Lecture is not a four-letter word: 3 ways to succeed when you’re doing the talking

September 9, 2015 in Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Myths Debunked, Talent Development, Training

I had a conversation over the backyard fence with one of my neighbors a couple days ago. She was home for the weekend after her first two weeks of college. The conversation focused on the campus, her new roommate, and her classes. As far as the classes are concerned, she said that most of them were large lectures, an entirely new experience for her, and one that was going to take some time getting used to.

That got me thinking about my freshman year. I remember sitting through a lot of lectures. Some of them good. Some of them difficult to listen to.

Those of us in learning and development hardly ever use the term “lecture.” It’s a bit of a pariah, equated with boredom and what’s called death by PowerPoint. The assumption by most trainers and learning designers is that lectures are always dull. So, when they do occur (as they must), they have to be enlivened with exercises, activities, energizers—anything to break the monotony of listening to the instructor speak. Too often, this leads to wasted time and learner frustration.

It shouldn’t be this way. Delivering information through lecture is not only efficient, it also allows for nuance. Good lecturers are able to adapt what they say to the group’s perspective, emphasizing relevance and context when they are not immediately obvious. 

For example, let’s say that you’re involved in onboarding new employees. One of your jobs is to deliver a class focusing on the industry as a whole. It involves a lot of history, competitor research, differentiators in the market, a lot of information that new employees should know—although it isn’t entirely clear to them why they need to know it now. If you were to have them read this information instead of hearing about it from an instructor, they may not be able to put it in context. A lecture about this information, delivered well, would do that. It would help the audience make sense of and prioritize their learning.

Another example involves the use of Subject Matter Experts in the classroom. SMEs bring depth of knowledge and experience to the lecture format. Done well, their lectures can bring complex information to life. (Which, come to think of it, explains why some well-regarded university professors are terrible teachers: They are SMEs who never learned how to lecture.)

Three keys to lecturing well
So what can we do to make this type of delivery better? How can lecturing be a useful, effective, even an enjoyable part of the training process? Here are three ways to do it.

  1. Understand that lectures are not speeches. They are a type of conversation. You may wonder if it’s possible to have a conversation when you’re doing most of the talking. It is. Just stay focused on your learners and their responses—verbal and nonverbal. If you’re using a script (memorized or not) or relying heavily on your notes, stop it. Speak spontaneously, just as you would if you were delivering the training information to a single individual.
  2. Draw your energy from the group. Trainers often say to us that the information they’re delivering is boring. They assume that bringing any amount of energy or enthusiasm to its delivery is impossible because the content is dull. I don’t buy that. The enthusiasm you bring to the process doesn’t come from what you’re saying. It comes from your desire to explain what the information means to the learners. It’s about your desire to make them feel that it’s relevant and useful. 
  3. Make it easy to listen and remember. The surest way to lose people during a lecture is to ignore purpose, context, and structure.
    • Emphasize what you want learners to take away from the lecture. Be specific. This goal is not the goal of the entire class, just the lecture you’re delivering.
    • Put the information you’re talking about in the context of their work. Why is it important to them? Be specific and practical.
    • Give them an agenda. If your learners were taking notes based on your lecture, the notes should be a clear reflection of your outline. Again, think about how easy it was to take notes in some college courses and how impossible it was in others. Be the lecturer who communicates structure and emphasizes priorities.

Listening to one person deliver information even for just a few minutes can be a major challenge. But avoiding any sort of sustained delivery of information—or interrupting it too often to “energize” the group—isn’t the answer. The key is to stay focused on your listeners’ and their needs.

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

Keep these 3 things in mind when using PowerPoint in informal settings

March 11, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Introduction, Meetings, Preparation

Here’s a question I found intriguing on LinkedIn. It’s from a woman named Alexis.

We do mid-year meetings with our customers, to review the services we’ve delivered and make sure expectations are being met/exceeded. In the interest of consistency, we’ve developed a PowerPoint template with key topics to include – the expectation is that it be customized based on the customer. Often, we don’t project, but rather use the slides as a handout, to ensure all key points are being met, and to leave the customer with a takeaway in writing. Some of our employees are naturals at referring to slides when needed, in whatever order the conversation goes, but a few are struggling with using PowerPoint and not just following through, slide by slide, letting the presentation dictate the conversation (rather than the other way around). I would be grateful for any tips or articles anyone has that might help these folks.

dale_ludwig_hi-res_colorAlexis:

First, I really like the way this question is phrased. It’s clear that you know these meetings are conversations, not one-way presentations of information. The challenge you’re talking about—centering on how a slide or a handout should be used during an informal meeting—is common. In some ways, these sorts of meetings are more difficult to manage than a formal presentation to a larger group because the chances are very good the conversation will go off in an unexpected direction.

Here are a few best practices.

  1. Frame the Conversation: At the beginning of the meeting, the presenter (I’ll call that person the “presenter” even though this is an informal conversation) should take control of the conversation by quickly establishing context, a goal for the meeting, and the takeaways for the audience. Include this information on the first slide in the deck. This will build a framework for the conversation. As the conversation proceeds, the presenter simply needs to be aware of how what is happening spontaneously fits (or doesn’t fit) into the frame. They should also refer to the frame by saying things like: “We’re meeting today to talk about how things have been going in the last couple months …” and “Should we move on to my next point?”
  2. Bring Visuals into the Conversation: As the conversation moves along, be sure to draw attention to the visual when appropriate. It’s important to let the customer know when they should look at the visual and what they should be focusing on. For example, saying something like: “Let’s jump ahead to the third slide in the deck. As you can see across the top, we’ve been doing well meeting the deliverables we discussed last fall.” This will help presenters take advantage of the focus and clarity the visual is there to provide.
  3. Be Aware of Your Default: You mentioned in your question that some of the presenters are comfortable going with the flow of the conversation, bringing the slides into it as needed, and that others move forward slide by slide by slide. This is extremely common. People approach these sorts of conversations differently. We’ve come up with labels for the most fundamental distinction and found that most people fall somewhere between them. We call the first type “Improvisers” because they thrive on the give and take of the interaction. We call the slide-by-slide people “Writers” because they are most comfortable when there is a plan they can follow. Neither Default is better than the other. Just different.
    • Improvisers: It’s easy for an Improviser to get the conversation going and then … get lost in it. The good thing is their level of engagement with the customer is high and they’re very responsive. The down side is that they often get caught in the weeds. Improvisers need to trust the plan they have created to help them stay focused. For an Improviser, doing well often feels like they’re being restricted. While that might be slightly uncomfortable for them, it’s usually a good thing because it means they’re more focused and concise.
    • Writers: Flexibility within the frame is crucial for Writers. Having a plan is a good thing, but it shouldn’t be allowed to squelch the conversation. Before the presentation, Writers should take a step back and consider how the information they’re delivering fits into the frame. At this point don’t worry about the details, just the overall shape of the presentation. Imagine delivering content in a different order, in response to a specific question, or with a different emphasis. Doing so will help a Writer look at the content in different ways and build flexibility.

As you know, there is no perfect presentation or perfect meeting. Unexpected things happen during a lively conversation. The thing to do is to have a strong plan and be ready to adapt it on the fly.

 

Thanks for the question, Alexis!

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the 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 Rules Do You Have For Creating Visual Aids?

April 9, 2012 in Author, Delivery, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Preparation, Video

Followers of this blog know that we are not a fan of rules. In this video blog, Greg Owen-Boger outlines some important things to consider when creating visual aids for presentations.

by Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President at Turpin Communication

Is There A Magic Number Of Slides?

March 20, 2012 in Author, Delivery, FAQs, Myths Debunked, Organizing Your Content, Preparation, Sarah Stocker

Question: I’ve been told that I should use no more than X# of slides. Is that true?

Answer:
It depends. If this is a rule coming down from your bosses, then you should follow it. They probably want you to use a specific template for your presentation.

Otherwise, there is no magic number of slides you should use. Just make sure that all of the slides contribute to your goal. If they don’t, eliminate them. By the way, the same is true for the number of bullets per slide.

For more information on what to include in your slides check out Greg’s post: How much detail should be included on PowerPoint slides?

by Sarah Stocker, Trainer and Workshop Coordinator at Turpin Communication

Flexibility in PowerPoint Slide Preparation

January 9, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Preparation

This is part 3 of a 3-part series. Part 1. Part 2.

This is a follow-up to the post I wrote last month about preparing to be flexible. Here, I’m going to focus on a new way to think about the slides you use.

If we’re going to take the “conversation” part of the Orderly Conversation seriously, we need to think of a presentation as essentially the same process as sitting down and talking with someone across the desk about your topic. This sort of conversation happens all the time during our workshops. Before participants get up to the deliver the presentation to the group, I always sit down with them and look at the slides they’ve prepared. The first questions I ask are usually, “So what is your presentation about?” “Who’s your audience?” and “Why are you delivering this?” After I get a basic understanding of the presentation’s topic and audience, we go through the slides one by one. As we do that, if I get lost, I ask “So what’s your goal with this slide? Why did you prepare it this way?”

What’s happening during this process is an easy conversation about each slide in the deck. Participants aren’t nervous because they don’t think of this as an actual presentation. They’re just filling me in on what their intentions were when they created the slides.

The thing is, though, this is exactly the way presenters should deliver their slides during a presentation. While they may not have someone sitting next to them saying, “What was your goal when you put this slide together?” that’s the question they need to answer.

It comes down to a time issue. Slides are something you prepare at one point in time for a conversation that will take place at another point in time. Acknowledging that distinction, that separation, is a great way to keep the slides in perspective and the presentation conversational. When you talk about your intentions with your slide, or how the slide fits into this particular moment in the presentation, they become something you use to make your point, not something that must be followed no matter what. For example, saying things like this are helpful for you and your audience:

  • When I created this slide, my goal was to draw attention to…
  • I pulled data together from a couple sources here to show you…
  • We started talking about this information a couple minutes ago when Doreen asked about…

So remember, you’ll gain flexibility when you acknowledge that the slides you deliver are the product of work you did in advance of the conversation. From there, you can go where you need to go in the conversation.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

12 Tips for Creating Better PowerPoint Presentations

December 7, 2011 in Author, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation

greg 200x300An important element to delivering effective presentations is to have effective visual aids. If you struggle with design or would like to learn how to use themes, master slides or graphics in PowerPoint more effectively, take a quick look through this article.

The ideas presented by the author, Stephanie Krieger, a Microsoft Office MVP, include:

  1. Select or create your own theme
  2. Use video and audio to convey your message more effectively
  3. Use graphics to emphasize key points
  4. Use animations and transitions wisely
  5. Start by outlining your presentation
  6. Use masters and layouts to save time and help get better results
  7. Consider differences between print and on-screen presentations
  8. Use notes pages and handouts to help deliver the story
  9. Keep file size manageable
  10. Use the tools available to get it right the first time
  11. Turn off (or manage) AutoCorrect layout options
  12. Know exactly what your viewers will see

Read the full article.

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

How much detail should be included on PowerPoint slides? Part 2

August 9, 2011 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Preparation

Part 2 of 2

greg 200x300This is part 2 of an article I posted last week about rethinking how much information you put in your presentation slides. As I said, anyone who champions rules about these things is missing the big picture and leading you astray.

Instead, we need to take a fresh look. I used the GPS metaphor to describe how to rethink your slides so that they help you move your audience from point A to point B.

But as I pointed out, this metaphor only works if you’ve crafted your slides well. Here’s what I meant.

As you prepare:
The first step is to analyze your audience and figure out what they already know about your topic. Think of this as the place you’ll pick them up (Point A). Next select your destination. Where do you want to take them? That’s Point B.

Next figure out your agenda. This will be the route you’ll take. Just like a GPS, you’ll have options. Will you take the freeway, which is a relatively easy trip with just a few turns and requires limited guidance? Or, will you take the street-level route, which will require more detailed guidance?

Whichever option you choose, make sure your trip is logically mapped out and draft your agenda to lead the way.

Once your agenda is crafted, it’s time to work on the body slides. Begin with one body slide per agenda point. Label it using the language you used in the agenda. In other words if your agenda point #1 is “Market Share is Growing,” body slide #1 should be titled the same. As you develop the presentation, you’ll probably need to add more supporting slides, but this is a good start.

So now you’ve got a plan. Your agenda and slide titles mark the milestones for your trip. It’s time to fill in the details. Use words and images that help you stay on track. For example, the GPS doesn’t tell you to “go north.” Instead it recognizes exactly where you are and gives you directions from that point of view: “Turn right.” That’s much more useful when you’re in unfamiliar territory. The content of your slides should be just as easy to follow.

Add just enough detail to support you as you manage the conversation. Remember how Allison Rossett  (from part 1) said that the GPS makes you smarter than you are where and when you need the information? The same is true here. You don’t have to memorize a script or any section of your presentation; you just need to be able to rely on your slides to lead you from point to point.

The best laid plans…
Now, before you present you need to re-familiarize yourself with your plan. If you’re like me, you created your slides a week ago and by the time you have to present you’ve forgotten the logic behind them.

I recommend paging through your slide deck looking only at the slide titles. Do they spark the right thoughts? Does the route you’ve chose still seem logical? If not, fiddle with them until they do. (If you do make changes, make sure you change the agenda to match.)

Next, go through the deck again. This time look at everything on the slides. Again, ask yourself if what’s there is sparking the right thoughts. If not, change them until they do.

Trust the GPS
So now you’re ready to meet up with your audience and drive the conversation from A to B. Trust your slides to lead you. You don’t have to say things perfectly or remember every single data point. Your slides are there to remind you of those things. Remember, they’ll make you smarter than you are, but only if you trust them.

Keep in mind that the presentation is a conversation. This means it might get a little messy. You’re going to say things you didn’t plan, your thoughts will lead you in new directions and you’ll go down unfamiliar streets. Audience members will take you on a detour by asking questions. All of these things are OK and are expected. Think of it as taking the scenic route. When it’s time to get back on track, simply rely on your slides to guide you.

Presenting doesn’t have to be such hard work.
By following these recommendations (instead of following arbitrary rules about numbers of bullets), you won’t have to work so hard when you present. Your slides will keep you on track and help you manage the detours. In other words, they’ll be there when you need them and make you smarter than you are.

by Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President, Turpin Communication

How much detail should be included on PowerPoint slides? Part 1

August 1, 2011 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Preparation

Part 1 of 2

greg 200x300We get questions like this and others about numbers of bullets, numbers of words per bullet and so on quite often in our presentation skills workshops.

There is no easy answer. And anyone who champions rules about these things is missing the big picture and leading you astray.

If you think of presentations as Orderly Conversations as we do, you’ll recognize that the slides are simply there to:

  • Provide information that listeners need
  • Serve as your notes
  • Provide structure to the conversation
  • Keep you on track

How much information you’ll need on your slides should be dictated by your listeners’ needs and how much guidance you think you’ll need once the presentation begins.

I recently attended a conference where Allison Rossett, a thought leader in the informal learning movement, was talking about using a GPS in her car. She said that GPS devices make us smarter than we are because they provide us with the exact information we need when and where we need it. We don’t need to memorize the exact route from A to B. Instead we can rely on the GPS – a sort of modern-day cheat sheet – to keep us on track and get us to our destination.

Ms. Rossett was applying this metaphor to informal learning, but it can be applied to presenting as well.

Getting from point A to point B
If you think about presenting as moving a conversation from point A to point B, the metaphor makes sense. Let’s layer into the metaphor some high-stress traffic, a few streets you’ve never traveled and a detour. When we do that, the traffic represents the pressure you feel during the presentation. The unfamiliar streets are the unknown elements of the conversation and the questions are the detour.

So in this high-pressure, high-stakes presentation environment, what’s your GPS?

Your slides.

They are there to guide you, remind you of what you want to say, keep you on track, and bring you back after the detours

But, and this is a big but, your slides will only function as a GPS if you craft them the right way. I’ll talk more about how to do that in my next post.

by Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President, Turpin Communication

My Presentation Slides are Too Detailed, but I Have to Use Them. Any Advice?

January 18, 2011 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Improving Your Visual Aids, Preparation, Video

This is a common issue we are asked about in Turpin Communication’s presentation skills workshops. You know your slides are too detailed and you have no power to change them. Maybe they came from Marketing, or Market Research, or maybe they were designed by a controlling manager. Whatever the issue, here’s Dale Ludwig offering some advice in this video blog.

What are your thoughts?