Calling Things by their Proper Name

May 13, 2013 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation, Talent Development

greg 200x300“The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their proper name.” Confucius

I’ve heard this quote used in many contexts. I suppose that’s for good reason. What we call things matters.

For example, many types of communication are called “presentations,” and that’s caused a lot of trouble for business people.

A TED talk is very different from an industry conference breakout session, which is very different from a getting-work-done presentation to your team, which is very different from a sales presentation one might give sitting down across a desk to a single person. Unfortunately, each of these has been called a “presentation.”

To muck things up even more, our university system and the Learning & Development industry don’t differentiate. They use speechmaking rules and techniques when training for all types of presentations. As you may have read in The Orderly Conversation Blog before, it takes a very different set of skills to plan for and initiate these different types of communication events.

Add all the bad advice and chest thumping over PowerPoint (see this discussion on the ASTD LinkedIn Group) and we have a real mess on our hands.

So, what to do?

Here are my thoughts: Let’s agree to name the types of communication events we’re talking about. We’ll start by figuring out how formal they are and how much interaction is involved. Then we’ll figure out what skills and techniques are useful for each.

If it’s a one-way communication event without interaction from the audience and a rather high degree of formality, then it’s a speech or a lecture.

TED talks and keynotes fall into this category. While these events, in order to be effective, need to feel conversational, they actually aren’t because there’s no real dialogue taking place. The speaker does not react to the audience in a way that changes the course of the speech.

Learning to master speechmaking requires a certain type of training and rehearsal.

On the other hand, if it’s a two-way communication event with genuine interaction from the audience, it’s a presentation.

Most getting-business-done presentations fall into this category. They are, of course, prepared but because of their reactive nature, they also zig and zag in response to input from the audience.

Because of the conversational nature of these types of presentations they tend to be informal. The role of the presenter in these situations is similar to that of facilitator.

Learning to master these types of presentations requires a different set of skills. Rather than rehearsing to get it just right, presenters prepare to be flexible and responsive to the individuals in the audience.

The Beginning of Wisdom is to Call Things by their Proper Name
We’ve found it useful to take it one step further and define business presentations as Orderly Conversations. Orderly because they need to be carefully thought through and prepared. Conversations because they only succeed when a genuine dialogue takes place between speaker and audience. Once presenters are comfortable with both sides of the Orderly Conversation concept, their ability to manage the process is assured.

Dale Ludwig, Turpin’s founder, and I are in the process of finalizing our new book entitled “The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined.”

Our goal is to clear up the confusion so business presenters everywhere will gain a better understanding of what it takes to be an effective communicator.

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

Presentation Skills Training: REDEFINED. (Part 4 of 5)

March 12, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5

This is the fourth in a series of five blog posts focusing on the skill-building approach business presenters need.

As I said in the first post of this series, if you find yourself in a presentation skills workshop where you are not working on preparing and delivering a real-life presentation, pack up your things and leave the class. I feel comfortable making this assertion because improving your skills as a business presenter is all about nuance and flexibility. Neither can be fully appreciated unless you’re working with content that’s real to you.

When I was teaching Public Speaking 101 to college students I was frustrated by the fact that my job was to teach students about public speaking, not developing their skills in public speaking. Granted speeches were delivered in class, but they were almost always merely another academic exercise for the students. For the most part, they didn’t care all that much about the topic they spoke about. They were interested in getting a decent grade.

You certainly can’t blame the students for that, but each grade had to be determined by behaviors that were objectively and fairly measured. This leads to standardization, prescriptive delivery, and speeches that very rarely had a demonstrable effect on audience or speaker alike.

Business presenters need something very different than that.

When you deliver a presentation, you’re doing something that is very much a part of your job. Your audience is equally invested in the presentation and its outcomes because it’s their job to be that way. What needs to happen during a presentation skills workshop, then, must recreate that environment as fully as possible. That begins, of course, with the topic of the presentation each person is working on.

When training opens up to an examination of real-life topics and audiences, the workshop can focus on subtleties like these.

