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Technical PowerPoint Presentations

Is PowerPoint the Right Tool to Present Highly Technical Information?

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Technical PowerPoint presentations

Technical PowerPoint presentations

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Related Article - 10 DOs and DON'Ts for Technical Presentations

Recently, I was interviewed for my opinion on a two part question about PowerPoint. Please keep in mind that my answer is only my opinion and yours may differ.

Firstly:
Do you agree that PowerPoint may not be appropriate for highly technical information? Or as the primary source of information for critical decision-making?

Secondly:
When presenters who are using PowerPoint do need to present technical information, what steps can they take for best effect? For example, should the presenter supplement slides with handouts? Do something else?

My Answer:
I strongly agree that PowerPoint should not be used as a primary source for information in any situation, and especially when critical decisions need to be made. In certain circumstances, highly technical information could be showcased on slides, perhaps in the form of charts or maps, but only to highlight the key points of the presentation to an audience who fully understands the jargon and language of the topic.

Having said that, there is nothing wrong with using PowerPoint to enhance your talk.

Things to consider:

  • The first step for any presenter, (and I might add, the most forgotten step), is to identify and analyze his audience.

    Is it a highly technical crowd who understands all the jargon, or comprised of colleagues who definitely need to know the information, but in layman’s terms? Direct the presentation accordingly so comprehension is fitting for all. However, a concentrated effort is needed to make informed decisions. Not many people could fully or properly comprehend highly technical information during a presentation.

  • Any presenter “worth his salt” would pinpoint three or four key points and expand only on those. More than that and the audience will lose focus. He should certainly know everything there is to know about his topic, in case of questions, but limit his talk to the critical information.

  • In my opinion, PowerPoint (or any presentation software program for that matter) is one of the most misused software on the market today. It was/is never intended to be a platform for delivering lengthy and/or detailed information – technical or otherwise.

    There should be nothing more than the briefest of facts shown on slides … rather like a table of contents. This provides the speaker with prompts to keep his talk focused in an orderly manner, and the audience can follow along without feeling overwhelmed.

    See also - How to Lose an Audience in 10 Easy Ways

Handouts

  • Handouts comprised of miniature versions of the slides (called thumbnails) with spaces for note taking, can be distributed to the audience to use during the presentation.

  • When the presentation is of a technical nature, it is a must to supplement the talk with a package of relevant details of all the information presented and any additional key data. This should be in the form of articles and other documents. Data, charts and graphs can be created using spreadsheet software.

    This separate package of handouts (in addition to the handouts given out for use during the presentation) should be given to the audience only after the presentation is complete. The decision makers then have the opportunity to spend the necessary time to study the details and make informed decisions.

As a side note to the speaker …
The speaker should have his personal copy of his notes, either created in a word processing program or generated on the slide in the form of speaker notes. These are never displayed to the audience and can be referred to in the form of printouts to himself, or onscreen, using a dual monitor for the presentation. In this dual monitor “presenter view”, one monitor displays what the audience sees, while the second monitor displays the speaker notes, only to the presenter.

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