Archive for the ‘Career Building’ category

10 Effective Presentation Tips and Tricks

November 13, 2008

The other day I was helping a friend improve their presentation and figured I would share a couple of my thoughts in general for making effective presentations.

1. Know your audience! Make sure the presentation style suits the audience.

If they like money (and who doesn’t), talk about money, if they want their jobs to be easier talk about that. Target their interests, or use those interests to explain or improve your presentation/points.

I remember one of the harder presentations I had to do was convincing a group of people at a conference that the technology I was representing was fun and interesting. I played a fun game based on the ever loved Price is Right. The audience was involved, shouted their ideas of what was the right answer to a number of trivia questions and I had fun prizes such as a new car!… freshner, and all inclusive trips to Tim Hortons (gift cert and gas card). The key reason this game was effective was because it built right into the topics I was discussing and the audiences involvement was crucial to the presentations success. The entire presentation from that point on was a discussion of ideas and concepts. Try that with executives or people looking for heavy content/details and it would never have been as effective.

2. Know the goals of your presentation.

Try and keep it to one primary goal, and two secondary goals. Any more than that and you will struggle with trying to pass all that information on. Make your presentation represent these goals and try and set it up so your audience has motivation to meet these goals, or are just as interested as you are in them.

3. Show interest and enthusiasm!

Don’t act like you have done this talk, presentation, or dealt with this topic for years. Pretend this is the most exciting day of your life. People enjoy seeing energy and enthusiasm and YES it does rub off on the audience. Even if they never liked what you are discussing before they will start to associate it with excitement.

4. Always have at max 3-4 points on a slide. Simplify the slides.

Any more than this and the audience will lose interest. Never throw huge data intensive graphs or metrics in your slides if you are doing so, or are thinking, but I need these think about what you are trying to show and I bet you can summarize it in a much simpler fashion. This isn’t a report, or a document, it’s a presentation.

5. The slides are just a tool, the presentation is how you talk, move your body and interpret the audiences responses.

If they don’t seem to be understanding or listening to your presentation change it up, raise your voice, lower it, whatever you do try and keep it interesting and engadge their attention. I am a big fan of changing volume and tone for topics as well as interacting with the audience. One helpful thing to do is to talk quietly and pretend you are offering some secret or important advice, another is making a joke or stating something excitidely. Use the words, oh and I love this part, or This is really interesting etc to help garner the attention for what you are discussing.

6. The best presentations are those that are interactive.

If you cannot complete the entire presentation due to questions but are able to cover the key points that is one of the most successful presentations. The reason people ask questions and provide feedback is because they are interested in the topic. All good things.

7. Images are worth 1000 words.

Using the odd image to keep the presenation looking fresh, clean, or to subtly imprint images of joy, success, or happyness is important, but the real power is when you use an image that summarizes lots of words. Try and use images for points on a page. This helps with memory association.

8. Demonstrations are always better than slides if possible.

These change the monotony of the slides, and most importantly make what you are talking about seem tangible and easier to understand. Even if it’s a simple demonstration, these can really win more interest, and support from your audience.

9. Respond to questions, comments and concerns.

An effective presentation always brings up questions, comments and/or concerns. Try and deal with these right away, and see if you can relate them to what you have been discussing/presenting. If you think it might be de-railing the presentation (especially in large presentations) praise them for their input and let them know you will take their questions/comments at the end.

10. Follow up.

This one is missed so often. Follow up on a presentation. Send an email to your audience if you can saying thanks for coming and provide them with links to the content or something related. This helps keep it fresh in peoples minds and often can open up new opportunities. Even if you don’t know who attended approach one or more of the people who attended if you see them again and just thank them for attending and being so attentive/receptive.

Hope this helps someone else,
Richard Harbridge


Business Objective Mapping

July 23, 2008

One of the things I am always amazed by is that many people when asked why they are creating a solution don’t actually know how it will benefit the organization as a whole. Sure this solution makes performing action A easier, but if performing action A easier doesn’t benefit the business and isn’t in line with business objectives there are probably much more important solutions that individual can be working on.

I always talk about how important tracking is, well another aspect of project management and analysis is understanding how a solution benefits the organization and what business objectives does it help meet. Stating that a solution solves a problem isn’t enough, you have to understand what solving that problem means to the business, this is the only way you can properly identify priority on whether to do solution 1, or solution 2 first (unless you have limitless resources and money, and if so please give me a call).

In the table below we can see as a direct relationship, and as an indirect relationship. With a glance we can see exactly how Solution 1 maps to the business objectives and if we are really interested in objective 2 and 3, we would implement solution 3 first (probably).

