3 Steps to Creating the Perfect Project-Planning Deck

March 19, 2014

By Toke Kruse

Ever wondered why your presentation about planning didn’t result in an implemented project? One reason might be that your plan wasn't presented in an effective manner.

A well-executed planning presentation should:

- establish agreement

- coordinate actions

- set schedules and timelines

Unfortunately, many planning presentations fall far short of their potential. The reasons usually boil down to one or more of these factors:

- too complex

- too vague or general

- too verbal – lots of text and talk, few visuals

Here are three ways to optimize your planning and avoid these pitfalls.

Be Simple and Specific

There’s a strong tendency among managers to craft plans that are overly complex. They overwhelm the audience with far more detail than people can absorb – and more detail than is necessary to implement the plan this stage.

Yes, some detailed instructions may be needed to carry out a project, but they don’t belong in a planning presentation. In most cases, a planning presentation serves more as a pitch deck -- you must first sell your manager on the idea of the plan.

Keep planning presentations simple by:

  1. Sticking to the core message
  2. Using visuals to illustrate key concepts and processes

For example, there’s no need to bloat a presentation with explanations of the actual process. That process is your concern – the team almost never needs it to be effective.

Another crucial element of simplification is being specific. If you’re vague and foggy in your statements or descriptions or assignments, your team is going to end up vague and foggy, too.

Strip your presentation back to core messages such as overall purpose, major objectives and broad actions – and state those clearly and specifically. You’ll hold your audience’s interest, and provide the working understanding they need to do their parts. Authors Chip and Dan Heath give a great example of this in their book, Made to Stick. If you tell your team you want to provide “the world’s best service,” that’s going to mean something different to every one of them. Use your presentation to show clearly what you mean.

Show, Don't Tell

Once you’ve narrowed in on your core messages, use clear, understandable visual elements to relay them efficiently. The audience will grasp your points more quickly, and those messages will be better remembered. Images are “stickier” than words – as much as 1,000 times stickier.

Let’s say you want people to grasp the stages and flow of a transaction. It might be presented this way:

With only a few words, you bring about a strong conceptual understanding.

Or, if you’re laying out a sequence of actions, you could either...

Tell: “Over the next ten days we will work on final stages of release planning for our new Product X, which will be launched on April 4.  There are 10 main steps to this planning process; they are…”  Blah, blah, blah, to an audience now covertly checking their email.


Show: “There are 10 major steps to our final release planning. They look like this:


Now, if you were a team member, which approach would be a bigger help?

Strength in Symbols

Taking the idea of show vs. tell a step further, symbols are a great tool for condensed, concentrated information relay. They provide more understanding in less time, using less presentation “space.”

Example: You want to lay out the broad actions to reach a project’s main objective. You could write the steps out and explain how they proceed from one to the next. It's lots of verbiage -- and lots of opportunity to lose your audience. OR you could put the same concepts across with just a few words and a bit of symbolism, like this:


Now, what do you do to get your planning messages across? Let’s hear your best practices. Your questions are welcome too, of course.

About the Author

Toke Kruse is serial an entrepreneur, the owner of Slideshop.com (www.slideshop.com), major providers of PowerPoint templates, and founder of Billy’s Billing (www.billysbilling.com), providing small business accounting software in plain English.

Illustrations are from Slideshop.com.



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