A Geek’s Guide To Presenting To Business People

If you want to grow in your career, you’re going to have to present to business people — the phrase we geeks use to refer to everyone who isn’t technical. And you’ll need to present well. Successful geeks are the ones who can bridge the divide between technical and business groups. If you invest in preparation, not only will you accomplish your goals, you’ll find that giving presentations isn’t difficult at all.

Staff presentation image: Shutterstock

Discover How They Like To Be Communicated With

Every audience has different requirements for how they consume information. Presenting to marketers is different from presenting to finance people. They each have their own language and habits of thought that you need to respect. If you can, talk to someone who represents the audience and ask for some hints about how they consume information. Perhaps the best way to get at this information is to ask for examples of the most effective presentations they have experienced. Embedded in those stories

Don’t Write A Reference Guide

I’ve noticed that presentations are often organized around how the speaker thinks about the topic. For geeks, that usually means a well ordered, highly structured, perfectly categorized list of all relevant information. This approach is great … if you’re writing a reference book. Not so great if you want an audience to understand and retain what’s important. It needs to be organized in a way that is easy to consume, not to refer to. There’s a reason that people rarely read the Encyclopedia Britannica from front to back.

Use Slides As Headlines

PowerPoint is both a blessing and a curse for presenters. It can help the audience follow the flow of your presentation, but it can also draw their attention away from what you want to accomplish and confuse them. The biggest mistake presenters make is using bullets as reminders of what they want to talk about. You end up using the slides as a script, and the audience gets distracted by reading and evaluating the information on the slide instead of listening to you. If the audience can get everything from the presentation by reading the slides, then you’ve got too much on them. The slides should just be there to serve as a visual cue as to what’s important about what you’re talking about. Think of slides as a series of headlines. I rarely use more than 10 words on a slide.


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