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SWaynePow'Rful Presentations Newsletter
April 2010 - Project Management is like ...
Pow'Rful Presentations is a relatively monthly investigation of ideas, strategies and techniques to assist readers be more present in life, better project managers and make effective presentations (in all senses of the word).
Disclaimer - depending on your background, and my South African origins, you may find some of my spelling and grammar to be "imaginative".
© Wayne Botha 2010
How do you describe project management to your grandma?
When you grandmother asks you "What do you do?", how do you describe the profession of project management? I offer some viewpoints for you to consider. Stay with me here and read through to the end to get my point. You can tell your grandma that project management is like ...   
1. Grandma, I am the person who gets things done. My clients have desires and dreams and I help them estimate the cost and feasibility. Then I drive the project until it becomes a reality. Without me, big things would not get done. Think of the Golden Gate bridge - it would not exist without a project manager having gotten things done.
2. Grandma, I am in the business of problem prevention. I use my tools to look into the future, identify problems and then work to make sure that these problems don't happen. Think of the fire marshal - he/she takes steps to prevent fires and minimize the impact if they do occur. I am the fire marshal for projects.
3. Grandma, I am a success agent. Clients commission me to be their agent and represent them to achieve success in a certain project. Just like a real estate agent represents a buyer to successfully buy a home, I represent my project sponsor to use my skills and tools to create a successful project.
4. Grandma, I am a time traveler. With my project plan, I look into the future and predict problems that need to be solved. I also live in the present and talk to my project team and stakeholders to understand their problems and successes. I also live in the past because I track status of work that has already been accomplished.
5. Grandma, I am a professional babysitter for adults. I get paid to ask people "How far are you? Are you done yet? When will you give me the report that you promised last week?"
6. Finally, Grandma, my job is to lead teams to success and stand up for the team when somebody says or does something that impedes progress. I am a leader for the project.
Grandma, as you can see, a project manager needs many skills to fulfill all of these responsibilities. These are in addition to learning the basic skills such as GANTT charts and PERT diagrams. Grandma, you set a good example of an excellent project manager when you raised seven children during the depression. When I manage constraints on projects I remember your stories of how you fed the family during regulated food rationing. Most important is to remember that most of my profession revolves around people skills and I learned great people skills from family gatherings around your Thanksgiving dinner table.
My point of these comparisons is that project management is a multi-faceted profession. Don't limit your professional development to the curriculum you learned in project management school. You can improve facets of your professional skills by comparing your work to other professions, then learning from fire marshals, leaders and babysitters.
Closing Tips for Toastmasters.
If you are in Toastmasters, then these tips will help you to get more out of your journey. 
Firstly, don't try to hard. I was in a presentation where the Toastmaster was so focused on making eye contact, remembering every word of his speech and trying to not make any mistakes, that his speech was painfully sterile. Have a mental mindset that you accept your mistakes and speak to your audience in your normal speaking style. Although you will give an imperfect speech, the payoff is that you come across as natural and comfortable. Don't try too hard.
Secondly, monitor the amount of time that you invest in creating a Toastmasters speech. I wrote about this before, yet some Toastmasters have not yet learned. I am saddened when I hear new Toastmasters invest ten hours creating each speech for the Competent Communicator manual. Most people are not able to sustain this time commitment to prepare for each Toastmasters club speech that is used once. Focus on learning the skills to prepare a 5-7 minute speech in under one hour, if you are only going to use it once at your club. Don't seek perfection at the risk of dropping out of the Toastmasters program because it is too time consuming.

This is the final edition of this section in my newsletter. I have said all that I have to say about Toastmasters in my prior writings, and will recap the main points:
1. Toastmasters is a great leadership program. Avail yourself of the value by volunteering as a club officer and follow the leadership chain into district leadership. It will improve your speaking and leadership skills, which will help you in future leadership roles at your day job and in volunteer activities.
2. Speak, speak and speak, whenever you get the chance to make a speech. Never turn down an opportunity to give a presentation.
3. Learn how to prepare a speech in a short time, so that you are confident that you have something to say when called on to speak. The leadership track is perfect for you to practice this skill. 
4. Visit your local chapter of National Speakers Association. You will learn public speaking skills from the professionals.
5. Constantly do what you think you can't do. Present a break out session at your District conference. Compete in the contests. Strive to complete another educational manual in the coming months. This is a safe environment to fail and learn. Use it.  
I would not be where I am today without Toastmasters. I highly recommend that you stay in the Toastmasters program for as long as you can.  
Good luck. Go forth to create speeches quickly and deliver them in your natural style even if they are imperfect.
Do you know someone who is stuck and not progressing towards a goal? Contact me and I will schedule a sample coaching session to see if we can work together.
Do you need a speaker for your IT or Project Management conference? Contact me and let's discuss if I am the right speaker for your event.
Remember to follow my blog, facebook and    View Wayne Botha's profile on LinkedIn

Email me with any problems or questions that you have about project management or presentations and I will attempt to address them in a future newsletter.

More next time!

Wayne Botha

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