Friday, August 06, 2010

Public Speaking: Technical Presentations

Are you ready for a sweeping generalization? Well here it is. Technical and
financial information can be boring and dry. There, I said it. Technical and
financial presenters need the information in this book more than anyone. The
good thing is that they don't have to use too much of the information in this
book to dramatically increase their effectiveness.

A survey of the faculty of engineering schools showed that 15% of an
engineer's future success depends upon engineering skills, while 85% depends
upon communication skills. The problem is that most engineering schools don't
emphasize communication skills. There are so many numbers and equations
flying around that no one worries too much about whether someone can explain
them or not.

At conferences, many technical presenters are picked on the basis of their
research. Many of them hate presenting or even being with people. That is why
they chose a profession that hides them away in a lab. Some brilliant technical
people think the audience just isn't smart enough to understand their concepts.
They take no responsibility at all for making their information understandable
and interesting. They think it's "Mickey Mouse" for them to try to be

Why are most technical presenters horrendously boring to a general
audience? The technical professions train people to look for detail. If a detail is
missed, the whole project falls apart. A techie once told me, "When I'm talking
to you or to an audience, I m carefully building a bridge in my mind. I'm going
to tell you about every part of that bridge whether you want to hear it or not."
That might be OK for a technical audience that has to go out and build the same
bridge, but it is bomb city to an audience who is only interested in finding out
where the bridge is going.

Was that techie at fault? Not really. He was just applying the learning
template he lived by all the way through school.

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