To succeed as an individual in today’s competitive market, it is important to be an effective presenter. This is true whether you present in person or virtually, as you must communicate ideas and plans effectively to upper management, project review committees, clients, etc. For technical concepts to be understood by others, they must be delivered straightforwardly and understandably. In addition to this, you will likely deliver many presentations throughout your career and need to get a sense of what works and what does not. Maintaining focus on something that you are good at will help you perform better on these presentations. The following article discusses a few tips on how to craft an effective technical presentation with extra polish when you deliver your talk.
Before the presentation
1. Use an outline
Presentation outlines are more crucial than people realize because they give your presentation a structure, tell the audience what the next steps for your presentation are, and prepare them for participation in the program. Use it effectively and briefly highlight the major technical aspects of the presentation to provide a message that your audience can retain and remember.
2. Use succinct info on slides
It is often best to use slides when giving a technical presentation as they visually show the most important aspects. Microsoft PowerPoint may be the most famous one. Still, there are several other free programs available (Google Slides, Prezi, etc.) that you can use to create them or even use basic video editing programs that will allow you to overlay some text over images and videos.
A good slide is not just a straightforward list of bullet points but should also contain a structure that ties the information to the rest of the talk to help the audience understand it better. Visual aids are essential for making the information easier to understand when the bullet points are too technical. This is especially true if you address a quick problem that you do not want to get too technical about but require someone to understand what you are talking about. Illustrations, charts, pictures, and even videos to highlight your point can be included to help you communicate effectively with your audience.
3. Flowchart your talk to keep it interesting
You must carefully plan all the elements of your presentation. Otherwise, you may end up with a disorganized mess. You should describe each part of the presentation in detail, so people can better visualize how you will present it. Convey the message clearly without overloading them with too much technical detail.
It is wise not to have too many words on slides at one time and to keep them as straightforward as possible. Keep slides short and to the point. This will make it easier to follow along with what is going on and help you emphasize what you were trying to say in the first place.
Try to include interesting or important information somewhere in the middle of the presentation, which would keep the audience interested.
4. Practice makes perfect
When it comes time for a presentation, practising what you will say from beginning to end is one of the best ways to ensure that everything runs smoothly and is coherent. As you practice, the better you will get at presenting your material and the easier it will be for people to pay attention to what you have to say.
If you are not comfortable with public speaking, do not be afraid of practising in front of people. This allows you to concentrate on what you’re doing without being distracted by others. You will feel more confident after a few practice sessions, and you will become better at doing it. Being in front of a live audience can be quite a daunting experience at first, but as you practice, you get better at handling it.
Remember, every presentation differs, so try not to get too critical of yours. Keep your mind clear and focus on the actual content delivery. Those who already know what they will say in advance will never have to worry that their words do not make sense or even remember everything.
During the presentation
1. Start with an introduction
You need to set up your outline in a relaxed and positive manner and give people something around which they can hang the rest of the talk. This must be structured because it is straightforward to get caught up in all the technical details without organization. Stay focused on the task at hand and avoid getting distracted by what’s going on around you.
2. Never read the slides
Avoid reading from the slides and instead use them as supporting aids. A person reading bullet points from a slide deck loses attention instantly, making it hard to communicate with the audience or be understood. It is useful to discuss something that will make people think, which will facilitate your presentation and help your audience understand what you are saying.
3. Keep the audience in mind
When presenting, think about how your messages will affect those listening and make sure that everything makes sense for them. If you are discussing a subject, your audience is not very familiar with. You should take the time to explain some of the essentials so that everyone understands the topic being presented.
4. Be interactive
Interaction allows people to become more engaged in your talk and ask questions that might break up any monotony of the topic being presented. However, people mustn’t dominate the conversation since others will become disoriented and be unable to follow what is being said.
5. Prepare for anything
The truth is that there are a plethora of things that may happen during a presentation or an event, and you must be prepared for every circumstance. During a presentation, the projector or computer might die or encounter technical difficulties. Be prepared ahead of time to anticipate how you intend to entertain the audience in that case
After the presentation
1. Answer questions clearly
The presentation can be concluded with an open discussion and answering questions from the audience. Occasionally, a question during your presentation might also be asked; but do not allow that to break the flow of your presentation. You must remember to avoid providing answers to questions you do not know the answers to. It is always appreciated if you admit your lack of knowledge rather than provide inaccurate information. You can always contact them later with the correct information.
2. Work with a positive attitude.
Speaking to a group can help you become a good speaker, which is useful because it helps you identify areas for improvement. The task of presenting your ideas in front of a group of people where you will be the centre of attention is not a simple one. Don’t over-analyze your performance, and keep in mind this is a unique opportunity to learn from mistakes.
A technical presentation can be given effectively with the right planning.
Image courtesy of Depositphotos
I am currently working as an engineer at the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams which is a US-DOE project in Michigan after having completed my M.S in chemical engineering from University of Florida and B.E. in Chemical Engineering from Panjab University, Chandigarh, India. I have more than 8 years of experience working in the field of process engineering, refinery operations, utility systems design and operation with a special focus on design and commissioning of engineering systems.
Co Author – Kasturi Laturker
I am currently working as a Validation Engineer Consultant working for Sanofi Genzyme at Framingham, Massachusetts. I graduated with a M.S. in Chemical Engineering from Syracuse University and a B.Tech in Chemical Engineering from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, Delhi, India. I have more than 3 years of experience working in Commissioning, Qualification and Validation of upstream and downstream bioprocessing equipment and critical utilities.