If your last technical presentation resulted in a series of blank stares, bored expressions and constant phone scrolling then you’re doing something wrong. You’ve spent months on this project, it’s stolen more hours than you’d care to admit and has been the source of much celebration on your team since it’s successful completion. Yet no one outside of this circle really understands, or seems to care.
Follow these tips and you can learn how to not only survive your next briefing, but maybe even inspire your non-technical colleagues in the process.
Know your audience
This is a vital first step. Whether it’s a workshop, conference or business meeting, do some research on those attending, why they are attending and any previous experience they might have in this area. Doing so will enable you to tailor your content in a way that grabs their attention and keeps it.
If it’s a small group it might be useful to ask them how familiar they are with the subject before you start. It can also help to warm them up and break down barriers. Don’t assume that they know the basics. This can alienate them from the get go. Worse again, don’t assume they have little knowledge on the subject and sound condescending.
It’s important that not only your content is relatable, but that you are too. You can do this by having an approachable demeanour and building rapport with the listeners. This is key to effective communication, whether you are explaining Facebook to your best friends’ granny or explaining to your manager why data modelling takes so darn long. Don’t alienate them with acronyms and jargon. Instead use language that ties in with their vernacular.
Focus on the relevant points
While the finer details may set you and your fellow techies’ hearts racing, they will fly right over the heads of everyone else. If it’s not vital then leave it out. Make sure the subject material focuses on what is being achieved and why it matters to your audience. How will it make their lives easier? For example, those working in the finance department will want to know how a certain technology can improve costs and time lines.
Don’t overcomplicate the language
Keep it succinct and easy to understand. Stories and analogies are great tools for explaining complicated concepts. Use a common denominator, stories that they can relate to in their everyday life. If you have done some research or got to know your audience before the discussion, then this will be easier. You can use an analogy that relates to the industries or experience of those present.
Let’s get visual
Visuals are a powerful form of communication. The fastest growing forms of social media last year were Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram. Even if your audience aren’t Snapchatting each other or pinning their business inspiration, chances are most of your audience are visual learners – 65% of people learn more effectively this way. Images can help break the ice and can provide breaks in between concepts, allowing it all to sink in.
Being able to tell a story that connects with the audience is a vital component in business-facing technical roles. Being able to articulate findings to others in a way that can inspire innovation and novel insight is an invaluable and attractive quality for employers. It is a skill worth mastering for those working in IT. This weekend try and explain the most complicated aspect of your job to your family or friends. They may even thank you for it and your job will be less of a mystery.