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: [Tweet “Instead of “perfect,” aim for a successful #presentation.”]

  • 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. [Tweet “Find the sweet spot between preparation and rolling with it. #presentation”] [Tweet “Perfect = boring and inflexible: #business #presentation”]

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

Carrots, and, um, Sticks

October 21, 2014 in Author, Barbara Egel, Delivery, Presentation

Barbara Egel, Coach at Turpin CommunicationRecently in a Speaking with Confidence and Clarity workshop, I was coaching a young man who was counting his “ums” as he watched his video. This was a continuation of something that had gone on in the main room with the whole class: they were counting each others’ “ums” and “uhs.” As he quantified his errors, I realized that he was taking part in the very natural—and completely unproductive—behavior of beating himself up for irrelevant transgressions. After all, the “ums” weren’t that distracting. If he hadn’t pointed them out, I would have missed most of them.

Focusing on the mistakes just makes more of them

The problem with taking note of every “um” (or “uh,” “like,” “and stuff,” “you know”) you say is that you issue yourself a little mental punishment, like a tiny electric shock, every time you do. Punishment instills fear, and fear pulls you out of your engagement with your audience, often leading to more of the behavior you were trying to limit. In other words, focusing on your bad moves gives them way too much power and increases the chance they will happen again.[Tweet “Focusing on your bad moves gives them way too much power and feeds their ability to happen again and again.”]

So what’s the solution? Reward.

I suggested to this learner that rather than falling into the self-defeating spiral of counting his “ums,” he should instead find moments to reward himself for staying engaged and on track (in spite of the “ums”) with a big helping of oxygen. Yep, just take a breath. A breath is a pause, and pausing is a powerful engagement technique. Not only will he pull away from the disengaging punishment spiral, but he’ll actually be moving in the opposite direction toward meaningful engagement. This will boost his confidence, literally feed his brain, and calm his nerves. [Tweet “Find moments to reward yourself for staying engaged and on track with a big helping of oxygen.”]

Treat yourself!

My challenge to you, then, is to escape the punishment cycle and find your during-your-presentation reward in a nice big breath. By doing so, you will give yourself time to think, engage, and really connect with your audience and yourself.

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

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”

Nervousness VS the Active Pause

November 21, 2013 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Nervousness, Presentation

greg_owen-boger_hi-res_colorI was working with an extremely nervous presenter in a recent Mastering Your Presentations workshop. She described her presentation experience like this: “My head races and swirls, and then it switches back on itself. I know that words are coming out of my mouth, but I don’t have any control over them. I must sound like an idiot.”

We hear that sort of thing a lot. This presenter is not alone.

The path forward for this presenter was clear. There would be no improvement if we couldn’t find a way for her to manage her nerves. Notice that I write “manage” and not “eliminate.” There’s little I can do or say to a nervous person that will eliminate their nerves. The root cause of the nervousness and the psychological and physiological responses people have is too deeply ingrained in who they are.

What I can do is help them manage the nervousness so that it can be worked through. Over time, their ability to work through their nervousness will lessen its effect on them.

So, back to our workshop participant. Let’s call her Beth. Beth is a smart, articulate analyst. I noticed before the class started as she bantered with the other attendees that she was funny and charming.

But once she got up in front of the class during the first exercise, she crumbled inside. “I feel so dumb,” she said.

The other class participants came to her rescue. “No, you’re not dumb. Not at all. What you said made perfect sense.”

Beth replied, “But that’s the problem. I don’t know what I said.”

I stepped in. “Beth, your brain is a good one. You wouldn’t be in your current role if you weren’t smart. When you’re in a low-stakes conversation with someone at work, do you feel in control of your thoughts?”

She answered that she did.

“So what we need to figure out is what you can do when you’re under pressure that will help you gain control so that you’re as comfortable as you are in regular low-stakes conversations. We’re going to start with a pausing exercise.”

