Go Deep for Outstanding Technical Presentations

If your content is technical, complex, data driven or numbers-heavy, you will want to listen up. Don’t fall into the camp of “I know it is dry and boring content but I can’t do anything about it…” Instead, try one or all of these strategies to make complex information more engaging and more interesting.deep

Use the DEEP acronym to help remember these pointers.

Don’t cut yourself short–or go on and on. If you tend to speak your piece so fast you cut out huge chunks of content, start today to slow down and take the time you need. Rehearse so that you know you are going to fit your timeframe, then relax into the content a little bit. On the other hand, if you typically go way overboard with detail, and frequently see eyes glazing over when you speak, then plan for, and deliver, a shorter presentation. You might be able to add a slightly longer Q&A, turning your technical talk into an engaging discussion.

Expertise. Draw from your own experience, not just the word of experts. Use your own stories to paint a picture, build rapport, even add color and life to your speaking. Especially when the content is technical, you will want to “humanize” it by sharing your own reactions, knowledge and opinions as a subject matter expert. As you prepare your presentation, watch for sections that are dry and detailed, or slides that are heavy with content, and look for ways to make them shorter, crisper, and more human.

Enthusiasm. What is it about this material that excites you? If it doesn’t make your heart beat a little faster, chances are it won’t thrill your audience either. You might be better off searching for the one or two parts of it you can really get behind, and then focus on them. Your passion goes a long way toward making the content more interesting to others. If you have never seen this done, I recommend just about any TED talk (at TED.com) to see examples of what happens when an expert shows enthusiasm. It can be magical.

Pay attention to the audience. Just don’t fixate on them. Look at the audience, one at a time. Long enough to feel you are connecting. Not long enough to become a staring contest. See if they look engaged. If not, slow down….and ask a question. Or walk closer toward the crowd. Or stop and tell a story. Ask for a reaction. Or pose a problem and have them discuss it with the people they are sitting next to. Then listen to see if they really are connecting with your content. Don’t drone on and on if your audience has checked out; do something to get them back on board. Don’t assume you will know what to do if this happens; it should be an essential part of your planning process.

Technical presentations can be dry and boring…or engaging and stimulating. You can decide today to try these and other methods to bring your content to life.

Please let me know how they work for you, and what other methods you have found useful.

Author Gail Zack Anderson, founder of Applause, Inc. is a Twin Cities-based consultant who provides coaching and workshops for effective presentations, facilitation skills for trainers and subject matter experts, and positive communication skills for everyone.  She can be reached at gza@applauseinc.net.

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