Let’s talk about technical conference presentations. Back when I used to work as a product development engineer, the company would send me to conferences to present on the research or the work that I was working on at the company. And if you’ve ever attended any conference, you know that many presenters don’t put all that much effort into their presentation. The presentations suck basically. If you were having sleeping problems, you could go to a presentation and you’d be cured of them in a hurry!
The reason I think that is, as I said, is that people don’t put that much effort into them. They slap some things onto PowerPoint slides and then they read the slides. Sometimes they don’t even look up at the audience. Not the best way to engage the audience.
How can you make conference presentations better?
Don’t read the slides. You really want to look at the people you’re talking to. So that they actually think that you’re talking to them. By doing that, they will be more likely to listen.
ADD SOMETHING UNEXPECTED
Conference talks can be pretty dry. Add something unexpected to the presentation, something to liven the mood and maybe make people laugh so that they’re more inclined to listen to you.
Something like a funny picture, or a funny quote, or just a funny story. Especially at the beginning when you’re trying to get people’s attention, really bring them in with something unexpected so that they’re more willing to listen to what you’re going to say going forward.
The next thing I would highly advise for you to do is to practice. I highly doubt that a lot of the people that present at these conferences ever practice their speech. I mean, why would you have to practice if you’re just going to read off the slides anyway? As long as you know how to read, you don’t need to practice. But to get the most impact of your presentation, it’s really beneficial to you to practice beforehand. Practice, not only just so you’re more comfortable presenting, but then just practice so that your timing is down because typically at these conferences, you have a certain amount of time to present. So often at conferences, people go over time, throwing the whole conference schedule off. Don’t be the reason to hold up the schedule, so make sure you practice.
The last tip is to anticipate questions. This is really important because you don’t want to look like a fool up there, especially if you’re in front of people that you’re trying to impress. Oftentimes, I think it’s pretty easy to look at what you’ve presented and see the holes, perhaps things you didn’t look into but could at a later date. Try to anticipate what questions people in the audience are going to ask. Obviously, that’s not possible all the time. Maybe there’s going to be a question or two that’s going to throw you for a loop, but hopefully you know your material well enough that you’re not too rattled. But if you’re able to anticipate the questions beforehand, you’ll feel a lot more comfortable and confident. At least you’re not going to be thinking in your head, “Please, dear God, don’t let anyone ask any questions.”
With these tips, you’re well on your way to doing a lot better at presenting at conferences. The ones who aren’t trying to sleep will thank you.