CAD Manager's Newsletter (#456)

28 Oct, 2020 By: Robert Green

Soft Skills for CAD Managers: Speaking and Presenting

Like it or not, all CAD managers are communicators — and improving your presentation skills is definitely worth the work.

I'm often asked about the non-technical "soft skills" required to be a great CAD manager. The topic of speaking, in particular, gives rise to these questions, and for good reason: After all, if you can't explain what you're doing to those around you, it stands to reason that you won't be successful. So with this edition of the CAD Manager's Newsletter, I'll be starting a periodic series called "Soft Skills for CAD Managers" to help you with all the non-technical aspects of your job. And in this first installment, we'll focus on how to be a better speaker and presenter. Here goes.

Yes, You Are a Speaker!

I often hear the comment, "I'm a CAD manager, not a public speaker" from CAD managers that are loath to speak in public. They often amplify their objections with phrases like, "I'm technical, not a presenter" or "I'm scared of public speaking and would prefer to avoid it" as the conversation goes on. My response to this line of reasoning is always to ask the CAD manager a short series of diagnostic questions:

•  Do you ever have to present your budget to your boss?
•  Do you ever have to lead training classes for your users?
•  " Do you ever have to explain complex concepts to teams that don't understand CAD?

After I hear three "yes" answers in response, I confront the CAD manager with this short speech: "You just told me you have to speak/present to managers, users, and extended teams about what you do — so you are a speaker, whether you like it or not. Now you can choose to be a poor speaker and suffer, or you can choose to become a better speaker and watch your career move forward. Which will you choose?" STUDIOS STUDIOS

Avoid Style Traps

Assuming you make the logical choice to become a better speaker, let's talk about what you should and shouldn't change about your speaking style via a list of Dos and Don'ts. These recommendations are based on my own trial-and-error experiences over years of public speaking.


• Radically change your vocabulary. The best speakers sound like themselves, so your challenge is to present better while still being you.
• Try to be something you aren't. You're a CAD manager, so you'll never sound like an accountant. Don't try to pack your talks with a bunch of accounting acronyms or words you don't understand.
• Try to sound like a marketing professional. CAD managers come from Realsville, so if you try to sound like a marketing pro you won't sound genuine.


• Un-geek your speak. Try to communicate using a "standard English" approach whenever possible. Those who don't know CAD that well will follow you better, and those who do know CAD won't mind.
• Target your language. If you're presenting the features of an updated software package to experienced users, feel free to use software-specific terms that the audience will understand. On the other hand, if you're giving an executive summary on the software's capabilities to project management staff, you'll want to emphasize cost savings and productivity enhancements. Speak to your audience in their native language!
• Bring the financial clarity. If you're talking about a standards problem, don't dwell on bits and bytes, simply say that the lack of standards compliance is costing time and money. Executives don't need to understand the technical content; they do need to understand that money is being wasted. And when you speak to users, they also need to understand that not using standards leads to wasted time and money as well.
• Work from high (why) to low (how). Start with a high-level summation of your topic and explain why you are talking about it, then go into low-level details as needed. Trust me when I say that most non-technologists really need a broader overview before getting into the nitty-gritty.

Keep these dos and don'ts in the back of your mind whenever you give any type of talk or training class, and they will become second nature to you. I also found that as I started crafting my talks using these do's and don'ts that I started to think more like a manager and was more respected by management staffs, which led to being more promotable. Yes, speaking better opens many doors! Read more »

Tools and Resources

Prepare Yourself for CAD Management 3.0
According to CAD management expert Robert Green, we're now in the midst of the third major change wave in CAD management (CM 3.0). More a summation of several smaller trends than a single driving trend, CM 3.0 will place new demands on CAD managers and redefine what it takes to compete in the field. To be effective, CAD managers must analyze, adapt, and gain new skills in a never-ending quest for improvement.

Cadalyst has published a 24-page guide that collects seven columns from Green's series on CM 3.0, addressing topics ranging from standards and workflows to the psychology of CAD users and the many languages CAD managers need to speak. Download this free guide to learn which skills and strategies you need to be prepared for the changes coming your way.

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About the Author: Robert Green

Robert Green

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