Sometimes one needs to present what she is/has been working on for various reasons ranging from stand ups to performance discussions. In certain cases (eg performance discussions) I guess one must be really good at this kind of presentation. I have "slowly" noticed that some people are really good in promoting themselves and making something out of actually doing nothing (that matters really).
I would like to improve this for myself, as up till now I just believed that the work each does speaks out by itself.
How could I improve this presentation skill? Do you keep some kind of notes daily on everything you are working on and somehow track its importance difficulty etc in order to use it whenever needed? And how do you present something in a way that sounds that was "important"?

1 Answer 1


Great question that deserves a comprehensive answer.

First, take time to read this answer - a common misconception is that everyone is perceived based on what they do. WRONG. People evaluate your performance based on what they think you do. If you don't help them, they will form all sorts of weird conclusions.

Do you keep some kind of notes daily on everything you are working on and somehow track its importance difficulty etc in order to use it whenever needed?

This is by far the easiest way to do this, in hindsight for reviews at least. This sort of activity is very useful when you are writing a yearly review (or trying to convince your boss for a promotion, raise, etc).

You almost assuredly do many little things throughout a year that you will never remember at the year end. Helping coworkers, random requests unrelated to your job, there are tons of things you do that you will forget.

Depending on your work, you may get praise/thank you emails from either other coworkers and/or clients. Keep these! They are hugely beneficial for this purpose. You can also send these to other managers of people you work with when they do great work or help you above and beyond, it's a good way to increase your visibility.

Make sure you are updating your boss on these things on a somewhat regular basis. You probably have a 1/1, I normally go into my 1/1s with brief notes/updates on what I've been doing. Most managers like hearing this (especially if it's just "smith did some great work and doesn't need my help!").

Too many people think a performance review happens once a year. The reality is the performance review solidifies how your boss (and most often other management at your company) feel about your performance that entire year - helping keep them in the loop is critical for this!

Another couple ideas that are great - ask your boss the following questions:

  • What are your goals and how can I help you achieve them?
    • Most everyone works with some sort of performance review/evaluation system and your boss will be evaluated, too. Helping them do their job reflects well on you.
  • What sorts of things do you want to see in order to get Rating X? How do you feel I'm currently tracking, if I continue as I've been doing do you think I'm on pace for Rating X? Rating Y?
    • Ask this way before your actual review (~6 months is a good timeframe for a yearly review)
    • Most managers won't immediately be able to answer this. You can help your manager by saying, "I think I'm on pace for Rating X. I was thinking of doing A, B, and C in order to achieve Rating Y, what do you think?" types of comments
    • If you get a list of items to get an improved rating, make sure your manager knows your progress towards them throughout the year

making something out of actually doing nothing

Be detailed. Imagine you are working on a month long project and at your standup for the month you basically have the following update:

  • "Working on Project, making progress"

Would you rather hear that or:

  • "Added feature X, Y and Z to Project. Encountering difficulties with A but working to resolve"

This doesn't mean become super verbose and talk forever. But be detailed. It will also indirectly show your ability to understand what you are doing better.

Really subtle difference that results in a large perception difference in both what you are doing as well as its importance.

And how do you present something in a way that sounds that was "important"?

Present the impact of what you are doing in addition to the what. This is particularly important in communication with others than your immediate team. The further removed from your work, the less likely anyone is to know why or how it's valuable.

When talking to your manager, try to always communicate the why and impact for things. Imagine:

  • "I had to spend a day fixing bug X"


  • "I had to spend a day fixing bug X, which was preventing Really Important Feature With Lots of Value"

People almost always know the value/reason behind what they are doing an order of magnitude or more better than their audience. When presenting (whether in a 1/1 or even more importantly in meetings/etc) communicate the why and the value-add for what you are doing.

If you do this consistently enough you may even develop enough rapport with your manager that you can basically say, "this task isn't really important, do you really want me to do this?" and get out of some of the low impact work. Once your manager trusts you and knows you are continuously evaluating the impact of your work you will have a lot more flexibility in picking your work - this means you can pick higher impact work and make the whole process easier.

An added benefit of doing this is the better you get at doing this the more likely you will be to get tasked with higher value projects. And that starts a positive feedback loop - working on more high impact projects.

  • The final example about showing the impact of a bug fix is an excellent example. My natural presentation of a bug fix is to explain how difficult it was, but that just makes managers think you are wasting time. My manager would always ask me why I was putting so much time into it, and explaining the importance of the bug fix put them at ease.
    – KOVIKO
    Jan 12, 2017 at 15:34

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