Embrace the Fear! Coping with a Conference Presentation

Tuesday, November 2nd, 2010 by Simon Morton

Let’s face it – most people learn to make presentations in front of relatively small groups of people.  So when it comes to presenting yourself, your ideas or your business to an audience of hundreds at a conference, it’s unsuprising that panic can often set in.

Fret not!  We bring good news – there is another way.  By giving yourself plenty of time to plan how and what you’re going to say and by doing some simple research, you can be sure of making a great impact.

Rule 1

As soon as you’ve made the decision to speak, decide on a compelling and engaging topic for your presentation (OK – it may seem a little obvious but you’d be amazed at how many people go for some wishy-washy subject that really won’t appeal to the audience).

It should be one in which you have some expertise, to give you the confidence you need to speak about it.  It should also be consistent with the theme of the conference (a blatent sales pitch rarely wins you fans in the audience).

Outline the key benefits to the audience, as this will help you focus and help the conference organisers promote the event.

Rule 2 

Next do some research by getting the answers to some important questions.

  • What time will your session be and how long will it last?Conference room
  • Are you expected to take your own handouts, or will the organisers provide them for you? In which case, in what format should you provide them?
  • How many people are expected to attend and who are they?
  • How will the room be set up?
  • When can you have access to the room?
  • Will they provide the equipment you need, or should you take your own?

The more information you can get, the better prepared you’ll be.

Rule 3 

Give yourself plenty of time to prepare you presentation and practice it. If it doesn’t feel right, you’ll need enough time to improve it (blagging, no matter how noble an art form you may consider it, rarely works).Practice practice practice

Don’t forget to give yourself plenty of time to prepare supporting visuals (and no, that doesn’t always have to mean PowerPoint!)

Prepare your handouts to give delegates even more value from attending your presentation.

Rule 4

The witching hour is almost upon you so make sure you’re organised and mentally prepared for what lies ahead:

  • Before you leave for the conference, make sure you have back up copies of your presentation, so you know your files are safe if you have problems with your equipment. 
  • When you get there, check that you’re happy with the layout of the room and that all the equipment you need is there and working.
  • Try to attend some other sessions at the conference, to make sure you don’t duplicate what’s already been said. This will also give you the opportunity to find out more about your audience.

Rule 5 

After making your perfect presentation (and yes, it will be), make a note of questions you were asked, as this is good material for your next presentation.

If you promised to get in touch with anyone – to provide extra information or contacts – make sure you get their contact details and then do what you promised.

This will make you stand out from many presenters who never keep in touch with people they meet (crazy but true…).

Time to let you into a little secret…

Speaking at conferences used to scare the living daylights out of me.  Despite being armed with a great story, compelling support materials and hours of rehearsal, I’d be a quivering wreck by the time my introduction onto the stage was being made. 

And then a colleague let me into little secret – the audience want you to succeed

They are on your side

They want to engage with you, smile knowingly at your ice-breaking gags and marvel at your visuals. 

Add that positive feeling in the room to a presentation that has been carefully planned, designed and rehearsed, and you’re onto a winner.  

Trust me – it works…

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One Response to “Embrace the Fear! Coping with a Conference Presentation”

  1. […] social media boom has had an enormous effect on the art of conference presenting. At a recent event we took a visual count of a plenary session and over half the people had […]

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