PM4DEV Blog

Ideas, suggestions and general thoughts about project management for development.

General Management

Making the Right Presentations

Here are some tips to help you prepare for your next project presentation.

The purpose of any presentation, written, oral or visual, is communication; and to communicate effectively, the information must be stated in a simple, concise and interesting manner. Your audience should be able to understand the purpose of the presentation; this involves knowing the audience, the occasion, and the expectations of the audience. This will be a critical determinant in what information is presented and how it is presented. You have to tailor the message to the audience - understand their needs, desires, knowledge level, and attitude toward the topic while being concrete, specific, practical, and relevant.

People learn and retain more information when learning is reinforced by visualization. Simple, clear, concise visual images, will lend support to the spoken words. This leaves the audience with a positive attitude toward the content of the presentation.

A good presentation is made up of four basic components:
 

  • The Opening. Participants are introduced to the purpose of the presentation. It should be a brief summary or outline of the points to be covered. This helps keep your audience oriented properly within the framework of your presentation.
  • The Body. This is where the subject matter is presented. The body should be separated into smaller, easily assimilated modules. Each module or sub-section should make a single point or convey one idea. These sub-sections should each have their · own simple opening, body and summary.
  • The Summary.  This portion should be very brief and simple. It is a chance to reinforce the central theme and purpose of the presentation. The goal is to briefly emphasize the key points and main ideas of the presentation.
  • The Closing. The points that were raised during the question and answer session are summarized and any handout material that was not required during the presentation is distributed. This allows the audience to review the subject and assures that the ideas presented will remain fresh in their minds.


Using PowerPoint Slides
 

  • When making a presentation that is using a PowerPoint Slide or other type of visual aid, do not read the text, unless people in the room do not know how to read. Repeating the text that is on the screen is just a waste of time.
  • Make eye contact with all the audience and speak in a clear voice, adding more content to the ideas presented to draw the audience attention.
  • On the day of the presentation, arrive and set up early. Have spare projector bulbs and extra copies of the handout material close at hand.
  • Images and text should be legible for anyone; a good test is to go to the back of the room and see if the text is readable.
  • Try to use large letters and 4 or 6 lines of text per slide, don’t clutter the slide with graphics or use too many colors and different fonts. Use font sizes large enough to view from anywhere in the room try not to use fonts smaller than 28 points.
  • Excessive use of Clip art, sound, fonts, colors, backgrounds, transitions can be distracting and can misdirect the attention of the audience from the intended content.

Another good strategy is to deliver the hard copy of the slides at the end of the presentation that will keep people from reading ahead of you and miss your talking points. Make sure that you go over all your materials the day before the presentation to ensure that you have all that you need.

 
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After Action Review in Project Management

The  After-Action Review (AAR) is a simple process used by a project that enables the team to learn for themselves what happened, why it happened, what went well, what needs improvement and what lessons can be learned from the experience.  The spirit of an AAR is one of openness and learning - it is not about problem fixing or allocating blame. The goal of an AAR is to improve future performance. It is an opportunity for a team to reflect on a project, cycle, milestone, event or a significant delivery, and identify improvements so that they can do better the next time.

AAR is a form of group reflection; participants review what was intended, what actually happened, why it happened and what was learned. One member of the group facilitates, capturing results on a flip chart or in a document. One key element for a successful AAR is that they should be carried out with an open spirit and no intent to blame. The best time to conduct an AAR is right after the end of a project cycle or major milestone to reveal what has been learned, reassess direction, and review both successes and challenges.

Here are some of the key elements of an effective AAR:

  • Present the purpose and rules, the AAR does not seek to criticize negatively, or find fault. The emphasis should be on learning, so make this clear right from the start to achieve maximum involvement, openness, and honesty.
  • AAR’s should be carried out immediately to ensure that all of the participants are still available, and their memories are fresh.
  • What was supposed to happen? The team describes the initial objectives of the project or activity, stating just facts and not judgment
  • What actually happened? The team must understand and agree on facts about what actually happened.
  • Learning begins as the team compares the plan to what actually happened and determined the causes for the differences identifies and discuss successes and shortfalls.
  • Recording the key elements of an AAR facilitates sharing of learning experiences within the team and provides the basis for broader learning in the organization.

What makes after action reviews so powerful is that they can be applied across a wide spectrum of activities, from two individuals conducting a five-minute AAR at the end of a short meeting to a day-long AAR held by a project team at the end of a large project.

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