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Tips for Technical Presentations

CFI Navigation:  General Info CFI Certificate | CFI Ground School SyllabusTactics for the Professional CFI | Technical Presentations | Sample Budget while in Training | Things Flight Instructors Worry About | CFI Liability | What it takes to become a CFI | Advice to the New CFI | Learning Modality 
by Darren Smith, CFII/MEI
from PocketLearning, June, 1999

Flight Instructor Ground School Syllabus: Next >>

Giving oral presentations is rated as a top fear by Clinical Psychologists.  Part of that fear is derived from our own beliefs of how the audience might evaluate us.  A major step in resolving this concern is to develop confidence through preparation and solid presentation skills.  Towards that end, I offer you these tips to enhance your technical presentation skills. 

In order to bolster confidence, you must be fully prepared for your presentation.  As such, all presentations must be performed with an action plan or an outline.  To try it without this makes it a rambling conversation rather than a solid presentation that the audience will understand and appreciate.

The best presentations follow the style of the best storytellers:  tell them what you are about to say [introduction], say it [main body of presentation], and then tell them what you have just said [conclusion]. It’s the classic format that’s always right and can’t go wrong.

The research has indicated that this method of presenting technical information to adult learners increases retention & learning, increases motivation of audience, facilitates active learning, and provides for multiple perspectives on the subject area discussed.
Absolute sins in any presentation
  • Lack of eye contact with audience
  • Excessive reading from books, notes
  • Being unprepared
  • Failure to stay on topic/follow outline
  • Failure to outline information for easy understanding and parse information out into simple terms that enhances learning.  Remember the audience needs to digest the information, not swallow it whole.
  •  Failure to use specific, concrete language. Use precise language and cite specific examples to support your assertions.
With that said, the following is an example of a technical presentation to give you an idea how to structure your presentation.  It has three main components (as discussed above): an introduction, main points, and a conclusion. 

I.  Introduction

“Today’s presentation is about pet ownership”


  1. What is especially interesting about this information?
  2.  Special vocabulary used in the subject area you are presenting
  3.  A thesis statement which contains your main points. (this can be as few as two items or as long as 20 items)

Example:  “The three aspects of pet ownership I will discuss are feeding, attention required, and medical care.”  In this example there are 3 sub-topics of the presentation:  1) feeding, 2) attention required, and 3) medical care.

After your introduction, transition to the body of your presentation, the information delivery component which discusses all the points you mentioned in your introduction to the topic.

II. Main Points

Use this format for each of your sub-topics.

“The first topic I will discuss is feeding.” 
After introducing the sub-topic, provide the technical information relevant to the topic.

Your goal in any technical presentation is to provide an opportunity for learning to your audience.  Consider the following “Levels of Learning” and determine what your own level of technical skill will be required to reach the level your audience will demand.

Level 0

No understanding of the subject

Level 1

Possessing minimal information about the subject (including facts, definitions, names)

Level 2

Possessing knowledge about the subject (including causes, sources, examples)

Level 3

Knowledge synthesis with the ability to affect change in the subject area (including treatments, courses of action, prevention strategies)

If you use any special vocabulary, use the following format to ensure optimal learning and retention for adult audiences.

Define:  provide Definitions related to the concept you are presenting.  Use the full technical definition with associated jargon (that you have or will also explain)
2.     Explain:  A "plain-language" explanation of the concept that removes the jargon but explains the definition in your own simple words.
3.     Example:  Provide a real-world example of the concept to strengthen the information you present. 
Examples can come from a textbook, but examples from your life make the presentation more memorable. Any example provides

Close the sub-topic and allow your audience to ask questions.  “This concludes our discussion on feeding.  Are there any questions?”  After you ask the question, wait 5 seconds for your audience to formulate their question and ask it.  Then, “Are there anymore questions?”   If you want to stimulate discussion on a particular topic, you can ask, “Are there any questions about….?”

When you are ready to discuss your next sub-topic, transition your presentation effectively by keeping your audience oriented to the outline of the presentation.  “The 2nd of our 3 topics is ‘attention required’”  then follow the same format described here. 

III.  Conclusion

The conclusion is your opportunity to review key points of your presentation.  A good conclusion includes:
  •  A quick review of the sub-topics discussed,
  • Strengths & weaknesses found in the material,
  • Opinions if relevant,
  • Additional information you have discovered from your research,
  • Why the topic is important,
  • What more needs to be done, and
  • If needed, a call to action for your audience to participate.
Following the tips given in this article will increase your confidence when you are called upon to do a technical presentation.  If you have additional ideas, I would love to hear from you, please email me.

Flight Instructor Ground School Syllabus: Next >>

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