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The Ts of a Topnotch Technology Talk
By Chris King

I have mentioned in previous articles that I attend many presentations. And with my current interest and fascination with computers and all things technical, I have, in the past three years, attended a plethora of Technology Talks. Most have been lacking in powerful presentation attributes and turn out to be close to disastrous, even when the presenter is knowledgeable and well-meaning.

I have also started giving Technology Talks and realize that even though the basics of powerful presentation skills should be used, this type of presentation also offers many different challenges to the speaker. In this article, I thought it would be useful and fun to examine the various Ts - some helpful and necessary; some to be overcome and/or avoided. So, mind your Ts and Ts!

Topic(s) - As with planning any type of presentation, we must remember that it is important to choose a topic that will interest the largest number of people who will attend. Some are just naturally inquisitive and want to learn about "everything." However, the majority of those in our audiences are interested in topics that provide solutions to their problems and impact them directly (WIIFM - What's In It For Me?). "How to" topics are always popular.

Trends - Look to the trends to help determine the topics that are hot. Every program I have attended where Microsoft products are being presented and explained is filled to capacity. Not only is Microsoft a hot trend topic, it is also usually performed by well trained Microsoft employees with the best equipment, beautifully designed visuals and well rehearsed programs. If you want to be a Topnotch Technology Talk presenter, attend the Microsoft sponsored events in your area. And, take notes!

Techniques - There is little difference between the presentation skills that a technical or non-technical presenter uses. Whether or not your topic is technical, you must have a passion for it, be enthusiastic, be prepared, have control, keep it lively and interesting, and speak to the level of the audience - neither above nor below.

Trust - Before audience members will accept and listen to us, we must gain their trust. We need to establish rapport by telling them a True Tale that hopefully includes some humor at our expense. Daily outcomes of working with technology often produce the best stories of frustrating experiences that everyone can relate to. Make sure that your audience members know who you are, where you are coming from and why you are there. Once we have their trust and they know we are real people experiencing the same problems they face, the participants will listen and take note of what we are saying.

Triads - I feel that one of the biggest challenges faced by presenting a technology talk is the huge scope to cover, no matter what the topic. So I suggest planning your presentation using our faithful Three major points as I generally advise for all presentations. Triads work because they narrow the topic, they are more readily remembered and will easily keep you on Track.

Time and Timing - Many of the technology talks I have attended have either gone way over the time allotted and/or have not covered what was promised or expected by attendees. Below are some Tips for ways to avoid this Trap:

  • Tactics - These refer to the way you set up the structure of your presentation. I have found that when we are giving a technology talk, listeners often interrupt to ask a burning question. The primary tactic I have used to reduce this diversion is that I tell, or show them on a slide, that we will cover a certain number of points before I take questions. I urge everyone to write down any question that pops into his or her mind, and then if I haven't answered it by the designated time for questions, we will deal with it then.
  • Takeover - Especially in the field of technology, there are those listeners who may be even more knowledgeable than you, the speaker. They will jump in and try to takeover. You must be firm. Thank them for their interesting and helpful comments, however, point out that in the interest of time, you must move on.
  • Tangents - Even with proper planning and preparation, it is the nature of the beast that when we are presenting a technology talk it is so easy to go off on a tangent. I think it is because there is always so much to cover and share, with all of the new products and programs arriving daily. Remind yourself to keep on topic. It might even be a good idea to ask a friend to sit up front and signal you if you start to wander. That same friend could let you know how you are doing Timtwise also.

Teacherly, Tedious and Tiresome - three descriptions that we don't want to encounter as presenters. And the topic of technology can easily lend itself to these adjectives. I think it is because the audience is made up of people at a wide range of technology skills level. There are those who may not - or don't want to - understand what you are talking about. And then there are those who know lots more than we do - the real Techies. Our goal is to make our presentation lively and interesting enough that no-one is bored. I find that during the Q & A session, there may be others in the audience who can answer a question better than I can and I welcome their feedback at that time in the talk.

As long as your audience members leave Thirsting for more, you have succeeded! So, grab your Ts and go to it. I give anyone who is brave enough to face the challenge of presenting a Technology Talk a T for Topnotch!

If you have ideas and suggestions for this Topic, I would love to hear from you.

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