Communication Skills - Planning a Management Presentation

Giving presentations is an essential communication skill for managers. There are essentially three types of presentation that you as a manger will need to make as part of your normal responsibilities and activities:

To your team
o At the beginning of a new project to orientate your team
o To give regular progress reports during the project
o To inform your team of new working practices or procedures

To senior management
o To brief them on the current state of your project or the work of your department
o When they need to make a decision in your area of expertise and have asked you to make recommendations or present the relevant facts in a clear and structured way

To other groups
o External to the organization, e.g. user groups, customers, or partner organizations
o Internal - those outside your reporting structure

Already you can see that the reason for and the purpose of each type are quite different.

To Your Team
When considering the best way to communicate with your team, a presentation is just one of the many tools you can use. You should ask yourself whether or not the presentation is really necessary.

If you do decide to give a presentation to your team, you can make it as long as you want and you can give yourself enough time to prepare. Most of the time, this sort of presentation is concerned with progress reporting, or with some change in the way things are going to be done.

These events seldom justify visual aids or much in the way of rehearsal. However, you will still need to plan the content of your presentation carefully. Giving a presentation that you have not planned properly can detract from your authority as a manager because it makes you look disorganized.

To Senior Management
When you are presenting to senior management you will usually be told how long you have available, but you may find yourself with less time than you were initially allocated if a previous presenter overruns or an item on the agenda takes longer to deal with than anticipated. You will sometimes have to prepare for this type of presentation at short notice.

In this situation, your role would usually be limited to providing information to aid senior management's decision-making process. They may take account of your recommendations, but you would be unwise to make too strong a case for any particular decision, as this could appear presumptuous. In the worst case, you may be seen as an obstacle if the final decision does not follow your recommendations.

You will need to plan the content carefully in order to get your message across as clearly and concisely as possible and it is usually a good idea to use visual aids to help you do so. You should also rehearse the presentation thoroughly so that you can give a confident performance.

To Other Groups
The third type of presentation you will give as a manager is to other groups - either those external to your organization, or within your organization but outside your area of responsibility. These presentations usually involve more than simply passing on information; you are often aiming to change the audience's perceptions or behavior in some way.

Before going into detail about how best to prepare for each of these types of presentation, it is worth saying something about the likely attitude of the audience that you can expect to find yourself presenting to. This is something that most presentation books tend to gloss over, particularly when they have been written by people who specialize in public speaking. These authors are used to performing in front of an audience that has a genuine interest in what they have to say. This could be because they are delivering a training course that people have paid to attend or they are giving an after dinner speech that people have chosen to come and listen to.

In contrast, most of the audiences that you present to will not have chosen to come and listen to you speak; they are there because it is a requirement of their job. Your audience will generally consist of individuals who all have busy schedules and who will think that your presentation drags them away from their day-to-day work.

People already feel that there are too many presentations and that most of them go on far too long. There are very few circumstances in which you will find an audience that is enthusiastic about what you are about to say. When you get up to speak the most common thought likely to be in people's minds will be 'This had better be short, to the point, and worth listening to as I've got a stack of things to do!'

Planning a Presentation

Your overriding concern when preparing a presentation should be twofold:

1. You need to engage with the audience as quickly as possible, preferably within the first ten seconds of your presentation.
2. You need to get your message across in such a way that the audience stays engaged.

If you fail to do either of these things then you will be seen to be committing the unforgivable workplace crime of wasting people's time.

You may also be interested in:
Everyday Management Presentations | Advantages and Disadvantages of Presentations | Four-Stage Presentation Planning Process | Audience Profiling | Presentation Environment | Define Your Key Message Statement | Outline the Scope of Your Presentation | Management Presentation Planning Guidelines.

Key Points

  • There are three types of presentation that you as a manager will need to make as part of your normal responsibilities: to your team, to senior management, and to other groups.
  • Presentations to your own team are usually low-key events that don't justify much preparation but which still need to be clear and concise.
  • Presentations to senior management usually involve reporting progress or making recommendations. They are important to your career and need to be planned in such a way that they can be cut short if necessary.
  • Presentations to other groups often justify significant preparation because you are often aiming to change the audience's perceptions or behavior.
  • Most people are preoccupied with their day-to-day work and will 'zone out' of a presentation if they think it does not affect them directly.
  • You have about ten seconds to capture people's attention at the start of your presentation and you need to make a continuous effort to retain this engagement right up to the moment you finish speaking.
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