Success ≠ Perfection

November 19, 2014 in Author, Barbara Egel, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Uncategorized

barbara_egel_132_BW“I want my presentation to be perfect.” This is something we hear from our course participants now and then, and I reckon more people think it than actually say it. Most of the time, when people talk about a “perfect” presentation, they seem to mean that their presentation goes exactly the way they envision it in their heads before they do it. Usually this includes being letter prefect, absolutely fluid and fluent, starting as planned and getting all the way to the end without interruption, and fielding a few softball questions at during Q & A while everyone looks on admiringly.

Effective Works Better Than Perfect

This is not a bad vision to have, it’s just kind of boring and it can sell you short as a presenter. Instead of thinking about “perfect” presentations, consider what goes into a successful, effective presentation. To me, that would look more like this: [Tweet “Instead of “perfect,” aim for a successful #presentation.”]

  • You have a solid grasp of your subject matter.
  • You know your audience’s pain points and key concerns, and you have crafted your presentation to address them with appropriate audience-facing organization and language.
  • You have an introduction that will make clear your plans for the presentation and what the audience will get from it.
  • You know how to engage the audience using eye contact and remembering to pause for their sake and your own.
  • You are flexible and engaged enough that if a question or comment changes your direction, you can flow with it and return to your planned content when you’re done.
  • You will field questions with respect for everyone including yourself—allowing yourself time to think before you speak.
  • You look forward to the hard, “curve-ball” questions because you welcome the challenge and the chance to prove yourself.
  • People walk out knowing what they need to do next and feeling empowered to get started.

Set a Bigger Goal Than Perfect

A successful presentation is one in which the needed information is imparted and the important conversation takes place to the satisfaction of all involved. This is, if you think about it, a much bigger goal than the “perfect” presentation I described in the first paragraph. There is a sweet spot between preparation and the ability to roll with whatever comes during your Orderly Conversation. Managing that leads to successful—not overprepared, inflexible, boringly perfect—presentations. [Tweet “Find the sweet spot between preparation and rolling with it. #presentation”] [Tweet “Perfect = boring and inflexible: #business #presentation”]

By Barbara Egel, Presentation Coach at Turpin Communication and editor of “The Orderly Conversation.”

Rethinking the Visual Component of Your Presentations (Part 2 of 4)

August 27, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

This is the second in a series of four articles about the need to take a fresh look at the visuals you use in your presentations. Here’s the question I posed at the end of the last article.

As you know, we define presentations as Orderly Conversations. We need to ask how the slides you use contribute to the process. Do they bring order to or are they the subject of the conversation?

The visuals you use serve two basic functions. Some of them bring order to the conversation. Let’s call them framing slides. Other visuals are the subject of the conversation. Let’s call them content slides.

Framing Slides
These slides appear in the introduction, conclusion, and as transition slides in the body of the presentation. Slide titles are also used to reinforce the frame. The role of these slides is to make listening easier for your audience. Think of them as a road map. They tell the audience what you want to achieve, how the presentation is organized, and why it’s happening. They provide context and a sense of order.

Too often, presenters underuse these slides because they don’t contain much content. Agenda slides are flashed on the screen with a quick, “And here’s our agenda” and then they’re gone. Similar things happen with transition slides, slide titles, and conclusion slides. While you may struggle to know what to say when these slides are on the screen, just remember their function. They are there to bring order to the conversation and build the audience’s confidence in you as a presenter.

Content Slides
The slides you deliver in the body of the presentation are the subject of the conversation taking place. As such, they receive more attention than framing slides. Sometimes, when you’re delivering a lot of detail and data, the audience focuses on the visual for an extended period of time.

When this happens, the slide is much more than what we think of as “visual aids,” the simple, subordinate type of visual traditionally used by speechmakers. When content slides are delivered you and the audience need to give them the attention they deserve. That might be a lot or a little, depending on how the content fits into the presentation as a whole.

What you say about content slides will also be influenced by your audience, of course. You may need to say more than you intended or less. Just remember that your goal is to keep whatever you say within the context of the presentation’s frame.

In the next article, I’ll write about visuals that have a life outside of the presentation in which they’re being used.

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

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

Youthful Skepticism

June 10, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Introduction, Preparation, Presentation

Last week I spent three hours working with a group of people just starting their careers, all in the non-profit sector. It was a real break from the usual business audience we work with in a couple ways. First, they were very young, many of them fresh out of college. So they had no problem challenging what I had to say.

Second, although their presentations were delivered to community-based organizations, their topics were very much like those we see in for-profit businesses. They focused on serving people better, being more efficient, and improving technology.

Before meeting with me, this group all took our online course. As part of that, they prepared a presentation and sent it to me. This gave me a chance to prepare feedback for them. Before I dove into their presentations last week, I asked if anyone had questions or comments about the online course.

A couple people in the group did, and it wasn’t exactly the kind of feedback I was expecting. They said they found the structure we had asked them to follow, especially the introduction to their presentations, very restrictive and regimented. “I would rather just start talking with my audience when I start. I’d give them an agenda, but that’s it.”[Tweet “Clarity, context, and relevance are necessary for every presentation, regardless of audience.”]

I probed a little and asked if the organizational structure felt like a straightjacket. “Yes,” they said.

We hear that a lot from class participants. People often feel we impose a strict structure for introductions, one that cramps their style.

After working with a few introductions and talking through the nuances of each, the group last week began to see that an introduction is just a framework, a framework listeners need. Further, while the goals of every introduction are the same, presenters are free to reach those goals any way they want. So there really isn’t a straightjacket, just goals to be met.

What struck me about this group of presenters is that they assumed there was a disconnect between our approach (all business) and their needs (all community-based-non-profit). What they wound up seeing was that clarity, context, and relevance are necessary components of every presentation, regardless of audience or purpose.

I’m looking forward to going back to this organization next year. It was good to work with a group of eager yet skeptical young people.

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

I have a hard time making recommendations to the highest level people in my company. It seems presumptuous.

July 16, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Introduction, Organizing Your Content, Preparation, Presentation, Sarah Stocker

I understand what you mean. It can feel really awkward making recommendations to your executives. But keep a few things in mind.

First, you’ve been asked to give a presentation to these executives for a reason. You are saving them a significant amount of time by collecting and analyzing the necessary information, and then presenting the most critical pieces of it. You are helping them.

Second, your bosses probably want you to be specific. Not only does it demonstrate that you’re good at your job, it also makes the process of listening to your presentation much easier. Your recommendation helps establish the framework of your presentation, putting everything that follows in the body in context (see Dale’s post, Provide Structure through your Presentation’s Introduction). Without that framework, your presentation will be harder to follow. The last thing you want is for an executive audience to feel confused or lost at the end of your presentation.

Third, be sure to state your recommendation in an appropriate way. You don’t have to say that your audience must take a certain action. You could, for example, frame your recommendation as something that will help them make the decision they have to make.

So think of your recommendation as a necessary part of your presentation and an opportunity to show your expertise. Hopefully this will make it feel less awkward when you present to your executives.

By Sarah Stocker, Trainer and Workshop Coordinator at Turpin Communication

During a persuasive presentation, when should you make your recommendation?

June 11, 2012 in Author, Delivery, FAQs, Introduction, Organizing Your Content, Presentation, Sarah Stocker

It’s a good idea to state your recommendation (or solution) in the introduction of your presentation because it makes it easier for your audience to listen. Once you’ve told them what you want them to do (or believe) after your presentation, they can easily put everything that follows in that context. Everything you say supports your stated goal.

Of course there are times when it’s fine to build slowly to your recommendation. Just realize that when you do so, you’re asking your audience to be patient and follow your line of reasoning very carefully.

The recommendation is the third piece of Turpin’s 4-part introduction strategy. You can read more about creating your introduction in Dale’s post, Provide Structure through your Presentation’s Introduction.

by Sarah Stocker, Trainer and Workshop Coordinator at Turpin Communication

Asking Questions at the Beginning of a Presentation

March 23, 2010 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Introduction, Organizing Your Content, Presentation, Video

Have you ever asked a question at the beginning of a presentation and gotten nothing back from your audience?  Awkward, huh?  This comes up often in our presentation skills workshops.  Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication, addresses this issue in today’s video blog.

QUESTION:
I like to start things off by asking a bunch of questions.  Sometimes this works, but sometimes people just stare at me and don’t want to participate.  How can I avoid this awkward feeling?

Provide Structure through your Presentation’s Introduction

March 16, 2010 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Introduction, Preparation, Presentation

As you know, a well-organized presentation has three parts: introduction, body and conclusion.

  1. The introduction gives your audience a sense of direction and purpose, and a reason to listen.
  2. The body is, of course, the main part of your presentation, where you deliver the details of your topic.
  3. The conclusion summarizes what you’ve said, outlines next steps and closes the sale, if necessary.

Because it’s natural for presenters to focus most of their time on the body of their presentations, they often miss the chance to take advantage of what their introductions can do.

The process of developing an introduction helps the presenter zero in on the core issues.
If you’ve participated in one of our workshops, some of this should seem familiar. While most presenters understand that a good introduction helps listeners get motivated and focused, what they often don’t realize is that the process of creating an introduction also helps them.

As I said above, the first minute or so of your presentation should provide purpose, direction and a reason to listen. The result is that your introduction gives listeners confidence in you as a presenter. It tells them that you know what you’re doing, you’ve done your homework and you’re aware of their perspective. And, most important, that you’re in charge of the presentation of information and not just the information itself. The distinction is crucial. It’s one of the things that distinguishes confident, engaged presenters from those who are trapped in their own little bubble at the front of the room and never break out of it.

From your perspective as a presenter, the process of preparing an introduction forces you to zero in on the core issues of your presentation. When you really think about what your presentation means to your audience – independent of what it means to you – you’ll have an easier time narrowing your focus, articulating a simple agenda and eliminating unnecessary information. The benefits of that process will be felt throughout your presentation, and the way to make it happen is by disciplining yourself to create a concise  introduction.

The Four Parts
The first step is to break your introduction down into 4 steps and create a slide for each one, making sure that you use brief, parallel bullet points on each slide:

  1. Title. The title of your presentation should be meaningful, referring to the goal of your presentation or one of the benefits listeners will gain from it.
  2. Current situation. This is a brief description of what’s going on with your audience at the beginning of your presentation. Sometimes it describes their frame of mind or a problem they’re facing. The more accurate the current situation, the more credibility you have.
  3. Statement of Purpose (or Recommendation in a persuasive situation)  & Agenda. You can determine the purpose of your agenda by completing this sentence, “At the end of my presentation, I want my audience to (what)?” Your agenda should contain the 3 to 5 main topics you plan to cover.
  4. Benefits to Audience. This slide lists what your audience will gain by doing what you’re asking them to do or understanding what you want them to understand.

Hanging It All Together
Once you’ve created these four slides, try them out to see if they work together to achieve the goals of a good introduction. You may find that you’d like to remove or rearrange slides depending on your topic, audience or goals. That’s fine. Just be sure that the final version of your introduction can be delivered in about a minute and gives your audience purpose, direction and a reason to listen.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication


Learn more at www.TurpinCommunication.com and www.OnlinePresentationSkillsTraining.com