Business or industry conferences do not, as a rule, have to soulless and as dry as a sunburnt cracker. On the contrary, they can be lively and exciting gatherings as well. A large part of which way a conference will go depends on those that have been charged with giving presentations and presenting information to the attendees.
If this responsibility has fallen upon your shoulders and you are preparing a presentation – or like myself have just been to so many bad ones – then I think the following points should be of interest to you.
I would like to clarify at this point that I am not saying that all conference talks are necessarily bad – just that people sometimes forget some key basics and that everyone suffers because of it.
Understand the Difference Between Oral and Written Communication
Listeners at a conference will likely have a couple of presentations to attend a day and will not be able to re-read the section of your talk that they didn’t understand. With this in mind, the first point is that clarity is king. Try to only make a couple of key points and repeat them a couple of times. Overburdening your audience with information is one guaranteed way to send them off to sleep.
You want your audience to come away from the talk being able to relate its main points to other people they meet that weren’t there, so make sure you are clear and concise.
What is Your Point?
If you are going to make your presentation as clear as it can be, you are going to have know what the overall point of your talk is. This is important because without knowing this you will not be able to give your audience a forecast of what you are going to tell them and a concluding summary of the main points you want them to take away.
Who is Your Audience?
The worst thing you can do in a conference situation is assume your audience don’t know about your subject matter and that they need to be educated. It is like your ageing father explaining why the internet is useful to you; it is unnecessary and a little aggravating.
If you are talking to a room of experts then treat them as such.
Content is More Important than Delivery (But Not Completely)
While it is always great to see a presentation given by someone with charisma, it doesn’t mask if a presentation is essentially hollow and devoid of anything interesting. You are not supposed to be the interesting part of your presentation, what you are presenting is.
Your presentation is almost definitely not a stand up comedy routine, although humour (as long as it is not forced or unnatural sounding) can be a great way of breaking up particularly information heavy talks. Also, if you are going to do a sales pitch the key is not to hide what you are doing but also not to sound too much like you are selling your audience something.
Rehearse With a Stopwatch
Cardinal sin number two is most definitely rambling on for forty five minutes when you could have been done after twenty five. The key is rehearsal and timing yourself to make sure that you are saying all you need to in the right amount of time.
If you keep these things in mind, then soon enough you will be an honorary king of conferencing and will hopefully be in high demand.
Anybody else got any key points for making sure you don’t send your audience to sleep at a conference?
- License: Creative Commons image source
James Duvalis an It specialist who has attended more conferences then you have had hot dinners. When not jetting around the globe or writing blogs for companies like Intercall Europe, James can be seen roaring through the countryside on his motorbike on an endless quest for good music and ale.