Presenting projects with your audience in mind (1/4)

In this next series, I will share some of my experiences presenting and discussing projects to a variety of audience types:

  • Project team members
  • Senior executives
  • Clients

I’ve divided this blog series into four parts, with the first post serving as an introduction to the “art” of Gantt Chart preparation, and the next three posts focusing on the various audience types mentioned above.

But first, a short story is in order.  I first got into the project management field as a young Air Force Captain assigned to a federal agency in Washington, DC dealing with computer architecture analysis.

Later, I had the opportunity to be under a senior Colonel’s wing during the development of a very large project. What amazed me the most was how the Colonel was able to “size up” his audiences, tailor his presentations to their needs, select words that had relevance, and make calls for action that they willingly accepted.  What a salesman!  How was he able to do that while maintaining the integrity of the goal?  What were the secrets to his success? And, can that be learned?

As this series proceeds, I’d like to ask readers to provide comments, and whether you agree or disagree, based on your own experiences.

Getting started

When presenting your project or schedule, there are two main points to keep in mind:

  1. Define the information that is required
  2. Identify an understand the audience

We’ll start by introducing the concept of Gantt Art, which helps you define the attributes and information required to make your project presentation successful. Then, in subsequent blog posts, we’ll cover the taxonomy of your audience.

From Gantt chart to Gantt Art

We often take Gantt charts for granted, and assume that our audiences do the same.  But how often in the past have you watched with embarrassment as an unprepared colleague is impaled with questions based on the presentation that was prepared in advance?  Just thinking about this brings a chill.  So what goes wrong when these troubling occurrences happen and how can they be avoided?

Typical MS Project Gantt Chart

Our answer here at Chronicle Graphics is to shift the focus from the Gantt chart to the concept of Gantt ART!  Outside of a cute play on words, what is Gantt Art?  In short, it is a high level process for defining and building a project presentation.

The Gantt Art process starts by thinking through what information is required for the project discussion. This information has three attributes:

  1. Relevance– No information should be introduced into the schedule conversation unless it is important to decision itself.
  2. Clarity– The information presented should be absolutely clear to the audience, in their vernacular, within their frames of reference, and unambiguous.
  3. Credible – All information presented must be accurate and vetted.

When successfully considered and implemented, these attributes confer on the presenter an “aura” of thoughtfulness, economy of presentation, and trustworthiness in the mind of the audience.  In so doing, the visual captures the audience’s attention and provides a focus on the conversation:

Gantt Art Process

Why is Gantt Art important?  Communicating involves a sender, a receiver, and a message.  The sender is you and the receiver is your audience, so the message is the variable that you can control the most.  The “art” is crafting the message so that it communicates the three attributes above.  The Gantt Art approach gets you to an agreement through consensus on the facts, the options, and the rationale supporting the recommendations.  Ultimately, a successful decision is the final outcome.

Making your Gantt chart into a work of Gantt Art is a process which combines relevance, clarity, and credibility into a visual chart focused on project issues.  The goal: achieve agreement on the issues and move on to successful decision making.

In the next three parts of this post, we’ll look at audience attributes.  See you then.

This entry was posted in Audiences, Project Reporting, Project Visualization by Bob Feingold. Bookmark the permalink.

About Bob Feingold

Bob is a seasoned technology and project management executive. As an Air Force Officer (Colonel) from 1965 through 1991, he served in a number of executive leadership, computer system development, and program management roles. After retirement, he joined Robbins-Gioia, Inc. as a Regional Vice President and Program Management Consultant. He then moved to state government, where he held numerous influential positions, culminating in his service as Chief Information Officer for the State of Colorado under Governor Bill Owens. Bob has a doctorate degree in Operations Research and an MBA from Indiana University, and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Miami.

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