Grok Your Presentations

July 10, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation

Grok - NPR 7-10-14While listening to All Things Considered on NPR yesterday afternoon, I heard a story about video game jargon. Although I don’t know anything about video games, by the end of the story I knew exactly what they were talking about.

It was part of a special series ATC is doing on trade lingo. The show’s producers have asked people to submit jargon that anyone outside of a particular line of work would never understand. One of the words submitted by a video game designer, Max Nichols, was grok.

As Nichols explained it, grokking occurs when “you translate, what is at first a hunk of plastic with buttons in your hands, into a kind of seamless connection to you and your game character.” When this happens, gamers “don’t need to think … they just do it.”

What struck me was that the same process happens when you’re fully engaged in your presentations. Whatever tools you’re using—slides, handouts, even your own voice and body—become seamlessly integrated into the interaction you’re having. You don’t need to think about using them. You just do.

The story is 3:27. If you listen, you’ll also learn about another gaming term, greebling.

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

Moderating a Panel: 3 Unconventional Best Practices

January 21, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Facilitation, Meetings, Talent Development

Last week Greg (Turpin’s VP) moderated a panel discussion hosted by the Chicagoland Chapter ASTD (CCASTD).

As I observed, I realized that the discussion was one of the best I’d ever attended. It was good, not only because of the insightful panelists (and they were), but also because of how Greg kept the conversation orderly through the use of some unconventional techniques. Here’s what I mean.

moderating-1-20-14

  1. Direct everyone’s focus. As you can see in the photo, Greg positioned himself in the audience. We were in theatre seating with a center aisle. As you probably have seen in other panel discussions, panelists tend to speak directly to the moderator. Had Greg been up front, the panelists would have had to turn to the side or back to address him. Being out in the audience opened them up to the group. Placing himself in the audience also helped Greg monitor what was going on with the group as a whole.
  2. Make it as conversational and intimate as possible. While there was a raised stage behind them, the panelists were seated at audience level on stools. Having them sit on the same level as the audience, but slightly elevated, made the conversation feel more intimate. Also, the panel took place after dinner. While it took a few minutes to move from the round dinner tables to the theatre seating, the new seating arrangement made it so much easier to listen. No one was forced to twist uncomfortably to face the panelists.
  3. Help us know who’s talking. The panelists’ pictures, name, title and company were projected behind them in the same order they were sitting. This helped the audience remember who everyone was and the angle their answers and comments came from. This was such a simple, practical idea. How many times have you forgotten who individual panelists are after they have been introduced? If you’re like me, every time. Panelists’ bios and pictures were also provided on handouts. I was able to learn more about them, if I wanted, as the discussion went on.

I think the evening’s success was the result of Greg’s taking the time to think about how he could make the panel discussion as easy as possible—from the panelist’s perspective and the audience’s. By breaking the fourth wall of the stage, he was able to bring the discussion to the audience, making all of us feel a part of it.

In the photo left to right:

  • Michelle Reid-Powell, VP of Talent Management and Organizational Effectiveness, The CARA Group
  • Aaron Olson, VP and Global Head of Talent Management, Aon Corporation
  • Greg Owen-Boger, VP, Turpin Communication
  • Panelist blocked by Greg:  Tara Hawkins, Training & Development Graduate Program Coordinator, Roosevelt University
  • Toni Fico, Director, Performance Solutions, U.S. Cellular
  • Brittany Horner, Associate Principal, Caveo Learning
by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Should I Apologize for Bad Slides?

January 15, 2009 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Improving Your Visual Aids, Preparation, Presentation

Question:
I’m stuck having to present some pretty bad slides.  They are too complicated and present more information than I need for my presentation.  I can’t change them for a lot of reasons that I won’t go into here.  I’ve heard that you shouldn’t apologize for things like this by saying something like, “I know this is hard for you all to see,” but in this case I feel like I should.  What do you recommend?

Answer:
You’re not alone.  A lot of people are stuck having to present difficult, overloaded or poorly thought out slides.

You face two distinct challenges.  (1) As you prepare, you have to weed through the clutter and find the story you want to tell, and (2) you have to find a way to deliver that story – and have it make sense to your listeners – when the slide isn’t giving you much help.  Here are a few recommendations.

Challenge 1: Weed through the clutter
I’m afraid I can’t be of much help with this part of the dilemma, other than to encourage you to keep the big picture in mind.  Find the story you want to tell and stick with it.  You don’t have to talk about all the details on the slide if they don’t support your message.

Challenge 2: Help your listeners
When a busy slide comes up, your listeners’ eyes will go to it and try to figure it out.  Ideally they should be able to look at the slide and get a pretty clear understanding of it.  But if the slide is too complicated, they’re likely to give up.  Your job, then, is to help them through it.

  • Use the slide title
    If the title of the slide frames your story, use it to your advantage.  “As this title says, this is the sales forecast for Q3,” or “As you can see, we’re looking at the new workflow for project X.”
  • Acknowledge instead of apologize
    In your question you asked if it was appropriate to apologize.  First, I don’t think you’re breaking any sacred rule by apologizing for a difficult slide.  But moderation is key.  If you end up apologizing too much, your efforts won’t mean much.  Try shifting your thinking a bit.  Instead of apologizing for a busy slide, acknowledge it instead.  Use phrases like, “I know there’s a lot on this slide. I’d like to pull your attention to the upper right corner” or “Let’s focus right here,” as you point to that specific area on the screen.
  • Use triggers
    If you can, add triggers to direct attention to specific areas on the slide.  Triggers are things like arrows, circles or bold words.  Triggers tell your listeners that even though there’s a lot on the slide, you’re going to focus their attention on certain parts it.
  • Print handouts
    If listeners can’t see the detail on the screen, print the slide and give it to them as a handout.

In summary, you’re responsible for making sure listeners understand your message.  Even when you’re handed a difficult slide, do what you can to make sure that happens.

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