Greg Owen-Boger is the Vice President of Turpin Communication, a presentation and facilitation training company in Chicago. He started with Turpin as a cameraman in 1995, and quickly moved on to instructor/coach, and now VP. Trained in management and the performing arts, he brings a diverse set of skills and experience to the organization. Prior to joining Turpin, he was a Project Leader for a boutique consultancy that uses live theatre to initiate the leadership development process. He is a frequent blogger and speaker, and he is the 2015 President of the Association for Talent Development, Chicagoland Chapter.
In this conversation, he discusses his book, The Orderly Conversation that he co-authored with Dale Ludwig.
Geetesh: Compared to other presenters’ books, The Orderly Conversation is a book that’s not so much about a sequential series of improvement steps one needs to take. Rather, your book is filled with your personal experiences — and it us these experiences that are valuable since they help others overcome so many problems. Can you share some thoughts about this observation.
Greg:Over 40-plus combined years, Dale and I have worked with people from many different industries and at all levels within their organizations. There is one common theme among them. Through their business communications, they are attempting to get business done; they need to be clear and persuasive so that their listeners buy, agree, align, or learn. This also means that they need to create the conditions for a fruitful and efficient dialogue to take place.
Often the first objective (that of achieving the goal) is missed because of failure on the speaker’s part to manage the give-and-take process. We believe that this happens because business people are using the wrong set of tools to do that work. They’re using an old worn out set of rules and techniques born from speechmaking instead of conversation-making. Once we understood this concept, it changed everything about our work. It changed how we prepare for presentations and how we manage the process including introducing the presentation, using projected slides and handouts, managing (and actually encouraging) interruptions, and so on. The Orderly Conversation is our attempt to redefine business presentations and bring this new thinking to the rest of the world.
Geetesh: How did this book evolve – and what roles did you and your co-author Dale Ludwig play in its creation?
Greg: Originally, I wasn’t going to contribute to the book at all. However, after reading an early draft, I suggested to Dale that it was lacking practical application. In other words, the theory was rock solid, but I doubted whether readers would be able to apply Dale’s recommendations to the variety of situations they face at work. I’m a huge fan of Patrick Lencioni’s book, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, in which he uses character and story to bring his leadership concepts to life. We decided to do the same, and since I have a background in theatre and storytelling, it made sense for me to take on this new concept and weave narrative into the text.
To do that, we created eight fictional, yet very real characters. Early on in the writing process, I hung posters of their headshots all around my office. The posters included their character description along with anything else I could think of to make each presenter come to life. For months, I lived with them looking over me as I sat at my desk. Every time a new idea popped into my head, I’d make note of it on their poster.
The result is that each has a variety of strengths and weaknesses. They each work for a different company and have different responsibilities at work. In the story, they are participating in one of our presentation skills workshops. Dale is the lead instructor and I coach them as they work on their next big presentation. Readers tell us that they love this approach because they are able to immerse themselves into the story. They can relate to one or more of the presenters and follow them more closely throughout the book. That is exactly what we set out to achieve, so we feel pretty good about that.