Setting Up Training Exercises: Be Clear and Specific

May 7, 2012 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Training

Last week, Greg and I were teaching a workshop for a group of Subject Matter Experts getting ready to deliver training to people new in their roles. It’s one of my favorite types of classes to teach because the challenges for an SME/trainer are so clear.

During the last segment of the workshop we were practicing how to set up the exercises that are part of the training the SMEs are delivering. These exercises were relatively simple things: round table discussions about a particular topic or maybe practice applying new information in a real-world situation. Pretty typical stuff.

One of the main points that Greg and I were trying to get across is that trainers have to be very clear and specific when telling learners what to do during an exercise. Something as simple as “Group 2 should work with Group 1 on this exercise” can cause a major disruption when people stand up and struggle to figure out where they should go, what they should take with them, how long they should work and what their goal should be.

Then Greg said something that I thought was really insightful. He said,

When I was fresh out of school, I directed children’s theatre. The type of theatre where the kids are the actors. When I was giving directions I was taught to say, “All right now, everyone look at me. (pause and wait until they do) Now, when I say ‘go’ and not before, I want all the boys to go over by the piano and stand in a group facing me. (pause to let that sink in.) All of the girls should go over to the table and stand in a group facing me. (pause to let that sink in) OK… go.”

Greg acknowledged that the SMEs weren’t teaching children, of course, but the same level of clarity about what people should do and when they should do it can be applied in every training situation.

The take away was the SMEs should always anticipate confusion and do their best to avoid it by:

  • Standing still when delivering directions because it’s easier to get and keep every person’s attention that way.
  • Delivering directions before asking learners to do anything. If you’re asking people to move across the room, don’t get them on their feet and expect them to stay focused on what you’re saying.
  • Keeping in mind that adults are out of practice when following very simple directions, especially when they’re in groups. Kids, because they do it every day in school, are much better at it. Adults require more patience.

So the next time you’re setting up an exercise or asking a group of people to carry out a simple task, borrow some of the techniques that people working with children use all the time.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

So, The Short Answer Is Yes.

December 13, 2011 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger

greg 200x300Maybe this is just a pet peeve of mine. But I really wish presenters would get to the point when answering questions.

In our presentation skills workshops participants often say they worry about being accurate when answering questions. In our experience they’re worrying about the wrong thing. They know more about their topic (usually) then they give themselves credit for. What they should be worrying about is not annoying their listeners by rambling on and on.

How? By providing the short answer first, then making the decision (or not) to go into more detail. Here’s an example:

“What’s the outlook for the coming fiscal year as it pertains to growing market share?”

A typical long-winded Answer:
“Market share is something we’re all focused on moving forward. As we all know we’ve been struggling with this for a long time and competitor X is not showing any signs of weakness especially since launching their much-hyped SuperWidget. As a side note, I’ve heard all they did was make it prettier without really changing the design.

Getting back to your question, as we know, we’ve got a lot of innovation in the pipeline. At last count I believe we had 3 new products and 5 brand extensions. We’ve improved our distribution capabilities through our partnership with MoveItNOW, and our new alignment between marketing and sales (thanks to members of this team) is working well.

Over the next fiscal year, we should be well positioned to grow market share. So to answer your question, the outlook is excellent.”

The speaker builds his case carefully and eventually gets to his answer, but he takes a long time doing it.

A more concise answer:
“The outlook is excellent.”

You’re probably thinking that this very short answer doesn’t provide enough detail. You may be right. But, as I said above, it should be a decision to say more, not a knee-jerk reaction.

If your listeners look like they want more detail, the answer might look something like this:
“The outlook is excellent.

(The speaker pauses to think and make the decision to expand upon the answer.)

Despite competitor X launching SuperWidget, we’ve worked hard to position ourselves for market share growth. Examples, as you know, include our new focus on innovation, our improved distribution capabilities and the alignment between marketing and sales. Because of these initiatives we are well-positioned to grow market share.”

The short answer provides framework for the longer answer.
In this example, the short answer—“The outlook is excellent”—provides context for the details presented in the rest of the answer. Think of it as the thesis sentence for the answer, it’s placement at the beginning of the response makes the longer answer easier to understand.

If you’ve attended one of our workshops or are a regular reader of this blog, you know that we think presenters need to take responsibility for maintaining their listeners’ attention. As Dale, our President, often says, “listeners are a little bit lazy and a lot distracted. Do what you can to keep them engaged.”

I agree. Keeping your answers short and easy listen to is one way to do that.

What are your thoughts?

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

How much detail should be included on PowerPoint slides? Part 2

August 9, 2011 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Preparation

Part 2 of 2

greg 200x300This is part 2 of an article I posted last week about rethinking how much information you put in your presentation slides. As I said, anyone who champions rules about these things is missing the big picture and leading you astray.

Instead, we need to take a fresh look. I used the GPS metaphor to describe how to rethink your slides so that they help you move your audience from point A to point B.

But as I pointed out, this metaphor only works if you’ve crafted your slides well. Here’s what I meant.

As you prepare:
The first step is to analyze your audience and figure out what they already know about your topic. Think of this as the place you’ll pick them up (Point A). Next select your destination. Where do you want to take them? That’s Point B.

Next figure out your agenda. This will be the route you’ll take. Just like a GPS, you’ll have options. Will you take the freeway, which is a relatively easy trip with just a few turns and requires limited guidance? Or, will you take the street-level route, which will require more detailed guidance?

Whichever option you choose, make sure your trip is logically mapped out and draft your agenda to lead the way.

Once your agenda is crafted, it’s time to work on the body slides. Begin with one body slide per agenda point. Label it using the language you used in the agenda. In other words if your agenda point #1 is “Market Share is Growing,” body slide #1 should be titled the same. As you develop the presentation, you’ll probably need to add more supporting slides, but this is a good start.

So now you’ve got a plan. Your agenda and slide titles mark the milestones for your trip. It’s time to fill in the details. Use words and images that help you stay on track. For example, the GPS doesn’t tell you to “go north.” Instead it recognizes exactly where you are and gives you directions from that point of view: “Turn right.” That’s much more useful when you’re in unfamiliar territory. The content of your slides should be just as easy to follow.

Add just enough detail to support you as you manage the conversation. Remember how Allison Rossett  (from part 1) said that the GPS makes you smarter than you are where and when you need the information? The same is true here. You don’t have to memorize a script or any section of your presentation; you just need to be able to rely on your slides to lead you from point to point.

The best laid plans…
Now, before you present you need to re-familiarize yourself with your plan. If you’re like me, you created your slides a week ago and by the time you have to present you’ve forgotten the logic behind them.

I recommend paging through your slide deck looking only at the slide titles. Do they spark the right thoughts? Does the route you’ve chose still seem logical? If not, fiddle with them until they do. (If you do make changes, make sure you change the agenda to match.)

Next, go through the deck again. This time look at everything on the slides. Again, ask yourself if what’s there is sparking the right thoughts. If not, change them until they do.

Trust the GPS
So now you’re ready to meet up with your audience and drive the conversation from A to B. Trust your slides to lead you. You don’t have to say things perfectly or remember every single data point. Your slides are there to remind you of those things. Remember, they’ll make you smarter than you are, but only if you trust them.

Keep in mind that the presentation is a conversation. This means it might get a little messy. You’re going to say things you didn’t plan, your thoughts will lead you in new directions and you’ll go down unfamiliar streets. Audience members will take you on a detour by asking questions. All of these things are OK and are expected. Think of it as taking the scenic route. When it’s time to get back on track, simply rely on your slides to guide you.

Presenting doesn’t have to be such hard work.
By following these recommendations (instead of following arbitrary rules about numbers of bullets), you won’t have to work so hard when you present. Your slides will keep you on track and help you manage the detours. In other words, they’ll be there when you need them and make you smarter than you are.

by Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President, Turpin Communication

How much detail should be included on PowerPoint slides? Part 1

August 1, 2011 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Preparation

Part 1 of 2

greg 200x300We get questions like this and others about numbers of bullets, numbers of words per bullet and so on quite often in our presentation skills workshops.

There is no easy answer. And anyone who champions rules about these things is missing the big picture and leading you astray.

If you think of presentations as Orderly Conversations as we do, you’ll recognize that the slides are simply there to:

  • Provide information that listeners need
  • Serve as your notes
  • Provide structure to the conversation
  • Keep you on track

How much information you’ll need on your slides should be dictated by your listeners’ needs and how much guidance you think you’ll need once the presentation begins.

I recently attended a conference where Allison Rossett, a thought leader in the informal learning movement, was talking about using a GPS in her car. She said that GPS devices make us smarter than we are because they provide us with the exact information we need when and where we need it. We don’t need to memorize the exact route from A to B. Instead we can rely on the GPS – a sort of modern-day cheat sheet – to keep us on track and get us to our destination.

Ms. Rossett was applying this metaphor to informal learning, but it can be applied to presenting as well.

Getting from point A to point B
If you think about presenting as moving a conversation from point A to point B, the metaphor makes sense. Let’s layer into the metaphor some high-stress traffic, a few streets you’ve never traveled and a detour. When we do that, the traffic represents the pressure you feel during the presentation. The unfamiliar streets are the unknown elements of the conversation and the questions are the detour.

So in this high-pressure, high-stakes presentation environment, what’s your GPS?

Your slides.

They are there to guide you, remind you of what you want to say, keep you on track, and bring you back after the detours

But, and this is a big but, your slides will only function as a GPS if you craft them the right way. I’ll talk more about how to do that in my next post.

by Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President, Turpin Communication

What’s the Presentation Rule for…?

March 15, 2011 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, FAQs, Myths Debunked

During every workshop we’re asked about rules. Some of them we’ve addressed here on The Orderly Conversation Blog:

Other common rule questions focus on:

  • The best place to stand in the room
  • Whether and when to deliver a presentation seated
  • How long eye contact should be

While it would be nice if every aspect of the presentation process could be boiled down to a simple up or down rule, it’s not possible.

So our response, as I’m sure you can guess, is, “It depends.” The right answer always depends on context, the needs of the audience and the presenter’s habits and preferences.

Rules Confuse the Situation
The problem is that there are so many rules floating around they confuse the situation. While they look simple and executable, they often aren’t. So in an attempt to clear things up a bit, what follows is a list of rule categories. See if any of them look familiar.

  1. Some rules are actually goals:
    A lot of the rules people apply to the presentation process aren’t rules at all. They’re goals. “Be enthusiastic” is a goal. As is “be sure to adapt your content to your audience” and “don’t let the Q&A session get away from you.” Everyone shares these goals. Because they don’t focus on specific behaviors, they don’t really help. I could say to the person driving away from your house, “Be safe,” but all I’m really doing is wishing them well. No one would confuse “be safe” with a driving tip.
  2. Some rules don’t apply:
    Many rules prescribe certain behaviors. “Try not to say, ‘you know’ so much,” “don’t fidget,” and “no more than five bullet points per slide” are examples. The problem with these rules is that they may not be relevant for everyone. Making the effort to follow them could make the process more complicated than it needs to be. For example, if the person driving away from my house is my 85-year-old mother, saying, “Don’t go over the speed limit” is completely irrelevant. Unless it’s meant ironically.
  3. Rules that make things worse:
    Some rules come from an attempt to make presenters feel more comfortable, but they don’t work. “If you have trouble looking people in the eye, focus your eye contact on the back wall,” is a classic example of this. So is “use a pointer if you want to look more professional” and “leave your hands at your sides because gestures are distracting.” These rules need to be thrown out. They are built on faulty assumptions and encourage a flawed approach to the process.

This brings me to a fourth category I’ll call Your Rules. Your rules are useful. They describe specific behaviors—things you can do in the moment to be more successful. One of your rules might be to “pause a little longer than you feel is necessary at the beginning of your presentation” because you know that doing so helps you breathe and think. Or “move to the screen to point something out on your slide” because you know that you need to loosen up and gesture more freely. Your rules aren’t for everyone, but they work for you.

Successful presenters understand their individual, personal response to the presentation environment and have developed rules that will work for them. They are the result of an objective perspective, careful assessment and experimentation.

What rules have you tried to follow? Did they work?

