Obligatory Sports Metaphor Blog Post

May 6, 2015 in Barbara Egel, Delivery, Managing Nerves, Nervousness, Preparation, Presentation, Training

As I’ve been coaching both new and seasoned business presenters, two particular athletic analogies have proven really useful. (Full disclosure: I know stuff about sports, but it’s hardly my pastime of choice.) See if these resonate with you, and use them to help with the emotional / mental preparation you do to get ready to present.

To deal with nerves and manage energy. Nervousness with presentations seems to manifest itself in one of two barbara_egel_132_BWbroad ways: Either people’s nervous energy takes over and they lose control of their voices and bodies—talking too much or too fast, running out of breath, making unwanted facial expressions, and/or moving their feet in odd ways, among other things; or, they pull inward as though their whole bodies have been Botoxed—they forget how to smile, their voices retreat into inaudibility, their arms are glued to their sides, and they speak in a monotone.

Our engagement techniques—eye contact and pausing—help immensely once the presentation begins. But in the moments before you get up to speak, think about athletes. If you play(ed) a team sport, remember that moment between leaving the locker room and taking the field? The coach has pumped you up, you and your teammates are of one mind, your muscles are warm, and you are ready to explode into the game. You have nervous energy, sure, but it’s a good thing. It’s what will keep you pumped up but in control, jazzed enough to run up and down the court and steady enough to sink a three-pointer when the ball comes your way. This is the feeling you want just before you present. Turn that nervous energy to your advantage to keep yourself engaged, loose, and playing your best game.

To get comfortable with eye contact (or pausing, but mostly eye contact). Some of our learners have taken public speaking classes in the past and were told things like, “scan the room” or “look at the tops of people’s heads” so it appears you are making eye contact. To be truly engaged, you must make real eye contact and connect with your listeners. Often, when I prescribe eye contact as someone’s primary engagement technique, they tell me they understand in theory how it can work, but it’s really uncomfortable to do. This is when I talk about baseball (or golf or tennis).

When you’re a kid messing around in your backyard, all you do is grab the bat and stand kind of like you’ve seen on TV. If you’re naturally athletic, you might hit it pretty well, and you’ll keep that batting stance because it works for you. If you then start to play Little League and meet up with a batting coach, it’s highly likely he will change your stance—bending your knees more, moving your hands down on the bat, holding it higher or further from your body than you’re used to. Initially, you balk at this because it feels weird. You won’t have any power or control, your wrists hurt, and should you really be feeling your butt muscles this much playing baseball? Over time though, you get used to the new stance and discover you not only have more control but you get better distance, speed, and height on the ball.

Eye contact and pausing work the same way. At first, it feels weird and like all the stuff that’s worked okay for you in the past is being taken from you. But over time, you’ll discover that you’re getting noticeably better: more in control, more engaged, more conversational.

And you’ll be knocking it out of the park on the regular.

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

Why Your “Default” Matters

April 16, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Preparation, Presentation, Training, Video

When it comes to planning and delivering business presentations, we’ve found that individuals fall into two broad categories: (1) there are those who are comfortable with and rely on the preparation process and (2) there are others who are comfortable with and rely on the connection they establish with their audiences.

We call these categories Default Approaches. “Writers” prefer the preparation process. “Improvisers” thrive with a live audience.

Default ApproachNeither Default is better than the other. As the graphic above shows, each has strengths and weaknesses. For example:

  • Writers thrive with organization and preparation. They are naturally thorough, careful, detailed and accurate, which are good traits to have. However, left unchecked, they can be inflexible and too strict once the presentation starts. They feel as if their plan is a good one and it should not be altered. Writers are often uncomfortable with the idea of having to answer questions.
  • Improvisers thrive with the connection they have with listeners. They are spontaneous, responsive, and unafraid to make last-minute changes. Again, good traits to have. However, left unchecked, they talk in circles and confuse their listeners. Improvisers feel they can trust themselves to manage whatever situation they find themselves in. Unfortunately, they often lose focus, say too much, and run out of time.

The idea that everyone responds differently—in a very fundamental way—to the process of presenting explains why a one-size-fits-all approach to presentation training isn’t helpful. Recommendations made for one person will not necessarily work for someone else.

Watch Dale Ludwig, Turpin Communication’s Founder and the co-author of The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined, as he goes into more detail.

