‘Jargon is a sure-fire way to make people switch off. It’s frustrating and confusing and can quickly alienate an audience. ‘
How To Create Brilliant Technical Presentations
I’ll bet you’ve been in a meeting where the speaker talks you through slide after slide of complicated information. You’ve lost the thread and found yourself daydreaming about the coffee break, or worse, trying to avoid nodding off? You desperately want to pay attention, but it’s just a bit… boring?
Detailed technical information, data, statistics, facts and figures can be difficult to listen to. No matter how interesting your data is, it can soon become overwhelming for your audience if you present it poorly. You risk people not understanding – and, ultimately, switching off.
So if you’ve got a lot of technical information to share, what’s a good way of sharing it that will bring your data to life – and keep your audience engaged from start to finish?
Here are five tips to help create brilliant technical presentations.
1 – Find the story behind the stats
Technical presentations usually contain a lot of data, statistics and information – but data on its own is not enough to keep people engaged. If your presentation is effectively a data dump, you’d be better off sending it as an email attachment and getting people to read it in their own time (and I’m sure your audience would appreciate that too!).
The Nobel prize-winning author and psychologist Daniel Kahnemann wrote in his book Thinking: Fast and Slow that “Nobody ever made a decision based on a number: they need a story.” This is true even when you are sharing complex technical information.
There are different ways that you can weave storytelling into your technical presentations.
Backstory: Giving a bit of context around the information you’re sharing is an easy way to make the information more engaging and for your audience to understand its relevance. Why are you here today giving this information? Why does it interest you particularly? If you’re sharing new ideas or concepts, why were they thought up? What problem is this helping to solve? What will this information enable people to do? Help your audience to understand why you’re presenting this information to them.
Use metaphors and analogies: Reframing your information through metaphors or analogies can make it much more relatable to an audience. England’s deputy chief medical officer, Johnathan Van Tam, has been praised for his use of metaphors and his straight-talking style when presenting data around the coronavirus spread during the pandemic.
Case studies: Wherever possible, bring in case studies or real-life examples. We engage much more with stories about people than with dry facts and figures. If you’re presenting a new product or service, how will this change people’s lives? Making it relatable to your audience will help to keep people listening.
2 – Introduce complex ideas gradually
If you’re presenting complex technical information, make sure that you know in advance how much the audience understands, and start there. There’s no point in spending 20 minutes explaining complicated technical concepts to an audience that doesn’t know what you’re talking about – people will switch off very quickly. They may come away feeling deflated or lacking confidence that they didn’t understand you.
Instead, introduce technical ideas gradually, building on each section so that the audience can follow.
Pranav Mistry’s TED talk from 2009 on the potential for technology to merge the digital world and the real world is one of the most popular of all time. He introduces complex technological ideas about wearable tech step by step, building up from simple ideas that are easy to understand. By doing the same, you can avoid audiences’ getting lost’ and switching off as a result.
3 – Beware of jargon
It’s tempting to use lots of jargon in technical presentations – after all, it’s going to make you sound really smart, right?
Wrong. Jargon is a sure-fire way to make people switch off. It’s frustrating and confusing and can quickly alienate audiences who don’t understand it.
Presentations are about communicating to audiences. If you are going to use technical jargon in your presentation, you must make sure that your audience is likely to understand it.
If you are introducing new words, acronyms or concepts, take the time to explain what these are. Don’t assume your audience knows as much about your product or project as you.
Think about whether there’s a better way of explaining something. How would you explain it to a friend who does not know the subject?
It’s not about dumbing down or leaving out technical terms; instead, it’s about making your language as clear and understandable as possible so that your audience stays engaged throughout the presentation.
Different levels of technical language will be appropriate for different types of audiences. The American Geophysical Union has published suggestions for four ways to avoid jargon in scientific presentations.
4 – Strip back your slides
Visual aids can make or break a technical presentation. Get it right and you help your audience to understand and retain the vast majority of information that you share with them – but get it wrong and you risk causing “Death by Powerpoint“.
There’s a temptation in presentations to share all of the information you’ve got on your slide deck, regardless of whether it’s useful to the audience or not. Sometimes people do this to show how much work has gone into a project or presentation. Other times, people use their slides as a script or teleprompter to ensure they don’t forget where they are. Both of these risk overwhelming your audience with too much unnecessary information.
Instead, be brave. Share only what you absolutely need to on your slides. Strong, visual images work so much better than endless lists of bullet points.
If you need to use graphs, make them clear and simple, without 3D charts or flashy animations. Strip out any unnecessary information that is not relevant to your presentation – you can email a leave-behind document with more detail if necessary.
And if you’re feeling courageous, consider using no slides at all.
5 – Show your passion
Finally, if you are not interested in your presentation, your audience won’t be either. If the information you are sharing is exciting or important, make sure you convey that not just through what you say, but through your voice, facial expressions and body language.
You could have the dullest information update in the world, but if you deliver it with passion, then you can still keep your audience engaged with it.
Contact our team today to learn more about how we can help you deliver engaging technical presentations with confidence.