7 Top Tips for Presenting at a Conference
At some stage in almost everyone’s career, they are called upon for presenting at a conference. It may be a small gathering of colleagues from your own organisation of a large event attended by industry professionals, or even people from rival organisations. Whatever the event, these simple rules will help you deliver your message loud and clear and leave the right impression on your audience.
1. Prepare, prepare and prepare again
There is no substitute for really knowing your subject – anyone ‘winging it’ is sure to be found out. If you are presenting at a conference then it’s odds on that you’ve been chosen for your knowledge or experience in the field, so that’s a good start. However, you should still ensure you have researched your subject and be completely across the subject matter. When it comes to Q&A, you’ll need to be able to answer with confidence.
2. Timing is Everything
At most conferences, the times will be allocated and you will be expected to help the event keep on schedule. As part of your preparation, it is wise to time your presentation and aim to speak for as close as possible to your allocated time. It may be necessary to trim a few words here and there to stay within the boundaries. DO NOT GO ON LONGER THAN YOUR ALLOCATED TIMES – you will not win any friends!
3. Keep It Relevant
This might seem obvious but if you are asked to speak on a particular topic, ensure your presentation stays on the subject. Although it can be interesting to expand the matter, if appropriate, it is usually best to stick to the brief and deliver the message that’s been requested.
4. Use Good Quality Slides
Your AV Company and Conference Producer should provide the best possible projection system but it is important that your slides are clear and work well. Small fonts are a definite no, just think about the person at the back of the room! It is also good practice not to crowd the slides with too much text – a picture paints a thousand words!
5. Keep it Simple
It’s an old adage but it still holds true. Although you may be dealing with quite complex subject matter, it is good practice to assume you are explaining the subject to a lay person. Don’t assume knowledge and take things step by step. That way you will ensure a maximum of understanding and minimise the chance of ‘losing’ the audience part way through the talk.
6. Speak to the back of the room
The AV Company and Conference Producer should provide a crystal clear sound system to enable you to be heard clearly around the room, whatever size it may be. However, if you mumble in your beard, or talk to your boots, they will have wasted their time and you won’t be clearly heard. Always ensure you are looking up and around the room and deliver the message by projecting your voice as clearly as possible. Speak more slowly than you would in ordinary conversation – have a careful listen to a news reader on TV or Radio and you’ll notice how slowly they deliver their words. The AV guys will be very pleased if they can turn down the volume, rather than striving to get every last decibel from their system!
7. Encourage Interaction with the Audience
If you adhere to the points above then you are almost bound to produce a successful presentation. One final ingredient is to get the audience to talk to you and ensure they have received the message you have tried to deliver. A Q&A session at the end of the speech is an obvious way but a mix of direct questions to and from the audience, with some rhetorical questions during the presentation, will ensure they stay with you from beginning to end.