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Author: Greta Blash

Celebritize Yourself

I just finished reading a wonderful book by Marsha Freidman, Celebritize Yourself,[1] which describes a three-step method to increase your visibility at work. I feel that after seven years of work in your profession as a business analyst, you should be recognized as an expert and if you are not, this book will help guide you through the process. Celebritize Yourself is about branding yourself as an expert. This book is not about becoming a Hollywood or TV reality celebrity, but about becoming recognized as an expert or leader in your field.

The three-step method to celebritizing yourself is

1. Write,

2. Speak,

3. Sell.

Write as much and as often as well wherever you can. If fact, everyone who is reading this article is invited to contribute to the Business Analyst Times website: about your own experiences pertaining to business analysis problems and solutions. 

The second step, Speak, is your ability to give presentations to various groups through work-related projects or organizations such as IIBA, Toastmaster, etc. Speaking in front of a group is the number one fear that people have but as a business analyst, you are expected to give presentations about your work so why not take it a little farther by volunteering to give presentations outside of your work environment. The experience will provide you the opportunity to improve your speaking skills.

The third step, Sell, is about selling yourself as a business analyst for future projects or as an authority on business analysis topics so that managers will seek out your opinions. At one company where I worked, I facilitated a weekly brown bag lunch meeting for business analysts where we could share ideas about business analysis topics within actual projects that were currently underway. This proved to be valuable to the newer business analysts and project managers, and also gave me the opportunity to write and speak.

If you look on IIBA’s website,, you will see that IIBA encourages you to give back to your profession by volunteering to write and speak on business analysis topics.

Volunteering activities include:

  • Willing and able to devote two to six hours per week to IIBA calls and volunteer-related work
  • Access to email, the Internet, and a word-processing program
  • Willing and able to attend committee meetings, as scheduled, via conference call or in person.

Before you start, the author recommends that you make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. What are you good at? Is it your organizational and planning skills, your people skills, communications? These are the things that come easy to you and that you thoroughly enjoy. What about your weaknesses? These are the things you struggle with and don’t enjoy and may even try to avoid or pass on to another team member. Do you need to improve on any of these weaknesses? What makes you unique from other project managers when you compare yourself to them?

Next, the author suggests you answer the following questions:

1. What’s Your Vision for Celebrity? Before you can finalize a plan, you must decide where you want the plan to take you. What is your business analysis vision? Make it simple and write it out as to what you want it to be.

2. What is Your Commitment to Your Vision? How determined are you to become a great business analyst? Do you have your CCBA or CBAP certification? Do you attend your local IIBA chapter meetings? Do you communicate with other business analysts? Do you read articles and blogs on Business Analyst Times and respond to what is written there?

3. What is Your Own Unique Message? Defining your message is not always easy nor is it always obvious. But it is important to have a distinctive message about your knowledge, experience and education. What part of it do you enjoy the most and what energizes you to perform the work that you have been assigned?

4. Why Does Your Message Appeal to You? What do you love about being a project manager? Is it the planning, the execution, monitoring and control, or is it the team members or the satisfaction of successfully completing the project that greatly benefits the organization? 

5. Why Will Your Message Appeal to Others? It is meaningless to start this journey unless your message can resonate with others. How can you reach out to others to touch their lives and benefit them regarding business analysis?

6. Who is your Target Audience? Who will benefit from your message? Is it other business analysts, stakeholders or students? Identifying your audience is the foundation for your entire plan. That is your personal marketing plan.

7. What’s Your Plan for Celebrity? The plan should contain a defined goal and specific steps that are necessary to achieve it. You should write this, evaluate it and update it frequently before committing to it.

8. When Will You Start? I assume by now that you are enthusiastic and you are thinking about starting your own celebrity journey. Here is a quote from Amelia Earhart: “The most difficult thing is the decision to act; the rest is merely tenacity.” The author suggests that you start out small and add to it as goals are achieved.

9. Have You Picked the Right Teammates? You are looking for individuals that can help support and constructively criticize you and your work. Choose teammates who clearly want to help you succeed. Embrace them and listen to what they have to say, even when it’s critical of your work.

10. How Will You Measure Success? When you consider the time and effort you will put into this, what will you expect to be your reward? Is it recognition from your peers, management or family? Is it the satisfaction of helping others? Only you can provide the answer to this question.

