“The Patience for Clarity:” Slow Down to be More Effective

April 25, 2016 in Barbara Egel, Delivery, Meetings, Nervousness, Presentation

barbara_egel_132_BWIn a recent workshop, I coached a learner who was a really strong presenter from the start. She was particularly good at articulating how she wanted to be perceived by her listeners and what she needed to work on to improve. Her main issue was speed. She was excited about her topic, which is great, but that excitement caused her speaking pace to rev up to the point where she could be hard to follow.

She described what she needed to achieve as having “the patience for clarity.” That is, she herself needed to be patient and composed enough to slow down and be clear, to rein in her excitement and use it to power a well-paced presentation.

This got me thinking about audience focus and our own insecurities. So often, when delivering introduction slides, people use phrases such as, “Then I will quickly explain the new initiative,” or “I’ll take just a few minutes to describe our findings.” Why is everyone in such a rush? I have a few thoughts for you to consider, some related to managing the Orderly Conversation and some more psychological.

  • People who are more junior seem insecure about the idea that they’ve earned their time in front of that audience, so they want to whip through their presentations as quickly as possible. As our smart learner figured out, this results in the audience getting lost or falling behind in their understanding of the material. This leads to presenters wasting audiences’ time rather than conserving it because they haven’t gotten what they need from it. You have earned your place at the front of the room; keep it by being clear and measured.
  • A lot of presenters are afraid of not making it to the end—of not getting through all their material, either because they themselves get distracted or because they know they will get interrupted with lots of questions or discussion.
    • First of all, quite simply, some portion of questions will be about clarifying or re-explaining things you’ve already said, and the faster you speak, the more likely it is that people will need such clarification. Having “the patience for clarity” to begin with just might result in fewer clarifying questions.
    • Creating a solid outline and introduction for your presentation gives you a strong sense of the whole. Thus, if you do start feeling pressed for time, you can still deliver everything you need to, just with less detail.
    • Learn to trust your slides and the level of detail you have built in. If you find yourself padding your presentation with more detail than you need, stop and move on.
    • Learning to manage the give-and-take of discussion will allow you to get through what you and your listeners need without rushing.
  • Nerves can cause some people to speed up. Pausing to breathe is your best friend when this happens. Not only does a good hit of oxygen relax you, but taking a moment to pause will slow down your speech overall. Pausing after each slide or thought also gives your audience an opportunity to take in and process what you just said.
  • Speeding up too much causes some presenters to lose crisp diction, so listeners literally don’t understand what’s being said. Slowing down helps enunciation, which allows listeners to take in all your valuable content.

Of course we sometimes have learners who need to speed up or who seem like low-energy presenters, but more often than not, we have to slow down the speed demons. Remember, you have earned the opportunity to present so make it as easy as possible for your audience to listen and understand by taking your time up there.

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

Feeling a Little Silly at the Front of the Room? Three Very Serious Ideas About Enthusiasm

April 27, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

A few weeks ago, I was delivering a workshop for a group of soon-to-be trainers. Each of them was a subject matter expert (SME), and they were preparing to deliver training to groups of people within their organization. On the first day of the class we were focused on helping the dale_ludwig_hi-res_colorSMEs strengthen the skills required to get comfortable at the front of the room and engage the group. For one of the men in the class, I’ll call him John, this raised some issues.

We were talking about enthusiasm. John was not particularly unenthusiastic, but he was the type of person who got a little less enthusiastic and a bit quieter at the front of the room. We see this all the time. What interested me was John’s reaction to my recommendation that he crank up the energy just a bit.

“I don’t believe that should be necessary. It is their job to come to my class and pay attention. When teaching, I shouldn’t have to be someone I am not.”

In many ways, I agreed with what John was saying. First, he was right to believe that the business of the class he was teaching was serious and important. He was also correct to believe every person in the class had a clear job to do: listen and learn. No doubt about either of these assumptions.

Where I differ with John is that he equated an enthusiastic trainer with an entertaining trainer. Here’s what I mean:

When trainers attempt to entertain a class, they always miss the mark. This type of entertainment can take many forms: pointless activities, inappropriate humor, relentless ice breakers, and—as we see with John’s concern—calculated enthusiasm.

Enthusiastic trainers are not entertainers. Their passion and excitement for the task shines through because they want to help people understand something new. Their enthusiasm generates interest and is infectious. Because it is the result of being deeply engaged with the group, this type of enthusiasm serves a very practical purpose. It simply makes listening easier.

