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Advice for engineers to communicate better with executives?

  • 1.  Advice for engineers to communicate better with executives?

    Posted 04-05-2019 08:43

    We engineers are highly technical and detail-oriented, and sometimes it can be hard to communicate to executives in the way  they need to hear from us.

    What advice would you give to engineers who have to communicate with executives, for example in a formal presentation or less formally in a project update?

    Loraine Kasprzak MBA
    Managing Director
    Advantage Marketing Consulting Services
    Westfield NJ

  • 2.  RE: Advice for engineers to communicate better with executives?

    Posted 04-06-2019 01:20
    A very valid question. As a process safety engineer, i do make a lot of presentations on various topics to various group of people right from site head to asset facing crew.

    The catch is that you have to change your style based on the target audience. The presentation shouldnt be too long but should also hit the nail precisely.

    Use a lot of auditable points. In industries, people understand numbers and key performance indicators.

    Few tips:

    1) The key to good presentation is - Have a backup of data being presented.

    2) Practice in front of mirror before you present.

    3) Can use examples to have acceptance eg. While explaining hazards of steam, you may present an incident where person sustained burns due tp steam.

    4) Keep the communication 2 way. Most of the times the presenter just starts the presentation and hurries his way to end. Keep your audience engaged.

    5) Keep some time for Q&A session.

    6) Thank your audience for their time and inputs

    7) People may have issues in asking questions in front of everyone. Make sure you share your contact details for any queries they may have.

    8) Always keep a smile. Also remember that best presenters dont get into conflict.

    9) Its good to have confidence. But if you dont know something, be humble to admit it and let the person know that you would try to find out.

    Hope this helps.

    Sushant Chaturvedi
    Process safety engineer

    Reliance industries limited

  • 3.  RE: Advice for engineers to communicate better with executives?

    Posted 04-09-2019 07:29
    Good replies from all the responders.  One thing I didn't see among the replies was, if you're going to use slides on PowerPoint, get to the conference room early and make sure you start up the computer and screen before the audience arrives.  And please don't read your slides to the audience!

    Barry Juran PE
    Philadelphia PA
    Chemical Process Engineer and Sr. Biopharm Specialist

  • 4.  RE: Advice for engineers to communicate better with executives?

    Posted 04-06-2019 01:30
    Get to your point as early as possible in the presentation.  Be clear, direct, and succinct.  Know your stuff.  Anticipate the questions you might be asked and know the answers.  If you are asked a question that you cannot answer, say you don't know but you will find out.  Then follow through on that and provide the answer later.  Don't look at your slides or the screen, look at your audience.  Use expression in your voice.

    Marise Textor PE
    Senior Manager Regulatory Affairs
    El Paso TX

  • 5.  RE: Advice for engineers to communicate better with executives?

    Posted 04-06-2019 06:56
    It is important to be business oriented in communicating with executives.
    This requires keeping a line of sight on how the engineering issues affect value without necessarily being too granular with the detail.
    Know the executive and align the narrative
    Dont just present data...present information and relate it to how if affects company objectives.
    When detail is inevitable, especially when dealing with executives who have engineering background, start from first principles and build on that, taking him along gently..
    In multi-disciplinary scenarios, stick to the median and do not drift into technical jargon and acronyms. Engineers must have an intuitive connect with the commercial construct underlying their work and be able to communicate that at short notice.
    Most project initiation/change approvals depend on how well the organisation's executives understand them.

  • 6.  RE: Advice for engineers to communicate better with executives?

    Posted 04-06-2019 07:05
    I do like the other replies thus far.
    When I started  with Exxon in New Jersey , many moons ago, we were encouraged to take a Dale Carnegie course,
    I have no connection to them.
    It was one of the most important decisions I had made for my career path.
    The course encourage preparation , homework, and audience engagement, and most importantly Practice Practice Practice
    The last session involved going to the front of the class, taking a sheet of paper out of a basket with your topic, and to start talking.
    Its an absolute crime if this  type of preparation isn't encourage in corporations today.
    Once one has confidence in the topic, and is prepared, the presenter is more at ease and can focus on the matter at hand.
    This skill set for me has been critical for 35 years.
    Chris Semonelli
    Rhode Island

    Christopher Semonelli
    Vice President Sales & Marketing
    Middletown RI

  • 7.  RE: Advice for engineers to communicate better with executives?

    Posted 04-09-2019 03:36
    First of all, understand the organization's most preferd communication channels. Each executive has her or his preferred channel that you need to know.  Then understand the executive needs and requirements (ask seniors at work) during the process of communication for example, some pays attention to details,  risk takers, risk averse, perfectionist, passers, concise, and so on.  Finally always end your story with good remarks.

    [Advisor Creativity & Innovation]

  • 8.  RE: Advice for engineers to communicate better with executives?

