Adult Learners Aren’t Blank Slates

February 27, 2017 in Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training, Video

In this video, produced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, reminds us to acknowledge our learners’ past experiences.

Greg here with Turpin Communication. I think that one of the most important concepts that we need to understand for those of us in talent development is that adult learners are not blank slates. They have a lot of experience under their belt, a lot of successes, maybe a few failures. And they may be working with incomplete or inaccurate information. So, for us, it’s important to acknowledge this upfront. Doing so gives your learners’ peace of mind and it lets them know that you really appreciate their skill level. So whenever you work with adult learners, make sure that you acknowledge their skill level, their experience upfront, and that you’re not going to start from scratch, which they could perceive as a waste of their time.

RETHINK: Training Materials as In-the-Moment Job Aids

February 7, 2017 in Author, Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Talent Development, Training

Greg Owen-Boger, VP Turpin CommunicationIn our work, we train and coach a lot of corporate trainers and subject matter experts (SMEs) to be more effective in the training room. Time and again we see them struggle with PowerPoint slides and facilitation guides.

We see similar struggles when they’re using off-the-shelf training as well as when the training has been designed specifically for them. The reason for this is because these training tools, the facilitator guide and slides, have not been prepared in such a way that will benefit the trainer while they’re delivering the training.

The Facilitation Guide Serves Two Purposes
When putting a facilitation guide together for trainers and SMEs to use, it’s important to recognize that they will use the guide for two very different purposes.

First, they’ll use it to prepare themselves to deliver the material. This means that the guide needs to be comprehensive enough so that the SME understands (1) what is to be learned, (2) why the class is designed the way it is, and (3) how content should be delivered. This requires detail and nuance, but not a script. If the training is to be delivered multiple times, especially if they take place over a period of time, it also needs to include enough detail to jog memories.

Second, the guide needs to serve as an in-the-moment job aid.  It’s unrealistic to assume that trainers and SMEs can deliver training without looking at notes from time to time. Therefore, the facilitation guide needs to be clear and its information easily accessible in the moment. This requires recognizable icons, short bullets, consistent layout, and so on.

Facilitator guides need to be laid out and organized to support both purposes. Easier said than done, but necessary if it is going to be useful to the person using it.

Presentation Slides Also Serve Two Purposes
When designing slides or other types of visuals for trainers to use during the training, keep in mind that, like the facilitator guide, slides also have two functions. They are there for the learners and they are there for the trainer. This goes against traditional thinking. But we believe that if a slide doesn’t support the trainer in their moment of need, it’s a lousy visual aid.

Here are common missteps that we see, followed by recommendations.

  • Sometimes a slide’s title is not an accurate reflection of what the slide shows or means. A good slide title should spark the right thoughts for the trainer in the moment of delivery.
  • Sometimes slides are too wordy, making it difficult to read and talk about. Bullet points should always be easily readable and start with the same part of speech (verb, noun, adjective).
  • Conversely, sometimes slides don’t have enough words. This often happens when the slide displays a metaphorical image without context or explanation (think Zen stones showing up out of nowhere). We recommend adding text to images. You may not win any design awards, but that’s not the point.
  • Sometimes information is organized in a way that doesn’t make sense to the trainer. For example, the Instructional Designer may have listed items alphabetically, when from the trainers’ perspective, they should be arranged chronologically. If the trainer stumbles in situations such as this, don’t fight them. Reorder the information and save your arguments for when it matters.

As you put together the content of the training, remember the dual role both facilitator guides and slides play in training delivery and design accordingly.

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

Trainers: Establish Context and a Reason to Participate

January 23, 2017 in Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training, Video

In this video, produced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, discusses why providing context and reason to participate is important.


Have you ever been sitting in a meeting, a presentation, or a training session and wondered what am I doing here? What are we trying to accomplish? Of course you have and it happens all the time. And the reason for it is because the leader of that communication event just didn’t take the time to set the context for you.

So my colleagues and I always recommend stating what may seem painfully obvious to you. Here’s an example: Hey, thanks for coming out to the meeting today. We’re going to be going over the budgeting process so that when it comes to planning for next fiscal year, you’ll understand why the leadership needs so much detailed information so early.

