Well that was new …

As a project manager, there are times when you simply need to get new thoughts about the project’s direction to the stakeholders. Mostly people use a presentation deck of slides and a formal presentation. I went to three events last week where that didn’t happen – people simply got the group talking. That was coincidental (I didn’t plan a week without PowerPoint deliberately) but i’m recognising it was a great week and there are things project managers can learn from that.

The first event was a gathering of about 40 people. The discussion was wide ranging and through 2 hours we discussed the issues around a big topic in short sessions in 2s or 3s, groups of 8 or 10, or leader facilitated plenary. It had a consistent theme of “what can you do about this intractable and complex problem, how will that benefit everyone round you and how will it help you?” no one session was long enough to solve anything but we all understood the situation a little better. At the end we were asked to scribble down a list of 2 or 3 small specific and immediate actions we committed to do with the understanding that we’d get email reminders from the facilitator. The potential progress before we meet again in a few months could be incredible – lots of small solutions motivated by the individual’s own needs which when combined would make the problem a considerably smaller issue. We won’t solve it but the interaction of all those small changes could be significant.

The second was an event with an expert speaker at a comfortable venue with no projection equipment. I found I was watching the speaker and that helped me to listen more effectively. While I had heard the information before, I was hearing shades of meaning that I missed last time round. As a presenter, recognise that your visual aids should help your audience,not distract them.

Finally, I had a Friday evening speaking engagement at Southampton Solent University for BCS (The Chartered Institute for IT) at a local branch and Quality specialist group combined meeting. I usually have a lecture hall for these meetings and deliver from a stage but this was a smaller group and we sat down to a large round table discussion. We recognised how things had changed, how everyone round the table had different insights, and that we could learn from each other. I had the agenda I would have used for PowerPoints beside me and yes, as presenter, I did more talking than anyone else. Fascinatingly, I noticed how energised my audience was as they left the room. There was something in allowing them to participate beyond the question and answer session that changed how they felt. There are times when that engagement can change the nature of stakeholder support.

So next time you have a presentation to make, check with yourself: do I really need PowerPoint?

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About 3triangles
Helping organisations make change happen in 3 key areas: strategic change, deliver tactical impacts, efficient and effective processes. All blog content (c) 2009 - 2012 Carol Long and Three Triangles Performance Ltd

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