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Process engineers face many technical challenges and, while we can solve some of these problems, others must simply be managed safely. My first technical project was to determine a solution to a liquified natural gas (LNG) plant’s slop-oil disposal problem.
The facility’s slop-oil tank was overflowing, causing environmental damage. The original design called for slop-oil incineration, but the incinerator was not functioning, so the slop-oil was trucked to a nearby crude-oil loading facility. This method was unreliable and the tank sometimes overflowed.
During this project, I learned some valuable lessons, which I share here. I continue to revisit these same lessons as I face more-complex problems.
First, look to past solutions
In a meeting with the operations team, an engineer raised the idea of spiking slop-oil into the LNG condensate as an alternative disposal method that would be reliable and safe. Spiking slop-oil into condensate could also generate additional revenue, as it could then be sold at the price of condensate. The team decided to explore this alternative, and I volunteered to determine how much slop-oil we could add while still meeting the condensate specifications.
The engineer who proposed this solution knew it had been used in a similar facility. Before spending time to engineer solutions to technical problems, find out if such problems have occurred in the past at your facility or at similar sites, as well as the solutions that were explored. Adapting ideas from past experience is faster and easier than engineering new ones. However, ensure that the adaptation meets current regulatory and operational requirements.
Seek to optimize cost
First, I estimated the total annual amount of slop-oil and condensate produced by the facility. Next, I estimated the maximum slop-oil concentration in the condensate if all of the slop-oil produced was added to the condensate. I worked with the lab personnel to obtain samples and run tests on varying concentrations of slop-oil in condensate. It turned out that we could spike all the slop-oil into the condensate and still meet the condensate sales specifications.
This was an economical solution that also reliably and safely solved the problem. A good solution should either be the least expensive, generate the most revenue, or save the most money, while meeting the technical and safety specifications.
Maintain good interdisciplinary relationships
I was excited by the results of my investigations, and my boss and I decided to share the findings with the facility’s sales team. The sales team informed us that meeting the formal condensate specifications was not the only concern. The condensate was typically sold to refineries and chemical plants that used it to produce precursors for plastics production.
Any trace heavy metals contaminants from the lube oil could poison the catalysts and cold-box heat exchangers of our customers’ crackers over time. While a few cargos might be sold because the condensate met the specifications, the long-term relationship with the buyers could be compromised.
While I did my portion of the work, input from the sales team was required to truly determine whether the solution was viable. Process engineers have to work in multidisciplinary teams that require us to maintain good working relationships. Not only does this help to expedite the problem-solving process, it helps to produce robust solutions.
Document everything, even “failures.” I was disappointed when I realized my proposal would not work. However, my boss helped me to see that it was not a failure. We learned that a solution was not feasible in our facility — information we didn’t have before. The company would keep a report on this investigation, precluding a repeat investigation and saving the organization time and effort in the future.
No technical investigation to solve a problem is a failure. While my research did not produce an implementable solution, it did produce valuable knowledge for the organization, which may prevent a future engineer from pursuing an unviable option. Process engineers must learn from solutions that are feasible as well as solutions that are not, and documentation of all options is critical to this process.
Find the root cause
I was still bothered that the original problem had not been solved. If no solution was found and implemented, the slop-oil tank would overflow again. I returned to the problem definition and discovered that the real problem was not the slop-oil tank overflowing, but the unreliability of the slop-oil evacuation. I dug even deeper to discover the root cause included inadequate communication and scheduling with the crude oil facility receiving the slop-oil. Before attempting to solve any technical problem, process engineers should first define the problem and its root causes.
I recommended improving communication between our facility and the crude oil facility to enhance the reliability of the evacuation process. I also recommended that our facility not spike slop-oil into condensate. I prepared my report and properly closed out the technical investigation.
This article originally appeared in the Career Connections column in the July 2019 issue of CEP. Members have access online to complete issues, including a vast, searchable archive of back-issues found at aiche.org/cep.