So as you can see, it only takes a quick moment to provide that context and reason to participate. And trust me on this, it’s time really well spent.

Click to learn more about our training for trainers.

Announcing Turpin Cares: a project to help Chicago’s homeless

January 17, 2017 in Author, Dale Ludwig, News, Turpin’s Culture

Turpin Cares is a philanthropic project sponsored by Turpin Communication

Greg Owen-Boger gathers packages donations for Turpin CaresSince 1992, Turpin Communication has been dedicated to helping our clients and their employees improve their communication skills. In these 25 years, we’ve always looked for ways to improve the services we provide. As part of our 25th anniversary year, we’re looking at new ways to improve, which is why we’re pleased to announce Turpin Cares.

Turpin Cares is a side project that’s dedicated to reallocating some of our good fortune and spare resources toward making the community where we live and work a better place. Here in Chicago, unfortunately, there’s a significant problem with homelessness, and too many people are in need of basic necessities and comfort.

Turpin Cares began to take shape in December 2015, coming from an idea by Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, and his good friend Olive. At the time, it was something Greg and Olive did outside of their work. Chicago winters are cold, and Greg and Olive wanted to give out hand-knit hats and scarves to people in need. That idea evolved into assembling care packages including the hand-knit hats and scarves in addition to some basic food and hygiene items that could be handed out quickly and easily. Greg and Olive assembled bags and kept the small stock of them in their cars so they could give one away if they passed someone in need.

That first year, they made 10 packages. In 2016, they made 25. In 2017 we created Turpin Cares because we know that by creating a company-wide effort, we can do even more. So, on a regular basis, our employees and friends of Turpin will gather to assemble these care packages for distribution around Chicago — both via local shelters and handing them out one-on-one as we always have.

Each care package is loaded into a reusable tote and contains:

  • Items to provide comfort, including hand-knit hats and scarves, socks, and gloves (in the winter months)
  • Packaged food
  • Items to help with hygiene and first aid

Turpin Cares collects donations for the homeless
There’s a lot of work to do, and we’d love to have your help! If you’re interested, there are a number of ways you can get involved.

You can:

  • Sign up for our contact list to be notified of specific needs, work parties, and other announcements.
  • Donate money so we can purchase supplies for the packages (this project is not yet a non-profit venture, so donations aren’t tax-deductible, but we guarantee that 100% of donations will go toward the purchase of supplies).
  • Knit or crochet hats and scarves yourself and send them to us! We’ll add them to our next distribution as soon as they’re received. Send them any time, but the sooner the better!
  • Donate yarn. We’re knitting ourselves, and building a list of other knitters. Almost any type of yarn will work, except we’ve been advised to steer clear of 100% wool. Wool shrinks and that’s not good.
  • Donate care package items. We have assembled a list of items that go into our care packages, and you can drop those items off at our offices (if you’re in the area), or ship them to us (if you’re not).
  • Volunteer to assemble packages. We’re planning to do this assembly once a quarter this year, and our next assembly is scheduled for February 18, 2017.

We believe that we have a responsibility to help those who are less fortunate, and we’d love to have your help growing this initiative. We believe that even seemingly small things can make a real difference. We see it in the eyes of the people we help.

If you have any questions, or would like to get involved in other ways, please email

A special thanks to Matt Brett from Substance for donating his time to create the Turpin Cares logo.

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

Business Meeting Contract: A Pledge for Greater Efficiency

December 5, 2016 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Infographics, Meetings, Posts for Buyers

This infographic is intended for printing and hanging in your conference rooms. Please let us know if you have any feedback.

Business meetings are held to get a specific piece of business done during a specific period of time.

Everyone attending shares responsibility for the meeting’s success. Showing up on time, being prepared, and silencing devices are important. But the person running the meeting also has an obligation to initiate an efficient, fruitful conversation.

And that requires earning trust.

Turpin Communication Business Meeting ContractDownload the printable version for hanging in your conference rooms.

