In early 2016 Dale Ludwig, Turpin’s Founder, and I (Greg) sat down with a business consultant to help us put together a 3-year growth plan. There were a few initiatives that came out of that meeting. One of them was to make sure that as Turpin grows, we build the infrastructure to become operationally sound.
Kevin Vogelsang, Operations Manager, who celebrates his one-year anniversary October 17, has played an instrumental role in making that happen. This guy is magic. When he doesn’t know how to do something, he figures it out. (SEO, anyone?) When the printer decides not to work, Kevin’s on it. Videographer needed to help us train subject matter experts to work in an active learning classroom? Bring in Kevin. Need protective glasses to view the eclipse from the office roof? Kevin’s got them.
Kevin’s the kind of guy who recognizes that you need a helping hand before you ask.
Turpin’s growth shows no sign of slowing, and we couldn’t be happier about Kevin’s role in making sure we have what we need, when we need it.
By the way… Kevin’s a millennial. Don’t let anyone tell you that all millennials are lazy. This one’s not.
Greg here with Turpin Communication. Let’s talk about learning styles. I know that there are a lot of people in our industry that have a lot to say about it. They say that we should be designing for visual or oral or kinesthetic learners. And I think that what this has caused is sort of a Frankenstein’s monster sort of learning. We’ve been tacking on different delivery styles or different modules just for the sake of switching it up. What I say is let’s use our common sense. And I don’t mean to be flip about it, I really don’t, but I do believe this. We should be asking ourselves in the training room: Are they bored? Are they restless? If so, switch it up, but if things are going well, keep doing what you’re doing. As they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. And, please, can we do away with the tchotchkes? I have a really hard time believing that a kinesthetic learner is going to learn more deeply by squeezing a Koosh ball.
Greg here with Turpin Communication. I’m going to ask you to think back to your high school math class. Remember how your teacher asked you to show your work? It’s because she wasn’t just interested in your getting the right answer, she wanted to know how you got there. How you think about the problem. Well the same thing is true when you’re facilitating discussions at a learning event. When someone offers up a differing point of view or answers a question inaccurately, ask them how did they get there, what was their thinking. Probe. Discuss. Let others chime in. Because often the deepest learning can happen when you sort of dig below the surface.
Greg here with Turpin Communication. Learning leaders often bring us in to work with their trainers. Our task is to help them improve their facilitation skills and, ultimately, build their credibility in the classroom. One of the things we see over and over again is the use of unnecessary or irrelevant activities in the classroom. Ultimately, this erodes credibility and builds resentment from the learners’ perspective and, ultimately, it harms the learning function. And this is especially true if you’re asking your participants to step out of their comfort zone. So I’m not recommending cutting all activities, but I am suggesting that you put them in check. If there’s a more efficient or more effective way to teach the topic, you should probably do it.
Turpin’s twenty-fifth anniversary is this week. That’s an exciting and satisfying thing for me to think about. Strangely, I’m writing this at the office (I usually write at home) on the old library table that was my desk 25 years ago. It hasn’t been my desk for a long time. Now it sits outside Kevin’s office and is used as a workshop suitcase packing surface.
We were talking about this anniversary at our last PR meeting. Brian suggested that I write this article, thinking that it would be a good way to mark the milestone. I thought I would have trouble coming up with 25 things that I’ve learned. I was wrong.
What I’ve Learned
Stay focused on what you do best.
Your goal should be to be the best at what you do. Otherwise, why are we doing it?
When the economy tanks, work harder and don’t cut corners.
The sales pipeline must be full and diverse. Always.
Take risks and try new things. If they don’t work, let them go.
Buy the expensive luggage. You won’t regret it.
Hire an excellent designer for your brand and website. If you’re lucky, he will ask you, “If Turpin were a cocktail, what would it be?” From this, you will learn that you can build a brand around single malt scotch.
Speaking of your brand, protect it like a mother bear.
Everyone thinks that they’re an expert when it comes to giving people feedback on presentations. Occasionally, they are.
Honeydew melon sucks no matter what hotel or conference center you are in.
Hire people with different backgrounds, education, and interests than you.
Hire people who are smart and independent.
An employee’s open mind and curiosity are far more important than their degree or business experience.
An important hiring consideration should be: Would I want to be delayed late into the night at an airport after a long week with this person?
If a prospect is buying solely on price, let them go quickly.
Resist the urge to let buyers turn what you do into a commodity.
A smart, skeptical client is a gift because they make you better.
It’s all about earning the trust of buyers and workshop participants. Without trust, nothing will go well.
People who have never owned a business will not understand why you aren’t taking a vacation and why you can’t just take the day off.
If you’re not very good at some aspect of your job, find someone else to do that work.
Write about what you do: a blog post, a white paper, a book. It doesn’t matter how long or formal the writing is; the act of writing forces clarity and exposes sloppy thinking. As Einstein said (at least many people think it was Einstein): “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” I have learned a lot about what we do from writing about it.
There you have it. Big thanks and a how-did-I-get-so-lucky to everyone who has contributed to Turpin’s success. You are all amazing and you know who you are.
