2 Levels of Success in Business Communication

June 1, 2016 in Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Meetings, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

Originally published on Training Industry’s blog May 23, 2016

TrainingIndustry2LevelsAs a leader, you expect the people you work with to communicate effectively and efficiently. Too often, they don’t. Meetings waste time. Presentations fail to persuade and sometimes seem pointless. Employees disengage, and everyone dreads the next meeting.

Much of this could be avoided if people remembered that all business communication—whether it takes place during meetings, presentations, or important one-on-ones—has to succeed on two levels. Helping your employees understand this is the first step toward improvement.

The first level of success gets a lot of attention. It’s about achieving a business goal—getting others to understand, buy or agree to something—whatever needs to get done that day. The business goal cannot be reached, or reached easily, without the second level of success.

The second level is about how the communication process is managed. No one wants to feel they have to work hard to understand what’s going on. Nobody wants to feel their time is being wasted. What everyone does want is a sense of ease, relevance and efficiency. Or, to put it another way, people go into every meeting, presentation or training session with three needs in mind:

  1. They don’t want to work harder than they have to.
  2. They want it to be about them.
  3. They don’t want to feel their time is wasted.

Read the full article here.

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

For Leaders Who Expect Better Communication from Employees: 5 Ways to Achieve It

April 18, 2016 in Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings, Posts for Buyers, Preparation, Training

2 levelsAs a leader, you expect your employees’ business communication to be effective and efficient. But is it?

Too often, it’s not. (I’ve written about the business implications here.)  However, it doesn’t have to be that way. To be effective and efficient, business interactions must succeed on two levels. Helping your employees understand this concept is the first step toward improving their communication,  whether it takes place during meetings, presentations, training sessions, important one-on-ones, informal hallway discussions, and even voicemails, instant messaging, and email.

The first level of success is easy for employees to understand. It’s about achieving the goal—being clear, concise, and persuasive enough so that others buy, agree, align, or learn.

The second level is also easy to understand, but more challenging to master. This level is about skillfully managing the process so that a fruitful conversation takes place and business gets done. This level is about ease and efficiency.

5 elements contribute to the second level of success.

1. Create the conditions for a fruitful conversation
Business rarely gets done through one-way communication. It requires a rich dialogue and conclusions drawn from multiple points of view. This means that the leader of the conversation must find ways to encourage others to contribute. This is more than saying, “Please ask questions,” or “What do you think?” It’s about creating a safe environment for people to share their thoughts freely and without judgment. Empathy, silence, and good listening all play a role.

2. Establish context
It’s common for people to show up to a meeting or presentation not knowing why they were invited or what they’re supposed to accomplish. Effective communicators establish context from the very beginning. They explain (even when it seems obvious) why the meeting has been called, what they’re trying to accomplish, and what’s led the group to this point already. Here’s an example: “Thanks for joining the meeting today. As we all know, we have a problem in the supply chain. Our goal today is to understand the variables so that we can fix the problem and get the manufacturing floor back up and running quickly.” Sometimes the context is mundane, but important to establish nonetheless. “Good Monday morning. Welcome to the staff meeting. There’s a lot going on this week, and I want to make sure we’re all ready for what’s coming. Let’s get started.”

3. Earn trust and goodwill
Nobody wants to go to another meeting where they feel their time is wasted. Over time, the leader of these meetings can chew through an awful lot of trust and goodwill. “Not Larry again…” If you feel a direct report is turning into a Larry, address it swiftly. Explain that time is money, and that their disorganization is causing frustration.

4. Make it easy for colleagues to participate in the conversation
Making decisions isn’t always easy, but the process of making them doesn’t have to be confusing. Likewise, a team update shouldn’t be difficult to follow. Every meeting needs structure and clarity. Agendas should be used. Supporting documents should be clear. Graphics should be clearly labeled and easy to grasp. If meeting attendees have to work too hard to understand the basics, they may give up.

5. Manage the give and take of the interaction
Meetings are a process, not a product. This means that the give and take of the conversation is an integral part of them. It also means that meetings can get messy. A little mess is OK. Slogging through the muck can often uncover important discoveries that lead to better outcomes. However, if things get too messy, the goal can get lost and everyone can feel stuck. Employees must learn to strike a balance between allowing too much conversation and controlling it too much. Often, simply acknowledging the situation can help control it, for example, “We’ve talked through a lot of issues, let me summarize so that we can move on.” Another example might be: “You’ve brought up a terrific point, and I think we should talk more about that. We’ve got 20 minutes left, and we still have two more agenda points to cover. Let’s make a group decision. Should we continue down this path, or table it for now so that we can end on time?”

