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I work with engineers, helping them prepare and rehearse oral proposals for large government contracts. To make matters worse, my clients are typically working a full-time job at the same time, so I rarely get their undivided attention. I choose to put my energy and to use the team’s time where it matters most – creating a clear and persuasive proposal that can be delivered in the allotted time. For technical presenters, as a rule, and, specifically, for engineers presenting an oral proposal, having highly developed delivery skills is nice.
I simply don’t want my team to suck, at least when it comes to how they deliver their message.
I don’t want them to stare at the screen and read their slides word for word, using a laser pointer to highlight each word as they do. Technical presenters gain credibility by knowing what they’re talking about and explaining it in a way that other people can understand.
Christopher, I wonder if I could suggest one tip on delivery that would be worth sharing for anyone and it doesn’t take much time. When you have a standard conversation – you normally get nods, smiles, agreements back from the listener however when we speak to a group ALL that changes. So we start speaking to blank faces and they don’t usually smile (at least not very often) or nod their heads (some people will but again not a lot) so we are left struggling with critical thoughts about our performance.


So try not to read people’s faces when you speak publicly because your brain will interpret any sign as negative. Of course there is more to delivery than this but when I teach public speaking this is the point that helps a lot of people. Since I’m often working with teams, I tell them that they have to be the ones to give the presenter the smiles and nods that the selection committee will be withholding. Engineers aren’t generally regarded as dynamic presenters, and yet I spend little time trying to improve their delivery skills. But it is considerably less important than being able to articulate a compelling message clearly and concisely. My work is to get them to be good enough presenters, which sometimes means I’ll be happy if they’re not bad presenters. I have them explain their proposal to me over and over again through the entire time I’m working with them.
By the time we do formal rehearsals (often the day before the presentation), they’ve internalized their message.
I think one of the best way to improve the delivery skills of technical presenters (of engineers and the like) is not to focus on their delivery skills.
As a speaker if we are not careful we carry on using normal conversational skills when we are speaking to a group.


And  I don’t want them to speak so fast that they run out of breath and look like they’re about to pass out. I play the part of the audience, asking questions about their proposal, and making them explain it so clearly that I can understand it. Some have merely moved up to the not-as-bad-as-they-used-to-be category, which is fine by me. Focus instead on helping them create a persuasive message and explain what they mean until they are clear and confident. He works as a speech and presentations consultant, an executive speech coach, and an orals coach. As speakers we get many fewer smiles and encouraging nods from out audiences than we get from our conversation partners. I pick apart their slides and make them explain exactly what they mean, many different times in many different ways. It simply makes them self-conscious and more nervous, which in turn makes them even stiffer.



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