Trainers: Let’s Retire the “Gotcha”

October 4, 2016 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training

Originally published on Training Industry’s blog September 28, 2016

Trainers: Let's Retire the "Gotcha" by Dale LudwigThere’s a common facilitation technique used in training situations that needs to go away. Let’s call it the “Gotcha.” This technique intentionally leads learners to fail in some way, by leading them either to an incorrect answer or to fail an activity. Sometimes it’s used as an engagement or attention-grabbing technique. Other times, it’s used to test learners’ prior knowledge or highlight deficiencies in their understanding.

While these are respectable goals, the Gotcha can destroy the trust and goodwill of learners. Here are a couple examples.

Read the full article here.

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

Coach Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to Understand Their Dual Role in the Training Room

August 17, 2016 in Greg Owen-Boger, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training, Video

In this video, produced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, discusses why Subject Matter Experts need guidance when asked to step into a training role.


“I think the biggest challenge working with subject matter experts in the training room is that they simply don’t understand their dual role. That is, of course, that of Subject Matter Expert, but also that of trainer. And once they understand that there’s a very big difference between the two, and that by wearing the trainer hat they need to provide relevance, context, and on the job application, they’re more likely to succeed. And, ultimately, they need to understand that it’s not enough just to say the words. Those words need to be heard and understood.”

Practicing to Deliver Perfect Training? Stop It

August 8, 2016 in Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Talent Development, Training

Originally published on Training Industry’s blog July 26, 2016

Practicing to Deliver Perfect Training? Stop It. Dale LudwigGiven all the work leading up to a training session—assessing business and learner needs, instructional design, slide creation, and so on—it would be easy to assume that the preparation process is well understood and consistently executed. And it is, up to a certain point. However, there is often one step in the process where it is not. That is the step between design and delivery. At that step trainers make a variety of choices about how to get ready for delivery, based on habit, their level of confidence with training content, and time.

For many trainers, choices are guided by the notion that “Practice Makes Perfect.” You’ve probably heard team members say, “I know we’re pressed for time, but let’s try to fit in a few dry runs.” Or after a workshop you may have heard, “If only we’d had more time to practice…” The problem is that practicing in this way is not the solution and often part of the problem.

Read the full article here.

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

Throw Out the Ground Rules: 5 Things Learners Want Us to Know

May 25, 2016 in Dale Ludwig, Talent Development, Training

Have you ever attended a training event at work that began with the trainer delivering a set of ground rules for the class? If the answer is yes, the rules probably sounded like this.

Good morning everyone! Before we get started, let me go over a few ground rules for today’s class. First, and most important, please make an effort to be present and focused. To help with that, please silence your cell phones. There will be time during breaks to check emails and texts. Finally, remember that the best learning happens when there is interaction. Please ask questions whenever you have them.

If you’re a trainer, have you ever delivered rules like these? I know I have. But I stopped a long time ago. One day the truth of what I was doing dawned on me. I realized that I was beginning class with a giant scoop of condescension. I was telling a group of adults, grownups with jobs, what sort of behavior was acceptable and what I expected of them.

The assumption I was communicating was that it is the learners’ responsibility to engage in the process, that it was their responsibility to stay focused, and that they were responsible for lively interaction. That’s not their job at all. It’s mine. I need to engage them, help them stay focused and encourage their participation. It’s my responsibility to make them want to listen and participate.

Not too long ago, I participated as a learner in a workshop. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when the familiar ground rules were laid out by the trainer. The rules were followed by an ice breaker intended to warm us up for learning.

As the other people in the class and I dutifully listened and played along (even though we really didn’t want to), I imagined what it would be like if we were asked to set our own ground rules.