We recently caught up with Cato T. Laurencin, MD, PhD, to discuss the field of regenerative engineering. Dr. Laurencin is on the Managing Board of the Regenerative Engineering Society, and Director of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical, Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences. He also serves as the chief executive officer of the Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering.
In your opinion, what are the most important components of regenerative engineering?
A critical component of regenerative engineering is using convergence to solve the challenge of complex tissue regeneration. Convergence is an approach to problem solving that cuts across disciplinary boundaries. It integrates knowledge, tools, and ways of thinking from life and health sciences, physical, mathematical, and computational sciences, engineering disciplines, and beyond to form a comprehensive synthetic framework for tackling scientific and societal challenges that exist at the interfaces of multiple fields. We believe that next-generation solutions will come from the deep integration of advanced materials science, stem cell science, physicochemical forces, developmental biology/morphogenesis, and clinical thinking. By merging these diverse areas of expertise in a network of partnerships, convergence stimulates innovation from basic science discovery to translational application. It provides fertile ground for new collaborations that engage stakeholders and partners not only from academia, but also from national laboratories, industry, clinical settings, and funding bodies. The concept of convergence is thus meant to capture two closely related but distinct properties: the convergence of expertise necessary to address a set of research problems, and the formation of the web of partnerships involved in supporting such scientific investigations and enabling the resulting advances to be translated into new forms of innovation and new products.
The other critical component is that regenerative engineering is a field and pursuit that encompasses all. Our society is the first to have K-12 students as full members and we encourage those from the community to be members. We have a deep commitment to the next generation, particularly those who have traditionally not been “first-in” in gaining the benefits of science. Our initiatives include a K-12 newsletter, and our journal, Regenerative Engineering and Translational Medicine, which is the first to include a lay summary with each paper and a "News and Views" section.
How do you see this new technology being applied to solve problems?
Complex tissue regeneration is a relatively new concept that will take years to perfect, therefore, there are no current solutions. However, there are methods that are being tested at this time. Most scientists, engineers, and clinicians will agree that nothing short of a multipronged effort with multiple disciplines playing a role will result in a solution. The concept of convergence, where multiple disciplines interact and form new approaches that could not have been born from any one individual discipline, is of paramount importance.
What are some of the challenges researchers face in the field of regenerative engineering?
A major challenge that researchers face when undertaking highly interdisciplinary projects is funding. While there is a steady evolution towards the concept of convergence, it is still difficult to get highly interdisciplinary projects funded. The funding opportunities for such ideas are not as widespread as others are. This is changing, however, with groups including NSF and NIH making convergence research a priority, particularly in the area of tissue regeneration.
In addition, a challenge lies in connecting highly interdisciplinary teams. Superior collaboration between individual units is critical to the success of the convergent team.
Learn more about the Regenerative Engineering and Translational Medicine Journal.
Cato T. Laurencin is the Albert and Wilda Van Dusen Distinguished Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery, Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, and the Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, and Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Connecticut. He is also the Director of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical, Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences, and the Chief Executive Officer, The Connecticut Convergence Institute for Translation in Regenerative Engineering. Read more
The Enterprise and Infrastructure Resilience Conference will explore complex resilience strategies that companies today can utilize. This conference will gather speakers from industry, government, and academia to address various topics including dependence on external systems, resilient design, advanced control systems, resilient power supply systems and much more.
Paul Roege will be speaking about the importance of critical thinking, discussion, and creativity when it comes to building resilience in any enterprise. He will deliver his talk at the Enterprise and Infrastructure Resilience Conference in August. I spoke with Paul about his work experiences in the field of resilience, as well as the challenges he's faced, and where he sees the field going in the future.
Where do you see our future heading in terms of resilience?
