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How to Make an Effective Technical Speech

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speaking into a microphone
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Making an effective speech on technical topics isn't always the easiest task in the world, but with some thought and a little planning ahead you can make a great speech that will grab and keep hold of your audience's attention.

When giving a technical speech one of the key points to remember is to make the topic sound dynamic. As a part of this process it is a good idea to use layman's terms and avoid technical jargon and acronyms. Another idea to consider is including a visual aid, such as a PowerPoint presentation or handouts, one that either summarizes or helps explain technical concepts in more detail.

Here's how you can use these key points to help you make an effective speech on a technical topic:

Use Layman's Terms

This one is a critical point. You won't be able to effectively get your audience's attention if you use terminology that doesn't make sense in everyday language. Using technical terminology is probably one of the biggest mistakes many speech-givers make when they need to talk about highly technical or niche industry topics.

audience watching presentation
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Avoid Jargon and Acronyms

Along with using everyday language, a good rule of thumb to follow is to not use any technical jargon or acronyms at all in a technical speech, however if you must use it, it is essential to explain it to your listeners. Chances are a good portion of your audience will not be familiar with industry talk or the acronyms associated with businesses, processes or technology.

Don't make the assumption people will know what these terms mean because it's a high probability a good percentage of the audience will not. The only exception may be if you are in an internal or industry-centric meeting where everyone speaks the same jargon or uses the same acronyms and, even in that case, sometimes it is still a gamble. Before you consider using jargon and acronyms, be sure you know your audience well.

Make Your Talk Sound Energetic

As you plan your speech, try and break down the larger technical words into ones that will be able to be understood and related to by everyone in attendance. If you must use a technical term be prepared to explain it. How you start your speech off is crucial. If you jump right into the technical aspects of your speech you can quickly lose your audience, especially if you're talking to a diverse audience that may or may not be technically inclined. When you introduce your technical topic, try and say something interesting that will capture the attention of both people who understand the topic and those who do not.

The beginning is often the hardest part of the speech, but if you choose phrases everyone can understand and relate to and you'll be off to a good start. Even the most mundane topic can be interesting if you add a little pizzazz to the topic. Storytelling is often a good way to ease into the topic. You can approach this in the form of a short anecdote, memoir, or comparison to a non-technical topic that can be related to by everyone in attendance. See if you can't come up with a good joke to tell. As an article published by Business Insider in August 2014 points out, the first few minutes are crucial, but it is important to hold your audience's attention for the first 15 minutes. It can make or break any speech. 1 At some point you may  have to present statistics, numbers or facts, but the beginning is not where you want to do this, get the energy going first.

Energy Ball
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If you can keep the energy of the room high during a technical talk,  you will increase your chances of success.

Use PowerPoint or Handouts

It is usually a good idea to plan to provide diagrams and other pictorials that help explain the more technical concepts that are hard to visualize without being able to "see" the thoughts.  You can illustrate an example or draw an analogy and then make copies of your visual to pass around the room. A PowerPoint presentation or other type of handout can also help accomplish this objective. Either way, adding a visual for your audience is a nice accompaniment to your speech. These visual aids can go a long way in helping explain technical terms, especially to audiences that are not familiar with industry terms, but have a potential need for your products or services.

Mingle Beforehand

Giving any speech can be tough, but the added challenge of talking about a topic the audience may or may not be fully versed in can be tricky. However, with the right approach it can successfully be done. An article published by Life Hack also recommends before the speech to take a few minutes to mingle with the audience, this will increase your own comfort level. 2 It also provides a personal connection to the people listening, which in turn may help them tune in more if they have interacted with you beforehand.

Presenting a technical speech does have its challenges, but with some thought, planning and practice, you can draw your audience in and get your point across at the same time. The main point is to connect with your audience and draw a picture with your words (complemented by the aforementioned visual aids) on how the technical information relates to their lives. This is the same whether you are speaking to colleagues, industry members or potential customers. Before giving your talk, consider what terms they would or would not understand.

One of the biggest challenges technical speakers find are their audiences tune out when they think they won't need the information, but if you can successfully connect the dots for them as to why the information you are presenting is useful, you will have a much easier time holding their attention during your technical speech.

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Bibliography

  1. Jacquelyn Smith "5 Tips For Giving A Powerful Speech That Will Inspire Your Audience." Business Insider. 11/08/2014. 24/03/2015 <Web >
  2. Alicia Prince "9 Tips To Give Your Best Speech Ever ." Life Hack. 24/03/2015 <Web >

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