Book Review – The Manager’s Guide to Presentations

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.  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. 

My top business books

After finishing the latest Nancy Duarte book, Persuasive Presentations (read my blog post on it), I did a bit of rearranging of the book shelf in my office.  I have lots of books… LOTS of books.  Sadly, there is only room for one book shelf in my office.  This keeps my top reference books handy – mostly on the topics of business management, training, and emergency management.  I actually get asked, on occasion, to provide a book recommendation in one of these subject areas.  So, in the event that you might be interested, here are my top business-oriented books, with some commentary.

The Baldrige Guide to Executive Manners – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve referenced this book.  It’s a wealth of information for anyone in business or government.  It contains everything from common cultural issues, dress codes, communication nuances, and seating at events.  When I first got it, I actually read through it (not word for word!) cover to cover – which is really the best way to familiarize yourself with what’s in it.  It is a touch dated, but largely etiquette and protocol don’t change much.

Oh to have a library this beautiful!!!!

Getting Started in Consulting by Alan Weiss – Dr. Weiss is a consulting genius, pure and simple.  The man has been doing it successfully for a very long time.  So successfully, that the skills he developed and knowledge he gained in doing it, he shares with others through a multitude of books, speaking engagements, his website, and other venues.  If you are looking to get into consulting work, no matter what it might be, this is the foundational book you need to help you lay out how you will structure your business and interact with clients.  I’ve read some of this more focused books as well.

Flawless Execution by James Murphy – Jim Murphy is a consultant who has brought what he learned in a successful career as a fighter pilot to the

corporate world.  He has built a company around these principles, incorporating the sexy environment of flight suites and pilot lingo, to engage businesses and help them become more successful.  It’s a pretty straight forward read, actually using concepts similar to the Incident Command System (ICS) that we use in Emergency Management, to identify goals, objectives, strategies, and tactics to stay focused and accomplish tasks.

The 360 Degree Leader by John Maxwell – In my mind, no business reference list is complete without John Maxwell.  This is just one of several of his books that I own, but I feel it is by far the best.  Maxwell illustrates from every angle how anyone within an organization is a leader and can exercise influence.  You don’t have to be ‘in charge’ to lead.  Maxwell always provides external references through his website which have great tools to help you assess your capabilities.

Guide to Managerial Communication by Mary Munter – Another book which I have referenced time and again.  It’s in its 9th edition now… mine is the fourth edition and the info on Amazon indicates that it’s been updated to include more contemporary info.  It’s one of the few college texts that I ever kept.  It covers a variety of communication issues, writing design and style, a bit of info on presentations, and even some formats for memos and letters.  Very handy.

That’s my short list on business reads.  I’ll likely post lists on training books as well as emergency management books sometime in the future.

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”  ― Groucho Marx

Public-Private Partnerships: A Necessity in Emergency Management

Over the last several years there have been volumes of articles written on the value of public-private partnerships in Emergency Management.  So why is it still like pulling teeth?  Yes, we have great private sector partners in EM – the likes of WalMart, UPS, Grainger, and others.  The value of having these partnerships has certainly been demonstrated through the years, in both local disasters and national-level disasters.  Even in preparedness, these partnerships help carry our message to the masses.  FEMA promotes a program called PS-Prep, designed to engage private sector preparedness while encouraging their involvement locally in emergency management efforts.

Government simply can’t do it without the private sector.  It’s not because the public sector is lacking, it’s because of the position and resources available to the private sector.  They have more resources and greater flexibility.  Why wouldn’t they want to help?  Their customers and employees live in the area.  It’s a solid decision to invest in the community (or communities) in which your company is located.  It doesn’t always involve a financial commitment – it encourages preparedness for the business itself; it provides an opportunity to engage employees in community efforts (all with the company name being recognized – it’s free marketing!); and perhaps an opportunity to provide products – discounted or free – to relief efforts in the aftermath of a disaster.  Commodities such as building materials, water, and food are in great need in the aftermath of a disaster.  Even trucks and people.  Yes, these things all cost money, but there is a lot of free press and good will that goes along with it.

There are plenty of businesses that contribute after a disaster occurs – certainly they want to help.  They can all have more impact, however, by joining up with local emergency preparedness efforts before a disaster ever occurs.  Joining a community organization, such as a VOAD, or entering into memorandums of understanding with local emergency management agencies prior to a disaster makes a huge impact.  The partnerships made with other businesses, government agencies, and community organizations will also be to their benefit.

Businesses large and small – consider both the preparedness of your company and your community.  There are opportunities to be had with both!