Eye Contact and Pausing… Is That All You Got?!

August 31, 2016 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings, Myths Debunked, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Virtual

Some time back, Dale and I were the guest speakers on a webinar. The topic was about how we’ve redefined business presentations as Orderly Conversations. We were talking about the use of eye contact and pausing in order to get yourself engaged in the conversation.

When we talk about being engaged as a presenter, we’re talking about the state of being in the “here and now” so that you are able to think on your feet and lead what feels like a natural two-way conversation. It’s talking with your audience rather than talking at them.

Engagement requires the intentional use of eye contact and pausingThere are two primary skills that we use in everyday conversation that must be used intentionally during a presentation. They are:

  • Eye contact: The intentional use of eye contact allows you to make a connection with people so that you can read their reactions and respond.
  • Pause: The intentional use of a good pause now and again allows you to gather your thoughts and take control of what you’re saying.

After we made this point in the webinar, I noticed that someone had used the chat function to comment, “Eye contact and Pausing… is that all you got?!”

It just so happens that the comment came from a competitor who was, I assume, baiting us. My in-the-moment reaction was to address the guy’s snarky comment and make an argument for why we focus so heavily on these very basic skills. But I quickly thought better of it. Delivering a virtual presentation via webinar was not the time to squabble with a competitor.

What the guy didn’t comprehend is that we’re not talking about the appearance of eye contact or the dramatic affect that a pause will have on the audience. (Typical run-of-the-mill presentation trainers often teach that, though.) We’re talking about the very opposite: the calming effect it has on the speaker.

When you’re connected with people and in control of what you’re saying, you’re able to be an effective communicator. You’re fully engaged in the conversation. You’re not thinking about how you are performing, you’re thinking about your content, the audience, and whether they’re following along. These are the same things you think about during everyday low-stakes conversations.

Managing Nervousness

If we can agree that the key skills that help you become engaged in the conversation are eye contact and pausing, we can also see that these ordinary skills, when used intentionally, even in extraordinary situations, can help you manage your nervousness.

We always ask workshop participants what nervousness feels like to them. These are some common answers, and they are all the result of the absence of pausing and/or eye contact:

  • In my head
  • Can’t see clearly
  • Out of body experience
  • Not thinking clearly
  • Mind is racing
  • Mind shuts down
  • Noise in my head
  • Can’t catch my breath

If you’re a nervous presenter (and even if you’re not), next time you’re feeling uneasy at the front of the room, remember to look at people. Really see them. Connect. And pause every once in a while. Give your brain a chance to catch up. Think. Breathe.

Over time, these skills will become second nature to you, and you won’t have to be so intentional about their use.

So… Eye contact and pausing… is that all we got? Nope. Not at all, but these essential skills are the foundation for all of the communication training we provide at Turpin Communication.

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

Introducing the New Workshop Catalog by Turpin Communication

September 1, 2015 in Greg Owen-Boger, News, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Talent Development, The Orderly Conversation, Training

At Turpin Communication, we recognize the complexity and challenges of the work our clients do. Because of this, our workshops have always been highly tailored to the unique situations they face.

Now, we’ve made it easier for you to recognize how we can help you meet your business goals.

Workshop Catalog 2015The New Workshop Catalog

We’ve broken the new workshop catalog into three categories to match the type of speakers we work with: Business Presenters, Meeting Facilitators, and Trainers. Each of those categories is further broken down to focus on a specific type of speaker or business goal. For example:

Presentation Training for Sales Professionals focuses on the practical skills it takes to facilitate high-stakes sales situations.

Presenting to Leadership and Other Decision Makers provides foundation-level training to help participants speak clearly and concisely to time-crunched executives.

Does your team need to work on their executive presence? We’ve got you covered.

Do your managers have to collaborate with virtual teams? We have support for that too.

We also have workshops designed to help new and “accidental” trainers be more effective in the training room.

Learn More

This is only a sampling of the 28 newly designed and updated workshops we now offer. We invite you to take a peek at all of our workshop titles. Then give us a call so that we can tailor training to meet the exact needs of your team.

About Turpin Communication

Turpin Communication is a distinctly different presentation and facilitation skills training company, and we’re dedicated to helping people get business done.

If you’re familiar with our work, you know that we are guided by three principles:

  1. Presentations are less like speeches and more like Orderly Conversations.
  2. Our approach preserves every presenter’s personality and natural communication style. We call it: Find your focus. Be Yourself. Only better.
  3. Business presentations succeed on two levels: (1) was the goal met? And (2), did the speaker create the conditions for a fruitful conversation to take place?

