Talk to the suits: How to sell IT outside of IT

Less is more when it comes to bang-up business presentations. Here are five tips for better tech talks.

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Good presentation skills can help IT professionals reach not just their organizational goals, but their personal goals as well. As communication becomes increasingly important, presentation-savvy tech employees are often called upon to carry IT's message to the rest of the company, simultaneously increasing their visibility and their perceived value to the organization.

Want to create a message that others will remember years later? Consider the following tips for putting together a killer presentation.

Give your audience an action item

If you want to make a persuasive presentation, start by defining its purpose, says Kimberly Douglas, president of FireFly Facilitation Inc. in Atlanta and author of The Firefly Effect: Build Teams That Capture Creativity and Catapult Results.

"Get extremely clear about what you want to get out of the presentation, from these particular people, at this particular point in time," she says. Ask yourself: Why is this project important? Why is this project going to help those around me? And what do I need from this group?

If you are making a pitch to develop a new application for your company's marketing department, for example, you need to demonstrate what the application will do for marketing, articulate why it will be money well spent and spell out the actions you need them to take -- all from the audience's point of view.

"What do you want them to know, think, feel, or do differently?" Douglas asks. Answering those questions will help you articulate what you need to convey in your presentation.

Michaels asks her team members to sum up in one sentence what they want to convey in their presentations and what they want their audience to come away with. The exercise helps shift the presentations from a regurgitation of technology facts to an action that the audience can rally behind, she says.

Michaels once worked with her vice president of technology as he was preparing a presentation to stakeholders about a new database architecture. His original presentation had about 30 slides, mostly detailing the benefits of the new technology. To help him tailor his presentation, Michaels asked him to define his audience and explain what he needed from them.

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