How to Give an Effective Technical Presentation

By Geoffrey James

Large software sales efforts almost always involve presentations to large numbers of IT personnel. Many software sales reps wrongly believe the same skills they use during one-on-one meetings will work when presenting to a larger technical audience. The standard behavior for IT groups is to view a presentation as an opportunity to poke holes in the presentation. This is the last thing that you want when your objective is to move your sale forward. To be effective, you’ll need to recraft your approach. Here’s how.

Set clear communication objectives prior to speaking. Your objectives are the action(s) you want your audience to take. Without a clear idea of these goals, you cannot effectively communicate. Determine the concerns of your target audiences and ask yourself what action you’d like them to take as a result of your presentation.

Make your point early. As you build your presentation slides, avoid the outline-style agenda slide that engineers typically use in their own presentations. Instead, in your first slide address how the presentation is going to address their concerns and needs.

Invert your sales arguments so conclusions come first. Your audience is less likely to poke holes in your presentation if they understand, from the start, where it’s headed. Assemble your presentation in the opposite way you’d write a paper: conclusion, facts, substantiating data, overall premise. By providing the context up front you avoid holes and digressive questions.

Establish group rapport at the beginning of the presentation. Start with a powerful opening that’s either challenging or amusing. Relate a common experience and establish a communication connection. Help your audience believe your message by establishing your credentials and those of your company.

Pepper your presentation with meaningful sound bites. These words concisely and effectively deliver your primary position on the issues in a positive and memorable manner. Effective sound bites are brief, attention getting, accurate and memorable. For example: You can get to a real human being in our support center faster than most companies can get you to an operator (memorable). As opposed to: We have excellent customer support capabilities (dull).