Giving a Technical Presentation

Vishal Kotcherlakota

When was the last time you presented something?

Who attended it?

Why were you presenting?

What was it about?

How did you make your presentation?

Were you happy with the result?

Engineers generally don't like presenting.

I didn't feel comfortable in front of everyone.

I got feedback that I was "too technical".

I didn't have enough time to share my ideas.

My presentation just didn't look good.

Often, presentations become stressful and unpleasant.

It doesn't have to be that way!

Presentations let you share what you've done!

They can help you get visibility, get talent/resources, advocate for your interests, convince people to join your cause, and much more!

At its best, presentation is leadership.

There's a set of elements that make technical presentations highly effective.

Vishal's Three Elements of Effective Presentations

  1. The Audience. Who are they? What do they care about?
  2. The Story. What do you want to tell them about?
  3. The Delivery. How are you going to tell them?

Overlook any of these three, and your presentation won't be as effective as it should be.

The Audience

Who's your audience?

Who are you presenting to?

What kinds of members are there in your audience?

  • Colleagues
  • Managers
  • Advisors
  • Decision-makers

Are there any other "members" of the audience that you can think of?

How about the room?

Or the clock?

Not all of your audience members are equal.

What kind of factors can make some people more important than others?

  • Authority?
  • Influence?
  • Budget?
  • Responsibility?
  • Engagement?

Who really needs to hear you? Why?

Why are you presenting to your VIP?

What's your objective?

How does your VIP help you get there?

What's their background?

But I'm not a people person! How am I going to figure this out?

Practical Exercise

Defining Your Audience

The Story

“If you don’t know what you want to achieve in your presentation your audience never will.” - Harvey Diamond

What are you going to talk about?

This is a deceptively simple question, especially for engineers.

Your technology is like an ocean.

It's vast and it's got many different facets to it.

It's hard to comprehend without any context.

Your job is to plot a course across for your audience.

How will you convince your audience to follow you?

How do I plot my course?

Your topic has layers of meaning, like an onion.

Different people have different layers of understanding.

What's the minimum context that people need to understand?

Finding "the Pain"

Technical problems (and solutions) are about "the pain".

"The pain" has many forms, but it often translates to schedule or cost impact.

What is the issue? What are its impacts?

Is there a solution? How well does it work?

What are future applications of your solution?

Practical Exercise

Defining Your Story

The Delivery

“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.” – Dale Carnegie

What makes a speaker worth listening to?

  • Genuine interest/knowledge in topic.
  • Upbeat, energetic.
  • Engages the audience.

Good news! As an engineer, you've got the first one nailed.

But how do I become energetic and engaging?

Practice is important, but it can only get you so far.

What you might need is a paradigm shift.

You're not presenting.

You're having a conversation.

Well, what's the difference?

Conversations are much less stressful. (after all, you have them every day)

They imply a dialogue between you and the audience.

They allow for a great deal of flexibility.

If your audience feels like they're conversing with you, they're more likely to buy in.

So how do I have a conversation?

People think in terms of stories, not facts.

The easiest way to start into a conversation is to tell a story.

You might guess what's next...

Practical Exercise

Delivering a Story

Wrap up

“No one ever complains about a speech being too short!” – Ira Hayes

What have we talked about today?

A framework for thinking about presentations.

Strategies for finding your VIPs.

Finding "the pain".

Reframing your presentations as conversations.

Thanks for listening!