  1. We want this class to be about us. It’s not that we’re selfish people. It’s that this is a work day and we’re busy. So please, stay focused on our needs, our situation, and what this class has to do with our jobs. And please be as efficient as you can be. Our time is valuable.
  2. We will need to be reminded why we’re here. It’s not that we’re forgetful. It’s just that we may not be able to immediately connect what we’re learning with our everyday work. Please make the effort to connect the dots. If the process doesn’t feel easy to us, we’ll give up.
  3. We will be distracted during class. We will be distracted by our own thoughts and the people sitting next to us. We will be distracted because our phones are off and work is piling up. Don’t be upset by this; we’re constantly distracted. So don’t take it personally if you sense that our thoughts are somewhere else. When the distraction is over, we hope that you will make it easy for us to re-engage.
  4. We need to trust you and feel comfortable with you. Not only do we expect you to know what you’re doing in terms of training content, we also expect you to be flexible. We want to feel that you understand our experience and expertise and that you take both into account during this class. We also want to sense there is a genuine, caring person at the front of the room. If you seem scripted, insincere, or ask us to raise our hands in response to a rhetorical question, we’re not comfortable.
  5. We do not want to be put on the spot. When do we feel put on the spot? When you force us to participate in an ice breaker. When you tell us that something is intended to be fun. When you ask us to participate in an exercise that does not feel necessary. And even when it does feel necessary, we still may not want to participate because most of us don’t like exercises.

Have you ever wanted to set your own learner ground rules? If so, what would they be?

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

Feeling a Little Silly at the Front of the Room? Three Very Serious Ideas About Enthusiasm

April 27, 2015 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Presentation, Talent Development, Training

A few weeks ago, I was delivering a workshop for a group of soon-to-be trainers. Each of them was a subject matter expert (SME), and they were preparing to deliver training to groups of people within their organization. On the first day of the class we were focused on helping the dale_ludwig_hi-res_colorSMEs strengthen the skills required to get comfortable at the front of the room and engage the group. For one of the men in the class, I’ll call him John, this raised some issues.

We were talking about enthusiasm. John was not particularly unenthusiastic, but he was the type of person who got a little less enthusiastic and a bit quieter at the front of the room. We see this all the time. What interested me was John’s reaction to my recommendation that he crank up the energy just a bit.

“I don’t believe that should be necessary. It is their job to come to my class and pay attention. When teaching, I shouldn’t have to be someone I am not.”

In many ways, I agreed with what John was saying. First, he was right to believe that the business of the class he was teaching was serious and important. He was also correct to believe every person in the class had a clear job to do: listen and learn. No doubt about either of these assumptions.

Where I differ with John is that he equated an enthusiastic trainer with an entertaining trainer. Here’s what I mean:

When trainers attempt to entertain a class, they always miss the mark. This type of entertainment can take many forms: pointless activities, inappropriate humor, relentless ice breakers, and—as we see with John’s concern—calculated enthusiasm.[Tweet “When trainers attempt to entertain a class, they always miss the mark.”]

Enthusiastic trainers are not entertainers. Their passion and excitement for the task shines through because they want to help people understand something new. Their enthusiasm generates interest and is infectious. Because it is the result of being deeply engaged with the group, this type of enthusiasm serves a very practical purpose. It simply makes listening easier.

Here’s what I say to trainers and presenters with John’s concerns:

  1. Enthusiasm must be genuine and it can spring from many things—what you’re saying, the people you’re saying it to, the task at hand. Find a way to tap into any or all of these things.
  2. When you’re the one at the front, you are responsible for the atmosphere in the room. Do what needs to be done to set the right tone.
  3. Think of enthusiasm as the fuel you need to keep the conversation going. Let it boost your volume, vary your vocal inflection, and bring life to your gestures.[Tweet “When you’re the one at the front, you are responsible for the atmosphere in the room.”]

So, yes, while the learners in John’s class did need to “listen and learn,” it’s his job to make that process as easy and inviting as possible. This has nothing to do with adding fluff or insincerity to delivery. It’s about creating the conditions for a fruitful conversation.

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


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”

Calculating the High Cost of Poor Communication

November 3, 2014 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Meetings, Posts for Buyers, The Orderly Conversation

Business presentations and meetings exist for one reason: to move business forward.

And they ought to do that effective and efficiently. But do they?

As it turns out, in far too many cases, no.

Last week I delivered a keynote address at a conference. The presentation focused on some of the ideas in our new book, The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined.

The audience was made up of individual contributors, managers, and senior leaders. I asked them to think about that last business meeting or presentation that they had either led or participated in. Then I asked them, “Was it effective and efficient?”

Not a single person in that ballroom raised their hand. Not one.

The Cost in Numbers
meeting frustrationAfter the conference, I starting thinking about how much time, energy, and money are wasted every day, week, month, or year by ineffective and inefficient meetings and presentations. Then I started doing some math.

Using round numbers from Wikipedia (I know, I know…), the average household income in the US is $51,939. That’s roughly $1,000/week or $200/day. Assuming an 8-hour day, the average American is making $25/hour.

Had I only googled “average hourly rate,” I would have seen this site that says the US average hourly earnings is $24.53, so I guess my math is sound. Keep in mind this is the average of all workers across the country. I’m sure the average hourly rate for many of the people at the conference was considerably higher. But let’s stick with the average figure for the sake of this discussion.

Let’s assume that there were 8 people at a meeting you attended yesterday. The meeting lasted an hour and was led by Brad, one of your direct reports. Brad’s a great guy, but he came to the meeting unprepared. He wasn’t clear on what he wanted to accomplish. He rambled on and on, jumping from topic to topic. The other attendees were distracted and took the meeting off topic at times. At one point you stepped in to redirect the meeting back to Brad. It was a frustrating meeting and, unfortunately, typical.

Let’s assume that the meeting was important, and that Brad’s goal could have been accomplished in 30 minutes had he been prepared and had he managed the process better. So that’s 30 minutes (or .5 hours) wasted, multiplied by 8 people at the average hourly rate.

.5 hours x 8 people x $25/hour = $100 wasted yesterday.

$100 wasted x 52 weeks = $5,200 wasted per year.

$5,200 wasted x 10 business units = $52,000 wasted per year. That’s equal to the average salary of one person.

Staggering, isn’t it?

The Cost of Diminished Trust and Good Will
Now let’s look at it from a different angle. Yesterday’s meeting wasn’t unique. In fact, as you think about it, it’s status quo for Brad. You’re starting to notice that others are reluctant to attend Brad’s meetings. As a result of his inefficient meetings, he’s lost the good will of his colleagues, which is having a negative effect on his reputation.

Now, let’s say that Brad talks to you about how he’d like a promotion. In the new role Brad would have to have the skills to set direction, communicate expectations, and manage weekly status meeting with senior leadership. With his current skill set, you realize you can’t trust him to take on the new role.

Now what?
My colleagues and I believe that far too much time, energy, money, and good will are squandered through ineffective and inefficient business communication. It doesn’t have to be that way, though. People simply need to (a) understand the damage caused by poor communication, (b) rethink their current approach, and (c) get comfortable using a new set of tools.[Tweet “time, energy, money, good will are squandered by inefficient business communication”]

Learn more by picking up a copy of The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined, or by calling us to set up a skill-building workshop for your employees.

I also encourage you to do your own math; I’ll bet the cost of training your employees will be less than maintaining the status quo.

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

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”

New Book Offers Game-Changing Approach to Instructor-Led Training

July 15, 2014 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Greg Owen-Boger, News, The Orderly Conversation, Training

Granville Circle Press announces the July 15, 2014 publication of “The Orderly Conversation,” a groundbreaking resource for business communication.

News Release – PDF

Granville Circle Press announced today the publication of “The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined” by Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger, a book that challenges some long-held beliefs in the corporate training world about engaging adults in the learning process.

“Corporate training’s purpose is to help move business forward,” write the authors. “When it’s done well, attendees learn what they’re there to learn and return to their jobs.” Training should be efficient, relevant, and earn the goodwill of trainees. Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen. Too often trainers fail to connect with their learners, miss opportunities, and rely on classroom activities that miss the mark. “It’s not the trainer’s fault,” says Owen-Boger, “most of the time they’re simply doing what they themselves have been trained to do. That’s where the problem lies.”

