Often the most successful folk out there have found their way onto a conference stage or two in their career or business. These types of speaking opportunities can do wonders for people. As such, my aim today is to demystify what it takes for you to succeed on this level. I’ll be sharing 12 killer conference presentation tips that’ll set you off in the right direction to conquer your next big-time talk.
Let’s start with the obvious
The stakes are often high for these types of talks in that they offer tremendous opportunities to establish your message, thought leadership, and your own personal and professional reputation to huge numbers of highly targeted audiences. Not only that, for large mega conferences, careers and businesses can be made on the back of a killer presentation. In effect, they tend to be a bit more pressure-packed as compared to many other types of presentations.
The biggest reason why?
It starts and ends with audience expectations. People go for a reason. They expect to learn or come away with something valuable as far as thoughts or ideas go.
To add, it can’t be overlooked that conferences tend to steal time away from audiences in which they could be elsewhere doing something different in their work or personal lives. Finally, there can be financial reasons (travel, cost of entry) that amount to people demanding more from speakers. Adding all of this up, expectations for speakers are sky high.
What does this mean to go-getters like you?
Well, quite simply it means that if you’ve found your way into a conference keynote line up, you really have to up your game if you want to continue on your current success trajectory.
*Now, if this straight up commentary is unnerving you, relax. Take a deep breath, because I have you covered with this ultimate conference presentation tips guide!
Let’s launch into this.
CONFERENCE PRESENTATION TIPS #1: KNOWING YOUR PASSION VALUES
Before even scribbling down your initial thoughts, ideas or outline as a presenter, you really need to get a grip on who you are as a human first, professional second. What do I mean by this? Well, knowing what drives you as far as your values will help you to fuel your presentation creation process.
Do core values of education, generosity and freedom drive you to be your best in everything you do? If not, what things do you intrinsically stand for?
Let’s face it, presentations are a bit of a chore. There is a lot of work from outlining, writing and rehearsing. To work your way through all of that, and do so at a high level, it is essential to be in the right frame of mind. To do this, you need to know what foundational values you stand for.
Want more info on this?
I devoted a whole blog post to this entitled, “Uncovering Your Presentation Superpowers.” I would implore all presenters, experienced or otherwise to read up on this and align their internal drivers–aka passion values–with their upcoming talk.
CONFERENCE PRESENTATION TIPS #2: Getting a Grip
Did you know that studies indicate that 75% of people suffer from speech anxiety? Yeah, that’s a lot of people. Of course, it would be safe to say there are varying degrees of what speech anxiety entails.
Forbes put out data stating that 10% of people suffer from extreme public speaking anxiety while another 10% love it. That leaves the middle majority which is comprised of people who experience moderate to fairly uncomfortable feelings surrounding their speaking abilities.
Now, what happens when we are not in the right state as far as managing our emotions while attempting to speak? Well, let’s just say there are a “few” less than desirable effects.
What you don’t want:
*loss of concentration, impaired memory faculties, *rapid heartbeat, *twitchy nerves and reactions, *shaky voice, *sweaty palms, *sweaty back, *sweaty armpits, *sweaty face, etc. etc.
Need I go on?
Probably not right? We all know that on a stage in front of your peers, decision makers and others, breaking down is probably not something you want to occur. Therefore, it is absolutely essential for speakers to find some ways to cope right out of the gate.
Here’s the good news! There are a tonne of potential solutions.
Want more info on this?
Even better news! I recently released a FREE ebook which will arm you with over 20 tips and techniques that’ll allow you get a grip on your nerves, so as to deliver a knockout conference talk! If you haven’t grabbed your copy yet, snag it now!
CONFERENCE PRESENTATION TIPS #3: Learn to Persuade
Giving good talks is all about one’s ability to persuade. Persuading is something we do every day and all the time. Whether we are doing so with spouses, partners, kids, friends, co-workers, or conference goers, we are always trying to influence and allow others to see and understand our glorious view of the world.
In many cases, we desire to lead others to some sort of change. That could mean a change in behavior, idea, belief or attitude.
Trust me, I know all about this in trying to find the right buttons to push in getting my kids off to bed each night.
Knowing how to effectively do this in ways that inspire trust, credibility and respect is an essential skill.
Lucky for all of us, a leading persuasion expert has already made some major contributions to this field to all of our benefit. This guy listed off a few areas that we ought to consider when trying to enhance our persuasiveness.
That individual is none other than a man who graced this earth 2300 years ago. I am referring to the Greek legend, Aristotle.
