Sunday, September 6, 2015
When I have to present at a conference, the preparation nearly drives me insane.
I am an anxious speaker, I am critical of myself and question why I have been asked in the first place. I wish I was more relaxed about it, but that just isn't going to be my style.
Instead I find the best way for me to get through it is to be really well prepared and not eat to much beforehand!
Last week I spent the week in Brisbane at a conference with lots of speakers, I was just one of many.
It went ok. I still used my notes like a security blanket, but apparently it didn't seem like I was totally reading from them.
I then watched lots of other presenters and used my time to think about what made a speaker someone I would like to hear again, which speakers would I recommend?
There were a few things that really stood out.
1) The best presenters were really well prepared. They had something on a screen that was more than dot points for them to read from, they had a plan to their presentation and had timed it well for their allocation.
2) Great Presenters shared real stories. They told you what had worked for them and what hadn't and they were real about it. They mentioned why things didn't work out and what they would like to do to change this or how they will do things differently next time.
3) The best speakers are generous. They give. They give of their time, just being there, as rarely do people get paid to talk at these things. They have spent a lot of time in the preparation. Then, they are generous with what they know. When attendees have paid hundreds of dollars to be at a conference they really deserve to leave having learnt a lot. It's not great when a speaker says, 'you can read my blog post about this..." or gives a little teaser and finishes with "and you can buy my book to find out how to do this". Sometimes this might be ok, but make sure you give the audience a lot too. If a group of people have paid with their time and money to be there to listen to what you have to say, share with them what you would have liked to know.
4) Be available afterwards. People like me don't enjoy public speaking, and this includes standing up to the microphone to ask questions in other sessions, even if I have a really great one. If you have the time, be available in the breaks when delegates can approach you. I had lots of people talk to me about my presentation, it was handy for me to hear the projects my talk might inspire and I was also excited to talk more about my work, and so much more relaxed.
That's it. Those four points can be the difference in taking your presentation from ok to really marvellous.
Sorry, these tips are probably not going to help with the bit about being nervous. That's a tougher nut to crack.
Tell me what have you noticed about great public speakers?