6: Good presentation skills are not the same as good PowerPoint skills

I’m writing about one hundred things I’ve learned about being a product manager.

It is inevitable that you will need to stand up and give a presentation at some point during your career as a product manager.  Some people dislike presenting more than others; that’s natural.  Whether you love or hate the sound of your own voice, try some of the following tips to ease some of the stress of presenting.

If you can, avoid PowerPoint altogether.  You want people to focus on what you have to say, not your slides.  Television news reporters convey information primarily by looking the viewer in the eye and speaking without visual aids.  They generally only introduce infographics to liven up dry statistics or simplify a complex concept.  Think about how you could learn from people whose day job it is to prepare and present reports every day.

If you do absolutely, positively need to kill every last m*********er in the room use PowerPoint slides, make them slick and neat

Slides are best suited to displaying graphical not textual information.  There is a level of hell reserved for business people who insist on ‘presenting’ by reading the text verbatim from the projection screen, often without any eye-contact at all.  Make a mental note of this and every other crap presentation you’ve had to live through.  Promise yourself and your future audiences never to repeat their mistakes.

So before reaching for the company slide template, consider whether you could literally illustrate your points as you go along with a pen and flip chart.  Not only does it break up the content, it demonstrates you understand your subject.

If you do absolutely, positively need to kill every last m*********er in the room use PowerPoint slides, make them slick and neat.  Try to express your ideas graphically rather than textually.  If you must use text, try to avoid using a font any smaller than 18pt Arial; your audience simply won’t be able to read it.

PowerPoint has become progressively more powerful and easy to use since Office 2003.  The photo editing and new SmartArt tools in PowerPoint 2010 are extremely accomplished.  Sometimes a border here, a rounded corner or a drop shadow there can make an otherwise mediocre slide more visually attractive.  Don’t go mad, though.  You don’t want psychedelic slides accidentally causing seizures in your audience.

The art of public speaking is an entire topic in itself.  I’ll offer some tips on that next week.

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The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management book cover

The Practitioner's Guide To Product Management

by Jock Busuttil

“This is a great book for Product Managers or those considering a career in Product Management.”

— Lyndsay Denton

Jock Busuttil is a product management and leadership coach, product leader and author. He has spent over two decades working with technology companies to improve their product management practices, from startups to multinationals. In 2012 Jock founded Product People Limited, which provides product management consultancy, coaching and training. Its clients include BBC, University of Cambridge, Ometria, Prolific and the UK’s Ministry of Justice and Government Digital Service (GDS). Jock holds a master’s degree in Classics from the University of Cambridge. He is the author of the popular book The Practitioner’s Guide To Product Management, which was published in January 2015 by Grand Central Publishing in the US and Piatkus in the UK. He writes the blog I Manage Products and weekly product management newsletter PRODUCTHEAD. You can find him on Mastodon, X (formerly Twitter) and LinkedIn.

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