It’s Not That You Made a Mistake, It’s How You Recover

August 27, 2015 in Barbara Egel, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Practice Does Not Make Perfect, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Uncategorized

Recently, I had an opportunity to observe Greg coaching a very Type-A businessperson. In her one-on-one session, the question arose of how to deal with mistakes. During her in-class presentation delivery, she had experienced a brain blip and given an amount in thousands when she meant hundred-thousands. She had stopped, smiled, and said something like, “Well that would be a surprise, wouldn’t it?” corrected the number, and moved on. Greg complimented her on the save, saying, “Your professionalism comes out in your recovery from a flub, not in the fact that it happened.”

That is, the most effective business presenters are so engaged with their audiences and have constructed slides that work so well for them that if they trip over their tongues, get lost for a moment, or even say the opposite of what they really mean, they can recover smoothly and easily.

Well then how do you get to this point? One of the things we talk about a lot is the difference between speeches and presentations. Speeches are formal, scripted, read verbatim, and don’t involve audience interaction until the end (if then) with moderated Q&A. Business presentations are orderly conversations designed to move the work at hand forward. They also have different best practices for preparation: for speeches, you rehearse; for business presentations, you prepare and practice.

  • Rehearsal is designed to get you letter-perfect for your speech. You might think about where to pause, how to gesture, and what kinds of vocal inflection you want to use, like an actor preparing for a role.
  • Business presentations require you to . . .
    • Prepare your material in a way that it helps you engage and stay on track and helps your audience follow, learn, and understand.
    • Practice so you have a sense of the overall flow, adapt to who will be in the room, and get yourself comfortable with the goals of the presentation overall.

Slide1

A flub in a rehearsed speech is hard to recover from for all but the most experienced because a speech is inflexible and not designed for interruption, recap, or clarification. Therefore, a flub comes out looking like—a flub.

In a business presentation, you have prepared to be flexible—you know your stuff and you also know that you’ve created your materials to help you stay on track—so a flub is just one of the many things that can happen to which you respond in the moment, stay engaged with your audience, and move on. If it’s a big flub, they’ll smile with you and be impressed with your ability to recover and move on. If it’s a small thing, and most flubs are, they probably won’t notice at all.

If you find that you’ve said “accounts payable” when you mean “receivable” or Thailand when you meant Taiwan, correct and keep moving forward. Your audience will only remember that you were smooth in your self-correction, didn’t lose focus, and kept the whole room moving forward and making progress.

By Barbara Egel, Presentation Coach at Turpin Communication and editor of “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.[Tweet “There is no perfect presentation or perfect meeting. “] [Tweet “Unexpected things happen. … 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”

Success ≠ Perfection

November 19, 2014 in Author, Barbara Egel, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Uncategorized

barbara_egel_132_BW“I want my presentation to be perfect.” This is something we hear from our course participants now and then, and I reckon more people think it than actually say it. Most of the time, when people talk about a “perfect” presentation, they seem to mean that their presentation goes exactly the way they envision it in their heads before they do it. Usually this includes being letter prefect, absolutely fluid and fluent, starting as planned and getting all the way to the end without interruption, and fielding a few softball questions at during Q & A while everyone looks on admiringly.

Effective Works Better Than Perfect

This is not a bad vision to have, it’s just kind of boring and it can sell you short as a presenter. Instead of thinking about “perfect” presentations, consider what goes into a successful, effective presentation. To me, that would look more like this: [Tweet “Instead of “perfect,” aim for a successful #presentation.”]

  • You have a solid grasp of your subject matter.
  • You know your audience’s pain points and key concerns, and you have crafted your presentation to address them with appropriate audience-facing organization and language.
  • You have an introduction that will make clear your plans for the presentation and what the audience will get from it.
  • You know how to engage the audience using eye contact and remembering to pause for their sake and your own.
  • You are flexible and engaged enough that if a question or comment changes your direction, you can flow with it and return to your planned content when you’re done.
  • You will field questions with respect for everyone including yourself—allowing yourself time to think before you speak.
  • You look forward to the hard, “curve-ball” questions because you welcome the challenge and the chance to prove yourself.
  • People walk out knowing what they need to do next and feeling empowered to get started.

Set a Bigger Goal Than Perfect

A successful presentation is one in which the needed information is imparted and the important conversation takes place to the satisfaction of all involved. This is, if you think about it, a much bigger goal than the “perfect” presentation I described in the first paragraph. There is a sweet spot between preparation and the ability to roll with whatever comes during your Orderly Conversation. Managing that leads to successful—not overprepared, inflexible, boringly perfect—presentations. [Tweet “Find the sweet spot between preparation and rolling with it. #presentation”] [Tweet “Perfect = boring and inflexible: #business #presentation”]

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

Using Handouts when Presenting

May 28, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Presentation, Video

Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation,” discusses how to use handouts effectively when presenting.

Presentation Skills Training: REDEFINED. (Part 4 of 5)

March 12, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5

This is the fourth in a series of five blog posts focusing on the skill-building approach business presenters need.

As I said in the first post of this series, if you find yourself in a presentation skills workshop where you are not working on preparing and delivering a real-life presentation, pack up your things and leave the class. I feel comfortable making this assertion because improving your skills as a business presenter is all about nuance and flexibility. Neither can be fully appreciated unless you’re working with content that’s real to you.

When I was teaching Public Speaking 101 to college students I was frustrated by the fact that my job was to teach students about public speaking, not developing their skills in public speaking. Granted speeches were delivered in class, but they were almost always merely another academic exercise for the students. For the most part, they didn’t care all that much about the topic they spoke about. They were interested in getting a decent grade.

You certainly can’t blame the students for that, but each grade had to be determined by behaviors that were objectively and fairly measured. This leads to standardization, prescriptive delivery, and speeches that very rarely had a demonstrable effect on audience or speaker alike.

Business presenters need something very different than that.

When you deliver a presentation, you’re doing something that is very much a part of your job. Your audience is equally invested in the presentation and its outcomes because it’s their job to be that way. What needs to happen during a presentation skills workshop, then, must recreate that environment as fully as possible. That begins, of course, with the topic of the presentation each person is working on.

When training opens up to an examination of real-life topics and audiences, the workshop can focus on subtleties like these.

  • When you prepare your presentations, are you able to focus on the audience’s need to understand what you’re presenting or are you simply focused on the information itself? Focusing on audience understanding is not intuitive for most presenters because it requires a hard look at familiar content from another’s perspective. That’s a necessary, but not always easy process.
  • Another issue concerning preparation: do you tend to over-prepare because you’re after absolute accuracy or do you tend to under-prepare because you understand the content so well? Understanding and adapting to what comes naturally to you is crucial for improvement.
  • During delivery, how does your familiarity with your content affect your ability to explain it to someone else? Do you go too quickly, making too many assumptions? Do you go into more detail that anyone needs? Are you able to adjust to the level of knowledge or interest of audience members? These questions can only be answered through practice and feedback using real-life content during the training process.

These are some of the issues that need to be surfaced during your training.

In the final post in this series, I’ll discuss how the coaching you receive during your training must focus on what you bring into the class as much as what you take away from it.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 5

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

My Time Has Been Cut Short!

October 29, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Preparation, Presentation

I was on LinkedIn today and ran across a discussion that caught my eye. The question that was posed was this: “You prepared a 30 minute presentation and when you arrived it was reduced to 20 minutes. What would you do?”

This is a common occurrence, of course. Meetings often run long. If you’re at the end of the day, you should probably expect that time will be running short when your turn comes around. Some of the responses to this question got things right. Others—like the person who said that the thing to do is talk faster—got it very wrong.

The issue comes down to flexibility. Business presenters need to be flexible regardless of how much time they have. They always need to respond to the immediate needs of the audience, and “let’s get this done more quickly” is just one of those needs. Here’s what we recommend to help presenters be more flexible:

  1. Prepare the shorter and longer version for each point or each slide. To help you with that, make sure your slide title is meaningful.
  2. Be able to explain your ideas in a variety of ways. As you prepare, think about how you would make your point to people with different perspectives or levels of knowledge.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask your audience how they would like you to focus the presentation. This can be done after you’ve delivered your agenda. Say something like, “I know time is precious today, so which of these four points would you like me to focus on?”
  4. When you’re asked a question, deliver the short answer first. If you decide to say more, make sure it’s worth the time it takes to do so.
  5. Accept the idea that to be concise you need to stop talking about something before you want to. This may sound silly, but it is absolutely true. Letting yourself talk until you’re satisfied usually doesn’t make the answer any better.

Managing a shorter-than-expected presentation can be frustrating, but a flexible presenter who stays focused on what the audience needs and wants to hear can succeed comfortably.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Practice Makes Perfect… or not.

September 4, 2012 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Nervousness, Preparation, Presentation

 

greg 200x300A lot of people will tell you to “practice, practice, practice” because “practice makes perfect.”

When it comes to presenting, this is some of the worst advice you can get or give.

Practicing a presentation cannot possibly lead to perfection.

Here’s why.

Effective presentations are not speeches (which I suppose could be perfected). They are conversations. Conversations by their very nature are imperfect. They involve other people and are therefore unpredictable. They twist and turn. They stop and start. They go back on themselves. They jump forward.

You can’t predict any of that. Therefore, practicing a presentation until it is perfected is a foolish exercise.

The desire to be perfect and the pressure of other people telling you that you can be (should be) perfect puts the bar too high. And here’s what happens:

  • You put too much energy into reaching the bar,
  • which leads to nervousness,
  • which disengages you,
  • which puts you in your head trying to recreate the script you etched into your brain during practice,
  • which leads to a dull, lifeless, uninspiring meeting.

Hardly perfect.

It’s more than bad advice, though, it causes damage.
Strong words, I know. But I’ve worked with enough presenters to know that they drag around a lot of baggage from the bad advice and training they’ve received over the years. A lot of my job when coaching them is to undo the damage. I help people see things in a new way and I give them a new set of skills and techniques that will work uniquely for them.

If I were your coach
If we had the chance to work together, I’d start by asking you to redefine your next presentation as an Orderly Conversation. An Orderly Conversation is one that is carefully organized and flexibly executed.

When you think of presentations as Orderly Conversations, it changes how you think of (and use) your slides. They become thought starters that will trigger dialogue. They become support for the conversation rather than being the presentation. This new thinking will change the information you put on your slides and how you arrange it.

Let’s assume that your slides are complete and you feel that they will support the conversation you want to have. Now it’s time to review. Notice I said “review,” not practice. As you review your slides, look at each and grab a thought. That thought should launch the conversation you intended. If not, change it until it does.

As you think through each slide, avoid scripting yourself. Think of different ways of explaining each slide. Remember you’re not striving for perfection. You’re working toward flexibility.

Once the conversation begins, let loose and enjoy it. Trust that your slides will be there to support the conversation. Let it get a little messy, follow your listeners’ lead for a bit, bring it back around. You’ll be amazed at how much more fun presenting can be.

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

A Book Worth Reading

July 9, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation

Earlier this year I read Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference, by John Capecci and Timothy Cage. This book is written for people who tell their personal stories to advocate for a cause or organization. One of the examples from the book is a woman who advocates for heart health after having a heart attack. Another is a cancer survivor who advocates for Gilda’s Club.

One of the terrific things about Living Proof is the authors’ insight into the challenges advocates face. They know that it’s incredibly difficult to get up in public and tell personal, often emotional stories. This sensitivity is balanced, though, by absolutely practical recommendations about what the advocates need to do to succeed.

 

LivingProofOne of my favorite parts of the book talks about two types of stories that don’t work as well as they should: raw stories and canned stories. The reason raw and canned stories fall short is because they draw the listener’s attention to the advocate and away from the story. With a raw story, the speaker seems fragile or out of control. With canned stories, the speaker seems overly prepared or slick. In both of these situations, the point of the story is lost because the advocate was either not controlled enough or too controlled.

As I read this book I couldn’t help thinking about its business applications. In our workshops, we talk about every presenter’s Default Approach. The Writer Default relies a little too much on what has been prepared. The Improviser Default tends to wing it. Managing your Default requires the same balance of flexibility and control that advocates need to use, especially when you go into a presentation that you know will be difficult. Capecci and Cage focus on the same tension in Living Proof, giving all presenters, not just advocates, a new way to think about what they do.

Here’s a link to the Living Proof website. I encourage you to check it out.

www.livingproofadvocacy.com

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Flexibility in PowerPoint Slide Preparation

January 9, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Preparation

This is part 3 of a 3-part series. Part 1. Part 2.

This is a follow-up to the post I wrote last month about preparing to be flexible. Here, I’m going to focus on a new way to think about the slides you use.

