Re: Technically Speaking
From: "Susan W. Gallagher" <sgallagher5 -at- cox -dot- net>
To: "John Fleming" <johntwrl -at- hotmail -dot- com>, "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Subject: Re: Technically Speaking
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2002 09:32:36 -0700
At 02:04 AM 8/15/02 +0000, John Fleming wrote:
Has anybody here made presentations to groups of technical writers on this or related subjects? If yes, what topics did they tend to find most interesting? What areas do they find least interesting? Are there areas in speech making they already have some background in just by virtue of working as technical writers?
I regularly make presentations at conferences and STC
dinner meetings. I'm kind of mono-focused on subject
matter, tho, so I'm the wrong one to ask about areas
of interest. In general, the more pertinent the subject
seems to be, the more interested the audience seems to
Because you have addressed the kind of group I will be working with, your insights are invaluable.
My task right now is identifying facets of the public speaking experience that are most relevant to people in the technical writing community.
While tech writers should have the basic "Speech 101"
knowledge -- the communication process including noise,
how to structure a persuasive argument, etc., most of
them (I've found) either don't have the background or
have forgotten all about it.
We do have the knowledge and ability to present material in a way that has a structure and a flow to it.
One area I am thinking of looking at is the differences between the written environment and the spoken environment. In the written environment, a reader can go back and reread something to get a better understanding, or can refer to a dictionary when encountering an unknown word. The same isn't true of spoken environment--especially in a situation where the audience can't ask questions.
If you do presentations as a technical writer, in general terms, what kinds of talks do you do most often? Breifings to supervisors and managers?
Presentations to customers and clients? Presentations to fellow staff?
At work (when there is work), some presentations about doc
plans, process,... on special occasions, but not regularly.
Good. This gives me more to work with.
If you use visual aids in your talks, what kinds do you use most often?
PowerPoint presnetations? overheads? models?
My old plastic slides are curling at the edges and I
was feeling self-conscious about being the only one at
the conference using an old-fashioned overhead projector,
so now I've got a laptop w/ powerpoint loaded. <g>
I still use a lot of overheads. ;)
Overheads do make a good backup if, for example, your lap top gets stolen at the airport.
Still, in some environments, the laptop with projector is almost mandatory.
If you've seen other technical writers do presentations, are there areas that stand out in your mind as being particular weaknesses?
The two major shortcomings I've seen at conference presentations
are lack of confidence and lack of preparation/knowledge about the
subject matter. In one particularly bad example, I sat through a
presentation on document design once where one of the presenters
could not remember the difference between serif and sans-serif
fonts. It was sad.
That is sad.
One of the interesting points the author I'm drawing most heavily on mentions is the importance, as a speaker on technical subjects, of establishing and maintaining your credibility.
Your speaker probably left his credibility in tatters on the meeting room floor.
Thanks for the insights.
Technical Writer and SAS Programmer
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