What Business Presenters Can Learn and Laugh About at the Emmys

August 26, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery

One of the funniest moments of the 2014 Emmy Award show last night had to do with the power and challenges of eye contact. It happened midway through the show when Gail Mancuso won the best directing Emmy for a comedy series, Modern Family. If you missed the show, here’s the clip of her award.

You’ll see two of the actors from Modern Family (Ty Burrell and Jesse Tyler Ferguson) talking about Mancuso’s direction. When she directs, they say, Mancuso emphasizes the need for actors to be in the moment, to listen to each other, to be fully present in the scene, to establish strong eye contact. It’s funny because as they talk about listening and eye contact, they speak over each other and don’t pay any attention to what the other is saying.

That bit was funny enough, but as it turns out it’s just a setup for what’s to come. When Mancuso takes the stage to accept the award she says that it would be too difficult to look at her colleagues as she speaks, so she directs her eye contact to Matthew McConaughey instead. Here’s some of what she said.

I feel like I’m gonna lose it. I feel like I wanna look at my cast, and I love them so much. If you don’t mind, Matthew McConaughey, I’m just going to make eye contact with you right now. So Matthew, I’m gonna talk about how great my producers are over there….I can’t look at them because I’ll cry.

I’d like to answer two questions about how this part of Mancuso’s acceptance speech applies to the world of business presentations. Why is this funny, and why is this true?

Why is this funny? Because it goofs on the find-a-friendly-face-and-speak-to-that-person idea often applied by nervous business presenters. Mancuso takes this to the extreme to excellent effect, of course, and it doesn’t hurt that McConaughey’s good looks had already been the subject of the conversation earlier in the show. While you might want to begin by looking at a friendly face, it gets silly if that person is the only one you talk to.

Why is this true? Because when you’re under stress, it can be very difficult to look at the people you know best. Eye contact is a powerful thing. And if your goal is to hold strong emotions back, to get through the speech without losing it, you might very well want to avoid people who will bring tears to your eyes. Engage other people in the audience and use your connection to them to say what you want to say.[Tweet “Eye contact is a powerful thing.”]

By directing her eye contact to McConaughey, Mancuso not only kept her cool, but she also delivered one of the funniest acceptance speeches of the night.

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

Why Redefine Business Presentations?

July 21, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Greg Owen-Boger, The Orderly Conversation

In all of our workshops, a certain amount of unlearning has always taken place.

Over time, we realized that everything we were helping presenters unlearn came from the world of speechmaking. Although presenters knew they were not delivering formal speeches, the assumptions they made and the strategies they used didn’t reflect that. They were simply working with the wrong tools, like using the handle of a screwdriver to pound a nail into the wall. If you worked at it long enough, you might be able to do it, but why bother when there’s a hammer in the toolbox?

We should stop calling these things presentations. We should call the conversations. That's really what they are.At some point, probably during a debrief after a workshop, one of us said, “Do you think we should just stop calling these things presentations altogether? Everyone gets hung up on that word. Wouldn’t it be easier to just call them conversations? That’s really what they are.”

So that’s what we did. We redefined business presentations as Orderly Conversations.

We brought the idea that business presentations were a type of conversation, not a type of speech, into our workshops. Soon, we realized we were heading toward a major overhaul. From preparation and delivery, through managing interaction, to how you judge your success when the presentation is over—all of these things are affected when you begin with the assumption that what you’re dealing with is a conversation.

To succeed, business presenters need to make these adjustments.

Instead of…

 

You should:

rehearsing for perfection  prepare to be flexible
following the rules of delivery  engage in a genuine conversation
following a one-size-fits-all approach  adapt to your Default Approach
keeping visuals in the background  bring them into the conversation
controlling group interactions  create the conditions for a fruitful discussion

The Orderly Conversation explores how each of these adjustments are made.

The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined is available now on this website and at Amazon and Itasca Books.

9 Habits of Highly Effective Business Presenters

February 17, 2014 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Presentation

A friend and fellow CCASTD board member sent this article to me, 9 Habits of Highly Effective Speakers, and asked what I thought.

