Welcome back, readers! I was recently on-site at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference in sunny Orlando. I had the rewarding opportunity to help many speakers gear-up for their presentations at the conference, and let me tell you, there is some fantastic work being done. WPC is a fabulous conference!
I wanted to take the opportunity to pass along some of the unexpected tips we try to offer participants when we're on-site at a large event. There are always some lesser-known traps and pitfalls of which all speakers should be aware. Here’s a few I’ve noticed:
1. Co-presenters who don’t rehearse together. When watching a co-presentation, the differences between the rehearsed and unrehearsed are quite obvious. The presentation portions of the rehearsed presenters are so much more engaging and compelling. But maybe you’re presenting with a partner who’s not yet learned the ins and outs of exceptional presentation skills. That’s no reason not to work it out together!
On-site, Team Ovation helps groups with the overall flow and direction of their presentations, incorporating all presenters to ensure a smooth performance. But what if Team Ovation is NOT on the scene at your next conference? (WHAT?! Why not?) Remember to find time before you go on to rehearse your conference presentation with ALL of your presentation partners. Get everyone on the same page in terms of movement and focus. (Here are some co-presenting tips to do just that!)
A quick way to make everything look better? Make sure that everyone focuses on the person who is speaking at all times. Audiences follow on-stage eyes, and directing your attention towards the member of your group that has the floor will help keep audiences on track.
2. Rooms with dividers. We all know how important adequate volume is, and that a microphone is a useful helper, but it can’t do all our work for us. I noticed some participants struggling with this in a room with a temporary divider — you know, the kind with a relatively flimsy (and certainly not sound proof) accordion panel bisecting a larger room into two. From where I was sitting, it was difficult to hear the presenters: firstly because their volume was quite low, secondly, because the poor sound engineer was trying so hard to boost their microphones that the speakers were feeding back, and lastly, because I could hear the presentation coming through the divider from the adjoining room!
Conference presentations often occur in a room that has been artificially cut in half. Be sure to get to your room early to see if you’ll be subjected to this less-than-ideal set-up. If so, be sure to pump up your volume.
3. Sitting down on a panel. Oh, what an energy suck! Panel discussions are often very interesting. However, if the panelists chose to sit down for the entire duration of their presentation, it can be a deadly mistake. Presenting is a physical activity, and when the entire body is engaged, the voice follows suit. Remember, our audience gets 93% of their information from how we look and how we sound. If we choose to sit in a casual position for the entirety of the presentation, we’ve limited our opportunity to impact our audience with our visual and vocal components. So when it’s your turn to speak on a panel, don't be afraid to stand if possible! It will help keep your audience engaged and connected to the all-important message of your presentation.
The next time you’re invited to speak at a big conference, keep in mind these potential presentation hazards with which you may be faced. With a little preparation, they need not derail or negatively impact your presentation. Authentic, interesting human connection is what’s most important at these conferences — and as the saying goes; if you’re forewarned, you’re forearmed.