By Thomas Goebel, Volunteer Content Writer
In Project Management, you don’t have to be an inspirational speaker like Zig Ziglar to be an effective communicator. Don’t worry if you’re not a born storyteller. Rather than weaving a narrative that will keep your audience enthralled, your immediate focus should be on delivering pertinent information about the project to the stakeholders.
So, how do you shake the feeling of inevitable communication collapse?
Who Gets the Information?
The first order of business is to determine which stakeholders are to receive the information. The project manager in not just a focal point; he or she is also a router. In an ideal project environment, all information related to the project passes through the PM, and it is the PM who ultimately bears the responsibility of ensuring that valuable information reaches the right ears.
Familiarity with the various project phases and components will help a lot here. The better the PM’s grasp on the technical, sourcing, and financial aspects of the project, the more targeted his/her information delivery will be. And it’s best to limit recipients. No one enjoys receiving an email where the address list is longer than the message body!
WHOA! Easy on that info, Pardner!
Believe it or not, there are things that annoy your stakeholders more than being included in a mass mailer. When emails arrive at a rate of one per minute (okay, this may be a slight exaggeration), for instance. Minimizing email frequency gives your emails a better chance of being read and allows them to pack more punch. Readability is also affected by the amount of content. Emails are more easily digested when they are short, to the point, and contain a lot of white space – just like web sites and resumes. Pizzas and hot dogs are best when they come loaded with everything. Emails? Not so much.
Delivering the Verbal Goods
Once you’ve gotten over your paralyzing glossophobia (fear of public speaking), giving presentations is easy! The hard part is getting people to listen and interact. Here are some tips to help you achieve this.
1) Practice, practice, practice! You may think that just by preparing your presentation, you’re ready to go. No, my friend. Only by practicing, whether in front of the mirror or a few co-workers, can you really develop your rhythm and find out which words and phrases deliver the connection you want. Your timing will improve, and you’ll thank yourself afterward for having put in the extra effort.
2) Humor is one of the best ways to connect with your audience. But humor requires a sense of timing and restraint. See the previous point for how to overcome the timing issue. The restraint part comes in when you learn to recognize how not to overplay your hand and to develop an instinct for recognizing when a humorous aside isn’t delivering.
3) Know your main points so that you don’t have to read your presentation verbatim or, worse, memorize it to the letter. Reading your presentation makes it sound like somebody else wrote it, and memorizing it makes you sound like a robot. Neither comes off as natural.
4) Smile and talk to everyone in the room. Remember: your audience wants you to succeed so that everybody gets something out of the exercise!
Avoiding the Solitary Death of the Bad PowerPoint Presentation
What can I say about PowerPoint presentations that hasn’t been said before? Only that, if you’re like me, you have to make every mistake once before you learn to recognize them for what they are – distractions from the points you’re trying to get across to your audience. So keep them simple, uncluttered and engaging. Limit analogies to avoid confusion. The more you practice delivering your PowerPoint presentation, the less you’ll have to put on the slide and the more you’ll be able to directly convey to your audience.
The Final Product
These pointers on the mechanics of communication should help you stitch together an informative and useful written or oral presentation. They really apply to all scenarios where information is exchanged. You know your subject. Now make your stakeholders know your subject.
By Jim Benvie, PMI® Houston Chapter VP of Programs
Our Platinum sponsor LitheSpeedwill be sponsoring an Executive Breakfast with PMI® Houston in the fall. (The provisional date is October 26th).If you are a Program Manager, PMO Manager, or executive who would like to understand how Agile and Lean methods could benefit your company, you should plan to attend.
Alternatively, if you feel your manager would benefit from attending please recommend this event to him or her. This event is in line with LitheSpeed’s mission to make people’s work more productive,valued, and fulfilling.
The Key Takeaway: Some people think Agile and Lean methods are fads. LitheSpeedbelieves they’re the key to a cultural shift and a transformative way of getting things done.
How long have you been working in Project Management and what's your current professional position?
I’m a Senior Project Management Consultant for Advanced Project Solution (APS) where I’m able to travel the world, working with several of the world’s largest major capital projects. While I specialize in Risk Management in the Energy industry, I have worked with many different industries, including Information Technology, Government and Infrastructure, Logistics, and Commercial Construction.
Additionally, I served for 8 years as Director of Operations for a communication company and grew the company by >500% during my tenure. For the 20 years prior to that, I worked as a Project Manager for several Fortune 500 companies including Dell Computer, Target Corporation, and Waste Management.
How long have you been involved with the Houston PMI® Chapter and in what capacities?
I have been involved with PMI® Houston for the last 6 years as a member and moved into the VP Professional Development Leadership role in January of 2017.
Describe the most interesting/challenging/exciting project you've ever been involved with.
I have been in some sort of PM role for the last 20 years. I have had the fortunate opportunity to work with some of the largest projects in the world, and they are all exciting in some sort of way. I continue to learn from everyone; however, my most exciting project work has been more specifically with people and people reorganization. One of my favorites was when I did a large internal corporate re-org for Dell Computer. I truly enjoy trying to determine and utilize people’s strengths and weakness. There is nothing more rewarding than finding the right profession match for an individual, and then seeing that person grow and succeed.
Which part(s) of the Chapter’s Strategic Plan really resonate with you and why?
I am most drawn to the PMI® Houston Strategy of providing value to the stakeholders. I think this is the backbone to the success of the Chapter as we move forward. The members are our greatest asset. If we continue to add value for our members, they will continue to grow both personally and professionally, and in the end PMI® Houston gains.
If you could change something about the Project Management field, what would it be and why?
If I could change one thing about the Project Management field, it would be to change the way PMs communicate and share information with each other. PMs are generally overwhelmed with work and simply unable to take the time to discuss and share experiences with other PMs on other projects/companies. It would be my goal to see a forum for this type of communication to take place. I think PMI® could be that, but it would take a challenge. There is so much that we can learn from each other, but we are usually too busy to do it.