“I Hate Dry Runs” (How To Make Training Prep Less Torturous)

September 14, 2016 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Myths Debunked, Posts for Buyers, Preparation, Talent Development, Training

Dale Ludwig, President of Turpin CommunicationRecently we were working with a group of trainers in a facilitation skills training workshop. During a conversation about how they preferred to prepare, one of them, we’ll call him Steve, said, “I hate dry runs, but we do them all the time. It’s a tortuous process for me.”

As a leader or manager of trainers, you have probably heard this type of grumbling yourself. You ask your team to do dry runs, though, because you want the training they deliver to meet your quality expectations and the business’s needs.

But it is true: dry runs, dress rehearsals, walk-throughs (whatever you call them) can be frustrating for your team. This is especially true if you’re preparing for learner interaction, facilitated discussions, and role-plays, all of which rely on an unknown learner contribution.

So, then, what is the best way to prepare to deliver training?

The answer to this question always begins with “It depends.” It depends on individual preferences. It depends on the amount of time available. It depends on how much your trainers already know about the topic. It depends on the technology and whether they’re working alone or in teams. In other words, there is no single best way to prepare. But there are three important things to keep in mind.

  1. Don’t have the team practice to be perfect

Training delivery cannot be perfected, and trying to make it so destroys the genuine connection between trainer and learner that is essential to the process. A trainer’s success is measured by the moment-to-moment reactions of individual learners. While one of these moments might be “perfect” for one person, it probably won’t be for others.  Assuming that it’s possible to string together a long string of these moments for a group of people is misguided.

  1. Don’t confuse rehearsal with other types of preparation

There are many ways to prepare. Some of them—memorization and rehearsal, for example—are inappropriate for trainers. Rehearsal is a process used by actors and musicians to nail down a performance. By repeating their performance over and over in the rehearsal room, they are able to recreate it on stage. This process undermines the training process and leads to stilted, inflexible, and disengaged delivery.

  1. Remember that everyone on the team is different

The goal of preparation is to build confidence and control, to make every trainer as comfortable as possible with the process that is going to take place. Given the complexity of that process, trainers’ needs will vary. Some thrive with a series of dry runs in the room where the training will take place; the approach that Steve, our workshop participant, would do anything to avoid. Others prefer talking through training content at their desks or while driving. Still others simply need to review the slides or outline to feel confident with the overall arc of the training day. Knowing which technique is best for your team requires knowing which approach gives them the control they need without stifling spontaneity.

Effective preparation requires, above all, understanding what the goal of preparation is and insight into what does and does not work for individual trainers. Whatever technique you use, remember that preparation should lead to a flexible, responsive learning conversation.

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

Adapting to the Needs of Adult Trainers

June 21, 2016 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training

Originally published on Training Industry’s blog June 15, 2016

Adapting to the Needs of Adult Trainers by Dale LudwigAs a training and development professional, you know that the work of designing and delivering training always focuses on the needs and perspectives of adult learners. Learner needs shape how information is organized, delivered and reinforced—the whole process from beginning to end.

You also know that a workshop’s success depends on the trainer’s ability to deliver it. What is often overlooked is that individual trainers, like individual learners, have unique needs. They have different preferences, concerns and coping mechanisms which must be kept in mind when coaching them to succeed. Let’s think of them as adult trainers.

Here are some ideas that will help them succeed.

Read the full article here.

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

Great Leaders and Great Trainers Have a Lot in Common

March 29, 2016 in Dale Ludwig, Talent Development, Training

Originally published by Training Industry’s blog March 9, 2016

Training Industry Trainers and LeadersIt might come as a surprise to say that trainers within an organization succeed with the same mindset and the same skills as the leaders of the organization. After all, leaders are the strategic, big-picture thinkers at the top of the organization. They have influence over people and the entire organization.

Trainers, on the other hand, focus on finding the most effective and efficient way to deliver information, facilitate change and develop employees. Their work is laser-focused on the needs, perspective, and, let’s face it, the reluctance of individual learners. Successful trainers know that the work they do often feels like an interruption to the learner’s work day.

As a result, trainers apply strong leadership strategies and skills. They just apply them in a narrower field than the people at the top.

  • Effective leaders do not give orders, they influence and guide.
  • Leaders earn trust.
  • Leaders welcome critical thinking.

Read the full article here.

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

3 Ways to Help SMEs Succeed in the Training Room

March 7, 2016 in Dale Ludwig, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training

Originally published by Training Industry’s blog Feb. 29, 2016

Subject matter experts should be a welcome sight in the training room. Their real-world knowledge and perspective brings depth and practicality to the learning process. The challenge, though, is that SMEs can’t do it alone. They need the support and guidance of learning leaders to succeed as trainers.

