The three Ps: Best practice for delivering a conference presentation

9 02 2010


There is already a plethora of useful information available on presentation tips and best practice.  A quick search I did today for presentation tips uncovered some great insight, and one of the most comprehensive lists I found was from Cameron Moll and his 20 tips for better conference speaking.

I’d agree with all of Cameron’s tips with exception perhaps to #3 – ‘always err on the side of being more advanced’.  I hasten to add that this is probably due to the context in which most of my clients speak, which is the tech and telco industry.  Particularly with the recent convergence of technologies, these type of events attract a wide range of audience who represent all different elements of the industry value chain.  Accordingly, there are experts in each field but few that are experts in all fields.  With the tech industry’s penchant for acronyms and tech slang, it’s very easy to present at a level that is too advanced for many in the audience and they will immediately switch off.  In this case you might go from having the attention of 300 delegates to 30 within a slide or two.  Part of getting this right is simply doing the research to know your audience.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here, in fact, while I could go on and on there’s only one piece of best practice I’d like to share…and that is the ‘three Ps’:

Prepare, practice and practice!

Preparation is a given. Work out who the audience is and what’s going to interest them, then prepare your content accordingly.  How long have you got?  What are the likely questions you will be asked? What level of detail do I need to go into?  Asking yourself questions like this will ensure you’re delivering a relevant and well received presentation.

As for practice…that’s not a typo. It’s written twice because it’s THAT important.  Once you’ve got your content sorted, stand up in front of a mirror, your partner, cat, house plant – whatever, just get up and present what you’ve got out loud.  You’ll quickly find that you’re horrible and stumble and stutter your way through it.  But, keep doing it and by the third or fourth time you will start to smooth the bumps out and get a flow going.  This will also raise your confidence levels before the big day. Presenting is like acting, you need to practice your lines, timing, delivery, etc.

I believe if more senior executives follwed the three Ps, we’d see a dramatic increase in the quality of conference presentations. 



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