More detail about our guiding principles and how they can be applied to your work can be found on the home page of Turpin Communication.

Why Redefine Business Presentations?

July 21, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Greg Owen-Boger, The Orderly Conversation

In all of our workshops, a certain amount of unlearning has always taken place.

Over time, we realized that everything we were helping presenters unlearn came from the world of speechmaking. Although presenters knew they were not delivering formal speeches, the assumptions they made and the strategies they used didn’t reflect that. They were simply working with the wrong tools, like using the handle of a screwdriver to pound a nail into the wall. If you worked at it long enough, you might be able to do it, but why bother when there’s a hammer in the toolbox?

We should stop calling these things presentations. We should call the conversations. That's really what they are.At some point, probably during a debrief after a workshop, one of us said, “Do you think we should just stop calling these things presentations altogether? Everyone gets hung up on that word. Wouldn’t it be easier to just call them conversations? That’s really what they are.”

So that’s what we did. We redefined business presentations as Orderly Conversations.

We brought the idea that business presentations were a type of conversation, not a type of speech, into our workshops. Soon, we realized we were heading toward a major overhaul. From preparation and delivery, through managing interaction, to how you judge your success when the presentation is over—all of these things are affected when you begin with the assumption that what you’re dealing with is a conversation.

To succeed, business presenters need to make these adjustments.

Instead of…

 

You should:

rehearsing for perfection  prepare to be flexible
following the rules of delivery  engage in a genuine conversation
following a one-size-fits-all approach  adapt to your Default Approach
keeping visuals in the background  bring them into the conversation
controlling group interactions  create the conditions for a fruitful discussion

The Orderly Conversation explores how each of these adjustments are made.

The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined is available now on this website and at Amazon and Itasca Books.

A New Definition of Success

June 30, 2014 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Nervousness, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Training

Why a Performance Approach to Business Presentations Doesn’t Work

greg_owen_boger_300Presentations should not be confused with speeches. Speeches are a type of performance. Presentations are a type of conversation. That’s why we’ve redefined them as “Orderly Conversations.”

Unfortunately, many people, even industry experts, hang on to the idea that a presentation should be “performed,” that it can be perfected by scripting, rehearsing, planning when and how to gesture, and following rules. These rules can be about all kinds of things, like the “right” number of bullets, never looking at your slides, holding your hands a certain way, or pausing for dramatic purposes.

As Dale Ludwig writes in chapter 5 of our new book The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined: “When rules like these are applied without consideration of their effectiveness or appropriateness for an individual, they stop being the means to an end and become the end themselves. This makes presenting more difficult for the presenter and less effective for the audience.”

Three Types of Performers
What we’ve seen is that business presenters who follow a performance approach generally fall into three categories:

  1. The Nervous Perfectionist
  2. The Dutiful Student
  3. The Entertainer

Let’s take a look at the negative consequences of each type of performer and offer up a better way forward.

The Nervous Perfectionist
In the book, we write about Jennifer, a Nervous Perfectionist. She puts an extraordinary amount of time into planning her presentation and rehearses it several times before the big day. Her goal is to perfect her delivery.

Unfortunately, during her last presentation, Jennifer felt like a failure because things didn’t go as she’d planned. Her solution was to rehearse more the next time.

Jennifer’s assumptions look like this:
A New Definition of Success pic 1 6-30-14

Dale writes: “As Jennifer moved through each of these steps, she assumed she was gradually taking control over the process. But it didn’t work. What happened to Jennifer actually looks like this.”
A New Definition of Success pic 2 6-30-14

Dale goes on: “As you can see, Jennifer’s nervousness led her to rehearse, which turned her presentation into a performance. This made her more self-conscious and more nervous. Her decision to rehearse more for the next presentation just repeats the cycle.”

The Dutiful Student, a New Definition of Success and a True Story
Another type of performance-focused presenter is what we call the Dutiful Student. Dutiful Students want rules they can follow. After all, their thinking goes, there must be a better and worse way to do something. Give me rules and I’ll follow them.

Last week in a workshop, we met Sandra (not her real name). She is a Subject Matter Expert and accidental trainer. Several times she asked, “What’s the rule for… “

As proof of her allegiance to the “prepare, prepare, prepare” rule, she pulled out a three ring binder containing her training slide deck. Each slide, complete with script in the speaker notes, was laminated for safekeeping.

We asked her how long it takes her to get ready to actually deliver the training. She said with a sigh, “Weeks and weeks. It’s far too time-consuming, and I have a lot of other responsibilities.” She was clearly frustrated by this.