Writers

Improvisers

What do you think? Are you a Writer or an Improviser?

Read the book, The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined, to learn more. Available now at Amazon.com, Barnes & Noble, Itasca Books and this website.

A New Definition of Success

June 30, 2014 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Nervousness, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Training

Why a Performance Approach to Business Presentations Doesn’t Work

greg_owen_boger_300Presentations should not be confused with speeches. Speeches are a type of performance. Presentations are a type of conversation. That’s why we’ve redefined them as “Orderly Conversations.”

Unfortunately, many people, even industry experts, hang on to the idea that a presentation should be “performed,” that it can be perfected by scripting, rehearsing, planning when and how to gesture, and following rules. These rules can be about all kinds of things, like the “right” number of bullets, never looking at your slides, holding your hands a certain way, or pausing for dramatic purposes.

As Dale Ludwig writes in chapter 5 of our new book The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined: “When rules like these are applied without consideration of their effectiveness or appropriateness for an individual, they stop being the means to an end and become the end themselves. This makes presenting more difficult for the presenter and less effective for the audience.”

Three Types of Performers
What we’ve seen is that business presenters who follow a performance approach generally fall into three categories:

  1. The Nervous Perfectionist
  2. The Dutiful Student
  3. The Entertainer

Let’s take a look at the negative consequences of each type of performer and offer up a better way forward.

The Nervous Perfectionist
In the book, we write about Jennifer, a Nervous Perfectionist. She puts an extraordinary amount of time into planning her presentation and rehearses it several times before the big day. Her goal is to perfect her delivery.

Unfortunately, during her last presentation, Jennifer felt like a failure because things didn’t go as she’d planned. Her solution was to rehearse more the next time.

Jennifer’s assumptions look like this:
A New Definition of Success pic 1 6-30-14

Dale writes: “As Jennifer moved through each of these steps, she assumed she was gradually taking control over the process. But it didn’t work. What happened to Jennifer actually looks like this.”
A New Definition of Success pic 2 6-30-14

Dale goes on: “As you can see, Jennifer’s nervousness led her to rehearse, which turned her presentation into a performance. This made her more self-conscious and more nervous. Her decision to rehearse more for the next presentation just repeats the cycle.”

The Dutiful Student, a New Definition of Success and a True Story
Another type of performance-focused presenter is what we call the Dutiful Student. Dutiful Students want rules they can follow. After all, their thinking goes, there must be a better and worse way to do something. Give me rules and I’ll follow them.

Last week in a workshop, we met Sandra (not her real name). She is a Subject Matter Expert and accidental trainer. Several times she asked, “What’s the rule for… “

As proof of her allegiance to the “prepare, prepare, prepare” rule, she pulled out a three ring binder containing her training slide deck. Each slide, complete with script in the speaker notes, was laminated for safekeeping.

We asked her how long it takes her to get ready to actually deliver the training. She said with a sigh, “Weeks and weeks. It’s far too time-consuming, and I have a lot of other responsibilities.” She was clearly frustrated by this.

When we asked her how she felt when learners asked questions, she said she hated it because it pulls her out of her script. “I have to think a lot when I’m up there. If they interrupt me it just throws me off.”

As the discussion went on, Sandra and her classmates agreed that her process is inefficient and didn’t create the conditions for fruitful learning. In Sandra’s attempt to follow rules and perfect the delivery of her training, she lost sight of her goal, which was to teach, to inspire learning.

Create the Conditions for a Fruitful Conversation
We worked with Sandra to help her create the conditions for a fruitful conversation. The first step was to turn her focus away from herself and toward her learners. She needed to get out of her head and actually speak with them.

During the first exercise in class, Sandra’s instruction was to introduce herself to the group and to engage them in a conversation about her job responsibilities. After several attempts, she finally settled into the conversation. She actually saw them and their reactions. She responded to them in the “here and now.” They asked questions, and Sandra answered them with ease.

This exercise was recorded on video. As she and I watched it a little later she said, “I forgot about thinking, and just did it! I just talked with them.” She was amazed that she could actually stand in front of the group and hold a conversation. She wasn’t thinking about her gestures, or even what to say. She was engaged in the here and now of the conversation, and it came naturally to her.

As we continued to talk, she made a connection that will stick with her well into the future. She said, “You know … as I think about it, I do my best teaching at the bar after my sessions. Now that I know why that is, I have a new definition of success!”

The Entertainer
In the book, we also talk about Sophia, an Entertainer. The character of Sophia was inspired by a young man (we’ll call him Calvin) that I worked with years ago. He was in sales and approached his sales presentations as if he were a comedian on a stage.

Calvin had a larger than life personality, a toothy smile, and a presentation style to go with it. I remember he swaggered to the front of the room and asked if we were ready. When we said yes, he snapped into action. It was as if the spotlight had just been turned on.

I remember that Calvin’s boss caught me in the hall that day and invited me into his office for a chat. As it turned out, Calvin’s job was on the line. His buyers weren’t buying, and none of his co-workers wanted to work with him. Calvin was over the top and perceived as phony. Not exactly the type of person most people want to work with or buy from.

So What Does This Mean for You?
Dale writes: “The lure of the performance approach is control; presenters use it because they assume success comes from planning exactly what they are going to say and how they will say it in advance of the presentation. This also means, their thinking goes, that success can be reached fairly easily because all they have to do is remember the plan and follow the rules. The danger is that exercising this level of control over the process pulls your focus away from the here and now of the conversation and leads, for many people, to increased nervousness and heightened self-consciousness.”

The more effective and efficient way to prepare for and deliver your presentations is to think of them as Orderly Conversations. Your role, then, is to prepare for and lead a listener-focused, flexible and responsive conversation. And when you do, it will make all the difference.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

The Orderly Conversation is now available at Amazon.com

Presentation Myth: Simple Slides are Always Better

June 10, 2014 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked

A recent workshop participant said, “I don’t want to simplify this slide. The abundance of the data is where the story is.”

Simple Slides are Always Better 6-9-14

As his coach, I cannot argue with that. This is exactly why those one-size-fits-all rules about the number of bullets or words on a slide don’t work.

Admittedly, sometimes less is more. (And we do help our clients simplify their slides and their message when necessary.) But as this workshop participant said, sometimes the message is better communicated through lots of data.

Slide Vs. Handout
The slide pictured here would be, admittedly, a lousy visual aid if it were projected onto a screen. It’s too busy and would be hard to read, so in cases such as this, be sure to include a hard copy of the slide so that people can read and study it as part of your presentation.

I encourage you to think critically about the rules you’ve heard about slide design and business presentations. As Dale Ludwig, Turpin’s founder, often says, “If a slide doesn’t help you move the conversation forward, it’s a lousy visual aid.”

What “rules” for presenting do you break?

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Resolution Season: NEW Private Coaching Service

January 7, 2014 in News, Preparation, Presentation, Training

We hope your new year is off to a great start. One of our goals this year at Turpin is to make it easier for workshop participants to receive follow-up coaching when they need it most.

If you’ve been through one of our workshops, you know that our goal is to make presenting easier. We provide practical recommendations you can take back to work and use right away.

The challenge for you is applying what you’ve learned (1) in the variety of situations you face and (2) when you have a lot of other things to think about. This is especially true when you have an important presentation coming up.

Coaching for Your Next High-Stakes Presentation
To help you succeed when you can’t afford to mess up, we’re offering a new follow-up coaching service. Starting this year, for an additional fee, workshop participants will have the opportunity to sign up for a private coaching session after their workshop.

How Does It Work?

  • Coaching will be delivered virtually. No travel required.
  • The session will last an hour. Long enough to be productive, short enough to give you time to do other things that day.
  • You decide when your coaching session takes place and what it will focus on.
  • You know your coach already. Whenever possible, your coaching session will be with one of the instructors from your live workshop.
  • We’ll do our homework. Before the coaching session we’ll ask you to email your presentation to us. We’ll review it and prepare feedback before coaching takes place.
  • Immediately after coaching, we’ll email you a summary of the work we did.

Who’s It For?
Coaching is available for all workshop participants, no matter when your workshop was held.

How to Sign Up
Just contact Dana Peters for pricing information and to schedule a session.

We’re excited to offer this new level of support for our clients.

Virtual Presentations That Work

December 16, 2013 in Delivery, Presentation, Talent Development, Training, Video, Virtual

Breakthrough to Engage Clients and Staff

Greg Owen-Boger had the pleasure of presenting a webinar for the Training Magazine Network last week.

It was a great session full of lively chat from the engaged group.

Click the image to access the hour-long recording. (Note that you’ll need to register.)

Virtual Presentations that Work

Comments from attendees:

17 minutes in Barb said: “Already worth the price of admission… I like the ‘do it like it’s live’ idea!”

Bart said: “Really a lot of good ideas – great session. Glad I tuned in!”

Mary said: “This webinar… really good.”

Haley said: “Thanks so much, this was so helpful!”

Tracey said: “Nice job! Well explained concepts and good examples.”

Sandy said: “Wonderful information. I learned some great tips. Thanks so much!”

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”

The 2 Levels of Defining Presentation Success

June 3, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Presentation, Training

Your success as a business presenter always exists on two levels.

  1. On one level it is determined by whether the stated goal of the presentation is reached. Did the buyer agree to buy, for example. Or, did your team see the need for the new procedure you’re asking them to follow? This type of success is fairly easy to measure.
  2. The other level of success is more difficult. It is a measure of how effectively you managed the process of presenting. Or, as we look at it, did you manage the conversation in an appropriately orderly fashion?

The second level of success often determines the first. I’m sure there are times when a poorly managed presentation achieves the goal it was intended to reach. But when you consider how the process felt to the audience—frustrating, inefficient, a waste of time—such a presentation can hardly be considered a complete success.

Presenting is Part of Your Everyday Work

The thing we need to remember is that presentations are part of everyone’s day-to-day work. So when presenters fail to manage the process well, they’re making it difficult for audience members to do their jobs. When that happens, audience members are stuck. After all, they are captive. They don’t have the option of walking out or flipping to a new channel. So what they often do is silently disengage. They might feel a sudden need to check their email or think about dinner, doing whatever they can to cope with a bad situation.

Most of the time this reaction has little to do with the goal of the presentation (level 1) and everything to do with whether the presenter is managing the conversation effectively (level 2).

For example, if you’re delivering market research to a group of sales people, your audience wants to understand the research, but they also want you to make understanding it easy. That level of success goes beyond the information itself. It involves:

  • Emphasizing context and relevance
  • Providing perspective
  • Leaving out information that isn’t useful to your audience (whether you want to or not)
  • Caring about their understanding and buy in
  • Being responsive to the in-the-moment needs of the audience

Business presentations are a collaborative process. Pulling your slides together and having a specific goal is only the first step, and that step alone will never guarantee success. A successful presentation is one in which the audience and the presenter work together in a fruitful, efficient process.

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

Why We Do What We Do (Part 2 of 4)

April 15, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Preparation, Presentation, Training

A Discussion of Turpin Communication’s Core Principles:
Default Approaches

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

This is the second in a series of four posts focusing on Turpin’s core principles. In the last entry I focused on the Orderly Conversation, our term for the presentations business people deliver. As I said, the characteristics of a presentation that make it a Conversation always compete with those keeping it Orderly. It’s the presenter’s job to stay on track without sacrificing the spontaneity or immediacy conversations require.

Managing this tension would be a relatively easy thing to do if you were simply having a conversation with a coworker about a project you’re working on. Information would be exchanged, points made, and supporting arguments explained. With a presentation, you’re still having a conversation with your audience, but you have a specific goal you want to achieve, you’re probably using slides or a handout, and you have time to prepare.

Presenters respond to this challenge in one of two fundamental ways. We call these responses Default Approaches. One group, the Writers, default to the orderly side of the process. It’s natural for them to approach presenting as a linear process. Writers rely on preparation, detail, and control for success.

For the other group, Improvisers, the conversation is always front and center—even during the preparation process. These presenters rely on their ability to engage the audience and keep the conversation going.

Both Defaults bring important skills and strengths to the process, of course. They just need to keep things balanced. The conversation needs to breathe without straying too far off course.

Individual presenters must be aware of their Default Approach so they know which side of the process they should focus on. When we work with Writers, our goal is to increase their comfort with the spontaneous, sometimes-messy process of delivery. For Improvisers, improvement is found by making peace with the framework of the presentation and trusting it to make understanding easier.

As I said in the last post, everyone improves along a separate path. Insight into your Default tells us where that path starts.

In the next post, I’ll write about the connection between engaging listeners in the conversation and reduced nervousness.

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4

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