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Cary Weston Cary Weston
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The Marketing Edge - Three tips for making technical presentations more effective

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Making presentations to groups is an important and necessary task in many professions, especially in professional and technical service fields.

Doing it right can have a huge impact on your ability to convey a point, educate an audience or win new business.

Doing it wrong can alienate an audience and deliver an unwanted result from all the time, effort and expertise you put into the presentation.

If you find yourself needing to present to a group, especially if you are conveying data, statistics or industry-specific terminology, the following three topics can help you get a greater return on your presentation efforts.

Don’t read directly from the presentation

If you are using a PowerPoint, it’s best not to fill the slides with too many words and read it word for word. You are there to bring value to the group to show your expertise and convey important information. Reading a PowerPoint word for word can not only lose the attention of the audience, it can actually devalue the expertise and experience that you yourself bring to the table.

PowerPoint can be a helpful and powerful resource for your presentation. But use it wisely for the greatest impact. It’s best to use it as a complement to what you’re saying and there to convey instead of the feature of your presentation.

Context over data

While data is an important – and often critical – component of technical presentations, not everyone is a data person. When planning your presentation, be sure to consider who’s in the audience. There very well may be people that understand the core data as it is.

But more than likely there are even more people that don’t. If your presentation features numbers, statistics, and data, it’s best to apply some context to the data you’re presenting.

If you’re going to share numbers, rations or graphs, don’t just leave the information hanging there in its raw form. Put it into terms that your audience can understand. You want them to appreciate the value of what you’re sharing, so don’t be shy about stating what you may think of as obvious points.

Don’t leave the group needing to decipher the meaning of the data themselves. Especially if your goal is to make a point with the data you’re sharing. It’s best to have the point made by you than to assume the audience will come to the conclusion you’re hoping for by themselves.

Also make the data relevant to the group’s goals, the solution to the problem you’re addressing or some other metric that can help everyone appreciate the impact of the numbers. Unless you’re presenting to people in your trade that clearly understand the exact data science, numbers, and graphs that you’re presenting, chances are you’ll need to deliver some context so that they can really soak it in and make it meaningful for them.

Speak their language

It can be hard to make a technical presentation without using technical terms. However, if you are going to use industry terms, abbreviations and acronyms, it’s best to explain what they mean.

More than likely, you’ll have people in the room that don’t know what you’re talking about when you use acronyms and special industry terms. Without proper explanation, the audience could be left to ask themselves ‘what does that mean’?

Having to decipher unfamiliar acronyms and industry terms can create distance with your audience. The truth is that it takes some courage to be the one to say “I don’t know what that means” out loud, especially in a group setting of peers.

When the audience can’t understand your message, they can’t connect to your message. And that makes it harder for you to have the valuable, positive impact you’re looking for from your presentation.

(Cary Weston is a partner at Sutherland Weston.)

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