If you don’t feel like reading the whole thing, here is a snapshot of the nine “habits.”

  1. They are authentic.
  2. They choose phrases carefully.
  3. They keep it short.
  4. They rewrite. And they rewrite some more.
  5. They build rapport.
  6. They tell stories.
  7. They organize.
  8. They practice.
  9. They learn from the masters.

These 9 ideas are terrific if (and this is a BIG IF) you are delivering a speech. The author of this piece is definitely talking about speeches. He says so right at the beginning of the piece. He mentions graduation addresses, TED talks, and the State of the Union.

Those are perfectly reasonable types of speeches to study. But when was the last time you actually delivered a speech?

It’s important not to confuse speechmaking with business presenting.

They are two very different forms of communication. Unfortunately, too many times they are lumped together, which is one of the reasons professionals struggle so mightily with their business presentations. They require a different set of skills and techniques. Speeches are written and read (or perhaps memorized) whereas presentations are initiated and facilitated.

They are also judged on different scales. Speeches are successful when they are well crafted. Business presentations are successful when they get business done in an efficient manner.

If you go back and look at the nine habits, they could be substituted as advice for writers. Again, good advice for speechmakers. Not so good for presenters.

You need something better.

So, here is our list.

9 Habits of Highly Effective Business Presenters:

  1. Engage your listeners in a conversation, don’t deliver a performance.
  2. Keep it about them, not about you.
  3. Speak spontaneously within the framework of your preparation.
  4. Design visuals to keep you on track and to spark the right thoughts during delivery.
  5. Bring visuals into the conversation to enhance, clarify, and support.
  6. Create the environment for a fruitful conversation.
  7. Pause to think and control knee-jerk reactions, even when emotion creeps in.
  8. Respect what others have to say.
  9. Look for clues that your audience understands, not just hears what you’re saying.

At Turpin Communication we don’t work with speeches. We work with everyday getting-business-done presentations. Or as we call them: Orderly Conversations. This redefinition will make all the difference for you. Hope this article sheds new light on the work that you do.

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

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”

What We Can Learn from the Oscars

February 26, 2013 in Assessing Your Default, Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Facilitation, FAQs, Myths Debunked, Presentation

I watched the 85th annual Oscar telecast on Sunday. I usually watch the show, and this year I actually stayed awake until the end. What I like about the Oscars is not so much who wins, but what people say after they’ve won one. I don’t know why, but there is something really enjoyable (and not necessarily in a kind way) about watching someone experience an incredible career high and immediately have to speak to an audience of millions about it.

The pleasure is greatest with the acting categories, of course, because the contrast is so great. Here are people who can deliver amazing performances on film and then struggle just like the rest of would during the acceptance speech.

For business people it reinforces just how challenging delivering a presentation actually is.

Because when you think about it, an acceptance speech—in terms of how it’s prepared and delivered—is not that different than a presentation. They are both in their own ways, Orderly Conversations. I’m sure every nominee, even if they thought they had no chance of winning, had a plan. They thought about what they wanted to say and the order in which they wanted to say it. Some of them thought about the message they wanted to get across (Ben Affleck’s was that when you get knocked down in life, “All that matters is that you gotta get up.”)

Beyond those basics, though, there are other similarities. So here is a list of statements that are true for both the presentations you deliver and Oscar acceptance speeches.

  • Scripting doesn’t work. The best thing about this year’s show was that no one I saw pulled out a piece of paper, unfolded it, and started reading. When winners read a script like that they are never engaging or interesting.
  • People are nervous but they work through it. It’s interesting to go back and watch the acceptance speeches online. What you notice is that almost everyone is nervous at first (usually having a hard time catching their breath and saying a lot of ums and uhs), but they pause, breathe, think, and then settle down. Adele was the only winner who never fully gained her composure during her acceptance. The good thing is that she also made fun of herself for it. Which brings me to this comparison.
  • When they make mistakes, they laugh at themselves and move on. What did Jennifer Lawrence say after she fell walking up the stairs? “You guys are just standing up because you feel bad that I fell.” That’s a perfect recovery.
  • Speaking quickly when you’re running out of time doesn’t help. Ben Affleck tried that last night before he got to the closing I quoted above (which was very well delivered). When he was speeding along he lost control and got into trouble with his “marriage is hard work” remark.
  • The best ones feel spontaneous. It doesn’t matter if acceptance speeches aren’t perfect. Those of us in the audience don’t want to see perfectly planned performances. The acceptance speech is one of the few times the public sees actors as they really are (or as close as we’ll ever get to it). We want to see them in the moment, responding to what’s happening in a genuine way. The same can be said for your presentations.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Presentation Skills Training: REDEFINED. (Part 3 of 5)

