Breaking Free: 4 Things Nervous, Over-Preparing Presenters Can Do to Calm Down and Engage

October 10, 2016 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Myths Debunked, Nervousness, Preparation, Presentation

Nervous presenter hides behind sheet of paperI recently delivered a workshop for eight very nervous presenters. They were a great group and talked very frankly about their worries and concerns about presenting. Their nervousness stemmed from different things. For example,

  • One of the presenters hated being the center of attention, so speaking to groups increased her anxiety.
  • One was a non-native English speaker, unsure of her word choice.
  • A few of them worried about losing their train of thought and spacing out during their presentations.
  • Others felt intimidated by their audiences, having just moved into new roles requiring presentations to leadership.

While the causes of their nervousness were unique, each of them had developed the identical coping strategy—they all over-prepared. Each of them set out to nail down what they planned to say before the presentation began. Everyone scripted, most rehearsed, one found himself trapped in analysis paralysis as he struggled to make sense of marketing data.

As we’ve written here and here, this type of preparation, often purported to be the best way to reduce nervousness, doesn’t work in the business setting. What happens, as I saw with each of these presenters, was that they cut themselves off from their listeners. By relying on scripting and detailed notes, their presentations became monologues delivered by uncomfortable actors.

Along with their nervousness and tendency to over-prepare in reaction to it, this group shared another characteristic. When they were being videoed, they were completely unaware of themselves. I don’t mean this in a bad way. It wasn’t that they were unaware of bad habits. On the contrary, they were unaware of how good they were. After each person was videoed for the first time, their response to the question, “How did that feel?” was some version of, “That was terrible.”

  • “That was terrible … I had no idea what I just said.”
  • “That was terrible … I felt my voice shaking and I stumbled on my words.”
  • “That was terrible … I was so nervous I know I spoke too fast and just went on and on. I didn’t know when to stop.”

The thing is, the rest of us didn’t see any of this. Even though they were speaking off the cuff, none of the workshop participants appeared disorganized, unclear, or particularly nervous.

What was the takeaway from this? There were three.

  1. Never assume preparation will reduce nerves or guarantee success. What you need to do, especially if you’re a nervous presenter, is prepare for flexibility. Think about alternative explanations, different ways to make the same point.
  2. Greater flexibility builds confidence. If you’re familiar with our methodology, you probably guessed that each of these presenters defaulted to the Writer side of the Orderly Conversation. Writers tend to worry a lot about being accurate enough, about saying things they planned to say. They need to trust themselves more.
  3. As counterintuitive as it might be, it’s your connection to the audience that reduces nervousness. Begin your presentations by focusing on the individuals in the audience. Really see them and how they are responding to you. This will make your presentation feel like and be more of a conversation. It’s pretty much impossible to engage listeners when you’re reading or reciting a script. 
  4. There’s always a difference between how things feel to you during your presentations and how they appear to your audience. Sometimes this difference is slight. Sometimes it’s huge. With this group it was the latter.

At the end of this workshop, one of these presenters said something that made my day: “What I’ve learned today is that I can do this. I don’t have to worry so much.”

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

What we wish everyone knew about presentation anxiety

September 23, 2015 in Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Managing Nerves, Myths Debunked, Nervousness, Preparation, Presentation

presentation anxiety 9-23-15Last week I was working with a nervous workshop participant. Let’s call him Nate. Nate said that his biggest concern when presenting was nervousness.

“What sort of nervousness is it?” I asked since nervousness is caused by different things for different people. “Is it about the audience, the topic you’re talking about, or something else?” Nate said that his problem had to do with the fear of losing track of what he wanted to say, just getting lost in the weeds, and maybe going blank.

“Has that ever happened?” I asked.

“Yes … when I was in sixth grade. I was delivering a speech to students and parents and lost my place. I was using note cards and just panicked. I stared at the cards, not able to find my place. It was really bad.”

We laughed about the fact that something that happened in middle school still influenced his life as a business presenter. I assured him that he is not the first person to have something like that happen. Then we talked about the strategies he was using to manage his nervousness. He said he practiced his presentations as much as possible and always took notes with him in case he forgot something.

As it turned out, neither one of those solutions is right for him. The presentations Nate delivers are informal and interactive. By trying to exercise tight control over what he said, he was working against his success. Instead of being open and responsive to his audience’s needs, he was wasting mental energy trying to say precisely what he planned to say.

The solution

We found that there are two strategies that would work better.

  1. Prepare to be flexible. Rather than scripting and relying on note cards, Nate found that using his practice time to get comfortable with the main points he wanted to make helped him stay on track. After all, Nate was technical by nature, so the details always came easily. It was the main points, the big picture, that often got lost. I encouraged him to substitute the script in his head with an outline.
  2. Let your slides be your guide. The first time Nate went through his presentation, I noticed that he was talking about what was on his slides, but he was ignoring the slides themselves. He was focused on his note cards. By encouraging him to use the slides as his guide (yes, even if that meant looking at them and turning away from his audience) he would have a much easier time of it. By acknowledging the slide and talking about what it shows (again, big picture), he had an easy time getting his head around the content.

Nate discovered something important. The process of preparing for an Orderly Conversation is very different than preparing for a speech. While using note cards and scripting may seem like the easiest way to guarantee a clear and persuasive message, it’s not. Staying out of the weeds and remembering what to say has to do with two things: (1) how you prepare and (2) trusting the framework created by your slides.

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

Let’s Get Serious About Live Instructor-led Training

September 8, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, News, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, The Orderly Conversation, Training

Dale Ludwig, Founder of Turpin Communication and Co-author of The Orderly Conversation was just published in Training Industry Magazine.

Training Industry Magazine article by Dale Ludwig

Here’s an excerpt.

Let’s Get Serious About Live Instructor-led Training

With so many modes of training delivery available to learning and development (L&D) professionals – online, blended, synchronous, asynchronous, mobile – it’s common to ask whether a traditional face-to-face workshop is necessary to meet the needs of the business. In many cases, it’s not. When it is, though, we have a responsibility to make this mode of delivery worth the investment in time and resources.

To that end, training professionals spend a lot of time thinking about the needs of adult learners. What some of them do not fully take into account, though, is that the adults with whom they work are not merely “adults.” They are Busy People at Work.

Busy People Work - Turpin CommunicationThese learners have unique perspectives and specific needs. Unlike adults in non-business learning environments, they view training as a job responsibility, important for their work and their advancement, and are very busy. Time spent in training is time away from their regular responsibilities. Understanding and empathy for this type of learner must be the driving forces behind training design and delivery. When they are, trainers earn the trust and good will of their learners. Without trust and good will, learners check out of the process.

 

The article goes on to discuss five key concepts for designing and delivering training for Busy People at Work.

  1. Make it a conversation.
  2. Plan to succeed on two levels.
  3. Frame the conversation.
  4. Be engaged and responsive.
  5. Don’t let activities destroy good will.

Read the full article, found on page 21, here.

5-Star Review for “The Orderly Conversation” at San Francisco Book Review

December 10, 2014 in Book Reviews, News, The Orderly Conversation

5-star_review_SanFran_BookReview

Review originally posted at The San Francisco Book Review

sanfranciscobookreview_logo_90

The Orderly Conversation depends on an assumption that business presentations are inherently different from other forms of public speaking, and so to be truly successful, presenters must learn a whole new set of skills. I’m not entirely sure that I agree with this assumption, since the authors seem to indicate that the main difference is that a business presentation requires an understanding of and connection with the audience. I would argue that audience connection is also vital to speech-making, as well as written communication (which is shown in this book as the “orderly” side of the order/conversation continuum). The thing that makes business presentations so different is the raised stakes—a failed business presentation can mean no sales, loss of a client, being passed over for needed funding, important instructions not being understood or followed, really the failure to accomplish the goal behind the presentation.

Now, the fact that I disagree with one of the major assumptions in the book does not mean that I think the book is without merit. Far to the contrary, I feel that the advice given here can be useful far beyond the somewhat limited scope of the business presentation (although there is plenty of variety included in that heading). Every speaker, whether in business, politics, or classroom, should learn their own natural inclinations when speaking, when those natural inclinations help and hinder, and specific ways to improve. Every speaker, regardless of setting, needs to know how to prepare effectively to allow for both the planned message and flexibility to adapt the plan. Every speaker should focus on meeting the needs of their audience, and should be armed with techniques to recognize if those needs are not being met in the presentation, and ways to remedy the situation.

