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”

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

September 24, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation

Part 1Part 2, Part 3

This is the final article in a series focusing on the need to take a fresh look at the visuals you use in your presentations. This article focuses on visuals intended to bring emphasis or emotion to the conversation. This type of visual might be a photograph (a completed project or happy employees, for example), a simple graphic (an arrow pointing up or down), or a trigger added to emphasize part of a more complex image (a circle around a single bar on a bar chart).

Because these visuals are used for emphasis and clarity, let’s call them punctuation slides. When used well, they make your message easier to understand and remember.

While punctuation slides can be very effective, there are two things to consider before using them.

First, will they be appropriate? As you know, it’s often hard to predict what will happen during an Orderly Conversation. The mood in the room may not be what you anticipate during preparation. A visual meant to communicate optimism might fall flat with a group of listeners feeling something else. So it’s important to anticipate how the visual may be received and interpreted by your audience.

Second, are you prepared to deliver them well?

  • Timing: If you’re using a slide to spark emotion, it needs to come into the conversation at the right moment and, once there, be allowed to do its job. For the presenter, that means knowing precisely when to advance to that slide and pausing long enough for the visual impact to be made.
  • Acknowledging: Just because the image on a punctuation slide is easy for listeners to understand, doesn’t mean you can ignore it during delivery. Often, presenters struggle to know what to say when they’re using this type of slide. But, just like any other, punctuation slides need to be acknowledged and explained. For example, “I’m really excited to show you how well this project turned out. Before we get into the details, here’s a photograph of the team at our last meeting. It’s easy to see the pride on all those smiling faces.”
  • Matching the emotion: When your slides communicate emotion, you should too. If your slide communicates optimism, happiness, or celebration, your audience needs to hear it in your voice and see it on your face. If they don’t, you’re sending a mixed and confusing message.

Like the framing and content slides discussed in the last two articles, punctuation slides serve a specific purpose during your presentations. Knowing what that purpose is and what it means for delivery will help you use them successfully.

Part 1Part 2, Part 3

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

My Mother’s Attic Part 3: The Elocutionists, a Cautionary Tale

July 16, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Myths Debunked, Talent Development

Part 1, Part 2

This is the final article about the perils of business presenters following the same path as the elocutionary movement.

The great thing about The Ideal Orator is that its approach, from our twenty-first-century perspective, is completely over the top. Anyone reading this book today would recognize its unnatural exaggeration of delivery behaviors, its focus on how a message should be delivered apart from what that message is.

What the book helps us see, though, is something much more subtle. Whenever a prescriptive approach is applied to something as individual and spontaneous as business presentations, we run into trouble.

Here’s what I mean.

  1. The Orderly Conversation that should take place between you and your listeners becomes a performance. Performances are very controlled things. They are not driven by the connection between you and your audience. Instead, they are driven by the plan that was made in advance. When you perform, you take yourself out of the conversation.
  2. The search for the rules governing the presentation process is a perfectly understandable thing. Rules make things easier. The thing is, presenters need to discover their own rules, not follow the rules for someone else. The rules you follow are determined by who you are and the habits you’ve developed. When you follow rules that aren’t right for you, you will feel and look uncomfortable. Maybe not as uncomfortable as the kids in my mother’s elocution classes, but uncomfortable nevertheless.
  3. When business presenters deliver a performance or attempt to follow one-size-fits-all rules, they undercut their ability to make decisions in the moment. If you’ve participated in one of our workshops, you know that engaging listeners is one of the most important processes we work on. When you’re engaged everything you do is a response to what’s happening with your audience.

As you know, Turpin’s tag line is “Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better.” So the next time you’re looking for rules governing delivery, make sure you’re focusing on what works for you, what helps you feel comfortable, and what gives you the control you need to manage the twists and turns of the Orderly Conversation.

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”

Why We Do What We Do (Part 3 of 4)

April 29, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

A Discussion of Turpin Communication’s Core Principles:
Engagement

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4

Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin CommunicationThis is the third in a series of four posts focusing on Turpin’s core principles. In the last entry I talked about how every presenter brings a Default Approach to the process and that understanding what it is focuses your improvement. In this post, I’ll focus on what it means to be engaged in an Orderly Conversation.

It seems that everyone is talking about engaging people these days. Businesses use social media to keep customers engaged. Managers want their employees to be fully engaged. Trainers want to engage learners. Each of these uses of the word have to do with how someone else (the customer, employee or learner) responds to something you do. It has to do with motivating them or maybe just keeping them interested.

We use the term to describe what happens when a two-way interaction begins. When presenters engage in conversation with their audience, they are not pouring information into passive listeners. They are not merely grabbing that person’s attention. An engaged presenter initiates a genuine connection with the audience. Both presenter and audience member share a moment in time, both equally engaged.

This level of engagement brings the audience into the conversation, of course, but it also affects how the presenter feels and thinks. Engaged presenters are able to think and speak spontaneously because they are reacting to the people they are speaking to, just as they do in everyday conversation. This, in turn, makes presenters feel confident and comfortable.

It’s for this reason that all presenters, especially nervous presenters, need to take command of the skills that help them engage. Once the conversation begins, the anxiety, self-consciousness, and second-guessing associated with nervousness melt away. You are able to stay focused and rein in the discomfort and distraction of nervousness.

So by focusing on engaging listeners in the conversation, we accomplish two things. First, we help presenters develop the skills they need to work through their nervousness. Second, we release presenters from the generic, prescriptive rules found in traditional training classes. Engaged presenters trust themselves to be confidently self-aware and in control.

Part 1Part 2, Part 4

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

Engage in the Conversation

March 5, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, FAQs, Preparation

As you know, if you’ve ever participated in one of our workshops, we talk a lot about the use of engagement skills, eye contact and pausing. We say that using these skills to engage listeners in the conversation reduces nervousness, brings listeners into the conversation and helps you avoid the hazards of a canned performance.

Recently I picked up a public speaking text book written in 1915 by James Winans. The title is Public Speaking, Principles and Practice. I won’t go into the details about how I landed on a text written almost a hundred years ago, but I can say I was pretty happy with what I found in it. Winans has something to teach us.

Winans comes from the perspective that public speaking is “perfectly natural” and an extension of what he calls “that most familiar act” of conversation. That’s right in line with what we teach in 2012. What really impressed me, though, was his precise definition of what it means to be engaged. For Winans, engagement requires two conversational elements:

1.    Full realization of the content of your words as you utter them, and
2.    A lively sense of communication

In other words, presenters need to (1) think about what they’re saying as they’re saying it and (2) they need to speak for the purpose of communicating with someone else.

You may be thinking that this is incredibly obvious and really not worth pointing out. But think about what happens when these two elements are missing from a presentation. Without the first, the presenter may be performing something that’s been rehearsed over and over again. Or floating along on autopilot, not really thinking about what he or she is saying. Without the second, the presenter is operating in a vacuum, not responding to the audience, not adapting to the situation, not caring whether anything is communicated or not.

So what Winans is teaching us is what engagement requires, what presenters need to think about and where their attention should go to be engaged in the conversation. His ideas enrich our sense of how eye contact and pausing work as the two engagement skill presenters rely on.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Please Don’t Hold Your Questions

January 23, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Handling Questions, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Myths Debunked

I like to ask people to hold their questions until the end of my presentation. I don’t like being interrupted, and waiting until I’m finished to answer questions just feels more efficient. What do you think?”

You should probably get used to interruptions and give up delaying them.

There are really only two reasons to delay questions until the end:

  1. When you’re running out of time, and you absolutely have to finish the presentation regardless of whether you answer everyone’s question, or
  2. When there’s a message-related reason to delay. A message-related reason occurs when your audience will be much better able to ask questions after they’ve heard a certain amount of information.

If either of these situations occur, feel free to delay questions. Just be sure to tell your audience why you’re doing so.

These situations are relatively rare, though. So most of the time, you’ll need to accept the interruption. Think of it as an indication that your audience is interested in what you’re saying. By asking their questions, they’re helping you get your message across.

Also keep in mind that what feels efficient to you may not feel efficient to your listeners. What they might be feeling is confusion or frustration because they’ve been asked to hold their questions.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Help! I`m Long-winded!

September 30, 2008 in Assessing Your Default, Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Handling Questions, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Presentation

When you’re delivering a presentation and the thought crosses your mind that you may have said enough, you probably have. Move on to your next agenda item. Your listeners will appreciate it.

But what if the thought never occurs to you that you might have said enough? Well, for one thing, your listeners will tune you out as you drone on and on. When that happens, you’ll have a tough time getting them back. That is, if you even notice that they’ve tuned out. (If you’re rambling on, there’s a fair chance that you’re too much in your head and not paying enough attention to your listeners.)

So, the issue here is not that you’ve said too much – it’s easy to talk a lot about your topic when you know a lot about it. The key is to recognize that you’ve said too much and make the conscious decision to move on.[Tweet “If the thought crosses your mind that you have said enough, you probably have.”]

If you know us, you know that we’re always talking about the benefits of pausing. This time is no exception. Pausing is critical for many reasons.

  • It helps you gather your thoughts.
  • It helps you regain control of your nerves.
  • It helps you engage your listeners.
  • It gives your listeners time to digest what you’ve just said.

And it even helps you recognize that you’ve said enough, and that it’s time to move on.

As I often say in class, pausing is your friend.

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