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Applying what you Learned in Presentation Skills Class

September 29, 2010 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, FAQs, Preparation

This question was submitted by Nick through our Ask an Expert forum, which all workshop participants have access to after attending one of our workshops.  Since it brings up a common concern, I’ll answer it here on the blog for others to see.

I recently delivered a presentation and found that I forgot to use many of the lessons I learned in the workshop.  I found myself relying too heavily on my slides and not having a conversation with the audience. This was a bit disappointing because I thought I was making progress since the workshop.  Any suggestions on practicing or creating slides that forces me to be more of the Improviser and not the Writer?

First, I want to say that it’s really a good thing that you’re more self aware during your presentations.  That’s an important first step.  Of course when we gain self awareness we also gain the knowledge that we don’t always do what we planned to do.  But try not to be disappointed.  You’re on the right track.

That said, let’s take a look at your presentation issues.  Like most people with the Writer Default, you’re struggling with the transition from preparation to delivery.  So, be sure to prepare your slides with delivery in mind.  Create meaningful slide titles that, when read during delivery, will launch the conversation you want to have.  Keep your slides simple and to the point.  That means editing them mercilessly.

Next, don’t practice to come up with the single, perfect explanation.  It will mess you up during delivery.  Instead try to get comfortable explaining your slides in a variety of ways, imagining a variety of listeners.  That will improve flexibility.

When you deliver your slides, give your audience an overview of each, then go into the details.  If the slide has a list of bullet points, read through them.  If the slide has an image or data, tell your listeners what they’re looking at.  This will focus their attention on the screen when the slide first appears.  After the overview, it’s your responsibility to turn back to your audience and continue the conversation.  It’s sort of like show-and-tell because you’re showing people the slide, then talking about what it means.

As you continue to deliver presentations, don’t worry about everything at once.  You’ll overwhelm yourself.  Tackle one issue at a time.  For example, go into your next presentation with the goal of using your slide titles better.  Or remembering to move toward your listeners after you’ve delivered the overview of each slide.  Stay focused on changing one behavior at a time.  Long-term improvement will follow.

To help with that, take advantage of the feedback you received post-workshop through eCoach.  Both the follow-up letter and the video comments available there will help you stay focused.  Our goal with eCoach is to help you prioritize.  Review you follow-up letter before your next presentation.  And be sure to take a look at the video exercises from the second day of class.  That’s when we were working on slide delivery.  Watching them again will remind you of what it felt like to successfully manage your Default Approach.

Thanks for your question.  Let me know how you’re doing.

by Dale Ludwig, President and Trainer at Turpin Communication

Who does the best presentation skills training?

July 27, 2010 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Greg Owen-Boger, News

Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President of Turpin Communication

Recently this question was asked on a LinkedIn Q&A discussion forum:  “Who does the best presentation skills training?”

While we always believe that Turpin Communication provides the best training in the industry, we were pleased to see that two of our recent workshop participants agree (and were willing to say so online).  Here’s what they had to say:

From Beverly Feldt (Vice President, Workplace Productions)

“Just took a two-day workshop last week with Turpin Communication, and I thought it was the most valuable presentations training I’ve ever encountered (and I’ve even taught the subject).

There was a great deal of practice and individual coaching.  Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger have a knack for boiling things down to manageable, memorable bits without oversimplifying or giving things cutesy names. We worked both on organizing a presentation and on the physical and mental side of things. I feel that I gained a lot of new skills, and I really enjoyed the whole process.”

Then, from Barbara Egel (Vice President, Primary Insights)

“I will agree with Beverly that Turpin is amazing. If you want “tips and tricks” that lead you to the same cookie-cutter presentation as everyone else, go elsewhere. If you want to be equipped with the skills to face down pretty much any situation that might come up in the course of preparing, presenting, and Q&A, try Turpin.

I’m an experienced speaker, and I thought the two days might be only mildly useful to someone who’s done as many presentations as I have. Instead, the pre-work, organizational skills, and continual video analysis of me speaking taught me a lot. You get to stay yourself, work from your strengths, and adapt the skills to your industry and audience. A most worthwhile two days.”

You can view the entire string of comments here:

Don’t miss your next opportunity to join a public workshop.  Visit the Individual Enrollment Presentation Skills Workshop page.

