Three Presentation Tips for Technical Presenters
“Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it to whom it may concern.”– Ken Haemer
Are you a presenter of technical information? If you think you can become the best speaker by reading and implementing what you find in a generic book on presentations, think again.
Information in these presentation skills books will provide you a solid foundation if you implement them. You might consider this the undergraduate level of your presentation skills maturity. If you want to become the best technical presenter you can be, there are graduate-level skills you need to learn concerning technical presentations.
In this article, I will give you three tips for you to implement in your technical presentations: speak your audiences technical language, less is more in technical presentation slides and showing how your audience can use what you have presented to improve their personal and professional lives
Speak Your Audience’s Technical Language
The American English Language has over a million words. Many of those million words have multiple meanings. You must use the precise technical word from the audience’s technical vocabulary when presenting to technical audiences.
You must speak your audience’s technical language for three excellent reasons: (1) you will establish and maintain credibility, (2) your audience will know you have done your homework on the subject, (3) you will be more confident knowing you are directly connecting with your audience through their technical language.
So, how do you become familiar with your audience’s technical language? There are several ways.
Your technical audiences are readers of articles in technical journals. Ask the event planner which ones your audience reads and then read them. These journal articles will give you an excellent idea of your audience’s technical language.
Ask the event planner what some of the particular words your audience uses are.
Finally, talk to some expected audience members about your subject. You will get keen insight into their technical vocabulary.
Speaking your audience’s technical language is necessary but not sufficient in delivering a sparkling technical presentation.
Less is More
Most technical people are detail people. That’s one of the reasons technical people go into their field of study. They wanted to learn more details about the subject.
This trait is admirable in a technical presenter; however, it can be a considerable detriment when delivering a presentation. Why is this so?
Don’t ever forget in any presentation, whether technical or not; you are the message. You want your audience to focus on you with your slides, videos, etc., supporting what you are saying. You do not want anything to distract the audience from your message. Over 40+ years as a practicing engineer, I have seen great messages by technical presenters getting muddled by slides having too much detail.
Slides should strongly support your message. One way to make this happen is to use the “delete” key on your keyboard liberally. Take a figurative knife to your slides and cut anything that does not have to be on your slides. You need to do this in your technical presentation because anything on your slides that is unnecessary will distract your audience from your message.
Present your presentation to a friend and colleague with instructions to document all things on your slides that you did not refer to or have nothing to do with your message. Then take these things out of your slides.
One more thing on slides. Although I am a big proponent of repurposing existing slides, I am not a proponent of using the same slides for each audience unless they are the same type of audience. You may feel your slides on a subject will fit any audience. This simply is not true. Knowing your audience will guide you as to what to put on your slides and, equally important, what to not put on them.
Less truly is more when it comes to slides.
Speaking your audience’s technical language and only putting things on your slides that support your message are necessary but not sufficient in delivering a sparkling technical presentation.
If you leave out this final “piece of the pie,” you will have missed an opportunity to increase your credibility and reputation with your audience.
Something They Can Use
Have you ever left an excellent presentation and are walking to your car, and this thought pops into your head: “That was a great presentation, but what can I do with what I learned?”
Sadly, this happens more often than not in all types of presentations. However, you can do something about it. You will stand above the crowd of speakers if you do.
I call it a “Call to Action.” A blueprint for your audience members to follow the information in your presentation to improve their personal and professional lives.
Some of you may be familiar with SMART goals. These types of goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bounded.
If you replicate the SMART traits in all your Calls to Action to action, you will have your audiences asking for more.
One more point. Give your audience precisely three Calls to Action. I have talked about the Rule of Three in past articles. You do this for three excellent reasons:
Easier for you to plan three Calls to Action
Easier for you to remember three Calls to Action in delivering your presentation
Easier for your audience to remember three Calls to Action
So, how do you make your Calls to Action specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bounded? Sometimes the best way to teach something is to use an example. One follows.
Let’s say you are delivering a presentation to professors of undergraduate electrical engineering in a local university concerning better ways for them to give their students Calls to action. Your three Calls to Action for the professors to leave with their students could be.
Ensure the number of equations derived from the circuit equals the number of meshes in the circuit
Ensure the voltage drops across the elements in each mesh add to zero
Ensure to use an alternating voltage source in a circuit including capacitors and/or inductors in the mesh circuit to see any voltage drop across these elements
Make your Calls to Action specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bounded, and you will not go wrong.
There are foundational parts of all great presentations that you should master. After you have done this, there are extensions to this foundation that are specific for technical speaking. It behooves you to learn them!
I have given you three tips for you to implement in your technical presentations to make them memorable: (1) speak your audience’s technical language, (2) less is more in technical presentation slides, and (3) show how your audience can use what you have presented to improve their personal and professional lives
If you follow these three tips, you will gain stature with your peers, colleagues, and superiors and increase confidence in yourself.
Aren’t we all striving for this?
Call to Action
Due diligence on the technical vocabulary of your audiences before your presentations
Be ruthless in reducing the clutter on your slides that distracts your audience
Always explain to your audience how they can use the information in your presentation – your Call to Action.
“If you think presentations cannot enchant people, then you have never seen a really good one.”– Guy Kawasaki
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster, in 2002 because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.frankdibartolomeo.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Frank can be reached at email@example.com and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”