HOW TO: PUBLIC SPEAKING FOR ENGINEERS
Created: Friday, 10 June 2016 12:00
It could be worse…you could be public singing? All kidding aside, most people hate standing up in front of a group and speaking. We’ve all heard this before, but apparently people are more afraid of public speaking than they are of death.
So, what to do? You can Google “public speaking” and find a million articles that mention everything from being authentic to not trying to sell something. These are great articles and you can go through them at your leisure. We, however, are going to take a slightly different path to this topic.
Our number one advice is to understand your audience and understand how your message will affect them. You are speaking because you have a message you want to deliver. They are here because they are, at minimum, open to hearing this message.
So, let’s get started.
Who are you speaking to and what do they hope to learn from you? Take the time to understand who your audience is and what they’re interested in. Perhaps you’re presenting to your colleagues at work and you know they’re interested in delivering results and ending the meeting early and getting back to work. Good. Get to the point and tell them HOW your points will help them deliver results.
Have a conversation.Imagine you’re having a one-on-one conversation with a trusted colleague. They are very knowledgeable about many things, but you just learned about something that could help them in their new job. Now imagine having that conversation with multiple people at the same time. You have information that can help your audience. Have a conversation with them and let them know how your message can benefit them.
Ask them to hold questions for the end. Before you begin, ask them to write down their questions or remember them for the end. This will allow you to give your talk smoothly, without interruptions.
Move around, where possible. Don’t stand behind the lectern and stay there for the entirety of your talk. If possible, move around a little bit, even if it’s just a few steps to the left and then a few steps back. This will add more interest to your presentation.
Talk to them in their language. Every industry has its fair share of jargon, acronyms and other pieces of language that says, “Hey, I’m one of you. I’m a ________”. If you’re talking to a roomful of engineers, you might frame your message from the viewpoint of safety and efficiency. If you’re talking to a roomful of business owners, you might talk about how your topic supports the bottom line.
For example, if you’re trying to persuade a roomful of engineers to adopt a particular innovation, you may say, “This product is maintenance free, intrinsically safe and has a warranty period that’s double that of the industry standard.” With the business people, you may say, “Since this product is maintenance free, you will save on your maintenance costs. The extended warranty means that we can install this system without worrying about whether or not we will need to add repair costs to our expenses.” This is the same message, but framed in two different ways. (What is this mysterious innovation? Why, we’re glad you asked….)
Observe your audience. You may have 43 items to get through for a single slide, but if everyone is fidgeting, checking their emails, and looking at their watches, it may be time to move on. If they’re looking at you, nodding and smiling, continue on. Don’t worry about missing a point here or there. If they have questions, they will ask you.
Include your contact information in your last slide. If you’re using a PowerPoint slide deck, make sure your last slide has your contact information. This gives your audience something to quickly copy down while you’re answering questions.
We hope these tips are helpful to you. Please let us know how you prepare for your presentations!