Last week I had the opportunity to chair the Women in Project Management Leadership Summit 2015 here in Auckland, New Zealand. It gave me a chance to hear every speaker over the two days of the event. With a few minor exceptions, each speaker had a 35 minute time slot followed by a 10 minute Question and Answer session. This post is to share with you what stood out for me in regards to the Speaker’s presentations. I’ve done this in the form of Speaking Tips and trust that others who do speak or aspire to speak at such events will gain value from my observations.
As this was a ‘Women in Project Management’ conference the audience and all the speakers were female; however, I think these tips would apply to a mixed gender event as well.
- Generally, the simpler and clearer the presentation; the better the response was from the audience. If you’re talk is complex find a way to portray it simplistically by using great graphics or by telling a story or using an analogy to make your point. Please don’t overwhelm the audience with too much detail.
- If your presentation has a lot of detail in it and you are worried about fitting it all into the given time slot, that’s a sign it is too long. Zero in on one to three key points related to the topic that would benefit those in attendance and delete the rest. You will leave a far better impression and the audience will thank you for doing this.
- Ask yourself, ‘Does my presentation answer the most obvious 1-3 questions posed by the topic of my talk and is it tailored to my audience?’ This will help you to zero in on the key takeaways for that particular audience.
- Additional questions you might ask yourself, particularly if you are a regular speaker on your topic are, ‘Do I need to update my material? And, what are the latest metrics? Would a few key metrics help to make my point?’ With the speed of change currently going on in the business world you might find that your material is out of date and you don’t even know it. One superb benefit of being on LinkedIn is that if you are reading the posts and other information coming through your feed you will be aware of the latest trends and new information that is having an impact in your area of expertise. I highly recommend keeping abreast of the changes or you may find yourself out on a limb and without your next speaking opportunity. If you are employed, you might find yourself out of job as well, but that’s another post.
- Be Yourself. If you are nervous, it’s ok to say so. In fact, doing so is likely to lesson your nerves and warm the audience to you.
- Speakers who offered tips, tools, techniques and templates were very well received by the audience; however, as a speaker please be clear on what, for example, the technique or template is named so that it can be found when googled, or tell us specifically where these can be accessed after the conference.
- Some of the speakers were using the opportunity to speak as a personal developmental tool. A key message that came through was ‘Be Brave’. Say, ‘Yes, Yes, Yes’, to the opportunity before you have a chance to doubt your ability to speak in front of an audience.
- For those of you who are feeling overwhelmed just at the thought of point #7 above, joining an organisation such as toastmasters or enrolling in a Public Speaking course might be your first step. Having been a person who in earlier times could not speak in front of an audience and who has had the experience of totally bombing at a speaking engagement in the early stages of my speaking career, I would suggest finding a safe place to begin your speaking journey. That might also mean accepting shorter speaking opportunities such as at a meeting where you might speak for 2-10 minutes. Take stepping stones along the way, rather than one giant step to the big stage. And yes, you can still count yourself as ‘Being Brave’.
- If you as a speaker require something specific, ask the chairperson for whatever it is that you need, preferably in advance of your talk. For example, if you need to sit rather than stand for your presentation for physical reasons, don’t be afraid to ask for a chair.
- One thing the attendees really appreciated was the chance to mix with the speaker after their talk. If you are a speaker and don’t plan to attend the whole event, stay for the next tea or lunch break and/or, if possible, come back for the networking reception normally held at the end of Day 1. Make yourself available for any further questions. If you followed the points above, you will probably receive some great feedback at this time as well.
- Please check in with the chair upon arrival so that they know you are there and can fill you in on any procedural details in advance of your talk. This is much easier than the chair having to interrupt you when you are knee deep in conversation with a conference attendee just prior to your talk.
- And last, but not least, know that you will not please everyone no matter how good your presentation is. Do the best that you can and have a Learning Mindset in order to gain as much as possible from your experience. This includes assessing the feedback and making any necessary changes for the next time you speak.
You don’t have to be perfect to be incredible!
As a speaker or conference attendee, you too may have some additional points to add to this conversation. I invite you to do so in the comments below.