Resilience thinking calls for a different world view that embodies a new balance. On one hand, we need a sense of humility to recognize that we can’t control what we can’t predict — and there always will be “unknown unknowns.” At the same time, resilience thrives upon the agency of each person — the belief that we can make a difference, backed up with proportionate knowledge and skills.
In practical terms, our design concepts and decision processes will evolve from exercises in optimization and central management — based upon predicted conditions — toward adaptive designs and more participative, entrepreneurial interactions. Changing mindsets can take time, but some current phenomena such as information proliferation, globalization, and popularization may lubricate the transformation. People want to contribute and feel a sense of control, and younger generations, especially, embrace experimentation, adaptation, and opportunities to try out new ideas and technologies.
What is one lesson you have learned in your experience working in the field of resilience?
Resilience offers a constructive approach to uncertainty that, in human-centric systems, hinges upon entrepreneurial and collaborative action of people. Alarms, procedures, and backup generators can be useful, but real resilience depends upon people to anticipate, respond, recover, and adapt.
As I work with international researchers, I am impressed by the differences in perceived personal freedom and responsibility to act. Do individuals or small groups feel empowered to act, or do they perceive that the government or the company is the source of authority? Similarly, some subcultures lead people to trust protective systems — laws, processes, or technologies — consequently relaxing their natural preparation, sensing, and response instincts. Such cultural factors inevitably impact how successfully communities and enterprises manage change and respond to the unexpected.
What are some of the challenges in resilience that you want to work on?
Having advocated resilience over the years, I see endless diversity in the ways that its fundamental principles can be applied. Although the term is versatile, most analysts think of resilience in terms of their particular focus, which may range from ecology and health to the design of complex infrastructure.
I see a great challenge in helping to envision how these different views fit together in a coherent, systemic way - in particular, understanding how to encourage resilience-building behaviors among individuals and small groups through leadership and design.
What specifically will you be talking about at the conference?
I will give a short overview of different ways in which researchers talk about resilience, then offer suggestions to help any entity to build resilience. In particular:
• How to weave resilience thinking into enterprise objectives;
• What to look for in system and process design;
• Key cultural factors that impact resilience;
• Leadership opportunities.
There is no simple formula for resilience, but I hope to catalyze critical thinking, discussion, and creativity.
How do you envision developments in enterprise and infrastructure resilience advancing some of the Grand Challenges in engineering and society?
Resilience and the National Academy of Engineering’s Grand Challenges are closely related. In essence, resilience is a key strategy that can help us to meet several Grand Challenges, and progress on most of the highlighted challenges will contribute reciprocally to resilience. For example, two key goals of sustainable energy and adequate infrastructure inherently demand creative, entrepreneurial action guided by a focus on outcomes and with an eye toward flexibility and adaptability — fundamentals of resilience.
Other Grand Challenges like individualized learning and enhanced exploration, will equip our society with the creativity, critical skills, and entrepreneurial spirit needed to grow resilience in the long term. The Academy’s report observes, “engineers will have to integrate their methods and solutions with the goals and desires of all society’s members.” That describes the value proposition; resilience-thinking will ensure that we can continue to meet that call as the world (or our understanding of it) changes.
Paul Roege is the Vice President for Strategic Initiatives at Typhoon-HIL, where he applies a broad technical background and 40 years of engineering and operational leadership experience to catalyze the development of next-generation energy system modeling tools. Read more.
CCPS' Shakeel Kadri, Marvin Szoychen, and CCPS Staff Consultant Alexander Glitz visited about 20 organizations in mid-May 2019 during their Brazil visit. These included collaborative meetings with member companies, potential member companies, and collaborative organizations.
During the week visit, they met with CEOs, VPs, directors, managers, regulators and SMEs of multiple organizations who shared process safety challenges in the region. Their process safety discussion with mining, biofuel, and metal industries highlighted key challenges in these segments.
