Talking about The Problem and The Reason in Technical Presentations.

One of the greater mistakes that people make in presentations is talking about “The Problem”.

To give a presentation, you have The Reason. The Reason could be because your boss says so. The Reason is because you have something to say, or you’ve been invited to speak because someone thinks you are good enough (or better).

The first step that inexperienced presenters make is think of what to say. Sounds simple. Most people will immediately think about some problem that they are having and then end up identifying the The Problem. Then they work out the The Answer. Now I can write a presentation. Right ?

Here is where the mistake happens. Most people start talking about The Problem without considering what their audience knows ? You look foolish when you attempt to tell Network Engineers The Problem with Spanning Tree. Or The Problem with Network Management. These problems are well known and well understood.

Don’t talk about the problem, just talk about the The Solution. We get it, we live it everyday. We don’t need to learn what you know about The Problem, all we need is the The Solution.

For marketing people this is doubly true. Just because you discovered what spanning tree was as part of writing the presentation, or  involved with some fancy technology, doesn’t mean you need to assume your reader is ignorant. Write smart.

Considering your audience is rule number 1. If you are presenting The Solution to a group of engineers, then your audience almost certainly knows the The Problem.

We all know the what’s wrong with networking, lets just talk about solutions. People will very quickly work out the problem once you start talking about the solution.

If they can’t, they won’t want your solution anyway.

The EtherealMind View

I’ve had this happen so many times. I experience the problem, I know the problem. Just outlines the solution. In detail.

That’s especially my advice to TechFieldDay presenters.

About Greg Ferro

Greg Ferro is a Network Engineer/Architect, mostly focussed on Data Centre, Security Infrastructure, and recently Virtualization. He has over 20 years in IT, in wide range of employers working as a freelance consultant including Finance, Service Providers and Online Companies. He is CCIE#6920 and has a few ideas about the world, but not enough to really count.

He is a host on the Packet Pushers Podcast, blogger at and on Twitter @etherealmind and Google Plus

You can contact Greg via the site contact page.

  • gvr

    Although I can roughly agree with this, I think a rough summary of the problem is neccesary to prevent the presenter *assuming* the problem is known before presenting the solution. And we all know assumption is the mother of all *peep* ;-) It’s frustrating to see presenters rambling on about a solution wihout actually having an agreement on what the actual problem is. Even trivial stuff like spanning-tree or other “well-known” pains in networking do sometimes need a clarification beforehand (maybe in one slide, doesn’t matter..) to make the impact of the proposed solution stronger..

    • ioshints

      +1 – It makes sense to define the problem (just to make sure we’re on the same page), but not dwell on it. Also, this part of the presentation should be fine-tuned to the audience response (and skipped if necessary).

      See also for a pretty brutal (and quick) fine-tuning.

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