5 Introverts Walk into a Presentation Skills Workshop …

October 26, 2015 in Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

blog 10-27-15I was leading a presentation skills workshop a few weeks ago when something happened that has never happened before. It was during the needs assessment discussion. This is when we go around the room and everyone talks about their needs and what they’d like to take away from the class. This was a small group, five in all, and the first person to speak was a woman, who said this:

The problem I have is that when I’m communicating with my team, we’re all just sitting around a table like this, I start thinking about how everyone is looking at me. I HATE being the center of attention. I guess it’s because I’m an introvert.

One of the men in the class said:

Yeah, I know what you mean. I’m an introvert, too.

Then the others in the room joined in saying that they, too, were introverts. As the conversation moved forward, and after telling them that I was an introvert as well, we focused on what this particular trait meant for all of us when it came to business presentations.

Get Out of Your Head

They were highly self-aware, often to a fault. Three of the people in the class were a little obsessive about their physical or vocal characteristics, carrying feedback they had been given years ago into their work. I’ve written about this before here. As it turned out, these characteristics were not an issue at all, just a cause for worry.

Once they had this insight, they were better able to turn their focus outward.

Focus on Individuals One at a Time

They struggled to engage their audience. They were all experienced enough to know that establishing a genuine connection to listeners is a difficult—and very important—thing to do. Their presentations never felt quite right to them, though, the way an informal conversation feels.

They found that by focusing on single individuals in the beginning, bringing audience members into the conversation one by one, they were able to engage the group more effectively.

Grow Your Self-awareness

Finally, everyone benefitted from the objectivity provided by video. As with all of our workshops, these participants were video recorded as part of their training. Each of them was able to see that their internal dialogue, their worry, was getting in the way of their success.

The video gave them the insight they needed to focus on things that really mattered.

As I mentioned above, there were really six introverts in this workshop. The fact that I am an introvert was a surprise to this group, as it usually is to people who know what I do for a living. All it means, I said to them, is that some things take more effort for me than they do for my extroverted colleagues. Something as simple as being the first to speak to workshop participants as they come into a class is one of them. It’s much more natural for me to hold back and stay in the background until class begins. I’ve learned, though, that part of my job is being the host in every workshop, and that my work begins (and it is work for me) before the class actually starts.

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

Most of what I know about learning and development, I learned from 10th graders

March 5, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Facilitation, Meetings, Preparation, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

A_TEACHER_TALKS_TO_HIS_STUDENTS_IN_A_CLASSROOM_AT_CATHEDRAL_HIGH_SCHOOL_IN_NEW_ULM,_MINNESOTA._THE_TOWN_IS_A_COUNTY..._-_NARA_-_558210I often make the comment in workshops—especially when the class is for internal trainers or SMEs preparing to lead their own workshops—that the best teacher-training I ever received occurred at my first job, the three years I worked as a high school English teacher. No group of learners of any age or occupation is more brutally honest. No group has been more willing to tell me exactly what I was doing wrong in the moment as a classroom full of 15-year-olds. It was a humbling and great experience.

I know the Learning and Development field makes a clear distinction between child learners and adult learners (pedagogy vs. andragogy), and I won’t go into my concerns about those distinctions here. But I will say that what I learned in the high school classroom about what learners want and need from teachers is absolutely relevant for adults.

Here’s a breakdown.

1. They don’t want to be there.
High school English students don’t care about what you are there to teach, and they have no problem letting you know it. Some might acknowledge the benefit of knowing how to write clearly. Some might like to read. Some of them might even like to write. But from their perspective, those activities aren’t what sitting in class every day is about. Being in class every day was about the drudgery of secondary education.

I learned to respect this attitude as an honest, reasonable response to their circumstance. To do otherwise would be to assume that every student walked into my classroom ready, willing, and excited to learn. Which is absurd.

Business application: Business people are in a similar situation. Sometimes this has to do with questioning the need for what they are about to learn or the manner in which it is going to be delivered. It’s important to remember that they are also being taken away from their regular jobs to participate in training. As learning and development professionals, we must anticipate resistance and do all we can to be as efficient and relevant as possible. Remember: training is not a gift everyone wants. It’s work that takes people away from what they consider their real work.

2. Be very careful when asking for any type of activity or interaction.
I learned very quickly that the variety of teaching methods I had been taught to use—group activities, games, any type of self-directed work, all meant to enhance learning—were land mines. Sometimes this simply meant the students refused to take the exercise seriously. At other times, the class exploded in fits of reckless disregard for whatever I was asking them to do.

I learned that there are two reasons for this.

“Why should I bother?”
It is best to assume that asking students to participate directly in any way—from answering a question to participating in an activity—is an infringement on what they consider their right to sit silently at their desks. Active participation is work. Recognizing this is essential. There must always be a benefit for participation that is relevant for them.

“Is this going to put me at risk in front of my peers?”
For a 15-year-old, the biggest risk they face is embarrassment in front of peers. Think back to when you were that age. Most of your energy was probably channeled toward keeping up whatever appearance you chose to project. So anything you ask students to do in class that will set them apart, embarrass them, or make them look bad to others must be avoided.

