“Awful, really awful” he said. “I never like presentations at the best of times and to a project board with all those senior people present, even worse.”
“So, did you get what you wanted from the presentation?”
“Mmmm…..I guess not.”
“So, why don’t we go over things again? How much time did you put into preparing for this session?”
“I did the slides and I guess that took me a couple of hours. So say two and a half hours in total.”
I then asked him a series of pointed questions.
………….silence; he looked uncomfortable.
This was hardly surprising. The overall project he was managing was not going well. Part of the reason for this was that senior managers kept changing their minds. This resulted in delays and re-work adding to the cost and time aspects of the project.
The opportunity to explore and discuss this was lost. It would be too simplistic to say that this is because he did not prepare sufficiently well; however this was certainly a major part of the problem.
Treating the presentation as a project
So what were the questions that I asked?
• having a clear objective; what were you trying to achieve? Was it clear to you?
• how did you develop your ideas and what was the best method to present them?
• did you rehearse and obtain feedback, amending your presentation on the back of the feedback received
• how did you ensure you get the timing and emphasis of the presentation right?
• the bad news you had to deliver. How did you plan to deliver it and how much time did you plan rehearsing it and thinking through the questions you would likely get?
He suddenly realised he should have treated the presentation as a project!
Andy Lopata and Peter Roper wrote a book “And Death Came Third!” When asked what worried the people most, presentations came out top of the tree. Second came entering a room full of people you do not know and surprise surprise; death, it came third! People need to develop their presentation skills and this story shows just how much it needs to happen.
If you are a project manager you need lots of skills and one of these is presenting. Look at the presenters we see on TV and the radio. They set the standard. You need to aim high. After all, people will expect this of you. You need to invest in presentation training and practice and get feedback. If not, you will go through what this project manager did and waste a very real opportunity.