If we’re going to take the “conversation” part of the Orderly Conversation seriously, we need to think of a presentation as essentially the same process as sitting down and talking with someone across the desk about your topic. This sort of conversation happens all the time during our workshops. Before participants get up to the deliver the presentation to the group, I always sit down with them and look at the slides they’ve prepared. The first questions I ask are usually, “So what is your presentation about?” “Who’s your audience?” and “Why are you delivering this?” After I get a basic understanding of the presentation’s topic and audience, we go through the slides one by one. As we do that, if I get lost, I ask “So what’s your goal with this slide? Why did you prepare it this way?”

What’s happening during this process is an easy conversation about each slide in the deck. Participants aren’t nervous because they don’t think of this as an actual presentation. They’re just filling me in on what their intentions were when they created the slides.

The thing is, though, this is exactly the way presenters should deliver their slides during a presentation. While they may not have someone sitting next to them saying, “What was your goal when you put this slide together?” that’s the question they need to answer.

It comes down to a time issue. Slides are something you prepare at one point in time for a conversation that will take place at another point in time. Acknowledging that distinction, that separation, is a great way to keep the slides in perspective and the presentation conversational. When you talk about your intentions with your slide, or how the slide fits into this particular moment in the presentation, they become something you use to make your point, not something that must be followed no matter what. For example, saying things like this are helpful for you and your audience:

  • When I created this slide, my goal was to draw attention to…
  • I pulled data together from a couple sources here to show you…
  • We started talking about this information a couple minutes ago when Doreen asked about…

So remember, you’ll gain flexibility when you acknowledge that the slides you deliver are the product of work you did in advance of the conversation. From there, you can go where you need to go in the conversation.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Applying what you Learned in Presentation Skills Class

September 29, 2010 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, FAQs, Preparation

This question was submitted by Nick through our Ask an Expert forum, which all workshop participants have access to after attending one of our workshops.  Since it brings up a common concern, I’ll answer it here on the blog for others to see.

QUESTION:
I recently delivered a presentation and found that I forgot to use many of the lessons I learned in the workshop.  I found myself relying too heavily on my slides and not having a conversation with the audience. This was a bit disappointing because I thought I was making progress since the workshop.  Any suggestions on practicing or creating slides that forces me to be more of the Improviser and not the Writer?

ANSWER:
First, I want to say that it’s really a good thing that you’re more self aware during your presentations.  That’s an important first step.  Of course when we gain self awareness we also gain the knowledge that we don’t always do what we planned to do.  But try not to be disappointed.  You’re on the right track.

That said, let’s take a look at your presentation issues.  Like most people with the Writer Default, you’re struggling with the transition from preparation to delivery.  So, be sure to prepare your slides with delivery in mind.  Create meaningful slide titles that, when read during delivery, will launch the conversation you want to have.  Keep your slides simple and to the point.  That means editing them mercilessly.

Next, don’t practice to come up with the single, perfect explanation.  It will mess you up during delivery.  Instead try to get comfortable explaining your slides in a variety of ways, imagining a variety of listeners.  That will improve flexibility.

When you deliver your slides, give your audience an overview of each, then go into the details.  If the slide has a list of bullet points, read through them.  If the slide has an image or data, tell your listeners what they’re looking at.  This will focus their attention on the screen when the slide first appears.  After the overview, it’s your responsibility to turn back to your audience and continue the conversation.  It’s sort of like show-and-tell because you’re showing people the slide, then talking about what it means.

As you continue to deliver presentations, don’t worry about everything at once.  You’ll overwhelm yourself.  Tackle one issue at a time.  For example, go into your next presentation with the goal of using your slide titles better.  Or remembering to move toward your listeners after you’ve delivered the overview of each slide.  Stay focused on changing one behavior at a time.  Long-term improvement will follow.

To help with that, take advantage of the feedback you received post-workshop through eCoach.  Both the follow-up letter and the video comments available there will help you stay focused.  Our goal with eCoach is to help you prioritize.  Review you follow-up letter before your next presentation.  And be sure to take a look at the video exercises from the second day of class.  That’s when we were working on slide delivery.  Watching them again will remind you of what it felt like to successfully manage your Default Approach.

Thanks for your question.  Let me know how you’re doing.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication