Too Many Technical Presentations Suffer From POOH!

Sutro Baths Vertical Poop by Andy Morris Sutro Baths: Vertical Poop by Andy Morris

Your conference’s technical presentations suffer from POOH*!

“Huh?” you ask. “What are you talking about?”

Too often, and I mean way too often, our conferences are full of technical presentations that offer nothing more than POOH! For some reason, we falsely believe that technical presentations don’t have to follow good adult learning strategies. But that’s totally wrong!

The Truth About POOH!

Consider the following:

Make up your bottom hole assembly on the rig floor and trip in the hole. Apply weight until the pin shears and the whipstock anchor sets. Mill your window and watch yo0ur flow rate. Drill the rathole. POOH. Write up post job report. (From a technical presentation. Source: Sarah Wakefield’s Technical Training Basics.)

POOH? Really!?! Besides the fact that most of us have no idea what this about, it uses the word POOH?

And believe it or not, this description is from a presentation that is not for waste water professionals! It’s not about sewage either.

So what’s POOH?

*It means “Pull Out Of The Hole.”

The Tao And Metaphor of POOH!

POOH offers a great metaphor for technical presenters.

Many technical presenters need to pull out of their content hole that they’ve dug for themselves. They are trying to cover too much information.

And the more content they cover, the deeper their audience sinks into their quicksand of forgetfulness. The audience can’t even crawl out of that presentation black hole.

Eight Questions For Getting Out Of The POOH

So how can technical presentations get out of POOH?

How can technical presenters move away from 100% lecture that causes audiences to want to Pull Out Of That (Presentation) Hole?

What questions should technical experts address to keep their presentations laser-focused and above ground.

Here are eight questions adapted from Wakefield’s writings that will help avoid POOH.

1. Is this technical presentation about a technical product or technical task?

2. What are the big three takeaways or ideas that I want my audience to remember and apply from this technical presentation?

3. Is it absolutely necessary for my audience to know this content and information in order to do their job?

4. Does the information in my outline and/or slides help in some way to meet the objectives of this presentation?

5. What is the business goal of this presentation?

a. Why am I doing this presentation?
b. To be relevant and valuable it must have a sound business purpose such as growth in the market, expand product offerings, implementation issues, or relevant application.

6. Who is my target audience?

a. Do they all have the same job title? If not then it may be the case for a basic, foundational or entry level presentation. If they all have similar or the same job titles, then clearly this presentation can be for more advanced audiences.
b. Do job descriptions exist for target audience that I can read?
c. What resources does this target audience already have or use?

7. How can the information from my presentation be supported once they are back on the job?

8. Where can I drop in exercises and activities so that my audience can think, write, discuss and explore application of this technical presentation?

What are some additional questions that technical presenters should consider before developing their presentations? What are some examples of exercises or questions technical presenters can use?

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1 comment
  1. This post is spot on. I can see how the 8 questions can be applied to other things outside of presenting. Writing copy totally fits into the same line of thinking. If you don’t take the time to understand your audience, you’ll end up missing the boat completely.

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