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Posts Tagged ‘Technical communication’

Myths About Technical Talks

In Business Presentations, Communication, Public Speaking on May 18, 2017 at 12:54 PM

too much data

Myths About Technical Talks

Speaking Tip 100

Talks about technical subjects, especially when delivered to technical audiences, tend to be, well, technical.  Speakers go into great depth on the details of the subject while often missing the one thing the audience is really interested in: what it all means.

Many years ago I was working with a scientist who banded birds and tracked their flights across the Pacific from California to Japan. In his presentation, he discussed the 46 types of transmitters he decided not to use. When I asked him why he did this, he replied – “my audience wants to know about the tools I used”. I explained the audience was more interested in what he learned by tracking the birds, a detail he overlooked.

In 1992, Hewlett-Packard labs in Palo Alto, California conducted a survey to determine what technical workers want to hear from other presenters.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom that says the technical audience is eager for a “data dump”, the survey results reflect people’s preference for talks that are well organized and easy to follow. Technical speakers who try to show how much they know by making their presentation complex would be more successful if instead they focused on simplifying their message. It’s a classic example of ‘less is more’”. *

Rather than wanting more technical detail, techies wanted:

  • More concise information
  • More effective style
  • Better visual aids

When dealing with technical information, rather than give the details, tell your audience what it all means. Avoid explaining the ins and outs, the details, and technical specifications – just tell your audience what it means to them. If your audience wants to know the details, they will ask.

Good presentations focus on what their audience wants to know rather than what the speaker thinks they should say.

* Frederick, Gilbert, “The Technical Presentation”, Technical Communication May 1 1992

iSpeakEASY helps people present information in an exciting and relevant manner. Our clients accomplish more in less time. Contact us for information on individual coaching or group workshops.

© 2013 by iSpeakEASY. All Rights Reserved.

Myths About Technical Talks

In business, Communication, executive coaching, Public Speaking, sales, Uncategorized on October 2, 2013 at 9:22 PM

Talks about technical subjects, especially when delivered to technical audiences, tend to be, well, technical.  Speakers go into great depth on the details of the subject while often missing the one thing the audience is really interested in: what it all means.

Many years ago I was working with a scientist who banded birds and tracked their flights across the Pacific from California to Japan. In his presentation, he discussed the 46 types of transmitters he decided not to use. When I asked him why he did this, he replied – “my audience wants to know about the tools I used”. I explained the audience was more interested in what he learned by tracking the birds, a detail he overlooked.

In 1992, Hewlett-Packard labs in Palo Alto, California conducted a survey to determine what technical workers want to hear from other presenters.

“Contrary to conventional wisdom that says the technical audience is eager for a “data dump”, the survey results reflect people’s preference for talks that are well organized and easy to follow. Technical speakers who try to show how much they know by making their presentation complex would be more successful if instead they focused on simplifying their message. It’s a classic example of ‘less is more’”.*

Rather than wanting more technical detail, techies wanted:

  • More concise information
  • More effective style
  • Better visual aids

When dealing with technical information, rather than give the details, tell your audience what it all means. Avoid explaining the ins and outs, the details, and technical specifications – just tell your audience what it means to them. If your audience wants to know the details, they will ask.

Good presentations focus on what their audience wants to know rather than what the speaker thinks they should say.

 

* Frederick, Gilbert, “The Technical Presentation”, Technical Communication May 1 1992

iSpeakEASY helps people present information in an exciting and relevant manner. Our clients accomplish more in less time. Contact us for information on individual coaching or group workshops.

© 2013 by iSpeakEASY. All Rights Reserved.

Related articles

5 Myths About Technical Talks

In Business Networking Groups, Business Presentations, Delivery, PowerPoint, Public Speaking on June 12, 2011 at 9:59 AM

Summarized from an article by Fredrick Gilbert. Originally published in Technical Communication in May 1992

The tone of the technical presentation is impersonal, objective. The content is often data, statistics, and facts. The tricky part is that this objective information has to be presented to subjective human beings. To hold their attention and get their agreement, the technical presenter also must draw on general principles of human communication. The first is to make the content easy to understand.

HP Labs Survey

Last year we conducted a survey at Hewlett-Packard Labs in Palo Alto, California, to determine what technical presenters wanted to hear from other presenters. We found that rather than wanting more technical detail, they wanted more concise organization, more effective style, and better visual aids (usually overhead transparencies). As one project manager put it, “Don’t tell me the details of how you got the data, just tell me what the data means.”

Contrary to conventional wisdom that says the technical audience is eager for a “data dump,” our survey results reflect people’s concern that talks be well organized and easy to follow. Technical speakers who try to show how much they know by making their presentation complex would be more successful if they focused instead on simplifying the message. It’s a classic example of “less is more.” Simplifying and repeating the “core message” results in increased agreement and retention.

Summary

Technical presentations are similar to, and different from, non-technical presentations. They are different in that they focus on physical events or data rather than people. The technical audience already has specialized knowledge about the topic. Like people in any audience, though, their time is valuable, and they don’t want to be bored.

To make your next technical presentation successful, remember these guidelines.

  • Deliver the talk with enough style and audience involvement to keep them interested.
  • Keep the content clear and the organization easy to follow.
  • Reduce the number of visual aids and keep them big, bold, and colorful.

 

MYTHS ABOUT TECHNICAL TALKS

  • Content is everything. Style is unimportant.
  • Technical people are very bright, so it’s okay to do a data dump.
  • The overhead projector is more important than the speaker.
  • Enthusiasm is offensive. Analytical people expect boring presentations.
  • Technical talks are simply informational; they’re not meant to be persuasive.

This is a summary of an article origianally printed in 1992. For a copy of the full article, send an an email to ethan@speakeasy.net.

iSpeakEASY offers offers workshops for scientists and other technical professionals. Contact us for more information on how you can improve your technical presenations

Frederick Gilbert is president of Frederick Gilbert Associates, Inc., a presentation skills training firm in Redwood City, CA. 1-800-828-1909. http://www.allbusiness.com/technology/306693-1.html

 

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