It’s time for your first project sponsor update. You’ve spent hours getting the deck just right. You’ve meticulously prepared the slides, used every SmartArt® in the toolkit to ensure your point is made, refined the slide transitions and practiced your delivery in the mirror to make sure it is just right. You start the web meeting knowing that you are going to knock it out of the park.
The introduction slide goes fine, nobody argues with the agenda and then comes slide 3 and it all goes to hell….
Why? What went wrong? Could it have been avoided? The answer? Probably.
Every project is different and every sponsor or sponsor group is unique, but over the years I have found some common factors that can be the difference between success and a mess. Here are five things I have learned over the years that might help you avoid an unmitigated disaster:
- Understand the expectations. Have the conversation with the key stakeholders to understand what information they want and at what level. What you think is important they might not care about and vice versa. Don’t worry so much about having a slick PPT template – it is more important that your information is relevant and on point.
- Get to know your audience. Make sure you understand who you are delivering to. If you haven’t worked with the group before, do a little research. Talk to folks who have been down the road before you. Ask about the personalities and group dynamics. The time will be well spent to know who will be an advocate and who might be an obstacle.
- Get your materials reviewed. Have someone review your materials beforehand. It’s amazing what a different set of eyes can catch that you might miss on the first pass. The reviewer doesn’t have to be someone involved in the project, but should be someone who knows enough to ask questions about your content. Ideally, identify an advocate who will be in the audience to give you some feedback on how it will resonate with the rest of the group.
- Consider the little things. There is nothing worse than starting a meeting and running into technical or logistical glitches that take up ¼ of your time. Make sure your rooms is prepared, seating is appropriate, your technology is set-up and working as expected well before the start time. If people are connecting virtually, get logged in early, ensure that everyone can hear you, and that your materials can be seen.
- Be flexible. It never fails to amaze me what might drive discussion during a review. Be ready to abandon your deck and go with the flow. These discussions often lead to new directions or great information that can be helpful, so be willing to listen and move quickly on some of your prepared content and spend time on a burning issue for your audience.
Projects live or die with the sponsor buy-in, so if you are responsible for keeping them in the loop, make sure that you are taking the time and making the effort to be effective. By taking some extra time in the preparation, you can impress the sponsors, get them on board and often head off issues before they derail your project.
If you have a crazy project story with lessons learned – drop me a comment!