For Leaders Who Expect Better Communication from Employees: 5 Ways to Achieve It

April 18, 2016 in Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings, Posts for Buyers, Preparation, Training

2 levelsAs a leader, you expect your employees’ business communication to be effective and efficient. But is it?

Too often, it’s not. (I’ve written about the business implications here.)  However, it doesn’t have to be that way. To be effective and efficient, business interactions must succeed on two levels. Helping your employees understand this concept is the first step toward improving their communication,  whether it takes place during meetings, presentations, training sessions, important one-on-ones, informal hallway discussions, and even voicemails, instant messaging, and email.

The first level of success is easy for employees to understand. It’s about achieving the goal—being clear, concise, and persuasive enough so that others buy, agree, align, or learn.

The second level is also easy to understand, but more challenging to master. This level is about skillfully managing the process so that a fruitful conversation takes place and business gets done. This level is about ease and efficiency.

5 elements contribute to the second level of success.

1. Create the conditions for a fruitful conversation
Business rarely gets done through one-way communication. It requires a rich dialogue and conclusions drawn from multiple points of view. This means that the leader of the conversation must find ways to encourage others to contribute. This is more than saying, “Please ask questions,” or “What do you think?” It’s about creating a safe environment for people to share their thoughts freely and without judgment. Empathy, silence, and good listening all play a role.

2. Establish context
It’s common for people to show up to a meeting or presentation not knowing why they were invited or what they’re supposed to accomplish. Effective communicators establish context from the very beginning. They explain (even when it seems obvious) why the meeting has been called, what they’re trying to accomplish, and what’s led the group to this point already. Here’s an example: “Thanks for joining the meeting today. As we all know, we have a problem in the supply chain. Our goal today is to understand the variables so that we can fix the problem and get the manufacturing floor back up and running quickly.” Sometimes the context is mundane, but important to establish nonetheless. “Good Monday morning. Welcome to the staff meeting. There’s a lot going on this week, and I want to make sure we’re all ready for what’s coming. Let’s get started.”

3. Earn trust and goodwill
Nobody wants to go to another meeting where they feel their time is wasted. Over time, the leader of these meetings can chew through an awful lot of trust and goodwill. “Not Larry again…” If you feel a direct report is turning into a Larry, address it swiftly. Explain that time is money, and that their disorganization is causing frustration.

4. Make it easy for colleagues to participate in the conversation
Making decisions isn’t always easy, but the process of making them doesn’t have to be confusing. Likewise, a team update shouldn’t be difficult to follow. Every meeting needs structure and clarity. Agendas should be used. Supporting documents should be clear. Graphics should be clearly labeled and easy to grasp. If meeting attendees have to work too hard to understand the basics, they may give up.

5. Manage the give and take of the interaction
Meetings are a process, not a product. This means that the give and take of the conversation is an integral part of them. It also means that meetings can get messy. A little mess is OK. Slogging through the muck can often uncover important discoveries that lead to better outcomes. However, if things get too messy, the goal can get lost and everyone can feel stuck. Employees must learn to strike a balance between allowing too much conversation and controlling it too much. Often, simply acknowledging the situation can help control it, for example, “We’ve talked through a lot of issues, let me summarize so that we can move on.” Another example might be: “You’ve brought up a terrific point, and I think we should talk more about that. We’ve got 20 minutes left, and we still have two more agenda points to cover. Let’s make a group decision. Should we continue down this path, or table it for now so that we can end on time?”

Meetings cannot be perfected. But business shouldn’t grind to a halt because they are poorly facilitated. Using the concepts outlined here will help you coach your team to more effective and efficient communication. [Tweet “Meetings can’t be perfected. But things shouldn’t grind to a halt due to poor facilitation.”]

How else have you solved poor communication at work?

Dale Ludwig, Turpin Communication’s Founder, applied this concept specifically to presentations. Read what he had to say.

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

Webinar Recording from PresentationXpert

June 23, 2015 in Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings, News, Preparation, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Video, Virtual

PresentationXpertGreg Owen-Boger, Turpin Communication’s VP and Dale Ludwig’s co-author, was invited to talk about The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined as part of the PresentationXpert Webinar Wednesday series.

There were a lot of great questions asked during the session, and it’s becoming abundantly clear that there’s a huge need in the business world to improve efficiency and effectiveness of presentations, meetings, and training sessions.

Here’s what a few people had to say after the webinar:

“Amazing … I cannot thank you enough for the amazing and professional job you did in today’s webinar.”
Sharyn Fitzpatrick, Webinar Chick, Marcom Gurus

“Nice to see a pro in action.”
Dave Zielinski, Editor, PresentationXpert

View the recording from the June 17, 2015 webinar hosted by PresentationXpert.


About the Book

The Orderly Conversation is a groundbreaking resource for business presenters.

It offers a new approach to the getting-business-done presentations you deliver – an approach that’s more appropriate for the real world of business and more practical for every type of presenter and presentation.

The business presentations you deliver are not static or one-way. They are an exchange of information that have much more in common with informal conversations than formal speeches. They require a preparation process that looks ahead to the conversation that will take place and a delivery process that is flexible and responsive.

The authors’ goal with this book is to call out many traditional assumptions about what it takes to succeed and replace them with something better.

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”

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”

I hate using my webcam in virtual meetings and training sessions. Any advice?

November 19, 2012 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Presentation, Video, Virtual

In this video, Greg Owen-Boger, VP of Turpin Communication, offers up advice on how to work with your webcam during virtual meetings and training sessions.