Technical Presentations Tips

Written 2015

You are brilliant, articulate, intelligent, and some may even say good looking. Ok, maybe just a few. But when asked to present a talk, do you become concerned? Think of this….You’ve just been introduced, you walk on stage, face the audience, lights blinding, clicker in one hand, sweat in the other. You have 9 seconds after your opening words before your audience begins to judge your comfort, credibility and communication skills. Within moments they will decide if they will listen or tune you out.

Being an expert in your subject matter does not preclude you from being concerned. After all, your audience will be judging not only your presentation and reputation, but the reputation of your company. The quality of your presentation can impact many areas. Decisions made by investors or funding partners, business expansion opportunities, personal career opportunities, and relationships with stakeholders.

A presentation requires far more than communicating content and data. Persuading your audience to the value of your products, services, technologies or proposals is paramount. Above all, you need to make the business case for your credibility and leadership.

In order to set the stage for a more effective delivery of your presentation, I offer the following tips to assist you in creating brilliance.

Understand those in the stands

When you committed to deliver a talk on your tech, did you know who was going to be in the audience? Be it engineers, developers, investors, stakeholders, management, or customers, did you conduct a demographic study of your audience? Understanding who is in the stands could be very vital to the crafting of your talk. You wouldn’t give a high level developer talk to a non technical audience, would you? Carefully examining your audience could assist you in preparing a brilliant talk, specifically designed for your audience, which then allows you to come across as caring about their needs.

Check the Tech

Because so much is riding your presentation, you want to make sure everything works. Clicker, microphone, monitor, projector, screens, phone is off. Then check it again. Oh…check it one more time. I delivered a presentation with an emphasis on technology and how it greatly improves our ability to deliver messages concisely. Right in the middle of my talk, my own phone rang.  It’s good to have a plan b, but if due diligence is done, you may not need a plan b.

The Strippers Walk

No, I’m not being sexist, nor am I asking you walk like a stripper. It’s a term used to describe the time between when you are introduced and when you arrive on stage. Your audience will make a first impression judgment from the moment they lay eyes on you. Show your audience you are comfortable and ready to deliver your talk, even before you begin your talk. Relax, shake your hands, take a deep breath, and walk with comfort.

Prepare the air

When walking out on stage, some presenters start speaking before they arrive at the lectern or spot from which they will present. That could be seen as a sign of nervousness or insecurity. Walk quietly on stage, look at your audience, wait a few seconds then begin your presentation. It will create several nuances, you are in control, you are relaxed, and the audience is anticipating your first word.

Fruth or Consequences

FRUTH = facial truth. Do you know your default face? I realize you know what you look like, but under pressure and the lights, what facial expressions become default? Unless you take a good look at yourself (video, mirror) you may not be aware of the micro expressions you may be sharing with your audience. Some people when attempting to look serious or professional, come across as angry or confused. Some when attempting to appear happy, their facial expressions appear to be contrite and fake. Go to a mirror and create an emotion….I’ll wait…. did the emotion you wanted to convey come across on your face? Are your eyebrows working with you when creating an expression? Did they rise when happy, did they come together when serious? Relax the 33 muscles in your face before going on stage, your audience will relate with you more intently.

Swipe the pipes

If you have ever been in the middle of a talk and your mouth becomes bone dry? Next to forgetting your talk, it’s the worst feeling for a speaker. To help prevent the dry mouth issue, consider hydrating the previous 24 hours with 128 ounces of water. Sure you may go to the restroom more than usual, but your audience will appreciate it. It won’t cure the dry mouth, but it sure will help. And, be prepared. Eat a life saver or mint prior to your speech to activate the salivary glands.  Have a glass of water on stage, just in case.  Better to pause and take a sip – rather than stand there with your mouth suctioned closed.

Content Conundrum

Too much information and you overwhelm the audience, too little and they feel they were shortchanged. When delivering technology, much of the information is data and content driven, presented by you the speaker. If your deck reads like War and Peace, how can you expect the audience to read your information and listen to you speak? 2 tips I offer is to keep your deck to 10 words or less per slide for a live presentation. The second is to create a second deck with all the information on it, including your talking points to share with those that wish to see your deck, but were unable to see it live. Perhaps you have been asked to share your deck, as if the deck is the presentation, which it is NOT. It serves as an enhancement to your presentation. If so much is riding on the “information” to be presented, would it be best to hand out a white paper on your subject matter and forget the speaking part? NO. You are the presenter of the information, enhanced by the visuals you provide. Keep it simple, entertaining and enlightening.

Monitor the monitor

I see too often, presenters with information to share, look back at the screen to see where they are, or worse….read the words on the slide. Make every effort to keep the computer monitor screen in front of you when facing the audience. If you have done through your deck prior to the presentation, you have a very good idea, even if you cannot read the monitor from a distance, as to where you are. Often the words on the screen are more of a ‘comfort crutch’ – you know what’s there – you don’t really need to look.  But if you just have  to, one way of remembering how to work with a deck, is Touch, Turn and Talk. If you have to turn your head to look at the screen, be silent when looking at the screen. Touch the screen with your eyes or pointer, turn to your audience and then talk. If you talk to the screen, you disconnect with the audience. Practice touching the screen, turning to your audience and talking to them.

The First Burst

There are many schools of thought when it comes to beginning your talk. Some feel it’s important to begin by addressing the audience with a greeting; “Good morning” or “Good Afternoon”.  This may be fine if you are the MC for an event, or an opening act to a longer program. However, my thought has been to begin your talk by creating pattern interrupt.  The audience already has a preconceived notion how you will probably begin. Disrupt that thinking by delivering one word, or phrase, or sentence that creates unexpected impact. It catches the audience unaware, grabs their attention and sets a tone for the rest of your presentation, and persuades the audience to give your talk more attention.

Massage the Message

Although knowledge transfer of your information is vital when delivering technology, it takes a second place to having your audience relate with you and your data. What is your message? What do you want the audience to know, feel or do after you are done? Make sure your message is crisp, clear and totally understandable and is relatable.  As you are preparing your presentation – ensure all content contributes to that crisp message and doesn’t muddy it up.

You are the Gift

There have been many schools of thought as to whether or not to thank the audience after your speech. Some have said the audience has traveled, and maybe waited in line to hear what you have to say. That may be true, and some feel that is enough reason to thank the audience. I am on the other side of the fence. You worked hard to create, craft, and deliver an informational, possibly transformational presentation. You have gifted the audience with this information. When you’re done, they thank you with applause, and if you’re really good, a standing ovation. You wouldn’t give a gift and then thank the receiver of the gift would you?  The same holds true when you deliver a presentation. You can end your presentation with….It’s been an honor presenting here… or I have truly enjoyed sharing this information with you, or a variation of these statements. It’s not to say you can’t thank them for the applause, but don’t thank the audience for listening to you, you are the gift.

These are just a few tips I offer, with more extensive instruction on how to become a brilliant presenter

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