  • When you prepare your presentations, are you able to focus on the audience’s need to understand what you’re presenting or are you simply focused on the information itself? Focusing on audience understanding is not intuitive for most presenters because it requires a hard look at familiar content from another’s perspective. That’s a necessary, but not always easy process.
  • Another issue concerning preparation: do you tend to over-prepare because you’re after absolute accuracy or do you tend to under-prepare because you understand the content so well? Understanding and adapting to what comes naturally to you is crucial for improvement.
  • During delivery, how does your familiarity with your content affect your ability to explain it to someone else? Do you go too quickly, making too many assumptions? Do you go into more detail that anyone needs? Are you able to adjust to the level of knowledge or interest of audience members? These questions can only be answered through practice and feedback using real-life content during the training process.

These are some of the issues that need to be surfaced during your training.

In the final post in this series, I’ll discuss how the coaching you receive during your training must focus on what you bring into the class as much as what you take away from it.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 5

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

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

Walking Out of a Presentation

June 4, 2012 in Author, Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation, Training

greg 200x300I’ll admit it. I’ve walked out of more presentations at conferences than I can count.

Have you ever gone to one of those big industry conferences and been jazzed by the title of a session only to be disappointed because the speaker didn’t meet the expectations they set forth in their session title and description?

Yeah, me, too. Many times.

False advertising makes me mad, and given how many people walk out of these sessions, I have to believe that I’m not alone.

Of course, people walk out of sessions for other reasons, too. I conducted an informal survey of people who walked out at an international conference I recently attended. Here are a few reasons they gave:

  • Speaker did not deliver what was promised
  • Speaker had poor facilitation skills
  • Tired of those silly “turn to your neighbor” techniques
  • Speaker was boring
  • Speaker was too enthusiastic
  • Speaker was condescending
  • Speaker was selling
  • Speaker’s ego got in the way
  • Speaker threw things at the audience (I’m not making this up, I walked out of this one, too)

I can’t figure out why speakers do this to themselves. It’s an honor to speak at a conference. It’s an opportunity to showcase expertise and build thought leadership. But if people leave a session disappointed or frustrated, the opposite has been accomplished.

I also wonder why conference organizers don’t do something about this. Is it that difficult to find effective speakers? Are they aware of the problem? Do they pay attention to how many people walk out?

I used to think that I was alone in my reaction to these things. After all, I’m a presentation and facilitation coach. But I’m not alone. I know this because I’ve begun sitting in the back so I can see people exiting.

So, what are your thoughts? Have you been disappointed by a speaker? Have you walked out? Share your story below.

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

Turpin Receives Highest Ratings of Any Session!

September 9, 2011 in Find Your Focus Video, News

Not to brag too much, but Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, received the highest ratings of any other speaker at the Chicago eLearning & Technology Showcase held August 16, 2011 at Union League Club of Chicago.

From the Conference Speaker Team Leader, Apryl Cox Jackson: “I’d like to add my thanks for giving such a great session. It looks like your session had the highest ratings of any session all day!”

The session was called Down & Dirty Video: Practical Strategies for Producing Engaging E-Learning Video on a Budget.

Topics included:

  • Best practices for developing and rehearsing a script.
  • Best practices for setting up a make-shift studio and the placement of the camera, lights and sound equipment.
  • Strategies for engaging learners and sounding conversational (and coaching others to do the same).
  • Guidelines for editing and producing the finished product.

Training and Presenting in a Virtual World: Turpin Communication’s Top 10 List of Best Practices (a Year in the Making)

December 22, 2010 in Author, Delivery, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Training, Video, Virtual

greg 200x300As I look back at 2010 I realize that we spent a lot of time presenting and training in a virtual environment. We also produced a lot of training videos for ourselves, partners and clients.

For better or worse, it looks like webinars, video conferences and online training videos aren’t going away any time soon, so we might as well figure out how to present information effectively using them. All year my colleagues and I have been compiling some best practices. Here are 10 of them, 5 for presenting in a webinar format and 5 for using video conferencing.

Presenting Virtually

The biggest issue we see when it comes to presenting virtually is the challenge of keeping listeners engaged. Here are 5 suggestions.

