Youthful Skepticism

June 10, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Introduction, Preparation, Presentation

Last week I spent three hours working with a group of people just starting their careers, all in the non-profit sector. It was a real break from the usual business audience we work with in a couple ways. First, they were very young, many of them fresh out of college. So they had no problem challenging what I had to say.

Second, although their presentations were delivered to community-based organizations, their topics were very much like those we see in for-profit businesses. They focused on serving people better, being more efficient, and improving technology.

Before meeting with me, this group all took our online course. As part of that, they prepared a presentation and sent it to me. This gave me a chance to prepare feedback for them. Before I dove into their presentations last week, I asked if anyone had questions or comments about the online course.

A couple people in the group did, and it wasn’t exactly the kind of feedback I was expecting. They said they found the structure we had asked them to follow, especially the introduction to their presentations, very restrictive and regimented. “I would rather just start talking with my audience when I start. I’d give them an agenda, but that’s it.”[Tweet “Clarity, context, and relevance are necessary for every presentation, regardless of audience.”]

I probed a little and asked if the organizational structure felt like a straightjacket. “Yes,” they said.

We hear that a lot from class participants. People often feel we impose a strict structure for introductions, one that cramps their style.

After working with a few introductions and talking through the nuances of each, the group last week began to see that an introduction is just a framework, a framework listeners need. Further, while the goals of every introduction are the same, presenters are free to reach those goals any way they want. So there really isn’t a straightjacket, just goals to be met.

What struck me about this group of presenters is that they assumed there was a disconnect between our approach (all business) and their needs (all community-based-non-profit). What they wound up seeing was that clarity, context, and relevance are necessary components of every presentation, regardless of audience or purpose.

I’m looking forward to going back to this organization next year. It was good to work with a group of eager yet skeptical young people.

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

Use internal agendas to reinforce your presentation’s structure.

September 24, 2012 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Presentation, Video

Greg Owen-Boger, VP of Turpin Communication, shows how using internal agendas can keep both the presenter and the audience on track.

I have a hard time making recommendations to the highest level people in my company. It seems presumptuous.

July 16, 2012 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Introduction, Organizing Your Content, Preparation, Presentation, Sarah Stocker

I understand what you mean. It can feel really awkward making recommendations to your executives. But keep a few things in mind.

First, you’ve been asked to give a presentation to these executives for a reason. You are saving them a significant amount of time by collecting and analyzing the necessary information, and then presenting the most critical pieces of it. You are helping them.

Second, your bosses probably want you to be specific. Not only does it demonstrate that you’re good at your job, it also makes the process of listening to your presentation much easier. Your recommendation helps establish the framework of your presentation, putting everything that follows in the body in context (see Dale’s post, Provide Structure through your Presentation’s Introduction). Without that framework, your presentation will be harder to follow. The last thing you want is for an executive audience to feel confused or lost at the end of your presentation.

Third, be sure to state your recommendation in an appropriate way. You don’t have to say that your audience must take a certain action. You could, for example, frame your recommendation as something that will help them make the decision they have to make.

So think of your recommendation as a necessary part of your presentation and an opportunity to show your expertise. Hopefully this will make it feel less awkward when you present to your executives.

By Sarah Stocker, Trainer and Workshop Coordinator at Turpin Communication

Using PowerPoint Transitions

August 25, 2009 in Dale Ludwig, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Improving Your Visual Aids

I really like the way some presenters use PowerPoint to transition from one topic to the next.  They seem so smooth.  What can I do to be more like that?

PowerPoint transitions can look very nice, but don’t assume they replace the work you have to do as you move from one section of your presentation to the next.  In fact, many well-planned PowerPoint transitions fail during delivery because presenters get too wrapped up in the process to remember how to use them.  As a result the transitions get in the way and annoy everyone.

Remember, a good transition connects what has been said to what’s coming up.  That does a couple things.  First, it reinforces the logical flow of your argument.  Second, and this is what a lot of presenters don’t think about, it also reinforces the structure of your presentation.  What’s the difference between the two?

The logical flow of your presentation has to do with how the ideas you’re presenting build on each other.  Obviously you didn’t organize the information you’re presenting randomly.  It’s in the order it’s in because it makes sense that way, or because it’s more persuasive that way.  Whatever the reason behind how the data flows, a good transition refers to it.  For example, “The next thing I’d like to talk about is how we reach the second quarter goals I’ve listed here.”  You don’t need a PowerPoint transition to communicate that idea.

Reinforcing the structure of your presentation is slightly different.  It’s like a chapter break in a book, or a number in an outline.  It lets listeners know where you are in the overall presentation.  This is important because it makes you sound organized and gives listeners a sense of how much longer your presentation will be (and let’s face it, that’s important).

The thing to do is to stay engaged with your listeners and do what you can to lead them through the presentation.  Always assume they’re a little distracted and need a little help connecting the dots.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication