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20 Tips for Delivering a Successful Technical Presentation

A collection of proven tips and techniques to help you prepare and deliver an unforgettable technical presentation.
21 Mar 2018

20 Tips for Delivering a Successful Technical Presentation

You’ve been asked to give a presentation about your research at an upcoming conference.  With only a couple weeks before the conference, a combination of fear and excitement has set in.  To help ease your anxiety and help you deliver an awe-inspiring presentation that will be the talk of the conference, we’ve put together a collection of pointers to consider as you prepare:

1.  Know your audience: Ask yourself what they already know in relation to the topic?  How much background information do they need?  Are there any specific agendas in the room?  Do they have a stake in the subject?  This will help you tailor the message so it hits the mark.

2.  Be clear on your objective: Are you trying to challenge assumptions or confirm them?  Are you promoting the implementation of a new technique?  Are you looking for funding?  Are you attempting to build suppor?  Whatever it is, structure the presentation to achieve this specific objective. 

3.  Present one idea:  It’s tempting to want to tell the audience everything.  If you attempt to do this, there’s a good chance they will take away nothing. 4.  

4.  Eliminate jargon: Your aim should be to make your presentation understandable by the least knowledgeable in the group. This means eliminating jargon and acronyms.

5.  Tell stories:  No one remembers data. Everyone remembers stories.  Incorporate real stories into your presentation.  Even better, use personal stories.  This creates a more engaging and memorable presentation. 

6.   10/20/30:  Guy Kawasaki’s rule on presentation is “10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 point font”.  It may not always be possible, but a great target to shoot for

7.  Clarity: At the start of your presentation, let the audience know what you will be covering in the talk.  This helps to get them mentally prepared.

8.  What’s in it for me? Everyone in the audience is asking themselves this question. Frame the presentation in a way that delivers maximum benefit for the audience.  Tell them at the beginning of the presentation how they will be smarter, happier, better prepared… as a result of listening to your presentation. 

9.  Labels people can read:  If you’re using tables or graphs, make sure the labels are big enough for the audience to read.  A graph without clear labels is useless and frustrating for the audience.

10.  Consistent font size & style: Keep it simple. 

11.  Give insight & inspiration, not just information:  There is more to a presentation than just sharing information.  The real value of the presentation is that you can add insight, emotion and feeling to help bring the information/data to life.

12.  Handouts after the presentation:  Don’t give handouts before the presentation, the audience will be reading while you present.  Providing handouts after the presentation lets you focus on the core idea during presentation, with the details available in the handouts.

13.  Use visuals – Relevant pictures and diagrams are memorable.  Visuals help to bring your presentation to life.  However, it’s usually best to steer clear of clipart.

14.  Take a direct path from the base to the goal: As you plan your presentation. define the starting point for your audience and clearly define what it is you’d like to achieve. The presentation should be designed as a direct path from the base to the goal.

15.  Think about structure:  There are many ways to structure a presentation.  Choose a structure that is appropriate for your objective.  Choosing the right structure might be the most important part of creating an effective presentation.

16.  Avoid the curse of knowledge:  You’re likely an expert on the topic you’re presenting about.  This is sometimes a curse as you may assume knowledge and leave out elements that are critical for others to understand “the story”.

17.  Be authentic:  Everyone has a unique style.   Embrace your authentic style.  Don’t try to be something or someone you’re not.

18.  Pause:  When presenting, remember to slow down and take your time.  Consciously build in pauses.  This can create drama and gives the audience a short mental break.    

19.  Speaking is theatre:  Your presentation is a piece of “theatre”.  You are on stage telling a story.  You have a responsibility to your audience to engage and “entertain”.

20.  Practice:  Even the most experienced speakers spend a large amount of time practicing their presentations.  Make sure you leave enough time to practice your presentation.  Practice will also help to ease the nerves as you will feel more confident. 

For more useful tips and tools related to presentation skills visit our On-line Resource Library.

We also provide 1-day workshops on presentation skills for researchers and scientists.  Click HERE to learn more.