As a project manager, you will sometimes be asked to make presentations to a board, to a senior leader team, an external vendor, or to your organization. Here are opportunities to help your stakeholders understand your projects. With every presentation, you can try new things and learn to improve your presentations.
Improve Your Presentations
1. Plan your presentations.
Want to present more effectively? Create your presentation with a good structure. The structure will help you with recall and more importantly, will help your audience follow your presentation. Here’s a simple but effective structure:
- Introduction. Present the big idea. What is the major challenge or opportunity you want to see your audience to think about?
- Body. Give your audience three practical action steps to achieve the big idea.
- Conclusion. Restate the big idea and summarize the action steps.
Not complicated, huh? That’s the idea–keep your structure simple.
2. Arrive early.
It is a good practice to arrive early at the location of your presentation. Make sure everything has been set up as you’ve requested. Check out the equipment to make sure that things such as your microphone, PowerPoint, remote, and projector are working properly.
3. Keep the focus on you (not your slides).
When presenting, keep the focus on you, not your slides. Many presenters make the mistake of putting too much text on their slides. The audience spends more time reading the slides than making eye contact with you–the presenter. If you know the room will be dimly lit, see if you can get a light directed toward you.
4. Use an outline (not a script).
If you want to connect better with your audience, use a conversational style. Presenters who read their presentations seem a bit stilted (okay boring). Try using an outline for the majority of your presentation rather than a script. It’s fine to read quotes and book excerpts to illustrate a point.
5. Practice the presentation.
It amazes me how many people never practice their presentations. Just because you’ve developed your slides and your outline does not mean you are prepared to give a killer presentation. Walk through the presentation—talk it out—get comfortable with the delivery. Think about the speed, the tone, and the parts you wish to emphasize.
6. Make eye contact.
Remember—use a conversational style. Look into the audience and make sustained, focused eye contact with individuals for brief periods of time. How long? Three to five seconds. This one habit can transform your audiences into engaged participants.
7. Use visuals.
One of the most powerful presentations I’ve ever seen was about fifteen years ago. I will never forget it. The presenter used humorous clips from the Road Runner Cartoons to illustrate risk management principles. She also had supporting visuals—play-like Acme rockets and stuffed animal characters. She could have simply told the Road Runner stories, but the visuals made the presentation more engaging and memorable.
8. Keep your slides simple.
Over time, I’ve shifted from text-based slides to slides comprised of images with little text. My aim is to keep the audience engaged with me, the presenter. The slides supplement what I’m saying (not the other way around).
When I create slides with bullets and text, I keep each line short—no text wrapping. I also limit the number of bullets to no more than seven.
9. Use stories and analogies.
Give people numbers and statistics and you quickly lose your audience. Alternatively, tell stories to engage your participants. Individuals can see themselves in the fabric of your stories. Stories give context and allow people to extrapolate the relevant meaning for their personal application. Furthermore, people remember stories much better than numbers and boring facts.
10. Provide a copy of your presentation.
Shortly into my presentation, I say to my audience, “Hey, at the end of this presentation, I will tell you how you can get a handout containing the key points of today’s presentation.”
Keep in mind, my slides are mostly images (not notes). Therefore, I create a separate handout with the details. At the end of the presentation, I either have copies that participants can pick up or I provide a URL where they can download the handout from my DropBox.