Picture of woman presenting technical data in michelle Bowden's article on tech talk: mastering the art of presenting technical information

Tech talk: Mastering the art of presenting technical information

Do you present technical information in your workplace?

Are you a technical expert? Do you find yourself presenting at work to gain acceptance of your proposal, gather support for your project or endorsement for your ideas and recommendations?  Well this article on tech talk: mastering the art of presenting technical information is for you!

 

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.  They think that if their information is rock solid that’s all that matters.

 

Let’s be honest, one hundred slides with eight point font and diagrams that nobody can read in two hours (let alone 10 seconds) isn’t going to make any message engaging or persuasive from the audiences’ point of view.

It doesn’t matter how good your message is if no one’s listening!

I’ve been a presentation skills trainer for two decades and I’ve seen thousands of technical presentations that you’d be lucky to stay awake for even with Red Bull or a No Dose at the ready.  No wonder it’s called ‘Death by PowerPoint’! You know what’s sad? In the majority of cases, the presenter was a true subject matter expert and no one will ever know or care because the person didn’t know how to showcase their professional expertise in a way that was exciting for their audience. They made the classic mistake of thinking that credibility = too much data.

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 in an interesting way:

Know your audience

Just because you are a technical subject matter expert doesn’t mean that the people you’re speaking to know much about the topic you’re addressing.

It’s important that you appreciate the level of knowledge and the roles of the people you are presenting to so you can tweak your message and put things in terms that your audience understands.

The job of a great presenter is to meet the needs of all the people in the audience – the ones who know less than you, and the ones who know more!

I teach a great model for audience analysis called the 5 Step analysis model. It’s in my best selling book called How to Present: the ultimate guide for presenting live and online (Wiley).

Picture of light bulb in Michelle Bowden's article on tech talk: mastering the art of presenting technical information
Picture of rapport in Michelle Bowden's article on tech talk: mastering the art of presenting technical information

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.

Related article: Building rapport so people want to listen when you speak

Motivate your audience

Most people go to way too many meetings that are a complete waste of time.  Remember the presenter’s job is to motivate your audience to listen – otherwise they may not!

 

Remember that some people are motivated by the carrot and other the stick.

 

A cool way to be sure you are motivating everyoneis to actually say something like: “Today let’s talk about how we can (reduce something), (maintain something) and (improve something0. This way you hook the carrot and the stick all in one sentence – clever right?

Picture of motivated audience in Michelle Bowden's article on tech talk: mastering the art of presenting technical information
Picture of emotions in Michelle Bowden's article on tech talk: mastering the art of presenting technical information

Evoke emotions

Ask yourself what is the audience thinking, feeling and doing prior to my presentation. then ask, ‘what do I want the audience yo think, feel and do once I’m finished?’  This is called your Emotional Objective.

 

Think deeply about the empotions you want them to feel and make sure you feel it too.

 

As my ssssy daughter Holly says, “Mum, your mood is contagious, is yours worth catching?’ – ha ha ha! 

Manage any objections

Spend some time thinking about all the objections your audience may have to your content.

What objections are they bringing to your meeting and how might you best manage these concerns?

The general rule for managing objections in a meeting, presentation or pitch is to either deal with them upfront (if they are very serious) or at least before you hit your technical content. That way people feel you’ve thought about them and their concerns and have done what you can to address them. It helps them listen better to your message.

Remember to be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Picture of punching gloves in Michelle Bowden's blog on managing objections
Picture of regulations in Michelle Bowden's article on tech talk: mastering the art of presenting technical information

Set the guidelines

There are two kinds of boundaries to set.

The first boundaries are the ones you need to pre-frame (to set their minds at rest prior to the meeting) such as a pre-read instruction, what to prepare, bring, expect.

The second kind of boundaries are the ones that make the running of the meeting nice and smooth for everyone. This includes, how long you’ll speak, who else is there, when to ask questions, what’s in and out of scope, expectations for participation, cameras on, mute, recording etc.

Make sure your audience knows the boundaries for your presentation.

Setting the boundaries can help you avoid chaos.

Rehearse

Exceptional presenters rehearse the opening and closing their presentations many, many times.

Rehearsing allows you to become more familiar with your content and delivery style, boosting your confidence.

Practicing helps you refine the flow of your presentation, ensuring that your ideas are communicated in a logical and coherent way.

Rehearsing helps you gauge the timing of your presentation, ensuring that you stay within the allocated time frame and avoid rushing or running over.

Through rehearsal, you can identify weak points such as unclear explanations or transitions so you can fix them in advance.

Rehearsing also allows you to anticipate audience reactions and questions, enabling you to adjust your delivery and content accordingly to better engage and resonate with your audience.

 

Related post: 5 Tips to Keep In Mind When Planning Your Next Public Speech 

Picture of practice makes perfect in Michelle Bowden's article on tech talk: mastering the art of presenting technical information
Picture of whiteboard in Michelle Bowden's article on tech talk: mastering the art of presenting technical information

Use a whiteboard as well as, or instead of slides

Audiences love the organic nature of a whiteboard or flipchart.

If you’re worried about your handwriting pre-draw some of the model and fill in the gaps when you are ready.

This is called Response Potential and it’s a clever engagement strategy.

Alternatively, use a led pencil to draw the model lightly of flipchart paper and draw over the top of the pencil to reveal the model.

You’ll look like a born artist as long as the pencil marks don’t show up on the paper!

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 about it?

You need to find the parts you are passionate about and make sure you convey your passion.

Picture of love in Michelle Bowden's article on tech talk: mastering the art of presenting technical information
Picture of smiling minion in Michelle Bowden's blog on improving your confidence in business and life!

Be yourself

You don’t need to be a performer.

Don’t worry about being unnaturally charismatic, charming or comedic. 

Be yourself and be confident because everyone else is taken.

Just talk about what you know.

Your authenticity 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.

The slides are only an aid

Slides are an aid and not THE presentation.

As you can see in this excellent picture here, you should keep your slides simple with large fonts (minimum 30pt) and more pictures/graphs and charts than words. 

Take out agenda slides and use a gesture instead.

Replace your ugly 3 x bullet point summary slide with 3 x gorgeous evocative images that reinforce your 3 key summary points.

Unless it’s a 100% rule (like your Exec have said it’s compulsory), you don’t have to send your slides in advance if you don’t want to.

If the conference organiser wants your slides suggest you’ll write them a comprehensive article or white paper/blog for their delegate pack instead.

Picture of woman presenting with whiteboard and slides in Michelle Bowden's article on tech talk: mastering the art of presenting technical information
Picture of Joseph Lara presenting technical information on a whiteboard in Michelle Bowden's article on tech talk: mastering the art of presenting technical information

Don’t assume you even need slides.

A common assumption is that when you’re giving a presentation, you must use PowerPoint. That’s not true.

 

A short talk with some drawing on a whiteboard or flipchart, or reference to a handout may be the best way to get your point across.

 

as you can see in this photo of Joseph – he’s using the whiteboard to draw a graph that representselectric vehicle useage in australia – much better and way more interactive for him to draw it than put up a slide that is easy to ignore.

 

My advice is to use PowerPoint as an aid for your audience to remind them of your key points.

Use illustrations, not bullets

Ha ha!  You may think that images are silly, or hard to link to your complex business matter. 

Well then, that will be your challenge – find the best images that do link and that do imprint on your audience’s brain so that your message is unforgettable!

It’s easier to tell a story (again this is more memorable that just data) 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.

And something else, some people can’t cope with bullets -they need numbers in order to focus on your list – so if you must have a list, try to number rather than bullet them. 

Photo of a terrible slide to accompany the article Crunching Numbers and Crafting Narratives: The Art of Persuasion for Accountants written by Michelle Bowden presentation skills trainer
Picture of woman presenting with whiteboard in Michelle Bowden's article on tech talk: mastering the art of presenting technical information

Prepare, prepare, prepare!

Effective presentations have to be planned out, thought through and refined for days, even weeks, leading up to your presentation.

A typical exec (that I might coach) rehearses with the slides, gestures, emotions and eye contact for up to 3 weeks before an important pitch or presentation. That’s probably more than you realised right?

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.

And that means preparing the questions you want your audience to ack you, and the answers.

Doing so, you’ll find that your delivery will sound more natural and uncontrived.

You don’t need to be a performer

Don’t worry about being charismatic or a comedian. 

Be yourself and talk about what you know.

Your authenticity 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.

This also mean that if you don’t know the correct answer to a complex or technical questions you should fudge it!  You could respond with, “thanks (name) for your questions. In fact I’ll need to check with (subject matter expert) in the office and get back to you by the close of business tomorrow. Would that be OK with you?”

Picture of microphone in Michelle Bowden's article on tech talk: mastering the art of presenting technical information
Picture of man having a conversation with his audience in Michelle Bowden's article on tech talk: mastering the art of presenting technical information

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. 

Interact, ask questions, suggest ideas they can debate.

When online use the chat, breakouts and any other devices you can to get people contributing their expertise.

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 and there’s no way you’ll fall into the dreadful, boring habit of ‘death by PowerPoint’. In fact, your colleagues and clients will be looking forward to your next technical presentation! 

 

Happy Presenting!

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©2024 MICHELLE BOWDEN is an authority on persuasive presenting in business. She’s run her Persuasive Presentation Skills Masterclass over 995 times for more than 13,000 people over the past 25 years and her name is a synonym for ‘presentation skills’ in Australia.

Michelle is a multi-million-dollar pitch coach to her client list that reads like a who’s who of international business: banking and finance, IT, pharmaceutical, retail, telecommunications plus many more.

Michelle is the creator of the Persuasion Smart Profile®, a world-first psychological assessment tool that reports on your persuasive strengths and weaknesses at work, the twice best-selling internationally published author of How to Present: the ultimate guide to presenting live and online (Wiley) and  How to Persuade: the skills you need to get what you want (Wiley)

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