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Presentation Styles – Steak over Sizzle

As a project manager, you’re going to be tasked with making presentations to various groups of stakeholders. From direct report team members to C-suite executives, a project manager can be tasked with varying types of presentations.

Some of the best speakers that I’ve seen have not spent years honing their craft at ToastMasters. The best speakers are those who speak from knowledge and experience. A good presentation is like a story you tell your friends. You need to know the intricate details about what you’re speaking to in order to really deliver a good presentation. Knowing how your audience processes information is vital to crafting an effective presentation. We don’t always have the luxury of knowing who our audience is beforehand which is why it’s critical that the content being delivered is well known to the speaker who can speak to points not listed out in a PowerPoint slide.

Don’t get me wrong – you definitely need to have the speaking skills in place to deliver an effective presentation. Your annunciation, your eye contact, your tone – all those are critical pieces of delivering an effective presentation. But the other half of that equation is being able to speak freely about the topic you’re discussing. Part of reading your audience is being able to adjust your style on the fly which may involve altering your speaking points. In order to do that you will need to have a deep knowledge about your topic and be able to adjust your speaking points to meet the needs of your audience.

As a project manager, you may not have the level of knowledge needed to speak freely on some topics, which is fine so long as you recognize that. You need to anticipate what information your audience is seeking from you (if it’s a room full of C-suite executives they probably won’t have a deep interest in code refactoring techniques) and ensure that you have answers to anticipated questions already thought out and if you don’t feel comfortable in delivering those answers, that you have someone in the room with you who can.

Being a good speaker can only take you so far without knowing the material inside and out. The best speakers are storytellers who can ad-lib and adjust their style on the fly without sacrificing content. Being able to read your audience and anticipate what they are looking to get out of your presentation is key to structuring and delivering it in a way where your audience will take away real value from what you present.

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