Meetings cannot be perfected. But business shouldn’t grind to a halt because they are poorly facilitated. Using the concepts outlined here will help you coach your team to more effective and efficient communication. [Tweet “Meetings can’t be perfected. But things shouldn’t grind to a halt due to poor facilitation.”]

How else have you solved poor communication at work?

Dale Ludwig, Turpin Communication’s Founder, applied this concept specifically to presentations. Read what he had to say.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Webinar Recording from PresentationXpert

June 23, 2015 in Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings, News, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Video, Virtual

PresentationXpertGreg Owen-Boger, Turpin Communication’s VP and Dale Ludwig’s co-author, was invited to talk about The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined as part of the PresentationXpert Webinar Wednesday series.

There were a lot of great questions asked during the session, and it’s becoming abundantly clear that there’s a huge need in the business world to improve efficiency and effectiveness of presentations, meetings, and training sessions.

Here’s what a few people had to say after the webinar:

“Amazing … I cannot thank you enough for the amazing and professional job you did in today’s webinar.”
Sharyn Fitzpatrick, Webinar Chick, Marcom Gurus

“Nice to see a pro in action.”
Dave Zielinski, Editor, PresentationXpert

View the recording from the June 17, 2015 webinar hosted by PresentationXpert.


About the Book

The Orderly Conversation is a groundbreaking resource for business presenters.

It offers a new approach to the getting-business-done presentations you deliver – an approach that’s more appropriate for the real world of business and more practical for every type of presenter and presentation.

The business presentations you deliver are not static or one-way. They are an exchange of information that have much more in common with informal conversations than formal speeches. They require a preparation process that looks ahead to the conversation that will take place and a delivery process that is flexible and responsive.

The authors’ goal with this book is to call out many traditional assumptions about what it takes to succeed and replace them with something better.

3 Smart Strategies for Conducting Meetings People Won’t Hate

February 2, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Meetings

dale_ludwig_hi-res_colorI listened to a really interesting NPR story last week about workday meetings. It said that, “the average American office worker spends more than nine hours of every week preparing for, or attending, project update meetings.” That’s a lot of time. And the problem, as the story pointed out, is that most of these meetings last too long, they don’t accomplish much, and are run poorly. Much of the blame was placed on a lack of awareness among meeting facilitators.

So, if you run meetings, what are you to do? What should you be more aware of?

First, assume that the people you’re meeting with would rather be somewhere else … and that’s OK.

Don’t take it personally. People are busy, and meetings burn through a lot of time and energy. By making this assumption, you’re reminding yourself that it’s your job to keep things efficient and relevant for everyone. This might change the length of time you schedule the meeting for or the people you choose to invite.

Second, talk about the meeting process … not just the topic.

Talking about what’s going to happen and what is happening during the meeting will make it easier for everyone to engage and participate. Plus, you’ll sound like you know what you’re doing.

  1. Review your agenda when the meeting begins.
  2. State the goal of the meeting and—just as important—what you need from the group to reach that goal.
  3. When the meeting is over, clarify next steps and bring things to a close. Don’t rehash meeting content or bring in new information when everyone is ready to leave.

Third, stay on track or decide not to … either way, make it a choice.

  1. It’s easy to get bogged down in the minutia of meeting content, but, as the person running the meeting, keep things going in the right direction. When the group goes off on a tangent, think about whether the tangent is necessary to reach your goal. If so, let it happen. If not, rein them in. Question your gut reaction to the tangent. It may be leading you in the wrong direction.
  2. If you are the one wandering off track, though, stop it.

Remember, it’s your responsibility to communicate a sense of efficiency and relevance. When you do, you will create the conditions for a fruitful, efficient meeting.

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

Virtual Presentations That Work

March 25, 2013 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Presentation, Talent Development, Training, Virtual

greg 200x300It’s one thing to be clear, concise, and in control of your message when you’re speaking to a group of people in a live conference room setting. It’s an entirely different thing to keep audience members attentive and engaged when presenting virtually.

It’s not just learning how to run the meeting software. That’s the easy part. The real issues are (1) getting people to want to participate and (2) communicating well using the technology so that what you say is actually heard and understood.

I led a webinar last week for CASRO, which is a professional organization serving the market research industry. In the session, we explore the skills and techniques it takes to communicate effectively in virtual settings no matter whether you’re conducting meetings, presentations, research results or video conferences.

Topics include:

  • Transferring face-to-face skills to the virtual environment
  • Engaging people you can’t see
  • Keeping people focused
  • Keeping things interesting
  • Developing visual aids for online delivery
  • Planning and executing interactions that people want to participate in
  • Using video conferencing tools
  • Pros and cons of muting attendee phones
  • Using tools such as polls, chat, hand raising and more
  • Using a host to manage the technology so that you can focus on content

What thoughts do you have about virtual delivery?

