Wednesday, January 13, 2010

PowerPoint Tip: Five slide project update presentation

How many executives really want to sit through a 45 slide project update presentation? The one where the presenter details every little item and confuses the heck out of them? My guess is that no executives want to spend their valuable time that way. So what do you do instead? Today’s tip demonstrates how you can apply my ideas around more effective communication using persuasive PowerPoint visuals to a situation many of us are in. It doesn’t matter whether you are a formal project manager or just managing the projects that are part of your role, we all have to report on how our projects or initiatives are going.

Let me suggest that you use only five slides to update executives on your project. “Five slides!” you exclaim. "That’s not enough to detail everything we have been doing!?!". I know, but frankly an executive doesn’t care about the minutia, they care about results. Too often as presenters, we create presentations that show what we have been doing instead of what the audience really wants, which is what results have we produced. They don’t want to hear how we did it, they want to know what we accomplished.

So here are the fives slides I suggest you use to give a clear, concise project update.

Slide 1 – Schedule Performance
A line graph where the vertical axis is percentage of work completed and the horizontal axis is time in days/weeks/months. Two lines: one for planned progress and one for actual and projected progress. The point where the line hits 100% on the vertical scale is when the project is finished. The difference between where the planned line and the actual & projected line hit the 100% level is the projected difference in planned end date. Don’t confuse the executives with tables of numbers, show them the gap visually. They want to know how you are doing against what you said you would do.

Slide 2 – Schedule Action Plans
Since you showed the schedule performance in slide 1, now you need to talk about what actions you are taking to address the differences shown in slide 1. List them and have a discussion with the executive about each initiative. Get approval for any change requests that are needed with respect to schedule.

Slide 3 – Budget Performance
Two column graphs: the first shows planned expenditure for the work performed to date and actual spending for that work. This shows how you are doing against what you said the activities would cost. The second shows planned and actual/projected expenditure for all the work required to complete the project. This shows what the cost picture will look like by the end of the project. Note the focus is on cost for work that has been complete, not work that was supposed to be done by now. The difference between what should have been done and what has been done has already been addressed in the first two slides.

Slide 4 – Budget Action Plans
Similar to the schedule action plans, review what you propose to do to get spending back on track. Have the discussions and get approval for change requests as necessary.

Slide 5 – Deliverables/Quality Issues
On the last slide you discuss any issues that the executive needs to be aware of or make decisions on in the areas of what is being delivered or the quality of what is being delivered. Again, change request approvals may be part of this discussion.

That’s it – five slides and the focus is what we have actually done and what we are doing to bring the project on track if it is not on track right now. You don’t waste the executive’s time with details they aren’t interested in anyways. And you get viewed as a professional who tells the executives what they need and who respects their time.

This five slide project update presentation example shows how you need to focus on what your audience needs to hear and create visuals that show them the story. Apply these principles in every type of presentation and you will be a more effective presenter. Try the ideas from today’s tip in your next project update presentation. If you want me to help you on your specific slides, check out the one-on-one personalized consulting I offer.


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