I used to speak in quite a lot of seminars and conferences.
Nowadays I do it less, which means that I do not generally attend any conferences any more. I have some real work to do.
It is always nice to meet new people, but generally they are always the same people frequenting the seminars (those who have time for them). Other reason why I am avoiding the seminars is the quality of the presentations. Generally they are really boring. If I don´t get a new idea from every presentation, the time spent surfing web and watching cat videos would be time better spent.
Based on my experience in conference circuit, below are nine tips on how to outshine your competitors on the stage. If I would conclude it to one sentence, it would be about: “People are not interested about what you know, but what do you think and feel”. If you can convey that in your presentation, you are already quite far on making compelling presentation:
1. Have a point of view
This is the most important thing. When you are speaking at a conference, your main goal is to be interesting. You are not promoting your company; you are promoting your thinking.
What is the main idea you want to get across? If you do not have that clear idea with your presentation, you should get out of that stage. Now.
Having a point of view does not mean that you are smart or even close to the actually truth. The information is accessible to everyone, but only you can provide your own point-of-view. That is what makes you unique presenter. Don´t tell me stats I already know, but what is your take on those stats.
2. Don´t pitch your company, pitch yourself
I met my ex-colleague during lunch break of seminar he was attending. He mentioned that majority of the talks were just company pitches. This is like a plague especially in Singapore. I even attended Pecha Kucha here and majority of the talks were company pitches without no personality or point-of-view.
It was really downer.
I have gotten leads from every industry seminar I have spoken. I have usually mentioned firm I was working in the beginning and occasionally shown couple of case studies of what I have done (if relevant). That´s it. 99% of the presentation has been trying present compelling point-of-view about the state of world. Generally after the seminar, there has been a queue of people coming to talk more. There will be opportunities to handle your business cards and give your elevator pitch after your presentation. Would you rather talk with an interesting person with compelling views or desperate salesman who just sweats desperation?
3. Go against the grain
You have to make your audience feel something. If you are speaking in Social Media conference, have a title “Social Media is Dead” because every other presentation is praising the collective power of social media and using the same case studies. You don´t need to preach the idea of social media to already those already converted. You have to wake them up!
Generally people who attend seminars are more up-to-date with the world, so you can try provoking some thoughts from them. Also those who would need digital marketing education never attend the digital marketing seminars.
4. Good presentation asks questions, but does not provide answers
Usually length of a presentation in seminar is 45 minutes. It is quite a short time. If you can make people think and asking questions, your goal is accomplished. The idea is not showcase everything you know, but to showcase the highlights of what you know and think in interesting way.
5. Good presentation is entertainment, not education
In seminars you have a fierce competitor for the attention: the smartphone. Immediately you are sounding boring, people start to focus on their mobile devices.
6. Don´t Sweat The Technique
I have seen great presentations without any aids or props. I also have seen awesome presentations, which use all the technical bells and whistles you can imagine. If you have the compelling point-of-view, the technique can either amplify or weaken it. It is more about personal preferences and style you have when presenting. Prepare also that there are always technical difficulties: no Apple adapters, fonts missing, computer breaking down, timelines not met, and microphone on mute… Be professional with it and go through the worst-case scenario before your presentation. Be ready to present even without your precious slides.
7. Adjust to the audience
Smaller the audience, the more interactivity I try to have and vice versa. General rule-of-thumb is that bigger the audience you have the more idiotic the questions will be. That is because they are not questions anymore, but more about showing how smart the asker is. Usually they are also pitching their company. Save that stuff for after-seminar cocktails, please.
8. Don´t Say Sorry
I don´t care if you haven´t had time to prepare your slides. When you are in the stage, be proud and don´t apologize your existence. You should be there for a reason.
9. Dress snappily
If everything else fails, at least they remember that you had flair and mint sneakers.
Speaking of conferences, I don´t like sending my slides in advance either.