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

My Time Has Been Cut Short!

October 29, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Preparation, Presentation

I was on LinkedIn today and ran across a discussion that caught my eye. The question that was posed was this: “You prepared a 30 minute presentation and when you arrived it was reduced to 20 minutes. What would you do?”

This is a common occurrence, of course. Meetings often run long. If you’re at the end of the day, you should probably expect that time will be running short when your turn comes around. Some of the responses to this question got things right. Others—like the person who said that the thing to do is talk faster—got it very wrong.

The issue comes down to flexibility. Business presenters need to be flexible regardless of how much time they have. They always need to respond to the immediate needs of the audience, and “let’s get this done more quickly” is just one of those needs. Here’s what we recommend to help presenters be more flexible:

  1. Prepare the shorter and longer version for each point or each slide. To help you with that, make sure your slide title is meaningful.
  2. Be able to explain your ideas in a variety of ways. As you prepare, think about how you would make your point to people with different perspectives or levels of knowledge.
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask your audience how they would like you to focus the presentation. This can be done after you’ve delivered your agenda. Say something like, “I know time is precious today, so which of these four points would you like me to focus on?”
  4. When you’re asked a question, deliver the short answer first. If you decide to say more, make sure it’s worth the time it takes to do so.
  5. Accept the idea that to be concise you need to stop talking about something before you want to. This may sound silly, but it is absolutely true. Letting yourself talk until you’re satisfied usually doesn’t make the answer any better.

Managing a shorter-than-expected presentation can be frustrating, but a flexible presenter who stays focused on what the audience needs and wants to hear can succeed comfortably.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

2013 Planning Your Training Initiatives

September 17, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, News, Preparation, Presentation, Training

Is it really possible that summer’s over and that we’ll be heading into the 4th quarter in a couple weeks?

Wow.

If you’re like most of our clients, autumn is planning time for next year’s training initiatives. We thought we’d help you out and get the conversation started.

Here are some quick thoughts:

    • For the fourth year in a row, client-site workshop fees are staying the same in 2013.

  • We launched Find Your Focus Video. As you probably know, we have become pretty good at creating eLearning videos. Now we’re offering video production and consulting services to our clients who work in the eLearning field. This is no ordinary production service, though. What sets us apart is our on-camera coaching. If you’ve ever had to be on-camera, you know how challenging it can be. We’ll take the mystery out of it for you. Learn more here.
  • Last year we developed a more robust workshop catalog to better serve our clients. While sessions are always tailored to meet each group’s needs, we’ve made it easier to envision what your sessions might look like.  Think of these descriptions as the starting point for tailoring conversations.

Here are the workshop titles and links to their full descriptions.

Mastering Your Presentations
No-nonsense strategies for presenting and facilitating in today’s business environment

Presentation Training for Sales Professionals
Practical skills for facilitating your sales conversations

Speaking with Confidence & Clarity
Fundamental skills for the nervous or novice presenter

Presenting Globally
Getting your message across the cultural gap

Narrative Presentations
Using stories to capture and motivate your audience

Presenting & Training in a Virtual Environment
Adapting your face-to-face skills to the online world

Presentation & Facilitation Skills Training for Trainers
No-nonsense techniques for engaging today’s learners

Advanced Meeting Facilitation
Strategies for encouraging participation while controlling the process

Running Effective Meetings
Fundamental skills for beginners

  • We continue to offer public workshops. We have two-day mastery-level workshops and one-day novice-level workshops. These are excellent options for when you don’t have enough people to fill up a class of your own. Click here for details and schedule.
  • Budget and travel continue to be an obstacle for many. If this is the case for you, check out our eLearning options. Single and multi-user licenses are available

We think that covers the highlights. We look forward to 2013 and helping your presenters and facilitators find their focus, be themselves, only better.

Sincerely,

Dale & Greg
773-455-8855
773-239-2523

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

People think I’m mad all the time. As it turns out, I just have a “thinking face.” Anything I can do?

July 30, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Handling Questions, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Presentation, Sarah Stocker

This is a problem I’m very familiar with; I too have a “thinking face.” When I am deep in thought my face naturally gets a very stern look on it. I didn’t realize it until my colleagues kept asking me, “What’s wrong?” or “What did I miss?” when we worked together during workshops. My “thinking face” made them feel judged, which is obviously not a good thing. Here are a few ways to fix the problem.

The first step is to analyze your “thinking face.” What do you do? (I tend to squint, furrow my brow, and purse my lips.) When do you do it? During meetings? While presenting? When listening to others present? (My “thinking face” comes out the most when I’m listening to someone else speak.)

