Three Key Elements to a Steering Committee Presentation
So you have to deliver a presentation to your project’s steering committee. Steering committee meetings are often mistakenly treated like a regular project status meeting. This is where project managers can get into difficulty. Steering committees exist to help guide the project and maintain visibility from an executive level. When approaching a steering committee for a presentation, you need to remember two key aspects about your audience: 1) they are busy and; 2) they are not technical. This post will discuss three aspects you need to bring with you when presenting to your steering committee.
Executives didn’t get to their positions by beating around the bush on hard-to-discuss topics and neither should you. If there are issues or concerns with your project, be direct and forthcoming. Trying to sugar-coat bad news or appearing as to minimize legitimate concerns may erode confidence in your ability as a project manager. Once you lose that confidence of the steering committee, it is a monstrous task in trying to gain it back. Be direct, tackle the issues head-on and they can’t fault you for trying to avoid the issues.
Steering committees are like bloodhounds when smelling problems on a project. It’s a fact that some project managers don’t acknowledge and they often wind up getting themselves into hotter water than they started in. If there are problems with the project, be open and honest. The steering committee doesn’t exist purely to rake the project manager over the coals- the steering committee is there to help the project manager jump o
ver insurmountable hurdles that he or she can’t do alone. If the project is trending over budget, any attempts to mask it are going to be uncovered pretty quickly and once it is unmasked, there goes your credibility. If there are lower-level issues that the steering committee can’t help assist with, it may behoove the project manager to not bother providing that level of detail – that’s not being non-transparent, that’s making a judgement call on if the steering committee needs to spend time listening to and understanding that low level of an issue. Status reports are readily available for steering committee members to read that will have that level of detail in it. Your project sponsor can be a great sounding board on what to bring to the steering committee. Be open and honest, as you would with any other customer meeting.
Have a Plan
The steering committee will have very pointed questions for you, might as well accept that. It’s vital that your answers be honest and direct but you also need to inspire confidence that you have a plan in place to see your project through any of the rocky waters that you may encounter. Even if your project is going incredibly smooth, there will always be questions around the ‘what if’ scenarios. Be prepared for reasonable questions along those lines. If you respond continually with ‘I don’t know’ then the confidence in either your knowledge of the project or your ability to lead it will likely be called into question. Steering committees that get intelligent, thoughtful answers will make your life as a project manager far easier.
Steering committees are there to oversee projects and ensure that the organization’s confidence in the project remains steady. They are there to remove high level roadblocks that the project manager and/or sponsor cannot remove. When presenting to your steering committee, remember these three tips and prepare, prepare, prepare!