We understand that projects cannot be undertaken without the necessary resources. We spend a large part of the planning and execution stages of our projects, acquiring and managing resources. It’s no different when you must address your stakeholders.
Every time you present or share information, you must consider resourcing that activity properly. You need to focus on knowing your audience, supporting your points and using visual aids properly.
Try to find out as much as possible about your audience so you can choose the correct approach to your presentation. If you have a stakeholder register, consider tracking the following information for this purpose: age range, occupational status, economic status, educational background, political orientation and, even, leisure activities. Please note that the intention is to capture your perception of this information. Use approximate, rather than absolute, values for these categories. You don’t want to worry about running afoul of privacy requirements. Knowing your audience allows you to aim high enough to not be boring but low enough to be understandable.
Your delivery will hinge on the quality of what you present and your ability to communicate the knowledge. Consider gathering the following material while preparing your material to support your points: definitions, descriptions, explanations, facts, authorities. (You use authorities when you lack facts. Authorities express expert opinions. Don’t rely solely on authorities to make your point.)
Used properly, visual aids can enhance your presentation by dramatizing your point, adding visual interest, and focusing the audience’s attention. Visual aids help with the listener’s understanding and retention. You should consider whether flip charts, handouts or a PowerPoint would be suitable with your delivery.
Remember that each presentation, speech or talk needs to be properly resourced. Learn as much as you can about your audience so your points can be properly supported and use visual aids to enhance understanding.
How do you go about providing information to your team or your stakeholders? Do you ever consider how to be effective when informing? Not that long ago I would have simply said “I put the information in an email and I send it.”
Let’s step back and see what we need to understand when informing people.
First, you must consider that the people you address are usually adults. You must understand how adults learn. Adults learn when the material is relevant to them and relates to what they already know. You need to present in an interesting manner and involve your audience. You must repeat your key points.
Second, you must decide how you will organize your presentation. You can organize your material base on the time sequence, where one thing is done first then followed by a second, then a third. This would be appropriate when presenting a project schedule. You can organize your material by function, presenting each part. This would be appropriate when presenting a WBS. You could also structure the presentation around deduction from principles, where you build an idea from general principles. Presenting risk action plans could make use of this approach.
Finally, your delivery is important when imparting information to your audience. You must appear knowledgeable about the subject. You must also appear confident and at ease. To convey this impression, you should avoid reading from notes or slides. If standing, move around. Make eye contact with each person.
By following a structured approach, your stakeholders will want to learn from you and, more importantly, they will retain the information you present to them.
In my previous post, I gave you tips to influence your stakeholders. One of the best way to do this is by inspiring the people around you.
When you inspire people, you motivate them personally and emotionally. You also encourage your stakeholders to greater success, to adopt higher goals or to contribute to the success of your project.
Inspiring people relies more on emotional appeal than logical appeal.
First you need to connect with your audience’s feelings. You need to recognize and address their fears and goals. You can use Maslow’s hierarchy of needs as a checklist. You will know that you have connected with your listeners when you see them nodding their heads.
Now that you established the connection, you need to describe the desired changes. As you lay out the plan, make sure you show them how their fears and worries are counterproductive.
You can now challenge your listener to adopt nobler feelings and values. Make sure to explain the benefits of these new sentiments.
To support these steps towards inspiration, you must pay particular attention to the words you use. Be prepared to use quotes, stories and anecdotes. Use inclusive language to unite your listeners and create a bond between you and them. For example, use we instead of you. Make sure to use action verbs to convey power. Finally, be positive with your team, don’t criticize.
With these tips, you can light a fire in your stakeholders’ bellies. You will set them on the path to success. Everybody’s success.
The Stakeholder Management knowledge area explains that we are called to influence our stakeholders in favour of our project. The question is how do we do that?
There are three ways you can persuade your stakeholders: you can inspire them, you can convince them or you can call them to action. Inspiring people is all about creating excitement. Convincing people is about changing people’s minds. Finally, a call to action is about getting your stakeholders to do something.
Your influence on your stakeholders will depend greatly on the opinion you create of your knowledge, reputation and sincerity. Your knowledge is based on your qualifications and your supporting material. Your reputation is built on past performance, accomplishments and honours. Your sincerity is reflected in your conviction and your belief in the benefits to the stakeholders.
If your stakeholders are agreeable, your job is to strengthen and reinforce their sentiments. If they are apathetic, you need to show them how they are affected. If they are hostile, all you can do is get them to recognize the merits of your position. If they are simply uninformed, you must educate and convince them.
Your burden of proof should rely on logic. It should also rely on emotions like anger towards the problem and happiness for your solution.
You can present your message in different ways. You could present the problem followed by the solution. You could state a proposition which you would then support with proof. You could compare multiple solutions’ pros and cons then share your recommendation.
Your message starts with a bold statement, seizing your stakeholder’s attention. Follow up by stating the need or problem. You then satisfy your stakeholder with the solution. Now, paint a picture of the future with and without your solution, in your stakeholders’ mind. Conclude with a short statement calling them to action.
Don’t use notes: they cast doubts on your sincerity, knowledge and conviction.
As you master the art of persuasion, you will improve your stakeholders’ view of your project and of what the project can do for them.
You might be comfortable managing your stakeholders, the audience, during a presentation. Do you manage your presentation material properly?
Visual aids are great tools to support a point and increase understanding. From PowerPoints to props, visual aids may even be time savers.
The right visual aid will depend on the information you wish to convey and the size of your audience.
Visual aids need to enhance, not detract from, your delivery. Keep your visual aids simple and consistent. Don’t speak while you’re writing on a white board or flip chart.
A visual aid should support one main point. In the case of PowerPoint, that means you want each slide to represent one idea. Leave lots of white space. You want your audience to be looking at you, not your visual aid. If need be, give them a copy of the slides, after the presentation. It’s probably a good backup plan to have paper copies on hand, anyway.
Remember that a presentation is about you and the message. It is never about the visual aids. Plan your presentation like a project and your message will be understood and appreciated by the audience.