Here are three ideas to keep in mind.

  • TrainingIndustrySMEsHelp SMEs understand that when they’re in the training room, they wear two hats, “SME” and “trainer.”
  • Encourage SMEs to draw their enthusiasm from their learners and the learning process.
  • When learning designs include exercises or activities, be sure to set the SME up for successful execution.

Read the full article here.

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

Lecture is not a four-letter word: 3 ways to succeed when you’re doing the talking

September 9, 2015 in Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Myths Debunked, Talent Development, Training

I had a conversation over the backyard fence with one of my neighbors a couple days ago. She was home for the weekend after her first two weeks of college. The conversation focused on the campus, her new roommate, and her classes. As far as the classes are concerned, she said that most of them were large lectures, an entirely new experience for her, and one that was going to take some time getting used to.

That got me thinking about my freshman year. I remember sitting through a lot of lectures. Some of them good. Some of them difficult to listen to.

Those of us in learning and development hardly ever use the term “lecture.” It’s a bit of a pariah, equated with boredom and what’s called death by PowerPoint. The assumption by most trainers and learning designers is that lectures are always dull. So, when they do occur (as they must), they have to be enlivened with exercises, activities, energizers—anything to break the monotony of listening to the instructor speak. Too often, this leads to wasted time and learner frustration.

It shouldn’t be this way. Delivering information through lecture is not only efficient, it also allows for nuance. Good lecturers are able to adapt what they say to the group’s perspective, emphasizing relevance and context when they are not immediately obvious. [Tweet “Delivering information through lecture is not only efficient, it also allows for nuance.”]

For example, let’s say that you’re involved in onboarding new employees. One of your jobs is to deliver a class focusing on the industry as a whole. It involves a lot of history, competitor research, differentiators in the market, a lot of information that new employees should know—although it isn’t entirely clear to them why they need to know it now. If you were to have them read this information instead of hearing about it from an instructor, they may not be able to put it in context. A lecture about this information, delivered well, would do that. It would help the audience make sense of and prioritize their learning.

Another example involves the use of Subject Matter Experts in the classroom. SMEs bring depth of knowledge and experience to the lecture format. Done well, their lectures can bring complex information to life. (Which, come to think of it, explains why some well-regarded university professors are terrible teachers: They are SMEs who never learned how to lecture.)

Three keys to lecturing well
So what can we do to make this type of delivery better? How can lecturing be a useful, effective, even an enjoyable part of the training process? Here are three ways to do it.

  1. Understand that lectures are not speeches. They are a type of conversation. You may wonder if it’s possible to have a conversation when you’re doing most of the talking. It is. Just stay focused on your learners and their responses—verbal and nonverbal. If you’re using a script (memorized or not) or relying heavily on your notes, stop it. Speak spontaneously, just as you would if you were delivering the training information to a single individual.
  2. Draw your energy from the group. Trainers often say to us that the information they’re delivering is boring. They assume that bringing any amount of energy or enthusiasm to its delivery is impossible because the content is dull. I don’t buy that. The enthusiasm you bring to the process doesn’t come from what you’re saying. It comes from your desire to explain what the information means to the learners. It’s about your desire to make them feel that it’s relevant and useful. [Tweet “The enthusiasm … comes from your desire to explain what the information means to the learners.”]
  3. Make it easy to listen and remember. The surest way to lose people during a lecture is to ignore purpose, context, and structure.
    • Emphasize what you want learners to take away from the lecture. Be specific. This goal is not the goal of the entire class, just the lecture you’re delivering.
    • Put the information you’re talking about in the context of their work. Why is it important to them? Be specific and practical.
    • Give them an agenda. If your learners were taking notes based on your lecture, the notes should be a clear reflection of your outline. Again, think about how easy it was to take notes in some college courses and how impossible it was in others. Be the lecturer who communicates structure and emphasizes priorities.

Listening to one person deliver information even for just a few minutes can be a major challenge. But avoiding any sort of sustained delivery of information—or interrupting it too often to “energize” the group—isn’t the answer. The key is to stay focused on your listeners’ and their needs.

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

Introducing the New Workshop Catalog by Turpin Communication

September 1, 2015 in Greg Owen-Boger, News, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Talent Development, The Orderly Conversation, Training

At Turpin Communication, we recognize the complexity and challenges of the work our clients do. Because of this, our workshops have always been highly tailored to the unique situations they face.

Now, we’ve made it easier for you to recognize how we can help you meet your business goals.

