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”

What’s the Presentation Rule for…?

March 15, 2011 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, FAQs, Myths Debunked


During every workshop we’re asked about rules. Some of them we’ve addressed here on The Orderly Conversation Blog:

Other common rule questions focus on:

  • The best place to stand in the room
  • Whether and when to deliver a presentation seated
  • How long eye contact should be

While it would be nice if every aspect of the presentation process could be boiled down to a simple up or down rule, it’s not possible.

So our response, as I’m sure you can guess, is, “It depends.” The right answer always depends on context, the needs of the audience and the presenter’s habits and preferences.

Rules Confuse the Situation
The problem is that there are so many rules floating around they confuse the situation. While they look simple and executable, they often aren’t. So in an attempt to clear things up a bit, what follows is a list of rule categories. See if any of them look familiar.

  1. Some rules are actually goals:
    A lot of the rules people apply to the presentation process aren’t rules at all. They’re goals. “Be enthusiastic” is a goal. As is “be sure to adapt your content to your audience” and “don’t let the Q&A session get away from you.” Everyone shares these goals. Because they don’t focus on specific behaviors, they don’t really help. I could say to the person driving away from your house, “Be safe,” but all I’m really doing is wishing them well. No one would confuse “be safe” with a driving tip.
  2. Some rules don’t apply:
    Many rules prescribe certain behaviors. “Try not to say, ‘you know’ so much,” “don’t fidget,” and “no more than five bullet points per slide” are examples. The problem with these rules is that they may not be relevant for everyone. Making the effort to follow them could make the process more complicated than it needs to be. For example, if the person driving away from my house is my 85-year-old mother, saying, “Don’t go over the speed limit” is completely irrelevant. Unless it’s meant ironically.
  3. Rules that make things worse:
    Some rules come from an attempt to make presenters feel more comfortable, but they don’t work. “If you have trouble looking people in the eye, focus your eye contact on the back wall,” is a classic example of this. So is “use a pointer if you want to look more professional” and “leave your hands at your sides because gestures are distracting.” These rules need to be thrown out. They are built on faulty assumptions and encourage a flawed approach to the process.

This brings me to a fourth category I’ll call Your Rules. Your rules are useful. They describe specific behaviors—things you can do in the moment to be more successful. One of your rules might be to “pause a little longer than you feel is necessary at the beginning of your presentation” because you know that doing so helps you breathe and think. Or “move to the screen to point something out on your slide” because you know that you need to loosen up and gesture more freely. Your rules aren’t for everyone, but they work for you.

Successful presenters understand their individual, personal response to the presentation environment and have developed rules that will work for them. They are the result of an objective perspective, careful assessment and experimentation.

What rules have you tried to follow? Did they work?

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication