Learn to enjoy it
In surveys about what people fear the most, the commonest answer is, apparently, not snakes, sharks or spiders, but having to stand up in front of people and deliver a presentation.
But delivering a great presentation can help you stand out as a business analyst. In fact, presentation skills are a business analysis core competence.
Ambitious business analysts can take advantage of the fact that so many people don’t want to present in public. Delivering a great presentation to an influential audience can be a career enhancing experience.
Sure, we can all get a bit nervous just before a presentation. The great speaker, Winston Churchill, admitted that he got butterflies in his stomach before a presentation. But he added, “I taught them to fly in formation”. In this article we look at some simple ways of getting your butterflies to fly in formation.
As with so many things, from decorating a room to climbing Mount Everest, delivering a great presentation depends on planning and preparation.
GREAT PRESENTATIONS START WITH BOSCARD
In a consultancy that I once worked for, we defined terms of references for our projects with the help of the acronym B0SCARD. We can use the same acronym, more or less, in preparing for our presentations. B0SCARD stands for,
The BCS International Diploma in Business Analysis uses a similar idea but limits it to OSCAR.
We’ll make a slight adjustment to one of these terms in preparing for a presentation rather than for a project.
- Background. Why are you going to deliver this presentation? What was the situation that led to this? Thinking about why you are where you are, can help you focus on what you really need to deliver and to get across to your audience. No need for a long document here. Try to capture the background with a few succinct bullet points.
- Objectives. This follows on from thinking about the background. What exactly is the purpose of your presentation? What message are you trying to get across to your audience? Is a presentation really the best way of achieving this? What might you try, instead of or in addition to, the presentation. You need to achieve laser sharp precision on what you will talk about and why you will be talking about it.
- Scope. As with projects, keep the scope of your presentation as focused as possible. This will help to keep your presentation as short as possible. Think of advertisements on the television. They may annoy you, but consider how they managed to get across their message in a very short space of time. Some short sharp adverts stick in people’s minds for a long time. That’s what you want to achieve with your presentation. And obviously you want it to stick in people’s minds for all the good reasons, not the bad.
- Constraints. The obvious constraint is time. It is unlikely that you will need to present for more than thirty minutes, and typically it will be for a lot less. Other constraints may be for things like the amount of time you have for preparation, the room layout, the media and technology that you will use, et cetera. Get answers for all of these points as soon as possible. If necessary, make assumptions then get those assumptions clarified early.
- Audience. Okay, in project planning, ‘A’ stands for authority. But the presentations, the important thing is the audience. You need to know as much about them as possible. Who are they? What are their viewpoints? How senior are they? Why are they coming to your presentation? What do they want to get out of it? Are you likely to say anything that they will disagree with? Do they support the same ideas as you? Have you talked to any of them, informally, about your planned presentation? if not, perhaps you should.
- Responsibility. This is more relevant if you’re going to give a group presentation. You do need to work out which member of your presentation team is going to do what. For example, who is going to introduce and wind up the presentation? What particular topic will each of the speakers handle? Who will take the questions on costs or estimates?
- Deliverables. Divide this section into two. First, consider the things that you will need to create for your delivery, such as your notes, your visual aids and your handouts. As well as thinking about such physical deliverables, think about the mental or emotional ones as well. What feelings do you want your audience to go away with? Do you want to have convinced them to take a certain course of action? Do you want to convince them that you have the capability to do a good job on the business analysis for this project or that you can guide them on the path towards, say, creating a business analysis centre of excellence or moving to agile analysis?