Sometimes, the smartest people can create the least informative PowerPoint presentations. Why? Because they have an Engineering Mindset.
The Engineering Mindset means being methodical, examining all available data, testing hypotheses, and coming to conclusions after a lengthy process. The trouble starts when engineers bring this kind of thinking to their PowerPoint presentations, often with poor results.
How engineers tend to think
The problem stems from wanting to be as thorough as possible. Engineers don’t usually jump to conclusions. Instead, they exhaustively research their topics in order to prove or disprove their initial hypothesis. In other words, engineers looooooove data, and lots of it.
When they need to present information, people with an Engineering Mindset tend to create very complicated slides that display all of the data on the subject they’re covering. They incorrectly assume that, like them, the audience will want to view and analyze all these data in order to come to the same conclusions that they have.
Audiences don’t necessarily want to think
Guess what? Unless the engineer is instructing his audience on critical thinking techniques, this is absolutely the wrong way to design a presentation. In other presenting situations, such as sales pitches or training, sometimes all the audience wants or needs is a 50,000-foot view of the topic. The details will come with further study or be provided on the handouts.
By including loads of information on each slide, presenters with an Engineering Mindset often achieve poor audience results: confusion, inaction, and non-acceptance of their ideas.
What do you want your audience to do?
It’s important to focus on the goals of the presentation while you’re designing it. What exactly do you want the audience to do? Buy what you’re selling? Think about something in a new way? Learn new skills? Once you answer that question, you can design a presentation that leads the audience to that conclusion.
Think like a non-engineer
Taking into consideration the audience experience helps presenters to break out of the Engineering Mindset. By imagining yourself as somebody with no previous knowledge of the subject, you can begin to think of ways to educate and inspire that make people interested in the subject matter and likely to take action.
The process of simplifying complex information is not easy, but it’s vital to achieving the results we want when we present: understanding, action, and acceptance of new ideas.