The Dos and Don’ts of Conference Presentations
Speaking at a conference can be a great marketing opportunity. Speaking gigs give professionals a chance to educate, engage, and amplify messaging for their brand, while getting their name out and putting a public face on their company. Conference audiences are guaranteed to be interested in your company’s industry and should be respected as potential partners and leads.
As seasoned conference attendees and large-scale conference curators, we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. From straight-up memorized sales pitches to pure product jargon, we’re tired of watching content be about companies and not about their audiences. Here’s a quick list of Dos and Don’ts to help you out with your next speaking engagement:
- Do set the stage for your presentation. This sounds obvious, but is one of the most common mistakes we’ve seen. People don’t frame the context of their presentation, so participants don’t even know if they should care or not. Lay the framework at the beginning: Who is your demographic? Why should they care? What industry? If you prefer, you can casually provide this information with a case study.
- Do incorporate stories and case studies that prove your points. Storytelling helps put people in the shoes of a happy customer, and connect emotionally with your what your product has to offer. Explain how excited your client was to tell their boss about how many leads you helped them capture. Describe the look on your customer’s face when they realized how much your product did for them.
- Do give at least 1 tangible fact with each story. Mix your stories up with actual results. Combining narratives with tangible results has the highest impact. Tip: If you’re scared of giving away your numbers, you can always discuss the percentage of improvement. For example, instead of “500 new customers” you can say “a 50% increase in customer acquisition” or “Doubled customer acquisition!”
- Do engage your audience. Regardless if your presentation lasts an hour or if you’re giving your talk right before lunch, sometimes people get bored. And that’s ok. But that’s always why you should try to engage your audience. You don’t even have to ask people to raise their hand, even pointing out coworkers or clients in the audience will help engage them in their surroundings.
- Don’t read from a wordy powerpoint. In the words of the infamous Dwight Schrute, “Powerpoints are boring.” Nothing acts like a wall between you and your audience quite like a screen full of words that they feel like they have to read while you’re talking.
- Don’t just talk about your company. Most people have paid to attend the conference, and don’t want to be advertised to. They may resent hearing an extended sales pitch, because it can come off as self-serving. Make sure your content is focused on adding value to your audience. Use the opportunity to educate them about a multitude of solutions to a problem (maybe that your product just happens to solve).
- Don’t ignore your audience. Ask them to guess a number or give a show of hands. Let them know that they’re a part of the conversation, and that you’re here for them.
- Don’t forget a CTA. You’d never forget to put a CTA in your emails or your landing pages, so why do so many speakers forget to motivate their audiences at the end of a talk or panel? Even if it’s a casual “Drop by afterwards to say ‘Hi!’”, always ask to engage with your audience further. You’re there for a reason, and those last moments are the most important. Get your audience to take an action.
If there’s one major takeaway, never forget about content and never forget about your audience. Time and time again we always want to reiterate, as a speaker and business leader, you have a commitment to your audience to bring true value.
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