Technical Communications

Technical Communications

Technical Writing

Technical writing is a static form of communication; papers are completed before the reader sees them and then can be read at any time and for as much time as the reader likes. This mode of communication is unlike presentations, which require some real-time improvisation and last a limited amount of time. Because they are static, papers are well suited to communicating detail, especially low-level detail. Writing also lets you choose and refine your words carefully, as opposed to improvised speaking. You will encounter many kinds of written technical communication at West Point: reports, essays, orders, white papers, memoranda, and even some emails. The USMA Guidelines for Technical Communication provides detailed guidance on conventions in technical writing. The resources below offer support for the technical writing process. 

Stand-Alone Visuals

Many conferences call for participants to create a poster to highlight their work, and some departments at West Point require cadets to create a poster for their capstone projects on Projects Day. A good poster concisely describes the project, including its motivation, methods, results, conclusions, and recommendations. Posters should be laid out such that a reader can understand the highlights of your work after a minute of reading and can fully read the poster after roughly five minutes. 

Technical Presentations

Presentations accompany papers for a good reason: they complement each other. Although papers are well suited to conveying detail, they do not support the kind of face-to-face interaction that is crucial to working in groups. This is the role of presentations. 

When you present, you interact with the audience in person and in real time. Because the audience can see and hear you, you can not only answer their questions but also show them enthusiasm, confidence, and empathy—all important qualities of leadership. But presentations are time constrained, which makes it critical to explain your ideas clearly. 

In the technical world, presentations usually consist of one or more speakers (the presenters) accompanied by prepared slides. Although the presenters might use notes to help guide their words, they typically do not read from a script—this differentiates presentations from formal speeches. This semi-improvised style is flexible, letting presenters change their words and emphasis based on the needs of the audience. It also requires preparation—presenters must understand their subject matter well enough to be able to speak about it without a script.