In previous blogs I’ve written about the need for meeting facilitators to initiate and manage the conversation that takes place during meetings and about how team presentations bring special challenges.
This post is about the other people in the room, the meeting participants who are not responsible for facilitation or the presentation of information. They, too, need to be engaged and appear to be engaged.
The need to be engaged is obvious. After all, your participation in the meeting is (or should be) necessary in some way, either for the business, the team or for yourself. A good meeting facilitator will make the meeting content and process feel efficient and relevant. It’s your job, then, to understand what your contribution is and be open and responsive to the process.
Appearing engaged is also important. If other participants in the meeting feel that you’re not fully present or reluctant to participate, the conversation will suffer. Your behavior will become a distraction, like loud talkers in the airplane seats next to you when you have work to be done.
Like the airplane talkers, most people who don’t seem fully engaged in meetings have no idea what message they’re sending. They’re just unaware of themselves. Here are a few recommendations to make sure you’re not one of those people.
Look at people. If the meeting facilitator is attempting to maintain strong eye contact with everyone, be open to it.
Consider your posture. Are you slumped in your chair with your legs stretched out in front of you? If so, you look like someone at home watching TV, not a meeting participant.
Put down your phone. Yes, there are times when you may need to look at your phone, to check an email that relates to the meeting or to check your calendar. But every time you check your phone simply because it’s there, it’s noticed.
Do you have an RBF? (Excuse the language and the apparent sexism of this phrase. Rest assured, both men and women can project an RBF.) Facial expression matters, even when you’re listening. Think about relaxing your facial muscles and smiling (even a little). Maybe nodding your head will break you out of the look of displeasure you may be projecting.
No matter how routine a meeting might be, go into it with the desire to make the process as easy as possible for everyone in the room—even when it’s simply your job to be attentive. Everyone will appreciate it.
I’ve written a lot about how important it is for presenters to initiate and manage a genuine conversation with their audiences. How it’s the presenter’s responsibility to focus on making listening and understanding easy for everyone.
But what if there is a team involved? What are the challenges unique to that situation?
Let’s say you’re a member of a team that delivers research to the executives in your organization. Or maybe several people in your organization deliver sales pitches to potential clients as a team. How do the requirements for a successful presentation change when there are other people involved?
Every Team Member Needs to Be Engaged
The answer is that every team member needs to be engaged, whether you’re speaking or not. Success requires not only being attentive but appearing attentive as well.
Being attentive is important for these reasons:
You need to follow the conversation closely in order to fit the information you’re delivering into the conversation that is actually taking place.
That means you need to connect dots to what has been said and what will be said.
You also need to support others on the team in case they need your input or help, especially when questions are asked.
Appearing attentive is also necessary because doing otherwise undermines the cohesiveness of the team and distracts the audience. Every team member is “presenting” whether they’re speaking or not. That means that everyone on the team should:
Appear genuinely interested in what others are saying. No matter how many times you’ve heard them say it.
Sit up, put down your phone, take notes. Look happy to be there.
During transitions, treat other team members with respect. That means you may want to thank them after they’ve passed things over to you. Use their names when referring to what they said before you. Use “we” instead of “I” when appropriate.
All of these behaviors will communicate a positive impression of your team—that you are cooperative, cohesive, and get along—and that will help the audience stay focused on the message you are communicating.
Greg here with Turpin Communication. Conventional wisdom in the industry goes something like this: lecture is bad, activities are good. And I’m not so sure I agree with that. I mean lecture, if done well, and honestly that is a big if, can be efficient, direct, and really easy to prepare for. You just want to make sure that the lecture isn’t boring. So I always tell our clients, “Find enthusiasm for something. If you can’t find it for the topic, find it for the individuals that are in the room. You should be able to find enthusiasm for helping them learn. And when you do this, it will make all the difference in lecture.”
We all know a “That Guy.” You know, the one who no one wants to work with because he wastes time in meetings? If you have a “That Guy” on your team, check out what Greg Owen-Boger has to say about how to help him.
Dale Ludwig and Greg Owen-Boger were recently interviewed by HR Daily Advisor about the content of their upcoming book, “Effective SMEs: A Trainer’s Guide to Helping Subject Matter Experts Facilitate Learning.”
What are the main benefits and risks of using subject matter experts (SMEs) in training, and how can organizations help SMEs be successful?
“The real benefit is subject matter experts are experts in their field. They live it. They work with it every single day,” says Greg Owen-Boger, vice president of Turpin Communication. “Bringing their expertise into the training room is invaluable.”
SMEs also can impart their knowledge on other employees, which ensures that the know-how stays with the employer when SMEs retire, Owen-Boger says.
Since SMEs generally are not experts in talent development or training, employers should be proactive about “setting SMEs up for success,” Owen-Boger says. That starts with instructional design.
The (team members) hit the ball out of the park with their presentations today. They definitely took stuff away from your time together.
I came into this afraid it was going to be just another presentation class with its general, unhelpful advice and guidelines. However, I found the content to be valuable, the exercises to be fruitful, and the time to be quite worthwhile. Thanks!
Your keynote made this conference worth it.
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