Making a Technical Presentation – Know Your Purpose

Today I’m the host of a call-in radio programme on whether technical information is persuasive or informative. Here’s your scenario:

An Audit Manager at a major audit firm has to make a presentation to members of staff of 4 departments on the new approach to auditing which the company was adopting. The employees are not being asked to vote or approve the plan in any way because the company has already decided on this plan. The speaker’s job is to explain how the new method will work, patiently answer questions, and hand out the new documentation that the employees will need to work with.

The phone lines are now open…

While I wait for your call…

A speech to inform, describes, defines, or demonstrates something e.g. the current state of Parent Teachers Associations in your country or a report on the activities of the Paint Dryers Inc. This type of speech is not difficult and a new Public Speaking kid on the block should be able to master it.
However, in terms of technical information, do remember that depending on your audience, your information could be a bit heavy and requires more skill and care in the way you present it.

The purpose of such a speech is to convince your audience to change their beliefs, feelings, motives, conduct or point of view. A speaker will skillfully blend logic and emotional appeal supported by a strong call to action, to achieve this purpose.

In this case the call to action is often weak or worse, overlooked. It is such a missed opportunity to deliver excellent information, appeal to the emotions of your audience and then fail to ask them to take some specific action.

Hello! We have a caller on the line? You say that the audit manager must be persuasive? I agree with you. If he does not persuade his managers to accept the new methods, he could find that he might have a problem on his hands with the implementation.

Hello! We have another caller? You think that the manager must inform the staff about the new methods? I agree with you. The staff has to have very clear information to help them to understand the new methods.

Most times technical people are invited (or required) to speak because it is believed that they have some good information to share. And most technical people just say “yes” without even wondering “what is expected of me…”

You can decide what your purpose will be and you should, because this will significantly impact how you structure your presentation. Do you want to inform? Garner support for a project? Or persuade the audience to take some specific action? Again, analysing your audience will help you to decide how best to achieve your purpose.

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