Both as a listener and a presenter, I have discovered that technology presentations have a different set of approaches, requirements and challenges from the speaking venues I have been involved with in the past. In this article I share some of the dos and don’ts I have learned.
Be sure to know up front what the expectations are. This is always a good idea when it comes to giving a presentation, but even more important in the area of technology. I attended a program recently that was to cover the future of wireless telecommunications. The presenter started by covering the basic of basics about cell phone reception. He never even touched on the topic advertised. Most of the attendees knew more in this field than the presenter, so were visibly disappointed. If asked to present in a technology area, make sure that the meeting planner understands exactly what you are planning and that it is at the level the group expects.
Preparation is as important as always, but with a different twist. Just because we are computer savvy doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t be organized and prepared. I have attended an hour seminar at a high-tech trade show where the presenter had been asked to speak because he was a knowledgeable computer “geek.” He had done nothing to prepare, had probably never spoken to a group before, wandered around his topic and put most attendees to sleep.
Beware the questions. Because of the wide scope of every area of technology combined with the knowledge base of the audience, I have attended a huge number of presentations where the hands go up immediately and the speaker is expected to answer all levels of questions. I have discovered with technology related subjects that the most effective plan of action is to set a specific time in the presentation for questions. Otherwise, the whole program can get completely out-of-hand, people start sharing what they know with others, and your audience will leave unfulfilled and disgruntled.
The technology audience is different from most audiences. I am used to audiences that respond with nods, smiles and obvious enjoyment. I have found that those who attend technology presentations tend to be less demonstrative. They may be learning and enjoying as much as other audience participants, but they seldom show it. This is why it is important to designate a chunk of time for questions.
Know your purpose, but make sure that it adheres to the description of your presentation. There are different reasons why we present. One of them is to gain visibility. If we are in business, we hope that those who attended our presentation will think of us when they need someone who performs our services. This happens, but it is not the main reason we are presenting.
Pay attention to the equipment details. As technology speakers, we are expected even more than others to be on top of the use of a projector, our laptop or the supplied computer, and whatever program we have chosen for our presentation (often PowerPoint). My suggestion is to know exactly what will be available. If your talk will take place in a large room ask for a microphone. I also suggest that you arrive early, so you can check out the equipment ahead of time.
Even though technology presentations are as challenging as the world of computing, they are rewarding.