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Presenting for Geeks- presentation advice for technical experts

I love geeks but sometimes they don’t seem to love me.

I’m not stupid but I’m often made to feel that way when I hear brilliant engineers, scientists and systems analysts ‘trying’ to explain what they do. It’s a crying shame really, because my starting position is admiration of expertise and excitement of the possibilities of what that expertise can help me achieve in my life and work.

But so, so often, the expert speaker fails to understand the value of their expertise to their audiences – collections of colleagues, C suiters and VC’s, all desperately looking to invest, decide, change, improve or whatever- and concentrates on explaining the ‘guts’ of the idea in indecent detail; at the expense of the ‘benefit’ to them, their family and their business.

If only the ‘eggheads’ remembered that knowledge in business is only as valuable as the competitive advantage that it delivers.  If no advantage comes then the knowledge is redundant, and if the advantage is there, but the expert fails to explain it, then it’s even worse. We had a chance, but we blew it. Knowledge can help us work smarter, faster, more cost-effectively and safely, and we love it when it does.  And if the expert can show us how we can move from ‘gruel today’ to ‘jam tomorrow’ by changing something then we’ll love them forever (or more realistically, ’til some new-fangled notion comes along).

So as I’m writing a piece on this kind of subject for a global client,  an email comes my way from a favourite geek.  Tony Medici does something really complicated for a business called Azzurri Communications, a brilliant hi-tech business based in the UK.  Tony knows his onions and has the knack of bringing abstract stuff to life, so when he recommends an article, I listen.  Here’s what he said-

Hi Jim. Hope all is well. Following your tweets religiously. Came across this whitepaper … Have you blogged on this?

The article is a guide to presenting for technical experts, and is written by Paul Glen-the award-winning author of ‘Leading Geeks’ and long-time columnist for Computerworld. He has worked with geeks and the people who lead them for over 20 years. He also writes a great blog that’s interesting and funny too. The piece is called ‘A Geeks Guide to Presenting to Business People’ and it’s pretty good, and the key points that Paul delivers are as follows-

  1. Discover how they like to be communicated with- level of detail, legnth of time, language
  2. Don’t write a reference guide- Crystallize, simplify, shorten
  3. Use slides as headlines- Talk with them don’t read at them
  4. Verbs are better than nouns- more direct, less abstract, moving to action
  5. Don’t use slides as the handout- otherwise it’s ‘supervised reading

And much more.  Thanks Tony. And if you want some more advice on presenting in business in a way that makes you stand out from the crowd, try our free handouts, or registerI-love-geeks to get our detailed ‘how to’ guides to all aspects of business presenting.



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  1. Pingback: presenting for geeks – Jim Harvey’s Presentation Skills Advice |

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