Tips for Giving Impactful, Engaging Technical Presentations

Public speaking is as much about delivery as it is about content. That’s especially true in workplace environments where you may be asked to talk at length about technical topics which, while important, can also be dry and downright boring in the wrong presenter’s hands.

At the last few SHARE conferences, Rosalind Radcliffe and Frank DeGilio have hosted “The Art and Science of Technical Presentations,” a session for those looking to sharpen their presentation skills. Leaning on years of experience, Rosalind and Frank offer tips to give impactful, energetic presentations that effectively deliver your intended message and provide value to your audience.

Here’s a roundup of just some of the presentation tips they’ll cover:

  1. Understand your audience and what they want. Upfront planning is vital — this is your opportunity to figure out who you’re presenting to and what kind of content they will expect. “The key here is, ‘What’s in it for me?’ Audiences are going to want to listen to something that helps them in some way or connects with them in some way,” Frank said at SHARE Sacramento.

  2. Talk about what you know and love. A passionate presenter can make even the most esoteric topic interesting and engaging. If you’re covering a topic that you understand well and that you genuinely care about, you’re more likely to keep an audience’s attention.

  3. Define your scope. What are three or four key takeaways you want your audience to gain from your presentation? Make sure you have a defined scope, as you don’t want to spend an entire hour covering a topic, only to discover afterwards no one got the main message. You also don’t want to run out of time before covering all of your top points.

  4. Create an outline. Another way to keep your presentation on schedule is to create an outline. It’s not always necessary, but outlines are especially useful for longer presentations (an hour or more), or sessions you will co-present with others. Rosalind recommends including time allocations for each section of the presentation, allowing for “fudge factor,” as she calls it. “Because I know the reality of this: Nobody sticks to their time,” she said. 

It’s also important to consider presentation structure. A well-structured session is successful at drawing the audience’s interest and attention, which is the hardest part of any presentation.

“When we’re giving a technical presentation, we honestly believe we’re teaching, but we’re not,” Frank said. “Teaching will be a component of it, but I need to get you to care about this stuff first.”

Great presentations have a strong opener, answer the audience’s key questions and use repetition to get certain ideas stuck in attendees’ heads. “Points of wisdom” or examples are also effective ways to help your audience understand and internalize your message.

“Stories are one of the best ways to explain content,” Rosalind said. “When you tell stories of what you’ve lived or experienced, they come across better, and people can understand the context and what you’re doing.”

Mastering the basics of public speaking will help you beyond your next presentation; it’s also a great way to round out your professional skillset and open the door to career advancement opportunities.

Whether you’re interested in growing into a leadership role, want to get involved in industry educational programs like SHARE or just practice your public speaking skills, you’ll want to make sure you can speak confidently and effectively in front of a crowd.

Interested in speaking at the next SHARE event? Proposal submissions for SHARE Phoenix (March 10-15, 2019) are now being accepted through Friday, October 5, 2081. Learn more here.

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