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Guila Muir

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So You’ve Been Selected

6 Tips for Conference Presenters

“Someone’s got to do something, and it’s just incredibly pitiful that it has to be us.” — Jerry Garcia

Some are chosen, some are forced…but in the end, most business professionals present at industry conferences, annual meetings, or other events during the course of their careers. Please allow me to be the first to congratulate you if you have been recently selected to present! You were chosen out of many, and are now charged with a fantastic opportunity to enhance your reputation as a credible expert in your field.

These TIPS will help you give the best presentation possible, while fulfilling your responsibility to your audience. Use them, and you’ll come off like a pro!

TIP #1: Get off the WHAT. Tell them HOW.

The sad truth is that no one really wants to know how great your program, discovery, or event is. But everyone wants to know HOW it got to be that way! Be ready to provide at least 3 specific, tangible HOW-TO’s that others can use in their own businesses, organizations, or communities.

Examples of tangible HOW TO’s:

  • How did we get 2,500 people to participate in our annual fund drive? (What specific actions did we take?)
  • What were the most important 5 steps we took to accomplish…
  • Mistakes we made–things NOT to do…

TIP #2: Do what you said you would do in your session proposal

Most conferences have a Program Committee, which selected your session based on your session objectives. Re-visit those objectives. Did you say participants would…

  • Identify methods to develop corporate-community partnerships?
  • Develop next steps to connect to technology resources?
  • Learn at least 3 new business development techniques?

Don’t b.s. your audience…Make sure you give them what you promised. That is your primary responsibility to the people who will sit through your session.

TIP #3: PREPARE

Do you really want to come off like an unprepared buffoon at a professional conference? Demonstrate your respect for the audience and for yourself by spending quality time preparing and practicing your presentation. Run it by your spouse and friends, and take their feedback to heart. Your presentation should never be “last-minute.”

If you’re on a panel, make a solid plan with your co-presenters about what specific aspects each will address. Talk with ALL of them at least twice before the conference. Make sure you are all clear on time limits. Put your plan in writing, and meet once more before your session to make sure everyone’s clear on what’s going to happen. Don’t “assume” anything.

TIP #4: Make it active

As an audience member, do YOU really like sitting there like a lump on a log? On the other hand, few of us enjoy participating in meaningless “fluff.” Here are some easy strategies to bring your content alive while keeping your group energized:® INTEGRATE Q-A throughout your presentation. DON”T wait until the last 5 minutes to ask “Are there any questions?” But always bring the conversation back on track. (That’s when your preparation will really help you!)

  • ASK the audience questions. They can either answer you or talk with their neighbor about the issue. Be ready to pull them back to order.
  • MINIMIZE your PowerPoint slides or transparencies. A good rule of thumb is to use only 3-6 slides for a 75-minute presentation. Use your time to look at and discuss relevant handouts, materials, case studies, financial reports, etc.
  • BREAK THE GROUP INTO SMALL GROUPS to discuss and solve a problem. Don’t ask for reports from each group–5 top responses from the entire group may suffice. Remember, people can often learn as much by talking to each other as they can by listening to you.

TIP # 5: Begin and end ON TIME

Tough luck if people are late! You are responsible to those who got to your session on time. Maintain your awareness of time throughout the session. True professionals never “run out of time,” because they have practiced thoroughly beforehand.

PLAN the last five minutes for an overall summary, written evaluations and last-minute questions.

TIP #6: Relax and Have Fun

If you’ve followed the preceding tips, this one will be much easier to achieve. Remember that your presentation is really not “about you,” it’s about your audience. Give them what you promised and what you practiced. The audience wants you to succeed!

When you’re done, give yourself a pat on the back. Think about what went right and what you might change next time. Find a friend, buy a coffee, and enjoy the rest of the conference!


Read more articles about Presentation Skills. Learn about Guila Muir’s Presentation Skills Workshops.

Guila Muir is the premiere trainer of trainers, facilitators, and presenters on the West Coast of the United States. Since 1994, she has helped thousands of professionals improve their training, facilitation, and presentation skills. Find out how she can help transform you from a boring expert to a great presenter: www.guilamuir.com

© Guila Muir.

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