Kelly Vandever - Communications for Everyone

Common Mistakes Technology Presenters Make… and How to Avoid Them

In Presentation Tips on June 25, 2010 at 6:11 pm

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Technical presentation often get a bad rap.  Over the next few posts, I’ll take a look at the top mistakes technologists make when presenting – and how to avoid them.

Mistake #1 – The Justification Start

Bob wasted my time.  Bob wasted the other audience members’ time.  Why?  Because Bob spent the first seven and a half minutes of a twenty minute presentation telling us about Bob.  Bob’s experience.  The size of Bob’s company.  Bob’s roles before becoming CIO.  Blah, blah, blah, blah Bob.  Bob’s presentation suffered from what I call the “Justification Start.”

Bob is not alone.  Many technologists when asked to present feel like they have to spend the first few minutes of their talk justifying why they are the person standing at the front of the room rather than someone else.  My theory is they realize that collectively the audience is more knowledgeable about a subject than any one person can possibly be.  As a result, the technologist feels guilty or insecure; after all no one is more acutely aware than he is that he doesn’t know absolutely everything about the subject.  Perhaps he feels like he has to prove (to himself?) why he was asked to speak rather than a respected colleague.  Whatever the reason, the technologist spends time talking about his accomplishments, his years of experience, his numerous projects, and on and on, rather than getting to the topic that brought the audience to hear him.

Presentation Fixes

A Proper Introduction

If you’re in an environment where a formal introduction would be appropriate such as presenting at a professional association or at certain business meetings, provide an introduction to your introducer that establishes your credibility.  You introduction should briefly describe why the audience should care about the presentation and why you are the person they should listen to.  For more information crafting a solid introduction, click here.

Let Your Content Speak for You

If an introduction is not appropriate, or if the introduction was botched by your introducer, then just prove yourself by what you have to say.  Your audience may be wondering why they should listen to you.  Answer that question by providing them with valuable information they can use.  Don’t be like Bob.  Don’t waste your audience’s time.  Your self confidence, your content and relevant examples from your experience will answer the question “why listen to you” more effectively than any “Justification Opening” can ever do.

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  1. An excellent point Kelly!

    Your advice is well founded, though I would suggest that to really hit the mark, some advice on the true cause of this ‘undoing’ would be beneficial.

    I concur that the real issue is self confidence. I woudl suggest that Bob has concerns about the validity of his contribution and fears being blind sided by awkward questions or ridicule. If Bob is a technical boffin type he/she may not be ‘quick witted’ enough for a snappy retort like this extravert salesmen, so is left stood there defenceless.

    I would concur that the justification is a feutile attempt to establish himself amongst unknown pears amongst whom he feels belittled.

    My advice would be
    Be accepting of any flaws in your material, welcome any contributions from your audience. As you so eliquently put it the receiving audience knows more about the subject than one human being possibly could. Their feed back should be welcomed, if someone is willing to shout up from an audiece and risk being heckled themselves they obviosuly care about the subject as much as you do.

    I would also suggest that ‘ego stroking’ is at work. I am inclinded to think that anyone who stands up in front of an audience to present is on some level (even if they are not aware of it) looking for some praise or acceptance from others for self gratification.

    The fear of having ones ego ‘dented’ rather than ‘stroked’is what makes presenters unconfident resulting in the ‘justification start’ you so aptly describe.

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