How To Deliver a Brilliant Conference Presentation
A few weeks ago, I attended the World Innovation Forum in New York City. As I watched the presenters do their conference ‘thang’, I got some unexpected insights into the art and science of delivering a memorable presentation to a global audience of innovation-hungry patrons. So, for all of you conference presenter wannabees out there, take note. Here’s your tutorial.
1. Be in tune with your purpose:
If you’re going to hold an audience’s attention for more than 10 minutes, you’ve got to begin by holding firm to your purpose – your calling – what gets you out of bed in the morning. If it’s missing, all you could ever hope to deliver is a speech – which is NOT what people want to hear. If your purpose is clear, you’re home free and won’t need a single note card. Mark Twain said it best: ‘If you speak the truth, you don’t need to remember a thing.’
2. Be passionate:
Realise you are on the stage to let it rip. Completely. People are sitting in the audience because they want an experience, not just information. They want to feel something, not just hear something. So play full out. Pull the rip cord. Jump!
3. Connect with the audience:
You may know a lot of stuff. You may have a double PhD, but unless you know how to connect with the audience, your knowledge isn’t worth squat. If you were a tree falling in a conference room, no one would hear you. So tune in! Establish rapport! Connect! And that begins by respecting your audience and realising you’re there to serve, not preach.
4. Tell some stories:
That’s how great teachers have communicated since the beginning of time. Storytelling is the most effective way to disarm the sceptic and deliver meaning in a memorable way. ‘The world is not made of atoms,’ explained poet, Muriel Rukyser, ‘it’s made of stories.’ No bull. Parable!
5. Have a sense of humour:
There’s a reason why HAHA and AHA are almost spelled the same. Both are about the experience of breakthrough. And both are sparked when what is known is replaced by what was (until then) unknown, when continuity is replaced by discontinuity. Hey, admit it. At the end of the day, if you can’t find the humour in business, you’re screwed. So, why wait for the end of the day. Find the humour now.
6. Get visual:
It has become a corporate sport to make fun of power point, but power point can be a thrill if done correctly. A picture really is worth a thousand words. If you want to spark people’s imagination, use images more
than words. The root of the word imagination is image.
7. Have confidence:
Do you know what the root of the word ‘confidence’ is? It comes from the Latin ‘con-fide’ – meaning ‘to have faith.’ Have faith in what? Yourself. That’s not ego. It’s the natural expression of a human being coming from the place of being called. So, if you’re about to walk out on stage and are feeling the impostor syndrome coming on, stop and get in touch with what is calling you. Let that guy/girl speak.
8. Trim the fat:
When Michelangelo was asked how he made the David, he said it was simple – that he merely took away ‘everything that wasn’t.’ The same holds for you, oh aspiring conference presenter at some future high profile conference (or, at the very least, pep talk giver to your kid’s high school soccer team). Keep it simple. Or, as Patti LaBarre, the MC at the World Innovation Forum put it, ‘Minimize your jargon footprint.’
9. Celebrate what works:
If you want to raise healthy kids, reinforce their positive behaviours – don’t obsess on the negative. The same holds true for conference brilliance. If you want to raise a healthy audience, give them examples of what’s working out there in the marketplace. Feature the ‘bright spots,’ as Chip Heath likes to say. Share victories, best practices, and lessons learned. Save the bitching and moaning for your therapist.
10. Walk the talk:
Good presenters are genuinely moved. Being genuinely moved, it’s natural for them come out from behind the podium and actually move around the stage – as in, walking the talk.