Workshop Catalog 2015The New Workshop Catalog

We’ve broken the new workshop catalog into three categories to match the type of speakers we work with: Business Presenters, Meeting Facilitators, and Trainers. Each of those categories is further broken down to focus on a specific type of speaker or business goal. For example:

Presentation Training for Sales Professionals focuses on the practical skills it takes to facilitate high-stakes sales situations.

Presenting to Leadership and Other Decision Makers provides foundation-level training to help participants speak clearly and concisely to time-crunched executives.

Does your team need to work on their executive presence? We’ve got you covered.

Do your managers have to collaborate with virtual teams? We have support for that too.

We also have workshops designed to help new and “accidental” trainers be more effective in the training room.

Learn More

This is only a sampling of the 28 newly designed and updated workshops we now offer. We invite you to take a peek at all of our workshop titles. Then give us a call so that we can tailor training to meet the exact needs of your team.

About Turpin Communication

Turpin Communication is a distinctly different presentation and facilitation skills training company, and we’re dedicated to helping people get business done.

If you’re familiar with our work, you know that we are guided by three principles:

  1. Presentations are less like speeches and more like Orderly Conversations.
  2. Our approach preserves every presenter’s personality and natural communication style. We call it: Find your focus. Be Yourself. Only better.
  3. Business presentations succeed on two levels: (1) was the goal met? And (2), did the speaker create the conditions for a fruitful conversation to take place?

More detail about our guiding principles and how they can be applied to your work can be found on the home page of Turpin Communication.

Most of what I know about learning and development, I learned from 10th graders

March 5, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Facilitation, Meetings, Preparation, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

A_TEACHER_TALKS_TO_HIS_STUDENTS_IN_A_CLASSROOM_AT_CATHEDRAL_HIGH_SCHOOL_IN_NEW_ULM,_MINNESOTA._THE_TOWN_IS_A_COUNTY..._-_NARA_-_558210I often make the comment in workshops—especially when the class is for internal trainers or SMEs preparing to lead their own workshops—that the best teacher-training I ever received occurred at my first job, the three years I worked as a high school English teacher. No group of learners of any age or occupation is more brutally honest. No group has been more willing to tell me exactly what I was doing wrong in the moment as a classroom full of 15-year-olds. It was a humbling and great experience.

I know the Learning and Development field makes a clear distinction between child learners and adult learners (pedagogy vs. andragogy), and I won’t go into my concerns about those distinctions here. But I will say that what I learned in the high school classroom about what learners want and need from teachers is absolutely relevant for adults.

Here’s a breakdown.

1. They don’t want to be there.
High school English students don’t care about what you are there to teach, and they have no problem letting you know it. Some might acknowledge the benefit of knowing how to write clearly. Some might like to read. Some of them might even like to write. But from their perspective, those activities aren’t what sitting in class every day is about. Being in class every day was about the drudgery of secondary education.

I learned to respect this attitude as an honest, reasonable response to their circumstance. To do otherwise would be to assume that every student walked into my classroom ready, willing, and excited to learn. Which is absurd.

Business application: Business people are in a similar situation. Sometimes this has to do with questioning the need for what they are about to learn or the manner in which it is going to be delivered. It’s important to remember that they are also being taken away from their regular jobs to participate in training. As learning and development professionals, we must anticipate resistance and do all we can to be as efficient and relevant as possible. Remember: training is not a gift everyone wants. It’s work that takes people away from what they consider their real work.

2. Be very careful when asking for any type of activity or interaction.
I learned very quickly that the variety of teaching methods I had been taught to use—group activities, games, any type of self-directed work, all meant to enhance learning—were land mines. Sometimes this simply meant the students refused to take the exercise seriously. At other times, the class exploded in fits of reckless disregard for whatever I was asking them to do.

I learned that there are two reasons for this.

“Why should I bother?”
It is best to assume that asking students to participate directly in any way—from answering a question to participating in an activity—is an infringement on what they consider their right to sit silently at their desks. Active participation is work. Recognizing this is essential. There must always be a benefit for participation that is relevant for them.

“Is this going to put me at risk in front of my peers?”
For a 15-year-old, the biggest risk they face is embarrassment in front of peers. Think back to when you were that age. Most of your energy was probably channeled toward keeping up whatever appearance you chose to project. So anything you ask students to do in class that will set them apart, embarrass them, or make them look bad to others must be avoided.

Business application: When it comes to the things we ask learners to do in a workshop, are adults any different from the 10th graders? As we age do we somehow become more willing to suck it up and make the effort in the classroom? More willing to face embarrassment? I don’t think so. We’re just better at hiding our frustration and fear. Again, it comes down to relevance and efficiency. Will this activity, from an icebreaker to a table discussion, help me do my job? Will it be an efficient use of my time? If not, throw it out.

3. They expect you to be in charge and do your job.
Needless to say, the relationship between teacher and student is complicated. On one hand, sophomores want to be treated fairly and with respect. At 15, they are the center of each of their universes, so it’s important to keep their perspective in mind. On the other hand, they want you to lead them. They know that you are the one in charge, and they want you to act like it. This doesn’t mean that the teacher should rule with an iron fist, of course. It means that students know that things will go a lot more smoothly for them if you take the reins.

This was one of the most difficult things I had to learn because it involves an unspoken agreement. No student will ever say, “Please take charge. Please be the manager and leader this class needs.” But if they feel you have dropped the ball, you will know it. Every day in every class I learned that the first thing my students wanted me to do was take control—in spite of the fact that they themselves were the ones always struggling for control themselves.

Business application: For learning and development professionals this has to do with communicating that whatever you are about to do in the classroom is going to be managed well–you are not going to waste their time and you are not going to make them work harder than they have to. This is the “process goal” we talk about in our presentation skills workshops. When we apply it to trainers, it means that learners are more likely to buy into the training you’re delivering if they feel they can trust you. When they do, you will create the conditions for learning to take place.

[Tweet “Learners are more likely to buy into the training if they feel they can trust you”]

dale_ludwig_hi-res_colorI didn’t last very long in the high school classroom. Leaving, though, was not about the students or their attitudes. Working with them was the best part of the job, and what they taught me has served me well ever since.

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

Turpin Leadership to Host/Moderate Chicagoland’s Annual January ATD Chapter Event

January 6, 2015 in News, Talent Development, Training, Uncategorized

January 15th is going to be a big day for Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin Communication’s leadership duo. They will be intimately involved with the annual January meeting of the Association for Talent Development, Chicagoland Chapter (ATDChi).


greg_owen_boger_300Greg, who also serves as its President, will host the event. Dale will moderate a panel discussion with the topic of “Earning L&D’s Seat at the Decision-Making Table.”

dale_ludwig_300“As consultants, we’re often called in to assess the effectiveness of our clients’ trainers and programs. We see a lot of effective and not-so effective behaviors, both inside and outside the training room. So, I have a good idea for the whys and why-nots of earning a seat at the table,” said Dale. “It will be interesting to hear what others have to say.”

The panel is made up of four impressive individuals that serve the Learning & Development field in a variety of ways. They are:

Barry Altland

Author and Thought Leader at Head, Heart and Hands Engagement Collective, Past President of ATD, Central Florida Chapter

Specialty: Learning and Organizational Development, Volunteer Engagement and Leadership


Terri Pearce, SPHR

Board Member ATD National and Executive Vice President, Human Resources, (with a seat at the table) at HSBC North America

Specialty: Learning, Talent, Resourcing and Organizational Development, and Succession Planning


Pamela Meyer, Ph.D.

Director, Center to Advance Education for Adults at DePaul University School for New Learning, Speaker, Consultant and Author of “From Workplace to Playspace: Innovating, Learning and Changing Through Dynamic Engagement.”

Specialty: Organizational Agility and Innovation

Deb Pastors, MS, MOB

President of Education Development Growth Enterprises and Past President of CCASTD

Specialty: Leadership and Organizational Development


The event, which will be at Fountain Blue in Des Plaines, promises to be full of interesting conversations and excellent networking opportunities.

To register for the event, visit: www.atdchi.org

How Is a Training Session Like a Baby Shower? (Hint: It’s not a good thing.)

August 11, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Myths Debunked, Training

Dale Ludwig, author, The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations RedefinedI ran across an article online by Christy O’Shoney entitled, “Baby shower games are insane: How our obsession with celebrating moms-to-be got totally out of control.” As I read the article it became clear that what O’Shoney is talking about, what she describes as the recent escalation of forced fun at baby showers, is exactly the sort of thing we talk about concerning the use of pointless games and other supposedly “fun” activities in training sessions.

Here are three of the points O’Shoney made and the similarities they share with training sessions.

