Sunshine or Mud? Tips on Tailoring a Presentation to the Audience

Written by: Neil Thompson, Founder, Teach the Geek

Neil Thompson, Founder, Teach the Geek

Picture this.

You’re an engineer who is presenting your research to senior level executives. 

You painstakingly develop your slides, making sure to explain your work in exacting detail. 

In fact, the title of your presentation, in your opinion, is the perfect summary of your current research. 

“CSF1R Agonists Elicit Distinct ERK Activation and Heterogeneity Profiles in Homeostatic and Diseased Microglia when in contact with 3D Printed Polyurethane/Poly(lactic acid)/Graphene Oxide Nanocomposites.”

Quite the title.

To an engineer on your team? Clear as a sunny day.

To the executive team? Clear as mud.

What can you do to turn the mud into sunshine? 

Determine what the executives want to know and use words they will understand to relay that message. Use less of those words while you’re at it. 

Figure out what the executives want from your presentation. Do they really want to know about how agonists interact with composites? Or do they want to know why it matters how agonists interact with composites Perhaps this interaction affects how a product will work. Perhaps this interaction affects how much it will cost to manufacture the product. Perhaps this interaction will determine whether the research continues. Give some thought into figuring all this out so you know how to tailor the presentation to the audience. A great way to get some answers is to get feedback from the executives’ administrative assistants. These assistants know their bosses well, and will likely be able to provide guidance on what answers your presentation should provide. 

Use as little technical jargon as is necessary. For a non-technical executive audience, the title above is way too technical. What are CSF1R agonists? What’s ERK Activation? What’s a nanocomposite? Executives likely will not know. Consider using a title that is more likely to get your audience’s attention. The title should convey the message they need to know; they’re more concerned with the significance of your work as opposed to the work itself. If the executives are interested in the viability of your research, perhaps the title can be “[Your product name]: Concerns and Viable Solutions.” You’re now giving the audience what it wants: potential hazards and how you would address them. 

Be economical with your words. The original title is way too long, especially for a non-technical audience who may not know what all the words mean. Use a shorter title. A shorter title is easier to take in and understand, which is key for an audience with less technical expertise than the presenter. “[Your product name] Concerns and Viable Solution”. Few words. Easily understandable. 

Ultimately, it all comes down to knowing your audience. Will they know (or care) what a graphene oxide nanocomposite is? If not, leave it off and talk about what they actually care about. 

Are you nervous? Do you speak too fast? Do you struggle with time limitations or find yourself fumbling through your slides? While public speaking and presenting may be challenging, as a plastics professional, it's one of the best ways for you to get noticed and excel in your field. Teach the Geek to Speak will help you create impactful presentations and give you the confidence in public speaking you've always wanted. SPE members get a special 25% discount on the Teach the Geek to Speak program. Use discount code "SPE25" when registering. Sign up today and nail your next presentation!

For more in-depth tips, you can also listen to the Teach the Geek podcast at

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