This is one of the reasons why it is important to encourage good communication between the different members of your team. You are the people who know all the ins and outs of the piece of work and it will do you all good to share the information with each other.
However, what about when you need to give some details to the likes of stakeholders and end users who don’t know much about what you have been doing? It is easy to get carried away and confuse them with a lot of irrelevant information so let’s look at a few ways of trying to avoid this.
Short and Sweet Does the Trick
If you are really passionate about the piece of work you are involved in then you could probably stand up there for hours and regale your audience with all of the details. Sadly, no one is really interested in this. Once you have accepted this fact it should be easy to see that you only need to focus on what they need to know and want to know. A short and sweet presentation with the emphasis on what you already know is the main interest of the people present is the best way forward. Of course, you don’t want to make it too short and miss out on any important details and this can actually be quite a difficult balancing act to get right.
Keep It Simple
As well as making your presentation short you should also make it simple. You undoubtedly know a lot of technical stuff which no one would understand or care too much to hear anyway. If you feel that you are too close to the subject then you might want to run your presentation past someone who isn’t so familiar with the project, to see whether or not it makes sense to them. In fact, I have always found it a good idea to find another project manager to mutually bounce ideas and presentations off other. If you keep it simple then you stand a far greater chance of getting people to understand you and give you useful feedback rather than just nod vaguely when you ask if everything is ok. It is important that your stakeholder, project team members and the end users all know what is going on anyway. You don’t want to be the only person who is in the know and the others I have mentioned all have important parts to play in the project provided you let them.
Use Pretty Pictures
I am a big fan of graphs, pie charts and any other type of pretty picture which gets the message across easily. If you tend not to use this kind of thing then I would suggest that you do so in the near future and see what kind of reaction you get from the audience. The simple fact is that information is easier to understand when it is given to you in a way which is visually simple. A table of data can usually be converted into some form of graph pretty easily. Even if you need to drop out some of the more complex information it is worth considering how you can do this. For example, you could leave in the most important, high level data and then talk around the rest of it once the meeting attendees are looking at your graph. Just be sure not to make the graphs or pie charts so small that no one can understand them anyway.
Look for Questions and Comments
The best way to make sure that you have done the job well and presented the information in a sensible way is to look for questions and comments from your audience. Perhaps the biggest issue here is how to interpret a lack of feedback. Does it mean that they understood everything and are extremely happy or did they understand so little that they are genuinely speechless? If you are caught in this situation then I would suggest that you ask more specific questions rather than general ones like “was that all okay?” Ask them to give their opinions on issues which can’t be answered with a simple yes or no and you will get a better feel for their level of understanding.