What everybody needs to be doing with technical presentations

You know your stuff but sometimes we take for granted how much others understand.

The issue with specialists, technical or otherwise, is that they run the danger of talking over peoples’ heads or over-simplifying language, which can sound patronising.

Then again, when there’s a group, some may be familiar and others not so much.  How do you strike a balance without sounding too technical or dumbing down your language?

I’ve got the perfect blend of techniques right here that will convey your authority without losing your audience.


1. Make the expertise equal

Often those working in the commercial areas of business think that the technical specialists don’t ‘get it’ or don’t value their own specialism.

If you know someone appreciates your role, you’ll be more likely to want to understand their world.  You can make your audience more receptive when you state at the top that they’re the ones who excel at delivery logistics or business development.

You’re here to help them better use the technology they need for their roles.

That appreciation of their own expertise will draw the audience in.


2. Recognise their concerns

Let’s say you have an innovation to further improve fuel.

Instead of talking about the story behind you discovered the catalytic elements that jogged the molecules into making a carbonoxyprotaxysan, focus on what the innovation means to them.

In this case, not only may this fuel allow your vehicle to go further on less fuel, but it saves money and improves air quality, both without needing any modification to your car.

Now we’re listening.  Crafting the conversation around your audience’s concerns will be vital to have them engage with you and your message.


3. Use analogies

This is a visual way of making parallels between the familiar and unfamiliar. A classic one is that the hard drive of a computer is your long term memory and RAM is your short term memory.

Here are a couple more examples.


4. Don’t data dump

There may be a 98% client retention and a rise of 47, 809.783 people who provide a 50% increase in spend, with a 90% yield [cue: bar chart in Venn diagram].

It means nothing. You may as well talk in code.

What does your audience actually need to know?  It may be as simple as “thorough data analysis doubles your profits. This software streamlines that process so you see quicker returns.”


5. Use ‘just enough’ technical language

As one Senior Executive in Technology and Operations states, “Use just enough technical language to communicate the point but broad enough that mostly anyone in the audience would be able to relate to.”

Audiences often vary in their familiarity of technical terms. Making it clear from the beginning that you’ll be explaining any of this language to those who are unaccustomed to it shows that you’re not talking down to those who familiar with the lingo. That way, you don’t look like you’re unnecessarily dumbing down your content.

6. Have a dry run

You may not know what is and isn’t jargon if you’re speaking like that all day to people who know what you mean.

The best way to identify this is to have a dry run with a non-technical person and invite them to question when they don’t understand your terms.


7. Don’t leave your audience exposed

Your audience, especially when it’s larger, may refrain from asking questions if they think they’ll look dumb.

Give them other options for raising queries or comments, such as email.  If it’s a 121 meeting, you can stop at any point to check understanding.


Your Action:

1. Identify a 121 or group conversation you’ll be having with where there’s an unfamiliarity with the non-technical.

2. Pinpoint their own expertise to which you’ll allude.

3. Define what their concern/s are.

4. Frame how your solution helps that concern, using real world examples.

5. If you think it’s necessary to say how this works or state further the benefits of this innovation, use an analogy.

6. Note any statistics you may consider helpful. These stats can address the seriousness of the issue or the effectiveness of the outcome.

7. Talk this through with a non-technical individual and assess their own understanding of the content.

8. State channels through which questions can be addressed. Some might feel judged asking certain questions in front of others. This allows the non technical people another way to raise queries.

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