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

March 19, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

This is the last article in a series about the characteristics of successful business presentation training. The question I’ve set out to answer with the series is “How do I know I’m getting presentation skills training that will give me the skills I need to succeed on the job?” In the last entry, I focused on why real-life presentation content is a must. In this post I’ll focus on why understanding what you bring to the workshop is just as important as what you take away from it.

As I said before, your response to the content you deliver must be taken into consideration. When it isn’t, training becomes an academic exercise, one that may be interesting, but ultimately not that useful.

This same idea applies to your improvement as a whole. Your personal responses to the challenges of presenting have to be taken into consideration. This begins with the surface-level, but it doesn’t end there. Only by digging a little deeper, to find out what’s beneath what you’re feeling and thinking in the moment, can real improvement be achieved.

For example, nervousness is a common response to presenting. It is also a complicated response, unique to everyone who experiences it. Some presenters are nervous about what they’re saying, not quite sure if they will be able to stay focused on the plan. Others are nervous when they’re the center of attention. Still others are nervous about the audience or a particular person in the audience. Once the cause of your particular type of nervousness is found, you can be coached to focus on the behaviors that will help you manage it. Without understanding what’s behind the nervousness, coaching is hit or miss.

Another example involves presenters second-guessing themselves. Many of the people we work with tie themselves up in knots of self-doubt. They worry that they aren’t making sense or that some point or other didn’t come out the way they’d hoped. Coaching these presenters begins by figuring out if what the presenter is feeling is accurate. Are they really stumbling? Sometimes they are. But most of the time they aren’t. When that’s the case, the presenter just needs to understand that it’s in their nature to monitor themselves a little too strictly. And that means they can trust themselves more than they think. When they do, their confidence and comfort increase.

We always tell the people we train that we want them to be themselves. They don’t need to change who they are to succeed. My point here is that being yourself begins with knowing yourself. Success begins with an understanding of your visceral response to the challenges of presenting. On this level, there are no right and wrong responses. There is simply your response. Training should help you understand what that is and what you can do to manage it.

So to wrap up this series, remember that successful presentation skills training has these characteristics:

  • It focuses on presentations, not speeches. They are not the same.
  • It builds skills from the inside out.
  • It focuses on the nitty-gritty challenges of real-life content.
  • Coaching begins with an understanding of your unique response to the challenges of presenting.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

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

Adult Learners Often Need to Unlearn Before Learning

January 21, 2013 in Author, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

greg 200x300If you’ve known us and our work here at Turpin Communication for any period of time, you know that we spend a great deal of time debunking myths and helping people unlearn unhelpful (and sometimes harmful) ideas about presenting, facilitating, and training.

You need only visit our blog section on Myths Debunked to get a good understanding of where we stand on old ideas about not reading your slides, never turning your back to your audience, looking over peoples’ heads, and the use of ice breakers (just to name a few).

This is why I was excited to see this article by Jane Bozarth called “Nuts & Bolts: Unlearning” on the Learning Solutions Magazine blog. Seems we’re not the only ones helping our clients unlearn.

Jane is considered to be one of the major thought leaders in the Workplace Learning & Performance industry. I’ve had the pleasure of attending her sessions at conferences. Her content is always fresh and she’s always genuine. Here’s her article’s opening sentences. I hope you read the rest. She’s spot on.

One of the givens in working with adult learners is the importance of helping them access prior knowledge and building on what they already know. But what if that prior knowledge is no longer useful, or the skills no longer applicable, or it was never very accurate in the first place?

Read the entire article.

What do you need to unlearn? What can you help others unlearn? Let us know in the comments below.

By Greg Owen-Boger, VP 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 Can I Help a Nervous Presenter?

August 20, 2012 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Nervousness, Posts for Buyers, Preparation, Presentation

This article was originally published July 23, 2012 by Mondo Learning Solutions.

greg 200x300Managers often come to us and ask how they can help their team members get a handle on the nervousness they experience when presenting. This isn’t surprising, of course, since this type of nervousness is a real issue for a lot of people. We all experience it differently and to varying degrees, but the reality is that being nervous is no fun. And that’s true for speakers as well as for audience members having to suffer through someone else’s nervousness.

Unfortunately there is no quick fix that will work for everyone. Nervousness is triggered by different things. For some, it’s audience size. For others, it’s who’s in the audience. Level of knowledge of the topic often plays a role. Many people have a broken record playing in their heads repeating some well-meaning feedback they received but have taken the wrong way. (“You should be more energetic.” “Smile more, you look mad.” “Don’t turn your back.”) For others the repeating voice is a self-critical one. “You said that wrong.” “That’s not how you rehearsed it.” “Crap, you forgot to mention X.” “They don’t think you’re smart enough.”

Who could be in control with all those thoughts swimming around?

