Presentation skills part 2

Last week, a student asked: “We are technical people, not salespeople, why do we need to have presentation skills? For many years of teaching, I found that many students, mostly Asian, do not have good soft-skills, especially presentation skills. So I explained:

“Technical skills are only the key that opens the door of opportunity but soft-skills are the steps to help advance you in your career. Among the soft-skills, presentation skill is the most important for your success. When you go to a job interview, you have to “present” yourself to a group of people who make the decision to hire you or somebody else. A job interview is actually a presentation itself and your success is depending on how you do better than others.”

“When you have a job, the work is always done in a team. As a member, you have to present your idea to other team members or on behalf of your team to the managers. If you want to get promoted, you need to present yourself better than others by delivering good presentations with clear and concise messages. It is important to understand that doing a good job may help you to keep the job but never enough to guarantee a promotion. You need the skills to get the attention of the managers and others. If you can present your work, your idea, with confidence and clarity to them, or to the users and customers, you will get the recognition. Having effective presentation skills can also reduce confusion, miscommunication which is the common cause of technical’s problems.”

A good presentation is NOT about reading from Powerpoint slides or reading from a written piece of paper but be able to communicate effectively with a clear message that you want the audience to understand what you want them to know. I have seen many presentations take too long, too boring and waste time because the presenter was trying to fill the time period. Good presenters should get their message across by focusing on the message instead of the materials by observing the audience response and use the most effective techniques to communicate.”

For example, if you want to learn to give a presentation and get the audience’s attention, you can watch how Steve Jobs presents the first iPhone:

Steve Jobs was praised for his inspiring presentations that helped Apple to become the most successful company in the technology industry. You could do the same by being able to deliver a clear and inspiring message like that. Your team members will judge you on your presentation skills when they decide to choose a team leader and your manager may look for someone who can lead a team for promotion.

Having technical skills is NOT enough. You need soft-skills and among these skills, you should start with the presentation skills. Why not developing this skills NOW when you are still in school to gain a better chance for your future success .


  • Blogs of Prof. John Vu, Carnegie Mellon University