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”

Why We Do What We Do (Part 1 of 4)

April 3, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

A Discussion of Turpin Communication’s Core Principles:
The Orderly Conversation

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin CommunicationThis post and the three to follow will focus on Turpin’s core principles. For those of you familiar with the work we do, this will be a review of ideas and processes you’ve already heard about. For other readers of The Trainers’ Notebook, these entries will describe what differentiates us from other presentation and facilitation skills training companies. Or, to put it another way, this series will answer the question, “Why do we do things the way we do them?”

I’ll start at the most fundamental level. Our first core principle is that a business presentation is an Orderly Conversation. This term became part of Turpin’s methodology several years ago. We adopted it because the term “presentation” is used to describe many different things, and the resources available to business presenters fail to differentiate among them.

That has left business presenters struggling with issues that can be traced back to the type of communication they’re involved in. Recommendations designed for a keynote address or a TED Talk, for example, are not those a business presenter can or should apply. The communication process itself is too different for that to work.

We’re trying to correct that by helping business presenters understand the unique challenge they face. Presentations succeed when presenters initiate a conversation with their audience and keep that conversation focused, efficient, and easy to follow. What makes a presentation a Conversation will always compete with what makes it Orderly, but the tension between the two is also what makes a presentation succeed. This applies to the whole range of communication situations business people face—live presentations, virtual meetings, training sessions, and even performance reviews.

The good news is our new way of looking at presenting has resonated with our clients. Once presenters know exactly what they’re dealing with, lots of other issues fall into place. How that happens has helped us answer some very important questions. Among them:

  • Why do individual presenters improve along different paths?
  • What’s the best way to manage nervousness?
  • What’s the difference between an interactive presentation and a facilitated discussion? What’s the best way to manage them?

I’ll talk about each of these questions and their influence on our core principles in the upcoming posts.

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

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

A College Student’s Perspective on Presentation Skills Training

March 9, 2011 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, News, Preparation


The newest member of the Turpin Team is a college freshman named Conor. Conor works for us part time as a researcher and, in the summer, a video production assistant. Like everyone at Turpin, regardless of responsibilities, Conor was asked to participate in one of our individual enrollment workshops. The experience, I knew, would give him context for the research he was doing. I wasn’t too worried about putting him in a class with people much older and experienced than he was because Conor’s a smart and confident guy.

The great thing was that Conor’s presentation was a huge success. He adapted a report he had done the previous semester for an ancient philosophy class. He reorganized the information using Turpin’s organizational strategy and delivered it beautifully.

Here’s a note we got from Conor after he was back at school.

Dear Dale and Greg,
Before I get too far into this semester, I want to take the time to thank you for all you did for me during the individual enrollment workshop January 11th and 12th. You were patient, helpful, and best of all, fun to work with. Plus, I learned a lot from watching and getting feedback from the other people in the class.

As a university student, I wasn’t really sure if the Presentation Skills Workshop was going to have any impact in my daily life. The class is designed for business presenters, and I’m still delivering in-class presentations to my peers and an instructor. But I’ve already noticed a difference in the way I communicate, even though I’m only a few weeks into Spring semester. From having to present maybe a few bullet points in front of a small classroom, to my graded speeches in front of larger classes, I am more confident, clear and poised. I’ve also gotten great feedback from my classmates and instructors, which is especially nice.

The best thing is I feel like I have a real advantage over other students when it comes to presenting now. Thanks a lot for that!

Sincerely,
Conor

What I’m really happy to see is that the workshop had a practical application for Conor, even if he is a few years away from graduation.

What out-of-the-ordinary presentation situations can we help you with?

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Hands on Hips — OK or Not?

November 4, 2010 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked

Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President of Turpin Communication

Discussions on LinkedIn often revolve around public speaking.  This one in particular caught my eye.  It was posted in the Public Speaking Network group and is about whether or not it’s OK to put your hands on your hips.

The gist of the question was this:
Is it wrong for speakers to place their hands on their hips?  I believe it’s a negative gesture and perhaps somewhat condescending.  Any thoughts?

Answers ranged from “yes, it’s the worst thing you can do” to “who cares where you put your hands.”

My response:

As a presentation/facilitation skills trainer & coach, I get questions about gestures all the time.

The answer is not so much what’s “right,” but what’s natural for the speaker.  Manufactured gestures and stances look phony.  Audiences don’t want phony.  They want real.

But how to become comfortable enough so that the real you comes out?

The solution is to engage your listeners in a thoughtful two-way conversation.  Look them in the eyes.  Look for their reactions.  Respond accordingly.   Soon enough you won’t be thinking about the placement of your hands, you’ll be thinking about the conversation.