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder, and Greg Owen-Boger, VP, of Turpin Communication and co-authors of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Turpin Communication’s Culture – What We Stand For

November 29, 2016 in Author, Barbara Egel, Dale Ludwig, Greg Owen-Boger, Mary Clare Healy, News, Posts for Buyers, Sarah Stocker, Turpin’s Culture

Two recent events triggered the Turpin Team to discuss our culture, values, and generally what we, as an organization, stand for. It’s not that we don’t know who we are. We do. We live our values every day, but we never actually wrote them down … until now.

The Two Recent Events

  1. Greg Owen-Boger, VP Turpin CommunicationDale (Turpin’s Founder) and I attended an ATD regional conference in Chicago. Chris Yates, Chief Learning Officer at Caterpillar and coauthor of Rewire: A Radical Approach to Tackling Diversity and Difference, delivered the closing keynote. His message focuses on the notion that in order to achieve sustainable positive growth, leaders need to create a culture of openness, empathy and inclusion – which in turn enables corporate strategy and drives innovation. He also argues that living a culture of inclusion is simply the right thing to do. We agree.
  2. Dale and I were in a meeting with a new buyer. We’ve had a long-standing relationship with this organization for well over a decade, and this particular person had recently moved into a position to purchase our services. It was a lively get-to-know-you meeting. We’d been talking for about an hour when she asked the question. “What is Turpin’s culture?” As it happened, neither Dale nor I could answer this question very well. In that moment, we couldn’t find the words. All we could do was tell a few stories about how we encourage everyone to bring their most genuine, thoughtful, curious self to the work that we do. The client seemed satisfied, but we should have been able to address the question more directly.

These two events have made it clear to us that we should probably figure this out. It’s important to the company and our growth strategy, it’s important to us as individuals, and it’s also important to our clients.

Culture is More than Brand

In our workshops, we talk about how communication, both internal and external, can have an impact on both the individual’s brand as well as the organization’s. For example, if an organization wants to be perceived as highly professional and inclusive, its employees must communicate in a way that supports that brand promise. Dale and I discussed making our own list to describe how we want Turpin to be perceived, but that didn’t seem right. It seemed too top down and, frankly, that’s not who we are.

Turpin’s Culture as Described by Team Members

I shared our client’s culture question with Sarah Stocker, who is one of our Coaches and our Workshop Coordinator. She was able to answer immediately. That shouldn’t be surprising, I guess, since Sarah has been with us for eleven years.

That conversation with Sarah sparked an idea. Why not ask our team members to answer the question, “What is Turpin’s Culture?” So that’s what we did. After they submitted their thoughts, Dale wrote a piece in response. His take on our culture, which I completely embrace, is below. Sarah’s response is next, followed by submissions from other team members.

We hope you enjoy hearing from our amazing, and fiercely loyal team members.


Dale Ludwig, President of Turpin CommunicationDale Ludwig (President of Turpin Communication, Founded in 1992)

After hearing Chris Yates speak at the conference Greg mentioned, I read Rewire: A Radical Approach to Tackling Diversity and Difference. He and his coauthor, Pooja Sachdev, have written a great book. They build a strong case for diversity and inclusion without sugarcoating the personal responsibility each of us must take toward it. Here’s how they put it.

We need to purposely create a culture of equality, respect and inclusion, where our differences are not seen as a problem but as a competitive advantage: a quality that can be leveraged to enhance decision-making, problem-solving, creativity and innovation … It starts with a strong set of values.

As I read this book, I found myself tying what the authors said back to the work we do with our clients. We cannot deliver a successful workshop without creating a safe environment for each individual in it. In every class, we ask learners to be vulnerable. We ask them to try, possibly fail, and try again. We understand the commitment—sometimes the courage—that takes, and we do not take it lightly. To borrow from Yates and Sachdev, then:

We need to purposely create a learning environment of equality, respect and inclusion, where our differences are not seen as a problem but as a learning advantage … It starts with a strong set of values.

Based on what we heard from the Turpin team members, here is a list of our values.

We are committed to delivering the highest quality communication skills training and consulting in the industry. Our goal is to help people get business done as efficiently and effectively as possible. We do this by casting aside traditional thinking about business communication, building a new foundation, and focusing on results for each learner.

To reach our quality goal, our work must take place in a training environment that is safe and inclusive. While in the classroom, everyone must be free to be themselves, to ask questions, to fail and try again without judgment. Every learner has the right to be heard and understood. They deserve our respect and empathy.

When we create a safe, inclusive, respectful, and results oriented learning environment, we earn the trust of each learner and the right to ask them to change and grow. Without their trust, we cannot succeed.

Everything we do is fueled by the passion we feel for our work. We care about our clients’ success and the work they do. We are curious and deeply committed to placing what we do within the context of every learner’s work environment.

As you can see from other Turpin team members, below, the culture we create in the training room shapes how we work together every day.

Sarah Stocker, Coach and Workshop Coordinator at Turpin CommunicationSarah Stocker (Coach and Workshop Coordinator, team member since 2005)

When Greg told me about the struggle to define Turpin’s culture, my mind went immediately to our tagline: “Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better.” I was part of the brainstorming session that produced this tagline many years ago. I like it because it rings true for two reasons. First, it’s what we try to achieve with our workshop participants and, second, it’s who we are as a company. We help those around us grow and be the best version of themselves when communicating at work. We do the same for each other.

When I talk about Turpin with my friends or family, I always describe it as the healthiest environment I’ve ever worked in. What makes it so healthy?

  • We work collaboratively. Everyone’s opinion is heard and respected. We have our own roles and hierarchy, but leadership recognizes the value that comes from mining ideas from the group.
  • We love diversity. We recognize that we all have our own perspective and preferred way of doing things. Instead of being threatened by differing opinions, we embrace them. We know that incorporating different perspectives can only make us stronger, as individuals and as a company.
  • We are transparent. There are no secrets within the company. There is trust between colleagues and leadership, and we all want what’s best for the company.
  • We recognize our strengths and our weaknesses without ego or shame. When any of us makes a mistake, we own it. We freely admit it and focus on how to solve it going forward. And no one shames you for it.
  • We are passionate, authentic, and empathetic. We are always striving to do better and to find new ways of serving our clients. At the same time, we stay true to ourselves and to what we do best. We genuinely care about each other and the workshop participants we are trying to help. We insist on keeping our training rooms a safe place where everyone can embrace their strengths and work against their weaknesses without embarrassment. Both internally and in our workshops, we build each other up so we can be our best selves.

What’s really interesting to me is that without consciously making this our goal, our culture is fully entrenched in everything we do as a company. If you were to attend a staff meeting or one of our workshops, you would see all of the values above at work. And that makes me proud to be a part of Turpin Communication. 

Dana Peters (Director of Sales, team member since 2013)

I thrive here because the “Turpin way” is an excellent fit for how I work. At this point in my career, I choose to only invest my time and talent in an environment where:

  • My contribution is valued and my opinion matters.
  • The behavior of the smart people around me matches the words that are spoken.
  • Doing things right and delivering a high quality product for clients is important and at the heart of everything.
  • Taking the time to understand what the client needs and building relationships is valued.
  • Fair and ethical business practices are a given and non-negotiable.
  • Everyone on the team is charged with a job and a set of responsibilities and then allowed to do what they need to do to get the work done. Micromanaging isn’t present, trust is.
  • I am involved, free to ask questions and communicate thoughts without having to choose my words.
  • A little respectful debate is welcome.
  • My commitment to my family and other things that are important to me are valued, respected, and never questioned; rather, they are encouraged and celebrated.

All of this adds up to an atmosphere in which I can contribute fully and effectively.

Mary Clare Healy, Facilitator and Coach at Turpin CommunicationMary Clare Healy (Facilitator and Coach, team member since 1996)

It has been so fun to think about this! For me, Turpin’s culture rests on three pillars, which provide the foundation for Turpin’s approach to client engagement and internal decision-making.

  1. Passion. Turpin facilitators not only enjoy what they do, they enjoy doing it together. And it shows. This is reflected in each encounter and every step of the process. It’s clear that for the Turpin team it’s not just a job, or about checking a box; rather, it’s about unleashing the best in each individual.
  2. Respect. The facilitative approach allows Turpin to dig deep to get to know our clients and each of the individuals involved with a particular project. We demonstrate respect and have earnest curiosity, which allows us to learn about what each person does and how they do it so that we can help them improve.
  3. Commitment to results. Turpin understands that there’s a bottom-line reason for clients to seek our services. It is this understanding that results in a pragmatic approach with no fluff or filler. The training programs are all about successfully reaching the goals that have been set.

