Three Questions to Ask in Presenting Technical Information
When you’re presenting a lot of technical information, you owe your audience three things:
- Explanation: What does your information mean? The facts don’t speak for themselves. It’s your responsibility to study and evaluate them, and to come to some understanding of what they mean. And then it’s job to help your audience understand them.
State your thesis or your conclusion up front. If you set out fact after fact after fact, thinking you’re building your case, you’ll lose your audience’s attention. Begin, instead, by stating the meaning of the facts and then present the facts.
- Evaluation: What is the value, the significance, or the import of the matter you’re discussing? Why should the audience — or should the audience — care about it? Is it — whatever it is (a trend, a new market, a product idea, etc.) — a good thing or a bad thing? A threat or an opportunity or a blessing in disguise? A matter of urgency or something that can be considered later? How does it rate in comparison to other matters?
What’s at stake in making an evaluation is your judgment — your professional opinion based on experience, knowledge, and careful consideration. Many presenters, especially technical presenters, are hesitant to offer their judgments. (They seem to think that doing so might compromise their objectivity.) But I think you owe your audience the benefit of your judgment.
- Recommendation: What do you recommend doing with the matter you’re discussing? In business at least, knowledge isn’t an end unto itself. Knowledge informs — or should inform — action. After you’ve understood and evaluated the information at hand, what do you think should be done about or with it?
If you’re presenting to people who have the authority to make the final decision, you may want to offer a couple of recommendations (no more than three). But you should be prepared and willing to weigh in on which option you think is best.
Answer these three questions – 1. What does it mean? 2. Why should we care? and 3. What should we do? — and your audience will thank you for it.
Do you agree or disagree?