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”

Don’t Waste Your Audience’s Time

In this video, produced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, discusses respecting your learners’ time.

Greg here with Turpin Communication. In my experience coaching trainers, one of the things I recognize is that they often lose credibility because they waste learners’ time in the classroom. They use ineffective icebreakers, or unnecessary icebreakers. They might teach content that the learners already know, come back late after breaks, and so on. You get the idea. We must respect the fact that adult learners are busy people at work. That means we need to respect their time. Be efficient in the classroom without rushing so that we can get them back to work.

Turpin Cares – May 2017 Update

The number of people living with homelessness in Chicago is staggering.


Food, clothing, and toiletries for Turpin Cares by Turpin Communication

Turpin Communication is doing what we can to help. In January of this year we started a new philanthropic wing called Turpin Cares. On a regular basis (quarterly for now), employees and “friendlies” get together to create care packages that are distributed to people in need.

Last weekend we came together to create 30 kits. Each one includes a combination of food, clothing, and personal hygiene items. Some items are donated. Others are purchased with donations from individual donors and Turpin Communication. Each kit contains about $40 worth of necessities.

The project was originally developed a few years ago by Greg, Turpin’s VP, and his good friend Olive. At the time it was just a way for two friends to get together to do something for people in need over the holidays. During the 2016 holiday season, it occurred to them that if they were ever going to be able to make a bigger impact, they’d have to find a way to scale up. That’s where the idea of Turpin Cares came from. Turpin Communication is able to use our resources (funding, office space, network of people) to reach even more individuals in need.

In addition to the care packages last weekend, Turpin Cares also collected winter coats and books for other organizations.

The coats are for the “Blue House” at Morgan Park High School, which is an after-school safe house for students. As their website says, “… the Center reaches out to students, faculty, and the community in the roles of advocate, counselor, teacher, and friend.” Learn more

The books are for Inspiration Corporation, which, in addition to providing meals, provides a free library for its clients. Thank you, Barbara Egel, one of Turpin’s trainers, for allowing us to donate books to this worthy cause that you care so deeply about. (Incidentally, Barbara was Volunteer of the Month last November at the café.)

Although our impact is small, we know that for the individuals receiving these gifts, it means the world. At Turpin Communication, we have high hopes for Turpin Cares. Want to get involved with future projects? Let us know by emailing

We’d like to send a very warm thank-you to everyone who worked together for this weekend’s event:

Turpin Friendlies
Adam SchwartzentraubTurpin Cares supports the homeless in Chicago
Ann Manfredi
Barb Schwartzentraub
Becky Goddard
Betsy Carnahan
Cindy Grabowski
Debbie Pastors
Jean Carroll
Laura Jane Baily
Leslie Anglada
Lucy Gaillard
Mrs. Schneider
Olive Rogers
Rich and Jennifer Schneider
Stacey O’Brien and The Chicagoland Compassion Connection
Steve English and Ryan Steinbach
Susan Richards
Traci Crawford
Vickie Wessels-Murphy

Turpin Cares is a philanthropic arm of Turpin Communication designed to help the homeless in ChicagoTurpin Employees, Contractors, and Vendors
Barbara Egel (Trainer)
Dale Ludwig (Founder & President)
Greg Owen-Boger (Vice President)
Kevin Vogelsang (Operations Manager)
Mary Vogelsang (Bookkeeper)
Sarah Stocker (Trainer and Workshop Coordinator)

Get involved with Turpin Cares by emailing

Do you represent a shelter or other non-profit organization that would like to explore ways to partner with us? Contact Greg Owen-Boger at

Help! My SME Just Went Rogue… Now What?!

If you’ve ever worked with Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in the training room, the title of this article is probably a familiar one.

SMEs can and do go rogue.

It’s not unusual for a Talent Development professional to lament the fact that the SMEs they work with don’t follow the facilitation guide or that they alter (or even cut) well-planned activities. If this has happened to you, don’t pull your hair out. Help is on its way.

When we work directly with SMEs, we hear comments such as:

  • “The order of these slides doesn’t make any sense to me at all.”
  • “I’m not going to do this activity. I don’t understand it, and it’s a waste of time.”
  • “The process that’s laid out isn’t how it is in the real world.”
  • “I’m sure this made sense to someone at some point, but I have no idea what this slide is supposed to be about. I guess I’ll just make something up.”

Often these comments are in response to a design that they simply don’t understand or an organizational structure that doesn’t fit the way they think about the subject.

Is Learning Happening?

The question that you, as the Talent Development professional, must ask is this: “Is the learning happening?” If it is happening, consider allowing the SME to continue with what he or she is doing. There are a lot of battles to fight, this doesn’t have to be one of them.

If the learning isn’t happening, or isn’t happening as efficiently as it could, then it’s time to respectfully step in and exercise your expertise in adult learning. There are a few approaches you could take.

  1. Redesign the learning so that it better matches the way your SME thinks. This will go a long way to building trust between the two of you.
  2. Explain why the learning has been designed in the way that it has, and coach the SME to work with it. Their lack of seeing the bigger picture may be causing their frustration. Make sure they understand what they’re supposed to accomplish at every step of the way and how the building blocks work to accomplish the overall goal.
  3. The third option is a combination of the previous two.

Regardless of the approach, empathize with the SME. Delivering material that you didn’t create is tricky business. Expressing empathy for their situation can go a long way in maintaining a positive working relationship.

We’ll be talking a lot more in the coming months about working with SMEs in the training room. Look for those articles here on our blog, and stay tuned for the upcoming book (published by ATD Press) with the working title, “Working with SMEs: Designing for and Coaching Subject Matter Experts to Facilitate Learning.”

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation

Make Participating Easy

In this video, produced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, discusses making learning easy for learners.

Greg here with Turpin Communication. Learning can sometimes be difficult, but participating in the learning event should be easy. What that means is we need to create a safe, supportive environment for fruitful learning to actually take place. We can do this by organizing content in a way that’s going to make sense for them. We need to be able to facilitate the discussions and make them feel comfortable in the environment so that they can chime in and actually build on one another’s knowledge. At the end of the day, our job is to make learning easy. That means removing the barriers so the learners can really focus on what’s important.

Turpin’s Blog Just Got an “Only Better” Renovation

Greetings, loyal Turpin blog readers!

One of the things you’ve heard us say over the years is that our goal is to help you “be yourself, only better.” Well, that’s more than advice we give our clients and trainees, we strive for it ourselves. So, we’ve made something of ours better: we renovated the Turpin Communication blog and moved it over to a new address at

We made this decision to streamline both our internal processes and simplify your experience reading the blog. It will now be found on our main Turpin Communication web site under the heading Blog.

If you visit the blog at the old URL, you’ll be redirected. But please take a moment to update your bookmarks to reflect the new site. That will ensure that you continue to have the same quality experience you’ve come to expect from us.

All of our previous posts are now migrated over to the new blog, and search functionality remains the same. If for some reason you notice any expired links, please let us know.

If you have any questions or feedback about this change, don’t hesitate to reach out to us at We’d love to hear from you. Thanks for reading and engaging with us!

Adult Learners Aren’t Blank Slates

In this video, produced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, reminds us to acknowledge our learners’ past experiences.

Greg here with Turpin Communication. I think that one of the most important concepts that we need to understand for those of us in talent development is that adult learners are not blank slates. They have a lot of experience under their belt, a lot of successes, maybe a few failures. And they may be working with incomplete or inaccurate information. So, for us, it’s important to acknowledge this upfront. Doing so gives your learners’ peace of mind and it lets them know that you really appreciate their skill level. So whenever you work with adult learners, make sure that you acknowledge their skill level, their experience upfront, and that you’re not going to start from scratch, which they could perceive as a waste of their time.

What a Weekend! Turpin Cares Rocked it for the Homeless

Turpin Cares volunteers gather to assemble winter care packages

Turpin Cares is a project sponsored by Turpin Communication to help the homeless in Chicago.

Each quarter our employees and “friendlies” get together to assemble Care Packages for distributing to those who are less fortunate than us.

Last weekend, we assembled twenty-five care packages. Each one contains non-perishable food, health and hygiene products, and hand-knit hats and scarves. We envision a future when we’ll be able to make many more packages, so to that end, we held a knitting class all day Saturday! In one of the pictures below, you can see several of our staff members (and others) learning some new mad skills! In all, we learned to knit, purl, cast on, and fix mistakes. The hands-down favorite new skill, though, was turning mistakes into design features!

The next time we get together will be May 6. The packages we make at that time will include summer-time necessities such as insect repellent and sun screen. All of these new knitters will keep on knitting though. We’ll use what they make next fall and winter.

Want to get involved? We’d love to have you. You may donate items for the care packages, hand-knit hats and scarves, or your time. Cash donations are also accepted. Email and we’ll send more information.

Enjoy these photos of our amazing volunteers!

And most of all, a huge thank you to everyone who helped out. Maybe you sent items, knit or crocheted, donated cash, fed us while we worked, or helped entertain us. Whatever you donated, Dale and Greg (Turpin’s owners) would like to extend a heart-felt thank you.

Signing cards for Turpin Cares winter care packages


Ann volunteered to assemble Turpin Cares packages for the homelessGreg Owen-Boger teaches a knitting class to Turpin Cares volunteers Turpin Cares put together 25 care packages for the homeless in Chicago

RETHINK: Training Materials as In-the-Moment Job Aids

In our work, we train and coach a lot of corporate trainers and subject matter experts (SMEs) to be more effective in the training room. Time and again we see them struggle with PowerPoint slides and facilitation guides.

We see similar struggles when they’re using off-the-shelf training as well as when the training has been designed specifically for them. The reason for this is because these training tools, the facilitator guide and slides, have not been prepared in such a way that will benefit the trainer while they’re delivering the training.

The Facilitation Guide Serves Two Purposes
When putting a facilitation guide together for trainers and SMEs to use, it’s important to recognize that they will use the guide for two very different purposes.

First, they’ll use it to prepare themselves to deliver the material. This means that the guide needs to be comprehensive enough so that the SME understands (1) what is to be learned, (2) why the class is designed the way it is, and (3) how content should be delivered. This requires detail and nuance, but not a script. If the training is to be delivered multiple times, especially if they take place over a period of time, it also needs to include enough detail to jog memories.

Second, the guide needs to serve as an in-the-moment job aid.  It’s unrealistic to assume that trainers and SMEs can deliver training without looking at notes from time to time. Therefore, the facilitation guide needs to be clear and its information easily accessible in the moment. This requires recognizable icons, short bullets, consistent layout, and so on.

Facilitator guides need to be laid out and organized to support both purposes. Easier said than done, but necessary if it is going to be useful to the person using it.

Presentation Slides Also Serve Two Purposes
When designing slides or other types of visuals for trainers to use during the training, keep in mind that, like the facilitator guide, slides also have two functions. They are there for the learners and they are there for the trainer. This goes against traditional thinking. But we believe that if a slide doesn’t support the trainer in their moment of need, it’s a lousy visual aid.

Here are common missteps that we see, followed by recommendations.

  • Sometimes a slide’s title is not an accurate reflection of what the slide shows or means. A good slide title should spark the right thoughts for the trainer in the moment of delivery.
  • Sometimes slides are too wordy, making it difficult to read and talk about. Bullet points should always be easily readable and start with the same part of speech (verb, noun, adjective).
  • Conversely, sometimes slides don’t have enough words. This often happens when the slide displays a metaphorical image without context or explanation (think Zen stones showing up out of nowhere). We recommend adding text to images. You may not win any design awards, but that’s not the point.
  • Sometimes information is organized in a way that doesn’t make sense to the trainer. For example, the Instructional Designer may have listed items alphabetically, when from the trainers’ perspective, they should be arranged chronologically. If the trainer stumbles in situations such as this, don’t fight them. Reorder the information and save your arguments for when it matters.

As you put together the content of the training, remember the dual role both facilitator guides and slides play in training delivery and design accordingly.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

Trainers: Establish Context and a Reason to Participate

In this video, produced by the Association for Talent Development (ATD), Greg Owen-Boger, Turpin’s VP, discusses why providing context and reason to participate is important.


Have you ever been sitting in a meeting, a presentation, or a training session and wondered what am I doing here? What are we trying to accomplish? Of course you have and it happens all the time. And the reason for it is because the leader of that communication event just didn’t take the time to set the context for you.

So my colleagues and I always recommend stating what may seem painfully obvious to you. Here’s an example: Hey, thanks for coming out to the meeting today. We’re going to be going over the budgeting process so that when it comes to planning for next fiscal year, you’ll understand why the leadership needs so much detailed information so early.

So as you can see, it only takes a quick moment to provide that context and reason to participate. And trust me on this, it’s time really well spent.

Click to learn more about our training for trainers.