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”

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

May 6, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

A Discussion of Turpin Communication’s Core Principles:
The Presenter’s Role as Facilitator

Part 1Part 2, Part 3

Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin CommunicationThis is the fourth and final post focusing on Turpin’s core principles. In the first three I defined the Orderly Conversation, Default Approaches and what it means to be engaged in a genuine conversation. In this post I’ll talk about how delivering a presentation, regardless of its purpose or setting, requires the skills of a facilitator.

When we think of facilitation, most of us think of the discussions that take place in the training room, during problem-solving meetings, or brainstorming sessions. Facilitators in these situations are skilled at moving a group of people toward a specific goal. They help people understand new information, find solutions, and share insights. Their job is to (1) encourage the process to ensure a genuine conversation takes place and (2) control the conversation to keep it appropriately focused on the goal.

This isn’t easy, of course, because the first goal always competes with the second. When the conversation really gets going, the facilitator has to be astute enough to rein it in without stifling it altogether.

Facilitating Your Presentations

The same thing needs to happen during your presentations—even if you’re the person doing most of the talking. Your audience wants to feel they have the opportunity to participate, even if they choose not to take it. They also want to feel that you’re capable of managing the twists and turns of the conversation, even when they are the people pulling you off track.

Many presenters—especially those who are under the stress of nervousness, are new to their role, or feeling intimidated by the audience—are too controlling. Their focus on the orderly part of the process makes them appear uncomfortable, impatient, defensive, or domineering. They don’t trust the audience or the process enough to let the conversation breathe. Audiences sense this, of course, and pull away. Sometimes they simply shut down and wait for the presentation to be over. Sometimes their frustration leads to more open resistance.

The most successful presenters are those who understand that they can’t get the job done without the audience. They trust the group and the process to make a necessary, though not always easily managed, contribution. They know that without it, a genuine conversation never takes place.

So that wraps up my discussion of Turpin’s core principles. The common theme? By redefining business presentations as Orderly Conversations, the real-life challenges you face and the strategies you need to manage them come into sharper focus.

Part 1Part 2Part 3

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”

Why We Do What We Do (Part 2 of 4)

April 15, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Preparation, Presentation, Training

A Discussion of Turpin Communication’s Core Principles:
Default Approaches

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

This is the second in a series of four posts focusing on Turpin’s core principles. In the last entry I focused on the Orderly Conversation, our term for the presentations business people deliver. As I said, the characteristics of a presentation that make it a Conversation always compete with those keeping it Orderly. It’s the presenter’s job to stay on track without sacrificing the spontaneity or immediacy conversations require.

Managing this tension would be a relatively easy thing to do if you were simply having a conversation with a coworker about a project you’re working on. Information would be exchanged, points made, and supporting arguments explained. With a presentation, you’re still having a conversation with your audience, but you have a specific goal you want to achieve, you’re probably using slides or a handout, and you have time to prepare.

Presenters respond to this challenge in one of two fundamental ways. We call these responses Default Approaches. One group, the Writers, default to the orderly side of the process. It’s natural for them to approach presenting as a linear process. Writers rely on preparation, detail, and control for success.

For the other group, Improvisers, the conversation is always front and center—even during the preparation process. These presenters rely on their ability to engage the audience and keep the conversation going.

Both Defaults bring important skills and strengths to the process, of course. They just need to keep things balanced. The conversation needs to breathe without straying too far off course.

Individual presenters must be aware of their Default Approach so they know which side of the process they should focus on. When we work with Writers, our goal is to increase their comfort with the spontaneous, sometimes-messy process of delivery. For Improvisers, improvement is found by making peace with the framework of the presentation and trusting it to make understanding easier.

As I said in the last post, everyone improves along a separate path. Insight into your Default tells us where that path starts.

In the next post, I’ll write about the connection between engaging listeners in the conversation and reduced nervousness.

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

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

Why We Do What We Do (Part 1 of 4)

April 3, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

A Discussion of Turpin Communication’s Core Principles:
The Orderly Conversation

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin CommunicationThis post and the three to follow will focus on Turpin’s core principles. For those of you familiar with the work we do, this will be a review of ideas and processes you’ve already heard about. For other readers of The Trainers’ Notebook, these entries will describe what differentiates us from other presentation and facilitation skills training companies. Or, to put it another way, this series will answer the question, “Why do we do things the way we do them?”

