Successful Presenters Engage People in a Conversation

June 6, 2016 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Infographics, Nervousness, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation

engagement infographic draft aAs a presenter, when you are engaged in the conversation, you are connected to your thoughts and externally focused on the people you are speaking with.

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know that some presenters are NOT engaged in the process. Not only are their presentations hard to listen to, they also make it difficult to get business done.

Disengagement results in a lot of things. Increased nervousness, a fast speaking pace, loss of personality, and extreme self-consciousness are all common. Regardless of how it’s manifested, as a member of their audience, you can sense a presenter’s discomfort. And that pulls you out of the conversation that should be taking place and slows business down.

So what, then, does it mean to be engaged and how do you achieve it?

Let’s start by altering the opening sentence of the infographic. As a DINNER COMPANION, when you are engaged in the conversation, you are connected to your thoughts and externally focused on the FRIENDS you are speaking with.

As I’m sure you’ve experienced, it’s easy to be engaged at dinner with friends. You enjoy the people you’re speaking with, the conversation is lively, and you have no problem leading portions of the conversation, telling stories, listening, contributing, answering questions, and clarifying.

As the infographic shows, when we’re engaged, we’re externally focused on the people we’re speaking with. We’re able to think on our feet and take control of the conversation. When we’re really clicked in, our self-awareness improves and we’re able to manage the twists and turns of the conversation.

Two Primary Skills: Pausing and Eye Contact

There are two primary skills we use every day, and we’re so used to them that we don’t even think about them. In everyday conversation, we naturally pause to gather our thoughts, and our breathing is entirely involuntary. Eye contact comes naturally as well. We’re constantly checking in with the people we’re speaking with; we look for their reactions and respond accordingly. This lively give and take is a necessary element to communicating effectively, and we’re able to do it because of these two very basic skills.

Pausing and eye contact must also be used during presentations. But because the stakes are higher and there’s work to be accomplished, they are often inadvertently ignored. This is why it’s important to be intentional about their use. For many, this is easier said than done. But for a disengaged presenter, it’s only through the intentional use of pausing and eye contact that you’ll be able to settle into the conversation and get business done.

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

Self-awareness and Engagement

November 25, 2013 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Nervousness, Presentation

greg_owen-boger_hi-res_colorLast week we talked about “Beth,” a nervous presenter. Beth is a smart, articulate professional, but when it came to presenting she struggled and became self-conscious.

The first hurdle we had to jump was to settle her thoughts so that she could be in control. We did that through active pausing.

Beth was amazed at how such a simple thing could give her so much control over her ability to communicate clearly and confidently.

That’s great, but Beth also needs to be able TO DO IT, even when the stakes are high. That will require a new level of self-awareness (not self-consciousness) and engagement than what she’s used to.

“You need to be able to recognize – even when things are swirling out of control – that it’s happening. That level of awareness is critical in order for you to take control back,” I said.

In our workshops we talk a lot about being engaged in the conversation. Even when the stakes are high, we need to be as comfortable and in control as we are in everyday low-stakes situations. We need to be able to shift our focus outward, look around the room, take stock, think, and most importantly, we need to make a connection with the people we’re speaking with.

Rather than thinking, “How am I doing?” we need to think, “How are THEY doing?”

That requires eye contact. Not scanning the room. Not looking over their heads, but real solid make-a-connection eye contact so that you actually SEE them.

We’ve written about it many times, so I won’t go into a lot of detail here. Here’s a good primer on engagement: http://theorderlyconversation.com/wordpress/why-we-do-what-we-do-part-3-of-4/

The bottom line is that in order to be an effective presenter, one who is truly in control and fully aware of what’s going on around them, you need to be self-aware and engaged in the conversation taking place.

Easier said than done, for sure.

Let us know how we can help you.

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

Nervousness VS the Active Pause

November 21, 2013 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Nervousness, Presentation

greg_owen-boger_hi-res_colorI was working with an extremely nervous presenter in a recent Mastering Your Presentations workshop. She described her presentation experience like this: “My head races and swirls, and then it switches back on itself. I know that words are coming out of my mouth, but I don’t have any control over them. I must sound like an idiot.”

We hear that sort of thing a lot. This presenter is not alone.

The path forward for this presenter was clear. There would be no improvement if we couldn’t find a way for her to manage her nerves. Notice that I write “manage” and not “eliminate.” There’s little I can do or say to a nervous person that will eliminate their nerves. The root cause of the nervousness and the psychological and physiological responses people have is too deeply ingrained in who they are.

What I can do is help them manage the nervousness so that it can be worked through. Over time, their ability to work through their nervousness will lessen its effect on them.

So, back to our workshop participant. Let’s call her Beth. Beth is a smart, articulate analyst. I noticed before the class started as she bantered with the other attendees that she was funny and charming.

But once she got up in front of the class during the first exercise, she crumbled inside. “I feel so dumb,” she said.

The other class participants came to her rescue. “No, you’re not dumb. Not at all. What you said made perfect sense.”

Beth replied, “But that’s the problem. I don’t know what I said.”

I stepped in. “Beth, your brain is a good one. You wouldn’t be in your current role if you weren’t smart. When you’re in a low-stakes conversation with someone at work, do you feel in control of your thoughts?”

She answered that she did.

“So what we need to figure out is what you can do when you’re under pressure that will help you gain control so that you’re as comfortable as you are in regular low-stakes conversations. We’re going to start with a pausing exercise.”

I instructed that when I raise my hand, she is to pause.

She started talking about a current project she was working on. I raised my hand. She did what many people do, she froze.

“Let’s stop,” I said. I went on to explain that a pause shouldn’t be like hitting the pause button on a DVR. “This is an active pause. You should breathe and think. Gather your thoughts. When you’re ready, you can begin speaking again.”

She tried it, and eventually she settled into the conversation. Her personality started to peek through and her description of the project was clear.

“Were you in control of your thoughts?” I asked.

“Yes. That was amazing,” she said.

Everyone in the class agreed. The transformation, in such a brief period of time, was amazing.

In the battle between nervousness and an active pause, the active pause won.

“Here’s the deal,” I said. You’ve experienced what it’s like to pause, breathe, and gather your thoughts before moving on. Now you need to remember to do it when nervousness sets in and the stakes are high. That will require a new level of self-awareness and engagement.”

Self-awareness and engagement will be the topic for next week’s article.

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