A Useful Distinction When Preparing Content for a Technical Presentation: Analysis vs. Communication
Updated: Jun 13, 2022
As anyone in engineering, IT or the sciences knows, one of the challenges when creating a presentation on a technical topic is how deep to go. A common problem is to go too far into the weeds and then struggle to extract yourself. The consequences of going too deep can be:
Confusing your audience
Boring your audience
Completely losing your audience
The following is a distinction I have found useful as you think about preparing content for a technical presentation:
The Difference between Analysis and Communication.
Let’s start by defining terms.
Analysis is the process of breaking a complex topic into smaller parts to gain a better understanding of it. (Wikipedia)
It’s a detailed examination of anything complex in order to understand its nature or to determine its essential features: a thorough study. (Merriam-Webster)
Analysis is familiar to researchers, scientists, and engineers because it is used in problem-solving. It is typically complex and, by nature, should be thorough and even exhaustive. The focus of analysis is narrow. The goal is to dig deep, and the focus is on the problem to be solved. A successful analysis is often the result of maintaining a narrow focus.
By contrast, communication is what we do to sell the solution to the problem. When you communicate about the results of your analysis, you want to:
Consider the concerns, assumptions, and opinions of the audience.
Keep your explanation simple and relevant to the audience.
What you relate to the audience about the solution is only what interests that audience. You may need to present different aspects of the solution to different audiences, depending on their specific interests. Don’t be afraid to leave something out. The audience is not going to think less of you for not telling them everything you know. They will thank you for keeping the presentation relevant and focused.
Rarely does the audience need every detail of your analysis. What they do want is more context than just the analysis of the problem. They may want to know:
The applications for the solution or
How solving this specific problem fits into a broader context.
Keeping this distinction in mind will help you to figure out what is relevant to communicate about the analysis you have conducted. It will help you keep your audience’s attention and generate a lively Q&A.