Throw Out the Ground Rules: 5 Things Learners Want Us to Know

May 25, 2016 in Dale Ludwig, Talent Development, Training

Have you ever attended a training event at work that began with the trainer delivering a set of ground rules for the class? If the answer is yes, the rules probably sounded like this.

Good morning everyone! Before we get started, let me go over a few ground rules for today’s class. First, and most important, please make an effort to be present and focused. To help with that, please silence your cell phones. There will be time during breaks to check emails and texts. Finally, remember that the best learning happens when there is interaction. Please ask questions whenever you have them.

If you’re a trainer, have you ever delivered rules like these? I know I have. But I stopped a long time ago. One day the truth of what I was doing dawned on me. I realized that I was beginning class with a giant scoop of condescension. I was telling a group of adults, grownups with jobs, what sort of behavior was acceptable and what I expected of them.

The assumption I was communicating was that it is the learners’ responsibility to engage in the process, that it was their responsibility to stay focused, and that they were responsible for lively interaction. That’s not their job at all. It’s mine. I need to engage them, help them stay focused and encourage their participation. It’s my responsibility to make them want to listen and participate.

Not too long ago, I participated as a learner in a workshop. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when the familiar ground rules were laid out by the trainer. The rules were followed by an ice breaker intended to warm us up for learning.

As the other people in the class and I dutifully listened and played along (even though we really didn’t want to), I imagined what it would be like if we were asked to set our own ground rules.

  1. We want this class to be about us. It’s not that we’re selfish people. It’s that this is a work day and we’re busy. So please, stay focused on our needs, our situation, and what this class has to do with our jobs. And please be as efficient as you can be. Our time is valuable.
  2. We will need to be reminded why we’re here. It’s not that we’re forgetful. It’s just that we may not be able to immediately connect what we’re learning with our everyday work. Please make the effort to connect the dots. If the process doesn’t feel easy to us, we’ll give up.
  3. We will be distracted during class. We will be distracted by our own thoughts and the people sitting next to us. We will be distracted because our phones are off and work is piling up. Don’t be upset by this; we’re constantly distracted. So don’t take it personally if you sense that our thoughts are somewhere else. When the distraction is over, we hope that you will make it easy for us to re-engage.
  4. We need to trust you and feel comfortable with you. Not only do we expect you to know what you’re doing in terms of training content, we also expect you to be flexible. We want to feel that you understand our experience and expertise and that you take both into account during this class. We also want to sense there is a genuine, caring person at the front of the room. If you seem scripted, insincere, or ask us to raise our hands in response to a rhetorical question, we’re not comfortable.
  5. We do not want to be put on the spot. When do we feel put on the spot? When you force us to participate in an ice breaker. When you tell us that something is intended to be fun. When you ask us to participate in an exercise that does not feel necessary. And even when it does feel necessary, we still may not want to participate because most of us don’t like exercises.

Have you ever wanted to set your own learner ground rules? If so, what would they be?

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

The BEST Way to Start a Presentation

September 15, 2010 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Facilitation, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Introduction, Myths Debunked, Preparation, Presentation

According to most public speaking experts, the first 30 seconds of a speech are extremely crucial for the success of a presentation. So, what’s the best way to start a presentation?

We get this question a lot in our presentation skills workshops.  I also read similar questions on discussion boards on LinkedIn.  Unfortunately on LinkedIn, it seems that everyone’s a presentation expert.  That leads to a lot of bad advice.  No wonder presenters are confused about how to begin.

Typical “expert” responses include:

  • Show a video
  • Ask an open-ended question
  • Ask questions about their day so far
  • Have people introduce themselves to each other

While these ideas – if kept in a business context – aren’t terrible, they’re not enough on their own.  Ideas that are terrible:

Ahhhh… Enough with the gimmicks already
Participants in business presentations are not children.  They are adults who deserve better.

While I’ll agree that the first few moments of a presentation should get you started on the right foot, gimmicks don’t work.  Instead, work to engage your listeners in a meaningful, interesting, relevant dialogue.

Presentations are NOT theatre performances
We need to move away from the idea that a presenter’s job is to entertain or WOW or dazzle. Preparing a whiz-bang attention grabber ahead of time will always seem contrived.  Plus, it ignores the fact that something took place prior to your presentation.  Remember, the curtain isn’t going up.  The spotlights aren’t just now coming on.  When you walk to the front of the room you’re doing so in the context of whatever happened before.  You need to acknowledge that and then move into your presentation.

Presentations ARE Orderly Conversations
Every presenter’s job is to spark a conversation.  If you read this blog regularly, you know that we define presentations as Orderly Conversations.  “Orderly” because they need to be carefully organized and thought through.  “Conversations” because they need to feel spontaneous and interactive right from the start.

So, what IS the best way to start an orderly conversation?
Be in the moment, refer to the listeners’ current situation, and talk about how your presentation is going to address that issue. Examples:

Be in the moment:

  • “It’s been a long day (it’s hot, we’re behind schedule, etc.), so I’ll keep our discussion about X brief.”
  • “John just discussed ABC; I’m going to talk about XYZ.”
  • “Hope you all had a good evening, this morning we’re going to turn our focus toward…”

Refer to their current situation and your response to it:

  • “As we know, sales are sluggish, but today we’re going to talk about a new promotion that will turn things around.”
  • “We’re all busy and most of us feel overwhelmed. I’m here to talk about a new process to ease the pain.”
  • “A lot of discussion has been about X for some time now.  Today we’re going to address the issue so we can move on.”
  • “The bad news is X, the good news is Y, and that’s what we’re here to talk about today.”

Give them a reason to listen and participate
Taking this approach with your introduction will give your listeners a reason to participate in the conversation without resorting to manipulation.

What are your thoughts?

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