4 Ways to Crush a Conference Speaking Chance


If you’ve been asked to speak at a conference, take it as a sign that you’re doing something right. You have distinguished yourself in one way or another in your industry and among your colleagues. Now the conference organizers want you to share your expertise with a captive audience.

Covering a subject that I am passionate about comes quite naturally to me. It certainly makes standing in front of a room full of people a lot less intimidating than it could be. Fortunately, I rarely have to use tricks like presenting my audience in their underwear!

Still, I want to give the best possible presentation so as not to embarrass myself or my company, and I’m sure you will too. Like pitching a product or service to a customer, you’re pitching to the public, so you want to make it right. Here are four tips you can use to speak at conferences to achieve that goal.

1. Be a Scout

No matter how familiar you are with your subject, it’s not a good idea to go it alone. Remember that you will have the opportunity to show your authority. Don’t ruin it by not preparing.

As far as possible, figure out who will be in the audience so you can frame the topic appropriately for them. And if you’re re-using a presentation, make sure to update anything that requires it. After developing your presentation, practice the entire speech until you are completely comfortable with it. I use rehearsals to rewrite anything that feels uncomfortable and to adjust the timing and content of my slides or video.

Imagine giving your presentation on that day, keeping important details in mind. Those can range from what you’re wearing — something professional but comfortable — to a bottle of water on stage to wet your whistle when needed.

If you’re a list maker, create one and check each item as you go. The better prepared you are, the more confident you will be. And trust me, that preparation will show as soon as you start.

2. Work on the public

We’ve all been in classes where the professor talked to us and – hopefully – also in classes where the professor involved us in the lesson. I’m guessing you, like me, got a lot more out of the latter than the former.

That’s why you must be the betrothed. Look at the people in the room. Smile. Wave to those you know so they see you know they’re there. Before speaking your first word, put your audience at ease.

Make your first words a greeting. And while you’re at it, do a sound check to make sure everyone can hear you and see the screen when you’re using one. Start by asking the audience a few questions without putting anyone on the spot. You can also use that interrogative intervention when you feel like you’re losing your audience during your presentation.

It is true that you are making a speech, not a chat. But a little back and forth keeps your audience engaged with what you’re talking about. That may be all it takes to get them hanging on your every word.

3. Add a little break

The business you own or work for may or may not be an industry disruption. If it were that easy to be one, the terminology would have to change. Still, giving a conference presentation is a place where you can use some innovation to demonstrate your authority.

Start with the visuals for your presentation. The best way to avoid the dreaded death of PowerPoint is to make sure your slideshow is really interesting to look at. Creative use of images, video clips, sound and movement ensures that the audience does not get up and walk away. If you just read what’s on the slide, they’ll have a cocktail at the hotel bar and read the handout themselves.

Use disruption in the content itself. Storytelling. Use inventive examples to explain complex topics. And while you’ll want to use references to your brand throughout your presentation, cite your competitors if something they’ve done illustrates your point.

Conference participants receive an enormous amount of information in a short period of time. Do what you can in your presentation to shake things up a bit. They will remember what they learned from you and how much more fun it was doing that.

4. Leave a lasting impression

If you’re not using your doctor’s office at a conference to build your brand reputation, industry authority, and customer base, you’re missing the boat. You can’t just give the audience something when they’re in the room. You have to give them something to take with them when they go.

Approach your presentation like a growth marketing opportunity. The conference organizers have already placed a room full of prospects at the top of your funnel. You want them to return to their workplace as ambassadors for your brand, even if they are not customers or customers.

That audience involvement from the stage I mentioned earlier will help you achieve this. Consider leaving plenty of time for the Q&A and have a few questions to start with if attendees are shy about raising their hands. For example, “Is anyone wondering why I haven’t talked about… [topic] today?” Don’t forget to make a few notes about any questions you might want to include in your next presentation.

Stick around when you’re ready to meet and greet people, exchange business cards, and answer a few more questions. Networking during breaks, meals, receptions and in the exhibition hall. Those kinds of connections will make you, your brand, and your message memorable and take your audience to the bottom of the funnel.

Making it look easy

If your goal is to deliver thought-provoking and memorable presentations, using these tips can help you do just that. Fully embrace the idea that you know what you’re talking about. Then take a deep breath and give your audience something to talk about.


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