Business application: When it comes to the things we ask learners to do in a workshop, are adults any different from the 10th graders? As we age do we somehow become more willing to suck it up and make the effort in the classroom? More willing to face embarrassment? I don’t think so. We’re just better at hiding our frustration and fear. Again, it comes down to relevance and efficiency. Will this activity, from an icebreaker to a table discussion, help me do my job? Will it be an efficient use of my time? If not, throw it out.

3. They expect you to be in charge and do your job.
Needless to say, the relationship between teacher and student is complicated. On one hand, sophomores want to be treated fairly and with respect. At 15, they are the center of each of their universes, so it’s important to keep their perspective in mind. On the other hand, they want you to lead them. They know that you are the one in charge, and they want you to act like it. This doesn’t mean that the teacher should rule with an iron fist, of course. It means that students know that things will go a lot more smoothly for them if you take the reins.

This was one of the most difficult things I had to learn because it involves an unspoken agreement. No student will ever say, “Please take charge. Please be the manager and leader this class needs.” But if they feel you have dropped the ball, you will know it. Every day in every class I learned that the first thing my students wanted me to do was take control—in spite of the fact that they themselves were the ones always struggling for control themselves.

Business application: For learning and development professionals this has to do with communicating that whatever you are about to do in the classroom is going to be managed well–you are not going to waste their time and you are not going to make them work harder than they have to. This is the “process goal” we talk about in our presentation skills workshops. When we apply it to trainers, it means that learners are more likely to buy into the training you’re delivering if they feel they can trust you. When they do, you will create the conditions for learning to take place.

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dale_ludwig_hi-res_colorI didn’t last very long in the high school classroom. Leaving, though, was not about the students or their attitudes. Working with them was the best part of the job, and what they taught me has served me well ever since.

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

Book focuses on real (though fictional) business presenters

February 6, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Training

dale_ludwig_hi-res_colorGreg and I are excited that soon The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined will no longer be a work in progress. It’s in the editor’s hands now. Just a few more months to go.

In this post I want to introduce you to one of the features of the book that really sets it apart from others on the market. One of the first decisions we made was that this book had to be as practical as we could make it. It had to focus on the nuanced application of the skills and techniques we were talking about. Barbara, our editor, calls this going beyond the “what” and the “how” to focus on the “why.”

To do that, we decided to create eight fictional business presenters, representing the wide range of businesses and individuals we work with. Through the course of The Orderly Conversation, readers will observe as these eight people, each from a different company, go through a Turpin two-day presentation skills workshop.

We also decided to keep our two voices separate. I am responsible for the sections focusing on how we’re redefining business presentations. Greg is responsible for talking about how the eight presenters respond to and apply those ideas.

Terry is one of eight presenters you'll follow in "The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined"

Here’s a quick introduction.

  • Terry is the new Director of IT at his company and needs to find ways to be concise, especially when speaking to senior executives.
  • Dorothy is in market research and presents to a wiggly group of internal sales people.
  • Michael sells energy bars and delivers seated presentations to distracted buyers.
  • Jennifer suffers from severe nervousness, and her new role requires monthly presentations.
  • James founded his business 30 years ago and is just now hearing that his presentations are disorganized.
  • Sophia has been training internal groups for years and doesn’t understand why her manager sent her to this class.
  • Luis is a young entrepreneur who needs guidance on his pitch to venture capitalists.
  • Elaine works for a real estate development company and presents sometimes-controversial plans at town hall meetings.

Jennifer is one of eight presenters you'll follow in "The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined"As you can see, they are an interesting and diverse group.

  • If you suffer from nerves during your presentations, you’ll benefit from getting to know Jennifer and Terry.
  • If you’ve participated in a presentation training program that really didn’t help, you’ll appreciate what Luis and Sophia are going through.
  • If you sell across the desk in one-on-one situations, you’ll enjoy observing Michael’s progress.
  • If you’ve ever been surprised to learn that you’re hard to follow, you might sympathize with James.
  • Dorothy and Elaine have to learn to manage cranky or hostile audiences. If you do too, you’ll appreciate their frustration.

Greg will be writing more about all of our presenters in future blog posts.

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

Presentation Skills Training: REDEFINED. (Part 4 of 5)

March 12, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5

This is the fourth in a series of five blog posts focusing on the skill-building approach business presenters need.

As I said in the first post of this series, if you find yourself in a presentation skills workshop where you are not working on preparing and delivering a real-life presentation, pack up your things and leave the class. I feel comfortable making this assertion because improving your skills as a business presenter is all about nuance and flexibility. Neither can be fully appreciated unless you’re working with content that’s real to you.

When I was teaching Public Speaking 101 to college students I was frustrated by the fact that my job was to teach students about public speaking, not developing their skills in public speaking. Granted speeches were delivered in class, but they were almost always merely another academic exercise for the students. For the most part, they didn’t care all that much about the topic they spoke about. They were interested in getting a decent grade.

You certainly can’t blame the students for that, but each grade had to be determined by behaviors that were objectively and fairly measured. This leads to standardization, prescriptive delivery, and speeches that very rarely had a demonstrable effect on audience or speaker alike.

Business presenters need something very different than that.

When you deliver a presentation, you’re doing something that is very much a part of your job. Your audience is equally invested in the presentation and its outcomes because it’s their job to be that way. What needs to happen during a presentation skills workshop, then, must recreate that environment as fully as possible. That begins, of course, with the topic of the presentation each person is working on.

When training opens up to an examination of real-life topics and audiences, the workshop can focus on subtleties like these.

  • When you prepare your presentations, are you able to focus on the audience’s need to understand what you’re presenting or are you simply focused on the information itself? Focusing on audience understanding is not intuitive for most presenters because it requires a hard look at familiar content from another’s perspective. That’s a necessary, but not always easy process.
  • Another issue concerning preparation: do you tend to over-prepare because you’re after absolute accuracy or do you tend to under-prepare because you understand the content so well? Understanding and adapting to what comes naturally to you is crucial for improvement.
  • During delivery, how does your familiarity with your content affect your ability to explain it to someone else? Do you go too quickly, making too many assumptions? Do you go into more detail that anyone needs? Are you able to adjust to the level of knowledge or interest of audience members? These questions can only be answered through practice and feedback using real-life content during the training process.

These are some of the issues that need to be surfaced during your training.

In the final post in this series, I’ll discuss how the coaching you receive during your training must focus on what you bring into the class as much as what you take away from it.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 5

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Presentation Skills Training: REDEFINED. (Part 1 of 5)

January 28, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4Part 5

Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin CommunicationI read an interesting post by Josh Bersin on LinkedIn last week about the mismatch between academic education and job skills. What jumped out at me was research showing that “While 42% of employers believe newly educated workers are ready for work, 72% of educational institutions do.”

That’s a pretty big disconnect, but it’s one that I’m used to in my corner of corporate learning and development. Participants in our presentation skills workshop always have to unlearn what they have been taught in school about presenting. In fact, as I have written about here, most training delivered to business presenters misses the mark because it is built on what is essentially an academic methodology.

I think it’s time to revisit this issue.

My goal in the next four blog posts is to talk about the fundamental differences between an academic (think Public Speaking 101) methodology and the skill building approach my colleagues and I have developed over the past 20 years. The question I’ll try to answer is this: How do I know I’m getting presentation skills training that will give me the skills I need to succeed on the job?

Here’s an overview.

  • Presentation skills training must focus on the type of presentations you actually deliver. So my next post will focus on the difference between a speech and presentation. Or, to put it another way, the difference between a performance and a conversation.
  • Next, I’ll talk about why the skills you need for presenting must be built from the inside out. Improvement must focus on how things feel to the presenter as well as how they appear to the audience.
  • If you find yourself in a presentation skills workshop where you are not working on the nitty-gritty challenges of a real-life presentation, pack up your things and leave the class. This is not because training should be as relevant as possible; it’s about nuance. The fundamentals of preparing a presentation are easy to understand (and most people already know them). The challenge is with their application.
  • Finally, the coaching you receive in a presentation skills workshop must focus on your response to the challenges of presenting. You are not, after all, a blank slate. You have experience and preferences that are unique to you. After a presentation skills workshop, you should have more perspective on yourself and a clear sense of not only what you should focus on to improve but also why you should focus on it.

I look forward to going into more detail in the weeks to come.

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4Part 5

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

A College Student’s Perspective on Presentation Skills Training

March 9, 2011 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, News, Preparation

The newest member of the Turpin Team is a college freshman named Conor. Conor works for us part time as a researcher and, in the summer, a video production assistant. Like everyone at Turpin, regardless of responsibilities, Conor was asked to participate in one of our individual enrollment workshops. The experience, I knew, would give him context for the research he was doing. I wasn’t too worried about putting him in a class with people much older and experienced than he was because Conor’s a smart and confident guy.

The great thing was that Conor’s presentation was a huge success. He adapted a report he had done the previous semester for an ancient philosophy class. He reorganized the information using Turpin’s organizational strategy and delivered it beautifully.

Here’s a note we got from Conor after he was back at school.

Dear Dale and Greg,
Before I get too far into this semester, I want to take the time to thank you for all you did for me during the individual enrollment workshop January 11th and 12th. You were patient, helpful, and best of all, fun to work with. Plus, I learned a lot from watching and getting feedback from the other people in the class.

As a university student, I wasn’t really sure if the Presentation Skills Workshop was going to have any impact in my daily life. The class is designed for business presenters, and I’m still delivering in-class presentations to my peers and an instructor. But I’ve already noticed a difference in the way I communicate, even though I’m only a few weeks into Spring semester. From having to present maybe a few bullet points in front of a small classroom, to my graded speeches in front of larger classes, I am more confident, clear and poised. I’ve also gotten great feedback from my classmates and instructors, which is especially nice.

The best thing is I feel like I have a real advantage over other students when it comes to presenting now. Thanks a lot for that!


What I’m really happy to see is that the workshop had a practical application for Conor, even if he is a few years away from graduation.

What out-of-the-ordinary presentation situations can we help you with?

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication