What We Can Learn (and Not Learn) from Michael Bay

January 9, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Introduction, Myths Debunked, News, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation

You might have heard about the public speaking nightmare film director and producer Michael Bay experienced at the Consumer Electronics Show January 6.

A word of warning, though, if you’re sensitive to watching someone have a meltdown and walk off stage without delivering his message, prepare yourself. I found it really painful. And it’s only 80 seconds long.

The responses to this that I’ve read online have focused on Bay’s need to rehearse more, his over-reliance on the prompter, and the fight or flight instinct he followed. You can read an article by Nancy Duarte (of Slide:ology fame) and others’ responses here.

Be Careful, Business Presentations are not Speeches

As someone who works with business presenters, I think the responses to Bay’s situation are a great opportunity to reassert a distinction we always emphasize in our workshops—the distinction between speeches and presentations.

  • Don’t assume that what would have helped Bay will help you. Remember the presentations you deliver are not speeches. They are Orderly Conversations. As such, they require an entirely different approach. Bay was trying to deliver a scripted message that was intended to sound conversational, not really be a conversation. While extensive rehearsal may have helped him, it won’t help you. The presentations you deliver are far too unpredictable for that.
  • Bay’s performance is a good warning for people who believe in scripting or memorizing the beginning of a presentation. Your presentation’s introduction is an important time. During that first minute, it’s your job to bring the audience into the conversation by responding to them and the environment you share right now. This cannot happen when you’re scripted. Even if you can appear to make it happen (which requires acting skills), you will not be fully engaged in the moment. Because of that, it’s really difficult to respond appropriately to the unexpected.
  • Bay trusted the prompter and it failed him. You need to trust yourself. Managing the unexpected—something business presenters face all the time, speechmakers not so much—requires staying engaged and giving yourself time to think. I’m sure when Bay watched the video of his performance, he knew exactly where he went wrong and what he should have done instead. We see this happen all the time reviewing participant videos in our workshops. It’s easy to know, after the fact, what should have happened. So it’s not a matter of coming up with something new when you’re stressed. It’s a matter of settling your thoughts so you can tap into what you already know.

So while Bay’s performance is a cautionary tale for speechmakers, for business presenters it’s an excellent reminder that your first responsibility is to initiate a conversation with your audience. Once that conversation has begun, it’s easy to bring what you have prepared into it.

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”

Just Because You Said It Doesn’t Mean It Was Heard

February 13, 2013 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation, Training

greg 200x300“I swear I said that they’d see incremental sales growth,” said Angela as she sat down to review her video with me.

Angela was a participant in a recent Mastering Your Presentations workshop. Dale Ludwig was the lead instructor. I was the participants’ video coach. My job is to guide participants through video review, focusing on (a) what they’re doing well, (b) where they could improve, and (c) identifying skills and techniques that will work for them.

So, there was Angela (not her real name). She was confused and frustrated because her classmates claimed she hadn’t mentioned how her buyer would gain incremental sales growth if he would approve the promotion she was recommending. “That was the whole point of the presentation!” she said.

“Let’s watch the video and see,” I said. So I popped the video in and we watched.

About 20 seconds into her presentation, there it was. “See?” she said. “I knew I’d said it.”

So, if Angela had said the words why then hadn’t her classmates heard them?

The problem is that Angela wants to be perfect. She’s very concerned about looking silly and mentally monitors everything she says and does. She described it as “being in my head.” Unfortunately, this has led her to rehearse every presentation to find the “right” way to make a point.

This graphic shows a distressed presenter. Angela sees herself in the image. This presenter is thinking:

  • Did I say that correctly?disengaged-presenter
  • My voice sounds strange.
  • My hands feel heavy.
  • What’s on my next slide?

As I coached Angela, I helped her realize that merely getting the words out isn’t enough. She must say them to SOMEONE. She needs to look people in the eye (not over their heads as she’d been told), see their faces, look for their understanding, and react accordingly. This is the same thing that happens in everyday low-stakes conversations. But for Angela, the pressure of having to deliver a perfect presentation pulls her out of the moment and into her head.

On the other hand, this presenter has an outward focus. He’s:engaged_presenter

  • Speaking with his audience, not at them
  • In the moment
  • Seeing faces and responding
  • Self-aware
  • Connected with the individuals in the room
  • In control
  • Comfortable

In short, he is engaged. He knows instinctively what to do and say, just as he does in everyday low-stakes conversations.

“This all makes sense to me,” said Angela, “but how can I do it?”

“The answer lies in turning your focus outward, toward the individuals you’re speaking with,” I said. “Take a moment to breathe and survey the room. Look them in the eye. Make the connection. Look for their reaction. Remember, this has nothing to do with your performance and everything to do with their understanding.”

“I like that,” she said. “I’m going to write that down. It’s not about my performance. It’s about them.”

Luckily for Angela, the class wasn’t over and she had another opportunity to deliver her presentation later that day. And what a difference. She was terrific. She was engaged. She made her points clearly and conversationally. She wasn’t nervous.

The proof of her success came from one of her colleagues when she said, “I finally understood what you were trying to say. Your buyer would be nuts not to approve this promotion.”

Indeed.

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

Memorizing the Opening of a Presentation

January 17, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Introduction, Myths Debunked, Practice Does Not Make Perfect, Preparation, Presentation

greg 200x300Question: Why don’t you recommend memorizing the opening of a presentation?

Answer: The reason we don’t recommend memorizing the opening of a presentation is because it places your focus in the wrong place. When your presentation starts, you should be thinking about your listeners and engaging them in the conversation not recalling a script.

If you do memorize the beginning, you run these risks:

  • Sounding stilted or self-conscious
  • Appearing “put on” or as if you’re performing
  • Ignoring (or not noticing) what happened moments before you started speaking
  • Missing non-verbal cues from your listeners
  • Bulldozing
  • Failing to connect dots from earlier portions of the meeting

We’ve written several posts about best practices for introducing your presentation, so I won’t go into that here, we’ve also written about the pitfalls of too much practice.

The big thing to keep in mind is that everyday presentations need to feel like genuine conversations. Memorizing a script of any sort is in direct conflict with that and must be avoided.

by Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President, Turpin Communication