Archives For technical presentation

using acronyms in a presentationIt’s almost impossible to give a technical presentation without using acronyms.

It’s often difficult, ineffective, and unnecessary to eliminate acronyms when you’re giving a presentation as a technical expert to other technical experts in your own field.

But how about when you’re giving a technical presentation to a non-technical audience? Or to an audience that’s mixed: some technical experts in your field, some people who are experts in other technical fields, and some people who aren’t technical in a strict sense (sales and marketing, HR, finance, legal)?

Two general principles govern the use of acronyms in any technical presentation: 1) Clarity, and 2) Credibility.

First, you have to be clear.

If you confuse your audience, you lose them.

When you use an acronym that your audience doesn’t understand, they’ll try to figure it out. The problem is, while they’re parsing what you said, they stop listening to what you’re currently saying. Which is a bad thing.

If they can’t figure out what you mean and if you confuse them often enough, they’ll stop listening to you altogether. They may even resent you.

So, above all else, be clear.

Second, you have to be credible.

There are, of course, many ways to establish credibility in a technical presentation: being personally credible (shown by your experience, education, and reputation), an abundance of evidence, and well-reasoned logic.

(See my piece on How to Establish Credibility in a Speech or Presentation.)

A subtle, but effective way to sound credible as an expert in your technical field is to speak the language of that field.

And that’s where acronyms come into play.

Acronyms are the shorthand that technical experts use when speaking to each other.

A familiarity and ease with acronyms communicate to people in the field that “you’re one of us.”

Two rules govern using acronyms in a technical presentation: 1) Use acronyms everyone understands, and/or 2) Explain them as you use them.

If you’re sure that everyone in your audience knows an acronym, use it. Don’t pause. Don’t explain it. Simply use it as you’d use any other commonly understood word.

The trick here, of course, is being sure that everyone knows what the acronym means.

Explaining the acronym is more effective than spelling it out.

Simply spelling out an acronym doesn’t necessarily make it any clearer. Not to those who aren’t already in the know.

For example, saying a POA&M is a Plan of Actions and Milestones may not help someone unfamiliar with the term. It’s better to say something like, “A POA&M is a management tool for outlining and tracking a complex development or remediation project through its various steps.”

That short explanation may be enough, depending on the audience and the reason you’re using the acronym in the first place.

It’s up to you to know your audience and your presentation’s objective to determine how best to use acronyms. Don’t avoid using them. But don’t assume that everyone will understand them.

Above all else, be clear and be credible.

Ttalk fastechnical experts complain that the people in charge don’t listen to them.

The people in charge complain that technical experts go into too much detail and take too long to get to the point, if they even have one.

Because the people in charge have the final say — that’s what being in charge means — it’s up to the technical experts to change.

If you’re a technical expert and you want your ideas to get a hearing or, better yet, to be understood, accepted, and implemented, you have to change the way you make presentations.

The best way to win support for your idea is to think long and slow (which you’re good at) and to speak fast (which isn’t your typical style).

When I say “speak fast,” I don’t mean that you have to pick up the pace of your delivery, although that may be helpful.

You don’t have to talk like a New York taxi driver who has had one too many cups of coffee.

To speak fast means to get to your point as quickly as possible and to take as little time as necessary to make your case.

The higher leaders rise in an organization, the less time they have. The more impatient they become. The less willing they are to wade through long and overly detailed presentations.

So do your research, analysis, thinking, planning, and preparation — your long and slow thinking — before your presentation.

Then develop one idea that you can present quickly.

Depending on the leaders involved, on their needs, and on their schedule, I recommend preparing and practicing three fast versions of the same presentation:

  1. The Micro-Pitch — 30 Seconds or Less
    The micro-pitch is your presentation in a nutshell: the summary of your main idea. It may sound something like, “I propose adopting a new technology, which is faster and more accurate than what we currently have and will save us money.”
  2. The Mini-Pitch — 3 to 5 Minutes
    If you’re given the time, flesh out the information or ideas you presented in the micro-pitch. So you may explain (briefly) what the new technology is, and what makes it faster, more accurate, and cheaper.
  3. The Pitch-in-Full — Up to 15 minutes
    When speaking to upper management, you rarely have more than 15 minutes. (They’re busy, remember, and their time is limited.) If they give you 15 minutes on the agenda, plan on speaking for 8 to ten minutes. Leave the rest of time free for discussion.

The idea behind speaking fast is to address the most important matters first. And present the least amount of information — not the most — required to gain acceptance for your idea.

Give leaders what they want — information and ideas they can use to help the organization achieve its business objectives. Give it to them fast.

Think long and slow. Speak fast.



How to plan a technical presentationWhen you prepare a technical presentation, there’s one question — the most important question — you need to address.

The single most important question for a technical presentation is: What will the audience do with the information or idea you’re presenting?

Answering that question will require you, of course, to understand your audience. What are their roles and responsibilities? What do the already know about your subject? What do they need to know? How are they are affected by it?

Answering that question will determine everything you say and show during your presentation.

Answering that question will determine the level of detail you present. Do you give a high-level overview (an executive summary), or a comprehensive and detailed analysis, or something in-between?

What will the audience do with the information or idea you’re presenting?

  • Will they give or withhold permission for you to proceed with a project?
  • Will they decide whether to purchase your product or retain your services?
  • Will they make a report about it to their superiors or to a regulatory agency?
  • Will they implement a new process or carry out a new procedure?

Technical presenters often want to explain what they know in great detail and at great length. That’s what makes so many technical presentations confusing and boring to most audiences.

Most technical presentations — especially those in the business world — are not about educating audiences in-depth. They are about giving people in the organization the information and insight they need to get their jobs done.

The executives of a healthcare organization, for example, don’t want the IT director to educate them about the intricacies of the latest software update. They want to know just enough to be reassured that operations won’t be negatively affected, and to be able to reassure regulators that people’s medical records will remain confidential. The analysts in the IT department, on the other hand, may need detailed instructions about working with the update.

Knowing how the audience will use the information or idea you’re presenting will keep you on target. It’ll help you prepare your presentation. And it will help you determine whether you’ve been successful.

The success of a technical presentation can be determined relatively easily. Are people able to do what they need and want to do as a result of listening to you?

Check out How to Plan a Persuasive Technical Presentation.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...