It’s Not That You Made a Mistake, It’s How You Recover

August 27, 2015 in Barbara Egel, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Practice Does Not Make Perfect, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Uncategorized

Recently, I had an opportunity to observe Greg coaching a very Type-A businessperson. In her one-on-one session, the question arose of how to deal with mistakes. During her in-class presentation delivery, she had experienced a brain blip and given an amount in thousands when she meant hundred-thousands. She had stopped, smiled, and said something like, “Well that would be a surprise, wouldn’t it?” corrected the number, and moved on. Greg complimented her on the save, saying, “Your professionalism comes out in your recovery from a flub, not in the fact that it happened.”

That is, the most effective business presenters are so engaged with their audiences and have constructed slides that work so well for them that if they trip over their tongues, get lost for a moment, or even say the opposite of what they really mean, they can recover smoothly and easily.

Well then how do you get to this point? One of the things we talk about a lot is the difference between speeches and presentations. Speeches are formal, scripted, read verbatim, and don’t involve audience interaction until the end (if then) with moderated Q&A. Business presentations are orderly conversations designed to move the work at hand forward. They also have different best practices for preparation: for speeches, you rehearse; for business presentations, you prepare and practice.

  • Rehearsal is designed to get you letter-perfect for your speech. You might think about where to pause, how to gesture, and what kinds of vocal inflection you want to use, like an actor preparing for a role.
  • Business presentations require you to . . .
    • Prepare your material in a way that it helps you engage and stay on track and helps your audience follow, learn, and understand.
    • Practice so you have a sense of the overall flow, adapt to who will be in the room, and get yourself comfortable with the goals of the presentation overall.

Slide1

A flub in a rehearsed speech is hard to recover from for all but the most experienced because a speech is inflexible and not designed for interruption, recap, or clarification. Therefore, a flub comes out looking like—a flub.

In a business presentation, you have prepared to be flexible—you know your stuff and you also know that you’ve created your materials to help you stay on track—so a flub is just one of the many things that can happen to which you respond in the moment, stay engaged with your audience, and move on. If it’s a big flub, they’ll smile with you and be impressed with your ability to recover and move on. If it’s a small thing, and most flubs are, they probably won’t notice at all.

If you find that you’ve said “accounts payable” when you mean “receivable” or Thailand when you meant Taiwan, correct and keep moving forward. Your audience will only remember that you were smooth in your self-correction, didn’t lose focus, and kept the whole room moving forward and making progress.

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

4 Reasons to Break Annoying Presentation Habits BEFORE You Present

August 19, 2015 in Barbara Egel, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation

Often, our learners walk into Turpin workshops expecting to focus on the little habits that are hard to break: saying “um,” “uh,” “like,” or “you know” too much; using uptalk (that habit that makes every statement sound like a question); fidgeting/not standing still; keeping hands in pockets; making a particular face or gesture. Our response is to say that when you are truly engaged and practicing both good, meaningful eye contact and thoughtful pausing, those habits tend to fall away. And most importantly, when you are presenting in a real work situation, we want you focused on engagement and explaining and discussing your content, not being distracted by concerns about goofy little habits.

However, if you’re someone in whom the habits are clearly really ingrained or you want to work on your particular habit just to make sure it goes away, I advise that you work on it in your real-life, low-stakes conversations. This has several benefits:

[Tweet “Work on little, annoying habits in your real-life, low-stakes conversations.”]

  1. If you truly do work on your habits in normal conversations at work and at home, by the time your next VersB Chalkboardpresentation rolls around, the problem will be gone or at least seriously diminished.
  2. It will keep you from fixating on negative observations about yourself during your presentation, which is a guaranteed way to disengage from your audience and end up spinning inside your own head. That spinning kills your effectiveness much more certainly than any amount of uptalk or “like” ever could.
  3. Working on these things when talking with your friends or discussing work with colleagues informally is a safe way to improve your presentations when the stakes are low.
  4. You will be perceived by everyone you encounter as more adult, more authoritative, and more credible once your speech and stance have been permanently rid of these habits. A side benefit is that it works wonders with the cable guy, your significant other’s parents, and snooty restaurant hosts.

[Tweet “You will be perceived as more adult, more authoritative, and more credible.”]

In short, if there’s a presentation habit that’s driving you nuts, bring it out of the presentation space to work on in your day-to-day life so that by the time you’re in front of an audience, you, like, um, totally trust yourself to be on top of those habits, right?

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”

Six Red Flags for Business Presenters

September 10, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Myths Debunked, Preparation, Presentation

I was on Linkedin this morning reading updates. While I was there, I saw a link to a blog that made me cringe. It was a post about how to deliver a perfect presentation. I clicked on it and saw, as I suspected, that every tip that was mentioned was only applicable to the speechmaking process—not  business presentations.

Once again, I thought to myself, the presentation skills training industry has a problem defining itself. Speeches and presentations are constantly tossed into the same big bucket and the bucket is labeled Public Speaking. Because of this, lists like the one I read this morning confuse and frustrate business presenters. The tips themselves weren’t bad for speechmakers. But for the business presenters we work with, they were inappropriate.

So, I’ve decided to come up with my own list. Here are six words that should be red flags for any business presenter reading a book, article, or blog about presenting. When you see them, beware. They aren’t for you.

  1. Performance: The presentations you deliver are not and should never be performances. They are conversations that need to take on a life of their own once they begin.
  2. Stage: When writers talk about “taking the stage” what they’re talking about is a performance.
  3. Entertain: While it’s fine for a speech to be entertaining, presentations shouldn’t be. Can we have fun during a presentation? Absolutely. But if you plan to be entertaining, chances are good that you’ll wind up wasting your audience’s time.
  4. Jokes: I don’t need to elaborate on this one, right?
  5. Perfect: Presentations are not perfect. Sure, they can “go very well,” they can “succeed,” but setting out to make them “perfect” won’t work. When presentations succeed, the presenter initiates and manages a lively, productive conversation with the audience.
  6. Practice: You wouldn’t think that practice could possibly be a bad thing, but if presenters practice to be perfect or practice to the point of scripting, they will be in big trouble. What you should do before you present is prepare to be flexible and responsive.

If you’re a business presenter, give yourself permission to ignore some of the recommendations you read, no matter how many times you see them. The work you do as a presenter is uniquely challenging and understanding how it differs from speechmaking is the first step toward improvement.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

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

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

Practicing Is NOT the Way to Go

February 10, 2011 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Myths Debunked


For the past few weeks I’ve been doing a lot of writing. The winter months are always a good time for that. My writing project is a book for business presenters. It began as a simple update and expansion of the Reference Guide (the booklet we give participants in our presentation workshops), but the scope of it expanded to the point where I’m now writing for a broader audience.

Along with the writing, I’ve also been reading a lot of books about presenting—many of the newly-published ones, some of the old ones that have been sitting on the shelf unread for a while, and even some academic textbooks. I’m doing this, in part, to make sure I’m up to date with what people in the field are saying, but also to get a sense of how writers describe the presentation process. What are their guiding principles? What assumptions do they make about presenting itself? How are they similar to and different than mine?

MYTH: Presentations are Performances

One of the most common assumptions I’ve found has to do with the notion of performance. While authors may not actually use that word to describe it, it’s clear they assume that a business presentation is a type of performance. How do I know this? One simple word: practice. As in “practice makes perfect” and “practice at least X number of times before delivery.” Many, many authors talk about the presenter’s obligation to practice.

If you’ve been through one of our workshops, you know that I strongly disagree with this. I’m not a big fan of practice—at least not the type of practice these authors are calling for. The assumption they’re making is that practicing will guarantee your success, that it will give you more control over the process.

The problem is, it won’t.

TRUTH: Presenters Engage in a Conversation

The presentation environment is not the place for that type of practiced performance. Presenters need to engage their audiences in a conversation—a conversation with purpose and structure, but a conversation just the same. The act of practicing to be perfect ties this process up in knots.

Presenters need to be prepared. They need to be ready for anything. But practicing isn’t the way to go.

Formal Speeches are a Different Matter

Now, if you’re delivering a formal speech, knock yourself out. Practice as much as you want. Speeches are an entirely different situation. Because they are scripted and often have a very carefully choreographed slide deck, speeches need to be practiced. I think that’s what the books I’ve been reading have failed to point out. They are writing for the CEO and other people who actually deliver the Big Speech.

For the rest of us, though, remember that presentations are not performances. To succeed, they must be genuine, conversational interactions.

Related Articles:

No Performing. Present (video)

Successful Presenting Starts with Understanding Your Default Approach

Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better.

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

What’s the Best Way to Practice for a Presentation? (video)

 

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Successful Presenting Starts with Understanding Your Default Approach

April 19, 2010 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation

One thing that sets Turpin apart from other presentation skills training companies is that we think of presentations as Orderly Conversations, because they share characteristics with both writing and conversation. Like a written document, a good presentation is thoughtfully prepared and structured. It is clear and accurate. Like a conversation, it’s also spontaneous, interactive and unpredictable.

Defining presentations in this way helps us answer some of the most fundamental questions presentation skills trainers face:

  • How do you explain why techniques that work for one presenter don’t work for others?
  • Why is it that the old maxim “Practice makes perfect” isn’t always true?
  • How is it that someone can be a dynamic speaker, but after listening to them you have no idea what their point was?
  • How do you deal with the fact that people approach the presentation process with totally different assumptions?

Questions like these have been ignored for too long.
The answers lie in accepting every individual as they are and building the training process around each presenter’s Default Approach. Participants come to a presentation skills class with various levels of experience, different educational backgrounds and unique personalities. All of these things influence the way they think about and execute the presentation process. Their combined influence results in a unique Default Approach, their gut response to the idea of preparing and delivering a presentation. While there’s nothing wrong with anyone’s Default, presenters need to be aware of them if they want to improve. Here’s a quick description of the two basic defaults, Writers and Improvisers.

First, there are the Writers.

Writers thrive with preparation and organization. They are naturally thorough and often feel there is never enough time to prepare. Writers incorrectly assume that the success of a presentation lies in what they do before they deliver it.

The Downside
Because of this, Writers tend to stick to their plan regardless of what’s happening in the room.  Unfortunately, things never go as planned, leading to an inflexible approach and high levels of anxiety.

Adjustments
During preparation, Writers need to remind themselves that their presentations will never be perfect, no matter how much they strive for it. They need to simplify their slides and focus on what listeners will gain from the information they’re presenting, not simply the information itself.

During delivery, Writers need to focus on the big picture instead of the details, and stop trying to say things perfectly.

The Results
When they make these types of adjustments they will naturally feel that they haven’t (1) said things as well as they could, (2) provided enough detail and (3) demonstrated their knowledge. The good news is that even though Writers may feel this way, they’re probably doing just fine. And their listeners will appreciate their clear, concise conversational delivery.

On the other side are the Improvisers.

Improvisers thrive with the conversational connection they create with listeners. Chances are good that they are fairly comfortable presenters and don’t worry too much about preparation. But, Improvisers incorrectly assume that they can trust themselves to be clear and concise.

The Downside
Unfortunately their confidence leads to ineffective preparation, and rambling presentations. Some Improvisers delay or avoid preparation altogether. The result can be a set of slides that don’t quite hit the mark. Once the presentation starts, Improvisers tend to lose their focus, go off on tangents, forget about their slides, and confuse their listeners.

Adjustments
An Improviser’s improvement starts with the realization that a well-prepared presentation is not a straitjacket. Instead, preparation should result in a strong, flexible framework for the presentation. This is especially important for the introduction, a time when Improvisers really need to set clear direction for the rest of the presentation. Also, Improvisers will do themselves a huge favor by using slide titles that focus on the main point for each slide.

As they deliver their presentations, Improvisers need to refer to their slide titles to remind them of their point. When they’ve done that, they’re free to improvise.

The Results
When they make these types of adjustments, Improvisers may feel that their slides are getting in the way of the conversation, maybe even that the slides aren’t really necessary. In spite of this, though, Improvisers should remember that listeners need structure. It’s the job of every presenter, no matter how engaging he or she may be, to make listening and understanding as easy as possible. And that means paying attention to what’s on the screen.

Be Yourself

When presenters recognize and successfully manage their Default Approach, the preparation process will be more efficient and their presentations will be more comfortably and effectively delivered. Helping presenters understand and manage their Defaults is one of the ways Turpin has redefined presentation skill training. And, it’s another way that our training helps presenters be themselves…only better.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

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

January 26, 2010 in Author, Delivery, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Practice Does Not Make Perfect, Preparation, Video

There are a lot of myths out there about preparing and delivering effective presentations. In this video FAQ, Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication, addresses the myth that you need to practice practice practice to deliver a perfect presentation.