5 Keys to Effective Conference Presentations

Conferences and events cater to three distinct audiences, each with different motivations and goals. Show organizers aim to gather interesting speakers that attract their target market and sponsors, presenters want to position their firm and get new clients, and attendees hope to learn about new trends, find new suppliers, and build their networks. Advertising Week, New York’s smorgasbord of marketing events at venues that crisscross the city, provided an opportunity to gather insights on presentation best practices to help everyone achieve their goals.

Regardless of whether you’re giving a speech, presenting a case study, engaged in a panel discussion or a combination of these options, here are five tactics to make your presentation a hit!

  1. Know your audience. Before you develop your presentation, understand in broad terms what information your attendees are looking for. Remember that it has to be relevant to their business problems and tailored to their needs. While this may be the same information you’ve presented before, it needs updated keywords and reference points. For example, when Seth Godin spoke at BizTechDay, he used examples that resonated with the entrepreneurs in his audience.  If you’re not sure who’s attending, talk with the show planners.
  2. Put meat in your content. Without sharing confidential information, you have a responsibility to provide value to your audience in terms of useful and useable advice. If it entertains, you’ve given them a bonus. Among the elements attendees like are data trends, tactics and how-to’s. Streamline your talk so that your bullet points standout. Incorporate some Twitter bait in your comments to entice listeners to tweet these short phrases to their followers in real time. For those using slides, edit your commentary to prevent viewers’ eyes from glazing over with too much text, especially if it’s tiny.
  3. Make a good first impression. To this end, think about the things your mother taught you—stand up straight and don’t fidget. Be professional and confident. Demonstrate to your audience that you respect their attention and time.
  4. Stay on topic. While some level setting at the beginning of your talk is acceptable to get quick insights about your audience, remember they’re there to gather your informational nuggets. To that end, keep housekeeping brief and set expectations for audience participation. Whether you’re on a panel discussion or presenting slides, prepare your remarks and know what you want to convey so you can stay on topic. For example, one recent panelest spent most of his presentation asking the audience questions until one of the other panelists realized the audience was tweeting their dissatisfaction! If you’re part of a group, limit the length of your responses, don’t hog the mike, or feel compelled to answer every question. From the audience perspective, be a good listener, respect those around you, and don’t include an advertisement in your question.
  5. Extend the connection post-conference. While this may vary depending on your goals, at a minimum, set audience expectations. Create a Twitter hashtag for the event so that those who can’t attend can get some of the highlights via Twitter search. Let attendees know if and where the presentations and/or video of the session may be found online. Consider posting your presentation on a slide-sharing site if the organizer doesn’t have a vehicle to aggregate this content. Include your contact information on your last slide if you want people to follow up with you.

Before you present at your next conference take a few minutes and think about your goals for the event and how you plan to achieve them. Consider how you can use this opportunity to expand your reach.

How do you extend your event attendance to achieve your goals? Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


For related articles on events and presentations, here are some additional resources:

5 Presentation Lessons for Marketers based on the Influencer Project.
5 Ways to Socialize Events
– Lessons from Mashable’s Social Media Day
10 Tips for Moderating a Great Panel from Paul Gillin’s blog

Photo credit: Robert S. Donovan via Flickr

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