Kirkus Review for The Orderly Conversation

September 2, 2014 in Book Reviews, News, The Orderly Conversation

Business Presentations Redefined

Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger
Granville Circle Press (234 pp.)
$21.95 paperback
ISBN: 978-0983870326; July 15, 2014


Two communication trainers attempt to redefine the concept of business presentations.

Given the way business is changing in an age of digital communications and social media, it was probably inevitable that someone would take a fresh look at live, in-person presentations. According to Ludwig and Owen-Boger, who professionally offer training in presentation skills, “much of what you have been taught about presenting has to be replaced.” The authors believe that people shouldn’t give speeches, but have conversations—“an exchange between a presenter and an audience.” They employ a nonthreatening method, and cleverly format the book to effectively immerse readers in their training techniques. Readers follow eight people, each with his or her own needs and objectives, as they go through a presentation training workshop. The authors describe the background of each participant (such as Terry, a new IT director who’s “[n]ervous with executive leadership,” or Luis, an entrepreneur who wants to “[p]roject a professional image”) and show how each learns new skills to alleviate his or her concerns. Along the way, readers are sure to identify with one or more of the participants, and relate to some of the challenges they face in their organizations. In addition to the book’s nice balance of explanation and demonstration, it has other novel features that make it stand out. For example, the authors use two different typefaces to identify themselves when they “speak,” and precede each chapter with key bullet points (much like presentation slides). The book uses graphics such as handwritten name cards, Post-it notes and flip charts to enhance the realism of the workshop environment, as well as helpful sidebars that address specific questions (such as, “How long should I pause?” and “How can I eliminate ‘ums’?”). The overall effect is both practical and involving.

A skillfully written, professionally designed guide that offers tips and strategies that should resonate with anyone in a business setting.

This review was originally posted at the Kirkus Reviews website.

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