    Posted 04-06-2019 07:07

    In my 30 years as an engineer, dealing with CEO, presidents, vice-presidents, down to the shift operator at various corporations, they all have one question that must be answered if you want to communicate your case with them.  That question is "What is in it for me?".  If you cannot answer that question, during your discussions or presentations, then you immediately lost their interest.   You have to give them that answer typically in your first 5 minutes.


    My experiences working with people in general if you get their interest by answering that question within the first 5 minutes, the meeting will often be extended by 30 to 60 minutes.


    Marc Champagne

    Process Control Optimization Engineer

    ADM Inc


  • 9.  RE: Advice for engineers to communicate better with executives?

    Posted 04-06-2019 08:37
    I think the old advice is still very applicable here, "Know your audience."  One way to do this is to talk to others who have made successful presentations about how to approach the people you will be speaking to.  Some executives are detail oriented and want to have all of the background information.  Others only want the bottom line.  Some came from a technical background, others from more of a financial background.  Assuming that what will work for one will work for all is a recipe for disaster.

    One specific piece of advice I would give is to avoid what I call technical slang unless you are absolutely sure your audience will understand it.  As engineers, we frequently use acronyms and abbreviations that others may not know. We have common names for pieces of equipment or processes that may not be used outside of our circle.  We can also picture in our minds things like how pipe is run, where a vessel sits in relation to other equipment, or what the screen on a control panel looks like.  Make your presentations in plain English (or other language, as applicable) and use visual aids to help explain complex concepts.

    Watch your audience while presenting.  This is not a performance, but a communication.  If they start to look lost, you may need to interject additional explanation.  If they start to look glazed over, you may need to speed up or omit some details.  And remember, executives are people, too.

    Lastly, remember the advice on how to get to Carnegie Hall.  "Practice, practice, practice."

    Barry Bennett
    PSM Leader
    Elwood, IL

  • 10.  RE: Advice for engineers to communicate better with executives?

    Posted 04-07-2019 13:11

    If you are presenting a problem to management that you need them to help you resolve, be sure to tell them at least one or two ways they can do that.

    Have a logical development of your idea, so that many of your audience will want to ask the question you address in your next "slide" or paragraph.

    Never show a complex table in a presentation and say "I know you can't read this."

    As you develop your presentation, think about what you want the audience to remember a month or two in the future.  Then, tell them that in your opening remarks, during the body, and again in the summary of your presentation.

    If you are writing a memo, be sure to write with your best grammatical usage.  Edit your memo, both on the computer screen and on paper, as different parts of your brain seem to be involved (e.g., typos seem to "jump off" the page at me, which are not obvious to me on the screen).  Also, if possible, allow at least one overnight during the editing  process.  Eliminate unnecessary words to make it easier to read.

    James Diebold, P.E.

    [James] [Diebold] [PE]
    Principal Scientist
    Community Power Corporation
    [Eureka] [CA]

  • 11.  RE: Advice for engineers to communicate better with executives?

    Posted 04-09-2019 13:33
    Tell them what you will tell them, tell them and then tell them what you told them in as few words possible, but get your point across.

    Patrick Bush
    Alexandria KY

  • 12.  RE: Advice for engineers to communicate better with executives?

    Posted 04-08-2019 21:28
    Communication is one of the most important aspects of being an
    engineer.?? My career was in production research, specifically enhanced
    oil recovery (EOR).?? About one third of our time was spent
    communicating.?? That included both verbal and written reports.?? We had
    weekly group "staff" meetings with colleagues that were doing research
    in the same specific area.?? We had a 6 weeks "formal" staff meetings
    with the same researchers.?? Two or three of us would be selected to make
    a formal presentation about a week later to the other three groups which
    were involved in a related area.?? From that meeting, about 4 to 6 of the
    researchers would make a presentation to the vice-president of research
    with the directors from the other production research areas such as
    drilling and completions, offshore technology, corrosion and biological
    inhibitors, sweep improvement, reservoir modeling, and well testing
    (pressure fall-off, etc.).

    RECOMMENDATION:?? Join a local Toastmaster International Club.?? Two of
    the members when I joined one were employed at the same research
    center.?? The members were professional and included engineers and
    lawyers.?????? The meetings consisted of "table topics" and formal
    speeches.?? The former taught how to respond to questions while the
    latter taught how to organize a presentation.?? Later, a Toastmasters
    Club was formed at our research center and it included engineers,
    scientists and technologists.

    Besides Toastmasters, we occasionally made technical presentations at
    annual or semi-annual meetings of various professional societies,
    primarily the Society of Petroleum Engineers.?? Those presentations were
    reviewed by senior staff who provided much feedback.?? A comment I
    remember from one reviewer was that "The title of a slide should be what
    one wants the audience to learn."?? That was my introduction to the
    "reverse pyramid" method of communication.

    Finally, I have always joked that we were in research because we did not
    know what we were doing.?? Later, I realized that we knew what we were
    doing, but we did not know the answer.?? We really needed the ability to
    communicate in order to either explain our developments when we had an
    answer or to explain why we don't have an answer.

    T. David Griffith