Engineers and Presentations

Engineers and Presentations don’t mix I have noticed over the past several days, and why is that. Why is the stereotypical engineer a klutz when it comes to public speaking, why does this stereotype even exist is the better question. Frankly, because it is true. I have over the past several days been seeing presentations by engineering companies on their company and why you should join said company when graduation rolls around.

Before I start critiquing the companies, let say what they did right. They brought engineers to talk to engineers, they brought Alumni of the school, and most importantly they brought engineers. Why do I like the engineers coming, because we (engineers in training) want our questions answered by engineers. We want to know the ins and outs of what the company does and what we will be doing day in day out. Same thing if the company was going to be talking to marketing students, they would hopefully bring people in marketing to recruit. The alumni is an easy way to establish a some level of credence with the students.

Okay, that is what the companies did right, what went wrong:
    1.   Poor and unskilled use of PowerPoint
    2.   Not being able to answer questions about the number of people in a division or customers associated with                   that division
    3.   No body movement, no interaction, no real level of excitement, hands staying in their pockets
    4.   Boring presentations
    5.   In-Fighting
    6.   Clear lack of coordination both with company line and amongst the group
    7.   Major need to project
    8.   Either reading scripts or reading from the PowerPoint
    9.   Not talking about anything cool (why should I join you over Google or any other company)

The problems are ridiculous and could be solved very easily. Coordinate a group of engineers who are actual engineers, but whose secondary job is recruitment. Say one week a month, they leave the office and go fly around the country and give presentations at different colleges and universities recruiting students. These engineers should be smart, but they don’t have to be top of their field, you obviously don’t want to lose someone too valuable to your organization 12 weeks out of the year. Create a good, useful PowerPoint presentation that can be pretty much universal or create multiple ones depending on the speific field you are targeting. Take these engineers and either find ones with some good natural speaking and presentation skills or train them. Coordinate them, have them work together, have them respect each other and what each of their different divisions do. Make sure they know the company line on certain questions. Have them work with a marketing/communication  person to get a really good 5-10 minute spiel together. That marketing person is your coordinator for this team. They will open the presentation, coordinate with colleges, gather marketing materials, and keep the presentations interesting and moving along.

That would be a recruitment team that would win. You would have a great presentation and recruitment would increase sustainability.

Also these companies would only talk about how they were with the
company for x-number of years and how it was so odd to stay with a
company for that many years. What if I don’t care about staying with
you till I retire, what about showing me something cool, something that
makes me want to stay late at the office? Where is your cool gadget?
Why should I join you over Google, Intel, Microsoft, any one of a
bazillion other companies?

The more I think about this the more I think this would be something I wouldn’t mind doing. Hmmm, an engineering degree with a minor in marketing or communications. That would be a first, but you know what engineers are just as capable as anyone else of being awesome public speakers. It simply takes time and training. The stereotype of an engineer being a bad public is unfortunately more correct than we would care to admit and yet we have to present all the time.

Towards this end I ask for two things, engineers go out and get some real public speaking skills, not the one’s presenting a circuit diagram in front of peers. I am talking about giving a speech in public on a topic in which you may not feel completely comfortable with, that is real public speaking. Companies design a better recruitment system, the current one doesn’t interest me. Show me something cool, give me some engineers who not only are smart but work well together and give a kick-a presentation. Now you’ve got me begging to join your company.


Justin Yost is a full-time Software Engineer and a part time educator. A graduate of Texas Tech University with a bachelor's degree in computer science, Justin relishes programming and learning more about anything and everything. When not working, Justin occasionally gives talks at the local PHP Meetup. In his free time, Justin enjoys backpacking and reading science fiction books.

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