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?
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.
Process Control Optimization Engineer
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.