Dale Ludwig - May 30, 2017

Change of Plan—You’re Delivering THESE Slides Instead

We are always looking for new ways to improve the impact that we have on our clients, their teams, and the portion of the business that they support. This article is about a recent client request and how we made an on-the-fly adjustment to a workshop, which resulted in a big win for the presenters.

During the workshop, which was designed for highly technical individuals presenting to leadership, we were asked by the client to change up an exercise. This rarely happens. What we do in the training room is always very well planned. While adjustments are made all the time, the intent of each exercise doesn’t change. This time things were different.

Here’s the situation. The participants in the class are all members of the same team. The presentations they deliver are always team presentations, with each member of the team delivering the same portion each time, focusing on their particular area of expertise.

One of the leaders of the group, who was also a participant in the training, pulled me aside on the last day of the class. He said, “I wonder if we could try something new. Could we ask each team member to deliver someone else’s content?” He went on to say that there were times when this actually happens, when one team member had to step in for another. They are never comfortable when this happens because they focus so much attention on their own material. He wanted them to be more flexible.

After some discussion of how the exercise would be managed and how content would be swapped, I agreed, hoping that I hadn’t just agreed to something that would set the presenters up to fail.

I didn’t need to worry. For most of the presenters this exercise showed them at their best. They were concise, delivered the slides very well, and remained focused and engaged throughout. I was pleasantly surprised. When I had time to think about it, I figured out why this exercise was so successful.

Each of the presenters was detail oriented and sticklers for preparation and accuracy. Their jobs are technical, and in their roles this strength serves them well. However, they needed to work on being more concise and listener-focused when delivering their presentations. When their own content was taken away from them, they were forced to actually see and use the slides they were delivering—in the moment. They could not rely on what they had planned to say because they had no plan. The exercise forced them to trust the slides to guide them.

This is exactly what we teach, of course, but this new exercise showed this group what that process really feels like. The leader had been right; this was just what they needed. Each of them felt successful, which was a surprise to them since there was no way for them to get prepared. They had to rely on their ability to think on their feet and use the slides to guide them through the conversation.

The lesson for us all? The next time you’re delivering content find a way to look at your slides with fresh eyes. That’s the way your audience sees them, after all, and putting yourself in their shoes has huge benefits.

Written by Dale Ludwig

Dale Ludwig has a Ph.D. in Communication and, prior to Turpin, taught at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He founded Turpin Communication in 1992 with the mission to provide the best presentation and facilitation skills training possible. Since then he has worked to do just that. In addition to being one of Turpin’s lead instructors, he also serves as our Chief Learning Architect when tailoring learning engagements for our clients. Dale is a frequent blogger and the co-author of the book "The Orderly Conversation: Business Presentations Redefined." He’s excited about his latest book, also co-authored with Greg Owen-Boger, "Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide to Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning."