19 Dec 15 Top Tips for Presenting Technical Information
Most technical experts find themselves presenting to gain acceptance of their proposal, or to get continued support for their project or endorsement for their recommendations.
Unfortunately, many technical experts believe that if they create lots of slides full of tiny words, numbers, diagrams, charts and graphs they will be a first class presenter. If you think about it, we do know deep down that a hundred slides with eight point font and diagrams that we couldn’t read in an hour (if we had a spare hour) isn’t going to make anyone worth listening too, much less engaging or persuasive for an audience. As a presentation skills trainer over the past 18 years I’ve seen thousands of technical presentations that you’d be lucky to stay awake in even with a Red Bull or a No Dose at the ready. And I think it’s such a shame because in the majority of cases, the presenter was a true subject matter expert, they just didn’t know how to showcase their professional expertise in a way that was exciting for their audience.
Anyone can be an exceptional presenter. It’s just a matter of knowing what to do and doing it. Here are my top tips for presenting technical information:
1. Know your audience – Your technical area probably affects every aspect of the business you’re in. But just because you know the minute detail related to your role doesn’t mean that the people you’re speaking to know about the topic you’re addressing. You must appreciate the level of knowledge and the roles of the people you’re presenting to so you can tweak your message and put things in a way that your audience understands.
2. Build rapport – People like people who are like themselves. So find a way of using your dress, body language, voice and language patterns to be as similar to as many people in the audience as possible and that way you’ll be in rapport from the start.
3. Motivate your audience – most people go to way too many meetings that are a complete waste of time. Be sure to remember that your role is to motivate your audience to listen – otherwise they may not!
4. Manage any objections – spend some time thinking about all the objections your audience may have to your content. What questions will they ask and what are the different answers you could give. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.
5. Set the guidelines – make sure your audience knows the boundaries for your presentation. What will be covered and what won’t? Should they turn their phone to silent? How long will it go for and when should they ask questions? Setting the boundaries will help you avoid chaos.
6. Rehearse – exceptional presenters rehearse the opening and close of their presentations many, many times.
7. Use a whiteboard as well or instead of slides – draw pictures.
8. Love your content – people often say to me that they don’t know how to make their topic interesting because it’s so boring or dry. Well if you think it’s boring and dry what is your audience going to think? Find the parts of your message that you are passionate about and make sure you highlight those parts with vocal emphasis (louder more energetic voice at certain times).
9. Be yourself – chat with the audience like they are your old friends – not like they are some scary judgemental bunch who want to find your information boring.
10. Evoke emotions and motivate – People are more likely to change their thinking or behaviour if you tell stories or use analogies that are related to your subject and that evoke emotion.
11. Don’t assume you need slides – A common assumption when you’re giving a presentation is that you must use PowerPoint. That’s not true. A short talk with the use of a whiteboard or flipchart may be the best way to get your points across. My advice is to use PowerPoint as an aid for your audience to remind them of your three key points. Use other visual aids too.
12. Use illustrations, not bullets – It’s easier to tell a story when you use pictures and graphics as opposed to bullet points. Pictures and graphics, pie charts and tables provide a better way to convey your message, and they help your audience to listen, rather than just read your slides.
13. Prepare, prepare, prepare! Effective presentations have to be planned out, thought through and refined for days, if not weeks, leading up to your presentation. Preparing your material well in advance gives you time to fine-tune certain aspects and to program your subconscious regarding the flow and general message of your presentation. This way your delivery will sound more natura.
14. You don’t need to be ‘over the top’ – Don’t worry about being charismatic or a comedian. Be yourself and talk about what you know. Your authentic self will be evident to your audience and then they’ll be better placed to connect with you and buy your concept or idea. You’ll also be more comfortable with yourself, you’ll be able to relax and you’ll deliver a stronger presentation.
15. Make your presentation a discussion with your audience – In most situations, people would rather be part of a discussion than be talked at. Don’t rely entirely on your slides and don’t just read what’s on the screen. Remember you are a real live human being and your role is to connect with the other real live human beings in your audience.
Use these tips when presenting technical information and notice your audience sitting up and listening with interest! Happy Presenting!