What We Can Learn from the Oscars

February 26, 2013 in Assessing Your Default, Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Facilitation, FAQs, Myths Debunked, Presentation

I watched the 85th annual Oscar telecast on Sunday. I usually watch the show, and this year I actually stayed awake until the end. What I like about the Oscars is not so much who wins, but what people say after they’ve won one. I don’t know why, but there is something really enjoyable (and not necessarily in a kind way) about watching someone experience an incredible career high and immediately have to speak to an audience of millions about it.

The pleasure is greatest with the acting categories, of course, because the contrast is so great. Here are people who can deliver amazing performances on film and then struggle just like the rest of would during the acceptance speech.

For business people it reinforces just how challenging delivering a presentation actually is.

Because when you think about it, an acceptance speech—in terms of how it’s prepared and delivered—is not that different than a presentation. They are both in their own ways, Orderly Conversations. I’m sure every nominee, even if they thought they had no chance of winning, had a plan. They thought about what they wanted to say and the order in which they wanted to say it. Some of them thought about the message they wanted to get across (Ben Affleck’s was that when you get knocked down in life, “All that matters is that you gotta get up.”)

Beyond those basics, though, there are other similarities. So here is a list of statements that are true for both the presentations you deliver and Oscar acceptance speeches.

  • Scripting doesn’t work. The best thing about this year’s show was that no one I saw pulled out a piece of paper, unfolded it, and started reading. When winners read a script like that they are never engaging or interesting.
  • People are nervous but they work through it. It’s interesting to go back and watch the acceptance speeches online. What you notice is that almost everyone is nervous at first (usually having a hard time catching their breath and saying a lot of ums and uhs), but they pause, breathe, think, and then settle down. Adele was the only winner who never fully gained her composure during her acceptance. The good thing is that she also made fun of herself for it. Which brings me to this comparison.
  • When they make mistakes, they laugh at themselves and move on. What did Jennifer Lawrence say after she fell walking up the stairs? “You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell.” That’s a perfect recovery.
  • Speaking quickly when you’re running out of time doesn’t help. Ben Affleck tried that last night before he got to the closing I quoted above (which was very well delivered). When he was speeding along he lost control and got into trouble with his “marriage is hard work” remark.
  • The best ones feel spontaneous. It doesn’t matter if acceptance speeches aren’t perfect. Those of us in the audience don’t want to see perfectly planned performances. The acceptance speech is one of the few times the public sees actors as they really are (or as close as we’ll ever get to it). We want to see them in the moment, responding to what’s happening in a genuine way. The same can be said for your presentations.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Just Because You Said It Doesn’t Mean It Was Heard

February 13, 2013 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation, Training

greg 200x300“I swear I said that they’d see incremental sales growth,” said Angela as she sat down to review her video with me.

Angela was a participant in a recent Mastering Your Presentations workshop. Dale Ludwig was the lead instructor. I was the participants’ video coach. My job is to guide participants through video review, focusing on (a) what they’re doing well, (b) where they could improve, and (c) identifying skills and techniques that will work for them.

So, there was Angela (not her real name). She was confused and frustrated because her classmates claimed she hadn’t mentioned how her buyer would gain incremental sales growth if he would approve the promotion she was recommending. “That was the whole point of the presentation!” she said.

“Let’s watch the video and see,” I said. So I popped the video in and we watched.

About 20 seconds into her presentation, there it was. “See?” she said. “I knew I’d said it.”

So, if Angela had said the words why then hadn’t her classmates heard them?

The problem is that Angela wants to be perfect. She’s very concerned about looking silly and mentally monitors everything she says and does. She described it as “being in my head.” Unfortunately, this has led her to rehearse every presentation to find the “right” way to make a point.

This graphic shows a distressed presenter. Angela sees herself in the image. This presenter is thinking:

  • Did I say that correctly?disengaged-presenter
  • My voice sounds strange.
  • My hands feel heavy.
  • What’s on my next slide?

As I coached Angela, I helped her realize that merely getting the words out isn’t enough. She must say them to SOMEONE. She needs to look people in the eye (not over their heads as she’d been told), see their faces, look for their understanding, and react accordingly. This is the same thing that happens in everyday low-stakes conversations. But for Angela, the pressure of having to deliver a perfect presentation pulls her out of the moment and into her head.

On the other hand, this presenter has an outward focus. He’s:engaged_presenter

  • Speaking with his audience, not at them
  • In the moment
  • Seeing faces and responding
  • Self-aware
  • Connected with the individuals in the room
  • In control
  • Comfortable

In short, he is engaged. He knows instinctively what to do and say, just as he does in everyday low-stakes conversations.

“This all makes sense to me,” said Angela, “but how can I do it?”

“The answer lies in turning your focus outward, toward the individuals you’re speaking with,” I said. “Take a moment to breathe and survey the room. Look them in the eye. Make the connection. Look for their reaction. Remember, this has nothing to do with your performance and everything to do with their understanding.”

“I like that,” she said. “I’m going to write that down. It’s not about my performance. It’s about them.”

Luckily for Angela, the class wasn’t over and she had another opportunity to deliver her presentation later that day. And what a difference. She was terrific. She was engaged. She made her points clearly and conversationally. She wasn’t nervous.

The proof of her success came from one of her colleagues when she said, “I finally understood what you were trying to say. Your buyer would be nuts not to approve this promotion.”

Indeed.

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