out of thin air.

by Sarah Stocker, Trainer and Workshop Coordinator at Turpin Communication