In this last post of this series, we want to round out the discussion at the “top of the food chain” and talk about the conduct of project presentations with the client.
Project managers may have occasion to present to clients, especially project managers in smaller businesses. Presenting to clients requires the utmost in care and requires careful preparation as more is usually at stake. So, what are the characteristics of the client?
- Unless you’ve successfully presented to them before, you are a true outsider. Although most clients are willing to be open minded and accepting as a matter of courtesy, the honeymoon doesn’t usually last long and you only have one chance to make a good first impression. Your actions, presentation, and how you handle the conversation will set the stage for the remainder of the relationship.
- You are a service provider and a subordinate. You may be walking in with some credibility, but that won’t last long if your presentation doesn’t consider the three Gantt Art process attributes we detailed in Part 1. Sustaining that credibility and getting off on a good foot for a long term relationship is dependent on what you have to report and how you go about it.
- Your goals may not be the same as the client’s. You may have revenue and quality goals, while the client wants to minimize cost and keep on schedule. This tension is almost always there in the relationship, so recognizing that and handling it well is important.
- The culture you are most familiar with, your terms of reference, and your norms may be vastly different from that of your client. Expect it, look for the differences, respect them, and adapt. One doesn’t necessarily have to try and mimic the culture you find; that isn’t usually credible and won’t garner respect.
- You are the spokesperson for your team and your company. You are the authority figure for the project and you are accountable for cost, schedule, and quality. Taking on this responsibility and acknowledging that you are in charge helps enhance credibility and makes your presentation acceptable, even if it’s a presentation containing bad news.
The example below is a typical client-focused schedule chart which considers the Gantt Art process attributes. It provides transparency on schedule and status without getting mired in the details:
The attributes of the Gantt Art process come into play at this level too. We’ve already mentioned the importance of earning and maintaining credibility. Presenting the relevant information and doing it clearly rounds out the application of the Gantt Art process for presentations to clients.
Summing It Up
This four-post series on presenting projects to different audiences introduced the talked about making schedule presentations at three levels: the project team, corporate executives, and the client.
Along the way, we introduced the Gantt Art process by which the project manager can prepare for a schedule conversation, no matter the level, by focusing on providing relevant information, providing that information clearly, and assuring the information is credible. When considered carefully and applied creatively, with the characteristics of the audience in mind, and with the right tools, the Gantt Art process results in presentations that are thoughtful, economical, and trustworthy.