7 ways to enhance your technical talk or presentation
By Bob Ferguson, Toastmasters International
Technical expertise is a fundamental driver of many businesses. However, problems can arise when technical experts have to give presentations or communicate to people who don’t have, for example a scientific or engineering background.
Communication issue can arises both with colleagues and also externally at client meetings or if they are speaking at conferences where not everyone in the audience shares their specialist knowledge.
With the increase in video conferencing and remote working, it has become even more important to ensure your technical content is delivered in an engaging and concise manner.
It is also the case that if staff with technical expertise can learn to communicate well with a wide range of audiences, it can improve their long-term careers.
Let me share 7 ways you can enhance the delivery of complex technical information so that your audiences will be engaged.
Most technical speakers are bottom-up thinkers. They like to start from first principles to understand the problem, build up the evidence, and finally reach their triumphant conclusion. Unfortunately, most executives are top-down thinkers who want to start with the conclusion and then only go into the detail that interests them. This misunderstanding accounts for more boring presentations than anything else.
People who read a newspaper article start with the headline, if it interests them they read the first paragraph, and if they’re still interested they jump to the last paragraph which has the conclusion, and then if there are really interested, they read all the detail in the middle. Your presentation should do the same. Start with the sentence that summarises your content, present a brief executive summary, then the conclusion and have the detail ready to present around any points that interest your audience.
This is an excellent structure for remote presentations as it quickly gives your audience the big picture and allows them to be involved in driving the level of detail. This significantly enhances engagement.
One excellent story structure to use is the hero’s journey. This is a classic story structure and works well in many situations. The key is to make your audience the hero of the story rather than you. Your position in the story should be that of the trusted adviser (Yoda in Star Wars) who helps the hero reach their triumphant conclusion. That way your audience will feel satisfied with the outcome and even better, you will be the person they look to for advice in the future.
All you have to do is make sure you know your material thoroughly enough to deal with questions and answers and it will naturally make your presentation more engaging, interesting and effective. This is another excellent technique for making remote presentations engaging. By opening it up to questions you’re both making your audience think about your material and keeping them involved by interacting with you during the Q &A session.
Honing your communication skills is very important for technical experts. It will ensure they get their valuable ideas and information across to a wide range of audiences in a clear and memorable way. By showcasing the ability to communication in a compelling fashion, both the standing of the individual and the standing of technical experts in the business will be enhanced.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Bob Ferguson is a mechanical engineer by trade and a member of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. There are more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland. Members follow a structured educational programme to gain skills and confidence in public and impromptu speaking, chairing meetings and time management. To find your nearest club, visit www.toastmasters.org