Got any presentations coming up? Sometimes it feels as if I’m constantly giving presentations, to different stakeholder groups and individuals. What matters during a project presentation is that you meet the objectives for the presentation so that your audience – whether that’s one person or 1000 – go away knowing what they need to know and having their questions answered.
If you are new to giving stakeholder presentations on your projects here are some tips to help.
Know your audience
You may have heard this before, but it is really important. An audience of senior managers isn’t going to want to know about the issue with the code you found last week or how the construction contract is working out. They will want to know what it means for them and their teams in terms of sales, customer service and the big picture. They want to know what they have to do now to take advantage of the new project deliverables and how to help their own staff through the changes.
On the other hand, an audience of end users will want to know exactly how their work processes will change as a result of your project and you’ll probably get a lot of technical or functional questions relating to their day-to-day work.
Focus on whatever is important to your audience and make sure you anticipate the kind of questions that they will ask.
Practice your presentation. Make sure that people can hear you. That might mean using a microphone if it is a big room, for example a Town Hall-style presentation. Practice with the mike if you can as it will give you confidence to use it on the day. Use clear language: try to avoid project jargon or abbreviations that only you and the project team know. Make sure the words on your slides or project plan can be seen from the back of the room. People will switch off if they can’t read what you are presenting.
Even if you are simply in a meeting room with 5 other people you’ll still need to speak up and use clear language. That’s a lot easier if you know your stuff and if you have prepared and practiced in advance.
Use visual aids
People like pictures. It gives them something to focus on during the presentation and it’s also a help for you as it gives you a prop. Have an excerpt of your project plan on a slide presentation or even better, show your project plan online with a viewer like Seavus Project Viewer. Being able to see the plan makes it easier to understand what is happening when and consequently, the impact on the individuals in the audience.
Filter your Gantt chart to show key milestones, and make sure that you take your audience’s needs into account (again). What do they want to see: probably only the tasks that apply to them.
Practice for questions
Think about what sort of questions your audience will ask you and be prepared. If you are worried that no one will ask any questions you can seed the audience and ask a friend to ask you a question (make it one that you know the answer to!). Being the first to ask a question can often put people off so having someone else go first can then suddenly open up the floor.
Giving project presentations is something that all project managers do but it isn’t something that many people find comes naturally. Like any project management skill, you can improve with practice so take every opportunity you can to do a lot of presentations, especially in environments where you feel confident like doing short presentations to your team or other project managers that you know well.
If you want to learn more and take your presentation skills forward then I can recommend The Presentation Book by Emma Ledden. Your Project Management Office may also have resources that you can use and people speak highly of the Toastmasters organisation. There may be another public speaking group near you and if you think you’d like that kind of practical support instead of reading a book then check out what’s on offer locally. Even your local PMI Chapter might offer presentation skills courses (or might be able to put one on if there is enough demand) so talk to them as well.