Presentation Skills Training: REDEFINED. (Part 2 of 5)

February 5, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4Part 5

This is the second in a series of five blog posts focusing on the distinction between the academic approach to public speaking and the skill-building approach business presenters need. My goal is not to take issue with the teaching that takes place in university classrooms. Rather, I’m arguing against the application of that methodology—or parts of it—in the corporate training room.

This post will focus on the most fundamental question involved: what is your workshop training you to do?

If the training you receive applies the Public Speaking 101 approach, you are being taught to deliver a speech. A speechmaking approach is built on assumptions and goals that are unique to that particular type of communication.

  • Speeches are meticulously prepared, often scripted.
  • The delivery of a speech is a type of performance, one that has probably been rehearsed.

No matter what type of speech you’re delivering this process is the same. Whether you’re a president delivering a State of the Union address, a speaker at a TED conference, a motivational speaker paid to inspire, or a student working for a good grade in 101, your job is to nail down your message and deliver it with the control and finesse of an actor. In this way, a speech is a type of performance.

Speechmakers succeed when everyone in the room is drawn in, when the audience responds to the message and the messenger.

Business presentations are a fundamentally different process, not simply because they may involve smaller audiences or focus on mundane topics. The difference between a speech and a presentation is in the nature of the connection between speaker and audience. At its core, a business presentation is a conversation, a process in which presenter and audience are engaged in a give and take. No matter what the goal may be—gaining buy in, selling something, sharing information—presenters and their audiences work together. If presenters approach a presentation as a performance, this process can’t take place.

Presenters succeed when their message is an appropriate response to the here and now of the audience.

This distinction affects the way your presentations are prepared, how visuals are used to support them, what effective delivery looks and feels like, and how interactions are encouraged and controlled. If your presentation skills training ignores these differences, you’re getting the wrong set of tools.

In the next post I’ll discuss the non-performance tools you need to engage your audiences in the conversation.

Part 1, Part 3, Part 4Part 5

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Engage in the Conversation

March 5, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, FAQs, Preparation

As you know, if you’ve ever participated in one of our workshops, we talk a lot about the use of engagement skills, eye contact and pausing. We say that using these skills to engage listeners in the conversation reduces nervousness, brings listeners into the conversation and helps you avoid the hazards of a canned performance.

Recently I picked up a public speaking text book written in 1915 by James Winans. The title is Public Speaking, Principles and Practice. I won’t go into the details about how I landed on a text written almost a hundred years ago, but I can say I was pretty happy with what I found in it. Winans has something to teach us.

Winans comes from the perspective that public speaking is “perfectly natural” and an extension of what he calls “that most familiar act” of conversation. That’s right in line with what we teach in 2012. What really impressed me, though, was his precise definition of what it means to be engaged. For Winans, engagement requires two conversational elements:

1.    Full realization of the content of your words as you utter them, and
2.    A lively sense of communication

In other words, presenters need to (1) think about what they’re saying as they’re saying it and (2) they need to speak for the purpose of communicating with someone else.

You may be thinking that this is incredibly obvious and really not worth pointing out. But think about what happens when these two elements are missing from a presentation. Without the first, the presenter may be performing something that’s been rehearsed over and over again. Or floating along on autopilot, not really thinking about what he or she is saying. Without the second, the presenter is operating in a vacuum, not responding to the audience, not adapting to the situation, not caring whether anything is communicated or not.

So what Winans is teaching us is what engagement requires, what presenters need to think about and where their attention should go to be engaged in the conversation. His ideas enrich our sense of how eye contact and pausing work as the two engagement skill presenters rely on.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

How Do I Not Sound Scripted When Delivering Content Multiple Times?

February 20, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Managing the Orderly Conversation, Myths Debunked, Practice Does Not Make Perfect, Preparation, Presentation

 

greg 200x300Q: I deliver the same information over and over. I know that I sound scripted, but I don’t know what to do about it. Any ideas?

A: I can relate. I used to be an actor. I toured one show – playing the same character – for a year and a half. Talk about saying the same thing repeatedly!

I continue to face this same issue as a trainer, although it requires an entirely different set of skills to sound spontaneous in the classroom than it did on stage.

There are two important things to keep in mind.

1) Presenters should not be scripted because presentations are not theatre. They are “Orderly Conversations” that need to be initiated and managed, not recited or performed.

2) Each audience is a unique group. While your content may be the same, your audience members aren’t. They each have a different set of assumptions and experiences as well as varying degrees of understanding of your topic. This means that you need to make sure you’re explaining concepts to each group in a fresh way. One that meets their needs, not the needs of last week’s group.

Here are a few ideas to help you keep things fresh and specific for each group:

  • Get them talking. Ask them about their experiences with your topic, positive or negative. Ask them about their level of interest. I speak at conferences quite a bit and I have no way of knowing beforehand who’s going to be in the audience. This technique helps me get a better understanding of where their interests lie so I can put more emphasis on them during the presentation. Sometimes I even ask them what order they’d like me to go in.
  • Actively look for peoples’ reactions to what you’re saying. When you do this, you’ll respond naturally just as you do in everyday conversation.
  • Encourage people to ask you questions throughout the presentation. Since you can’t predict what questions they’ll ask (or how the question will be phrased), you’ll be forced to explain ideas in a new way to meet the questioner’s unique point of view.
  • Reorder your slides so that you don’t know for sure what slide is next. This won’t work for everyone, but if you’re brave enough to try it, you’ll appreciate how well it keeps you on your toes.

Try one or more of these ideas, you’ll be surprised how fresh your presentation sounds and feels. The added bonus for you is that you won’t be bored.

What other ideas do you have for keeping stale content fresh?

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