Successful Presentations – Key tips
May 12, 2011 Leave a comment
Being able to perform effective presentations is one of the staple requirements for any project manager. (Or any manager for that matter) The need to be able to concisely convey key points, ideas, timetables or architectural and technical concepts is an absolutely essential requirement for the project manager.
Presentations can of course be performed in numerous ways. They can be live, in your face discussions in a meeting room or they can be done virtually via tools like WebEx or Livemeeting. Regardless of medium, the project manager must be able to get the key points across in an effective manner. A poorly performed presentation can lead to mis-information, information gaps or a general lack of enthusiasm for the project.
With that being said, what are some of the key tips and ideas that a project manager should be cognizant of when prepping their presentation material? What styles should be avoided and what ideas need to be embraced to ensure that your presentation will be well received?
1. Limit the usage of non-standard words or phrases
Whenever you are conducting a presentation, its important to try to avoid catch-phrases or excessive use of slang. This is especially important if you are dealing with a target audience that is not necessarily from the same demographic region. Even within the same country, phrases or slang terms can often have meaning in one area, but be foreign in another. As such, excessive use of what you may consider to be common lingo may cause confusion for the participants on the call.
2. Try to keep the acronyms to a minimum
In any industry (or the world for that matter), acronyms are common-place. And while they serve a purpose from the standpoint of giving an abbreviated version of a particular compound term, they are not always obvious to the end-user. So when performing a presentation, have some awareness of which acronyms may be common knowledge versus those that may be more obscure. Also, just having too many acronyms in your presentation will give it a very un-readable appearance. So use them sparingly and only when necessary. It is also wise to provide an appendix in your presentation material for any acronym definitions you may have used.
3. Make soft and hard copies of your material available
Whenever performing a presentation, try to have handouts available for individuals if you are in a meeting room and also make soft copies available for anyone who may be teleconferencing. This will give the opportunity for those people viewing your presentation to jot down ideas or follow-ups on the presentation material itself or mark certain areas for further review at a later time. It also gives the whole presentation a more professional feel. And don’t be stingy on the printouts. If you have nice looking color charts and graphs in your presentation, ensure that is replicated in the handouts.
4. Be familiar with the technology of the presentation medium
Whether you are in a conference room or are using teleconference or media sharing technology of some sort, be as familiar with that technology as you can. If you are spending the majority of your presentation time trying to figure out how to do something with PowerPoint or WebEx, it will detract from your actual presentation and begin to frustrate your audience. Also, if you are performing a live presentation, make sure you take the time to become familiar with the meeting room if possible. Understand how the projectors, lights and microphone system operate. And if you can, arrive at the presentation conference room ahead of time to perform all the necessary prep prior to the start of the meeting.
5. Don’t get too ‘fancy’
This is mostly for those of you that use PowerPoint. (Which is pretty much everyone nowadays) It’s often easy to become enamored with all the bells and whistles of a particular tool. Like animation features, fancy graphics and fonts, et cetera. But ultimately, don’t overdo it. You are trying to perform an effective presentation, not create new characters for the Avatar sequel. Time and again, individuals will spend far too much time on the ‘gizmos’ of their presentation utility and not enough on the presentation contents themselves. And doing so will give your entire presentation a cartoonish appearance. So use the fancy attributes sparingly and ONLY when you feel they are needed to convey a concept in a certain way. (i.e. like demonstrating how workflow might work for an app)
6. Don’t let the presentation get derailed
During any presentation, questions are going to be asked. These questions can cascade into discussions that end up taking the presentation off the rails. As the presenter, its important to make sure the presentation stays on track. If items come up that are taking up too much of the presentation’s time, note to the audience that the discussion will be taken offline so that the remaining content can be conveyed. The more time spent on ancillary dialog, the less time will be available for other key items. That can cause the presentation to have to be re-visited more times than necessary because original items were not covered due to time running out.
7. Be aware of your audience
If you are performing a live presentation, make sure you are aware of your audience. Stay engaged with them, move around, keep eye contact. I think we all remember the famous Ben Stein cameo in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where he portrayed the teacher with the monotone voice simply droning on. And needless to say, the audience was not captivated. By being more energetic and engaging with the audience, the higher the likelihood that they will maintain focus on your topic points and provide the feedback you require. Note that if you are performing a presentation via teleconference, its important to stop periodically to ask for questions. Individuals accessing a presentation via teleconference can easily become distracted. So try to ensure that you are maintaining dialog with your audience, even if they are remotely located.
This is probably the most difficult thing to achieve for some. As a study once famously demonstrated, public speaking actually had a larger fear factor associated with it than death itself! A presentation can be daunting, especially if it is being conveyed to an audience of senior leaders or executives. But regardless of the audience, it’s important to keep your cool. I won’t tire you with the old platitudes of picturing people in their underwear to reduce stress. From my perspective, the BEST method to maintain composure during your presentation is to ensure you have as much fundamental knowledge on the topic points being covered as you possibly can. This will allow you to be able to anticipate questions and have canned answers ready should they arise. And as noted earlier, be familiar with your presentation technology, since nothing will stress you out more than not being able to get the projector to work or the teleconference to set up correctly. Remember, the more ancillary stress factors you eliminate, the more you can focus on the presentation itself.