We work with a lot of speakers preparing for large conferences all around the globe. In addition to helping presenters craft and structure their presentations, we spend a great deal of time teaching and honing the technique of great presenting. But when you arrive and are thrust into the excitement and the madness of your conference environment, there are a few additional elements and public speaking tips you must consider to make sure your conference delivery will be a knock out.
Practice! At the risk of sounding like a broken record: practice, practice, practice! Practice makes permanent – invest the time to rehearse your movement, your technical elements, and your content. So if you arrive at your conference, having yet to rehearse (tsk, tsk), it’s not too late! If you are doing your presentation out loud, on your feet, in front of your audience for the first time ever, you are doing yourself a huge disservice. Also, don't wait until the day of your presentation to tweak the structure of your content or your slide deck. Get these elements hammered out well in advance, so as you get closer to show time, you can focus primarily on your presentation skills.
Who are you wearing? Or more importantly, what are you wearing? Your appearance and choice of outfit can greatly impact your presentation. Neutral position feels very different in heels and a dress than it does in yoga pants and tennis shoes. Make sure you practice once in the outfit you plan to wear — at the very minimum, at least in the shoes you intend to wear. Stay away from black if you can; often the pipe and draping behind you on a stage is heavy black fabric. If you’re wearing black too, you’ll blend into the background and the audience will be left watching a floating head. Make sure you take off your conference badge before you present; it can catch the light and distract the audience, or even worse, bump against your microphone and create audio disturbance even your sound person can’t fix.
Sleuth it out. If at all possible, find the room you’re presenting in, and give it the once over. Maybe you can even sneak in get permission to rehearse in the space, or at least simply step on the stage to get a quick feel for what your performance environment will be like. Are there lights that will prevent you from seeing your audience? Are there other visual disruptions, like pillars or screens in the way? Say a bit of your presentation out loud; listen to the acoustics in the room. If you have a partner, send them to the back and test your presentation voice; is it loud enough to fill the room? Any bit of information you can glean from a quick trip into your actual presentation space can be a huge advantage to you.
The more prepared you are, the more at ease and less nervous you will feel when presenting at your conference. Invest in yourself: do the “heavy lifting” of preparation, so that at show time, you are feeling like your most confident, at ease, and credible self. All the hard work you’ve done will pay off in spades, and you’ll be able to engage and impact your audience in the way you desire.