Dev Your Best Pres

This post was submitted by DevRel Summit 2016 speaker: Tia Over, VP & Chief Strategy Officer, The Mathews Group

Sharing technical knowledge or detailed research in a presentation can be tough. How much should I share? How technically deep should I go? What can I leave out? Answers to these questions start with yet another fundamental question:

“Who is your audience?”

Because, let’s face it: it really isn’t about you. It’s about THEM. And knowing what they need, what they care about and what outcomes they are looking for should be your main driver when determining what- and how- to present.

I’ve worked with scientists, engineers, developers and researchers since 2004. Through innovations, they enable our way of life. They have a great story to tell. But many professionals in the STEM disciplines tell me they want to do a better job talking about the work they do.

Telling the story of your work and why it matters is increasingly important in a competitive landscape as you present information in your day-to- day job and in the broader context of advancing your career. Identifying your key audience, understanding what they need and how you can give it to them, and using the right language and effective non-verbals to land your message are all keys to unlocking positive outcomes. Here are some tips to presenting your best technical self:

SPEAKING. Standing up in front of a group freaks some people out, but speaking skills can make your career. If you can present well and showcase your innovations compellingly, you will win people over: executives, partners, customers, colleagues and investors. Here’s how:

  • Design, build, test. You wouldn’t deploy new technology without validating it first. The same process works for speeches and presentations. Your mirror is a great audience for testing out a presentation. So is your dog. Or your kids. Record your presentation with your smart phone or tablet and review the video with a critical eye. Notice the areas of your presentation where you’re in your groove, and where you stumble.
  • Data tell a story. So should you. Not everyone is fascinated by raw data. What’s interesting is context and conclusions. Even the most technical audience will appreciate you weaving a narrative through your presentation to make it real and help them connect to your work.
  • Be human. We don’t buy into the stereotype that developers and engineers are introverted, stoic and stale. Shatter that low expectation by bringing personality and passion to your presentations. It won’t dilute the potency of your message. Rather, it will draw others to you.

WRITING. Strong, clear writing has much more structure and much less subjectivity than you think. Here’s how to engineer your writing:

  • Your thoughts are complex. Your writing doesn’t have to be. Simple, declarative sentences can get you far. Consider how much detail is really necessary. Often, information that is relevant to a program or technical review is overkill for other audiences.
  • Developers and engineers are doers. Show that in your writing. Verbs are great tools. They can be more descriptive than adjectives and adverbs. You can say, “She walked slowly,” or you can say, “She lumbered.” Make sure you are using active voice — “The robot tackled me,” not, “I was tackled by the robot.”
  • A sentence is a system. Think of writing as systems engineering. Understand how parts of speech work together. Sentence diagramming is old-school, but for left-brained folks it can help you see how words fit together.
  • You’re good with technology — use it. Grammar and spell-checks, apps such as Hemingway, AP Stylebook Mobile, even a dictionary and thesaurus, are available at your fingertips.

Want to learn more? Come meet me at my “Talk Tech: Communicate Your Work & Why It Matters” at DevRel Summit.

Follow Tia on Twitter and The Mathews Group on Facebook