Technical presentations are the most difficult presentations to prepare. The reason is you have a subject that is inherently dry and detailed and an audience that has varying degrees of understanding on the topic. The tips below will assist you to overcome the major difficulties faced by presenters who need to deliver a presentation laced with technical detail.
Use a Proven Process
The key to developing a presentation that will achieve all what is required entails following a standard process. This process will ensure that you answer all the key questions, and understand what is needed so you can be successful. Some presenters can get lucky and successfully deliver a presentation once. To consistently deliver great technical presentations you need to find and follow a repeatable process.
Understand your audience
When preparing a technical presentation the challenge is to understand what the audience knows about the subject you will be presenting. This is a challenge in all presentations, but the nature of technical presentations raises the importance of this to a higher level. You need to understand your audience so you can customize the detail and language of your presentation to meet their needs. Without this understanding you can easily present information which is too detailed, or equally frustrating for your audience information which they already know and understand.
Compare your concept to something your audience knows/understands
A true expert is someone who can take a difficult subject and translate it so that those who are not experts can understand it. A metaphor is one of the best tools to utilize in a technical presentation to help position you as an expert in a topic whilst making the subject digestible to your audience.
Look around and see if you can identify any everyday items or activities that your subject can be compared to. Invariably most technical concepts are an engineering or programmatic way of reflecting a real world concept. If you can find something that parallels your technical topic that is understandable you will make your presentation understandable by everyone in your audience.
There is work involved in identifying an appropriate metaphor, but the reward will come at the conclusion of your presentation with an appreciative audience who will consider you the “guru” on your particular topic.
Keep your slides clear
One of my favourite examples of what not to do in a technical presentation is the application developer who includes lines of code in their PowerPoint slides! What benefit is there in displaying lines of code on the screen? Unless you are showing something VERY specific that needs that level of detail there is nothing to be gained by displaying such detail. Your audience will not have the ability (or interest) to decipher the detail they are being bombarded with.
With everything you display on the screen ask yourself “What would I lose by not having the audience see this?” If the answer is “My audience won’t understand what I’m talking about” then keep the slide. However if it is any other answer – dump the slide – you will only confuse or bore your audience!
Make diagrams/schematics relevant
Often diagrams will be displayed to assist audience understanding, and as the saying goes a picture can replace a thousand words. However the issue with most diagrams is that the presenter wants to reference a small section of the diagram. The result is an audience which heads on a journey of discovery as they try and decipher and understand the rest of the diagram, leaving you as the presenter talking about one aspect, while the audience is thinking about another aspect.
The key to changing this is to display only the part of the diagram or schematic that is relevant for the presentation you are delivering.
Technical presentations are the most challenging and difficult presentations to prepare and deliver. But, with the assistance of the tips covered in this article you can master the presentation, and become an expert in the eyes of your audience.
Mark Kyte is a presentation skills expert. He coaches executives and senior managers from around the world in person and online. By improving their presentation skills clients take their careers to a new level.