How To Make A Technical Presentation Riveting

by drjim on December 1, 2008

"Technical" And "Interesting" Can Both Be Parts Of The Same Presentation

“Technical” And “Interesting” Can Both Be Parts Of The Same Presentation

So who among us ever really looks forward to sitting through a technical presentation? Collectively we’ve all sat through so many of these things that we almost defensively shut down before the speaker even has a chance to get started.

So when it’s our turn to talk about things that contain lots of financial details, construction details, manufacturing details, procedure details, etc. it’s quite common for our blood to run cold because we realize that now the shoe is on the other foot – we are going to be the ones who are boring the audience!

Why are these types of presentations so hard to do? In all honesty, the problem really lies with the presenter, not the audience. Specifically what they all seem to be doing wrong is that they’ve made the mistake of thinking that they are just having a talk with coworkers: they show up to share information. Big mistake.

Nobody ever shows up for a presentation hoping to have the presenter share information with them. Instead, they are showing up so that the presenter can tell them what they need to do. They may not agree with what they are being told to do, but that is what they are looking for.

What this means for the presenter is that he/she needs to understand that the goal of the presentation is for action to be taken by the audience based on the information that was in the presentation. It really is that simple!

Professional speaker Anne Warfield has come up with three ways to make your next technical presentation even more riveting (and I’ve added a suggestion of my own). Let’s take a look and see what you need to do in order to keep your audience on the edge of their seats next time you talk technical:

  1. What’s The Next Step?: When you are creating your technical presentation, you need to start at the end. Once you are done with your presentation, what action do you want your audience to take or what conclusion do you want them to have reached? If you don’t have a clear understanding of this, then you’ll end up filling your presentation with a discussion about HOW you reached your results and that is what everyone will end up talking about.
  2. What Question Do You Need To Answer?: If you’ve been able figure out what action you want your audience to take once you are done, then the next step is to understand what questions or objections might be preventing them from taking that next step either right now or after you are done. This is the question (or questions) that your presentation needs to provide answers to.
  3. Make It Real: The technical topic that you are talking about may or may not be familiar to all  of your audience. If you can “map” it to something that they are all familiar with, then all of a sudden the audience’s comprehension of what you are talking about will go up dramatically.
  4. Match Your Audience: The amount of technical detail in your speech and your use of technical terms and acronyms needs to be matched to your audience. If you assume to little, then they will quickly become bored by your too basic discussion. If you assume too much, then they will become lost in a sea of terms that they don’t recognize. Get it right and you’ll be connected to your audience from the get go.

Your next technical presentation does not have to be dry and boring. Use these tips BEFORE you give the presentation in order to ensure that your presentation will be riveting and talked about long after you are done.

Would you consider your last technical presentation a success or a failure? Had you taken the time to determine what you wanted your audience to do afterwards? Did people fall asleep or end up peppering you with nitty-gritty questions? Do you feel that you talked to your audience on the right level? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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