25 Lessons Over 25 Years

Celebrating 25 years of client loyalty at Turpin CommunicationTurpin’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

  1. Stay focused on what you do best.
  2. Your goal should be to be the best at what you do. Otherwise, why are we doing it?
  3. When the economy tanks, work harder and don’t cut corners.
  4. The sales pipeline must be full and diverse. Always.
  5. Take risks and try new things. If they don’t work, let them go.
  6. Buy the expensive luggage. You won’t regret it.
  7. Turpin Communication is a top-shelf training companyHire 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.
  8. Speaking of your brand, protect it like a mother bear.
  9. Everyone thinks that they’re an expert when it comes to giving people feedback on presentations. Occasionally, they are.
  10. Honeydew melon sucks no matter what hotel or conference center you are in.
  11. Hire people with different backgrounds, education, and interests than you.
  12. Hire people who are smart and independent.
  13. An employee’s open mind and curiosity are far more important than their degree or business experience.
  14. Don’t be cheap.
  15. Make sure that everyone on your team understands what the company stands for and represents it with every client interaction.
  16. Make everyone’s job as pleasant as possible.
  17. Give your employees freedom and respect.
  18. 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?
  19. If a prospect is buying solely on price, let them go quickly.
  20. Resist the urge to let buyers turn what you do into a commodity.
  21. A smart, skeptical client is a gift because they make you better.
  22. It’s all about earning the trust of buyers and workshop participants. Without trust, nothing will go well.
  23. 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.
  24. If you’re not very good at some aspect of your job, find someone else to do that work.
  25. 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.

Dale Ludwig: President & Founder, Turpin CommunicationThere 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.

I’ll make another list in 10 years.

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

What we wish everyone knew about meeting behavior

Meeting participants also have a responsibility to be engaged.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.

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

What everyone ought to know about delivering team presentations

What everyone ought to know about delivering team presentationsI’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.

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

Embrace Lecture

In this video, produced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, encourages you to embrace lecture.

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.”

Using Subject Matter Experts in Your Training Programs

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.”

HR Daily Advisor article on Turpin CommunicationWhat 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.


Link to read more: http://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com/2017/06/30/using-subject-matter-experts-training-programs/

8 Tried-and-True Steps to Building Trust

When we wrote about Turpin’s culture last fall, we had no idea who it might lead us to. As friends do, they lead you to their friends, and the next thing you know, you’re being interviewed for an article in Success Magazine!

Thank you, Barbara Egel, for introducing us to Melissa Balmain, the author of the piece.


An excerpt:

Employees at Turpin are interviewed about building trust among employees and clients

Image originally appeared with the article at Success.com


Crazy Man trusted nobody, and nobody trusted him.

That’s how Dale Ludwig describes his former boss at a public-speaking training company.

Crazy Man listened in on employees’ phone calls. He turned against his favorites without warning. He preached company values he didn’t live by—honesty and fun—and tried to control every moment of everyone’s day.

“I always assumed I was being observed and I had to keep my head down and do the minimum and not call attention to myself,” Ludwig says.

Twenty-five years later, Ludwig is the founder and president of Turpin Communication, a communication skills company in Chicago. “I trust people to do their jobs and I give them the freedom to do them,” he says. The result: a workplace that’s the polar opposite of Crazy Man’s. “It’s like, Oh boy, here are my friends and we all have interesting work to do and we’re going to do it really well.”

From office to home, from friendship to parenthood to romance, stories like Ludwig’s are legion. Nothing matters more than trust.

Read the full article

Facilitator Training

Facilitator training for every variety of facilitatorBusiness people step into the role of facilitator in a variety of situations. Because of this, we provide facilitator training options to meet the range of needs our clients face.

The different types of facilitators we work with include:

  • Business Presenters – It’s not unusual for presenters to facilitate group discussions in order to gain alignment during their presentations. For information about this type of presenter training, visit our presentation skills workshop catalog.
  • Trainers – More and more, corporate trainers are moving away from being lecturers and toward being facilitators of learning. Facilitators deliver content just as trainers always have, and this, of course, requires excellent presentation skills. But they do more than present. Facilitators of learning also create a rich learning environment in which information is shared, discussions are moderated, and exercises are set up and debriefed. Because this type of facilitation is a challenge for everyone, we have developed a catalog of facilitator training workshops for trainers. These workshops are for new or “accidental” trainers, experienced trainers, and Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) tasked with delivering training.
  • Meeting Leaders – Business people lead meetings on a regular basis. Most of these meetings are low-stakes events designed to get business done, make a decision, or gain alignment. While these meetings may seem mundane, when they aren’t managed well, they waste time and frustrate employees. This can lead to a loss of good will among team members and an erosion of trust. To help these meetings be more efficient and effective, we’ve created a catalog of meeting facilitator workshops. (We’ve also developed a Business Meeting Contract that you may print and distribute to meeting attendees.)
  • High-stakes Meeting Facilitators – When the stakes are high, extra care must be taken to get the right facilitator. During these meetings, a great deal of money may be at stake. Relationships among attendees may be strained. Tempers may flare. The decisions made may have a lasting effect on people throughout the organization. When it’s crucial that the facilitator hold a neutral point of view, a third party should be called in. At other times, an internal person is appropriate, as long as they possess the necessary skills, can earn the trust of the group, and are able to set their opinions aside. Our workshop, Advanced Facilitation Skills, will provide the training to develop these skills.