Throughout the book, Dale Ludwig presents new information, while Greg Owen-Boger gives us practical application with example studies of a fictional workshop group (fictional characters that are composites of real people with real struggles that they have worked with). The eight people in the group each have different presentation styles, each have different reasons for participating in the workshop, and each have different needs and goals. This method of presenting the information was fantastic because you can clearly see how the advice given in the book can be adjusted to a variety of situations. At first I thought it would be difficult to keep track of so many different people, but each was a fully developed character with backstory and there never was any confusion between them. They are even represented by eight distinctive handwriting samples to keep a visual difference.

In addition to offering very useful advice and strategies for giving successful presentations, this book is just really well crafted. As mentioned before, there are visual cues for each of the workshop participants, but there is also a visual distinction between Dale’s informational sections and Greg’s practical application. The format of the book follows the advice given to presenters—it is clear, concise, and every aspect is designed to meet the needs of the audience. It frames the content with specific information in the introduction and conclusion, and even incorporates repeated internal framing visuals: the Table of Contents is repeated before each chapter—a reminder of what you’ve learned and where you’re going. Part of me wanted to think it was a waste of paper, part wondered why they would make such an unusual formatting decision, but by the time I reached the chapter where the technique was explained, I’d already decided it was more effective than wasteful.

The careful explanations and examples along with the minute considerations in formatting and design make this an instructional guidebook that practices what it preaches, and one that I can enthusiastically recommend.

Reviewed by Randy-Lynne Wach

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: 

  • 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. 

 

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

How Is a Training Session Like a Baby Shower? (Hint: It’s not a good thing.)

August 11, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Myths Debunked, Training

Dale Ludwig, author, The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations RedefinedI ran across an article online by Christy O’Shoney entitled, “Baby shower games are insane: How our obsession with celebrating moms-to-be got totally out of control.” As I read the article it became clear that what O’Shoney is talking about, what she describes as the recent escalation of forced fun at baby showers, is exactly the sort of thing we talk about concerning the use of pointless games and other supposedly “fun” activities in training sessions.

Here are three of the points O’Shoney made and the similarities they share with training sessions.

  1. Childlike games are played by adult women. This is a basic point. There is a disconnect between the games played and the people playing them. If fun is to be had (and there’s nothing wrong with breaking up the monotony of watching the soon-to-be-mother open gifts), why not make it age-appropriate? When I read this I thought of the ball-tossing exercise I was forced to participate in at a recent training event. As O’Shoney points out, the guests at the shower “are real adults with careers and depth of experience, yet we are determined to infantilize all of them.”
  2. Shower games insult the guests’ intelligence and the prize is a candle or a crappy trinket. Since the games that are brought into training sessions are part of a serious business process, shouldn’t the games, if they’re used, be challenging? Shouldn’t they enrich learning and be worth the investment of time and the good will of the participant? Too often they’re little more than an attempt to bring variety for variety’s sake. And the prizes? Do we really need a candy bar or another logo t-shirt?
  3. I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one with a disdain for these games. O’Shoney mentions the solidarity she often feels with other shower guests over the games they’re forced to play. This happens in the training room as well. When a game is set up, there are always those who are clearly not into it. Are they party-poopers? Are they failing to live up to their training responsibilities? No, they just hate time-wasting, irrelevant forced fun.

Even if you’ve never been to a baby shower (and I never have), you’ll enjoy O’Shoney’s article. To paraphrase her final point, let’s stop kidding ourselves with these games. We are grown people, and we should respect our colleagues enough not to subject them to pointless, silly games.

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

The Orderly Conversation Is HERE!

July 15, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Greg Owen-Boger, News, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation

After years in the writing…

The Orderly Conversation ships today!

Here are the authors, Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger, celebrating the first shipment.

the_orderly-conversation_arrived_dale-ludwig_greg-owen-boger

New Book Offers Game-Changing Approach to Instructor-Led Training

July 15, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Greg Owen-Boger, News, The Orderly Conversation, Training

Granville Circle Press announces the July 15, 2014 publication of “The Orderly Conversation,” a groundbreaking resource for business communication.

