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?