February 20, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4Part 5

This is the third 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 with this series is to talk about why the application of Public Speaking 101 approaches in the corporate training room fails to meet the needs of business presenters.

This post will focus on what are traditionally called “delivery skills.” These are the physical and vocal skills you use to communicate in every face-to-face interaction. If you approach your presentation as a performance instead of a conversation (as I discussed in my last post), your focus will be on how these skills look and sound to your audience. The success of a performance of a speech involves, for example, establishing eye contact with your audience to appear trustworthy, pausing to emphasize your points, controlling gestures to appear professional, and bringing enthusiasm to your voice.

What’s missing with that approach is consideration of what these skills do for you, the presenter. Let’s look at eye contact and pausing. During our workshops we talk about these skills as engagement skills. When they are used well, they help presenters relax, focus, and bring their listeners into the conversation.

The use of these skills, in other words, is about much more than simply how they make you look and sound. They are essential for the conversation. Through their application you are able to keep your thoughts and focus in the here and now. If you’re only thinking about how these skills appear to others, it takes you out of the moment and turns your focus inward. This weakens your connection to listeners and turns the conversation into a performance.

For most people, after you’re engaged in the conversation, your other delivery skills take care of themselves. Gestures occur naturally and vocal enthusiasm is appropriate and genuine. So rather than thinking of these skills as the polish you apply to performance, think of them as the welcome result of being engaged in the conversation.

In the next post I’ll talk about the need to bring real-life presentations into training.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 4Part 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

Presentation Skills Training: REDEFINED. (Part 1 of 5)

January 28, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4Part 5

Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin CommunicationI read an interesting post by Josh Bersin on LinkedIn last week about the mismatch between academic education and job skills. What jumped out at me was research showing that “While 42% of employers believe newly educated workers are ready for work, 72% of educational institutions do.”

That’s a pretty big disconnect, but it’s one that I’m used to in my corner of corporate learning and development. Participants in our presentation skills workshop always have to unlearn what they have been taught in school about presenting. In fact, as I have written about here, most training delivered to business presenters misses the mark because it is built on what is essentially an academic methodology.

I think it’s time to revisit this issue.

My goal in the next four blog posts is to talk about the fundamental differences between an academic (think Public Speaking 101) methodology and the skill building approach my colleagues and I have developed over the past 20 years. The question I’ll try to answer is this: How do I know I’m getting presentation skills training that will give me the skills I need to succeed on the job?

Here’s an overview.

  • Presentation skills training must focus on the type of presentations you actually deliver. So my next post will focus on the difference between a speech and presentation. Or, to put it another way, the difference between a performance and a conversation.
  • Next, I’ll talk about why the skills you need for presenting must be built from the inside out. Improvement must focus on how things feel to the presenter as well as how they appear to the audience.
  • If you find yourself in a presentation skills workshop where you are not working on the nitty-gritty challenges of a real-life presentation, pack up your things and leave the class. This is not because training should be as relevant as possible; it’s about nuance. The fundamentals of preparing a presentation are easy to understand (and most people already know them). The challenge is with their application.
  • Finally, the coaching you receive in a presentation skills workshop must focus on your response to the challenges of presenting. You are not, after all, a blank slate. You have experience and preferences that are unique to you. After a presentation skills workshop, you should have more perspective on yourself and a clear sense of not only what you should focus on to improve but also why you should focus on it.

