In this episode of Training Unleashed, Evan speaks with Diane Ripstein, owner and principal of Diane Ripstein Consulting, on ways professionals can make the most of speaking engagements. Email Diane at [email protected] and she will send you vocal warm-up exercises to help you be a better presenter.
Announcer: Welcome to Training Unleashed. The show that will help you design and deliver training that’s off the chain and will make a difference. Now, here’s your host, Evan Hackel.
Evan: Welcome, everyone, to another great edition of Training Unleashed. Today we have an absolutely fabulous episode that every single one of us listening today is gonna benefit greatly from. We have Diane Ripstein from dianeripstein.com. She is a professional speaker, and she talks about something that we all need to listen to. And I’m gonna let Diane tell us a little bit about herself. Diane?
Diane: Thank you, Evan. Delighted to be here. So, here’s the lead for your listeners today. It’s all about theater. In other words, as trainers, we are at the front of the room or we’re on the stage, we’re at the podium, we’re in the conference room. There are people in front of us that’s an audience, and we have things to say. And that, my friends, is theater. Where I come from is, “How do you make it feel like there’s a real audience sense of engagement? How do you make those folks in front of you feel that they’re in the right place and they wanna see what’s gonna happen next?”
Evan: That is outstanding, and I am looking at your website right now, and it says, “Are you speaking like a game changer?” What does that mean and how do you do that? Because I’m sure everyone wants to speak like a game changer.
Diane: Well, we all talk all the time, don’t we? And there’s a lot of verbiage out there. In fact, I often say that we get lost wandering in the desert of extraneous verbiage. So, when there’s so much coming at everyone, how do you stand out? How do you make your words clear enough, profound enough, interesting enough, entertaining enough, take your choice, to really land with your listeners? So, that’s what speaking like a game changer is all about. You’re not doing it the way everybody else is doing it. You’re doing something different enough so that your words stand out. It’s a tough environment out there. If you sound like everyone else, not good enough.
Evan: Well, I totally agree with you. The bar always gets raised. Are you talking about just speaking in front like as a trainer or as a speaker, or could this literally be how you talk over the phone or you talk to colleagues or is it all communication?
Diane: I would say it’s all communication. So, clearly, we as professionals, use these techniques in our professional role, but as a crazy example, I’ve been having problems with a car that I’ve been leasing, and I’ve had to go back to this dealership and really think tactically about how I speak to the general manager. And believe you me, I have used a lot of the skills that we talk about as trainers and as communicators, which is what I am, in this very personal way, talking to the general manager of a car dealership. So, to answer your question, it’s not just when you’re in the front of the room training, it’s for life. These are life skills.
Evan: So, can you tell us about the car problem and tell us exactly what you did?
Diane: Absolutely. So, I took a very emotional situation because I was really annoyed. I had blown out three different tires, and it wasn’t me. It was actually the tire problem. So I took all that emotion, and I forced myself to write a very clear outline of what had happened, what day and when. So I took the emotion out and just got very factual and structured. I took that information and out of that created an email which I sent to the dealership and the general manager, general sales manager, etc., and there was no emotion in that. I was just a very clear customer who knew what they wanted to say, knew what they wanted to get out of this deal and put it into very clear writing. I then set up a meeting. I had those notes with me, and I used those notes to open a conversation which began with, “How can we make this right?”
Evan: I love those words.
Diane: That was my lead-in. And that goes to the technique of, “Always lead with your point.” In fact, I call that pyramid positioning. Think of a pyramid. Pointed at the top, right? Big triangle, large base along the bottom. Most of us, when we’re talking, we start at the bottom of the pyramid, and we build to that point. It is far more compelling whether you are talking to your car dealer or whether you’re talking to a corporate group of executives in a training room lead with the point. It’s really compelling, and it makes a huge difference.
Evan: I can imagine that. I can imagine that, and it gives such clarity right away. And we do, people tend to pitter-patter around and not get to the point. I think that’s really, really powerful thought for everyone.
Diane: And I want to say when you mentioned people tend to pitter-patter around, Evan, I call that preamble. And most of us are a lot more comfortable opening with preamble. We kind of ease our way into what we want to say, right? But when you are communicating as a game changer, as a pro, try this idea, no preamble, dive in and just say it. It feels balled, it feels bold, it feels ballsy, do it. It’s very compelling.
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Evan: I’m gonna quick share a story. My wife was having a problem with a computer company getting service, and she needed really to get a new computer. And she gets frustrated, so she hands the phone to me and said, “Would you take over?” And my first question to the person is, “I just wanna ask you a question. If I was convincing enough to you, do you have the power to authorize a new computer?” And the answer was, “No.” “Great, can I speak to someone who does?”