Among the many reasons for the scheduled trip were the opportunities to strengthen relationships and engagement with both regional and global members and to establish connections with potential new members. Companies (both member and nonmember) expressed interest in a variety of new project subject areas as well as interest in participating in translation projects. Additionally, planning discussions began for the 9th Latin American Process Safety Conference (LACPS) in 2020, with many of the companies agreeing to provide technical and/or financial support.
David Segal is a professor at the University of California, Davis. His research focuses on gene and epigenetic editing to understand and treat neurologic disorders. He is a keynote speaker at the 3rd Epigenetics and Bioengineering Conference (EpiBio 2019) in Barcelona, Spain. We recently spoke with David to find out what we can expect during the conference.
Are there recently developed tools or techniques in the field that you are excited about? If so, why?
I am very excited about some of the new tools, as well as those to come. Let me back up and say that as a graduate student with Dana Carroll back in the 1990s, I was among the first to publish that targeted double-strand breaks in DNA could simulate homologous recombination. Back then, we didn't have good methods for making user-defined targeted double-strand breaks, so I joined the lab of Carlos Barbas as a post-doc and helped engineer zinc finger proteins, which would eventually give rise to zinc finger nucleases, TALENs, and CRISPR/Cas. So nobody likes a good double-strand break more than me.
However, something our community has learned along the way is that a lot of things can happen when you break the DNA. Oftentimes you get the edit you want, but that comes with a background of unintended events. And that's not just off-target cleavages; in the past year, there has been a growing appreciation of several other unintended outcomes that can come from even on-target cleavages, such as vector integration and chromosomal rearrangements.
There is growing evidence that some induced nonsense mutations cause the activation of paralogous genes. The frequency of such events is low enough that we don't need to worry about making edited cell lines or animal models. However, these low frequency unintended events become a concern when we think about editing genes for therapy in vivo, where millions of cells might receive events.
Back to your question, these issues arise because all the nuclease technologies do is create a double-strand break in the DNA. Then the cell takes over and tries to repair the break. In my opinion, the future of genome editing will be complexes that not only make the breaks but also repair them. I feel very confident about that because that is what nature does with enzyme systems such as integrases, transposases, and recombinases. We are just starting to see this happen.
I am very excited to see that the first CRISPR transposases have been reported just in the past few months. It's very early days still, but I predict that in 5–10 years editing genes with "cut-only" nucleases will seem as outdated as sequencing with S, or putting mineral oil on top of your PCR reactions.
What specifically will you be talking about at the conference?
Great segue question. Another way to avoid unintended nuclease events is to alter gene expression using less traumatic methods, such as epigenetic editing. When our bodies want to make sure that liver enzymes are not expressed in brain neurons, it does not mutate them with a nuclease but rather silences their expression by epigenetic mechanisms. That silencing can persist over our entire lifetime. Artificial transcription factors based on zinc fingers, TALEs and dCas9 have been used for many years to regulate gene expression, but generally, the effects were transient: if the artificial factor did not remain present on the DNA, gene expression would revert to its original state.
Achieving that long-term persistence as nature does has not been easy, most likely due to gaps in our knowledge about how nature transitions between epigenetic states. However, we will need to achieve this if epigenetic editing is to have the same long-term therapeutic effect as nuclease-based gene editing.
I will be presenting our efforts using epigenetic editing as a therapeutic approach to Angelman Syndrome, a rare neurologic disorder in which an important gene has been epigenetically silenced. I will discuss the methods we have developed to achieve efficient delivery of epigenetic editing tools throughout the brain in a mouse model of this disorder, and how we have achieved persistent epigenetic activation of our target gene.
What message would you like the audience to take away from this year’s Epigenetics and Bioengineering Conference?
Epigenetic editing is going to continue to grow for some time. Investors and therapy makers should take note.
As a member of the NIH-funded Somatic Cell Genome Editing consortium, I appreciate that both gene and epigenetic editing face many common challenges, such as efficient delivery to target tissues and avoiding immune responses.
However, unlike nucleases, siRNA, or even most drugs, epigenetic editing can turn genes either on or off. That means we could plausibly take advantage of the approximately 50% of genes that are currently inactive in our cells as new candidates for therapy. The potential safety (compared to making breaks around the genome) and the possibility for conditional or reversible effects will lead to many applications for the study and treatment of human diseases, as well as basic questions of development.
As our community learns how to better achieve persistent effects, short-term targeted epigenetic treatment will become a realistic and attractive approach to achieving long-term therapeutic benefit. And it won't be just for therapy, these tools and methods can be used across the entire tree of life. For example, unlike animals, plants exhibit transgenerational inheritance of epigenetic information. Future conferences will likely have sections related to epigenetic editing of plant traits using only the genes that exist in the genome of the plant. That's why we have to keep working.
How do you envision developments in epigenetics and bioengineering advancing some of the Grand Challenges in engineering and society?
Clearly, there are many ways in which epigenetic editing can be used to address the challenge of engineering better medicines. That will probably be a strong driver for some time. I believe these tools and methods will also have a special role to play in the challenge of reverse-engineering the brain.
Optogenetics usually refers to the use of light to control the firing of neurons in specific cells. However, light activated artificial transcription factors have already been shown to allow light induced changes in gene expression. This should already allow us to explore the function of genes in specific pre-defined cell types, and with better delivery methods such light or activity-coupled transcriptional regulators should enable the manipulation of genes and neural circuits in wild-type mice, and possibly even for brain therapy.
Epigenetic editing in plants may be one way to address the challenge to manage the nitrogen cycle. Indeed, early experiments in this area are already beginning. As a worldwide society, we have just recently gained the ability to alter genes and gene expression in living organisms. Improved efficacy and safety, along with greater social awareness and sound policy, will enable us to make many advances in health and science with these new tools.
A wave of change is spreading across many industries due to technological advances enabled by artificial intelligence (AI) and automation. The pharmaceutical industry is no exception and is harnessing AI tools for new drug discovery and development.
AI is a machine process that makes predictions or takes actions based on data, and often attempts to imitate human behavior. However, computers and machines are unable to interpret why specific data is important and they lack the emotional intelligence to determine which result is most relevant. Most experts agree that AI in its current form should be used for tasks that are repetitive and lack efficiency, as opposed to those that require human understanding. Within the pharmaceutical industry, these tasks are usually associated with big data.
Suitable for certain pharmaceutical tasks
Donna Conroy, founder of SciMar One — a consultant group that utilizes data analytics in pharmaceutical development — explains that in the pharmaceutical industry, AI tasks should be low-risk, be incapable of causing harm to patients, and reduce overall costs to make downstream products more affordable. One such AI task might be predicting the efficacy and safety of a new molecule within a biological system by referencing a genomic database. Historically, molecule identification requires both large datasets and lengthy time frames — areas where AI systems could prove beneficial.
Pharmaceutical experts report that many companies are using AI for drug discovery. These organizations are harnessing machine learning (ML) to identify the molecular structures of new drugs, for example, or to determine the best cellular genomics to produce a certain active pharmaceutical ingredient (API). ML is a branch of AI that gives computers the ability to “learn” from input data without being explicitly programmed. Companies can either construct their own ML models, or use existing models. (For more on ML, check out the two-part series that appeared in the June and October 2018 issues of CEP.)
Some tasks best left to humans
The drug development process requires emotional intelligence, experience, intuition, and rapid decision-making. This phase of the drug lifecycle is marked by routine process specializations (such as toxicity and usability testing). These tasks can require empathetic insights to evaluate the varying treatment- and disease-related datasets to extract the relevant data for the stakeholders (e.g., physicians, patients, or investors). The ability to pivot quickly during this development phase is crucial, as learning happens in real time. AI lacks the capacity to interpret, assess, and pivot due its dearth of human intelligence, and, as a result, it is unable to fully evaluate the data that it processes.
