As a project manager, you’ll no doubt be called upon to give a Project Presentation from time to time. This may involve presenting the results of your project to stakeholders or funders, presenting a project idea to secure support, or speaking at conferences about projects you have worked on. As a good PM, you need to be comfortable and confident when speaking in public, and that means being prepared for the worst.
The web is awash with tips and tricks to help you become a better presenter. But what should you do when everything goes horribly wrong, and how can you prepare yourself for disaster? Here are a few of the typical Project Presentation hiccups and how you can be ready to get on with business as usual.
1. The IT fails you
We’ve all been there. Your incredibly well-crafted PowerPoint Project Presentation fails to load, the projector has a hissy fit or the venue simply doesn’t provide you with the tools you need. The best way to overcome this is to be prepared to give your Project Presentation without visual aids at all.
Take your Project Presentation with you on paper, so you can continue talking if something goes wrong. If possible, have someone from your team with you who knows where your Project Presentation is stored and can be working away in the background to restore service if everything crashes and burns.
2. You lose your train of thought
Even the most experienced presenter can suddenly draw a blank. Whilst a stunning silence is hard to cope with, it’s important to get yourself back on track as soon as possible. In some cases, your audience might simply think it was a dramatic pause, but for you, the silence can feel like hours.
Try not to freeze, and instead, simply ask “where was I?” in as confident a manner as possible. Take a sip of water and breathe; your momentum will come back to you in no time!
3. You’re out of time
Hopefully, you’ve planned out your talk so that you are able to fit everything into the allotted timeframe. However, unexpected questions, interruptions, and other distractions can impact heavily on your ability to get through it all in time, so prepare to be running late so you don’t miss your key messages out.
If you have 45 minutes, practice a 40 minute, 30 minute, and even 15-minute version of your Project Presentation That way you won’t need to change your slides, only the vocalization that accompanies them. Know what your key messages are, and ensure those are emphasized no matter how short of time you feel you are.
4. You get heckled
OK so this doesn’t happen too often, thankfully, but in business, there are rude hecklers (think Houses of Parliament style pantomime booing) and there are polite hecklers. The polite heckler is one of the hardest to deal with, as they will come across as simply being interested in your content and asking lots of questions.
In truth, they are trying to trip you up. They think they know more about the subject than you do and want to prove it. An easy way around this is to ask people to raise their hands if they wish to ask a question and if the same guy keeps raising his hand simply avoid calling on him. These people are as annoying to your audience as they are to you, so find a way to quiet them down and everyone will be happy. Suggest they see you after to ask all their questions so you can get through your Project Presentation in time.
So if, as a project manager, you are required to do a Project Presentation about the status of your project to stakeholders or clients or to promote a project idea to secure the funding you need to be confident when speaking in public (or at least appear confident), and that means being prepared. It is often easier to learn about project management techniques than it is to develop the PM skills required but it is a vital part of the successful project manager’s armory.