In summary, celebritizing yourself is not a means to an end, but it’s an ongoing journey. It is a path and not a destination. Don’t let the hard work dishearten you or let obstacles stand in your way. If you apply the principle in this article or from the book, you will find the journey becoming easier and your expectations will be met. To walk the path takes a strong commitment to develop a personal plan that can lead to a successful career while helping others. It can lead to a strong sense of fulfillment in your life.

[1] Celebritize Yourself, Author: Marsha Friedman, ISBN: 978-1-886057-20-3, Warren Publishing, Inc 2009

Steve Blash is an experienced IT professional consultant providing business and technology leadership, mentoring and vision. His areas of experience include project management, I.T. management, business process improvement, business analysis, business intelligence, data analytics and data warehousing.

Maximizing Team Effectiveness by Greta Blash

As Project Managers we are responsible for the team we have been assigned.  Often we have no input into the selection or replacement of the team.  In these situations we need to make sure that we are able to maintain the best people, while improving the effectiveness of the others on the team.

I recently read a new book entitled No Nonsense Retention – Painless Strategies To Retain Your Best People by Jeff Kortes.  Even though the book addresses management issues that may lead to people leaving an organization, there were many good points that would apply to Project Managers as they manage a project team.

Some of the must-do actions include:

     1.      Supervisory Training – Even if the project manager does not hold the title of supervisor or manager, supervisory training can improve their ability to manage others.  Uniform, basic and consistent – without training “like sending warriors out to fight a war with outdated weapons”.  If the company is unable to provide this, take the initiative to continue your personal growth through training or reading books and/or articles on management topics.

     2.     Manage by walking around – With today’s communication technology we are often more apt to sit at a computer (or smartphone) rather than speaking directly with our team members.  Because the majority of messages are conveyed through body language, tone of your voice, and other non-verbal cues, this lack of personal contact can lead to miscommunication, confusion and a host of other problems.  Obviously this is easier to accomplish when the team is co-located rather than a virtual team, but this one-on-one communication becomes even more critical in the virtual team environment.  Not only does the Project Manager have a better understanding of what is happening by watching and communicating with team members as they perform their tasks, but the team members have a chance to get to know the project manager through these interactions. 

     3.     Know and understand each team member – It is important to understand each team member, not in a prying manner, but rather to understand what is important to each individual.  If you know about a person’s life, you will understand what motivates them.  Just as it is important to listen to our children, we must take the time to listen to our team members.  Make sure that you are available and accessible to your team members.

     4.     Treat everyone with respect – Respect is about how you treat a person.  How you demonstrate how you value that person is appreciation.  These two actions can set the tone of the team.  One of the first actions is to remember the importance of saying “please” and “thank you”.  It only takes a few extra keystrokes or seconds to include these in every request.

Another important demonstration of respect is to avoid jumping to conclusions.  It is critical that when situations arise that you investigate the situation by asking questions and              listening to all sides of the story.

Make sure you not only tell your team members that you appreciate them – but also it is important to show them appreciation.  I personally always have some little candy bars or other “kudos” to recognize small achievements and recognition.

     5.     Convey expectations – It is important to make sure and convey what is expected of each team member, and then hold them accountable when they don’t meet the expectation.  Without both parts of this action, the project manager often sends a mixed message.  In order to make sure that the expectations are met, the team members must have the tools and supports that is needed to succeed. This includes examining any barriers that need to be removed to help them get back on track.

     6.     Remove underachievers – When the expectations are continually not met it is critical that the individual be removed from the project.  This is one of the hardest tasks that a project manager must perform.  If substandard performance continues, it affects the entire project team.  At first the rest of the team often takes up the slack “for the good of the team”, but after a while the bar is lowered and the overall quality of the project suffers.  When a piece of fruit in a bowl starts to decay, it doesn’t take long for the rest of the fruit to become affected.  The same is true of project teams.

Even though the book was geared to retaining good employees from an HR standpoint, many of the points are very apropos to the over team environment on projects.  Since most of these points were directed at the supervisor or manager, every project manager should take the time to evaluate their “team management” sphere of influence, and see if some adjustments are necessary.

