Five Mistakes To Avoid During a Technical Presentation - Page 1

May 27, 2009

Laurent Duperval

The technical speech is one of the most common types of speeches. It often focuses on a singular issue and provides new insight, information, or solutions to that issue. Although it is the main driver of the technical speech, focusing solely on content is not sufficient to keep the audience engaged. This article presents five mistakes to avoid in order to deliver an effective technical speech.

When someone tells you that you need to attend a technical presentation, what is the first thing that goes through your mind? Do you imagine yourself watching a parade of numbers, statistics, and data points? Do you imagine an unending list of boring and unreadable PowerPoint slides?

Unfortunately, this is frequently the case. Furthermore you will often see the same mistakes from one speaker to another. You can distinguish yourself from the majority of other speakers by avoiding the same common mistakes.

Here are five things to avoid the next time you need to give a technical presentation:

Drawing attention to your anxiety -

  • “I'm sorry I'm not used to doing speeches.”
  • “I found out at the last minute that I had to do a speech and I didn't have much time to prepare.”
  • “I really don't know what to say.”

Too often, an inexperienced speaker will use one of these sentences (or variations thereof) to begin the speech. Generally, the speaker does so to apologize and to get clemency from the audience. In still further situations, that speaker will apologize every time he or she makes a mistake and will offer some excuse. The audience will notice on its own that you are ill at ease. When you mention it over and over, you only encourage them to pay attention to that fact. How do you avoid this issue?

Here are a few solutions:

  • Prepare as early as possible
  • Use humor when you make a mistake.
  • Trust yourself when you speak to the audience.
  • Focus on the audience's needs, not on how you feel.
  • Refuse to do the speech without adequate preparation time.

Forgetting the audience - That is, forgetting to maintain constant contact with the audience. Speaking to a group is like a dialogue, even if there is only one person doing the speaking and the rest of the audience is only listening. Your role as a speaker is to make sure that your audience is following you throughout your speech.

When you speak, maintain visual contact with your audience. Don't get distracted by your PowerPoint slides, your notes, or anything else that takes your attention away from your audience. When you maintain visual contact with the audience, you can see in their eyes and in their posture if they understand, if they are paying attention, or if they are bored. This will allow you to adjust more easily to their state of mind.

Incorrect use of PowerPoint - As a presentation tool PowerPoint is overused. Furthermore, it is often improperly used. It is used to show large amounts of text when it should be used to display visual information. It's used as a memory jogger instead of a presentation aid. All the emphasis is put on the PowerPoint slides even though the slides should only add to the presentation.

Most audiences are sick of PowerPoint presentations nevertheless many speakers still believe that PowerPoint adds “professionalism” to their speech. This is only true if it is used effectively. Otherwise, it makes you look like an amateur. “Less is more” is a good philosophy when using PowerPoint. There is elegance in simplicity. A simple slide is more evocative than an over-charged one. A slide with no animation is more appreciated than a slide that uses all of PowerPoint's special effects.

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Tags: IT career, IT Leadership, IT performance, public speaking,

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