Conference Presentation Tips

Conference Confidence: Tips for Speaking to Larger Groups

While great presenters make the craft appear effortless, the truth is a lot of work goes into a perfect pitch for the platform.  The following suggestions will help the experienced presenter and the novice speak with purpose and passion. 

  1. Know what you want people to do with the information you are giving them, and tell them at the beginning of your talk. I want you to take advantage of some tips for giving better conference presentations.
  1. If you don’t enjoy presenting, consider structuring it in a question/answer format. Even if you are asking yourself the questions, it should be easier to adopt a conversational tone as you are providing the answers.
  1. Recognize you can’t please everyone. Shoot for a presentation that will benefit the majority of your target audience.  If your session is labeled an advanced session, don’t dumb it down.  If your audience consists of novices, don’t go over their heads. 
  1. Pre-call the content level at the beginning of your talk. This should help you stay in control and prevent the know-it-all Nancys or the bewildered Bills from taking over.
  1. If you are using slides, limit the text on each. If you need notes, use them, but don’t put them on your slides.  PowerPoint was made for pictures, not bullet points.
  1. Test your equipment ahead of time, and be prepared to present with no visual aids. You never know what can happen.  Besides, PowerPoint is a presentation aid.  You are the presentation.  In most cases, you should be able to get by without it.  If you can’t, have a backup or two waiting in the wings.
  1. If you are not good with a slide clicker, have someone else do it. It is much easier to say “next slide please” than to fumble around finding your place.
  1. If you are going to be introduced, give the introducer an introduction you have created. And unless your name is Jane Smith, Doug Jones, Derrick Johnson, or some other common identifier, tell people how to pronounce it.
  1. If your introducer botches your introduction, reintroduce yourself, and be smart about how you do it. Rather than talking about your credentials, to first tell your audience how they will benefit from spending time with you. 
  1. If you will provide a handout after your presentation, tell people. This will allow them to focus on you instead of taking notes.  If you are referencing long websites or other information that is difficult to record, at a minimum it is a good idea to compose a list and post it somewhere.  
  1. Keep your eyes on your audience and not on your slides. Since your notes aren’t on the slides, you should have very few reasons to turn around.
  1. Prepare for forgetting rule 11. Your dominant hand should be closest to the screen.  If you turn to point at something on your slides, you will not have your back to the audience if you are standing in the right place.
  1. Use stories. Good stories support the learning point, engage the audience, and bring life to a message.  They are the stuff people remember years after a presentation has ended. 
  1. If you want to take all questions at the end of your talk, tell people you are doing so at the beginning. On the other hand, if you want to encourage questions, do so early on.
  1. Repeat questions after they are asked. This is especially true if someone is recording your session.
  1. Engage your audience! Ask questions and ask for a show of hands.  Ask people to turn to a neighbor and discuss something for a moment.  Give something away.  In today’s “everyone has a voice” world, people want and expect to participate. 
  1. End on It’s rude not to do so.  This means you structure your content to fill the allotted time, and you build in some sections that can contract or expand as needed.
  1. Have fun! well-prepared and relaxed presenters can make the driest content seem interesting if they appear to enjoy themselves.

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