Tough Calls from the Corner Office

BA_Blash_June21I just finished reading an exciting new book: Tough Calls from the Corner Office by Harlan Steinbaum which reflects on how business leaders reveal their career-defining moments. The book contains many articles written by many current and previous CEOs about experiences that helped them achieve success for their companies.

The one recurring theme that I saw in many of the articles was the importance of planning to be ahead of the technology curve and the resulting changes that affect the business. The more things change, the more things continue to change, usually because of advancements in technology which force companies to adapt to the resulting new circumstances. The core competency of any business must be positioned to manage the ever-changing business environment and it is the business analyst that needs to be a leader in this effort.

The business analyst must be constantly scanning the horizon for change and innovation as the cycles in business are being shortened.  It’s difficult to keep up with all the new gadgets; including smarts phone, PDAs, and tablets, as well as the affect that social networking has on businesses. When developing a five year plan at one company a few years ago, I predicted that the PDA would replace laptops in the field for sales people. I still remember everyone laughing at me saying that I was dreaming. But today businesses are rushing out to buy PDAs and tablets and developers are daily adding new applications for these devices. It was only a few years ago when business people were working on their laptops during their flights, but today it is smaller devices like tables, PDAs and/or smart phones.

These fast-paced technology developments rarely come without warning. The problem is that most companies are slow to see what is being adopted at other companies. They don’t like taking risks especially in being the first to adopt new technology. Unfortunately as a result they wait too long and wind up being last. Many business analysts can get very frustrated when trying to “sell” the idea to the business of the benefits of being on the leading edge of technology. (There is the risk that being the first may not be the leading edge, but rather the “bleeding edge.”) 

The author believes that the business analysts should develop a rigorous plan of the pros and cons of how anticipated new technologies could affect the business and continue to review and adjust the plan accordingly, as needed. The business analyst must also be aware of the competitors and what they are doing. BAs also need to continually monitor potential government regulations that could impact the business.

Next the business analyst should research and monitor how to apply any new technology to the business, especially if that solution has the potential to help the business gain a competitive advantage.  The business analysts must be pushing for the ‘best of breed‘ for the business, especially if their company is a leader in their industry or wants to become the leader.  

One very useful tool that the author recommends is SWOT analysis that looks at a company’s Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Treats. The company’s strengths and weakness require internal analysis: What the company does well and where there is poor performance that could benefit from improvement, especially in relationship to its goals. The external analysis is applied to the opportunities and threats. Does the company have the strengths to take advantage of the opportunities or neutralize the threats? Is the company in position to take advantage of the new technologies? What planning needs to be adjusted and what areas of the business need to change?  Who will be affected by the change in technology?

Here is an example of new IVR technology and how it has helped me as a customer calling my Internet provider. It is Sunday afternoon and I have lost connection to the Internet. Last year when I called the company about the same problem, I got the ‘because it’s Sunday we are closed’ message. Today when I called about losing connection again, I simply gave the Interactive Voice Response system (IVR) my identification and it told me that they were aware of the technical outage and repair personnel were working on it. This was a significant improvement to their customer service and I didn’t have to go through the numerous annoying prompts.  I also didn’t have to speak to anyone in customer service unless I wanted to. So now they do have a person working on Sunday but the demand on the customer service personnel during the week has been reduced.

There are too many excellent ideas in this book to discuss here but this book does provide a wonderful opportunity to learn from the masters of business.

Here is what Chick-Fil-A’s CEO, S. Truett Cathy said about his success: “I was successful because I made many good decisions and when I made bad decisions, I learned not to make the same mistake twice.”

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

Steve Blash is an experienced IT professional consultant providing business and technology leadership, mentoring and vision. His areas of experience include business process improvement, business analysis, business intelligence, data analytics, project and IT management.

Common Mistakes Made By Business Analysts Playing the Role of Facilitator

In Agile projects, the business analyst can elicit the business requirements more effectively by facilitating the meeting rather than interviewing stakeholders individually. Here are some of the common problems that a BA can encounter.

Problems in the Meeting

Failure to Relate to Participants: This is the most commonly mistake made by the facilitator and is usually caused when the facilitator has not prepared for the meeting by reviewing the background of the participants and categorizing them. Each participant has a different background and different characteristics. The facilitator cannot treat the participants the same or as a generic person.

