5 things you need to know when presenting to technical audiences

1. Know your audience

The most important thing to understand is your audience. Even amongst technical crowds there are levels to which you drill down and your tone and pitch must be perfect to keep them engaged but also not go way over their heads.

In my view they fall into 3 catergories

  1. The helicopter pilot — this is a person who doesn’t want to get bogged down with the details but want to understand the core concept and how they all fit together, generally speaking this is the most common type of audience. These guys are generally happy with a demo and don’t need further info.
  2. The Mechanic — this is someone who wants to know how the parts of any idea fit together with details of its implementation. It is not uncommon for these audiences to want to see a coding walk through and explanation of the decisions made.
  3. The feeder — this person needs to know exactly how the thing works with blue prints code and a complete code autopsy. These audiences are generally suited to a workshop rather than a presentation.

In the real world you will have a mixture of people, so you will have to cater for the categories of that are outside the majority of your audience you can do this by preparing slides for the feeders with your references and the have your code ready for the mechanics and maybe some diagrams for the helicopter pilots.

2. Soft skills

As with any type of presentation you have to get the basics right. Your AV has to be on point, you need to speak clearly, at an appropriate volume and make plenty of eye contact with the audience.

Don’t rush your words and if you get ruffled just stop and gather your thoughts. When speaking through technical ideas you always have to give context before you get to the details so always. Be aware that there may be people who don’t know what you are talking about, so always give context or set expectations before your present. This can be done with a primer or a pre presentation list or prerequisites.

3. Energy & Humour

Make light of the situation don’t take yourself that seriously as this could lead to you have a meltdown on stage. Take your time and try to enjoy it. Make jokes that you would laugh because the chances are the people you present to are techies like you.

4. Get your facts straight

DO NOT WAFFLE. You will get pulled up on any points that are not clear and if you are not pulled up people will just think you are a Idiot who doesn’t really know what they are doing. So be clear about what you know and what you don’t know and stick to the script. If you are doing any coding walk throughs make sure you know your material and pre-empt the common questions and have answers prepared.

5. Demos

Demos go wrong. It just happens we have seen it happen at million dollar tech launches and happens even when you try to show someone something that has always been working at your desk. So always have a video or screen shots to hand that allow you to talk through it.

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