All of Turpin Communication’s facilitator training workshops help participants develop the skills they need to succeed.  For meeting facilitators, the training process focuses on the following.

  • Planning for the discussion
    • Identifying the intended outcome
    • Developing an agenda
    • Framing the meeting to reflect the perspective of meeting attendees
  • Creating the conditions for a fruitful discussion
    • Engaging attendees in the conversation and making them feel safe
    • Setting context and laying the groundwork
    • Following the agenda without stifling the discussion
    • Asking the right questions
    • Encouraging equal participation among attendees
    • Managing conflict if it arises
    • Listening for what’s said and what’s not
    • Observing without judgment
    • Connecting dots, summarizing, knowing when to move on
  • Closing the discussion
    • Helping others reach consensus and make decisions
    • Documenting the discussion and decisions that are made
    • Setting next steps

If we can help you hone your facilitation skills in any of the situations described here, let us know.

Contact us at info@turpincommunication.com or call 773-294-1566

Communicate Like a Leader

Communication is an essential leadership skillCommunication is an Essential Leadership Skill

I recently watched a TED talk by Simon Sinek called “Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe.” His talk motivated me to buy his latest book, Leaders Eat Last. In both the talk and the book Sinek defines effective leadership in ways that reminded me that the work we do at Turpin is not only about helping people communicate more effectively and efficiently. It’s also about helping them become leaders.

Sinek says that good leaders make people feel safe within the organization. This feeling of safety leads to trust, cooperation, open dialogue, and the desire to look out for everyone’s interests, not just our own. When people feel safe, the business and everyone in it wins.

It’s About How You Make People Feel

This struck a chord with me because we also talk a lot about how presenters, trainers, and facilitators should make people feel. For example, we teach that

  • Meeting participants need to feel that the conversation taking place is a good use of their time and that the meeting facilitator is competent and trustworthy.
  • Learners in a workshop need to feel that the trainer is working hard to make whatever is presented relevant and useful to them.
  • People listening to a presentation need to feel that the presenter is genuinely open and responsive to their needs and perspectives.

When these feelings are not present, people will shut down, check out, and refuse to give their best to the process taking place.

As Sinek points out, feelings of trust and safety cannot be dictated. You can’t simply say, “Trust me” and expect people to do it. You can’t expect people to feel comfortable asking questions simply by asking them to be. These feelings are the result of how genuinely a leader demonstrates interest and empathy.

Trust Must Be Earned

When we help clients manage their meetings, presentations, and training sessions more effectively, we emphasize the fact that trust must be earned with every interaction. Every time you’re at the front of the room, you’re assuming a leadership role and must consider how people are feeling about what’s happening. This includes making sure that the process itself—whether presentation, meeting or training session—feels efficient and relevant for the people participating in it.

Here are some of the ways you can do that:

  • As you prepare for your next presentation, think about how your team will receive the information you’re delivering. Are they eager to receive it? Unaware that it’s important to them? Are they resistant? Let this insight determine how you set context for the presentation. Acknowledge their feelings, especially if they’re negative. Many times this will feel risky, but as Sinek says, leaders lead by taking risk first.
  • During your next meeting, focus on engaging people in a conversation, not just delivering a message. Make them feel part of the process. This takes effort because you have to get out of your head and be fully in the moment with the people you’re talking to. Once you’re there, though, it’s easy to let their responses guide you.
  • If you’re delivering training, pay attention to what learners are feeling about the process. Are they confused, frustrated or intimidated? If they are, it’s your job to make them feel safe enough to express those feelings. Without knowing how they feel, it’s impossible to react and adjust appropriately.

The next time you’re leading a meeting or a training session, think of yourself as a leader. Doing so will help you earn the trust and goodwill of the people you work with.

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

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.

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