Failure to focus on the Meeting Content: When too much information is being exchanged during the dialogue of the group, it becomes difficult to direct the participants to focus on the key point of the discussion. The facilitator must identify key words for each point as a summary of the content to help visualize the discussion. If this is not done the team may become frustrated, especially if the discussion is going around and around resulting in a state of confusion. The facilitator must identify each point, capture it, organize it, synthesize it and clearly document it. People expect the meeting process to be well managed and these steps will help meet that expectation.

Failure to Use Group Memory: People can only tolerate so much pure discussion without having something written down. If the facilitator encourages discussion and listening without writing anything down, participants may begin to feel that this is a just an informal discussion. Facilitators must create or reference visual memory at least every fifteen minutes. As the meeting proceeds, the amount of written documentation will continue to grow. It is also important to make use of any support materials before, during or after the meeting. Remember that written words, and diagrams, are more memorable than spoken words.

Problems with Participants

There may be minor problems with some of the participants during a session. However, there may be some serious problems with an individual participant that can impact the entire team. So let me explain what I have encountered.

Blue-Sky: Blue-Sky participants are progressive and optimistic people who believe they can accomplish complex tasks. They tend to view their objective as part of the group as a mission to seek out new information, to discover new ways of doing business and to venture where no other team has ventured before. This type of person wants to take on as much as possible, to change as much as possible and to totally re‑engineer the business often using new and advanced technology. The problem is that the organization may not be ready for such drastic changes. The intent of this type of participants is good but the facilitator must rein in this person by directing questions to all of the other participants. The facilitator should determine if the ideas in the discussion are realistic and achievable within the boundaries and the budget of the project scope. The facilitator should involve the team in determining the direction of the conversation rather than trying to cut off the discussion point.

Snowball: This type of participants likes to continually add one more item to the discussion. They usually say, “While we are doing that, let’s also do this…” The difference between a blue sky and a snow ball participant is that the blue sky participant will talk about doing everything at once, while the snow ball participant adds one thing at a time. This technique can add quite a bit to the discussion points over the course of the meeting. The facilitator needs to recognize that the added item identified in this manner is not directly part of the effort. The facilitator should validate with the group if the discussion point is within the team’s scope and a part of the team’s objectives.

Wanderers: This type of participant likes to meander during their discussion point or talk about something that is not related to the topic nor follows the dialogue that was in progress. Wanderers enjoy tangents and digressions. They tend to begin to speak before they have thought out their ideas. The facilitator must stop the wanderer before too much time has been wasted and/or as soon as the facilitator recognizes that the discussion point is not relevant to the topic. The facilitator should consider if it is a digression or not in order to get back to the topic. Often these points can be put on a “parking lot” to stop the discussion and return to the points at hand.

Philosophers: This type of participant likes to inject academics into each discussion topic. This person’s language skills are advanced and often speak using a large vocabulary of difficult and often unrecognizable words. Participants who are more practical will find it difficult to work with the philosopher. The facilitator will need to rephrase, or summarize, what the philosopher has said in order for all the participants to comprehend the discussion point. The facilitator needs to verify with the group if the ideas expressed in the discussion point are practical and feasible for the organization. The facilitator must not allow the philosopher to carry‑on without the idea being documented in the group memory.

Conversers: These participants are usually more social and tend to seek out other participants who share the same characteristics. Most of the ideas they express are not related directly to the topic, although it may appear that way as they begin their discussion. They are similar to the wanderer, who also like tangents and digressions. However, they are not as far off from the topics as the wanderers are. The facilitator needs to listen to the converser’s idea, assess if it relates to the topic and limit that person’s time to speak. The facilitator should determine their ideas are a part of the topic or relate to something else. The facilitator must monitor this person’s contributions more closely than others in order to keep the other participants from becoming frustrated with what appears to be unnecessary and time wasting discussions.

Devil’s Advocates: This person is always negative when expressing their ideas. They tend to state that things will never work, that things can’t be done or that the technology is too complex. These pessimistic people can become a real downer to the other participants because they will be viewed as being against the rest of the team. The facilitator must request that this person keeps an open mind to the ideas that are expressed and only when there is a negative aspect that others haven’t identified, should they point this aspect out. This type of person can become very harmful to the overall team’s motivation. Too much negativism can turn the meeting process into a frustrating experience for all participants.

