Project managers are tasked with a plethora of responsibilities, but not all are related to PM. Influencing top decision makers is among one of the critical (and sometimes difficult) requirements not listed in a PM’s job description. That is why Chris Niccolis, writing for PM Hut, recommends honing those underrated presentation skills, replacing bland regurgitation with dynamic influence.
Points to Consider
Drawing on the insights of statistician Edward Tuft, Niccolis alludes to ways in which information can be distorted to serve biased ends, and how such distortion can be identified in presentations or used to persuade. From this cornucopia of insight there are 10 general points to consider:
- Call to action
- Follow templates
- Use bullets, not sentences
- 15 minute limit
- The “end” deck
- Presenters role
- Independent review
- Target approvers
- End page
Niccolis cites the four possible goals of a presentation as: inform, instruct, order, or influence. Though meetings are often a combination of the four, one objective will always take precedence. If, for instance, the goal is to influence the audience, one should say so as part of the introduction. (Ex: X department needs the following approval to do Y by such and such a date).
Regarding Niccolis's time limit, the research is fairly concrete – after the 20 minute mark, the human mind cuts loose from the task at hand and begins to drift. To the point, one should make every presentation as short as possible without sacrificing important content. As for the “end” deck, Niccolis warns against the compulsion to overdesign a presentation. By saving the “extra information” pages for the end, one avoids creating a sense of clutter. If a question is asked midway through the presentation, that extra info page is ready in the wings, just a click away.
More than just the relay of static information, presentations can help the PM influence people, authorize requests, and move agendas forward.