His principles of ethos, pathos, and logos are worth studying up in terms of boosting our abilities to win over others to our view of the world.
Aristotle’s Principle of Persuasion:
Here is a very quick breakdown of each and what we need to do to skill up.
Ethos: To persuade, we have to be concerned with our own credibility (or character). Do people have reason to believe us? Think credentials, experience.
Pathos- To persuade, we have to be able to emotionally connect to an audience. Being a wet blanket or coming off as utterly bland will do nothing as far building connections.
Logos- To persuade, we have to ensure that our arguments are based on logic.
My big takeaway on persuasion would be to familiarize yourself with these principles and let them guide your attempts to boost your own persuasion skills.
CONFERENCE PRESENTATION TIPS #4: Content Creation Process
By now, you should be passion fueled, in control of your emotions and aware of some ways to persuade. Now you can finally begin the process of getting your ideas out. Here are the steps I always advise when looking to get started on your own content creation:
- Internalize the overall conference theme and remember to ensure your message is contextually related in some way. Also be aware of your audience as far as who they are, what they know and what they will expect.
- Brainstorm all of your ideas on the general topic you are charged with presenting on.
- Make notes on direct experiences you have with the topic ex. Stories, projects you worked on etc.
- Make your outline of main points and subpoints.
- Decide on an idea/writing framework.
- Gather data that supports your big ideas.
- Do a check over in terms of your logic making sense or being flimsy.
- Write out your script or official outline.
- Editing and cutting.
- Create the presentation deck (slides).
CONFERENCE PRESENTATION TIP #5: Create Instant Audience Connection
If you dismiss this section in that you believe your natural “beloved by all” personality will shine through and win over the audience, you could be in for a shock. Building connections with audiences is a process which is highly layered and nuanced.
There are a number of things that can be done to create it and unfortunately just as many things that can be inadvertently done to destroy it. Let’s go with the empowering info.
Building connections can be done using these techniques:
*effective storytelling *good slide design *humor *smiling *eye contact *authenticity *movement & gesture, *voice
CONFERENCE PRESENTATION TIPS #6: Storytelling
According to a Stanford University study, stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone. Wow! Talk about powerful! Now try this on for size, when stories are combined with data, retention rates of such data are boosted upwards of 75%!
Mic drop… (need I say more?)
There is a mountain of studies and evidence that speaks to the level of efficacy this technique offers.
It would most certainly be of true value for you to not only integrate it but learn how to do it well. Chances are your presentation success will be highly intertwined with how adept you are at weaving stories into your talks.
Want more info on this?
CONFERENCE PRESENTATION TIPS #7: Movement and Gesture
Days of speakers positioning them exclusively behind podiums are over. Although that style can still be effective and called for in certain situations, it is far from the norm these days. Audiences crave more as far as originality and connection are concerned.
Speakers can build strong humanistic connections by way of movement and gesture. That can result in their messages being better positioned to resonate with conferences goers.
One effective way to build connections is to use movement and gesture to help amplify your message. Simple tricks like slightly leaning into the audience to emphasize a key point can be highly effective if used selectively and strategically.
The key, of course, is remaining natural. Moving for the sake of moving is not the goal. It has to be authentic.
Want more info on this?
I have a post devoted to this content too!
CONFERENCE PRESENTATION TIPS #8: Your Presentation Voice
“Bueller…? Bueller…? Bueller…?”
That classic scene from the cult film classic, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” is great at illustrating my next point. For those not in the know, this scene is a parody of a classic burnt-out teacher doing class attendance. The teacher is repeating the student’s name in the most monotone sounding voice you could ever imagine. The effect is that his students that are present are mentally MIA.
We have all probably sat through a presentation in which a speaker delivers content without any emotion or care for how it is received. What is the surest sign of this taking place?
Without a doubt, the vocal clues are what give things away.
When we are naturally charged up about something, our voice reflects that emotion. The way we play with our vocal variance such as intonation, stress, pause, pace amongst other factors will greatly determine how well our messages stands to be received.
Moral of this story?
Be wary of your vocal variety and the effect it has on your ability to communicate your conference keynotes. Care for a deeper dive on this topic?
Want more info on this?
I have you covered, read up here!
CONFERENCE PRESENTATION TIPS #9: Powerful Openings and Closings
Without a powerful opening that hooks people instantly, you face an uphill battle as far as trying to get people to tune into your ideas. That is why getting people interested early is an absolute must!
