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The art of the technical presentation – 5 lessons from Gary Fong

The Technical presentation

As an analytics professional, you often have to show your work to select audiences. This could be a demonstration of a new corporate dashboard at the monthly townhall meeting. It might also be a training class for the operations team or a 1:1 session with the CEO. Regardless of the occasion, you have to make sure that your technical presentation gets the audience excited about your analytics solution. Unfortunately, too many technical presentations go bad. It’s really easy to loose the attention of your audience, if you don’t prepare carefully. The other day I watched a superb technical demo by the famous entrepreneur and photographer Gary Fong. It exhibits a lot of characteristics that you and I should incorporate in our next technical presentation.

The Gary Fong Factor

Take a look at the short video. Gary Fong demonstrates one of his new photo products. Even if you don’t know anything about photography, you will immediately get the idea of his product. Just watch 1-2 minutes.

5 lessons

What’s so special about Gary’s demo. It exhibits a lot of qualities you and I need to incorporate in every technical presentation:

  1. Be enthusiastic: Gary is extremely enthusiastic about his products and it shows. Enthusiasm is contagious. Most photographers want to buy his products after watching one of his demos. However, too many technical presentations are just plain boring. Put yourself in the shoes of your audience: why should you use that analytics solution if your technical leader isn’t excited about it? Show your passion!
  2. Avoid technical language: Notice how simple this short demo is. There are no buzzwords, there is hardly any jargon. Even non-photographers understand his product. Jargon and buzzwords are an excellent way to confuse people. It probably scares the CFO to hear about the configuration of the ODBC connection. Neither does he care about the latest in-memory technology. Make it easy for people to follow you!
  3. Explain the problem: When you deliver a technical presentation, it is critical to explain your audience why they need to change. People don’t like to change. Don’t just jump in and show your shiny technology. Set the background and explain what the problem is that you are trying to combat. Gary does that marvelously. He clearly shows that the current state (i.e. without his products) is problematic. Try to do the same in your next technical presentation.
  4. Show the benefits: Gary doesn’t stop right there. He goes further and stops at certain points to show the benefits of the new approach. He compares the old with the new. He leaves no doubt that the change is worth the effort. This helps the audience make up their mind. Too many demos leave it to the audience to identify the benefits. That’s a risky strategy.
  5. Be quick: Demos are often long and boring. Gary Fong, on the other hand, is quick. He jumps right in and he uses engaging language. There are no slow or boring parts. This is actually one of his longer demos. Most of his video demos run less than 2-3 minutes. This pays off tremendously – you won’t loose your audience.

Practice your technical presentation

Delivering an awesome technical presentation can be extremely rewarding – not only for yourself but also for your audience. Technical excellence of a solution does not automatically translate into enthusiasm by the end users. You have to help them with accepting the new solution. Spend some time to learn and practice these lessons.

If you are interested in this topic, check out one of my earlier posts.

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8 ideas for delivering a better demo

Demos are a critical part of every business analytics implementation. There are frequent occasions during any project where we have to show present tools & processes: At the beginning, we might show the new software to our users to educate them. Later on we might want to review a prototype and we need to solicit productive feedback based on the demo. Training sessions require us to teach the new process and tool while also obtaining buy-in from the business. Overall, I would argue that being able to deliver a great demo is a critical skill for every business analytics professional.

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