Brought to you by Ellen Dowling, PhD ("The Standup Trainer") and the fine folks of Dowling & Associates, Inc.
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In this issue:
1. Presentation Horror Story of the Month
[Editor's Note: Have you a good story to tell about the time SOMETHING WENT WRONG at a presentation you were giving (or attending)? We are soliciting submissions for this segment of our newsletter. If your story is chosen, you will receive a FREE copy of either of Ellen's two books, The Standup Trainer or Presenting with Style (your choice). Simply send your story (just a couple of paragraphs will be fine) to firstname.lastname@example.org.]
The winner of this month's contest is Wanda Putnam, Training Specialist for the Vermont Country Store in Bennington, Vermont.
A new room for technical training had been set up in what was originally part of a warehouse. The wiring for all the computers had to be run along the floor in flat aluminum tubes. Before the first class, all the computers worked and everything was "spanking new."
Then the first students assembled in the new room and we discovered that every time someone's chair or foot touched the aluminum-encased wiring, all the computers went down. We had to call IT numerous times to get everything reset.
It was a couple of days before we realized what was causing the computers to crash so often, and by then we had used up all our "fillers" for the two-week training session in the first two days!
We heard later that the students in the class felt sorry for the two of us who were team teaching. They could tell that we knew our stuff, but we just couldn't show it to them on a consistent basis!
2. Presentation Hall of Shame
This question just came in from a friend of mine who works for an international manufacturing company:
Do you have any tips or tricks for how to reduce jargon in presentations? I’m in Corp Real Estate now and my team has a problem articulating themselves in language that senior management can understand. They’re so technical that they don’t see that so much of what they present is shrouded in jargon. Any advice?
Presenters who do not tailor their presentations to meet the needs of their specific audiences are shameful, indeed. At the least, they wind up wasting everyone's time. At the worst, they propagate misunderstanding. Here's my reply to my friend:
My first reaction is that your folks are not really thinking about their audience when they make a presentation; they're too focused on the data itself.
Now if I had them in a presentation skills class, I would ask them to play "The Translation Game," whereby they have to make a technical presentation to a series of different audiences, from technical folks to complete outsiders. This teaches participants how easy it actually is to present the same information and yet "translate" it for different audiences.
Readers: You can find "The Translation Game" on p. 103 of Presenting with Style: Advanced Strategies for Superior Presentations. You can also send me an email and I'll send you a copy of the game.
Do you have any other suggestions for my friend about what he can do to help his team overcome their propensity to present unintelligible jargon to upper management? Let me know and I'll send your comments to my friend (and publish them in next month's newsletter).
[Speaking of responses: Last month I asked readers to comment on what you consider the ideal number of participants for a training program. The consensus is 12-15 people. Obviously, there might be some exceptions, depending on your topic (for a class in "How to Storm the Bastille," you might need a few more soldiers than 15), but everyone who responded thought that 12-15 made for a nice (yet manageable) learning dynamic.]
3. Presentation Skills Book Review
This month's review is on a book about giving speeches, called (appropriately enough), I'd Rather Die than Give a Speech, although the tips and techniques discussed within apply just as well to presentations and training sessions.
The author is Michael M. Klepper, founder and chairman of a marketing communications firm specializing (according to the back cover blurb) in "media, speech, and crisis communications training." Published in 1995, this book does not include anything about PowerPoint (could 1995 have been that long ago?), but it does contain other useful insights.
Actually, my favorite parts of this book are where the author tells a story to illustrate his point. A case in point (redundancy intended) is this: "If you don't know where you are headed with your speech, you will probably wind up somewhere else. There is a story about Albert Einstein that illustrates this point. Einstein was riding a train to New York when the conductor asked him for his ticket. The absent-minded Einstein began going through his briefcase. The conductor, recognizing him, quickly said, 'No problem, Dr. Enstein' and walked on. When he came back, Einstein had the contents of two briefcases unloaded on the seat. The conductor once again assured him that the ticket was 'no big deal.' The scientist responded, 'Maybe for you it's not important, but if I don't find that ticket, how will I know where to get off?'"
And here's one more example of how Klepper enlivens this book with anecdotes. To illustrate his discussion of the "relate" technique (whereby you "inject yourself into the proceedings by relating to the previous speaker or to the event occasioning your address"), he tells this story:
"Years ago, I was invited to address the annual meeting in Arizona of one of our nation's largest moving companies. The meeting was in Phoenix, and I was so backed up with appointments in New York the preceding day that I had to take the last flight out. That left me with at best three hours of sleep the night before I was scheduled to go on.
There is always a social component to these meetings, so I was not surprised when, in his opening remarks, the chairman referred to events on the golf course the previous day. He seemed to be getting some laughs about someone's green sneaker lost on the golf course.
Upon being introduced, I told everyone about my hectic day and late arrival, and asked if anyone had found my green sneaker on the golf course.
The audience howled. From that moment on, I knew I had them."
4. Useful Online Resource of the Month
My friend Anna Watkins (who publishes a most interesting and useful monthly newsletter called One-E-Anna Notes), sent me a VERY useful presentation technique from Elliot Massie, whose own free newsletter, Learning Trends, can be subscribed to at his site: www.masie.com. Here is Massie's suggestion about how long to wait after you ask, "Are there any questions?":
"Wait Nine Seconds for Learners: This is a simple and very powerful tip for trainers. After asking for questions from the class silently count to nine. Only nine seconds of silence will increase the number of questions dramatically. It takes at least 2 seconds for the learners to recognize that you actually asked a question. And, a few seconds to rehearse their question and check the room for other hands. Most trainers only wait about three seconds and then announce, "Great!" That's not great. If you taught really new and good stuff, there WILL be questions. Wait nine seconds. It may seem long to you, but it is a real gift to the learners."
That's it for this month! If you enjoyed this newsletter please do pass it on to your friends. (Or send them to www.standuptrainer.com to get their own subscription. Why should YOU have to do everything for them?)
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