Areas where humans and AI can work together
Although the efficiency intrinsic to AI is expected to surpass human capabilities in the future, at present, a human still needs to observe and validate the necessity and utility of a molecular substance before it nears testing and clinical trials. Humans are still best-suited to most drug development tasks. However, opportunities abound for AI in the microtasks that assist human decision-making, which can help expedite the process. For example, AI has been used to identify key patients for clinical trials. Being first to market in clinical-trial enrollment is crucial, and using AI to pinpoint the best patients to enroll can help the clinical trial kick-off sooner. Novartis used AI to combine clinical trial data from a variety of internal sources to predict and monitor trial enrollment, cost, and quality.
Future development of AI
In general, once a drug or therapy gets past the development stage, investors are willing to spend more money to promote it. Some AI development efforts moving toward commercialization involve the personalization of medicine — for example, delivering personalized, targeted therapies to specific patients, or determining a new therapy’s efficacy and side-effects profile for a specific patient or patient group. CardioDiagnostics, for instance, provides tools for wireless heart monitoring; AiCure is a smartphone app that ensures users take their medication at the right time; and Eularis transforms pharmaceutical companies’ big data into actionable insights. Novo Nordisk’s AI assistant Sofia uses ML and natural language processing to field questions from diabetes patients and provide answers, learning from each interaction to improve responses for patients that were once handled by nurses at a call center.
This article originally appeared in the Technical Entity Trends column in the June 2019 issue of CEP. Members have access online to complete issues, including a vast, searchable archive of back-issues found at aiche.org/cep.
An Introduction to Vapor Intrusion
Vapor intrusion (VI) occurs when contaminants in soil or groundwater drift into a building or facility through cracks and seams in the foundation. This article describes steps to mitigate VI at your facility.
Reducing Energy Costs and Emissions with Combustion Control
Combustion in fired heaters and boilers is typically based on either volumetric flow control or pressure control of the fuel gas feeding the burner. Using mass flow control could help lower energy costs and emissions.
The Future of Single-Use Components in Biopharmaceutical Production
Single-use equipment has become ubiquitous in the biopharmaceutical industry, but further development in four key areas is needed to continue progress in this field.
Automate Operating Discipline and Dynamic Alarm Management with State-Based Control
State-based control embeds proper operational discipline into a process automation and control system to avoid alarm flooding and keep plants safe.
AI Gives the Fragrance Industry a New Nose
Killing Bacteria with Electric Bandages
Electricity May be Produced by Body Heat
Researchers Target Blood Stem Cells with Gold Nanoparticles
Editorial: No Cause for Alarm
Catalyzing Commercialization: Synthetic Bait Restores Fish Populations and Revitalizes Fishing Communities
AIChE Journal Highlight: Advancing Sustainable Energy through Process Systems Engineering
New Products: Heat Transfer; Bioprocessing; Instrumentation; Safety
Profile: Naomi Mburu — From Baltimore to Oxford: Rhodes Scholar Pushes Boundaries
Process Safety Beacon: Small Leaks Can Warn of Potential Catastrophic Failure
YPOV: Advice for Solving Technical Problems
Technical Entity Trends: Singapore’s Food for Thought
The ChE in Context: AIChE Updates Its Climate Change Policy Statement
2019 AIChE Election Candidate Statements
Applications Due for Langer Prize Fellowship
Doing a World of Good Podcasts
The AIChE Beer Brewing Competition
The July 2019 issue of CEP is now available online. AIChE members receive access to CEP, including a searchable archive of issues dating back to 2001, online at https://www.aiche.org/cep.
Has this happened to you? You are halfway through a presentation — just getting to the important details — and you look at the audience and notice the senior vice president checking email and other executives looking politely bored.