The Orderly Conversation sets out to change that by focusing trainers’ efforts on learner engagement and creating the conditions for fruitful learning. “When trainers engage their learners in a genuine conversation,” says Ludwig, “when they’re willing and able to adapt their approach on the fly, the path to success is much clearer.”

The first step, say the authors, is to turn away from techniques associated with “speechmaking” or entertaining and focus on the give-and-take that must take place between speaker and learner. “It’s all about letting the conversation take place without losing sight of your training goals,” says Owen-Boger. “When you do that, you earn the trust and goodwill of your learners.”

Developed through years of Turpin Communication’s presentation workshops, this change in approach dramatically improves how trainers and instructional designers approach their work. “… As an instructional designer who specializes in developing communication skills, I have certainly had to scan many of the old fashioned ‘do this, don’t do this’ self-help guides… The Orderly Conversation is miles beyond, said Matt Elwell, CPLP, President and CEO of ComdeySportz of Chicago. “This text explores what is really happening between a presenter and an audience… I can’t say enough how much more powerful this book is than any other one I’ve seen on the subject.”

The Orderly Conversation takes readers through a clear and accessible process, inviting readers into one of the authors’ workshops where you observe eight fictional, but very real, presenters. One of these class participants is Sophia, a trainer at a credit union. She enters the class with some troublesome ideas about training. Lou Russell, from Russell Martin & Associates (and celebrated training industry author) calls these ideas “edutainment and trickery.”

Throughout the workshop, Sophia learns that these troublesome techniques were actually having the opposite effect of what she intended them to have. She also realizes that initiating the training conversation should be her first priority. When she does that, she’ll do her part to move the business forward.

Granville Circle Press calls their latest offering “eminently practical; real-world advice for the real world of business.” The Orderly Conversation is available now at, Amazon, and other online book retailers.

Granville Circle Press–“Communicating Good Ideas.”, including “Living Proof: Telling Your Story to Make a Difference,” selected by Kirkus Reviews as a “Best of 2012.” info(at)granvillecirclepress(dot)com The Orderly Conversation, ISBN 978-0-9838703-2-6 $21.95

Turpin Communication (Chicago) was founded in 1992 to provide the best presentation and facilitation skills training available anywhere. Since then it has helped business presenters in a broad range of industries and organizations focus on the skills and techniques that help them succeed. Authors Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger are available for key note addresses and to speak at conferences and corporate meetings.


Kyle Carlson
Granville Circle Press
+1 612-229-8896

Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger
Turpin Communication

This news release was originally published here.

A New Definition of Success

June 30, 2014 in Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Nervousness, Presentation, The Orderly Conversation, Training

Why a Performance Approach to Business Presentations Doesn’t Work

greg_owen_boger_300Presentations should not be confused with speeches. Speeches are a type of performance. Presentations are a type of conversation. That’s why we’ve redefined them as “Orderly Conversations.”

Unfortunately, many people, even industry experts, hang on to the idea that a presentation should be “performed,” that it can be perfected by scripting, rehearsing, planning when and how to gesture, and following rules. These rules can be about all kinds of things, like the “right” number of bullets, never looking at your slides, holding your hands a certain way, or pausing for dramatic purposes.

As Dale Ludwig writes in chapter 5 of our new book The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined: “When rules like these are applied without consideration of their effectiveness or appropriateness for an individual, they stop being the means to an end and become the end themselves. This makes presenting more difficult for the presenter and less effective for the audience.”

Three Types of Performers
What we’ve seen is that business presenters who follow a performance approach generally fall into three categories:

  1. The Nervous Perfectionist
  2. The Dutiful Student
  3. The Entertainer

Let’s take a look at the negative consequences of each type of performer and offer up a better way forward.

The Nervous Perfectionist
In the book, we write about Jennifer, a Nervous Perfectionist. She puts an extraordinary amount of time into planning her presentation and rehearses it several times before the big day. Her goal is to perfect her delivery.

Unfortunately, during her last presentation, Jennifer felt like a failure because things didn’t go as she’d planned. Her solution was to rehearse more the next time.

Jennifer’s assumptions look like this:
A New Definition of Success pic 1 6-30-14

Dale writes: “As Jennifer moved through each of these steps, she assumed she was gradually taking control over the process. But it didn’t work. What happened to Jennifer actually looks like this.”
A New Definition of Success pic 2 6-30-14

Dale goes on: “As you can see, Jennifer’s nervousness led her to rehearse, which turned her presentation into a performance. This made her more self-conscious and more nervous. Her decision to rehearse more for the next presentation just repeats the cycle.”

The Dutiful Student, a New Definition of Success and a True Story
Another type of performance-focused presenter is what we call the Dutiful Student. Dutiful Students want rules they can follow. After all, their thinking goes, there must be a better and worse way to do something. Give me rules and I’ll follow them.

Last week in a workshop, we met Sandra (not her real name). She is a Subject Matter Expert and accidental trainer. Several times she asked, “What’s the rule for… “

As proof of her allegiance to the “prepare, prepare, prepare” rule, she pulled out a three ring binder containing her training slide deck. Each slide, complete with script in the speaker notes, was laminated for safekeeping.

We asked her how long it takes her to get ready to actually deliver the training. She said with a sigh, “Weeks and weeks. It’s far too time-consuming, and I have a lot of other responsibilities.” She was clearly frustrated by this.

When we asked her how she felt when learners asked questions, she said she hated it because it pulls her out of her script. “I have to think a lot when I’m up there. If they interrupt me it just throws me off.”

As the discussion went on, Sandra and her classmates agreed that her process is inefficient and didn’t create the conditions for fruitful learning. In Sandra’s attempt to follow rules and perfect the delivery of her training, she lost sight of her goal, which was to teach, to inspire learning.

Create the Conditions for a Fruitful Conversation
We worked with Sandra to help her create the conditions for a fruitful conversation. The first step was to turn her focus away from herself and toward her learners. She needed to get out of her head and actually speak with them.

During the first exercise in class, Sandra’s instruction was to introduce herself to the group and to engage them in a conversation about her job responsibilities. After several attempts, she finally settled into the conversation. She actually saw them and their reactions. She responded to them in the “here and now.” They asked questions, and Sandra answered them with ease.

This exercise was recorded on video. As she and I watched it a little later she said, “I forgot about thinking, and just did it! I just talked with them.” She was amazed that she could actually stand in front of the group and hold a conversation. She wasn’t thinking about her gestures, or even what to say. She was engaged in the here and now of the conversation, and it came naturally to her.

As we continued to talk, she made a connection that will stick with her well into the future. She said, “You know … as I think about it, I do my best teaching at the bar after my sessions. Now that I know why that is, I have a new definition of success!”

The Entertainer
In the book, we also talk about Sophia, an Entertainer. The character of Sophia was inspired by a young man (we’ll call him Calvin) that I worked with years ago. He was in sales and approached his sales presentations as if he were a comedian on a stage.

Calvin had a larger than life personality, a toothy smile, and a presentation style to go with it. I remember he swaggered to the front of the room and asked if we were ready. When we said yes, he snapped into action. It was as if the spotlight had just been turned on.

I remember that Calvin’s boss caught me in the hall that day and invited me into his office for a chat. As it turned out, Calvin’s job was on the line. His buyers weren’t buying, and none of his co-workers wanted to work with him. Calvin was over the top and perceived as phony. Not exactly the type of person most people want to work with or buy from.

So What Does This Mean for You?
Dale writes: “The lure of the performance approach is control; presenters use it because they assume success comes from planning exactly what they are going to say and how they will say it in advance of the presentation. This also means, their thinking goes, that success can be reached fairly easily because all they have to do is remember the plan and follow the rules. The danger is that exercising this level of control over the process pulls your focus away from the here and now of the conversation and leads, for many people, to increased nervousness and heightened self-consciousness.”

The more effective and efficient way to prepare for and deliver your presentations is to think of them as Orderly Conversations. Your role, then, is to prepare for and lead a listener-focused, flexible and responsive conversation. And when you do, it will make all the difference.

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

The Orderly Conversation is now available at