Conference speaking tips

12 Mar 2019 | Research & Business Knowledge

  • Try repeating a pre-presentation mantra: "I'm glad I'm here, I'm glad you're here, I know my stuff” – this induces confidence and calms your nerves
    • "I'm glad I'm here" – however nervous you might be you do really want to give the presentation and make it a success – helps you project a positive image
    • "I'm glad you're here" – you are glad that the audience are there and you are looking forward to sharing your presentation with them – even if some might have difficult questions, you're glad to have the opportunity to put across your point of view – helps you project an image of being open and non-defensive
    • "I know my stuff" – clearly a firm grasp of your material is essential for a successful presentation – helps you project your confidence
  • Set expectations – tell them what you are going to tell them, how long it will last, what they should know by the end etc
  • Asking audience questions up front (even if rhetorical), getting some interaction and involvement can also be good, depending on how big or small the conference is.
  • Practise and make sure you get the opening minute right – this gives you the confident start from which everything else follows
  • Be explicitly prepared to move more quickly through the presentation.  Numerous times you’ll be told you’ve actually only got X minutes instead of the Y minutes you thought you had.
  • Always have a bottle of water or glass by you.
  • Give lots of eye contact to the whole room, not just the front row.  Apparently lookign towards the back of the audience make it appear like you are looking at everyone.
  • If you can, use PowerPoint’s Presenter View option, which allows you to see which slide is coming next (without having to look up at the screen)

Plus the usual presentation dos and donts…

  • Present  a story and to tell the audience this at the outset
  • Use only slides that contain the key facts
  • Time your presentation to fit comfortably within the time you have
  • Avoid text-heavy slides. If you must have them, intersperse with light/visual slides
  • Don’t read from the slides or 'talk to the screen'
  • Really know the topic
  • Check your timing
  • Rehearse – even if the actual presentation is  very different from the rehearsal, rehersal  it enables you to identify key point you want to bring out
  • Be flexible and prepared to adapt – schedule, timings or audience priorities may change with little/ no notice
  • Use humour

Technical checks

  •  If at all possible, check out the room and technology before the day, including the PA.  It's awful if you stand up and find something isn’t working
  •  Check, beforehand, how the slides look from the back of the room, on the machine you will be using – tanks to Microsoft, the formatting can change in different PCs, when presented
  • Again, from the back of the room, make sure that your font sizes are large enough, i.e., larger than normal for a big audience


Useful resources:


Many thanks to everyone who contributed…