So, when it comes to helping your employees manage their nerves, it has to start with helping them quiet the voices in their heads, gain control of their thoughts, and settle into the conversation. During everyday interactions they aren’t nervous. They’re engaged, and they zig and zag following the natural unrehearsed path of the conversation. A similar organic process should happen in presentations too.

Presentations need to feel like conversations
Understanding that key concept – that presentations should feel like conversations – is the first step toward managing nerves. It takes away the pressure of having to be perfect, having to say something just right. It also turns the focus of the interaction outward, away from self and toward others. When this happens, the presenter sees faces, responds naturally and settles into the conversation.

Of course, the conversation is mostly being led by the presenter, who has (hopefully) spent some time thinking about the goals of the presentation and the organization of it. The course the conversation follows, though, is in direct response to the feedback received from the listeners. If you can help your employees understand that the audience is a necessary part of the conversation—not passive observers of it—they’ll be on the right track.

Fueling the brain
I like to tell workshop participants, “your brain is a good one, but it needs fuel to be smart.” The fuel comes from a pause and a breath. Pausing gives the brain the time and energy it needs to do its job. Again, we do this naturally in everyday conversation.

Expect some resistance
When you bring this up to your staff, you should expect a little resistance. There are three issues they may have. First, they will want to know how long a pause should be. Second, they’ll probably say that they feel foolish when they pause. Finally, they will worry about the audience’s perception of a pause, “They will think I’ve lost my place.”

Each of these questions stems from the false notion that a presentation is a performance. It’s important to remind your employees that the presentations they deliver are not performances, they’re conversations. During a conversation, there are no rules about how long a pause should be. They just need to occur naturally as part of the process. When they do, they won’t feel foolish. During the pause, an engaged presenter will simply use the time to breathe and think about what’s to come. Finally, pauses are seldom awkward for audience members because they, too, are engaged in the conversation. During a pause they’re digesting what was just said and getting ready to hear what’s next.

So, bottom line: How can you help a nervous presenter?

  1. Help them understand that presentations are conversations, not performances. There’s no “right way” to do or say anything.
  2. Remind them that they’re speaking with people not at them. This will focus their attention on the individuals in the audience and remind them to look for – and respond to – audience reactions.
  3. Remind them to pause and breathe.

Managing nervousness isn’t something that can be conquered overnight. It takes time, experience, and a shift in traditional thinking. But it can be done. Your job, as manager, is to gently nudge your team along step by step, reminding them of the concepts outlined here.

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

People think I’m mad all the time. As it turns out, I just have a “thinking face.” Anything I can do?

July 30, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Handling Questions, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Presentation, Sarah Stocker

This is a problem I’m very familiar with; I too have a “thinking face.” When I am deep in thought my face naturally gets a very stern look on it. I didn’t realize it until my colleagues kept asking me, “What’s wrong?” or “What did I miss?” when we worked together during workshops. My “thinking face” made them feel judged, which is obviously not a good thing. Here are a few ways to fix the problem.

The first step is to analyze your “thinking face.” What do you do? (I tend to squint, furrow my brow, and purse my lips.) When do you do it? During meetings? While presenting? When listening to others present? (My “thinking face” comes out the most when I’m listening to someone else speak.)

Once you are aware of what you do and when you do it, you can work to soften it. When I’m facilitating or listening to someone else present, I periodically check in with myself. Is my face scrunched up or tense? If the answer is yes, here is what I do:

  • I relax the muscles in my face.
  • I smile. It doesn’t have to be a huge grin – just a slight smile will do.
  • I open my eyes wider and slightly raise my eyebrows (“smile” with my eyes).

This makes me appear pleasant and receptive instead of critical and mad. Does it feel natural? Not really. But I don’t want to make other people feel uncomfortable or that I am criticizing them, so it’s worth the extra effort. And it does get easier (and a little more natural) the more I do it.

My final piece of advice is to be open about having a “thinking face.” If someone catches me giving them a stern look, I casually apologize, use it as an opportunity to laugh, and explain that it’s just my “thinking face.” It lightens the mood and lets them know it is not a reflection on them. Next time they notice it, they won’t jump to a negative conclusion.

A “thinking face” can give people the wrong impression of you or even shut down a productive conversation. Being aware, softening or brightening your facial expressions, and explaining yourself will help counteract any negative feelings it may cause.

By Sarah Stocker, Trainer and Workshop Coordinator at Turpin Communication

How can I keep my enthusiasm where it needs to be?

April 23, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Preparation, Sarah Stocker

There is no one-size-fits-all solution; different people need to do different things to increase their enthusiasm. Here are some things to consider.

Are you disengaged?
Presenters who are disengaged can appear stiff and uncomfortable. When you are engaged your natural communication skills and enthusiasm will emerge. For more on engagement, read Dale’s post, Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better.

Is it a volume issue?
Speaking louder is often the easiest way to increase your enthusiasm. Boosting your volume requires you to put more energy into your voice and makes you sound more passionate about your topic. To start your presentation on the right path, simply focus on the person farthest away from you in the room and speak to them. Doing this will naturally bring your volume up to an appropriate level.

Do you appear more enthusiastic when you increase your movement a bit?
Purposeful movement can add energy to your presentation. For some people it gives them a positive way to release nervous energy (instead of fidgeting or pacing). For presenters who tend to be stiff, it can help them loosen up. Some examples of purposeful movement are moving toward the screen to point something out or moving toward a specific individual to connect with them.

The thing to remember, and this is something that’s true for everyone, is that presenting is hard work. If you’re not tired after a long presentation, you’re probably not working hard enough. A presenter asked me recently if she needed to fake it when she just wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic about her presentation. I said absolutely yes. You still have to look natural and be yourself, of course, but sometimes you have to pull your enthusiasm out of thin air.

by Sarah Stocker, Trainer and Workshop Coordinator at Turpin Communication

So, The Short Answer Is Yes.

December 13, 2011 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger

greg 200x300Maybe this is just a pet peeve of mine. But I really wish presenters would get to the point when answering questions.

In our presentation skills workshops participants often say they worry about being accurate when answering questions. In our experience they’re worrying about the wrong thing. They know more about their topic (usually) then they give themselves credit for. What they should be worrying about is not annoying their listeners by rambling on and on.

How? By providing the short answer first, then making the decision (or not) to go into more detail. Here’s an example:

Question:
“What’s the outlook for the coming fiscal year as it pertains to growing market share?”

A typical long-winded Answer:
“Market share is something we’re all focused on moving forward. As we all know we’ve been struggling with this for a long time and competitor X is not showing any signs of weakness especially since launching their much-hyped SuperWidget. As a side note, I’ve heard all they did was make it prettier without really changing the design.

Getting back to your question, as we know, we’ve got a lot of innovation in the pipeline. At last count I believe we had 3 new products and 5 brand extensions. We’ve improved our distribution capabilities through our partnership with MoveItNOW, and our new alignment between marketing and sales (thanks to members of this team) is working well.

Over the next fiscal year, we should be well positioned to grow market share. So to answer your question, the outlook is excellent.”

The speaker builds his case carefully and eventually gets to his answer, but he takes a long time doing it.

A more concise answer:
“The outlook is excellent.”

You’re probably thinking that this very short answer doesn’t provide enough detail. You may be right. But, as I said above, it should be a decision to say more, not a knee-jerk reaction.

If your listeners look like they want more detail, the answer might look something like this:
“The outlook is excellent.

(The speaker pauses to think and make the decision to expand upon the answer.)

Despite competitor X launching SuperWidget, we’ve worked hard to position ourselves for market share growth. Examples, as you know, include our new focus on innovation, our improved distribution capabilities and the alignment between marketing and sales. Because of these initiatives we are well-positioned to grow market share.”

The short answer provides framework for the longer answer.
In this example, the short answer—“The outlook is excellent”—provides context for the details presented in the rest of the answer. Think of it as the thesis sentence for the answer, it’s placement at the beginning of the response makes the longer answer easier to understand.

If you’ve attended one of our workshops or are a regular reader of this blog, you know that we think presenters need to take responsibility for maintaining their listeners’ attention. As Dale, our President, often says, “listeners are a little bit lazy and a lot distracted. Do what you can to keep them engaged.”

I agree. Keeping your answers short and easy listen to is one way to do that.

What are your thoughts?

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

Never Turn Your Back to Your Audience – What Do You Think?

August 23, 2011 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Video

As you know, we think there is a lot of bad advice floating around out there about presentation skills. The old rule of never turning your back to your audience is a good example of a one-size-fits no one rule that needs to be thought through better.

In this video blog, Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP explains in more detail.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP Turpin Communication

Argh! The executives are only interested in the bottom line.

June 14, 2011 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Video

“But I have more to tell you,” you think to yourself as you pack up your presentation stuff and head back to your desk.

Of course you have more to tell them. You’re the expert. You know a lot.

That’s why the executives need you.

But they do not need to know all the details and thinking behind your conclusions. You find the details fascinating. They don’t. They rely on you to be fascinated. They also rely on you to be clear and concise when presenting to them.

So… If all they want is the bottom line, give it to them. And back up your conclusion with reference material that they can review if/when they need it.

Keep in mind, your job as presenter is not to tell them everything you know. Nor is your job to defend your brilliance or expertise. Your job is to give them what they need to know in order to make informed decisions.

This is not easy, but it’s necessary.

In this video blog, Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication, discusses this in more detail.

What are your thoughts?