  1. Create Compelling & Relevant Content
    I know this sounds obvious, but engaging participants in a virtual environment starts with your content. Too many times I’ve participated in webinars in which the speakers had nothing new or interesting to say. Participants in virtual events are a very (VERY) distracted bunch; don’t give them another reason to tune you out. Keep your content focused on their wants and needs, connect dots by reinforcing the application and relevance to their lives, and keep things concise.
  2. Do Not Read from a Script
    If people sense that you are scripted they’ll tune out very quickly. Instead, make it feel like a conversation. Each person should feel as if you’re speaking directly to him/her. Our recommendation for doing this is to have a second person in the room with you and speak directly to him/her. They will react, and when they do, you should respond accordingly just like you would in everyday conversation. Using this technique, your intonation will sound natural and interesting to virtual attendees.
  3. Include Multiple Speakers
    I’m more inclined to stay engaged when there is more than one speaker. It’s more interesting to listen to multiple voices with (perhaps) differing points of view. If you can include multiple speakers we recommend it. Just assign who will deliver what prior to going live.
  4. Being Interactive Does Not Equal Being Engaged
    Don’t confuse the “engagement tools” included in the event platform software with human engagement techniques. Using these tools does very little to engage people, but they do a lot to keep people active. So, think of the polling, hand-raising and chat features as “interaction” tools. The creators of these tools recommend using one every few minutes. That advice is silly and unhelpful. Do not use them just for the sake of using them. People are sophisticated and do not endure being hoodwinked for long. Instead (a) use one when it will genuinely help move things forward and (b) do your best to keep things relevant and engage your listeners in the conversation.
  5. Give Them Time
    When you use a poll or some other interaction tool, give participants time to complete the task. I find it irritating when presenters end a poll before I have time to thoughtfully respond. My recommendation is to set up the poll clearly and tell people how much time you’ll give them to respond. “You have 60 seconds to respond.” Then count it down for them. “30 seconds remain… 10 seconds… and the poll is now… closed.” This technique will give you the urgency you want so that people will participate, but still give them an appropriate window of time to complete the task.

There are, of course, other recommendations for conducting virtual sessions, but those are our top five.

Presenting Via Video

Now let’s discuss best practices for presenting using video. We’ve broken it down into two sub-groups: prerecorded video and synchronous video conferencing

Prerecorded Online Video (tutorials, eLearning, sales pitches, etc.)
While not an official part of our top 10 list, our thoughts for effectively recording a presentation on video are worth noting.

Earlier in the year we were contacted by Mike Grosso and David Tyner at KinetiCast. Their service allows sales people to create very quick video-based presentations that help move the sales process forward. They had seen some of our eLearning videos, and asked us to provide them with some how-to videos for their customers. Here’s a link to those how-to presentations using KinetiCast’s system. (You’ll be asked for your name and email. Don’t worry. We don’t sell anyone’s information.) While these how-to videos are focused on using the KinetiCast service (which we recommend by the way), the techniques for engaging viewers through the camera’s lens, being concise & listener-focused, and producing high-quality video on a budget can easily be transferred to other types of talking-head video creation.

Synchronous Video Conferencing
Video conferencing capability has come a long way, and it’s gaining momentum for becoming a standard delivery technique for meetings, presentations and training. Again, my colleagues and I have been compiling some best practices. Here are 5, which round out our Top 10 list for the year.

  1. Understand Lag and Synch Issues
    It’s important to understand that there may be some lag and that the video and audio may be out of synch. This causes people to unintentionally interrupt and trip over each other. Our recommendation is to be patient with others, and pause before speaking to ensure that the previous speaker was finished. This means that the conversations will be slower paced than face-to-face, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When communicating via one-way radio, it’s common practice to say “over” when you’re done speaking. Perhaps you can implement an equivalent process? This may be particularly useful when there are more than two locations dialing in.
  2. Assign One Person to be the Moderator
    The moderator can be the host or someone else, but make it clear at the beginning of the video conference that this person is in charge. When the discussion gets going and people start tripping over each other, this person should step in and moderate.
  3. Pay Particular Attention to Your Eye Contact
    You should look into the camera’s lens when speaking, not at the person’s eyes as they are projected on the screen or monitor. When you look into the lens, the people you’re speaking to will feel as if you’re looking directly at them. If you look at their projection, you’ll appear as if you’re looking off into space as you speak. This is difficult to do, but once you master it this technique won’t feel so awkward.
  4. Adjust Your Lights
    To the degree possible, adjust lights in your room so that your face can be seen on video. In general you want more light in front of you shining on your face and less light behind you.
  5. Don’t Yell
    I’m not sure why people do this, but they tend to raise their voices when on a video conference. Speak in your normal tone and in the general direction of the microphone. Check in with people, especially at the beginning, to set or correct your volume level.

