Congratulations, you have booked your next presentation, workshop, or the main event – key note speech! Your planning and efforts have yielded the opportunity to make your expertise renown.
Let’s briefly review the steps that may help you go from good to great!
1. Ask questions of the organizers. It is key to understand the objective of the meeting/conference. This is especially important if you are part of a panel or being interviewed – ask for questions ahead of time, if possible. Know your audience. This cannot be overstated – are they trainees, students, or faculty? Are executives or administrative leadership present? Simple question to ask organizer is: can you tell me about the audience members: size, roles, knowledge levels, preceding or following presentations.
2. Be prepared, but don’t memorize. There is a fine balance between memorizing every word of every chart and rehearsing your speech material. Make sure you spend time on the material so you can refer back to it or guide your audience to the resources. Memorization takes away from your audience connecting with you. It is okay to sketch an outline or notecards, but avoid writing a speech.
3. Be a firework. We hear the fireworks blasting off before we see them. And, then the colors and glitter leave us awestruck. Engage the audience members with your voice – up front share the reason for your passion, expertise, or cause. You can opt to open with a question, quote, or narrative.
4. Create a dialogue. If you are presenting in person, avoid standing behind a podium and remember to move around and engage with your audience. If you are presenting virtually, look into the camera as you would when speaking with an ally or friend. Build in audience engagement, if possible. Some organizers have capabilities to use audience engagement tools such as polling, word clouds, chat features. If you are new to these tools, request a practice session ahead of time to work out any technical issues.
5. Choose high quality visuals. Always use high quality images, graphics, and charts. Do not use blurry images. Also, avoid an image that has a lot of text of in it – your audience may have difficulty following your path. Unless, you are using at a reference point to a simpler visual.
6. Avoid too much text. Do not write out your content in full sentences. Use a format that brings attention to most important points. Think of this as your attempt at highlighting 1-2 key takeaways per slide. You are not writing a paragraph or a book. (albeit you may have the expertise to do so!)
7. Time yourself. There is nothing worse than the time running short. Audience don’t get to hear your phenomenal conclusion, organizers are stressed about running behind, and you are not given the opportunity to answer questions from audience. Solution: time your presentation. (You can even use PowerPoint to rehearse timings)
Allotted time = 60 minutes
5 minutes for introduction
10 minutes for questions at the end (if any)
45 minutes for the actual content
At 2 minutes per slide, that would mean no more than 22 slides in your presentation
8. Remember to breathe. Think of your presentation as a walk around your neighborhood – audience members as visitors. Don’t rush through the topic. Take a moment to pause, reflect, and connect to the theme of your talk. If you are on a panel or being interviewed, pause and restate the question to give you a few seconds to prepare.
9. Be enthusiastic. If you are excited and enthusiastic about your topic, it will naturally come across to your audience. And, they are more likely to enjoy the content even if it is about your pet cat. And, get ready for more speaking engagements!
10. Keep time for a conclusion. Dedicating 3-5 minutes on your conclusion helps the audience remember why they are listening to you. Use this time to do a gentle recap and focus on what is next for them. Perhaps leaving them with a future narrative that contrasts the story you shared at the beginning.