I was recently asked by Impackt Publishing to review one of their newest publications, The Manager’s Guide to Presentations (2014. ISBN-13 978-1783000142. http://www.amazon.com/The-Managers-Guide-Presentations-Lauren/dp/1783000147/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394631990&sr=8-1&keywords=the+managers+guide+to+presentations). The book was authored by Lauren M. Hug, an attorney who has likely both seen and conducted a number of presentations. The books is available in both paperback (which I reviewed) and e-book. Providing full disclosure, I was not compensated for the review, but was provided with a review copy.
Initially I was a bit skeptical, as the paperback version is only 44 pages. Tomes of 100s of pages have been published on the topic. What information worth publishing can be found in only 44 pages? Surprisingly, quite a bit!
The target audience for the book is new managers, who often, as I can personally attest, often have little to no experience developing or delivering presentations. Yet, given their position, are often called upon to give a variety of presentations. The book is concise, which is perfect for managers with little available time, providing step by step guidance and several job aids to help them identify needs, outline presentation content, and deliver their presentation.
If you’ve read any of my blog posts in the past on presentations or training, you know I’m big on ensuring an audience focus – they are, after all, the reason why we are doing the presentation in the first place. Given that, I was initially dismayed that there was little mention of the audience in the early pages of the book. However, as I progressed through the book, I realized the sense of the author’s approach. Instead of focusing first on the audience, the author, keeping in mind that HER target audience was new managers, asks these new managers to put the focus on themselves first. It’s a great reality check for new managers. The author emphasizes the need for new managers to examine their own preferences, presentation tendencies, fears, and their particular goal for the presentation. Some of these reflections are longer-term issues which likely don’t need to be examined for each and every presentation, but certainly the question of the new manager’s goal for the presentation is one that should be asked for each presentation given.
Once the internal reflection is complete, the author directs the new manager toward the needs of the audience. While she doesn’t spend as much time on audience analysis as I would like, she still hits the highlights. She also provides a few items of consideration toward the logistical needs and environment of the presentation, with heavy emphasis on knowing the environment you are stepping into and being prepared for it.
The second chapter focuses on designing the presentation. I was pleased here to see considerable reference to the audience, their needs, and what the presenter needed them to walk away with. Job aids prompting the reader to identify the audience appeal, presentation points, and a call to action help focus the neophyte presenter – brief but good points that Nancy Duarte would be proud of. They finish off the chapter with several points on audience interaction. I was quite pleased to see this, particularly since many presenters (both new and experienced) have a tendency to simply present rather than engage the audience.
The third and final chapter focuses on body language and practicing the presentation. A number of great ideas are given in this chapter, including pre-presentation discussions with stakeholders, when and how to rehearse, and conducting Q&A sessions.
Overall, the book is quite effective. It’s short and to the point, which is ideal for managers who have their attention pulled in many directions. I would feel confident in handing this book off to a new manager and, if they followed the guidance contained therein, they would be successful in their presentation endeavor. It’s not going to turn anyone into a presentation expert, but that’s not the goal of the book. It provides great ideas and insight and the job aids are excellent. Kudos to the author and publisher for identifying a need and providing good, concise information to address it.