Leadership Presentation Mistakes Scientists and Engineers Make

If you get the impression that managers get impatient with you when you present your work, you are not wrong.

🥱😕Technical people are notorious for giving bad presentations.

Most of our experience is from conferences or in our graduate defenses. Those kinds of presentations are NOTHING LIKE how you should be presenting to an audience of leaders.

💁🏽‍♀️Don’t get discouraged, with some practice and feedback you’ll figure it out.

Here are a few mistakes I see all the time and how you can avoid them:


Make sure you have a 1 slide executive summary at the beginning. This sets the context for your presentation and can serve as a stand alone document in case members of your audience have to leave early or want to circulate your materials.

It should cover the key highlights of your slides including a summary of the current condition and target condition of your activities, your analysis methodology, results to date, next steps, and a call to action (see point no. 2).

(WARNING: see no. 4 for a potential pitfall)


Please tell me in the first 90 seconds why you are in front of me talking. Do you need more money or more time? Do you have results that are better or worse than expected? I just came from back to back to back meetings and I need some context.

And under NO circumstances should you wait until the last 2 minutes of your presentation to give me what you perceive to be bad news. It makes you look like a coward.


Use plain language and basic units like time, money, weight, temperature, volume, # of people. Using technical jargon doesn’t make you seem smart. It makes you seem tone-deaf to your audience and lacking the savvy to translate your work into something relevant to the business.

Even if your leaders are like me and have Ph.D.’s in a technical field, it doesn’t mean that we have the fundamentals of YOUR specific project in our working memory.

4️⃣”WALL OF WORDS” SLIDES. All words, 12pt font, no breaks. If you have to say “sorry this slide is so busy”, don’t show me the slide. Change it. Try a graph or picture instead.

5️⃣ POOR TIME MANAGEMENT. Plan for me to have a bunch of questions, which I will ask you whenever I want. I’m not waiting till the end. So plan about 1/4 of your allotted time for my questions.

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