Diane: That is a brilliant sales question. We all learned that as salespeople. Part of my background is I was in sales. I was the national advertising manager for a major newspaper here in our market. Asking a question like that is key. Why waste time if you’re not talking to a decision-maker? Bravo, Evan.
Evan: My wife was just stunned. She goes, “What a brilliant question?” And it’s interesting because that so many times we do talk to people that don’t have the authority. So a lot of times that’s the way I start. So, you’re a professional speaker, and you bring a message. What I’d like to kinda know is, when you speak to a group, what kinda change can the group expect?
Diane: The group can expect to be far better at talking about what they do, far better at explaining the value of why they are doing it, and far more efficient at actually moving ahead. In business, it’s all about forward momentum. You’re getting a product out, you’re establishing a protocol, you’re working with another part of the firm. These are all ways in which forward momentum is what you’re looking for. How do you get forward momentum? You get it through good communications. I mean, how often have you and I and everyone else listening been in a situation and you get frustrated because things aren’t moving forward. Why? Because people aren’t communicating clearly, succinctly, to the point, everyone’s getting confused. So, people can expect after a training that I do to be better at that very specific skill. How do I talk about what do I do? How do I talk the value of what I do? How do I ask good questions? And most importantly, how do I work with others to get forward momentum so we’re all headed in whatever direction we wanna head in?
Evan: I love the term forward momentum, and I love what you’re talking about. Because when I sit back and I think about conversations, I just think about how inefficient they are at times and how we can all benefit by being better at how we speak and how we can communicate and that we can really improve morale in companies, we can improve sales in companies. So, what you’re doing really makes a difference.
Diane: And its leadership, if you think about it. If you have to inspire troops, if you have to align your team, you’ll have to inspire them. And that doesn’t just happen intellectually. We’re all smart people, and there’s a lot we could talk about, but unless you hook people on some kind of emotional level, some kind of heart to heart level, it’s hard to inspire them. So that’s part of learning to communicate better as well.
Evan: Well, that’s fantastic. You know, we’re talking a lot about speaking. Any tips for good listening?
Diane: Ooh, yes. Listening, listening. Listen to what is being said and listen to what is not being said. Yeah, so a good listener doesn’t just hear the words coming at us, but rather listens to and hears a context behind those words. And it may be something you pick up in body language, which by the way, gets harder and harder as we spend less time in person with someone and more time over the phone, etc., over the computer, but you’re listening for what’s behind the words.
Sometimes you can think of it as listen to the questions, but also listen for the questions that aren’t being asked. So, you wanna listen with a broad context, not literally, but broadly to this whole issue of what this person in front of you is trying to communicate, not just what they say. What are they trying to communicate? And then playback, you know, you know, we all learn this technique, “So what I understand you’re saying is,” or, “Let me just pause here for a moment. Do you mean…?” etc., etc. So, you ask those clarifying questions, but don’t just jump in with those clarifying questions. Give that person a real opportunity to speak their truth. And another technique is when they’re done, say something like, “Is there anything else? Is there anything else I should know? Is there anything else you’d like to tell me?”
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Evan: I talk a lot about listening for the kernel of truth and that we’re brought up to listen defensively, to listen to why someone’s wrong, why someone’s trying to manipulate us, why someone’s trying to sell us. We listened defensively and if you can listen with an open mind you can hear better.
Diane: I love that, and I love the word open because that’s what it’s all about. So, what is good communication? It’s open communication. It’s not defensive. It’s actually looking at this bigger picture because we’re communicating in order to get something done. Back to forward momentum. We’re communicating in order to train people so they have a skill that they will actually use, forward momentum. And that’s what training is all about. It’s not just in the moment. We’re taking this information, and we’re going somewhere with it. Otherwise, it’s a waste of time.
Evan: So, when you work with companies on this, you give speeches. How long are they normally? Are they keynotes? Are they breakouts? How do you work with people?
Diane: They are both. So, the 45-minute keynote sometimes has to be what you do. That’s the time slot and you got to do the very best you can to give people a lot of content as well as entertainment and enjoyment in 45 minutes. More often, I’m in a situation where I may have a four-hours, sometimes even a five-hour slot for a very thoughtful and deep training in communication skills. And here’s the reason why, Evan. It doesn’t help to listen to me for you to become a better communicator, and you can’t read about this stuff. You have to do it. So, ideally, I’m in these situations where I can get people up on their feet, actually practicing, practicing techniques, communicating, giving many speeches, getting laser feedback. It’s a highly interactive process, and I’m a big believer and get those folks up on their feet and speaking.
And I do not mean the dreaded role-play. No, no, no. Not role playing, but rather taking the words that they typically use in a business day, maybe a deck that they use, maybe the Powerpoint presentation that they use and give me five minutes of that. Present it to me, and then I break it down, I give them feedback, I reflect to him or her, what I heard, what I didn’t hear, I use videotaping. So, your question was how often… how much time do I get rather in front of these folks? Sometimes it’s a small amount of time, and sometimes it’s a really big chunk because they are doing a lot of the work.
Evan: Well, I think it’s fantastic because I think a workshop like that really is a difference maker. Really a difference maker. You can definitely impact an organization with a great keynote, but when you have given that kind of time and people get to use and demonstrate their knowledge of what you’re talking about, I’m sure it makes a big difference.
Diane: Let me add, if I may, two add-ons to that. After those long sessions, I take a lot of notes, and I send a personalized email back to each of those individuals. Now granted, these are not huge groups. They may be 15, 20, 25 executives. I send personalized emails with their aha moments that they identified. And it could be a month later when that training is nothing but a warm, delightful memory, you know, somewhere back in the mists of time because life moves ahead very, very quickly in the corporate world. A month later they get an email from me outlining words that they said, techniques that they said they were going to use in their everyday communications, ideas that we discussed. So, that’s been our real terrific add-on that has had a lot of leverage for folks. Then in some cases with some companies, I am allowed to write an additional email to the senior manager of that person who’s been in the training.
What’s that email all about? First of all, I thank them and the email comes from me. I thank them for giving their person the time and the dollars to attend this training. I talk about what a pleasure it was to have that person in my workshop, and then I ask that manager if they might be able to support the participant as he or she moves forward in their communication journey by XXX. And whatever I put into that email is something that the participant and I have decided on. It’s all very transparent. They asked me to ask their manager on their behalf to support them moving forward. This has turned out to be a real win-win, I have to tell you. It’s a short email, you know, it’s not anything long and fancy, but the manager typically is very happy that they have a specific way that they can support their person because this is all about making everybody better. Sometimes I get thank you emails back from the managers saying how helpful this will be all around.
Evan: Well, I love that, and I wanna just point to all the people that are listening, that are trainers, take this idea yourself, right? You can, when the training is over, send an email to everybody that went to that training and highlight that aha moment for them and send an email to their manager. I mean, you know, one of the things that we all have to remember, and this is something that I’ve said a million times, not a million times, that’s an exaggeration, but a lot, is that the training department within a company is a business and that we’re always selling ourselves. So, that value-add that you offer, which by the way, I’ve never heard of a professional speaker ever do that, so that’s a serious value-add. But for people listening here, I mean this is a great idea to build value in that training department. Make those people that wanted that training department to go, “Wow, I learned a lot.” And for those managers go, “Wow, this has just been great in terms of the improvement within the company.” And, you know, we’re always validating in training that what we’re doing makes a difference.
Diane: Absolutely. And let me just add to that. And, of course, it has to work within a given company. You have to work this all out with training and development, with HR, it has to be approved by everybody, but to your point, Evan, they then look good because they are selling their training internally to all the units and businesses within the company. So, they’re selling and I become someone that they want to sell. So we’re all benefiting.
Evan: No doubt. No doubt. We are running out of time, but I always have my last question and that question is, what one tip, if you could share one tip to our listeners, what one tip would that be?
Diane: My tip is it’s all about theater. You are on stage, you’re at the front of the room, you have people in front of you, they are an audience, and you are giving them information that you want to have land in their heads. So act like a theater person and warm up before you start training or speaking. Warm up your voice, warm up your throat. I actually have an offer, Evan. May I talk about it?
Evan: I was gonna ask you that next. So, please do.
Diane: Okay. So, have your listeners email me, [email protected], and I know you’ll have it on the podcast site. And I would be delighted to send them a very interesting list of vocal warm-up exercises, easy, easy things that anyone can do. Some you may wanna do in the privacy of your own home. Some you can do backstage. This is what actors do. Nobody walks out cold, so take advantage of warming yourself up to be a better presenter, a better trainer, a better communicator all round.
Evan: Diane, this is a great offer and most of the people will get the description or we’ll have your email address in there, but there are gonna be some people who will stream this that won’t have that benefit. So if you wouldn’t mind spelling out, I think they all got dianeripstein.
Diane: I sure will.
Evan: That would be great.
Evan: Well, that is fantastic. I have learned a lot. That’s always generally a good sign, but it’s been a good show. Really appreciate having you on board and to all our listeners, everyone have a fantastic day.
Diane: Thank you so much.
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