Or call Dana at 773-294-1566

Visit Us at ASTD International Conference & Exposition, BOOTH 732

May 3, 2010 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Mary Clare Healy, News, Preparation, Sarah Stocker, Training

It’s official.  Turpin will be exhibiting at ASTD International Conference & Exposition May 17 – 19 in Chicago.

Bring a copy of this blog entry to booth 732 and receive FREE access to our online Comprehensive Presentation Skills Course.  ($399 value)

Having attended the conference before, we fully understand the value it can bring to an organization.  Whether you’re there to attend seminars, participate in one of the certificate programs, network with other professionals in the field or learn more about training providers, the conference has something for everyone.

This year we decided it was time to set up an exhibit and introduce our Presentation & Facilitation Skills Training (both our live workshops and our new online courses) to a broader audience.  That’s where we hope you come in.  We’d love to meet you and explain what we mean when we say:

Turpin is Not Your Average Presentation Skills Training Company

Oh, it’s true we train people to be better presenters and group facilitators.

However, unlike others in the field, we have a fluid definition of what it means to present and facilitate.  We understand that presentations involve discussions that require a facilitator’s skill, and group facilitators can only succeed when they are comfortable in their role as presenter and leader.  At the heart of the presentation and facilitation process is what we call the “orderly conversation.”  By defining the process in this way, we’re able to embrace the tension that exists within every business presentation and discussion—the tension between the need to be orderly (clear goal and careful structure) as well as conversational (unpredictable and spontaneous).

Defining business communication as orderly conversations allows the skills learned to be applied to a variety of other business situations including sales meetings, project status meetings, performance management conversations, elevator speeches, brainstorming sessions, training and so on.

How can we work together to help your employees manage the give and take of their orderly conversations?  Give us a call, email or visit us at booth 732 to get the conversation started.

773-239-2523  ||

One more thought… Are We a Good Fit For You?  Let’s Find Out.

One of the best ways to know whether a training vendor is a good fit for your organization is to participate in one of their workshops.  That’s why we’re giving away full-access versions of our online Comprehensive Presentation Skills Training Course.  We’re sure that once you see how we approach Presentation Skills Training, you’ll recognize the value in partnering with us to develop your employees’ communication skills.  Print out this page and bring it to us to receive your free course.  (By the way, that free session is a $399 value.)

Visit our Virtual Tradeshow Booth at

Asking Questions at the Beginning of a Presentation

March 23, 2010 in Author, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Greg Owen-Boger, Introduction, Organizing Your Content, Presentation, Video

Have you ever asked a question at the beginning of a presentation and gotten nothing back from your audience?  Awkward, huh?  This comes up often in our presentation skills workshops.  Greg Owen-Boger, VP and Trainer at Turpin Communication, addresses this issue in today’s video blog.

I like to start things off by asking a bunch of questions.  Sometimes this works, but sometimes people just stare at me and don’t want to participate.  How can I avoid this awkward feeling?

Presentation Training Dates Added for 2010

January 19, 2010 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, News, Preparation

Open Enrollment Presentation Skills Workshop dates have just been added for the rest of the 2010.  These sessions are ideal for those needing training for themselves or for their team members.

  • February 17-18
  • June 29-30
  • September 15-16
  • November 3-4

All of the sessions will be in Chicago and run from 8:30am to 5:00pm.

Learn more | Enroll | Call Jeanne at 773-239-2523


Course Overview

During this highly interactive workshop, we’ll help you Find your focus.  Be yourself. Only Better. You’ll learn to capitalize on your strengths and develop the skills you need to overcome your weaknesses.

You’ll also learn to:

  1. Engage your audience and appear more comfortable
  2. Feel less nervous
  3. Organize your presentations more clearly and efficiently
  4. Improve the design and delivery of your PowerPoint slides
  5. Manage questions and interruptions during your presentations

Throughout the course, you’ll work on a real-life presentation of your choosing.  All exercises are video recorded, and after the exercise you’ll watch your video with a coach.  This private coaching will provide additional, and very valuable, feedback to help you integrate what you’ve learned in class into the situations you face outside of it.

The course includes online pre-work and 12 months skill reinforcement through eCoach.

Learn more | Enroll | Call Jeanne at 773-239-2523