Many technical presenters find it challenging to explain their subject expertise in a simple and succinct way that is easy to understand. Some technical speakers talk too formally and lose their audience in the technical jargon, while others speak too broadly and risk negative feedback such as This wasn’t new to me; I didn’t learn anything. Often there are so many acronyms, abbreviations or technical buzzwords, that listeners feel they’re listening to a foreign language. I’m often told by medical, financial, and technology professionals that their topic is “boring” or “dry.” Sometimes this belief is used to justify a presentation that’s poorly organized or delivered. But information is just information. No judgment is necessary. It’s up to the presenter to make the information interesting and engaging. The two presentation questions most frequently asked by knowledge experts in technical fields are:
- How can I make a technical presentation interesting?
- How do I meet the needs of an audience with different levels of technical understanding?
Here are 6 tips to help technical speakers create presentations that are clear, engaging and understood.
- Bring more of yourself to the podium. Sure, you’re a PhD or MD and/or renown subject expert. But you may also be a parent, sports fan, musician or artist. Don’t over-compartmentalize your roles. Experienced coaches utilize a variety of techniques to help technical speakers be comfortable, authentic and brilliant at the podium.
- Start your talk with a relevant and personal story. Humans are hard-wired for listening to and liking stories. Make that human connection with a narrative that links to your key message and connects you to your audience. This is an advanced skill, so if you are open to the idea and need direction and feedback, do not hesitate to work with a speech coach. The skills are transferable and the results are winning!
- Be careful of abbreviations and acronyms. You can use them of course, but please make the connection to what these short forms refer to early in your presentation. For example, if you mention M&A, say Mergers and Acquisitions; for SME, also say Subject Matter Expert and for TIA, Transient Ischemic Attack or mini-stroke. This helps to ensure you are reaching more of your audience.
- Explain your subject broadly before going into the minutia. This level-sets the audience. As a presenter, you are both a subject expert and a guide. Let your audience know how you plan to explain your subject. For example, I’m going to give you the big picture first for those involved with this subject peripherally, and then dive into the details for those more intimately connected with this area.
- Notice your audience throughout your presentation. How are they behaving? Are people squinting, looking restless or confused? Have the phones and tablets come out in rising numbers? Do not hesitate to stop your presentation to acknowledge the furrowed brows and to re-explain a point or ask for questions. I see some confusion out there. Let me re-explain the importance of this and make sure you understand.
- Invite participation to create engagement. It’s hard for most people to be silent and listen attentively for 30 minutes. We are generally more used to shared listening and speaking. Presentations shift that balance. Taking a break from being the sole talker can make the presentation more conversational and engaging. For the audience, pausing to listen to a peer’s comment or question can be energy-enhancing. Of course, the speaker needs to be able to manage this change, and return the control to his prepared remarks.
These suggestions help keep your listeners listening. Moreover, this listening attention is an energetic connection, perceived by the speaker as positive feedback, which is both validating and satisfying. To bring your speaking to your next level of presentation excellence, contact Eileen N. Sinett, Speaking that Connects.