Ways to do this include, stories, impactful statistics, bold statements or thought-provoking questions. Other possibilities include images, videos or anything else that is contextually relevant and potentially interesting to your target audience.
Closings are just as important but in other ways. Your message needs to be packaged up and sent off into the world so that it is easily received and passed along to others who were not in attendance.
This means tying up loose ends, being crystal clear on what your message is and not being wishy-washy as far as what you want people to do, think or feel based on your talk. In essence, your call to action has to be actionable. There is no room for confusion or incompleteness on this point.
CONFERENCE PRESENTATION TIPS #10: Creating your Slides
Now that you have put the time into outlining, writing and openings/closings, you will have readied yourself for the slides.
I often see quite a few mistakes here. Here are a few of the most common:
PROBLEM→ Jamming every single piece of data and or information into the slide.
RESULT→ Information overload! People are not equipped to read, think and listen all at the same time. Something has to give.
SOLUTION→ Measure the amount of content on your slide by how long it would take someone to decipher it. If it takes longer than a minute, you are probably overloading your audience.
PROBLEM→ Slides that are difficult to comprehend despite small amounts of content on them.
RESULT→ Frustration at not beginning to decipher the data, ambivalence as the listener gives up trying to follow along.
SOLUTION→ Study up on basic slide design basics as far as color, typeface, visuals go.
PROBLEM→ Creating slide decks with bullet points ONLY. Not only that, the bullet points are read off by the presenter.
RESULT→ Audience boredom, loss of interest.
SOLUTION→ Trim the bullet points, mix in other content touchpoints such as visuals, video, audio, props, or other stimuli.
CONFERENCE PRESENTATION TIPS #11: Surviving your Q&A session
Ah yes, the Q&A portion of the presentation. This section has the power to propel you and your ideas forward as far as reinforcing your message and boosting your perceived levels of trust and credibility.
Unfortunately, if flubbed it can do quite the opposite. This is one section of your talk in which the stakes can be very high. Hence many people often experience the flaring of nerves and apprehension when considering this part of their conference talk.
As usual, there are tips and tricks if you are in the know!
Here are some of my favorites:
*Ensure that you structure your presentation well from start to finish to ensure a complete and thorough understanding (doing so boosts retention rates upwards of 40%).
*Once you complete your first draft of your presentation, let it sit for a day or two. Then re-visit with an aim to locate and shred any holes in logic you may find. Better yet, have a trusted colleague or friend do the same.
*Prior to starting your presentation, aim to do as many meets and greets with audience members. This will serve to establish basic relationships which may come in handy as far as managing nerves throughout your presentation. That emotional control will become extra handy when and if faced with some challenging questions.
CONFERENCE PRESENTATION TIPS #12: Rehearsal
This is one of the most critical steps but it is also fraught with the most challenge. Time constraints, nerves, frustration and the temptation to cut corners.
However, if done right, it can be the most powerful step as far as allowing you to generate an impactful impression of your message.
There are two general modes of thought towards rehearsal.
- Scripting and memorizing.
- Outlining and free talk.
Your choice will determine how you go about your rehearsal.
Like most things, there are pros and cons to each. Have a look to see what works best for you.
♥ Scripting Pros
*Timing issues can be controlled
*More thorough of the two approaches as far as ensuring that all important points are covered and not missed
*Higher likelihood that your message(s) are easily followed and understood
⊗ Scripting Cons
*Authenticity issues (sounding canned→ which refers to sounding unnatural, if not rehearsed long enough)
*Decent amount of time, effort and energy required to internalize the content and allow it to flow naturally
♥ Outlining Pros
*If done well, this approach can come off as very conversational and authentic
⊗ Outlining Cons
*Easy to miss key points
*Timing is less precise
*Ideas at risk of not being thoroughly communicated and understood
♦ My unfettered take is that it depends on each presenter and what they feel comfortable with. However, when the stakes are high and precision in messaging is of the utmost importance, I would recommend scripting in most cases.
That approach quite simply allows for the most control over the process and comes closest to ensuring that your ideas are well delivered and received.
I did devote a past post to helping with memorization. I highly recommend those who have trouble in that area to check it out!
SUMMARY → CONFERENCE PRESENTATION TIPS
Yes, I unloaded a lot on you within this post. However, each step is the starting point for delivering excellence on the conference circuit. Whether you are readying for your first talk or fiftieth, these fundamentals will be of help to you. I am confident of that.
As always, I would love to hear how you make out! Is there anything you feel is missing? Something you’d like more info on in a future post?
Please hit me up on any of these platforms to let me know! 😉 :
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