The Presentation Book [Book Review]
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Emma Ledden, author of The Presentation Book, writes that “a great presentation is about figuring what questions your audience needs an answer to.” This means it’s not about what to say, but what they want to hear.
Before giving a talk to the PMI Southern Ontario Chapter on customer-centric project management, I had read this book. It’s a practical book, and I found myself focusing more on the key points of this review than my presentation.
One of the most valuable topics was audience profiling. I didn’t know much about the people who would be attending my presentation except that they were part the Chapter and would be at the annual Development Day conference.
Although it was too late to learn more about them, I think spending some time thinking about your audience and getting answers from organizers would be something I would do in the future.
Practice, practice, practice
Ledden explains how to write a presentation and then talks about presentations as performances. You must practice your presentation just like an actor would. She estimates that it takes 10 hours to prepare for each hour of presentation. Some of that preparation is for preparing your materials. But some of it is practice time.
Ledden shares 7 rules for presentation success:
Practice your presentations at least three times.
Practice loudly, not in your head.
Practice with all your props and slides.
Do one rehearsal at the venue.
Make sure you can see and hear the back of the room.
You should arrive at least 30 minutes early for your guests
Make sure to check all equipment before you leave and have a backup plan in case something goes wrong.
She also writes about nerves, and there are a few pages on this, but only one page on managing queries, which is always what I find most difficult.
She does mention that if you don’t fail, you haven’t tried hard enough. So at least I can say I tried hard with my presentations. I was particularly embarrassed when I fell from the stage and tried to explain to business analysts what important to project managers.
It’s important to do it right
The chapter on moving forward focuses on action planning and the preparation of concrete improvement activities. This can be done both on a short-term basis and over the next 12 month. This section will help you improve your presentations.
Ledden explains that you can improve if it is your desire, but you must put in the effort. As you can see, she refers to this as a formula.
The majority of the book deals with delivering individual presentations. This is something that project managers will have to do from time-to-time. A small section is dedicated to managing group presentations. This is a common task for project teams, especially if they are delivering a presentation or bidding on work.
If you are looking to improve your presentation skills, this book will guide you. It won’t help you if you are looking for quick fixes or PowerPoint tips.
Who wants to watch death by PowerPoint? Do your audience a favor, and improve your presentation skills instead of clicking through slides.