Whether you’re presenting for the first time or you’ve been doing it for years, there’s always room to improve and refine your conference speaking. If you’re going to improve and present in a more effective way you need to look at your performance before, during and after the presentation. Here are our top tips for better conference speaking.
Before the presentation
- Know your audience – knowing your audience can really give you the upper hand as you come to plan and write your presentation. Find out who usually attends the conference that you are speaking at. For example, if your presentation is on technology, but you’re presenting to an audience that are not very tech-savvy, you may need to qualify and explain concepts in further detail. Alternatively, if those you’re presenting to work in the same industry as you, it might be a bad idea to be too basic as it may come across as patronising.
- Engage on social media – it’s really worth getting your audience interested in your subject matter before you present. One of the best ways to do this is to get involved on social media and offer previews of the way that you are approaching the topic. This will mean attendees will get a better idea of the kind of talk you’re going to be giving. You may even find that discussing your topic on social media opens up different ideas and discussion points that you can incorporate into your talk.
- Practice – this won’t come as a surprise: the more you practice, the better your presentation will be. Once you’ve got your presentation written up you can begin practicing. Start in front of the mirror and then gradually build up your audience, starting with one person you trust to give you good feedback and then eventually in front of colleagues. Not only will you be more confident during the presentation itself, those listening to you practice will be able to provide constructive criticism with which sections need work.
- Make your slideshow easy to understand – try to ensure your slideshow is easy for your audience to understand. Don’t cram it full of text – it won’t be worth it as they won’t be able to read it. You want a small about of text with the main points as well as some images to highlight the details.
During the presentation
- Smile and make eye contact – an obvious one, but it’s worth doing. Building rapport with your audience is not only good for them – it’s good for you too. Speaking directly to people takes you out of the mind-set that you’re talking to a large group and allows you to focus on individuals.
- Grab your audience’s attention early – the opening section of your presentation is the most important part to get right. This is the time where you need to grab your listeners’ attention and win them over for the rest of the talk. If you lose them in this opening section it will be impossible to get them back as they will have missed out on the ground work.
- Tell a story – people like listening to stories – your audience will engage more with your presentation if it has a beginning, middle and end. It gives them a reason to stay with the presentation and focus their attention.
- Be interactive – one common problem with presentations is that speaker will simply to do too much speaking. It can be a much better idea to get the audience involved and allow for interaction. There are plenty of ways to do this: from quick polls using an audience response system (ARS) to traditional methods like a show of hands.
After the presentation
- Have a Q&A session – leave time at the end of your talk to have a question-and-answer session with the audience. This is your opportunity to expand on any points and offer clarity to anyone who found certain aspects of the talk confusing. Sometimes the Q&A session can be the most interesting part as it allows you to use specific examples to make your point. This can allow it last longer in the memory of your audience.
- Make a transcript available – you should always make a transcript of your presentation available online. This allows anyone who is interested in what you were talking about to go back get more information. Also if there was anyone who didn’t get the chance to see the presentation themselves but were interested in the subject, they can read through.