January 17, 2018


Project management advice, tips, tools and recommended resources for existing and aspiring project managers.

How Project Managers Can Avoid the #1 Pitfall For Presenters

By Jeff Furman

How many times have you sat through a presentation, and thought:

  • “He just lectured, and I don’t remember much of what he said” or
  • “She raced through her slides without looking at the audience” or
  • “He said he’d take questions during the Q&A at the end, he ran out of time, and never took our questions!” or
  • “She had a live Twitter feed listing all kinds of comments, but she didn’t stop to take our comments, and we were right there in the room with her!”

All the above scenarios happen every day when Project Managers (and even some professional speakers) give presentations.  In each case, the presenter is working hard and trying to do their best to do what they set out to do.  But what they all have in common, is that the presenter didn’t succeed at making the presentation interactive.

That’s because they have succumbed to the #1 presenter’s pitfall –delivering “all lecture” (even though they may think that they’re not, because they’re employing other media like video or Twitter feeds).

There are many ways to make presentations interactive, from hands-on exercises… to high-tech games… to Second Life Simulations.

All these can be good, but they’re often NOT necessary, and in many cases can make the participants feel uncomfortable or pressured into “forced participation.”

What’s the answer to this common pitfall?

In my many years of training Presentation Skills classes, I have seen one simple technique always gets great results:

Coming up with good questions to ask your participants in the session, and then making good use of the Q&A.  
How to avoid #1 pitfall for presenters

What Makes For A “Good” Question?

Any question is a good one if it helps the presenter get people thinking, and advances your theme, topic or agenda.


Here are 3 specific tips:

  •  Your questions should be challenging enough to stimulate your participants, but NOT so challenging that no one can answer
  • Should serve as a “bridge” or “connector” between the topic you just covered and the next one you’re about to cover
  • Usually best to use what trainers call “open-ended” questions, as opposed to “closed-ended”, for example:
  • “Who’s familiar with this kind of product?”     (One or two people might raise their hands, but everyone else will feel left out. It’s considered closed because it’s a “yes or no” question, which actually can shut down discussion)
  • Open-ended example: “Has anyone used this product, or a similar product, and can you tell us what you liked about it, or how it helped you?” This is wide-open – everyone who answers will have a different story.  Plus, it’s inviting, and will make people eager to share their experience.


Coming up with a few good questions and building them into your presentation can make a world of difference.  You just have to want to hear from your participants, and be open to adjusting your presentation to their responses.

Also, for those who feel nervous about presenting (most people!) asking your participants questions can help make you more relaxed, because it helps you focus on them, not you!

About the Author: Jeff Furman, PMP Instructor, Presentation Skills Certification Trainer and author of

“The Project Management Answer Book” (Management Concepts, 2011), a contemporary PM book in Q&A format and compliant with PMBOK V4.

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