7 Presentation Tips for Engineers

Throughout university engineering students are made to do presentations to prepare them for their working career. For a practicing engineer presentations are extremely important. They can be the difference between getting capital approval and a projects cancellation. They can be used to train others to result in process improvements.


 1. Who is your audience?

Are you talking to experienced engineers trying to improve the entire processing plant or accountants interested in the bottom line?

Management is made up of various people from lots of disciplines and understanding exactly who they are can make a huge difference. If a significant portion of the audience is made up of safety representatives then make sure you address all of their concerns, even if it is not your main message.

You should also identify who is the key person in the audience. The general manager or CEO is the one who makes the decisions, and impressing them will often automatically impress everyone else. If they are very influential then talk directly to them.

2. What does your audience want?

Inherently linked with who you audience is is what does your audience want. Is the main point of your presentation to change attitudes, request funding, or demonstrate your project’s success? Is this what your audience is interested in?

All process changes influence various different aspects of the plant, from fuel efficiency to production to profitability, operability, and simplicity. Is your audience of accountants interested in ease of operation or the bottom line? Do they care about the changes in chemistry or overall production?

Think about they real concerns, address those concerns, and you will go a long way to improving your presentations.

3. Be Honest

Be honest, and don’t sugar-coat the truth. If there is a possibility of project delays then let management know. This will allow them to assist in providing resources or additional technical support.

For a presentation to maintenance, if you believe your project may have a detrimental impact on equipment reliability then be honest. Your audience may have ideas to help resulting in even more success.

4. Get to the Point

Every single person you will presenting to has other tasks that need to be done - they do not have time to listen to fluff or filler. Get the point of your presentation quickly, focusing on the key points. Summaries and dot points work well by ensuring that your presentation follows a set sequence.

5. Know your Topic inside out

You are the expert. Even if you are presenting to meeting with much more experience of technical knowledge, remember that you are the expert on your presentation and your project. Prepare extensively and ensure that you can comprehensively answer any possible question. This will go a long way to proving to other people that you are the expert, which in turn lends expertise to your project/proposal.

6. Graphs are better than text

During a presentation your audience should be focusing on you, not your visual displays. You do not want the audience needing to stop listening because they are too busy reading.

Graphs, diagrams, and photos are ideal in displaying information. Trends are particularly good in showing process step-changes, comparing before-and-after, and displaying multiple sets of information in a simple, easy to read manner.

7. Be passionate

“If passion drives you, let reason hold the reins.”

Benjamin Franklin

Passion and enthusiasm is contagious, and can be a valuable asset if used correctly. For anyone who has been to a presentation by someone who is truly passionate about their subject, it is a memorable experience. Getting your audience as passionate about your subject as you are is extremely difficult but extremely rewarding. A process change which everyone is enthusiastic about has a much higher probability of success than one where people are discontent or disgruntled.

As the quote above suggests, remember that passion does not overcome content. Being passionate without reason or being able to justify proposals can lead to problems.

For more information, read the following related articles:

  • The Beginner’s Guide to Bad Engineering Presentations
  • 7 tips on how to conduct a successful technical presentation
  • Technical presentation tips

Practice makes perfect, so get practicing. Presentations are part of almost every part of an engineers careers, and their value cannot be underestimated. Use these tips and you can be sure that your presentations will improve and be more successful.

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