Having worked in the conferences and exhibitions sector for over 7 years, I have sat through my fair share of speaker presentations. Some have been excellent and a joy to sit through. Others – far too many, in fact – have been frankly un-engaging and forgettable.
This seems like a bit of a wasted opportunity. Standing up at a conference and giving a presentation is a chance to share yourself and your experiences with the audience, help build your own standing in that sector, and open up new opportunities for yourself and your business.
If you can do that in an interesting and engaging manner then it can pay off, sometimes quite literally. Audience members are more likely to approach a speaker they found engaging and interesting. And who knows what new opportunities might emerge from that?
So, let’s take a look at how to ensure you deliver an engaging speech the next time you speak at a conference:
Rule # 1: If you are offered the roving mike, or a lapel mike, take it. Having the freedom to move across the stage will add dynamism to your presentation.
Rule # 2: Tell a story. Your presentation should guide the audience through a narrative. People love to be told a story. Pay particular attention also to your opening impact statement in which you introduce the story. Let them know you have something interesting to tell them and then tell them what valuable lessons they will walk away with. Including a dissenting voice in your opening line will be sure to grab even more attention. So, an example might be the following (using here the case of an insurance pricing topic):
“I’m here to tell you why the standard model for pricing catastrophe risk is faulty. From this speech I will share with you how the model can be corrected and therefore how your profit yields can stand to improve significantly”
Rule # 3: This example segues nicely into my following point, and that is: in deciding the theme and content of your topic, bear in mind that your audience – just like the public at large – love to hear anything that will tap into their fear or greed. It might not sound very nice to hear, but its true, and the headline writers in the tabloid press knows this better than most. So, a presentation which offers the chance to ‘significantly improve profit yield’ is sure to be well attended, just as a speech that gives advice on ‘how to avoid falling foul of the regulators’.
Your fear and greed factors will vary from industry to industry. Be sure to understand what they are for your audience, and give them due prominence in your talk.
Rule # 4: Avoid PowerPoint overkill. You have heard it before, but this is a point that is worth repeating again and again, because it continues to be the most common way I see audience members becoming turned off, unengaged…..and then falling asleep. Adding slides does not necessarily equate to adding value. In fact, you could be doing the exact opposite. Twenty slides should be your absolute maximum. Text should be kept to a minimum, and written in at least 30 point script for ease of reading. You as the speaker need to make the points and rely only on slides to back up your points with visual examples. (A little tip on this point: rather than change slide in order to introduce your next point, you should be the one to introduce the next point, and then refer to the slide for illustration: remember, maximum attention should be on you as the speaker, not on the slides).
Rule # 5: Rehearse your speech until you know it through and through. This will help give you confidence if you are a nervous speaker. It will also give you the confidence to improvise in sections and give your speech a more conversational, rather than scripted, style. This itself will make your speech appear more engaging.
Rehearsing will also help you with one all-important rule: Keep to time! You don’t want to upset the audience or the follow-on speakers by taking more than your allotted time.
Rule # 6: Lastly, project your voice. Speak loudly and clearly. Don’t make listening to you from the back of the room be an effort. All audience concentration should on the words and pictures you show and nothing else.