I look forward to going into more detail in the weeks to come.

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4Part 5

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Presentation Baggage Causes Barriers to Learning

January 30, 2012 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Posts for Buyers, Preparation, Training

greg 200x300Recently I had a lively phone call with a potential client. It was clear that he had done his homework and had some pretty tough questions for me and the other presentation skills training vendors he was looking at.

Here’s my favorite: “What’s the biggest barrier you face when working with people in your workshops?”

I love this question. First, it forces me (and our competitors) to acknowledge the reality that training isn’t always easy and that challenges do exist. Second, it shows me that he’s not just checking training off his list. He’s truly interested in finding a partner he can trust to bring about long-term behavior change.

Answer this question right, I thought to myself, and we’ll be his vendor of choice.

My answer came rather easily because it’s something we talk about a lot around our office.

The biggest barrier when working with business presenters is dealing with all the baggage they carry around with them.

Here’s what I mean.

Most business presenters endured Public Speaking 101 back in college.

  • Always start with an outline.
  • Memorize the opening of your speech.
  • Vary your intonation to be more interesting.
  • Nervousness should be avoided, so look at peoples’ foreheads, not in the eye.

Some have lived through ineffective rules-based corporate training.

  • “You need to hold your hands like this.”
  • “You should pinch your fingers together so that you won’t be nervous.”
  • “Never ever put your hands in your pockets.”
  • “Never ever turn your back to your audience.”
  • “Always stand to the right of the screen.”
  • “Never look at your slides.”
  • “You need to look them in the eye for at least 3 seconds.”
  • Never say ‘um.’

Many have been given feedback by their managers.

  • “Present more like Sam. He’s dynamic and funny.”
  • “You sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
  • “You need to smile more.”
  • “You move your hands too much.”
  • “You don’t move your hands enough.”
  • “Speed up.”
  • “Slow down.”
  • “You stood in the light of the projector. Never do that.”

All of these experiences – the rules, the bits of bad advice– pile up and become their baggage, their barriers to learning. These presenters can’t possibly be effective and confident because of it.

So, what’s the solution?

The bulk of what we do in our workshops is to give people permission to let go of the baggage so they can settle into the conversation.

We call it: Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better. We’ve blogged about this before, but here’s what we mean.

Find your focus means to settle your racing mind and be present. Engage your audience here and now. Don’t think ahead, and don’t beat yourself up for what you just said.

Be yourself means to stop trying to emulate someone else. Just be you.

Only better means that once you are engaged and comfortable, you will be able to manage the challenges of presenting. You’ll be able to read the non-verbal cues from your audience. You’ll know when you’ve said enough and it’s time to move on. You’ll know if you need to slow down. You’ll recognize that you’ve walked into the light of the projector and need to move out of it. You’ll be self aware and in control.

This process helps people let go of the baggage, and it makes all the difference.

If you’re a workplace learning professional, what barriers to learning do you see?

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

Common Presentation Challenges

October 28, 2010 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Nervousness, Preparation

Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President of Turpin Communication

In a LinkedIn discussion recently a question came up about the most common challenges facing business presenters.

Many people claimed nervousness, lack of knowledge, unexpected questions, PowerPoint, sentence structure (?) and so on. These are challenges people face, for sure, but these simplistic responses fail to get to the heart of why presenting is so challenging for so many people.

Here’s how I responded:

As a presentation skills trainer/coach, I think one of the most common challenges people face is that they prepare for a speech instead of a presentation. Speeches are scripted, rehearsed and performed. Presentations (which is what most of us deliver day-to-day) need to, of course, be organized well, but they need to be delivered in a flexible, spontaneous, conversational way.

So the challenge I see most is that people know how to prepare for a speech, but they don’t know how to prepare for a presentation. This leads to anxiety, nervousness, analysis paralysis and boring, stiff, unengaging and unsuccessful presentations.

In our work, we help presenters make adjustments to how they think about the process and this makes all the difference.

Faithful readers of this blog know that we consider presentations to be Orderly Conversations. Here are some related articles:

Follow Greg on LinkedIn

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