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APM South Wales and West of England branch: The Presentation on Presentations

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This popular event was held at BAWA on 28 February 2019, with our speaker Peter Taylor, of ‘The Lazy Project Manager’ fame.  Peter last spoke to SWWE branch members back in 2013 about the ‘lazy PM’ approach.

A core skill for any project manager is clear succinct and effective communication. Presentations are key tool is any PM’s tool box to communicate with stakeholders and decision makers.

Peter started with a story to illustrate the importance of presentation, in this case how to sell the breakfast cereal ‘Shreddies’. A simple idea was to show the square ‘Shreddie’ rotated by 450 to look like a diamond, which created a ‘new’ and exciting product – ‘diamond Shreddies’ – which increased sales considerably.  It is all about the presentation – or in this case the ‘spin’.

Presentations are about engaging with people. You need to sell yourself and what you like, to personalise your presentation. Pictures are always more effective than bullet point lists.  Death by power point is not inevitable!

The 10-minute point is a key check point to ensure you still have your audience with you – are they engaged, do they find you interesting, are you worth staying awake for?

Presentations need planning and hard work, they don’t just happen.

When you are preparing a presentation, you need to understand the expected audience. Are they neutral, are they fans, do they expected to be entertained – you have 10 minutes to convince them to listen, or do they have to be there and are not really interested, if so, how do you convince them?

What are you trying to achieve, what are your objectives for the presentation? Work based presentations can be to educate, to prove a point, to make a decision. Social presentations need to entertain, such a best man speech.

Don’t try and cram in too much information. Detail can be provided in handouts. Slides do not need to be reference material, it is ok to design them so that they cannot work on their own without the presenter’s dialogue.

Preparation is essential – use what ever works for you: slides, script notes, record yourself and listen back, get feedback from peers.  If it has to be off the cuff –get some on in the audience to support you with key facts.

It is important not to waste the audience’s time, especially in a work environment, time = money.

Be careful of Power Point ‘wizzy tools’ – don’t overdo it and distract the audience.

It is important to develop your own ‘style’. Top presenters, such as Geoff Bezos, use simple pictorial images, with few words. Ideally move around, free yourself. Use crib notes as a support if needed. Vary your tone of voice. 

The 3 P’s: Practice, Present, Profit:  i.e. achieve your objective.

Think and plan for what can go wrong: risk mitigation. What will you do if the projector does not work, the memory stick fails? What are your backups?  Use of flip charts?

Break the traditional rules!  The 6,6,1rule – max of 6 bullets, 6 words per bullet, 1 slide.  Try and use a single image instead. Tell them what you are going say, say it and then tell them what you told them. Works ok for educational formats, but old hat otherwise. Thank you for listening. What bother!  Don’t always put lists on slides – as an alternative, use a blank slide and ask the audience for their views on a subject.

Learn from watching others present – TED talks can be useful for ideas.

Feedback is essential to learn from – ask for it.  Peter illustrated this with a story about Alfred Nobel, who sponsored the Nobel Peace Prize after seeing his own obituary which was printed in error.  He did not juts want t be remembered for dynamite.

In summary, Peter’s presentation was an excellent example of presentational good practice: 43 slides, 139 words, 3 words per slide, 63 images, with the audience awake and walking away with something to practice at work tomorrow.

A copy of the slides and Peter’s contact details are on the APM Slideshare page.

Martin Gosden
SWWE branch Chairman


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