Afterward, you are frustrated. You invested considerable time preparing. You proofed your slides for typos and practiced in front of the mirror. You got to the conference room early to test your laptop and projector. You spoke in a confident voice, moved smoothly through your presentation, and explained the technical details. Despite these efforts, your audience was not engaged.
What went wrong?
Individuals at different organizational levels have different perspectives and mindsets that don’t always align. “Because they have different responsibilities, your boss may have priorities that aren’t the same as yours. This means they may not be inclined to hear you out,” says Jamie Sussel Turner, executive coach and author of the book, Less Stress Business: A Guide for Hiring, Coaching, and Leading Great Employees.
Inside the mind of executives
“Executives are often bold thinkers who don’t need the technical details to make a decision. They want results first. As an engineer, you may be used to communicating in a detailed, linear progression — from point A, to B, to C — before sharing your project results,” adds Bruce Rule, an editor and public speaking coach who often works with engineers.
You will likely spend one-third to one-half of your career communicating with executives, as well as colleagues and direct reports. Use these tips to help you engage more effectively and ensure your message is heard.
Do your homework
Assuming what works for one person will work for all audience members is a recipe for disaster. “Talk to others who have made successful presentations about how to approach the executives you will be speaking to,” says Barry Bennett, a process safety leader at Stepan Co.
You will learn which executives are detail-oriented and want to hear background information and which want only the bottom line.
If you will be presenting to your immediate boss, Sussel Turner advises, “Find an opportunity before your presentation for an in-depth conversation to learn what they value and their expectations.”
You can also use the conversation to share information about your expectations and what you hope to accomplish.
Answer “What’s in it for me?”
Your audience wants to hear “What’s in it for me?” in the first five minutes of your talk. “If you don’t answer this question early, you will lose their interest,” says Marc Champagne, a process control optimization engineer at ADM, Inc.
If you relate to their interests right away, the audience will be more likely to listen and ask questions at the conclusion of your presentation. “This applies whether you’re talking to the CEO, vice president, or shift operator,” says Champagne. And, adds Sussel Turner, “when you present your point of view in a logical and succinct way, it shows you value your audience’s time.”
Start with a summary
Begin with a synopsis of project results so your audience learns your main point right away. Then, state what action you want them to take. “For instance, if you want your boss to know results surpassed expectations and a decision is needed about the next round of project financing, communicate this up front,” says Rule.
“It’s okay to say ‘Here’s what I want you to take away from this discussion’ before you move further into your talk.”
Use data selectively
Projects, especially complex or long-term ones, generate large quantities of data, not all of which are pertinent to your audience.
“Don’t just present data, present information and relate it to how it affects the company’s objectives. Be business-oriented in your communications,” says Edmund Ezeike, Operations Head, Axxela Ltd., Nigeria.
Keep it simple
Speak in plain English, avoid technical acronyms, and use visual aids to help explain complex concepts. However, cautions James Diebold, a principal scientist at Community Power Corp., “Never show a complex table in a presentation and say, ‘I know you can’t read this.’”
Rule advises that you move relevant technical details to slides that will serve as additional material if needed but aren’t intended for the main presentation. “If your audience has a technical question, then you can pull up these slides and talk through them,” he says.
Examples help your audience better understand and relate to your message. For instance, if you are explaining the hazards of steam, describe an incident where a person sustained steam burns.
Offer potential solutions
If you’re presenting a problem your boss needs to help resolve, propose one or two alternative solutions and the pros and cons of each. “The boss wants you to tell them what the next steps and solutions are,” says Rule. “You need to put the silver lining around the cloud.”
Encourage two-way communication
Resist the urge to rush through your presentation. Allow the audience time to process your content and ask questions. Most importantly, “Look at your audience. If they start to look lost, you may need to add explanation. If they look glazed over, you may need to speed up or omit some details,” says Bennett.
This article originally appeared in the Career Connections column in the June 2019 issue of CEP. Members have access online to complete issues, including a vast, searchable archive of back-issues found at aiche.org/cep.