So there you have it: a year’s worth of best practices for presenting and training in a virtual world. Have thoughts of your own? We’d love to hear them.

From all of us at Turpin Communication, have a wonderful New Year.

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

Who does the best presentation skills training?

July 27, 2010 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Greg Owen-Boger, News

Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President of Turpin Communication

Recently this question was asked on a LinkedIn Q&A discussion forum:  “Who does the best presentation skills training?”

While we always believe that Turpin Communication provides the best training in the industry, we were pleased to see that two of our recent workshop participants agree (and were willing to say so online).  Here’s what they had to say:

From Beverly Feldt (Vice President, Workplace Productions)

“Just took a two-day workshop last week with Turpin Communication, and I thought it was the most valuable presentations training I’ve ever encountered (and I’ve even taught the subject).

There was a great deal of practice and individual coaching.  Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger have a knack for boiling things down to manageable, memorable bits without oversimplifying or giving things cutesy names. We worked both on organizing a presentation and on the physical and mental side of things. I feel that I gained a lot of new skills, and I really enjoyed the whole process.”

Then, from Barbara Egel (Vice President, Primary Insights)

“I will agree with Beverly that Turpin is amazing. If you want “tips and tricks” that lead you to the same cookie-cutter presentation as everyone else, go elsewhere. If you want to be equipped with the skills to face down pretty much any situation that might come up in the course of preparing, presenting, and Q&A, try Turpin.

I’m an experienced speaker, and I thought the two days might be only mildly useful to someone who’s done as many presentations as I have. Instead, the pre-work, organizational skills, and continual video analysis of me speaking taught me a lot. You get to stay yourself, work from your strengths, and adapt the skills to your industry and audience. A most worthwhile two days.”

You can view the entire string of comments here:

Don’t miss your next opportunity to join a public workshop.  Visit the Individual Enrollment Presentation Skills Workshop page.

Or call Dana at 773-294-1566

Presenter Stands on a Chair?

August 27, 2009 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs


One time my company brought in a guest speaker who stood on a chair for the entire presentation.  I suppose he thought that would make him more memorable, but all I remember is that he stood on a chair.  He’s become the joke at every conference since.  What do you think?

If the presenter’s goal was to be remembered, he succeeded.  Just not in the way he hoped.  I assume that there was no practical reason for him to stand on the chair.  That is, he wasn’t doing it to be seen or heard better.  And he wasn’t delivering a presentation about the strength or durability of the chair he stood on.  So whatever the presenter’s purpose, it was lost on the audience, and the fact that he stood on the chair became so distracting that his message didn’t come across.

I think there are a few lessons to take away from this.

  1. Gimmicks don’t work.  Don’t assume that your audiences need or want you to use techniques that are far afield from your message.  Stick with your message and make it relevant to them.  Greg wrote an entry about this.
  2. Stay engaged.  If this presenter had been in tune with his audience, he would have realized that standing on the chair wasn’t working.
  3. Explain yourself.  Let’s say that there was a good reason to stand on the chair.  In this presenter’s situation, then, standing on the chair wasn’t his mistake.  Failing to explain why he was doing it was.  Don’t assume audiences will make connections you think are obvious.  Take the time to explain what you’re doing and reinforce it throughout the presentation.

Finally, if you’re considering doing something during your presentation that feels a little questionable, don’t do it.  Presentations are unpredictable enough all by themselves.  Don’t add to the risk.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication