Why Your “Default” Matters

April 16, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation, Training, Video

When it comes to planning and delivering business presentations, we’ve found that individuals fall into two broad categories: (1) there are those who are comfortable with and rely on the preparation process and (2) there are others who are comfortable with and rely on the connection they establish with their audiences.

We call these categories Default Approaches. “Writers” prefer the preparation process. “Improvisers” thrive with a live audience.

Default ApproachNeither Default is better than the other. As the graphic above shows, each has strengths and weaknesses. For example:

  • Writers thrive with organization and preparation. They are naturally thorough, careful, detailed and accurate, which are good traits to have. However, left unchecked, they can be inflexible and too strict once the presentation starts. They feel as if their plan is a good one and it should not be altered. Writers are often uncomfortable with the idea of having to answer questions.
  • Improvisers thrive with the connection they have with listeners. They are spontaneous, responsive, and unafraid to make last-minute changes. Again, good traits to have. However, left unchecked, they talk in circles and confuse their listeners. Improvisers feel they can trust themselves to manage whatever situation they find themselves in. Unfortunately, they often lose focus, say too much, and run out of time.

The idea that everyone responds differently—in a very fundamental way—to the process of presenting explains why a one-size-fits-all approach to presentation training isn’t helpful. Recommendations made for one person will not necessarily work for someone else.[Tweet “A one-size-fits-all approach to presentation training isn’t helpful.”]

Watch Dale Ludwig, Turpin Communication’s Founder and the co-author of The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined, as he goes into more detail.

Writers

Improvisers

What do you think? Are you a Writer or an Improviser?

Read the book, The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined, to learn more. Available now at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Itasca Books and this website.

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”

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”

Why We Do What We Do (Part 2 of 4)

April 15, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Preparation, Presentation, Training

A Discussion of Turpin Communication’s Core Principles:
Default Approaches

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

This is the second in a series of four posts focusing on Turpin’s core principles. In the last entry I focused on the Orderly Conversation, our term for the presentations business people deliver. As I said, the characteristics of a presentation that make it a Conversation always compete with those keeping it Orderly. It’s the presenter’s job to stay on track without sacrificing the spontaneity or immediacy conversations require.

Managing this tension would be a relatively easy thing to do if you were simply having a conversation with a coworker about a project you’re working on. Information would be exchanged, points made, and supporting arguments explained. With a presentation, you’re still having a conversation with your audience, but you have a specific goal you want to achieve, you’re probably using slides or a handout, and you have time to prepare.

Presenters respond to this challenge in one of two fundamental ways. We call these responses Default Approaches. One group, the Writers, default to the orderly side of the process. It’s natural for them to approach presenting as a linear process. Writers rely on preparation, detail, and control for success.

For the other group, Improvisers, the conversation is always front and center—even during the preparation process. These presenters rely on their ability to engage the audience and keep the conversation going.

Both Defaults bring important skills and strengths to the process, of course. They just need to keep things balanced. The conversation needs to breathe without straying too far off course.

Individual presenters must be aware of their Default Approach so they know which side of the process they should focus on. When we work with Writers, our goal is to increase their comfort with the spontaneous, sometimes-messy process of delivery. For Improvisers, improvement is found by making peace with the framework of the presentation and trusting it to make understanding easier.

As I said in the last post, everyone improves along a separate path. Insight into your Default tells us where that path starts.

In the next post, I’ll write about the connection between engaging listeners in the conversation and reduced nervousness.

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

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