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”

Why We Do What We Do (Part 3 of 4)

April 29, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

A Discussion of Turpin Communication’s Core Principles:
Engagement

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4

Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin CommunicationThis is the third in a series of four posts focusing on Turpin’s core principles. In the last entry I talked about how every presenter brings a Default Approach to the process and that understanding what it is focuses your improvement. In this post, I’ll focus on what it means to be engaged in an Orderly Conversation.

It seems that everyone is talking about engaging people these days. Businesses use social media to keep customers engaged. Managers want their employees to be fully engaged. Trainers want to engage learners. Each of these uses of the word have to do with how someone else (the customer, employee or learner) responds to something you do. It has to do with motivating them or maybe just keeping them interested.

We use the term to describe what happens when a two-way interaction begins. When presenters engage in conversation with their audience, they are not pouring information into passive listeners. They are not merely grabbing that person’s attention. An engaged presenter initiates a genuine connection with the audience. Both presenter and audience member share a moment in time, both equally engaged.

This level of engagement brings the audience into the conversation, of course, but it also affects how the presenter feels and thinks. Engaged presenters are able to think and speak spontaneously because they are reacting to the people they are speaking to, just as they do in everyday conversation. This, in turn, makes presenters feel confident and comfortable.

It’s for this reason that all presenters, especially nervous presenters, need to take command of the skills that help them engage. Once the conversation begins, the anxiety, self-consciousness, and second-guessing associated with nervousness melt away. You are able to stay focused and rein in the discomfort and distraction of nervousness.

So by focusing on engaging listeners in the conversation, we accomplish two things. First, we help presenters develop the skills they need to work through their nervousness. Second, we release presenters from the generic, prescriptive rules found in traditional training classes. Engaged presenters trust themselves to be confidently self-aware and in control.

Part 1Part 2, Part 4

by Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin Communication and co-author of the upcoming book, “The Orderly Conversation”

eLearning with Personality

April 7, 2013 in Author, Find Your Focus Video, Greg Owen-Boger, Talent Development, Training, Video, Virtual

greg 200x300“I think your eLearning courses succeed because they have personality.”

This comment was part of a conversation I was having with an L&D peer at a conference recently. I was really happy to hear it. When we were putting our eLearning courses together, we thought a lot about how we were going to engage learners in the conversation. We wanted our instructors to seem spontaneous and genuine.

I disagree with what I’ve been hearing on social media about how ineffective talking head video is in eLearning. The problem isn’t the fact that we’re seeing a person on the screen. The problem is seeing someone who’s clearly uncomfortable.

So when we use talking heads in our video, we need to find a way to ensure the speaker’s personality comes through.

I’ve been making the rounds of the workplace learning & development conferences speaking on this very topic.

Here’s a link to my speaking schedule.

Turpin Communication has put together a few videos to help people learn to do this as well.

Make Your Videos Authentic
The other day I came across an article someone had posted on Facebook. It was about how small business owners should use video to market themselves. “Keep your video authentic” was the first of 5 recommendations the author made. Although the article is written to a different audience, the same thing applies to eLearning video.

So if you’re thinking about producing eLearning talking head video, think about the learners’ experience. No learner wants to sit through an online course with stilted, painful, inauthentic video. They want to get in, be engaged in an authentic way, learn what they need to learn, and get on with things. Let’s make sure we do that.

Need help for yourself or coaching for someone else? Watch this video.

Learn more about On-camera Coaching.

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

Helping Employees Gain Respect by Improving Their Communication

May 14, 2012 in Author, Delivery, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Preparation

 

greg 200x300As a communication consultant working with presenters, facilitators, and trainers, I have a lot of interesting conversations with business leaders about their employees.

The conversations may go something like this: “Greg, I know John is smart. He has great ideas and is always willing to put himself out there, but in meetings he doesn’t communicate clearly. He’s erratic, talks in circles, and apologizes for having an opinion. I’ve seen this happen a lot, and it’s causing his manager and peers to lose respect for him. How can you help me help him?”

Sometimes the conversations are like this: “When Mary and I talk in my office she’s confident and clear. But when she presents at meetings she falls to pieces. Mary is a high-potential employee, but her inability to speak to a group is holding her back. Can you help her?”

In both situations people have lost the respect of co-workers because of their poor communication skills.

Another scenario:
A few weeks ago I was working with a woman who is the Administrative Assistant to the CEO. “Jan” is roughly 50 years old, very well-dressed, and in charge.

At the beginning of the class, Jan participated fully in the conversation that I was facilitating. From the comfort of her seat she spoke up, listened attentively to the others, and responded clearly and confidently. She displayed a great sense of humor too.

But then things changed.

Later in the class we were doing an exercise in which everyone gets up in front of the room and introduces themselves to the group. Jan was last to volunteer. While this exercise always generates a few butterflies for people, Jan was a mess. She was very nervous and had tied herself into knots. She shifted her weight and looked down at the floor. Her voice was shaky, she became soft-spoken, and it sounded as if she were speed-reading through a script. Her sense of humor was gone. So was her personality.

Afterwards, she described herself as having just had an out-of-body experience.

When I asked her if she remembered seeing anyone’s face, she responded, “No, not at all.”
When I asked her if that was a common experience, she confessed, “Yes.”

Jan had turned her focus inward.

In her attempt to defend herself against the presence (or even the hint) of nervousness, she made the situation worse. Much worse. She forgot that she was speaking to real people, turned her focus inward, and had a complete meltdown. Suddenly she was not the articulate, confident person I met earlier, but someone else entirely.

Jan’s experience is not unique.

If you’ve ever experienced anything like that (and who hasn’t) you know it’s real. And it’s debilitating.

The good news is that debilitating nervousness is not a permanent condition. In the brief time we had together, Jan learned to speak as clearly and confidently to the group as she normally does in low-stakes conversations.

The key is to think of presentations as conversations that are taking place with real people in real time.

When Jan was nervous, she was speaking in a vacuum—unaware of her listeners and focusing solely on what she had planned to say. My solution was for her to turn her focus outward and speak to the individuals in the room. She needed to look people in the eye and actually SEE them. She needed to recognize their reactions and see how they were responding to her. When she did that, she was able to connect and respond.

The level of engagement that Jan achieved—something that happens automatically in everyday, low-stakes conversations—plays a crucial role in presentations. Although the people in the room are the cause of nervousness, presenters should not think of them as passive viewers whose sole responsibility is to judge. Presentations, like everyday conversations, are an exchange of information that can’t ever be perfect. When presenters focus on engaging their listeners, they’re able to break through the barrier of nervousness, turn their focus outward, and manage the process. This, in turn, makes them feel (and look) comfortable, confident, and in control.

Jan did that, and her improvement was astonishing. She became a person who would be respected in any presentation situation.

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

How can I keep my enthusiasm where it needs to be?

April 23, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Preparation, Sarah Stocker

There is no one-size-fits-all solution; different people need to do different things to increase their enthusiasm. Here are some things to consider.

Are you disengaged?
Presenters who are disengaged can appear stiff and uncomfortable. When you are engaged your natural communication skills and enthusiasm will emerge. For more on engagement, read Dale’s post, Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better.

Is it a volume issue?
Speaking louder is often the easiest way to increase your enthusiasm. Boosting your volume requires you to put more energy into your voice and makes you sound more passionate about your topic. To start your presentation on the right path, simply focus on the person farthest away from you in the room and speak to them. Doing this will naturally bring your volume up to an appropriate level.

Do you appear more enthusiastic when you increase your movement a bit?
Purposeful movement can add energy to your presentation. For some people it gives them a positive way to release nervous energy (instead of fidgeting or pacing). For presenters who tend to be stiff, it can help them loosen up. Some examples of purposeful movement are moving toward the screen to point something out or moving toward a specific individual to connect with them.

The thing to remember, and this is something that’s true for everyone, is that presenting is hard work. If you’re not tired after a long presentation, you’re probably not working hard enough. A presenter asked me recently if she needed to fake it when she just wasn’t feeling very enthusiastic about her presentation. I said absolutely yes. You still have to look natural and be yourself, of course, but sometimes you have to pull your enthusiasm out of thin air.

by Sarah Stocker, Trainer and Workshop Coordinator at Turpin Communication

They Won’t Speak if You Don’t Listen

April 16, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Facilitation, Preparation

One of the biggest problems facilitators have is very basic: failure to stay in the moment to listen and respond to what people have to say.

When we work with facilitators in our workshops, we always say that there are two primary goals in every discussion. (1) Facilitators need to encourage the conversation. They need to get people talking about the topic at hand. (2) They need to control the discussion once it begins. They need to be good managers and as efficient as possible.

What often happens is that facilitators spend too much of their energy on the second and not nearly enough on the first. The result is that the people in the group don’t really feel heard. This discourages participation. Individuals won’t exert the effort required to say anything—or anything substantial—if they feel the facilitator isn’t genuinely interested. If you’ve ever lead a discussion that never really got off the ground, this could be the reason.

Good listening requires giving the person you’re listening to your full, un-preoccupied attention. That person needs to feel not only heard, but that what they’re saying has the power to influence the discussion as a whole. If that doesn’t happen, sooner or later, they’ll shut down.

How can you prevent this from happening?

  • Be patient. Don’t interrupt. Look interested. Think about what people say.
  • Probe beneath the surface and be interested in nuance.
  • Don’t listen for simply the “correct” response, the one you expected or hoped to get. This turns the discussion into an exercise that’s all about you.
  • Your plan is not the most important part of the discussion. Be flexible.

Facilitating a discussion is an act of faith. Facilitators need to trust the people in the group and the process of interacting with them. Successful facilitators expect things to get complicated and to go off track. And they also trust themselves to be able to manage the process when that happens.

Read the follow-up to this blog at Encouraging Discussion.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

So, The Short Answer Is Yes.

December 13, 2011 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger

greg 200x300Maybe this is just a pet peeve of mine. But I really wish presenters would get to the point when answering questions.

In our presentation skills workshops participants often say they worry about being accurate when answering questions. In our experience they’re worrying about the wrong thing. They know more about their topic (usually) then they give themselves credit for. What they should be worrying about is not annoying their listeners by rambling on and on.

How? By providing the short answer first, then making the decision (or not) to go into more detail. Here’s an example:

Question:
“What’s the outlook for the coming fiscal year as it pertains to growing market share?”

A typical long-winded Answer:
“Market share is something we’re all focused on moving forward. As we all know we’ve been struggling with this for a long time and competitor X is not showing any signs of weakness especially since launching their much-hyped SuperWidget. As a side note, I’ve heard all they did was make it prettier without really changing the design.

Getting back to your question, as we know, we’ve got a lot of innovation in the pipeline. At last count I believe we had 3 new products and 5 brand extensions. We’ve improved our distribution capabilities through our partnership with MoveItNOW, and our new alignment between marketing and sales (thanks to members of this team) is working well.

Over the next fiscal year, we should be well positioned to grow market share. So to answer your question, the outlook is excellent.”

The speaker builds his case carefully and eventually gets to his answer, but he takes a long time doing it.

A more concise answer:
“The outlook is excellent.”

You’re probably thinking that this very short answer doesn’t provide enough detail. You may be right. But, as I said above, it should be a decision to say more, not a knee-jerk reaction.

If your listeners look like they want more detail, the answer might look something like this:
“The outlook is excellent.

(The speaker pauses to think and make the decision to expand upon the answer.)

Despite competitor X launching SuperWidget, we’ve worked hard to position ourselves for market share growth. Examples, as you know, include our new focus on innovation, our improved distribution capabilities and the alignment between marketing and sales. Because of these initiatives we are well-positioned to grow market share.”

The short answer provides framework for the longer answer.
In this example, the short answer—“The outlook is excellent”—provides context for the details presented in the rest of the answer. Think of it as the thesis sentence for the answer, it’s placement at the beginning of the response makes the longer answer easier to understand.

If you’ve attended one of our workshops or are a regular reader of this blog, you know that we think presenters need to take responsibility for maintaining their listeners’ attention. As Dale, our President, often says, “listeners are a little bit lazy and a lot distracted. Do what you can to keep them engaged.”

I agree. Keeping your answers short and easy listen to is one way to do that.

What are your thoughts?

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