Followers: These people like to follow the lead of the others, especially others from their own department. They always align themselves with their manager or an influential person in the group. They are always in agreement with that person and are reluctant to express their personal view. This may be due to previous experiences when having been in meetings with their manager or this influential person. The facilitator needs to recognize that this person is continually repeating what others have said and should try to ask a specific question that will enable them to express what they really feel about the topic. The facilitator may need to stand between the follower and his/her manager to block his/her view.

I have only listed a few problems that I have experienced for this article and I would be interested in some the problems that you had endured – so please feel free to leave your comments or contact me directly.

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

Steve Blash is an experienced IT professional consultant providing business and technology leadership, mentoring and vision. His areas of experience include business process improvement, business analysis, business intelligence, data analytics, project and IT management.

Top Ten Presentation Tips

Maybe you have not just become the King of England, as depicted in the highly nominated file “The King’s Speech”, but to some being asked to make a presentation evokes the same results.

Most people are never asked to be a presenter so now you have an invitation to become a member of a very exclusive group – those who have heard the flattering words, “We would like you to make a presentation for us.”

But are you one of those people who are more afraid of giving a speech than dying?

According to the Book of Lists by David Wallenchinsky, Irving Wallace and Ann Wallace, the fear of public speaking is the most common fear, surpassing the fear of flying, snakes, spiders, heights, and even death.

As frequent presenters who have overcome our fear of speaking, we have compiled our Top Ten Tips for helping overcome fears and helping you make an effective presentation based on tips from some of the best orators of the past, as well as our personal experiences.

Number 10: Determine the Type of Presentation

“A speech is an instrument which the speaker uses to get certain things done. He can’t build a bridge with a speech. But by a speech he can enlist the support and cooperation that will enable him to get the bridge built. Support, consent, cooperation, willingness, consensus, agreement, acceptance, understanding-these terms indicate real things that can be said to be true of groups after speeches have been made to them”

– Wilbur S Howell of Princeton University in “The Speaker’s Abstract: A Guide for Public Speaking (published in 1950).

The first consideration is determining the type of presentation that you will be presenting. This decision is usually dependent on the size of the audience, the venue and the expected outcome as a result of the presentation.

The first involves presenting to a small group within a meeting-like environment. In this instance the speaker or presenter has more personal contact with the group and is able to deliver a more interactive presentation. With this size group it is possible to elicit feedback and participation. These types of presentations usually are more of a persuasive nature and have an expectancy of a decision being reached at the conclusion of the session. This is a very typical presentation method for a project manager to deliver status or progress reports, project gate results or updates to steering committees and/or upper management.

At times a project manager may be requested to deliver a more structured, informational presentation to a large, mostly anonymous audience. Rather than being in proximity with the attendees, the presenter is elevated to a stage, often with bright lights which prevent any eye contact with the audience.

With the advent of technology, either small or large presentations may now be supported through virtual meetings or webinars. In these instances the same content may be presented but the audience may be scattered across the globe. Not only is personal interaction constrained, but in many cases, the actual size or composure of the audience is unknown.

Number 9: Know your audience

“There are apathetic, sleeping audiences that must be awakened; there are hostile audiences that must be defied and conquered; there are alienated or sullen audiences that must be won back; there are frightened audiences that must be calmed. There are loyal, affectionate audiences that must be further inspired. There are cool, skeptical audiences that must be coolly convinced. There are heterogeneous audiences that must be molded into some kind of unity.”

– Houston Peterson, author, A Treasury of the World’s Great Speeches

Audiences are made up of people and therefore come in many varieties. You must be able to determine the type of audience and then identify the best strategy for being able to relate to them most effectively.

Some questions to help analyze the audience are:

  • What are the demographics of the group (age, gender, economic status, education level, etc.)?
  • Why is the audience attending? (Be able to answer the question “What is in it for me? )
  • If this is an internal organizational presentation, where am I organizationally relative to the other attendees?
  • Who are the key decision makers in the audience?

There is no such thing as an unimportant audience. These people have taken time out of their life to come see you. You owe them the best that you have in you.

Number 8: Understand the logistics of your presentation

“Paying attention to simple little things that most people neglect makes a few people rich”
– Henry Ford

Hopefully the logistics of the presentation has been handled by someone else. As part of the planning, the time, date, location, room setup, and equipment required have been discussed, approved and in place prior to the event.

