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Present Like a Boss – Smash every conference, every time!

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Speaking at any conference, meetup or industry event is equally daunting and awesome. The opportunity to show your expertise in front of peers, with all the accolades that can bring. The inevitable imposter syndrome that might creep in because you know the audience knows some of the same stuff… It’s an emotional rollercoaster.

I’ve spoken at events, conferences and meetups across the globe (SMX, BrightonSEO, and Ungagged to name a few). I’ve seen the best talks and the worst. I’ve given some brilliant talks, and I’ve bombed out on stage (a few times, actually). Back in 2018, I had a dream of being an international speaker, so I went on a course with Marty Wilson and Michael Arnot to learn from the best. That massively upped my game and I was being booked for some pretty decent events until we all got locked in our homes for a bit… My first big keynote was for Andraž Štalec, who runs InOrbit. A brilliant event in Slovenia… Sadly though, my first big gig was turned into a remote talk from my living room. I learned a lot about public speaking from that ‘adventure’.

Why Should you Read this?

Whether you’re a new speaker looking for some tips or a veteran worried about any bad habits, hopefully, this list of simple tips will help you all. Most of these I’ve learned from brilliant speakers like Jono Alderson and Aleyda Solis and “constructive” feedback from good friends like Gerry White and Hannah Carthy.

To the tips…

1. Slide Mastery:

Less is more: Keep the slides # to a minimum. Tweet Tip

Less is more (again): Less text = more engagement (slides are an aid, not a script). Tweet Tip

Use High-Quality Graphics: Ensure images and graphs are clear, relevant, and of high resolution. Tweet Tip

Infographics are Gold: Visually appealing infographics simplify complex topics. Tweet Tip

Animations with Purpose: Ensure they serve a purpose and don’t distract. Limit GIF loops to 3. Tweet Tip

2. Content Craftsmanship:

Start with a Hook: Begin with a compelling question or surprising fact. Tweet Tip

Use Real-Life Examples: The audience appreciates real-world applications. Tweet Tip

Share Personal Experiences: Personal anecdotes make your presentation relatable. Tweet Tip

End with a Takeaway: Summarise the core message you want your audience to remember. Tweet Tip

Story Arc: Structure your talk like a story for better understanding and recall. Tweet Tip

3. Audience Engagement:

Keep People Engaged: Use open loops and close at the end. Tweet Tip

Engage with Questions: Pose questions throughout your talk. Tweet Tip

Hands Up = Engagement Down: Avoid overusing the “Hand up if you…” tactic, it doesn’t look good. Tweet Tip

Audience Feedback: Adjust based on audience cues (nodding, confusion, note-taking). Tweet Tip

Call to Action: Clearly communicate what you want from the audience post-presentation. Tweet Tip

4. Delivery Dynamics:

Prepare for the Worst: You should be prepared to continue even if slides break. Tweet Tip

Rehearse: Practice multiple times for a smooth delivery. Tweet Tip

Body Language: Stand tall, make eye contact, and move naturally. Scan the room with your eyes, back to front, in a Z shape to give the appearance of eye contact. Tweet Tip

Vary Your Voice: Utilise pitch, tone, and pace to keep engagement. Tweet Tip

Time Management: Stick to your allotted time to maintain professionalism and respect for other speakers. Tweet Tip

✅ Bring Some Energy: The audience needs it to stay engaged and feel like you really want to be there. Conversely, the energy you give the audience is a great feedback loop for you! Tweet Tip by Gemma Houghton (of ISS fame)

5. Professional Polish:

Know Your Material: The audience can spot a generalist from an expert a mile off. Tweet Tip

Backup Everything: Keep multiple backups of your presentation, including a cloud version. Tweet Tip

Dress the Part: Wear what makes you feel confident and represents your content/brand. Tweet Tip

Avoid Jargon: Clarify or avoid terms unless you’re certain everyone is familiar. Tweet Tip

Follow-up Material: Offer additional resources or content post-presentation, link out to things they can reuse. Tweet Tip

6. Respect and Reciprocation:

Promo: Promote your talk ahead of the event. Support your other speakers with promo, too. Tweet Tip

Gratitude: Thank your audience for their time and attention. Tweet Tip

Laughs Don’t Always Work: Be cautious with humour; it might only be you who thinks that you’re funny! Tweet Tip

Quotes: If you use one, cite it and provide context for clarity. Tweet Tip

Final Thought…

Navigating the world of presentations is a delicate dance of understanding your slides, weaving a compelling narrative, genuinely connecting with your audience, and delivering with both flair and clarity. Now, whether you’re gearing up for your stage debut or a seasoned orator, there’s always room for finesse.

What tips should we add to this list?

  • 🖼️ Slide Mastery: Prioritise quality graphics, minimum text, and purposeful animations.
  • 📖 Content Craftsmanship: Use a compelling hook, share real experiences, and structure your talk like a story.
  • 👥 Audience Engagement: Engage with questions, avoid overused tactics, and end with a clear call to action.
  • 🗣️ Delivery Dynamics: Prepare for tech mishaps, practise thoroughly, and utilise effective body language and voice variation.
  • 👔 Professional Polish: Know your material, back up everything, and dress confidently.
  • 🙏 Respect and Reciprocation: Promote your talk, show gratitude, and cite any used quotes.