News Release – PDF

Granville Circle Press announced today the publication of “The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined” by Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger, a book that challenges some long-held beliefs in the corporate training world about engaging adults in the learning process.

“Corporate training’s purpose is to help move business forward,” write the authors. “When it’s done well, attendees learn what they’re there to learn and return to their jobs.” Training should be efficient, relevant, and earn the goodwill of trainees. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Too often trainers fail to connect with their learners, miss opportunities, and rely on classroom activities that miss the mark. “It’s not the trainer’s fault,” says Owen-Boger, “most of the time they’re simply doing what they themselves have been trained to do. That’s where the problem lies.”

The Orderly Conversation sets out to change that by focusing trainers’ efforts on learner engagement and creating the conditions for fruitful learning. “When trainers engage their learners in a genuine conversation,” says Ludwig, “when they’re willing and able to adapt their approach on the fly, the path to success is much clearer.”

The first step, say the authors, is to turn away from techniques associated with “speechmaking” or entertaining and focus on the give-and-take that must take place between speaker and learner. “It’s all about letting the conversation take place without losing sight of your training goals,” says Owen-Boger. “When you do that, you earn the trust and goodwill of your learners.”

Developed through years of Turpin Communication’s presentation workshops, this change in approach dramatically improves how trainers and instructional designers approach their work. “… As an instructional designer who specializes in developing communication skills, I have certainly had to scan many of the old fashioned ‘do this, don’t do this’ self-help guides… The Orderly Conversation is miles beyond, said Matt Elwell, CPLP, President and CEO of ComdeySportz of Chicago. “This text explores what is really happening between a presenter and an audience… I can’t say enough how much more powerful this book is than any other one I’ve seen on the subject.”

The Orderly Conversation takes readers through a clear and accessible process, inviting readers into one of the authors’ workshops where you observe eight fictional, but very real, presenters. One of these class participants is Sophia, a trainer at a credit union. She enters the class with some troublesome ideas about training. Lou Russell, from Russell Martin & Associates (and celebrated training industry author) calls these ideas “edutainment and trickery.”

Throughout the workshop, Sophia learns that these troublesome techniques were actually having the opposite effect of what she intended them to have. She also realizes that initiating the training conversation should be her first priority. When she does that, she’ll do her part to move the business forward.

Granville Circle Press calls their latest offering “eminently practical; real-world advice for the real world of business.” The Orderly Conversation is available now at http://www.theorderlyconversation.com, Amazon, and other online book retailers.

ABOUT GRANVILLE CIRCLE PRESS
Granville Circle Press–“Communicating Good Ideas.”, including “Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference,” selected by Kirkus Reviews as a “Best of 2012.” info(at)granvillecirclepress(dot)com The Orderly Conversation, ISBN 978-0-9838703-2-6 $21.95

ABOUT TURPIN COMMUNICATION
Turpin Communication (Chicago) was founded in 1992 to provide the best presentation and facilitation skills training available anywhere. Since then it has helped business presenters in a broad range of industries and organizations focus on the skills and techniques that help them succeed. Authors Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger are available for key note addresses and to speak at conferences and corporate meetings.

Contact

Kyle Carlson
Granville Circle Press
+1 612-229-8896
Email

Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger
Turpin Communication
773-239-2523
Email

This news release was originally published here.

New Book Offers Game-Changing Approach to Business Presentations

July 15, 2014 in Dale Ludwig, Greg Owen-Boger, News, The Orderly Conversation

Granville Circle Press announces the July 15, 2014 publication of “The Orderly Conversation,” a groundbreaking resource for business presenters.

News Release – PDF

Granville Circle Press announced today the publication of “The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined” by Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger, a book that promises to change the way business presenters think about the everyday presentations they deliver. The authors, communication experts with Turpin Communication (Chicago), offer a revolutionary approach that turns the old “Public Speaking 101” model on its head.

“The 101 model has been causing trouble for business people for years,” said Ludwig. He should know. He taught Public Speaking courses at the University of Illinois early in his career and has been working with business presenters since 1989.

“Much of what’s taught about business presentations needs to be replaced,” says Ludwig. “Traditional methods focus on ‘speechmaking.’ Speeches are a type of performance, something that can be rehearsed and perfected. Business presenters need something fundamentally different because delivering a speech will not help them close a complex deal, reach alignment with a team, or gather feedback on a broken process.”

