A Good Technical Presentation. Is it Possible?

Hello, good morning and welcome to my technical presentation. Please turn off your phones, settle back and prepare to spend the next 45 minutes to an hour being bored out of your mind…

Not the best introduction, I know, and one that, in my experience at least, has never been used as an opening salvo by a speaker, but an imagined one that has gone through the minds of many an (in) captive audience. This is particularly relevant to any presentation, where the speaker is tackling the treacly topic of technical information.

Before I go on, I will say I have the most sympathy for any of you whose chosen occupation requires the divulgence of technical data and detail. By the very nature of your content you are at an immediate disadvantage when stepping into the speaking arena of speaking and making your pitch for an effective presentation. Most of conversations I have with those seeking guidance from a technical based sector revolve around a question along the lines of, “I would like to make my presentation more interesting, but I’m in…. (* insert micro plastic water filtration, split sprocket manufacture, audit accountancy, administrative law etc).”

Technical Presentations: Three Common Mistakes

  1. Too Much Information: The problem with many technical presentations is that they rely too much on the detail. I appreciate, as does the audience, that to arrive at a technical conclusion requires an incredible amount of data driven detail. But that doesn’t mean that your audience needs to hear the evidence.  If you’re in the position of giving a technical presentation, then the audience can safely assume that you’ve done your homework and as such, they’d like the conclusion of your endeavours, and preferably in a swallowable form they can digest.
  2. Don’t Talk how You Write: The way we absorb information is very different depending on whether we are reading or listening. Give me a technical heavy presentation on paper and I can read it how I wish and if this means I skim through data laden pages 21 – 30 to reach the conclusion point I seek, then I can. As a listener, I have no choice but to hear you out, so please make it easy for me and skip to the chase without sharing the details, footnotes and all.
  3. An Audience Needs to be Engaged: It’s not the information that will win over your crowd, but how you present that information. The holy grail of any effective presentation, and a good technical presentation is no exception,  is to persuade your audience. So as you start your preparation ask the question: ‘ What is the point I am hoping to achieve?’ Slap a one sentence answer to that question on a post-it and keep coming back to it as you write your presentation.

Tips for a Good Technical Presentation

Many people will assume that because you work in a technical industry you are devoid of any powers  of creativity. This simply is not true in my experience and tapping into your personal creativity can breathe life into any presentation.

  • You could point to examples in a Powerpoint, but what do they really say to your audience? By the time that slide has changed, more than half the room will have forgotten. Better still to illustrate with a story that will stick in the head.
  • Unpackage the detail. Take that core raw data and turn it into something else, for example a case study that involves real life situations that people can relate to. If you went through 3 widget prototypes on the way to developing your industry beating product, what went wrong? Everyone in the room can identify with the process of failing before succeeding – it’s a relevant experience that can be shared.
  • How can you make a personal impact? Presentations are so much more than words. The way you communicate through body language, positioning, persuasive language has a dramatic effect on how your audience responds. These are skills that can be learnt.

My last word on this topic is that technical presentations don’t have to live down  to the stereotype! If you really know your stuff, it’s far more rewarding to have the recognition that comes with being able to effectively communicate your content. Fail to do this and your audience may as well be attending the infamous Shermer High School