When we asked her how she felt when learners asked questions, she said she hated it because it pulls her out of her script. “I have to think a lot when I’m up there. If they interrupt me it just throws me off.”

As the discussion went on, Sandra and her classmates agreed that her process is inefficient and didn’t create the conditions for fruitful learning. In Sandra’s attempt to follow rules and perfect the delivery of her training, she lost sight of her goal, which was to teach, to inspire learning.

Create the Conditions for a Fruitful Conversation
We worked with Sandra to help her create the conditions for a fruitful conversation. The first step was to turn her focus away from herself and toward her learners. She needed to get out of her head and actually speak with them.

During the first exercise in class, Sandra’s instruction was to introduce herself to the group and to engage them in a conversation about her job responsibilities. After several attempts, she finally settled into the conversation. She actually saw them and their reactions. She responded to them in the “here and now.” They asked questions, and Sandra answered them with ease.

This exercise was recorded on video. As she and I watched it a little later she said, “I forgot about thinking, and just did it! I just talked with them.” She was amazed that she could actually stand in front of the group and hold a conversation. She wasn’t thinking about her gestures, or even what to say. She was engaged in the here and now of the conversation, and it came naturally to her.

As we continued to talk, she made a connection that will stick with her well into the future. She said, “You know … as I think about it, I do my best teaching at the bar after my sessions. Now that I know why that is, I have a new definition of success!”

The Entertainer
In the book, we also talk about Sophia, an Entertainer. The character of Sophia was inspired by a young man (we’ll call him Calvin) that I worked with years ago. He was in sales and approached his sales presentations as if he were a comedian on a stage.

Calvin had a larger than life personality, a toothy smile, and a presentation style to go with it. I remember he swaggered to the front of the room and asked if we were ready. When we said yes, he snapped into action. It was as if the spotlight had just been turned on.

I remember that Calvin’s boss caught me in the hall that day and invited me into his office for a chat. As it turned out, Calvin’s job was on the line. His buyers weren’t buying, and none of his co-workers wanted to work with him. Calvin was over the top and perceived as phony. Not exactly the type of person most people want to work with or buy from.

So What Does This Mean for You?
Dale writes: “The lure of the performance approach is control; presenters use it because they assume success comes from planning exactly what they are going to say and how they will say it in advance of the presentation. This also means, their thinking goes, that success can be reached fairly easily because all they have to do is remember the plan and follow the rules. The danger is that exercising this level of control over the process pulls your focus away from the here and now of the conversation and leads, for many people, to increased nervousness and heightened self-consciousness.”

The more effective and efficient way to prepare for and deliver your presentations is to think of them as Orderly Conversations. Your role, then, is to prepare for and lead a listener-focused, flexible and responsive conversation. And when you do, it will make all the difference.

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

The Orderly Conversation is now available at Amazon.com

New Communication Guide Offers a Game-Changing Approach to Business Presentations

April 16, 2014 in Delivery, Facilitation, News, Preparation, Presentation, Talent Development, The Orderly Conversation, Training, Uncategorized

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

News Release – PDF

PrintGranville 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 “getting-business-done” 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.

“Much of what’s taught about business presentations needs to be replaced,” says Ludwig. “Traditional methods focus on ‘speechmaking’ and the notion that presentations are like performances. That concept just doesn’t match the kind of presentations people actually give in the course of their work. Business presenters need a fundamentally different approach.”

That approach, say the authors, is one that shifts from “speechmaking” to thinking of business presentations as “orderly conversations” that thrive on the natural give-and-take between presenter and audience. Developed through Turpin Communication’s presentation workshops, Ludwig and Owen-Boger have seen this shift dramatically improve and empower their clients.

“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

  • Prepare for a genuine conversation
  • Engage listeners in a comfortable, flexible, conversation
  • Craft compelling visual aids that prepare you for the moment of delivery
  • Create the environment for productive interaction
  • 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.” Due to be released in July 2014, The Orderly Conversation is available for pre-order.

ABOUT GRANVILLE CIRCLE PRESS
Granville Circle Press publishes works in the communication arts, including “Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference,” selected by Kirkus Reviews as a “Best of 2012.” 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.

9 Habits of Highly Effective Business Presenters

February 17, 2014 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation

A friend and fellow CCASTD board member sent this article to me, 9 Habits of Highly Effective Speakers, and asked what I thought.

If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, here is a snapshot of the nine “habits.”

  1. They are authentic.
  2. They choose phrases carefully.
  3. They keep it short.
  4. They rewrite. And they rewrite some more.
  5. They build rapport.
  6. They tell stories.
  7. They organize.
  8. They practice.
  9. They learn from the masters.

These 9 ideas are terrific if (and this is a BIG IF) you are delivering a speech. The author of this piece is definitely talking about speeches. He says so right at the beginning of the piece. He mentions graduation addresses, TED talks, and the State of the Union.

Those are perfectly reasonable types of speeches to study. But when was the last time you actually delivered a speech?

It’s important not to confuse speechmaking with business presenting.

They are two very different forms of communication. Unfortunately, too many times they are lumped together, which is one of the reasons professionals struggle so mightily with their business presentations. They require a different set of skills and techniques. Speeches are written and read (or perhaps memorized) whereas presentations are initiated and facilitated.

They are also judged on different scales. Speeches are successful when they are well crafted. Business presentations are successful when they get business done in an efficient manner.

If you go back and look at the nine habits, they could be substituted as advice for writers. Again, good advice for speechmakers. Not so good for presenters.

You need something better.

So, here is our list.

9 Habits of Highly Effective Business Presenters:

  1. Engage your listeners in a conversation, don’t deliver a performance.
  2. Keep it about them, not about you.
  3. Speak spontaneously within the framework of your preparation.
  4. Design visuals to keep you on track and to spark the right thoughts during delivery.
  5. Bring visuals into the conversation to enhance, clarify, and support.
  6. Create the environment for a fruitful conversation.
  7. Pause to think and control knee-jerk reactions, even when emotion creeps in.
  8. Respect what others have to say.
  9. Look for clues that your audience understands, not just hears what you’re saying.

At Turpin Communication we don’t work with speeches. We work with everyday getting-business-done presentations. Or as we call them: Orderly Conversations. This redefinition will make all the difference for you. Hope this article sheds new light on the work that you do.

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

What We Can Learn (and Not Learn) from Michael Bay

January 9, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Introduction, Myths Debunked, News, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation

You might have heard about the public speaking nightmare film director and producer Michael Bay experienced at the Consumer Electronics Show January 6.

A word of warning, though, if you’re sensitive to watching someone have a meltdown and walk off stage without delivering his message, prepare yourself. I found it really painful. And it’s only 80 seconds long.

The responses to this that I’ve read online have focused on Bay’s need to rehearse more, his over-reliance on the prompter, and the fight or flight instinct he followed. You can read an article by Nancy Duarte (of Slide:ology fame) and others’ responses here.

Be Careful, Business Presentations are not Speeches

As someone who works with business presenters, I think the responses to Bay’s situation are a great opportunity to reassert a distinction we always emphasize in our workshops—the distinction between speeches and presentations.

  • Don’t assume that what would have helped Bay will help you. Remember the presentations you deliver are not speeches. They are Orderly Conversations. As such, they require an entirely different approach. Bay was trying to deliver a scripted message that was intended to sound conversational, not really be a conversation. While extensive rehearsal may have helped him, it won’t help you. The presentations you deliver are far too unpredictable for that.
  • Bay’s performance is a good warning for people who believe in scripting or memorizing the beginning of a presentation. Your presentation’s introduction is an important time. During that first minute, it’s your job to bring the audience into the conversation by responding to them and the environment you share right now. This cannot happen when you’re scripted. Even if you can appear to make it happen (which requires acting skills), you will not be fully engaged in the moment. Because of that, it’s really difficult to respond appropriately to the unexpected.
  • Bay trusted the prompter and it failed him. You need to trust yourself. Managing the unexpected—something business presenters face all the time, speechmakers not so much—requires staying engaged and giving yourself time to think. I’m sure when Bay watched the video of his performance, he knew exactly where he went wrong and what he should have done instead. We see this happen all the time reviewing participant videos in our workshops. It’s easy to know, after the fact, what should have happened. So it’s not a matter of coming up with something new when you’re stressed. It’s a matter of settling your thoughts so you can tap into what you already know.

So while Bay’s performance is a cautionary tale for speechmakers, for business presenters it’s an excellent reminder that your first responsibility is to initiate a conversation with your audience. Once that conversation has begun, it’s easy to bring what you have prepared into it.

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 2 of 4)

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

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

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

Calling Things by their Proper Name

May 13, 2013 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation, Talent Development

greg 200x300“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” Confucius

I’ve heard this quote used in many contexts. I suppose that’s for good reason. What we call things matters.

For example, many types of communication are called “presentations,” and that’s caused a lot of trouble for business people.

A TED talk is very different from an industry conference breakout session, which is very different from a getting-work-done presentation to your team, which is very different from a sales presentation one might give sitting down across a desk to a single person. Unfortunately, each of these has been called a “presentation.”

