This is an excellent topic to discuss. When Prof. Richard Grieger at the University of Wisconsin-Madison took over the laboratory for the Transport Phenomena Course in the mid-1970s in which I was one of four instructors, he instituted having the students give oral reports and proposed purchasing video equipment. I graduated before those changes were implemented. My career in enhanced oil recovery (EOR) research had numerous occasions of technical communication, both formal and informal.FORMAL COMMUNICATION: Once a week, each group working on a different aspect of EOR would have a morning or afternoon "staff" meeting with the group supervisor and present current results and future plans. Every six weeks we would have a 6 weeks group progress meeting. After that, selected individuals would make a presentation at the research sub-division staff meeting which consisted of all of the different groups involved in EOR research. And finally, we had a divisional staff meeting with all of the sub-divisions involved in the various aspects of production research such as conventional water-flooding, drilling and completions, corrosion control, biological control and natural gas plant research.INFORMAL COMMUNICATION: This would be the one on one communication between engineers when working on a problem. In addition, there is also an engineer instructing operators and technologists. And, technical communication is required between engineers and vendors.
Valerie,Most of the audiences I am familiar with are in the plant setting, so I'll offer some comments relative to that.*Verbal communications with Operations Leaders, Supervisors, and Operators. They will be interested in a brief summary of what you are doing, how it will affect their operation, what is the objective, and what they need to do to support you. Be concise, get to the point, and simplify the technical details. Convey that you are part of their team and are interested in helping them and will be willing to spend time getting to know them.*Verbal communications with your peers, mentor, and supervisor. Be open, warm, friendly, and convey you are not competing with them, you are part of their team and are willing to learn from their experience.*Verbal communication with Plant Management. This can happen in meeting settings or in the hallway, or out in the plant. They will be interested in what you are working on, so practice your "Elevator Speech" for the project(s) you are working on which concisely summarizes the objective of your project, schedule, costs, and expected results.*Written communications (reports) The time for the lengthy written report has come and gone for most situations. The technical report will be a on or two page WORD document summarizing the test, or trial, or project. Introduction, objective, summary, conclusions, and recommendation are all however still relevant components.*Written communications (email and text). For communication with your Supervisor, Plant personnel, Vendors, Contractors, this will probably be the preferred method of communication. This format is definitely a potential mine field for new engineers. Resist the temptation to take shortcuts. Be professional, use correct grammar and punctuation, use an easy to read format, use a professional tone and signature.