Business Objective 1

Business Objective 2

Business Objective 3

Solution 1


Solution 2

Solution 3

Where do business objectives come from? Typically to get business objectives you identify the vision statement for what the organization is striving towards, take that vision and break down what it really means into several major business objectives. Often many people in the business will be able to identify what the business objectives are for you, or it should be easy to come up with some of your own that ring true for the business as a whole.

An example of one of these business objective matrices can be found below.

Lets give an example: I am an organization that sells cars and fixes cars.

Vision Statement:

To provide our customers with the most affordable, best valued cars while providing them with a complete car maintenance solution and unrivaled customer service.

Business Objectives:

  • Improve Customer Service
  • Improve Sale of Cars
  • Improve Sale of Maintenance Services

Those are some very generalized objectives. Well now Johnny in the Technology Department comes up with a couple wonderful solutions for our Car company.

Johnny’s solutions are:

  • Implement a File Sharing Solution that will enable sales people, customer service people, and maintenance people to share information.
  • Implement a Mobile Workforce Solution that will enable employees to communicate via wireless devices anywhere in the company building.
  • Implement a Sales Tracking Solution that will help track all sales.
  • Implement a Maintenance Inventory System that will help track tools and maintenance supplies.

That is fantastic Johnny, and now how do these solutions MAP to the objectives of the business? Well that’s easy, Johnny uses the business objective matrix I mentioned above to show his bosses and they can see easily and graphically exactly how these solutions benefit the organization. This will allow them to easily prioritize the solutions by what their immediate business needs are.

Improve Customer Service

Improve Sale of Cars

Improve Sale of Maintenance Services

File Sharing Solution

Mobile Workforce Solution

Sales Tracking Solution

Maintenance Inventory Solution



Hope this helps you win more success,

Schedule and Keep Track of Everything

July 22, 2008

The only way you can estimate, consider, and implicate cost is if scheduling is maintained and accomplished correctly. You cannot decide whether one feature is more cost effective than another unless you can know how long each will take.

Here are a few simple benefits to documenting everything, both personal and business related:

  1. Future estimates are more accurate in both personal and professional areas.
    This can help you ensure you have more time, don’t have to work overtime, and overall remain more satisfied and successful (both perceived and actual)
  2. You can keep a timeline of your professional and personal achievements.
    Great for performance reviews, job interviews, career building, and personal satisfaction.
  3. You can provide better assessments of where you are on something.
    When someone asks you how is this coming along? You can say honestly and relatively accurately that you are about half way there. Providing real quantitative status indication rather than a “alright” answer.
  4. Find mistakes sooner, and avoid repeating the same ones.
    Since you are documenting your lessons learned you avoid making the same mistakes, can solve issues faster using experience that you can review at any point in time. Often when documenting something you might discover something you missed or spot a mistake before it happens, providing you time to either resolve the issue, figure out a solution/workaround for it, or (I hate to say it) prepare an adequate excuse for the issue.

So why doesn’t everyone do project scheduling, break down tasks, and document everything?

There is this general idea that it will take longer for many small projects to whip up a schedule than it would to just do it. This is never true. In fact I would argue that even the smallest of projects estimated from a high level of a few hours should still be scheduled. That way you can keep TRACK and see the actual cost of whatever projects you do. If you don’t you will have no way of proving or bringing visibility to the work you did.

If you do not record the time spent on a project and outline what the project represented it gets hard to tell your boss, co-workers, relatives, interviewer for that snazzy new job, or nagging wife what you have been doing all week, all month, or even for the past year.

Even when I do small tasks I write them down, and categorize them. So at any point in time I can tell anyone who is interested exactly what I have been working on, and (since I put these into SharePoint lists, outlook, excel documents, or ms project) I am able to generate reports on how much time I spend on IT tasks, QA support, analysis, or other important areas.

Don’t forget to highlight interesting, or important things you did.

This does more than just allow you to report how much work you do, why you might not have been able to hit a deadline, why you are working so much overtime, or why the amount of hair on your desk is greater than that on your head; It also provides you with a real way to measure your own progress. This way you can tell if you are actually doing the things you like, see where your strengths lie, and provide real proof to management that your doing work either out of your job description (which means you deserve a raise) or that you would be better suited to a specific type of work.

The best part is that you will have a listing of tons of things you have done for the company you work for. When performance reviews come up, or that better job posting appears wouldn’t you like to be able to just take a report and give it to your boss or interviewer and say these are the ways I have improved the company I work(ed) for.

Think about it,