I instructed that when I raise my hand, she is to pause.

She started talking about a current project she was working on. I raised my hand. She did what many people do, she froze.

“Let’s stop,” I said. I went on to explain that a pause shouldn’t be like hitting the pause button on a DVR. “This is an active pause. You should breathe and think. Gather your thoughts. When you’re ready, you can begin speaking again.”

She tried it, and eventually she settled into the conversation. Her personality started to peek through and her description of the project was clear.

“Were you in control of your thoughts?” I asked.

“Yes. That was amazing,” she said.

Everyone in the class agreed. The transformation, in such a brief period of time, was amazing.

In the battle between nervousness and an active pause, the active pause won.

“Here’s the deal,” I said. You’ve experienced what it’s like to pause, breathe, and gather your thoughts before moving on. Now you need to remember to do it when nervousness sets in and the stakes are high. That will require a new level of self-awareness and engagement.”

Self-awareness and engagement will be the topic for next week’s article.

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

How Can I Help a Nervous Presenter?

August 20, 2012 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Nervousness, Posts for Buyers, Preparation, Presentation

This article was originally published July 23, 2012 by Mondo Learning Solutions.

greg 200x300Managers often come to us and ask how they can help their team members get a handle on the nervousness they experience when presenting. This isn’t surprising, of course, since this type of nervousness is a real issue for a lot of people. We all experience it differently and to varying degrees, but the reality is that being nervous is no fun. And that’s true for speakers as well as for audience members having to suffer through someone else’s nervousness.

Unfortunately there is no quick fix that will work for everyone. Nervousness is triggered by different things. For some, it’s audience size. For others, it’s who’s in the audience. Level of knowledge of the topic often plays a role. Many people have a broken record playing in their heads repeating some well-meaning feedback they received but have taken the wrong way. (“You should be more energetic.” “Smile more, you look mad.” “Don’t turn your back.”) For others the repeating voice is a self-critical one. “You said that wrong.” “That’s not how you rehearsed it.” “Crap, you forgot to mention X.” “They don’t think you’re smart enough.”

Who could be in control with all those thoughts swimming around?

So, when it comes to helping your employees manage their nerves, it has to start with helping them quiet the voices in their heads, gain control of their thoughts, and settle into the conversation. During everyday interactions they aren’t nervous. They’re engaged, and they zig and zag following the natural unrehearsed path of the conversation. A similar organic process should happen in presentations too.

Presentations need to feel like conversations
Understanding that key concept – that presentations should feel like conversations – is the first step toward managing nerves. It takes away the pressure of having to be perfect, having to say something just right. It also turns the focus of the interaction outward, away from self and toward others. When this happens, the presenter sees faces, responds naturally and settles into the conversation.

Of course, the conversation is mostly being led by the presenter, who has (hopefully) spent some time thinking about the goals of the presentation and the organization of it. The course the conversation follows, though, is in direct response to the feedback received from the listeners. If you can help your employees understand that the audience is a necessary part of the conversation—not passive observers of it—they’ll be on the right track.

Fueling the brain
I like to tell workshop participants, “your brain is a good one, but it needs fuel to be smart.” The fuel comes from a pause and a breath. Pausing gives the brain the time and energy it needs to do its job. Again, we do this naturally in everyday conversation.

Expect some resistance
When you bring this up to your staff, you should expect a little resistance. There are three issues they may have. First, they will want to know how long a pause should be. Second, they’ll probably say that they feel foolish when they pause. Finally, they will worry about the audience’s perception of a pause, “They will think I’ve lost my place.”

Each of these questions stems from the false notion that a presentation is a performance. It’s important to remind your employees that the presentations they deliver are not performances, they’re conversations. During a conversation, there are no rules about how long a pause should be. They just need to occur naturally as part of the process. When they do, they won’t feel foolish. During the pause, an engaged presenter will simply use the time to breathe and think about what’s to come. Finally, pauses are seldom awkward for audience members because they, too, are engaged in the conversation. During a pause they’re digesting what was just said and getting ready to hear what’s next.

