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A Visual Tool
Most project managers should be familiar with what a flow chart is; however, not all managers may know how to use them effectively. The flow chart is a visual tool to help explain complicated project processes or decision making to the people who may need to know the details about a project.
When it comes to delivering a real-time presentation to investors, board members or anyone else, handing out a linear text explanation of a project can be a real downer. No matter how succinct your copy is, distracted readers can still drown in it. That's where a flow chart can make all the difference. Skip the hard copy and show your audience a set of neatly arranged shapes with just a few words inside each one. The flow chart will keep their synapses firing the right way and give them a much better understanding of what you've done, what you're doing, and what you are about to do.
Flow charts can help explain:
...and so much more! Bring these tools to the table for effective presentations that keep the eyes open, even when not everybody has had their second cup of coffee.
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First, you'll need to choose your medium. Will you adapt your display to a PowerPoint presentation? A traditional transparency projector? Or just hand it out on paper? Fit your process to your venue: if the room doesn't have access to a computer for PowerPoint projection, you'll need to go low-tech.
Also consider adding color if possible. Although color can sometimes be an unnecessary cost, with flow charting, a little bit can go a long way. The focal points of a flow chart can really jump out if they are lined with just a little color.
Other things to keep in mind include:
- Lighting test runs: make sure your flow chart, if it's projected, is brightly lit and clearly visible
- Avoid whiteboard drawing: if possible, have your entire flow chart set up. Your audience does not want to sit there watching you painstakingly drawing in flow chart boxes in front of them.
- Choose directions for the chart: a consistent downward or left-to-right flow provides more readability. Letting decision chains float out across the page randomly will not get you the same effect.
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In many cases, your flow chart "pieces" can come directly from project management software. Whatever tool you use to draft plans can also be used to provide fodder for your flow chart. Even if your software isn't set up for a flow chart, you can easily use a "cut and paste" approach to lift whole phrases from the software logs and put them into your flow charts to save you time typing in and editing the content you want your audience to see.
Try using your software and resources to come up with clear, easy-to-read flow charts, and watch what happens when your audience "gets it." Adopt this practice into your project manager's toolbelt for a better hand in defining all of your work.