How to Improve a Technical Presentation
If you are a technical expert — in engineering,
programming, research, hi-tech, biotech, or medicine — you
are probably being called upon more and more frequently to
And more and more frequently you are
expected to communicate highly technical information to
diverse audiences with differing knowledge levels and
Here are three ways you can improve
just about any technical presentation:
If you're like most technical experts I coach, you
try to say everything you know about your subject in all
its complexity and at great length. You cram as much
information into your presentations as you possibly can.
And you use twice as many PowerPoint slides as you have
any hope of explaining in the allotted time.
You're afraid other people will think you're incompetent
or uninformed if you speak simply and to the point.
As a result, you end up talking really fast, leaving
little time for questions, and boring much of your
Think, instead, that it's your responsibility to
understand your subject so thoroughly that you can make it
simple and clear enough for your audience to understand:
Know what you want to accomplish
in the time you have. Ask yourself, what do you want
the audience to do with the information you're
Prepare a clean, logical outline
that presents your information in bite-sized pieces.
Decide how much information you
can explain in the time you have available.
(Ruthlessly eliminate interesting, but non-essential
Limit the number of your slides.
Allow one and a half to two minutes, on average, per
slide. (If you have more than one slide per minute,
rethink the purpose of your presentation.)
State Your Conclusion Up Front.
You can make your presentation more interesting and
easier to follow, if you reverse your customary way of
You're accustomed to building your case by presenting your
data and line of reasoning first, and ending with your
conclusion. Most people — especially most non-technical
people — will stop listening after the second or third
piece of data so they never get to your most important
Try this instead: State your conclusion up front. Then
present your supporting data and explain your reasoning.
Limit yourself to the most compelling information and
arguments. You don't have to explain everything. (See
above.) You can let people know there is more to explore
or explain, and you'd be happy to do so if they have
Use the Q&A Session
Give people time to ask questions. For every
twelve to fifteen minutes that you talk, set aside five
minutes for Q&A. Your audience will become much more
active in your presentation. And, because you've treated
them like participants — not just passive listeners — they
are much more likely to cooperate with you. This, in turn,
will make you much more confident and at ease. Check out How to Handle Questions.
The Witt Communications Newsletter contains advice for
improving your ability to present yourself and your ideas in
a way that wins people's cooperation. It comes out once a
month. Subscribe here.
For information about how Chris Witt can help you become a more
powerful speaker, contact