On the one hand, a technical presentation addresses an issue or topic of some complexity, in a field that has its unique knowledge base, processes, methodologies, and jargon.
On the other hand, a business meeting isn’t a technical or scientific conference. The attendees are from different fields. They have different backgrounds, educations, and responsibilities. And they do not necessarily share your knowledge or speak your language.
You might be called upon, for example, to speak about a highly technical issue to people in upper management, marketing and sales, regulatory, finance, and operations. You don’t want to simplify your content to the extent that it’s no longer technically valid or meaningful. But you have to avoid confusing them by presuming too much knowledge or presenting too much detail.
So what can you do?
5 Top Tips: How to Make a Technical Presentation at a Business Meeting
1. Make Action — Not Education — Your Goal
If you’re giving a training session or a technical update, your goal may be simply to inform and educate your audience.
But when you’re speaking at a meeting — to people who have a business to run — your goal is (or should be) to present information or ideas that allow people to take some action.
The question that is always uppermost in their minds is: “What am I going to do with this information?” Don’t make them guess. Show them how they can use your information and ideas to solve a problem or achieve a goal for their business.
2. State the Conclusion Up Front
Most technical presenters build their case slowly and methodically. They present lots of data. Lots of it. And then they draw a conclusion from it.
The problem is, by the time they get around to presenting their conclusion — the point they’re trying to make — the audience has lost interest in what they’re saying.
So start with your conclusion. Then present the data and the logic that support the conclusion.
And remember, the goal isn’t to present everything you know. It’s to present just enough so people can understand what you’re talking about and what to do with it.
3. Make Q&A Your Presentation’s Focal Point
Many technical presenters shy away from Q&A. They fear being asked a question they may not know the answer to. Or they treat Q&A as an afterthought, allowing at most a few minutes at the end.
But engaging the audience’s questions is the best way 1) to keep them engaged, 2) to judge their understanding, and 3) to clarify any misunderstanding they may have.
Don’t hold questions until the very end. Encourage them throughout or at several designated points during your presentation.
There’s no hard and fast rule for how much time you should allow for Q&A, but as far as I’m concerned the more Q&A, the better.
Check out How to Handle Questions and Answers.
4. Use PowerPoint Strategically
Your slides are not your script. Do not fill them with words or with endless lists of bullet points.
Slides are an aid to your presentation. And you are not the voice over for your slide deck. Your slides are not your presentation: you are.
Reduce the amount of information you present on any one slide. Reduce the number of slides you use.
Use visual elements — graphs, charts, diagrams — that illustrate or validate your main points. And make them clear. If you need to use a laser point, your graphic is probably too detailed or confusing. Simplify it.
Use the title of each slide — the most prominent feature — to make a claim. Don’t say, “Risk Reduction” when you can say, “Our Approach Reduces the 3 Main Risks of this Project.”
Check out Using Visual Aids.
5. Use Skills You’ve Already Perfected
As a technical expert, you’re undoubtedly good at solving problems. That’s what technical experts do. So use that skill when you’re presenting.
Don’t think, “Yikes, I’m giving a presentation. I suck at that.” Think, instead, “I’m presenting information and ideas that will help people solve a problem they face. I can do that.”
You don’t have to look and sound like a polished presenter. You don’t have to jump up and down and exude enthusiasm. Be prepared. Be clear. Be helpful.
Check out How to Plan a Technical Presentation.