This practical, realistic approach to business communication is one that turns away from “speechmaking” to focus on managing an “orderly conversation,” the type of lively interaction that thrives on the natural give-and-take between presenter and audience. Developed through years of Turpin Communication’s presentation workshops, this change in approach dramatically improves and empowers their clients’ internal and external communication.

pull-quote-1“This could change the way people do business! Where was this book when I was starting out?” said Pamela Meyer, Ph.D., author of “From Workplace to Playspace: Innovating, Learning and Changing for Dynamic Engagement.”

“Most presenters knew they weren’t delivering formal speeches, but the assumptions they were making and strategies they used didn’t reflect that,” says Owen-Boger. “Thinking of presentations as conversations changes everything: from preparation and delivery, through managing interactions, to how you judge your success when it’s all over.”

The Orderly Conversation takes readers through a clear and accessible process, inviting readers into one of the authors’ workshops to learn how to

  •     Frame a presentation as an extension of what came before
  •     Craft compelling visual aids that prepare you for the moment the conversation starts
  •     Engage listeners in a comfortable, flexible, and persuasive conversation
  •     Create the environment for productive interaction while maintaining control over the message
  •     Be clear and concise when thinking on your feet

 

“Most books on the subject stress how to look good speaking at people,” said Blaine Rada, professional speaker and management trainer named “America’s Greatest Thinker.” “’The Orderly Conversation’ shows how to truly connect with people, so you can stop performing and start engaging.”

Granville Circle Press calls their latest offering “eminently practical; real-world advice for the real world of business.” The Orderly Conversation is available now at http://www.theorderlyconversation.com, Amazon, and other online book retailers.

ABOUT GRANVILLE CIRCLE PRESS
Granville Circle Press–“Communicating Good Ideas.”, including “Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference,” selected by Kirkus Reviews as a “Best of 2012.” info@granvillecirclepress.com The Orderly Conversation, ISBN 978-0-9838703-2-6 $21.95

ABOUT TURPIN COMMUNICATION
Turpin Communication (Chicago) was founded in 1992 to provide the best presentation and facilitation skills training available anywhere. Since then it has helped business presenters in a broad range of industries and organizations focus on the skills and techniques that help them succeed. Authors Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger are available for key note addresses and to speak at conferences and corporate meetings.

Contact

Kyle Carlson
Granville Circle Press
+1 612-229-8896
Email

Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger
Turpin Communication
773-239-2523
Email

This news release was originally published here.

“There’s No Soul in Perfection”

April 3, 2014 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Video

american-idol-logoI’ll admit it. I watch American Idol. I suppose I have a little bit of … something… in my heart for those kids. I used to be a young performer. I dreamt of stardom too.

Now that I’m older and have worked that dream out of my system, I’m far more interested in the coaching the contestants receive than the performances themselves. Last night’s show, Season 13 – Top 8, was a coaching bonanza.

greg 200x300Harry Connick Jr’s advice to Sam was to make a connection, look at a single person (or the camera) and connect. He’s right about that. And it’s good advice for business presenters too. It’s not enough to say words, no matter how clear or persuasive (or pitch perfect) you are. You need to say them to someone. Make a connection. Make sure you’ve been heard and understood.

Immediately following Harry’s advice, Keith Urban told Sam, “There’s no soul in perfection.” He wants Sam to let loose, get a little dirty, rough it up. The same is true for business presenters.

We’ve posted a lot about the downside to striving for presentation perfection. It puts too much pressure on you and it takes you out of the moment. You can’t be “in” a conversation and reciting what you’ve rehearsed at the same time. It just doesn’t work. A presentation audience wants to feel as if the words are coming out of your mouth for the first time. They want to feel as if they can add to the conversation rather than observe as you talk.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t be prepared. You should be. But you also need to react in the moment to what’s happening around you. Let the conversation get a little messy. Rough it up. Make a connection. That’s when the heart and soul of a business presentation shines.

Here are some other posts that talk about perfection, nervousness created by the desire for perfection, and the downside to practicing too much.

Practice Makes Perfect… or not.

Dealing with Presentation Nerves

 

Presentation Myth: I have been told to Practice Practice Practice. What do you think?

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