Even with the best planning, as Murphy reminds us “if something can do wrong, it will.”

The first concern is to arrive at the location in plenty of time to make sure that indeed everything is in place and working properly. With today’s transportation problems, whether arriving from a distance or just traveling locally, it is better to have time to spare than be running into the venue at the last moment.

When audio-visual equipment is going to be used, a test run is imperative. You want to remember to check the electrical connections, lighting, sound, and room temperature before the attendees start assembling.

Number 7: Determine the appropriate delivery method

“Speech preparation may be defined as the process of making decisions beforehand upon the content, the organization, the wording, and the delivery of a speech.”

The determination of which delivery method is most appropriate is based on the type of presentation, the knowledge of the audience and the logistics of where the presentation is to be held.

For large audiences and informative presentations a more formal presentation can be utilized. These presentations may be based on a previously submitted white paper and are scripted with carefully chosen visuals to illustrate key points. (More on visuals later).

For the smaller, more informal presentations, a more interactive speaking style may be more appropriate. These may still utilize visuals, but may incorporate more than one method (including slides, flipcharts, etc.). Because of the interactive nature of these presentations, less detailed notes supporting the content are often more appropriate.

Number 6: Organize the content of the presentation

“A speech has two parts. You must state your case and then prove it.”
– Aristotle

The first step, and probably the most important step, is to know the purpose and understand what you want to accomplish with this presentation. Once you have clearly defined the objective, then you can begin to do your research, make an outline or mind map, prepare any graphics and write your words.

Even though Aristotle was speaking about persuasive speeches having two parts, he later went on to say that most speeches have four parts:

  • Introduction – or “tell ‘me what you are going to tell ’em”
  • Statement – or “tell ’em”
  • Argument – or “tell ’em some more”
  • Epilogue – or “tell ’em what you told ’em”

This structure has withstood the test of time and can be helpful with the organization of the content of the presentation.

Churchill once said that a speech is like a symphony. It may have three movements but must have one dominant melody. Once the melody (or objective) has been finalized, it is time to “chunk” the middle.

There may be some psychological reason as to why series of threes are best remembered, but whatever the reason, but it probably best to limit your key points to three.

Above all it is important to remember that every part of the presentation concerns the audience. Never give a generic presentation. Personalize it, relate it to the news of the day.

Every presentation starts with an issue of concern to the audience and ends with “a call to action” or next steps towards resolution of the issue. From start to finish the presenter is guiding the audience through the presentation of ideas, data, and plans using the specific language of the audience. The best presentations are those in which the audience believes that the speaker is truly addressing their needs and issues.

Number 5: Determine the balance between pictures or words

“You’ve got to see it to believe it”
– Anonymous

Geri E. H. McArdle, PhD, author of Delivering Effective Training Sessions, notes that adding visuals such as graphs, charts, maps, or photos to a presentation increases the amount of retained information by as much as 55 percent. Using these percentages, people attending a presentation with visuals will remember about 65 percent of the content after three days, compared to about 10 percent who only listened to the presentation. Since many of today’s presentations are done virtually or electronically, the delivery mechanism must consist of both audio and visual components.

A study done by the Wharton School of Business showed that the use of visuals reduced meeting times by as much as 28 percent. This study also recognized the decrease in the time needed for participants to reach decisions and consensus through the use of visuals. Other results of using visuals as part of the presentation have shown an increase in the credibility and professionalism of the presenters over those who only spoke.

Even though visuals have a positive influence, a poorly developed visual can negate the results rapidly. Some basic pointers include:

  • Limit one basic idea per slide
  • Verify the text is readable
  • Be consistent with the look and feel of the text and the background (and ensure that the choice is appropriate to the logistics of the presentation)
  • Choose appropriate colors for the message and the audience
  • Combine visuals with text (remember “a picture is worth a thousand words”)
  • If you need to refer continuously to some information during your presentation, place it on a flip-chart, whiteboard or a paper handout. This will significantly help your audience to remember or recall the information without going back to the original slide and allow you to continue with your presentation.