These three observable behaviors are modeled by leadership as well as everyone within the Turpin organization.

Barbara Egel, Coach at Turpin CommunicationBarbara Egel (Facilitator, Coach, and Account Manager, team member since 2014)

For me, Turpin’s central idea is “keep it simple.” Every course we teach has this as a cardinal rule.

This approach also extends beyond the training room. Conversations about internal issues often ripple out in several directions, but all of us know the ultimate goal is to arrive at one targeted, even elegant, solution. Externally, I think clients feel this as well. By keeping it simple, we are able to fit in with a variety of corporate cultures, adjust to constraints that may be less than ideal, and fold in whatever is going on in the moment: an acquisition, a firing, a product launch, or just a bad day. We are not a day or two’s distraction taking up the conference room; we are a part of the client’s team ready to do our part in helping them meet their goals.

We also keep it genuine. The people you see at the front of the training room or in the coaching room are who we are 24/7. There are no wacky personas, no fake enthusiasms. For me, this is a huge aspect of building trust, and trust is key to learning, especially with emotionally-fraught tasks such as a business presentation. Similarly, having known Dale and Greg for decades, I can attest that who they are as my Turpin bosses reflects their real values, beliefs, and hopes, and this is the reason I trust them completely. It’s also the reason that if I have an idea to make something better, I offer it, knowing they will listen, consider, and respond appropriately.

In sum, a company built on a foundation of simplicity, effectiveness, and authenticity is one that doesn’t have to worry about juggling its image or covering its, um, assets. It’s also a philosophy immune to the influence of the latest corporate trends because it is beyond trend. The essence of Turpin today will be the essence of Turpin twenty years from now, and it will still seem revolutionary then.

Milena Palandech (Facilitator and Coach, team member since 2011)

Before Turpin Communication was founded, Dale Ludwig was a colleague, a mentor, and a dear friend. I admired Dale greatly (still do) because he cared deeply about the learners that participated in his training programs. Dale was different than most of my former colleagues. Far too many trainers I knew were focused on entertaining their learners and performing for higher class scores. Dale’s sole concern was the learner and helping each of them reach their goals. He didn’t need to shine. He simply wanted the learner to shine.

That selfless determination and focus – doing what is necessary to help Turpin’s clients and their client’s employees shine – has become a foundational principle at Turpin Communication. Dale and Greg have created an organization that is truly committed to helping people “be themselves … only better.” They ensure that the classroom environment for Turpin programs is a safe place where learners will be encouraged and challenged. They consistently draw out the very best in people.

Blaine Rada (Facilitator and Coach, team member since 2015)

I find what Turpin values to be unique and refreshing. In the crowded marketplace of communication skills training, Turpin doesn’t just provide a template for how to be a better communicator, but rather a personalized approach with the goal of helping people find and leverage their unique strengths. Their approach is challenging yet encouraging, respecting the dignity of each individual while focused on producing results.

Kevin Vogelsang (Operations Manager, team member since October 2016)

I’ve only been a member of Turpin Communication for a brief time. However, the feelings inspired during this time and the interactions I’ve experienced have had quite an impact, and have very much fortified my own beliefs and convictions.

I was a math major, and I have substantial anxiety when it comes to speaking. This made the prospect of an interview with Greg and Dale (two individuals with decades of experience in all manner of communication) more than a little daunting. Meeting them was such a pleasant experience though. The atmosphere during the interview was so welcoming that I felt immediately comfortable despite my previous dread and anxiety. It became immediately clear: I would be lucky to work for this company. To find a job anywhere else with similar openness and warmth would be nearly impossible.

As part of my training, I observed a presentation workshop. It was an excellent experience. I was barely involved in the process, yet I was blown away by everything that occurred. I felt connected to the participants, and I was engrossed as they practiced their presentations, improving from one attempt to the next. Dale and Greg created an environment where everybody cared about each other and their success.

After just two months of actually working for Turpin, it has been made clear that my initial perception of the company was correct. The team is genuinely caring and empathetic of each other and the clients. I am thankful to work in this type of environment, which is essential for my own personal happiness and well-being.

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

Executing the Learning Conversation

November 1, 2016 in Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training, Video

In this video, produced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, explains why training is a conversation, not a speech.


I was working with a subject matter expert recently and she came into the coaching session saying, “I know that what I’m doing in this three-hour onboarding program isn’t working.” She says, ” I do this all the time, but it’s not working and I need some help.” So I was talking with her and she said, “Well, you know, I’ve typed out my script. I’ve got it in the notes section of PowerPoint. I’ve printed it off. I’ve laminated and I’ve got all these things lined up. And, you know, the night before training, I read through my script and I get it in my head.”

The problem is, though, that training isn’t a speech or something to be recited. It needs to be more of a conversation. And as we were talking she said, “You know, I think I do my best teaching at the bar afterwards.” And I asked her to talk about that a little bit. She said, “Well, it’s conversational. I’m answering questions. I’m responsive to what the learners are interested in.” And I said, “Ding ding ding! That’s it. Let’s move that bar, figuratively of course, into the classroom.” And it made all the difference for her.

Be Careful with Activities

October 25, 2016 in Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training, Video

In this video, produced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, discusses guidelines for designing activities for Subject Matter Experts to deliver.

In my experience, if training is going to fall flat it’s going to be because of the activities. And let’s face it, they’re really difficult to set up and execute and debrief well. And that is especially true with folks outside of talent development such as subject matter experts.

So if you’re going to ask subject matter experts to execute activities, make sure that you make clear expectations for how to set them up. Explain that they have to make sure that the learners understand the on the job application and the relevance to them.

And, finally, offer them some suggestions for debriefing the activities.

Is it Time to Wrangle Your Team’s Life-sucking Meetings?

September 20, 2016 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings, Posts for Buyers

Frustrated businessman in an office business meetingOver the weekend I was having coffee on the deck with our friends, Paul and Olive. We were discussing the week ahead.

“I have nothing but meetings lined up next week,” Paul said. “I hate meetings. People show up late. Nothing ever gets done. Decisions aren’t made. And no one does what they’re supposed to do. And all of that just means that we’re going to have the same meetings next week and the week after that. It never ends.”

Paul’s not alone. Meetings can suck the life right out of you.

I was in a separate conversation not too long ago with a client. Because of some recent remote hiring, they were laying the framework for moving almost exclusively to virtual team meetings. The client said, “It’s as if we need to learn new etiquette for showing up to the meeting. In terms of meeting virtually, should the way we work together be any different than meeting in person?”

My answer was, “No. Not really.” Sure, the mechanics of meeting virtually are different, but the same rules of engagement should apply.

The challenge is that we’ve become so messy with our in-person meetings that we’ve forgotten about common courtesy and how to lead and participate in a way that gets business done.[Tweet “We’ve become so messy with our in-person meetings that we’ve forgotten about common courtesy”]

It’s Not Just the Meeting Facilitator’s Responsibility

Most advice for effective business meetings is focused on meeting facilitators. We think it’s time that everyone be aware of how to run meetings AND attend them. We’ll even take it one step further and say that it ultimately lands on business leaders – all the way up the corporate ladder – to set enterprise-wide expectations.

If we look to our friends at The Emily Post Institute, THE authority on all things etiquette, they say that all manners rest on “fundamental principles: respect, consideration, and honesty.”

That’s a pretty good set of principles for leading and attending meetings. Building off of their definition of etiquette, here are Turpin’s recommendations for wrangling business meetings. We break it down into three groups: Attendees, Facilitators, and Business Leaders.

All Attendees
Show respect for your fellow attendees and for the work you’re there to accomplish:

  • Arrive on time and be prepared to participate fully.
  • Silence your devices and put them down. Seriously. Just. Do. It.
  • Listen intently… always.
  • Be courteous and helpful.
  • Speak up when appropriate to do so, and don’t be the one who talks just for talking’s sake.
  • Take notes. You’re busy and forgetful. You might need notes later, and even if you don’t, the act of writing them down helps keep you engaged.
  • Avoid sidebars that distract from the meeting’s intention.

Meeting Leaders and Facilitators
Create the conditions for a fruitful conversation and for decision-making:

  • Prepare an agenda and use it as your map for the conversation.
  • Greet meeting attendees as they enter the room (or log in virtually).
  • Encourage attendees’ participation without losing sight of the group and the goals of the meeting.
  • Keep an eye on the clock, and do not run over unless the situation REALLY warrants it.
  • Keep an ongoing list of decisions and assign tasks with dates as you go along. Be sure to communicate these afterward and set expectations for completion.

Business Managers and Leaders
Set expectations enterprise-wide, or at least with your team:

  • If you’re lucky to start from scratch, set expectations early.
  • If you’re inheriting a dysfunctional meeting culture, try your best to level-set by setting expectations early and often.
  • Have the team create a meeting rule book and use it when you have to course correct.
  • Place value on well-run meetings.
  • Place value on respectful meeting behaviors.

The Time is Now

Meetings don’t have to suck, and improving them requires the active and thoughtful participation of all attendees.

As a leader, it starts with you. Your business needs you. What are you going to do to breathe new life into your team’s meetings?

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

Eye Contact and Pausing… Is That All You Got?!

August 31, 2016 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings, Myths Debunked, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Virtual

Some time back, Dale and I were the guest speakers on a webinar. The topic was about how we’ve redefined business presentations as Orderly Conversations. We were talking about the use of eye contact and pausing in order to get yourself engaged in the conversation.

When we talk about being engaged as a presenter, we’re talking about the state of being in the “here and now” so that you are able to think on your feet and lead what feels like a natural two-way conversation. It’s talking with your audience rather than talking at them.

Engagement requires the intentional use of eye contact and pausingThere are two primary skills that we use in everyday conversation that must be used intentionally during a presentation. They are:

  • Eye contact: The intentional use of eye contact allows you to make a connection with people so that you can read their reactions and respond.
  • Pause: The intentional use of a good pause now and again allows you to gather your thoughts and take control of what you’re saying.

After we made this point in the webinar, I noticed that someone had used the chat function to comment, “Eye contact and Pausing… is that all you got?!”

It just so happens that the comment came from a competitor who was, I assume, baiting us. My in-the-moment reaction was to address the guy’s snarky comment and make an argument for why we focus so heavily on these very basic skills. But I quickly thought better of it. Delivering a virtual presentation via webinar was not the time to squabble with a competitor.

What the guy didn’t comprehend is that we’re not talking about the appearance of eye contact or the dramatic affect that a pause will have on the audience. (Typical run-of-the-mill presentation trainers often teach that, though.) We’re talking about the very opposite: the calming effect it has on the speaker.

When you’re connected with people and in control of what you’re saying, you’re able to be an effective communicator. You’re fully engaged in the conversation. You’re not thinking about how you are performing, you’re thinking about your content, the audience, and whether they’re following along. These are the same things you think about during everyday low-stakes conversations.

Managing Nervousness

If we can agree that the key skills that help you become engaged in the conversation are eye contact and pausing, we can also see that these ordinary skills, when used intentionally, even in extraordinary situations, can help you manage your nervousness.

We always ask workshop participants what nervousness feels like to them. These are some common answers, and they are all the result of the absence of pausing and/or eye contact:

  • In my head
  • Can’t see clearly
  • Out of body experience
  • Not thinking clearly
  • Mind is racing
  • Mind shuts down
  • Noise in my head
  • Can’t catch my breath

If you’re a nervous presenter (and even if you’re not), next time you’re feeling uneasy at the front of the room, remember to look at people. Really see them. Connect. And pause every once in a while. Give your brain a chance to catch up. Think. Breathe.

Over time, these skills will become second nature to you, and you won’t have to be so intentional about their use.

So… Eye contact and pausing… is that all we got? Nope. Not at all, but these essential skills are the foundation for all of the communication training we provide at Turpin Communication.

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