Once you are aware of what you do and when you do it, you can work to soften it. When I’m facilitating or listening to someone else present, I periodically check in with myself. Is my face scrunched up or tense? If the answer is yes, here is what I do:

  • I relax the muscles in my face.
  • I smile. It doesn’t have to be a huge grin – just a slight smile will do.
  • I open my eyes wider and slightly raise my eyebrows (“smile” with my eyes).

This makes me appear pleasant and receptive instead of critical and mad. Does it feel natural? Not really. But I don’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable or that I am criticizing them, so it’s worth the extra effort. And it does get easier (and a little more natural) the more I do it.

My final piece of advice is to be open about having a “thinking face.” If someone catches me giving them a stern look, I casually apologize, use it as an opportunity to laugh, and explain that it’s just my “thinking face.” It lightens the mood and lets them know it is not a reflection on them. Next time they notice it, they won’t jump to a negative conclusion.

A “thinking face” can give people the wrong impression of you or even shut down a productive conversation. Being aware, softening or brightening your facial expressions, and explaining yourself will help counteract any negative feelings it may cause.

By Sarah Stocker, Trainer and Workshop Coordinator at Turpin Communication

Helping Employees Gain Respect by Improving Their Communication

May 14, 2012 in Author, Delivery, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Preparation

 

greg 200x300As a communication consultant working with presenters, facilitators, and trainers, I have a lot of interesting conversations with business leaders about their employees.

The conversations may go something like this: “Greg, I know John is smart. He has great ideas and is always willing to put himself out there, but in meetings he doesn’t communicate clearly. He’s erratic, talks in circles, and apologizes for having an opinion. I’ve seen this happen a lot, and it’s causing his manager and peers to lose respect for him. How can you help me help him?”

Sometimes the conversations are like this: “When Mary and I talk in my office she’s confident and clear. But when she presents at meetings she falls to pieces. Mary is a high-potential employee, but her inability to speak to a group is holding her back. Can you help her?”

In both situations people have lost the respect of co-workers because of their poor communication skills.

Another scenario:
A few weeks ago I was working with a woman who is the Administrative Assistant to the CEO. “Jan” is roughly 50 years old, very well-dressed, and in charge.

At the beginning of the class, Jan participated fully in the conversation that I was facilitating. From the comfort of her seat she spoke up, listened attentively to the others, and responded clearly and confidently. She displayed a great sense of humor too.

But then things changed.

Later in the class we were doing an exercise in which everyone gets up in front of the room and introduces themselves to the group. Jan was last to volunteer. While this exercise always generates a few butterflies for people, Jan was a mess. She was very nervous and had tied herself into knots. She shifted her weight and looked down at the floor. Her voice was shaky, she became soft-spoken, and it sounded as if she were speed-reading through a script. Her sense of humor was gone. So was her personality.

Afterwards, she described herself as having just had an out-of-body experience.

When I asked her if she remembered seeing anyone’s face, she responded, “No, not at all.”
When I asked her if that was a common experience, she confessed, “Yes.”

Jan had turned her focus inward.

In her attempt to defend herself against the presence (or even the hint) of nervousness, she made the situation worse. Much worse. She forgot that she was speaking to real people, turned her focus inward, and had a complete meltdown. Suddenly she was not the articulate, confident person I met earlier, but someone else entirely.

Jan’s experience is not unique.

If you’ve ever experienced anything like that (and who hasn’t) you know it’s real. And it’s debilitating.

The good news is that debilitating nervousness is not a permanent condition. In the brief time we had together, Jan learned to speak as clearly and confidently to the group as she normally does in low-stakes conversations.

The key is to think of presentations as conversations that are taking place with real people in real time.

When Jan was nervous, she was speaking in a vacuum—unaware of her listeners and focusing solely on what she had planned to say. My solution was for her to turn her focus outward and speak to the individuals in the room. She needed to look people in the eye and actually SEE them. She needed to recognize their reactions and see how they were responding to her. When she did that, she was able to connect and respond.

The level of engagement that Jan achieved—something that happens automatically in everyday, low-stakes conversations—plays a crucial role in presentations. Although the people in the room are the cause of nervousness, presenters should not think of them as passive viewers whose sole responsibility is to judge. Presentations, like everyday conversations, are an exchange of information that can’t ever be perfect. When presenters focus on engaging their listeners, they’re able to break through the barrier of nervousness, turn their focus outward, and manage the process. This, in turn, makes them feel (and look) comfortable, confident, and in control.

Jan did that, and her improvement was astonishing. She became a person who would be respected in any presentation situation.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer 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?