The goal in technical presentations is to enhance credibility. Teaching technical professionals to think about comportment, projection, enunciation and other traditional presentation tactics distracts them from the message at hand.
I spend less time on traditional presentation techniques because these exacerbate the problems technical professionals have with public presentation.
How do we Coach Oral Presentations?
After weeks of frenzy, preparing materials for their big presentation, the group began several days of rehearsal. When Laura Ricci arrived, the scene was a bit tense:
One fellow had broken out in hives on half his body, with red scaly patches creeping up his neck and down his arm. Another fellow was deadpan every time he got up to speak. And yet another person would tap, fidget and twiddle the pointer throughout his presentation.
After watching their rehearsal, I made a few suggestions for improving the content. For instance, one section could be edited to 10 seconds to allow time for a more thorough explanation about a superb example. Then, I met with each of the team members individually.
This person was under extreme pressure. People might be laid off if this contract was lost, and he was concerned he might be one of them. I set a cue for a time when he was in a solid frame of mind, confident, and resourceful. Then I showed him how to use the cue. As he rehearsed, he would activate this cue whenever he felt the tense.
The next day his run-through was smooth and calm. I sent him off-site for R&R for two days until the presentation, hoping the rash would heal. On presentation day his symptoms had subsided, and he used his cue every minute or so during his presentation.
Deadpan dull takes a bow
Deadpan presentation is a common symptom of stage fright. We worked together, talking about projects on which his performance was outstanding. The animation when he was telling a story about his best work was engaging.
We edited his presentation to begin by telling one story. This would allow him to create the atmosphere he would be most comfortable in, and once started, he could stay in that state of comfort for the rest of his presentation. This approach worked and the clients raved about the story.
Fidgeting to captivating
The fidgeter is a good example of someone who needs to move around to feel comfortable.
First, I checked my hunch with a test. It convinced both of us that he did his best when moving. He offered to try to stand quietly, but I explained that we WANTED him to move around. We didn’t want him to use anything less than his best capabilities for this presentation!
We made several changes to his presentation. And I explained a variety of methods he could use in other settings.
During the presentation he answered one of the hardest questions with aplomb.
The team won the contract for which they were competing.