Making a Technical Presentation – Aid the Audience’s Understanding

Recently I attended a presentation entitled “Understanding Financial Statements – All Myths Debunked.” Given my background in financial accounting, I was looking for some more tips to help my clients who still remain intimidated by all things financial.

At the end of that presentation, I was more confused than when I entered the room and I was even doubting my knowledge of the topic. One of the chief purposes of presenting technical information is to help your audience understand that information. Yet, time and time again, presenters do the complete opposite.

Since it’s not in my nature to criticise without helping, I shared the tips below with the presenter and now I’m sharing them with you. I hope you find them as useful as he did.

1. Write a short paragraph describing your speech and submit it to the organisers to share with the audience. There is no need for all the mystery with a technical presentation, you’re not Alfred Hitchcock!

2. Remember that while your presentation should give the audience detailed information, they also want the benefit of your insight, your analysis, what you recommend… in other words, your unique perspective.

3. It is much better for you to take an aspect of the topic and address it in detail so that the audience at least have an understanding of that part of it. Trying to cover too many areas of a topic actually leads to even more confusion in non-tech minds.

4. When preparing your speech, organise your material using at least one of the main recognised logical patterns. This will allow your information to flow smoothly from point to point. Below are those patterns:

“Time pattern” enables you to organise your points in the order that they occur. E.g. past – present – future; first – next – last.

“Space pattern” organises your speech on the basis of some physical or geographical sequence. E.g. “The State of the Financial Services Sectors in the Caribbean.

“The Topic pattern” is a “catch all” or flexibility pattern which allows you to just list a series of statements and provide the information.

“Problem-solution pattern” is extremely useful for proposing a change, trying to get something improved, offering a new idea or recommending a plan of action. When well constructed, this pattern can be very effective.

5. If you have to give the same presentation a dozen times, customise it for each audience. Yes! The CEOs of the Environmental and Energy Association are not the same as the Entrepreneurs in the Beach Vendors Association and neither do they want the information on coastal zone erosion delivered to them in the same way.

6. Use sharp, crisp, clear sentences with active verbs and use examples, comparisons and analogies to make technical points simple. And reduce the jargon, please. If you must use a few technical terms to remind us that you went to university and that you are the expert, that’s alright. Just explain them simply.

7. If you suffer with “Largewordarrogantitis”, “Smallwordsyndrome” is the cure.

8. Practice your speech at home, never on your audience and when you do, practice with your visual aids as well, if you intend to use them.