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”

Wearing Two Hats: Facilitating Successful Meetings When You’re the Boss

August 19, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Facilitation

This article was originally published on MondoSpective.

Facilitating a group discussion always brings with it a unique set of challenges. Every group involves different personalities, perspectives, and needs. Facilitators have to work hard to create an environment in which a productive conversation can take place.

When the facilitator is also the boss, the process gets even more complicated. The atmosphere in the room will be affected by who you are. Inevitably, the people reporting to you will feel their response is being evaluated—even if you set up the discussion as a judgment-free brainstorming session. This will affect both how they respond and their willingness to participate.

While you can’t change who you are or your role in the organization, you can facilitate discussions with your team successfully. You just have to remind yourself that your responsibilities as facilitator are different than your responsibilities as manager.

Process vs. Content. The facilitator’s role is all about process. It’s not their job to add to or comment on that content. But it is their job to encourage participation and control the direction of the conversation. That requires two things: demonstrating trust in the individuals in the group and showing respect for their needs.

Demonstrating trust. A successful facilitator creates an environment in which information and ideas can be freely exchanged. That means that the individuals in the group need to feel their questions and comments are welcome. The level of participation from individuals in the audience will vary, of course. But what’s important is not equal participation from everyone, but equal opportunity for participation. So as a facilitator, you need to:

  • Be patient, curious, and unafraid to listen. Don’t waste the good will of the group by not listening, or glossing over nuance.
  • Demonstrate through your actions that all input can be useful. As a leader and manager, it’s often important to assess situations quickly. This is an asset in your daily responsibilities, but it can be a liability when facilitating. During a discussion it’s important to let ideas percolate a little.
  • Level the playing field by allowing yourself to be vulnerable. Remember, you’re the only person in the room who doesn’t feel a little vulnerable already.

Showing respect. The discussion you lead needs to be as efficient as possible. While the group wants to feel that they are free to contribute, they also want the conversation to achieve something. Because you are their manager, individuals might be reluctant to challenge your decisions as facilitator or point out that a topic has run its course. Here are some recommendations.

  • Do your homework. Respect the group’s time and energy by doing the work that’s required beforehand. This involves creating a framework for the conversation that communicates your goal, the problem you’re trying to solve, and what you expect from your reports during the discussion. This framework should be strong enough to keep things on track, but flexible enough to include unexpected turns in the conversation.
  • Remember that the framework exists to make participation easier for everyone. It should serve the conversation, not dominate it.
  • Appreciate the work the group is doing and the risks they’re taking.

Because you are the group’s manager as well as the meeting’s facilitator, there will be times when you’ll want to contribute to the content of the discussion as well. When you do, just acknowledge that you’ve taken your facilitator hat off. Say things like, “I can clear up that question for you, so allow me to speak now as your manager.”  When you’re finished contributing your manager perspective, put your facilitator hat back on.

Remember that the people involved in the discussion are your resource, just as they are when they’re going about their everyday responsibilities. When you’re facilitating, give them a safe, productive environment and the time they need to work through the ideas they’re sharing.

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

Adult Learners Often Need to Unlearn Before Learning

January 21, 2013 in Author, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

greg 200x300If you’ve known us and our work here at Turpin Communication for any period of time, you know that we spend a great deal of time debunking myths and helping people unlearn unhelpful (and sometimes harmful) ideas about presenting, facilitating, and training.

You need only visit our blog section on Myths Debunked to get a good understanding of where we stand on old ideas about not reading your slides, never turning your back to your audience, looking over peoples’ heads, and the use of ice breakers (just to name a few).

This is why I was excited to see this article by Jane Bozarth called “Nuts & Bolts: Unlearning” on the Learning Solutions Magazine blog. Seems we’re not the only ones helping our clients unlearn.

Jane is considered to be one of the major thought leaders in the Workplace Learning & Performance industry. I’ve had the pleasure of attending her sessions at conferences. Her content is always fresh and she’s always genuine. Here’s her article’s opening sentences. I hope you read the rest. She’s spot on.

One of the givens in working with adult learners is the importance of helping them access prior knowledge and building on what they already know. But what if that prior knowledge is no longer useful, or the skills no longer applicable, or it was never very accurate in the first place?

Read the entire article.

What do you need to unlearn? What can you help others unlearn? Let us know in the comments below.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication

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

People think I’m mad all the time. As it turns out, I just have a “thinking face.” Anything I can do?

July 30, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Handling Questions, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Presentation, Sarah Stocker

This is a problem I’m very familiar with; I too have a “thinking face.” When I am deep in thought my face naturally gets a very stern look on it. I didn’t realize it until my colleagues kept asking me, “What’s wrong?” or “What did I miss?” when we worked together during workshops. My “thinking face” made them feel judged, which is obviously not a good thing. Here are a few ways to fix the problem.

The first step is to analyze your “thinking face.” What do you do? (I tend to squint, furrow my brow, and purse my lips.) When do you do it? During meetings? While presenting? When listening to others present? (My “thinking face” comes out the most when I’m listening to someone else speak.)

Once you are aware of what you do and when you do it, you can work to soften it. When I’m facilitating or listening to someone else present, I periodically check in with myself. Is my face scrunched up or tense? If the answer is yes, here is what I do:

  • I relax the muscles in my face.
  • I smile. It doesn’t have to be a huge grin – just a slight smile will do.
  • I open my eyes wider and slightly raise my eyebrows (“smile” with my eyes).

This makes me appear pleasant and receptive instead of critical and mad. Does it feel natural? Not really. But I don’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable or that I am criticizing them, so it’s worth the extra effort. And it does get easier (and a little more natural) the more I do it.

My final piece of advice is to be open about having a “thinking face.” If someone catches me giving them a stern look, I casually apologize, use it as an opportunity to laugh, and explain that it’s just my “thinking face.” It lightens the mood and lets them know it is not a reflection on them. Next time they notice it, they won’t jump to a negative conclusion.

A “thinking face” can give people the wrong impression of you or even shut down a productive conversation. Being aware, softening or brightening your facial expressions, and explaining yourself will help counteract any negative feelings it may cause.

By Sarah Stocker, Trainer and Workshop Coordinator at Turpin Communication

Work and Fun, In That Order

May 21, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, FAQs, Myths Debunked, Preparation, Training

This is a follow up to a post I wrote earlier this year entitled “Do you really expect me to respond to that?” In that entry I wrote about how the opening of your presentation or training session should not rely on really obvious rhetorical questions or shallow attempts to get the audience excited about your topic. My point was that your job at the front of the room is to set the right tone and communicate context for what’s to come. And that requires respecting the effort you expect the audience to make. Too often, though, people assume that they need to disguise the work to be done as something that is fun.

Presenters—and especially trainers—should never assume that the audience expects the presentation or the training session to be fun. It is, after all, work. It is work to pay attention, to process information and to learn new things. All of that can happen while people are having a good time, but it will not happen just because the person at the front of the room has decided that it’s time for an energizer, an exercise of dubious quality, or, worst of all, a joke or a cartoon.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against fun. But it needs to happen as the work is being done. That means it should have one of these two qualities. First, it can be an unplanned, unforced response to what’s happening in the room. Second, it can be an exercise that is absolutely relevant and necessary that also happens to be fun. In other words, the fun should be a reaction to what’s happening, not an agenda point.

So the next time you’re presenting to or facilitating a group of people remember that the best way to make them happy is to make the process—the work they’re doing for you—as relevant and easy as possible. If the time they spend with you is well spent, they will walk away happy that they were there.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication