I went to Blogword Expo about a month ago, and attended a couple of sessions put on by “Internet Famous” people. Their blogs are pretty well-known, their books are at Barnes & Noble, and they speak at conferences. A lot.
Guess what? Some of them were really bad presenters. As I was thinking about why this was, I came up with a few things to do / not to do when presenting … even if you think you are Mr. or Ms. Popular in whatever speaker circuit you frequent. Here they are:
Inside jokes? Don’t use them. One guy took the first five minutes of his talk to pass inside jokes to “his crowd” … which seemed to consist of a few buddies sitting on the front row. This was in a room of about 200 people. So there were about 5-10 people in on the joke. The other 190 of us? Not so much.
Inside jokes can be fun – if you bring everyone else inside with you. Use the joke as a point in your talk, and surround it with the full story. That way, everyone is in on the fun, you can tell your joke, and “your crowd” will still enjoy it too. I actually saw another speaker do that – he gave the background info, then used a person or two as an example, and it worked really well. Inside joke success.
Always give an introduction. You are not that popular. I’ve heard this from a speaker more than once – “You all know me, so I’m going to skip the introduction.” Guess what? We don’t all know you. The guy who did this at Blogworld Expo has a book out, and his blog is very popular. But I didn’t know who he was – never heard of the book or the blog, never attended any of his presentations before. I spent the next five minutes hunting down his blog instead of listening.
Yes, you know some of the people in the room. Yes, you know all the other speakers at the conference. Give at least a brief introduction anyway. At the conferences I regularly attend, the majority of people attending the sessions aren’t “regulars.” It’s either their first time at the conference, or they can only attend once every few years. So chances are, you are new to them. So make a quick introduction.
I’m too cool for slides. Same guy at Blogword Expo actually said this – “I’m too cool for slides.” Sure, Powerpoint presentations can be sorta boring if done poorly, and they aren’t always needed. But honestly – most of the time, if you are talking about the geek stuff I go to conferences for (technology, blogs, marketing, social media, etc), slides help drive home your point. You can SHOW that Twitter conversation. You can SHOW those Facebook Page stats. You can SHOW how your new-fangled technology site works.
Or, take a clue from the emerging web, which is getting more visual every day (i.e., Instagram, Viddy, Pinterest, etc). Your speech is good. Your speech, plus something to look at besides your head, is even better. Especially if the slides compliment the point you’re trying to make.
Prepare. At least the day before. One of the keynote speakers said he was working on his talk that morning in the cab ride to the convention center. And you could tell. The talk had some fine points, and the speaker knew his material, but he also stumbled quite a bit through the points he was trying to make. A little more practice and preparation would have done wonders for his talk.
So, you know. Get your slides done before you get to the conference. Actually run through the presentation once (with a timer). Preparation and practice are boring, but if you do the work, it will definitely pay off “on the stage.”
Your turn. What else should be here?