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workshops for technical presentationsToo many workshops and training programs titled “Improving Technical Presentations” or “More Effective Technical Presentations” place too much emphasis on trying to improve participants’ delivery skills.

Don’t get me wrong. Many technical presenters do have poor delivery skills, and those poor delivery skills harm their ability to win over an audience.

It’s just that, in my experience, focusing on delivery skills — on improving how technical presenters look and sound — is the wrong place to start and one of the least important skills to focus on. 

There are other, more important, skills to teach, including, but not limited to:

  • Get participants to rethink the very purpose of a technical presentation.
    Why are you making a presentation in the first place? What do you want to accomplish? What do you want your audience to know about and to do with the material you’re presenting?
  • Teach them how to clarify complex material without dumbing it down.
    What is your thesis? State it upfront and supply enough — just enough — evidence to explain, illustrate, and substantiate that thesis.
  • Show them how to structure a clear, logical, and persuasive presentation.
    What’s the simplest, clearest way to structure your material? Is it logical? Is it persuasive?
  • Teach them how to create PowerPoint slides that actually help them convey their ideas.
    How can you use PowerPoint to illustrate your main points? Ignore most advice you’ve heard about using PowerPoint, which simply does not apply to technical presentations.
  • Show them how to rehearse a presentation.
    You can benefit from talking through your presentation in advance a few times, if you do it the right way
  • Help them develop confidence.

Help technical experts — smart people who know what they’re talking about — learn how to create and rehearse a clear, focused, and effective presentation. Increase their confidence in front of an audience. And watch their delivery skills improve dramatically, with very little direct attention given to the issue.

By the way, here are my tips for developing confidence speaking.

What do you think?

 

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The best way to improve how you deliver a speech or presentation is to practice it out loud.

I’m presuming, of course, that you’ve prepared your presentation. You’ve analyzed your audience. You’ve established a goal for your presentation and a strategy for achieving it. You’ve crafted a message that is both clear and compelling. And you’ve created audio-visuals to help illustrate, explain, and substantiate your main points.

Doing all that preparation puts you ahead of 90% of the competition. So why waste all that effort? Don’t stint on rehearsing your talk.

The most effective way to rehearse a speech or presentation is to talk it through not in your mind, but out loud.

Sure, you can and should rehearse it over and over again in your mind. Think it through. Make sure it makes sense to you. If you can’t remember the main points of your presentation in order without checking your notes, how do you expect your audience to remember?

So, by all means, have that internal conversation without yourself. But there comes a time when you have to say those words out loud. And you don’t want that first time to be in front of an audience.

Here’s the problem with practicing a presentation only in your mind, not out loud. You know what you’re talking about. You understand the concepts. And you know how they connect, how one point logically leads to the next. So when you practice it in your mind, it makes sense to you because your mind fills in gaps.

Practicing your speech out loud—actually saying the words, not just having an internal conversation—forces you to explicitly explain and develop your reasoning, your logic, your message.

Practicing your presentation out loud also helps you remember it. I’m not recommending, mind you, that you memorize your speech word for word. But the more thoroughly you know it, the less you’ll have to refer to your notes or look at your slides, and the more you’ll be able to engage your audience.

Here are three rules for rehearsing a speech or presentation:

  1. Talk your presentation through several times in your mind. Make sure you understand the main concepts and how they relate to each other.
  2. Stand up and speak your presentation out loud. Moving around as you do so will help, for a reason that I don’t fully understand.
  3. Stand up and speak your presentation in a setting that is similar to the one where you’ll be presenting.

If you can rehearse your talk using all three steps, you’ll be a much more confident and professional presenter. If you can only practice the first two steps, you’ll still be better prepared than most presenters.

Try it and let me know how it works. If you have another way to practice a speech or presentation, let me know.

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