I’ll start at the most fundamental level. Our first core principle is that a business presentation is an Orderly Conversation. This term became part of Turpin’s methodology several years ago. We adopted it because the term “presentation” is used to describe many different things, and the resources available to business presenters fail to differentiate among them.

That has left business presenters struggling with issues that can be traced back to the type of communication they’re involved in. Recommendations designed for a keynote address or a TED Talk, for example, are not those a business presenter can or should apply. The communication process itself is too different for that to work.

We’re trying to correct that by helping business presenters understand the unique challenge they face. Presentations succeed when presenters initiate a conversation with their audience and keep that conversation focused, efficient, and easy to follow. What makes a presentation a Conversation will always compete with what makes it Orderly, but the tension between the two is also what makes a presentation succeed. This applies to the whole range of communication situations business people face—live presentations, virtual meetings, training sessions, and even performance reviews.

The good news is our new way of looking at presenting has resonated with our clients. Once presenters know exactly what they’re dealing with, lots of other issues fall into place. How that happens has helped us answer some very important questions. Among them:

  • Why do individual presenters improve along different paths?
  • What’s the best way to manage nervousness?
  • What’s the difference between an interactive presentation and a facilitated discussion? What’s the best way to manage them?

I’ll talk about each of these questions and their influence on our core principles in the upcoming posts.

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

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

Greg to present at the Greater Detroit ASTD chapter January meeting

January 11, 2013 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, News, Presentation

Join Greg Owen-Boger on January 16, 2013 at the Greater Detroit ASTD chapter January meeting in Troy, MI. Greg will be presenting Engaging Learners in the “Orderly Conversation” – Tried & True Techniques for Engaging Today’s Learner.

Program Summary:

As trainers, we need to stay relevant in today’s tough market and take responsibility for moving participants from ho-hum observers to engaged learners. But how?

One way is to conduct training sessions as if they are “orderly conversations.” An orderly conversation is one that is (a) carefully organized, well-designed and documented and (b) flexibly executed with lively participation and input from the entire group. When trainers and facilitators engage learners in this fashion, learners are more likely to invest in the learning outcome and apply what they’ve learned back on the job.

The tricky part is that we each thrive with one side or the other: the orderly or the conversational. In other words we each have a “default approach.” While the influence of a trainer’s default is felt throughout the process, it is often too subtle and unconscious to be noticed. This highly interactive session will help you explore what your default means for you and what you can do to manage it to your advantage in the classroom.

Participants will leave the session with:

  1. A clear understanding of what it means to conduct an orderly conversation.
  2. An understanding of their default approach and how they can capitalize on their strengths and improve their weaknesses.
  3. An action plan for moving learners from ho-hum observers to engaged and passionate learners.
  4. Learn new language for coaching SMEs.

Practice Makes Perfect… or not.

September 4, 2012 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Nervousness, Preparation, Presentation

 

greg 200x300A lot of people will tell you to “practice, practice, practice” because “practice makes perfect.”

When it comes to presenting, this is some of the worst advice you can get or give.

Practicing a presentation cannot possibly lead to perfection.

Here’s why.

Effective presentations are not speeches (which I suppose could be perfected). They are conversations. Conversations by their very nature are imperfect. They involve other people and are therefore unpredictable. They twist and turn. They stop and start. They go back on themselves. They jump forward.

You can’t predict any of that. Therefore, practicing a presentation until it is perfected is a foolish exercise.

The desire to be perfect and the pressure of other people telling you that you can be (should be) perfect puts the bar too high. And here’s what happens:

  • You put too much energy into reaching the bar,
  • which leads to nervousness,
  • which disengages you,
  • which puts you in your head trying to recreate the script you etched into your brain during practice,
  • which leads to a dull, lifeless, uninspiring meeting.

Hardly perfect.

It’s more than bad advice, though, it causes damage.
Strong words, I know. But I’ve worked with enough presenters to know that they drag around a lot of baggage from the bad advice and training they’ve received over the years. A lot of my job when coaching them is to undo the damage. I help people see things in a new way and I give them a new set of skills and techniques that will work uniquely for them.

