As a project manager, you are expected to present your project plans to management at the earliest opportune time if you want support for your projects. Even if the project is a directive from top management, you are still expected to present your plans on how to accomplish the directive. This is a standard business process and most, if not all industries follow this practice.
A Gantt chart is one option in presenting your plans. It is an option which many project managers choose to use as part of their presentation techniques. They might start on a general high level plan showing major activities and milestones and the time frame to complete these milestones. One basic reason for this approach is the visualization effect makes it easy for people to follow the steps required for the project. As the project manager explains each milestone, he brings into the picture the resource (people and equipment) and the costs involved. At times, they embed the resources and costs as part of the bar. The beauty about this approach is management and stakeholders can easily grasp the project requirements and see the milestones within the project when they will need more resources and more capital. Normally, a project does not need a continuous stream of resources all the time. However, there will be activities when more resources are needed and additional capital is expected. Project managers try to balance the requirements so it becomes a steady flow and not too jagged with peaks and valleys. It is easier to manage a project where the resources and costs are evenly distributed throughout the project. However, in reality, that scenario is difficult to achieve. Limit the activities to relevant milestones and compress the time line to fit into a regular screen. For instance, if the project will take one year, display the time units as months or even as quarters. The intention is to keep the audience focused on the graphic representation on a single screen. If the Gantt chart has to extend over several screens, you might confuse them and yourself when switching screens back and forth. As questions come up during the presentation, you may find yourself moving back and forth on the Gantt chart in an attempt to clarify the response. Some managers circumvent the number of activities and time units by making the diagram smaller until it can fit on the screen. Be careful that the audience does not have a hard time reading the text displayed on the screen.
Another technique involves printing out the Gantt chart and taping the pages until the entire Gantt chart is pieced together. Providing the members with several copies of printed Gantt charts may resolve the issue of fitting the Gantt chart on a single screen or paper. The disadvantage is you might lose the audience as they mull through the different sections of the Gantt chart. Limiting your Gantt chart to the activities and time line suited for the audience appears to be the more appropriate approach. When you present your project to your team members, more detailed may be required. You can still limit the activities and time line by presenting the tasks on a per milestone basis. There are ways and means to chop the Gantt chart so that only the relevant matters are presented to the various audiences. This is tedious if you need to do it manually but nowadays computer software such as Visio, PowerPoint and Microsoft Project are available for an impressive presentation. Updates of the Gantt chart can be done easily so your presentation is almost always current. Take a look at the available computer software in the marketplace and assess which would be most useful for your presentations.