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Make It Actionable

I hear, I forget; I see, I remember; I do, I understand.

—Confucius

Confucius said this in 970 B.C. and it is just as true today. This is why Master_Presenters involve their audience to the fullest extent possible. To help you turn your audience's good intentions into concrete, tangible, and actionable steps, use the five proven techniques presented below:

  1. Developing an action plan.

  2. Setting SMART goals.

  3. Developing a specific follow-through form.

  4. Scheduling a follow-up class.

  5. Using the Three-by-Three Form.

Note that elements from these various techniques can be combined in order to develop an actionable presentation that increases return on investment by maximizing transfer of training.

1 Developing an Action Plan

Master_Presenters encourage and inspire their participants to take action. An important part of our leadership development program is for the participants to carry out a project that will improve their leadership ability, overcome obstacles, and improve their ability to influence others. The participants design their project in the first class meeting and report back several months later on the progress that they made.

The nature of the projects has been very broad in scope from getting career counseling to getting a new job; from getting neighbors to clean up after their dogs to pressuring the city to make streets safer; from getting into better physical shape to upgrading one's standing as a coach and building a world-class swimming team and the facilities to go with it. One participant worked on safety at work and was so successful that he received a raise, while another, who was faced with laying off several long-time employees, found a way to make the organization more profitable resulting in no layoffs. Each one of their projects called for a demonstrated effort on the participants' part. It was a powerful lesson in leadership. Is there another way that they could have better learned about leadership? We think not! The Center for Creative Leadership completed some seminal research that documented that 50 percent of what we learn is learned though experience. Peter Senge, author of The Fifth Discipline, states that the foundation of team and organizational effectiveness is personal mastery. This assignment makes the participants' learning both memorable and actionable. Part of developing an action plan is to turn that plan into SMART goals to ensure that that plan will come to fruition.

2 Set SMART Goals

SMART goals are goals that are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and have a Time deadline. Far too often, at the end of a presentation, people set goals that are vague and are difficult to meet.

Brad: To counteract this tendency, I ask the participants in my negotiation workshops to set SMART goals at the end of the session. I then ask the participants to share their goals. I also give people the right to pass if they have set a private goal that they would rather not share. The sharing of goals gives me the opportunity to make sure that each person has, in fact, set a SMART goal. Also, hearing each other's goals gives some participants the opportunity to modify their goals if someone else has done a better job of making their particular goal specific.

For example, the "S" and the "M" stand for specific and measurable; for a goal to be both specific and measurable, it must pass the "Yes-No" test. The "Yes-No" test states that the goal must be so specific and measurable that we can count whether the specific behavior that the goal intends took place or not. For example, if a participant said, "I am going to use active listening with my associates for the next month," it is not specific or measurable. If, on the other hand, she said, "I will use intermediate summaries three times with my associate Claire over the next three weeks," it is measurable and specific.

"A" stands for attainable and "R" stands for realistic. Take long-distance running for example. If you were not currently training, it would be foolish to try to run a marathon. Therefore, we have to be careful that the participants do not set goals that cannot be met. In our negotiation course a realistic and attainable goal would be to use the "Negotiator's Preparation Form" three times within the next month. Setting a goal to use the form for every negotiation during the next month would be both unrealistic and unattainable.

Lastly, the "T" stands for setting a time deadline. This is based on the principle that a commitment is not a commitment unless there is a deadline attached to it. Having a definite end point makes it much more likely that the participant will evaluate his or her progress. Having participants write a letter to themselves, which will be mailed, and/or having them work with a peer, using the buddy system, will also increase the likelihood of reaching their goal.

EXERCISE 5-6

Please take one of your own goals and make it into a SMART actionable goal.

Next, outline the steps you will take to help your participants/audience develop SMART goals.


3 Develop a Specific Follow-Through Form

Another way to make sure that the participants set SMART goals is by developing a specific and detailed follow-through form.

Brad: The Negotiator's Preparation Form (see Appendix C) is the most detailed of the forms that I use to help the participants transform their good intentions into tangible action. This form covers every aspect of preparing for a negotiation. The form also helps remind the participants of each of the steps that are necessary to come to the table impeccably well prepared.

EXERCISE 5-7

Develop a form (using the one in Appendix C as a guide) that makes it easy for your participants/audience to turn the material you presented into concrete and actionable steps.


4 Schedule a Follow-Up Class

A follow-up class is an excellent way to review the participants' progress and refine and develop the skills that were taught in the first course.

Brad: In my advanced negotiating course, I start by asking the participants to form pairs and interview each other as if they were one of the world's best media interviewers. The interviewer asks questions about a negotiation the interviewee was in and felt good about. The example can come from work or outside of work. The interviewer is instructed to be as supportive as possible and to allow for the fact that it may take some time to think of an example. The interviewer is also instructed to help identify specific skills that were used in the negotiation. After five minutes, the interviewer and the interviewee are instructed to switch roles. We then start the class with each person briefly introducing his or her partner, giving a very brief summary of the negotiation, and listing the specific skill or skills that were used. This exercise serves as an excellent transition into the course, and is also a thorough review of all of the material that was covered in the first course. I then divide the participants into three groups. Each person in each group shares a current negotiation issue with which he or she would like some help. The groups are then given an hour to help each other as much as possible using the Three-by-Three Form to evaluate three things that are done well and three targets for improvement.

5 Use the Three-by-Three Form

You can use the Three-by-Three Form by asking the participants to list three strengths of the person doing the exercise and to make three suggestions for improvement. Our preference is to ask other people in the class to summarize the feedback on the form for the person who has just presented. This technique has a number of advantages. In a presentation course by the time four or five people say that the presenter has a great opening statement, the person is much more likely to listen to and accept the feedback. Likewise, if four or five people tell the participant who presented that he needs to slow down and add pauses to let the other person participate more, the person presenting the case is much more likely to believe it and take corrective action. The completed Three-by-Three Form, which now serves as an excellent summary, is then given to the person who presented. An example of this form filled out, follows.


Name: Joe/Jane Participant

Please list three things I do well as a presenter:

  1. Great storyteller.

  2. Excellent examples.

  3. Creative use of pictures.

Please list three specific targets for improvement:

  1. Speaks too quickly.

  2. Needs to pause so the audience can hear, understand, and digets.

  3. Needs more variety in transitions.



Figure 5-1: SAMPLE THREE-BY-THREE FORM

The Three-by-Three Form can easily be modified to best suit the purpose of any presentation. For example, when the course is on presentation skills, the word negotiator is substituted for the word presenter and the feedback is on how the participant presented, or if the course is on sales, the feedback is on the participant's ability and targets for improvement in sales.

Making it actionable requires using the five techniques discussed to help your audiences remember, understand, and use the materials you present. Help make sure your presentation's goals are actually implemented by developing action plans, setting SMART goals, developing follow-up forms, scheduling follow-up classes, and using a three-by-three form. Then you are ready for the last step in this chapter, which is to make it transferable.


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