Giving Presentations to Senior Managers

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Project Managers who are new to presenting to senior and executive management are often unprepared for the experience. The purpose of this presentation is to help project managers work with their own managers to: appreciate the perspective of senior management; prepare well; and engage effectively with this audience.

Text of Giving Presentations to Senior Managers

  • 1.To o ls f o r P ro j ect M a nag ers Dean Briggs December, 2009 1

2. Contents Why are senior management presentations requested? Whats the difference between presenting to senior management or to ones boss? Preparing for a Senior Management Presentation Understand the purpose of the meeting Working with your boss What to prepare How to rehearse Its Showtime! After the presentation2 3. Why are senior management project presentations requested?Because: The more senior (than your boss) manager: wants to learn about your project wants to become acquainted with their subordinates staff wants to evaluate their own subordinates performance based on the work of that persons employees There is a problem with the project it is late, it is over budget, other managers are complaining, or the customers are complaining It is a high-profile project, and it is visible at high levels in the organization Some other reasonthat you should attempt to learn, if you do not know3 4. Whats the difference between a senior managerpresentation, and presenting to your boss? The attendee(s) can be difficult to read take your cues from your manager You and your manager may or may not know the senior managers agenda If you are presenting to a very senior manager, there may be intervening (between your boss and the most senior person) levels of management attending Particularly in large organizations, senior people are exposed to a much broader range of organizational challenges than lower- level (and more specialized) staff, and they interact with people and situations that may be remote from your daily experience. This may result in questions that come in from left field4 5. Whats the difference between a senior managerpresentation, and presenting to your boss2 The senior manager may not have all of the background on your project Unfamiliar areas may include: specialized terms; detailed understanding of business processes; familiarity with software or technologies, roles, or people Limit how much background you need to supply in order to tell your story Your area of concern may only be a tiny part of the senior managers scope; they may face a daily barrage of status reports, and hence, may have a short attention span. Keep it brief and use simple, declarative sentences Pause from time to time to allow questions and interruptions that will help to maintain attendees attention 5 6. Preparing for a Senior ManagementPresentation1Understand the purpose of the meeting, as best you can is the meeting: A routine presentation (from the senior managers standpoint)? There are no routine presentations to senior management, from the perspective of the lower level employee Make sure that you have all of your facts; that project plans, timelines, budgets, risk matrices and other working documents are up to date; and you have brought copies of more detailed documents or slides as hold-backs, and can them hand out, if needed, to answer more detailed questions. Plan to provide status for all major project deliverables, and dates when they will be complete. Be forthright about project timeline slips, the reasons for those slips, and your mitigation plans for getting them back on track. It is better to be a project manager wrestling with a difficult situation openly, than to present a rosy scenario and have it blow back on you later Make sure that you are aware of any recent changes in your organization that may affect your project, and that you are prepared to address those changes either in your presentation, or during Q & A, if asked6 7. Preparing for a Senior ManagementPresentation2 is the meeting: An opportunity to get to know you? The best way to handle this is to stay focused on the project and what the team is doing, rather than on who you are. Your workand that of the teamshould do the talking. Because there is a problem with the project? Present your project status forthrightly. Be prepared to discuss risks and issues. Be willing to admit errors that you made along the way. Avoid blaming project problems on other people. If you need to explain others behavior, make sure that you provide a rationale for why they behaved the way they did. Provide mitigation strategies for how you will deal with the project issues that have arisen If you are thinking strategically, you will be prepared with requests to make of the senior manager; how he or she can help you address certain risks7 8. Preparing for a Senior ManagementPresentation3 Working with your boss Find out: The stated reason for the presentationas well as any hidden agendas What advice your boss has about how to present to the senior manager Are there any topics that you should defer to him or her? Whether there are other people at your level who have presented well tothe senior manager: can you get a copy of their presentation; can you talk with them about how they presented; can you review your presentation with them?8 9. Preparing for a Senior ManagementPresentation4 Working with your boss Plan on advance presentations not only to your boss, but to the levels between them and the most-senior attendee at the presentation These intermediate managers may wish to review and critique your deck before they hear the presentation Make sure you have adequate time to prepare and obtain any needed pre-reviews and pre-presentations If, for example, you are in an IT department and your client is in a business department, you should discuss with your boss whether your client should attend; or at least, should be informed that this presentation will be taking place. You may wish to capture any comments that your client would like you to pass along in this presentation: their satisfaction, concerns, areas in which they would like the senior manager to help. Sometimes, they can provide talking points that are better coming from them than from you.9 10. Preparing for a Senior ManagementPresentation5 What to prepare Background on the project; why it is necessary from a business context: who requested it, business value, funding source Important topics to address Project objectives Project methods Project risks and issues, and mitigation strategy High-level view of your project plan (see Appendix) Project budget: estimated and actuals by month, and variances Footnotes with reasons for variances Time to completion on track, delayed? Changes in resources? Risk register, including mitigations Current status of client relationships/satisfaction Bring a set of project deliverables (e.g., Project Charter) as leave- behinds 10 11. Preparing for a Senior ManagementPresentation6 How to rehearse Rough out your presentation, then ask your manager, to review the deck. Ask: Are the essential points made? Where could the presentation beimproved?What works well? Are there too many slides? Too many words per slide? Is there enough background for someone not closely involved withyour project ? Is there enough variety? Not just bulleted text; also flowcharts, graphs,(simple) tables? Rehearse out loud in an empty conference room. If you will be projecting the presentation, practice with a projector. 11 12. Preparing for a Senior Management Presentation7 How to rehearse Try out your presentation with a colleague who is a good presenterpreferably, someone not closely involved with the project. Incorporate her/his feedback. In the days leading up to the presentation: Give a rehearsal presentation to your manager and colleagues for feedback. Tune the presentation Practice your presentation at home Try to work without your notes, speaking directly to the slides, if that is possible. This will give a more natural quality to your presentationNOTE: this deck is detailed because it is intended to be read, not presented. Your slides should be far less detailedperhaps 15-25% of the words here.12 13. Preparing for a Senior ManagementPresentation8 Its Showtime Keep it brief. Expect to: be interrupted frequently start lateif you have to, how can you take an hours presentation and makeyour points in 15 minutes? end earlyto what slides would you go, to capture the essential points?What are the two or three (only!) points that you must make for your presentation to be successful? Dont plan for the Best-Case Scenario senior manager on time, attentive, receptive Plan for the Worst-Case Think about the main points of your presentation the story that you must tell in order to make your points successfully Is there a client anecdote that perfectly crystallizes the nature of the working relationship, or the project challenges? 13 14. Preparing for a Senior ManagementPresentation9 Its Showtime Stick to your script no tangents or long stories, no matter how great its goingyou will regret it Be self-aware. If you are scared or excited, take a deep breath and let it out slowly before starting. Monitor your pace, so you dont talk too fast. Insert pauses, so that others can ask questions or comment. Keep track of where you are, so you can return after an audience question or comment After making a complex explanation, ask if there are any questions before moving on Projects are a team effort; if your project is praised by senior management, you are the rare team member who gets to bask in the sun This is an opportunity to thank the complimenter and praise the team in generalor a couple of specific individuals who are especially critical to the projects success14 15. Fielding Questions Keep it brief Make sure you understand the question, then answer it simply and directly If you dont understand the question, its ok to ask: Could you please be more specific?, or, I can think of several possibilities; could you give me a concrete example? Dont guess!! Senior managers get to that level in an organization by being discerning. This is an opportunity to establish your honesty. If you dont know, say, I dont know; but I will find out, and get back to you. If