If I were your coach
If we had the chance to work together, I’d start by asking you to redefine your next presentation as an Orderly Conversation. An Orderly Conversation is one that is carefully organized and flexibly executed.

When you think of presentations as Orderly Conversations, it changes how you think of (and use) your slides. They become thought starters that will trigger dialogue. They become support for the conversation rather than being the presentation. This new thinking will change the information you put on your slides and how you arrange it.

Let’s assume that your slides are complete and you feel that they will support the conversation you want to have. Now it’s time to review. Notice I said “review,” not practice. As you review your slides, look at each and grab a thought. That thought should launch the conversation you intended. If not, change it until it does.

As you think through each slide, avoid scripting yourself. Think of different ways of explaining each slide. Remember you’re not striving for perfection. You’re working toward flexibility.

Once the conversation begins, let loose and enjoy it. Trust that your slides will be there to support the conversation. Let it get a little messy, follow your listeners’ lead for a bit, bring it back around. You’ll be amazed at how much more fun presenting can be.

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

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

How Do I Not Sound Scripted When Delivering Content Multiple Times?

February 20, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Myths Debunked, Practice Does Not Make Perfect, Preparation, Presentation

 

greg 200x300Q: I deliver the same information over and over. I know that I sound scripted, but I don’t know what to do about it. Any ideas?

A: I can relate. I used to be an actor. I toured one show – playing the same character – for a year and a half. Talk about saying the same thing repeatedly!

I continue to face this same issue as a trainer, although it requires an entirely different set of skills to sound spontaneous in the classroom than it did on stage.

There are two important things to keep in mind.

1) Presenters should not be scripted because presentations are not theatre. They are “Orderly Conversations” that need to be initiated and managed, not recited or performed.

2) Each audience is a unique group. While your content may be the same, your audience members aren’t. They each have a different set of assumptions and experiences as well as varying degrees of understanding of your topic. This means that you need to make sure you’re explaining concepts to each group in a fresh way. One that meets their needs, not the needs of last week’s group.

Here are a few ideas to help you keep things fresh and specific for each group:

  • Get them talking. Ask them about their experiences with your topic, positive or negative. Ask them about their level of interest. I speak at conferences quite a bit and I have no way of knowing beforehand who’s going to be in the audience. This technique helps me get a better understanding of where their interests lie so I can put more emphasis on them during the presentation. Sometimes I even ask them what order they’d like me to go in.
  • Actively look for peoples’ reactions to what you’re saying. When you do this, you’ll respond naturally just as you do in everyday conversation.
  • Encourage people to ask you questions throughout the presentation. Since you can’t predict what questions they’ll ask (or how the question will be phrased), you’ll be forced to explain ideas in a new way to meet the questioner’s unique point of view.
  • Reorder your slides so that you don’t know for sure what slide is next. This won’t work for everyone, but if you’re brave enough to try it, you’ll appreciate how well it keeps you on your toes.

Try one or more of these ideas, you’ll be surprised how fresh your presentation sounds and feels. The added bonus for you is that you won’t be bored.

What other ideas do you have for keeping stale content fresh?

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

Memorizing the Opening of a Presentation

January 17, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Introduction, Myths Debunked, Practice Does Not Make Perfect, Preparation, Presentation

greg 200x300Question: Why don’t you recommend memorizing the opening of a presentation?

Answer: The reason we don’t recommend memorizing the opening of a presentation is because it places your focus in the wrong place. When your presentation starts, you should be thinking about your listeners and engaging them in the conversation not recalling a script.

If you do memorize the beginning, you run these risks:

  • Sounding stilted or self-conscious
  • Appearing “put on” or as if you’re performing
  • Ignoring (or not noticing) what happened moments before you started speaking
  • Missing non-verbal cues from your listeners
  • Bulldozing
  • Failing to connect dots from earlier portions of the meeting

We’ve written several posts about best practices for introducing your presentation, so I won’t go into that here, we’ve also written about the pitfalls of too much practice.

The big thing to keep in mind is that everyday presentations need to feel like genuine conversations. Memorizing a script of any sort is in direct conflict with that and must be avoided.

by Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President, Turpin Communication