So, bottom line: How can you help a nervous presenter?

  1. Help them understand that presentations are conversations, not performances. There’s no “right way” to do or say anything.
  2. Remind them that they’re speaking with people not at them. This will focus their attention on the individuals in the audience and remind them to look for – and respond to – audience reactions.
  3. Remind them to pause and breathe.

Managing nervousness isn’t something that can be conquered overnight. It takes time, experience, and a shift in traditional thinking. But it can be done. Your job, as manager, is to gently nudge your team along step by step, reminding them of the concepts outlined here.

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

Why is it so hard to speak to big groups!?

February 4, 2010 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation

This question came from Manny D.

QUESTION: Why is it so hard to speak to big groups!?
I am terrible at giving presentations. I’m okay when explaining things to a few people, but put me in front of more than 15 people, and I start bumbling and stuttering, and I can’t focus. Why is this, and what can I do? I have a series of presentations to give to groups of 30+ people starting in a month or so, and I’m terrified.

ANSWER: You’re not alone. What we’ve discovered while delivering our Presentation Skills Workshops is that nervousness can be managed. It takes time and practice, and it may never go away completely, but there are techniques and skills you can hone, which will lower your nervous reactions to presenting to groups.

  1. You say you’re okay presenting to small groups. That’s great. So what’s the difference between a group of say 5 and one of 30? If you’re like most people, it’s your perception. A large group is no different than a small group. You just have more people to engage in the process.
  2. Adjust your expectations. It’s common for people to think of presentations as performances that must be perfect. Presentations should be thought of as “Orderly Conversations.” “Orderly” because they are carefully structured. “Conversations” because they need to be spontaneous and interactive right from the start. Thinking in this way can relieve a lot of pressure. You no longer need to be a whiz-bang performer; you simply need to engage people in a thoughtful, two-way conversation, which by its nature is imperfect and unpredictable. And participating in conversations is something you do every day.
  3. Work to engage individuals, one at a time. Do this through solid eye contact. Think of it as connecting with a person for a full thought, then moving on to the next. This will feel more like a series of one-on-one conversations rather than a stress-inducing one-way speech. And because you’re really connecting with people, everyone else in the room will feel engaged too.
  4. You say that when you‘re nervous you can’t focus. This too is common. You need to give yourself time to think. Pausing is key. Pause often and for longer durations than you think is necessary.

We have an online course called Managing Nervousness & Engaging Listeners that you may want to check out.

Hope this helps.

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

Are Hands in Pockets OK?

May 5, 2009 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked

Question: Is it OK to put my hands in my pockets when I present? I’ve heard it’s a bad thing to do.

Answer: The short answer is yes, it’s OK to put your hands in your pockets.  Just make sure that it doesn’t become a distraction to your listeners.

It’s not so much about hands in pockets as it is about what to do with your hands in general.
In everyday conversation we gesture naturally, rarely thinking about what our hands are doing.  But when we stand up in front of a group of people, things change.  Some people say their hands feel like clumsy, foreign objects.  So, to make things feel more comfortable, they put their hands in their pockets (or clasp them behind their back or in front of them).  If your hands are confined and out of sight they won’t do anything embarrassing, right?  Well maybe, but if you deliver your entire presentation with your hands locked in any position, they will eventually become a distraction to your listeners and an obstacle to you.

So, the thing to do is to treat the discomfort you feel with your hands as a symptom of a larger issue, the fact that you’re a little uncomfortable and nervous.

Go back to your engagement skills.
Look the individuals in your audience in the eye just as you would in everyday conversation.  Pause to give yourself time to breathe and think about what you’re saying.  Before long you’ll be engaged and comfortable.  Once that happens, your hands will do what comes naturally.  Seems too easy, I know.  But give it a try.

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