Here’s what I say to trainers and presenters with John’s concerns:

  1. Enthusiasm must be genuine and it can spring from many things—what you’re saying, the people you’re saying it to, the task at hand. Find a way to tap into any or all of these things.
  2. When you’re the one at the front, you are responsible for the atmosphere in the room. Do what needs to be done to set the right tone.
  3. Think of enthusiasm as the fuel you need to keep the conversation going. Let it boost your volume, vary your vocal inflection, and bring life to your gestures.

So, yes, while the learners in John’s class did need to “listen and learn,” it’s his job to make that process as easy and inviting as possible. This has nothing to do with adding fluff or insincerity to delivery. It’s about creating the conditions for a fruitful conversation.

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

 

Another 5-Star Review for “The Orderly Conversation” at Portland Book Review

April 1, 2015 in Book Reviews, News, The Orderly Conversation, Uncategorized

Review originally posted at the Portland Book Review

The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined by Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger

Portland Book Review

 

 

 

Approaching presentations as conversations leads to more engagement, which is necessary to successfully keep business moving forward. Authors Ludwig and Owen-Boger walk the reader through the steps in planning and delivering the ordered conversation following the structure of their training workshops. From getting engaged to framing the conversation, from presenting the information to managing interactions, seasoned and new presenters alike will benefit from this relevant and organized text. Some long-standing presentation rules are debunked as performance tactics, while valuable techniques such as pausing, eye contact, and directing attention are discussed and validated. Through the experience of eight workshop participants, the authors effectively show readers differing personalities and various presentation scenarios then present the adaptations each participant makes to achieve an ordered conversation. If, for example, one’s default presentation approach is to improvise, the tendency to be long-winded and get off track lends importance to using framing slides and prompts to stay focused. If one’s default approach is to script the entire presentation and practice to perfection, one risks performing and disengaging from the conversation.

Included in this text is a self-assessment to assist the reader in determining their default approach. Readers will likely recognize themselves in one or more of the workshop participants. Ever get nervous when presenting? The authors share how to manage that nervousness. Prefer to put the slides together, than to actually present them? That’s addressed. Have trouble figuring out where to start with visual aids? Authors Ludwig and Owen-Boger lead readers through four steps in defining the content and structuring the framing slides for a presentation. While readers won’t have the benefit of the videotaping and playback of presentations that workshop participants do within this book, it would be possible to follow this prescriptive and answer the questions shared to further improve presentation skills. The Orderly Conversation is a must-read for anyone looking to hone their presentation skills.

Reviewed by Lisa Ard

5-Star Review for “The Orderly Conversation” at San Francisco Book Review

December 10, 2014 in Book Reviews, News, The Orderly Conversation

5-star_review_SanFran_BookReview

Review originally posted at The San Francisco Book Review

sanfranciscobookreview_logo_90

The Orderly Conversation depends on an assumption that business presentations are inherently different from other forms of public speaking, and so to be truly successful, presenters must learn a whole new set of skills. I’m not entirely sure that I agree with this assumption, since the authors seem to indicate that the main difference is that a business presentation requires an understanding of and connection with the audience. I would argue that audience connection is also vital to speech-making, as well as written communication (which is shown in this book as the “orderly” side of the order/conversation continuum). The thing that makes business presentations so different is the raised stakes—a failed business presentation can mean no sales, loss of a client, being passed over for needed funding, important instructions not being understood or followed, really the failure to accomplish the goal behind the presentation.

Now, the fact that I disagree with one of the major assumptions in the book does not mean that I think the book is without merit. Far to the contrary, I feel that the advice given here can be useful far beyond the somewhat limited scope of the business presentation (although there is plenty of variety included in that heading). Every speaker, whether in business, politics, or classroom, should learn their own natural inclinations when speaking, when those natural inclinations help and hinder, and specific ways to improve. Every speaker, regardless of setting, needs to know how to prepare effectively to allow for both the planned message and flexibility to adapt the plan. Every speaker should focus on meeting the needs of their audience, and should be armed with techniques to recognize if those needs are not being met in the presentation, and ways to remedy the situation.

Throughout the book, Dale Ludwig presents new information, while Greg Owen-Boger gives us practical application with example studies of a fictional workshop group (fictional characters that are composites of real people with real struggles that they have worked with). The eight people in the group each have different presentation styles, each have different reasons for participating in the workshop, and each have different needs and goals. This method of presenting the information was fantastic because you can clearly see how the advice given in the book can be adjusted to a variety of situations. At first I thought it would be difficult to keep track of so many different people, but each was a fully developed character with backstory and there never was any confusion between them. They are even represented by eight distinctive handwriting samples to keep a visual difference.

In addition to offering very useful advice and strategies for giving successful presentations, this book is just really well crafted. As mentioned before, there are visual cues for each of the workshop participants, but there is also a visual distinction between Dale’s informational sections and Greg’s practical application. The format of the book follows the advice given to presenters—it is clear, concise, and every aspect is designed to meet the needs of the audience. It frames the content with specific information in the introduction and conclusion, and even incorporates repeated internal framing visuals: the Table of Contents is repeated before each chapter—a reminder of what you’ve learned and where you’re going. Part of me wanted to think it was a waste of paper, part wondered why they would make such an unusual formatting decision, but by the time I reached the chapter where the technique was explained, I’d already decided it was more effective than wasteful.

The careful explanations and examples along with the minute considerations in formatting and design make this an instructional guidebook that practices what it preaches, and one that I can enthusiastically recommend.

Reviewed by Randy-Lynne Wach

Why Redefine Business Presentations?

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

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

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

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

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

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

To succeed, business presenters need to make these adjustments.

Instead of…

 

You should:

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

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

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

A New Way to Look at the Orderly Conversation

June 4, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation

Greg and I had a meeting with our publisher and book designer yesterday. We’re getting very close to finalizing every image, sidebar, and pull quote (before we began this process, I had no idea what a pull quote was). We also talked about the back cover of the book. Along with the text included there, we’re including this image.

back cover 6-3-14

This image does a good job illustrating one of the core principles of The Orderly Conversation. The work you do in advance, during the planning stage, should bring order to the conversation you anticipate. It’s all about looking forward. Once the presentation begins, though, the plan must serve the conversation that’s actually taking place. That means bringing something created in the past into the present.

The challenge presenters face is balancing the two. Too much attention paid to the plan leads to stilted, scripted delivery. Too much attention on the conversation leads to a loss of order and focus. Successful presenters manage this process by staying fully engaged in the conversation and trusting the plan to keep it on track.

During your next presentation, keep the balance between these two goals in mind.

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

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”

No Easy Button

November 15, 2013 in Dale Ludwig, Myths Debunked, Nervousness, Preparation, Presentation, Training

easy-buttonRecently, Greg and I delivered a facilitation skills for trainers workshop to a group of Subject Matter Experts. This group had been called upon to deliver training to less-seasoned employees in the organization.

Although the training content was technical and detailed, it was also highly nuanced. The goal of the training was to help learners not only understand the details, but also help them know how to use them to make complex business decisions.

During our needs assessment discussion at the beginning of the class, one of the SMEs put it this way:

“We’re trying to teach people that there is no Easy Button. They need to learn how to think about this information so they can be confident using it to make decisions.”

As I charted that idea, I thought about how the same thing is true for our workshops. A lot of presenters are looking for the Easy Button. They want simple answers to complex questions. The problem is, many of the simple answers aren’t the right answers. Presenting and facilitating are too complex and improvement too individual for that.

Here are three of the most common questions we’re asked and our think-about-it-this-way responses. If you’ve participated in one our workshops, these probably sound familiar.

“How can I eliminate nervousness?” Instead of thinking of nervousness as something you can eliminate, think of it as something to be worked through. If you’ve participated in one of our workshops, you know that the key is engagement. Presenters need to figure out what they need to do to engage their listeners.

“How much should I rehearse?” First, we have to define what you mean by rehearsal. If you define it as the process of perfecting your presentation before it’s delivered, then you shouldn’t rehearse at all. However, you do need to be prepared, and the best way for you to prepare is affected by your Default. Improvisers prepare differently than Writers.

“Is it okay to have eight words in a single bullet point?” Instead of counting the words in a bullet point, think about how you’re planning to use it. Can it be easily read in relation to the other bullet points in the list? Does the bullet make understanding easier? Can you make it smoother or simpler? The number of words you wind up with is secondary to these more fundamental issues.

In the long run, our training is about simplifying improvement for everyone. It’s just that getting to a simple solution that is also the right solution for you takes thoughtful consideration.

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

Rethinking the Visual Component of Your Presentations (Part 2 of 4)

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

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

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