Number 4: Elicit feedback from key stakeholders

“When there are two people in a business who always agree, one of them is unnecessary”
– William Wrigley, Jr

There are a number of points at which reviews must be incorporated into the preparation of the presentation.

After being asked to present, time should be allotted to discuss the expectations of the requester(s). This input will help guide the development of the purpose and objectives of the material. It will also reassure the requester that their needs will be met.

In order to make sure that you can connect with your audience you need to put yourself in their shoes. This may involve observing the activities in the work environment, or speaking with a few representative audience members. These activities will increase the credibility of the presentation and ensure that it is timely and addresses the current needs of the audience.

After you have completed your first version it is time to review the content with the subject matter experts. This will ensure that not only is the material accurate but also that it is understandable.

Number 3: Practice your delivery

“You ain’t heard nothing yet”
– Al Jolson

Some tricks to help ensure a smooth delivery through the use of a “dry run”:

  • Vocalize the speech aloud, making note of natural pauses
  • Rehearse in front of team members, preferably in a location similar to the final venue
  • Review the timing
  • Refine the materials, including both visuals and content, where necessary
  • Verify the required setup, including lighting and sound levels
  • Review personal presentation and voice tonality
  • Practice, practice, practice

Number 2: Make yourself “presentable”

“No one is more confusing than the person who gives good advice while setting a bad example”
– Anonymous

There are two main aspects that the presenter needs to consider on a personal level. One is appearance and the other is voice. Ignoring these items can distract and ruin an otherwise outstanding presentation.

Some hints for your appearance:

– Make sure that you are well-groomed, including the proverbial “shoes polished, suit pressed and clean fingernails”
– Dress appropriately, whether the attire is business or casual, but slightly more formal than the audience.
– The selection of the clothing should not be by chance. They should proclaim your professionalism.
– Adopt a style that suits you and that is consistent with the way the audience thinks you should dress.

There are a number of schools of thought regarding the colors that presenters should wear. The conservative view espoused by the editors of the Executive Guide to Successful Presentation suggests that grey and blue are the most appropriate suit colors for presenters while Dorothy Sarnoff of Speech Dynamics suggests that her clients wear standout colors. “When you are presenting why not be the center of attention? Have your color enter the room and claim attention with you.”

The quality of your voice is nearly as important as your message. If a voice is irritating, offensive, high-pitched, nasal, whining, or strongly accented in any way it will distract the audience from the key points of the presentation. A voice that is forced or too loud will sound strident, even aggressive. If a voice is too soft, the audience won’t get the point of the presentation because they may not even hear it.

Even though a voice coach is not a necessity, every speaker should spend time listening to their own voice. This may include recording your daily conversations and then playing those back at the end of the day. Many presenters have not heard their own voice, or not as the audience will.

John Connell, a voice-over actor heard on many commercials, says
“It all comes out in the voice. Joy, nervousness, anticipation, authority, boredom. The voice gives the audience its first real clue about you. Yet the voice is often neglected.”

There are several books on this subject, including Voice Power by Renee Grant-Williams that can provide assistance in this area.

Number 1: Showtime! Take a deep breath and smile

“Never bend you head. Always hold it high.
Look the world straight in the eye”
– Helen Keller

Here are some of our final tips to help you make a great first impression.

  • Release tension by loosening your muscles, especially your jaw and neck.
  • Breathe deeply but naturally. Don’t hyperventilate.
  • If you have butterflies in your stomach, have them fly in formation – (Author unknown)

Say some words out loud, such as “Let’s go” – to make sure that your voice is working. What you say should be enthusiastic and get your adrenalin going as well

  • Slowly, but confidently, walk up to the front of the room with your shoulders back and head up.
  • Stand tall.
  • Scan your audience, finding a few friendly faces and establish eye contact.
  • Smile.
  • Repeat your opening sentence to yourself. Each second you pause strengthens your opening words.
  • Channel your nervousness into enthusiasm and passion.
  • Go for it!!


“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Eighty percent of success is showing up!”
– Woody Allen

Don’t forget to leave your comments below.

Steve and Greta Blash are frequent speakers world-wide at conferences and seminars. They have spoken on topics including business analysis, project management, business re-engineering/process improvement, sytems development, and business intelligence.

A version of this article was published in newsletter in Feb 29, 2008 and presented at a PMI-SN chapter meeting in July 2008. 

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