4 Preparation Tips for Speaking at Conferences
Published: August 12, 2016
Author: Sana Ansari
This year I have started taking the opportunity to share my knowledge and expertise in digital media by speaking at conferences. So far I have had the opportunity to speak at SEMPO and just knocked out Social Pro. Next in line, I’ll be speaking at Pubcon in October.
Going from 0 to 3 conferences within a year is quite a leap for someone without a ton of speaking experience. I’m sure many of you are asking – how does one flip the script like that and prepare for a conference? So I thought I would come up with a couple of recommendations for those looking to get into more thought leadership – particularly speaking engagements:
1) Choose your topic wisely.
The topic of your presentation is the first and most important step when you think about speaking. You absolutely need to be an expert on the topic in order to produce genuinely insightful content, provide the audience with solid strategies, and in general deliver the presentation with much more confidence because you know the ins and outs of it cold. Confidence will make or break the delivery of your presentation!
2) Make your content actionable.
Now that you have a topic, think about what exactly you want to discuss. Many speakers typically like to stick with high-level concepts as they feel this type of material would apply to the general audience no matter their level of expertise. I like to do the exact opposite.
In my opinion, people come to conferences to learn advanced strategies, techniques, and overall tactics that they can’t just look up on Google or read on a blog. They want actionable insights that they can take home with them and leverage in their campaigns. So when I think about my content, I ask, “What strategies have we implemented successfully?” “What optimization levers did we pull?” “What tests gave us significant learnings and allowed us to push the needle on performance?” I then take the top strategies and tactics and leverage those for my content.
3) Remember that your presentation is your sidekick, not the whole show.
Think of the presentation as your trusty sidekick. It helps you better deliver the content and material you are trying to bring to the audience. However, you need to remember that it is only your sidekick; it’s there to support you – not there to deliver the content itself.
You want users listening to what you have to say, not sitting and reading the deck. So make sure you limit the text on your slides. Slides should be heavy on images, diagrams, and key metrics you are trying to display. Words should be limited to your headlines and 1-2 supporting sentences if necessary. The goal is for you to deliver the content and for the deck to be there to help push your point.
4) Take steps to prepare a better delivery
Ah, public speaking! It doesn’t come naturally to many. However, if you ended up picking a topic that you are an expert on, the content you are going to deliver will come naturally to you, and you will exude confidence. A few important tips:
- Do a couple of practice runs. By practicing the presentation out loud, you’ll often “optimize” your presentation, realizing there are better ways to verbally deliver the material to the audience.
- Time yourself. It is important to get a gauge of how long it will take to present your topic as you want to stick to the time limits you are given. If you find that your presentation is ending up being 1-2 minutes longer than your allotted time – you MUST cut down those slides. Do not try to rush the delivery of your presentation and talk quickly through the material. You will end up feeling under pressure during your presentation, and the presentation won’t come out as well as you were hoping. I typically recommend having your presentation end 1-2 minutes shorter than time. These extra 1-2 minutes of buffer room give you time to better interact with your audience, take a breath, and just enjoy being up on stage!
- Enjoy it! As you head up on stage to deliver your content, just remember – everyone is here to learn. Think of it as explaining your strategies to a coworker, not to a large audience (if public speaking tends to get you nervous). Digital marketing is your passion. We eat, breathe, and live this stuff, so have fun talking about it!