Too 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?