We’ve all been there. Another talk by the resident techno-geek. It’s going to be confusing, boring and a long afternoon. Does it really have to be this way? Not if the speaker takes the time to follow a few guidelines.
1. Speak with the audience in mind. If you have the expertise necessary to give a technical presentation then there is a good chance that you have had quite a bit of experience with the subject. While it is crucial for you to have this experience at your disposal be careful to consider the needs and technical level of the audience. First, get a sense for the detail of information the group needs to hear. Is it important that they know how a watch works or merely how to tell time? Giving the audience more information than they can use wastes time and is a major cause of boredom. Second, be careful not to speak over the heads of the listeners. It is the rare individual who will raise their hand and ask that a term be defined. Instead, most people will smile and nod as if they understand every word you’re saying, no matter how lost they’ve become.
2. Use analogies to communicate complex concepts. If you find that it is necessary to introduce a concept that’s difficult to understand then using an analogy is a great way to do it. An analogy allows you to compare a complex issue such as data base management to a simpler, more familiar idea such as a filing cabinet. This gives the audience a familiar frame of reference around which they can position and understand the new concept. Additionally, the use of analogies will make your talk more colorful, interesting and memorable.
3. Personalize your talk with stories. Just like using analogies, adding personal stories will make your presentations more relatable and entertaining. Using your own experiences to reinforce points you wish to make or to illustrate issues you wish to clarify brings a higher degree of credibility to your presentation. The members of the audience see themselves in your experiences and can relate better to the material being presented.
4. Add excitement to your voice. The monotone drone of a poor presenter is always unbearable. When you combine that with dry, technical information you have a better sleep formula than Sominex®. Break up the potential monotony by adding more enthusiasm to your voice. Change the volume level. Adjust the tone and pitch. Vary the speed at which you speak. If you sound interested in your topic your audience will be interested too.
5. Simplify your visuals. An endless Excel spreadsheet or a cluttered line graph does not make for clear or interesting visuals. Separate large quantities of material so the audience members can focus on two or three essential points. Pull out significant numbers or develop slides that summarize the critical information. Also make sure that any words (X,Y axis descriptions or column headings) are readable to the whole room. If the information is important, provide handouts that allow the audience to digest the material at their own pace.