yes you made it! you’ll be a speaker at a large conference! Now, how to best prepare?

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Quite like the author of the post "Preparing to present at conferences", I spent many hours looking at the back of presenters as they were reading bullet point slides on the screen behind them.

In fact, I do confess that I personally made this error many many times. And, I do not think that I should feel too much shame about it. Indeed, in the French educational system, at the time when I was a student (a while back), nobody explained to me how to prepare and deliver presentations, speak in public and communicate strong messages via presentations. Fortunately, I was able to witness that this has changed with my daughters and nephews who had the opportunity in their engineering and-or management schools to deliver many individual and group presentations to show their work with the support of PowerPoint slides.

Also, I am certainly less experimented on the subject than the author of the above mentioned post. 

here are a few points that I personally try to stick to

  1. Know exactly the message which I would like the audience to retain and what I would like to see them do or change after my presentation.
  2. Take the necessary time for the preparation of the presentation. Even on a well mastered subject, it is important to carefully prepare the intervention, to analyze the audience and the objective to reach, as well as the physical and material conditions of the presentation. To achieve this, I recently was again reminded not to jump into PowerPoint from the start. I begin by writing on paper or on a whiteboard the scenario, the storyboard of what I wish to tell, structure the talk, before reflecting on how to translate this at best in the form of PowerPoint slides.
  3. Avoid busy slides. The presentation is only a support to the speech. It needs to facilitate the memorization by the audience of some elements, in particular with the help of pictures and striking illustrations. In the case of an in person presentation in front of a wide audience, there is no point in having a lot of text on your slides. It is more efficient to create an emotion, send a message, tell a story which the audience will remember easily and on which it will take action. An effective presentation is a presentation of which you can see the effects as would say my professor of « Effective Meetings and Presentation Skills ».
  4. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse … The D-day, the speech must be fluid, natural, seem like it’s not been prepared. No benefit in reading the slides during the presentation, they are « only » an illustration of the speech which you master from A to Z. You also prepared anecdotes and references from your personal experience to give life to the points which you try to make. You also tried to anticipate at best the questions, and may ask them yourself if they do not come spontaneously.
  5. Review the room and the material conditions of the intervention in advance. Which type of microphone for example: static (to banish), clip-on microphone, and hand held microphone. This is going to influence, even limit your capacity of movement. It is better to be aware in advance and plan for it. Moving the slides forward: remote control, operator (it will be necessary to prepare this person in advance), requiring yourself to go to the PC to move the presentation forward… This is going to influence the dynamics of your show and choice of animation for your slides for example. If you plan to use sound or video during the presentation (a good idea to revitalize long sessions), please make sure that they work well in the room, both visually and acoustically, and this, even from the back of the room.
  6. Prepare a paper to accompany the presentation in Word, Acrobat or a Web article, is a good idea. Indicate that this document exists and where to find it at the beginning of your presentation so that people focus on the listening to what you have to tell them rather than trying to write down everything.
  7. Try to understand the expectations of the planned participants as well as the background of the organization which gives you the opportunity to present your topic. Get as much info as you can on both.
  8. Supply your presentation pack well in advance is also a good idea even if it is not expressly required by the organizer. It forces you to be 100 % ready well ahead of the event. In your second reading, a few days before the intervention, you can simply review and decide which examples you will use and the stories to be told according to the latest events and news.
  9. Plan to have a glass of water next to you during the presentation. It allows you to avoid having a dry throat and it also allows stopping for a few seconds to think during the course of your speech, especially when you get questions.
  10. Exceeding your speaking time is never a good idea, in particular if there are other presenters coming after you.

here is a video that illustrates the topic

What else would you add to complement this initial list?

Michel

photo credit: © Fotowerk - Fotolia.com

Michel Operto

I've been leading IT projects for more than 20 years at telecom and computer manufacturers: Thomson Sintra, Digital Equipment, NCR, Nortel Networks, Orange Business Services. My passion is Project Management and leadership and I run a blog on the PM best practices at http://dantotsupm.com/