All that said, there are times when certain gestures can convey the wrong thing.  Hands on hips is one of those, so is hands in pockets.  But you need to start with engagement, which will provide you with awareness so that you’ll know instinctively what’s appropriate and how to adapt to any given situation.

We use this slogan in our workshops and it really resonates with business people.

Find your focus.  Be yourself.  Only better.

What are your thoughts?  Post them below.

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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:

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

Provide Structure through your Presentation’s Introduction

March 16, 2010 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Introduction, Preparation, Presentation

As you know, a well-organized presentation has three parts: introduction, body and conclusion.

  1. The introduction gives your audience a sense of direction and purpose, and a reason to listen.
  2. The body is, of course, the main part of your presentation, where you deliver the details of your topic.
  3. The conclusion summarizes what you’ve said, outlines next steps and closes the sale, if necessary.

Because it’s natural for presenters to focus most of their time on the body of their presentations, they often miss the chance to take advantage of what their introductions can do.

The process of developing an introduction helps the presenter zero in on the core issues.
If you’ve participated in one of our workshops, some of this should seem familiar. While most presenters understand that a good introduction helps listeners get motivated and focused, what they often don’t realize is that the process of creating an introduction also helps them.

As I said above, the first minute or so of your presentation should provide purpose, direction and a reason to listen. The result is that your introduction gives listeners confidence in you as a presenter. It tells them that you know what you’re doing, you’ve done your homework and you’re aware of their perspective. And, most important, that you’re in charge of the presentation of information and not just the information itself. The distinction is crucial. It’s one of the things that distinguishes confident, engaged presenters from those who are trapped in their own little bubble at the front of the room and never break out of it.

From your perspective as a presenter, the process of preparing an introduction forces you to zero in on the core issues of your presentation. When you really think about what your presentation means to your audience – independent of what it means to you – you’ll have an easier time narrowing your focus, articulating a simple agenda and eliminating unnecessary information. The benefits of that process will be felt throughout your presentation, and the way to make it happen is by disciplining yourself to create a concise  introduction.

The Four Parts
The first step is to break your introduction down into 4 steps and create a slide for each one, making sure that you use brief, parallel bullet points on each slide:

  1. Title. The title of your presentation should be meaningful, referring to the goal of your presentation or one of the benefits listeners will gain from it.
  2. Current situation. This is a brief description of what’s going on with your audience at the beginning of your presentation. Sometimes it describes their frame of mind or a problem they’re facing. The more accurate the current situation, the more credibility you have.
  3. Statement of Purpose (or Recommendation in a persuasive situation)  & Agenda. You can determine the purpose of your agenda by completing this sentence, “At the end of my presentation, I want my audience to (what)?” Your agenda should contain the 3 to 5 main topics you plan to cover.
  4. Benefits to Audience. This slide lists what your audience will gain by doing what you’re asking them to do or understanding what you want them to understand.

Hanging It All Together
Once you’ve created these four slides, try them out to see if they work together to achieve the goals of a good introduction. You may find that you’d like to remove or rearrange slides depending on your topic, audience or goals. That’s fine. Just be sure that the final version of your introduction can be delivered in about a minute and gives your audience purpose, direction and a reason to listen.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication


Learn more at www.TurpinCommunication.com and www.OnlinePresentationSkillsTraining.com

Which Hat to Wear? SME or Trainer?

March 2, 2010 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Training

This post was inspired by a train-the-trainer session Dale Ludwig and I led two weeks ago.  We were working with a group of SMEs (subject matter experts) in the insurance industry as they prepared to deliver enterprise-wide training sessions.

Of course the SMEs knew a lot about their topics.  The problem was they wanted to share most of it with their trainees.  This desire is typical not only when training, but when delivering every-day presentations as well.  So, during the training session, we helped the SMEs switch hats.  They needed to take off their favorite, most comfortable hat (the SME Hat), and put on a slightly less comfortable one (the Trainer Hat).

When you switch hats like this you’ll realize that trainees and every-day audiences don’t want or need to know everything you know.  (Nor do they have time for it.)  What they need is to be engaged in a well-developed, listener-focused, concise conversation.

So, put on your Trainer Hat the next time you develop a training session or presentation.  Get clear on your objectives.  Think about what your listeners need to learn from you in order to take the action you want them to take.  From there, create an agenda that includes only the information that will help you reach your goals.

One thing that happens when you take off your SME Hat is that you feel like you’re not demonstrating your expertise.  Don’t worry.  When you zero in on what your listeners need and want to know about your topic, they’ll feel like you really care about their perspective and understanding.  And that’s a good thing.

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


Need help preparing for your next presentation?  Take this online presentation skills course today: “Preparing a Presentation.”