The Importance of Presentation Skills for Scientific and Technical Professionals

May 2
If you work in a scientific or technical field, developing and delivering presentations may fall a bit outside of your comfort zone. After all, you specialize in designing new technology, running experiments, or writing complex computer programs— not public speaking. Why not simply send out an email instead and stay behind the scenes?

Though this mindset is understandable, it leaves out the fact that effective communication is a crucial component of scientific and technical projects. If you want your research or product to make an impact, you need to develop the presentation skills required to cater to three different audiences: your team, relevant stakeholders, and the public.

Presenting to Team Members

Project coordination is not an easy task. Informal communication through emails and one-on-one meetings can leave team members misaligned and cause serious setbacks to project timelines. Delivering an effective presentation to your team, on the other hand, allows you to: 
       

  • Align a team’s goals: As a presenter, you can work with your team to set clear goals and expectations. It’s easier to know what you’re working toward when it’s documented on a PowerPoint slide.         
  • Make decisions: Presentations are a great way to package the information needed to make team decisions. They can summarize key points, explore different options, and start a dialogue between team members.         
  • Solve problems: Much like with decision making, presentations create a space for teams to identify and overcome obstacles during project development. You can describe the problem, offer a solution, and receive feedback from your colleagues.

Communicating Results to Stakeholders

Managers, senior leaders, investors, and other stakeholders rely on you to efficiently communicate project results and obstacles. Doing so allows you to:

  • Help them make informed decisions: Data scientist Cecelia Shao puts it best: “Since data projects are collaborative across functions and data science results are often incorporated into a larger final project, the true impact of a data scientist’s work depends on how well others can understand their insights to take further action.” This is true of all disciplines, not just data science. While presenting to management and stakeholders can be daunting, it gives key decision-makers access to the information they need and optimizes the impact of your project.       
  • Strengthen your stakeholder relationships: Delivering effective presentations that are consistently concise, informative, and actionable, encourages stakeholders to place more value on your insights and your credibility will grow. Earning their trust in this way benefits both your company and your career.        
  • Invite feedback: Strong presentations create a solid foundation for dialogue, where you and your stakeholders can align on goals and solve problems together.

Sharing Your Project with the Public

If you’re speaking at a public event (such as a research conference or university forum), your presentation skills directly impact how your research or product is perceived by people from other disciplines. If you can craft accessible, engaging presentations for non-experts, you will:         
  • Increase project visibility: No matter how fascinating or groundbreaking your project is, your audience won’t remember it if you don’t present it effectively. That’s why TED Talks are so popular: their subject matter experts know how to streamline complex information into fun, thought-provoking presentations.        

  • Improve your understanding of the project: Designing presentations for the public forces you to translate technical content into a format that a wider audience can understand and appreciate. This can help you better communicate your goals and progress to others in the future.    

  • Access different perspectives: Public scientific and technical presentations usually include Q&A sessions. Not only are they a great way to clarify your audience’s lingering questions, but they also give your audience a chance to offer outside-the-box insights. Preparing for a Q&A session in advance situates you to readily answer questions and enhances your credibility.
Now that you understand why scientific and technical presentations are important, it’s time to improve your own presentation skills. Vital Talent’s Power of Presentation workshop is designed for those with limited presentation experience. In this course, you will learn how to craft a presentation and develop the presentation skills you need to face any business audience.
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