To muck things up even more, our university system and the Learning & Development industry don’t differentiate. They use speechmaking rules and techniques when training for all types of presentations. As you may have read in The Orderly Conversation Blog before, it takes a very different set of skills to plan for and initiate these different types of communication events.

Add all the bad advice and chest thumping over PowerPoint (see this discussion on the ASTD LinkedIn Group) and we have a real mess on our hands.

So, what to do?

Here are my thoughts: Let’s agree to name the types of communication events we’re talking about. We’ll start by figuring out how formal they are and how much interaction is involved. Then we’ll figure out what skills and techniques are useful for each.

If it’s a one-way communication event without interaction from the audience and a rather high degree of formality, then it’s a speech or a lecture.

TED talks and keynotes fall into this category. While these events, in order to be effective, need to feel conversational, they actually aren’t because there’s no real dialogue taking place. The speaker does not react to the audience in a way that changes the course of the speech.

Learning to master speechmaking requires a certain type of training and rehearsal.

On the other hand, if it’s a two-way communication event with genuine interaction from the audience, it’s a presentation.

Most getting-business-done presentations fall into this category. They are, of course, prepared but because of their reactive nature, they also zig and zag in response to input from the audience.

Because of the conversational nature of these types of presentations they tend to be informal. The role of the presenter in these situations is similar to that of facilitator.

Learning to master these types of presentations requires a different set of skills. Rather than rehearsing to get it just right, presenters prepare to be flexible and responsive to the individuals in the audience.

The Beginning of Wisdom is to Call Things by their Proper Name
We’ve found it useful to take it one step further and define business presentations as Orderly Conversations. Orderly because they need to be carefully thought through and prepared. Conversations because they only succeed when a genuine dialogue takes place between speaker and audience. Once presenters are comfortable with both sides of the Orderly Conversation concept, their ability to manage the process is assured.

Dale Ludwig, Turpin’s founder, and I are in the process of finalizing our new book entitled “The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined.”

Our goal is to clear up the confusion so business presenters everywhere will gain a better understanding of what it takes to be an effective communicator.

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

What We Can Learn from the Oscars

February 26, 2013 in Assessing Your Default, Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Facilitation, FAQs, Myths Debunked, Presentation

I watched the 85th annual Oscar telecast on Sunday. I usually watch the show, and this year I actually stayed awake until the end. What I like about the Oscars is not so much who wins, but what people say after they’ve won one. I don’t know why, but there is something really enjoyable (and not necessarily in a kind way) about watching someone experience an incredible career high and immediately have to speak to an audience of millions about it.

The pleasure is greatest with the acting categories, of course, because the contrast is so great. Here are people who can deliver amazing performances on film and then struggle just like the rest of would during the acceptance speech.

For business people it reinforces just how challenging delivering a presentation actually is.

Because when you think about it, an acceptance speech—in terms of how it’s prepared and delivered—is not that different than a presentation. They are both in their own ways, Orderly Conversations. I’m sure every nominee, even if they thought they had no chance of winning, had a plan. They thought about what they wanted to say and the order in which they wanted to say it. Some of them thought about the message they wanted to get across (Ben Affleck’s was that when you get knocked down in life, “All that matters is that you gotta get up.”)

Beyond those basics, though, there are other similarities. So here is a list of statements that are true for both the presentations you deliver and Oscar acceptance speeches.

  • Scripting doesn’t work. The best thing about this year’s show was that no one I saw pulled out a piece of paper, unfolded it, and started reading. When winners read a script like that they are never engaging or interesting.
  • People are nervous but they work through it. It’s interesting to go back and watch the acceptance speeches online. What you notice is that almost everyone is nervous at first (usually having a hard time catching their breath and saying a lot of ums and uhs), but they pause, breathe, think, and then settle down. Adele was the only winner who never fully gained her composure during her acceptance. The good thing is that she also made fun of herself for it. Which brings me to this comparison.
  • When they make mistakes, they laugh at themselves and move on. What did Jennifer Lawrence say after she fell walking up the stairs? “You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell.” That’s a perfect recovery.
  • Speaking quickly when you’re running out of time doesn’t help. Ben Affleck tried that last night before he got to the closing I quoted above (which was very well delivered). When he was speeding along he lost control and got into trouble with his “marriage is hard work” remark.
  • The best ones feel spontaneous. It doesn’t matter if acceptance speeches aren’t perfect. Those of us in the audience don’t want to see perfectly planned performances. The acceptance speech is one of the few times the public sees actors as they really are (or as close as we’ll ever get to it). We want to see them in the moment, responding to what’s happening in a genuine way. The same can be said for your presentations.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication