My Mother’s Attic Part 3: The Elocutionists, a Cautionary Tale

July 16, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Myths Debunked, Talent Development

Part 1, Part 2

This is the final article about the perils of business presenters following the same path as the elocutionary movement.

The great thing about The Ideal Orator is that its approach, from our twenty-first-century perspective, is completely over the top. Anyone reading this book today would recognize its unnatural exaggeration of delivery behaviors, its focus on how a message should be delivered apart from what that message is.

What the book helps us see, though, is something much more subtle. Whenever a prescriptive approach is applied to something as individual and spontaneous as business presentations, we run into trouble.

Here’s what I mean.

  1. The Orderly Conversation that should take place between you and your listeners becomes a performance. Performances are very controlled things. They are not driven by the connection between you and your audience. Instead, they are driven by the plan that was made in advance. When you perform, you take yourself out of the conversation.
  2. The search for the rules governing the presentation process is a perfectly understandable thing. Rules make things easier. The thing is, presenters need to discover their own rules, not follow the rules for someone else. The rules you follow are determined by who you are and the habits you’ve developed. When you follow rules that aren’t right for you, you will feel and look uncomfortable. Maybe not as uncomfortable as the kids in my mother’s elocution classes, but uncomfortable nevertheless.
  3. When business presenters deliver a performance or attempt to follow one-size-fits-all rules, they undercut their ability to make decisions in the moment. If you’ve participated in one of our workshops, you know that engaging listeners is one of the most important processes we work on. When you’re engaged everything you do is a response to what’s happening with your audience.

As you know, Turpin’s tag line is “Find your focus. Be yourself. Only better.” So the next time you’re looking for rules governing delivery, make sure you’re focusing on what works for you, what helps you feel comfortable, and what gives you the control you need to manage the twists and turns of the Orderly Conversation.

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

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

May 6, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Posts for Buyers, Presentation, Training

A Discussion of Turpin Communication’s Core Principles:
The Presenter’s Role as Facilitator

Part 1Part 2, Part 3

Dale Ludwig, President & Founder of Turpin CommunicationThis is the fourth and final post focusing on Turpin’s core principles. In the first three I defined the Orderly Conversation, Default Approaches and what it means to be engaged in a genuine conversation. In this post I’ll talk about how delivering a presentation, regardless of its purpose or setting, requires the skills of a facilitator.

When we think of facilitation, most of us think of the discussions that take place in the training room, during problem-solving meetings, or brainstorming sessions. Facilitators in these situations are skilled at moving a group of people toward a specific goal. They help people understand new information, find solutions, and share insights. Their job is to (1) encourage the process to ensure a genuine conversation takes place and (2) control the conversation to keep it appropriately focused on the goal.

This isn’t easy, of course, because the first goal always competes with the second. When the conversation really gets going, the facilitator has to be astute enough to rein it in without stifling it altogether.

Facilitating Your Presentations

The same thing needs to happen during your presentations—even if you’re the person doing most of the talking. Your audience wants to feel they have the opportunity to participate, even if they choose not to take it. They also want to feel that you’re capable of managing the twists and turns of the conversation, even when they are the people pulling you off track.

Many presenters—especially those who are under the stress of nervousness, are new to their role, or feeling intimidated by the audience—are too controlling. Their focus on the orderly part of the process makes them appear uncomfortable, impatient, defensive, or domineering. They don’t trust the audience or the process enough to let the conversation breathe. Audiences sense this, of course, and pull away. Sometimes they simply shut down and wait for the presentation to be over. Sometimes their frustration leads to more open resistance.

The most successful presenters are those who understand that they can’t get the job done without the audience. They trust the group and the process to make a necessary, though not always easily managed, contribution. They know that without it, a genuine conversation never takes place.

So that wraps up my discussion of Turpin’s core principles. The common theme? By redefining business presentations as Orderly Conversations, the real-life challenges you face and the strategies you need to manage them come into sharper focus.

Part 1Part 2Part 3

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

eLearning with Personality

April 7, 2013 in Author, Find Your Focus Video, Greg Owen-Boger, Talent Development, Training, Video, Virtual

greg 200x300“I think your eLearning courses succeed because they have personality.”

This comment was part of a conversation I was having with an L&D peer at a conference recently. I was really happy to hear it. When we were putting our eLearning courses together, we thought a lot about how we were going to engage learners in the conversation. We wanted our instructors to seem spontaneous and genuine.

I disagree with what I’ve been hearing on social media about how ineffective talking head video is in eLearning. The problem isn’t the fact that we’re seeing a person on the screen. The problem is seeing someone who’s clearly uncomfortable.

So when we use talking heads in our video, we need to find a way to ensure the speaker’s personality comes through.

I’ve been making the rounds of the workplace learning & development conferences speaking on this very topic.

Here’s a link to my speaking schedule.

Turpin Communication has put together a few videos to help people learn to do this as well.

Make Your Videos Authentic
The other day I came across an article someone had posted on Facebook. It was about how small business owners should use video to market themselves. “Keep your video authentic” was the first of 5 recommendations the author made. Although the article is written to a different audience, the same thing applies to eLearning video.

So if you’re thinking about producing eLearning talking head video, think about the learners’ experience. No learner wants to sit through an online course with stilted, painful, inauthentic video. They want to get in, be engaged in an authentic way, learn what they need to learn, and get on with things. Let’s make sure we do that.

Need help for yourself or coaching for someone else? Watch this video.

Learn more about On-camera Coaching.

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

Sometimes the slide IS more important

January 14, 2013 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Myths Debunked, Presentation

I was working with a presenter the other day who was stuck in what we call no man’s land. No man’s land is a spot about half way between the laptop and the screen. It doesn’t matter what size the room is or how the equipment is set up; No man’s land is always the spot right in the middle.

When presenters are stuck in this spot they are usually facing the audience and making tentative gestures toward the projected slide. While they do that, they’re also sneaking quick looks at the slide— on either the laptop monitor or the screen—as if they don’t want anyone to know they’re looking at it. The audience always knows what they’re doing, of course, so the presenter usually winds up looking tentative and uncomfortable.

I asked this presenter, let’s say her name was Audrey, why she didn’t just turn and look at the slide when she needed to refer to it. She said that she had always been told that a slide is a visual aid and that it is never more important than what the presenter is saying. So if she looked at the slide she would be directing too much attention to it.

When I get comments like this the first thing I try to do is find the truth in what the presenter is saying—whoever gave Audrey this advice was trying to solve a real problem, after all. In this case, presenters who look at the screen when they don’t need to. The solution, as you know if you’ve been through one of our workshops, is to move to the screen, direct the audience’s attention where it needs to go, then move away from the screen when the audience doesn’t need to look at it anymore. This process directs everyone’s focus to the slide for as long as it needs to be there and no longer.

What jumped out at me with Audrey was her comment about slides being visual aids, the idea that the presenter is always more important than the slide and so should get the audience’s focus almost all the time.

For the business presenters we work with this isn’t true. There are times when the slide is more important, when it becomes the subject of the conversation, something to be studied and discussed. It might be a detailed spreadsheet, a work flow diagram, or any other detailed image that is included in the presentation because it needs to be there.

So don’t feel you’re doing something wrong if everyone, including you, is focused on the slide for an extended period of time. In a lot of situations, that’s exactly what needs to happen.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Are Hands in Pockets OK?

May 5, 2009 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, Engaging Listeners, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked

Question: Is it OK to put my hands in my pockets when I present? I’ve heard it’s a bad thing to do.

Answer: The short answer is yes, it’s OK to put your hands in your pockets.  Just make sure that it doesn’t become a distraction to your listeners.

It’s not so much about hands in pockets as it is about what to do with your hands in general.
In everyday conversation we gesture naturally, rarely thinking about what our hands are doing.  But when we stand up in front of a group of people, things change.  Some people say their hands feel like clumsy, foreign objects.  So, to make things feel more comfortable, they put their hands in their pockets (or clasp them behind their back or in front of them).  If your hands are confined and out of sight they won’t do anything embarrassing, right?  Well maybe, but if you deliver your entire presentation with your hands locked in any position, they will eventually become a distraction to your listeners and an obstacle to you.

So, the thing to do is to treat the discomfort you feel with your hands as a symptom of a larger issue, the fact that you’re a little uncomfortable and nervous.

Go back to your engagement skills.
Look the individuals in your audience in the eye just as you would in everyday conversation.  Pause to give yourself time to breathe and think about what you’re saying.  Before long you’ll be engaged and comfortable.  Once that happens, your hands will do what comes naturally.  Seems too easy, I know.  But give it a try.

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