  1. Childlike games are played by adult women. This is a basic point. There is a disconnect between the games played and the people playing them. If fun is to be had (and there’s nothing wrong with breaking up the monotony of watching the soon-to-be-mother open gifts), why not make it age-appropriate? When I read this I thought of the ball-tossing exercise I was forced to participate in at a recent training event. As O’Shoney points out, the guests at the shower “are real adults with careers and depth of experience, yet we are determined to infantilize all of them.”
  2. Shower games insult the guests’ intelligence and the prize is a candle or a crappy trinket. Since the games that are brought into training sessions are part of a serious business process, shouldn’t the games, if they’re used, be challenging? Shouldn’t they enrich learning and be worth the investment of time and the good will of the participant? Too often they’re little more than an attempt to bring variety for variety’s sake. And the prizes? Do we really need a candy bar or another logo t-shirt?
  3. I’m willing to bet that I’m not the only one with a disdain for these games. O’Shoney mentions the solidarity she often feels with other shower guests over the games they’re forced to play. This happens in the training room as well. When a game is set up, there are always those who are clearly not into it. Are they party-poopers? Are they failing to live up to their training responsibilities? No, they just hate time-wasting, irrelevant forced fun.

Even if you’ve never been to a baby shower (and I never have), you’ll enjoy O’Shoney’s article. To paraphrase her final point, let’s stop kidding ourselves with these games. We are grown people, and we should respect our colleagues enough not to subject them to pointless, silly games.

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

Coaching SMEs to be Expert Facilitators of Learning

May 13, 2014 in Author, Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training

UPDATE: Back By Popular Demand

Greg’s been asked back to deliver this same session two more times at the 2015 Association for Talent Development International Conference & Exposition (ATD ICE).

ASTD ICE 5-13-14I had the pleasure of speaking at the ASTD (renamed ATD mid-conference) International Conference & Exposition in Washington, DC last week. The audience for my session included instructional designers and leaders within the training & development function. The topic was about ways to coach SMEs to be more effective in the training room.

The session, as you can see from the picture, was packed. Over 200 people attended, and more would have joined had the room moderator not closed the door and turned people away. I was reminded (again) how hungry the training industry is for help working with their Subject Matter Experts.

Why Bother with SMEs?
There’s good reason to involve SMEs in the training process. They bring credibility, depth, and enterprise-wide perspective. They can also cause frustration for everyone involved, including the learner. And when learners are frustrated, learning doesn’t happen as fully or as efficiently as it should.[Tweet “when #learners are frustrated, #learning doesn’t happen as fully or as efficiently as it should.”]

The Challenge We See
In our experience, working with SMEs to improve their effectiveness in the training room, my colleagues and I have discovered a few things:

  • Materials, slides, and facilitator guides are rarely created with the SME’s delivery style and experience level in mind.
  • SMEs want to do a good job as trainers, but they don’t fully understand what the job is and what’s expected of them.
  • They usually focus too much on the information rather than the application of the information to their learners’ jobs.
  • They don’t understand how to frame the information to provide proper context to the learners.
  • They often aren’t given proper training.

In short, organizations aren’t setting the SMEs up for success. They’re not getting the resources they need to be effective presenters and facilitators of learning. This, in turn, leads to dull learning events and the loss of learners’ good will.

The Solution
Let’s not beat up on SMEs too much. They mean well, but they need help.

On the instructional design side, they need materials designed to support them and their unique needs. Design elements that work for professional trainers don’t necessarily work for others outside the industry.

In the training room, once the session starts, they need to understand that they wear two hats.

  1. The Expert Hat is the obvious hat that they wear. This is the one they wear when they are talking about data, details, and their area of expertise.
  2. The Trainer Hat is less obvious, but a much more important hat. This is the hat they need to put on to provide context, connect dots, and to facilitate learning and the application of the information to the learners’ jobs.

Once they understand their dual purpose in the training room, SMEs are much better able to facilitate learning.

Contact us at info@turpincommunication.com to learn how we can help your SMEs be more effective in the training room.

Postscript #1: SMEs From the Ground Up
I was glad my session at ATD ICE was on Tuesday because that gave me an opportunity to sit in on Chuck Hodell’s session on Monday. He wrote the recent book SMEs From the Ground Up. If you work with SMEs, I highly recommend it. He has some fresh thinking that’s well worth taking a look at. During his session, Chuck talked about ways to manage SME relationships, set expectations, and celebrate their accomplishments.

Perhaps his most impressive thinking, though, is around redefining who the SMEs are on any given project. He writes, “… SMEs are both content-related and process-related. The programmer, the writer, the teacher/trainer and the manager are all SMEs in ways that matter in our work. Identifying and working with all of these specific types of SMEs provides endless possibilities for improved products and processes.”

Postscript #2: Is that Flat Stanley in the Picture Above?
Yes! Not only did I get to speak with 200 learning & development professionals, I got to do it with my Great Nephew Jayce’s Flat Stanley! It’s a cool project. If you’re not familiar with Flat Stanley, click this link: https://www.flatstanley.com/about

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