When I was a fresher, a professor I highly respected and, to tell the truth, was a little afraid of, asked me to deliver an effective conference presentation of my project to peers and professors. To say the least, I was shocked. Although I was confident in my project, I didn’t think that I would ever be able to give an effective presentation. When speaking in public, my cheeks would usually go red, I would start to stammer nervously, and would break into sweats as soon as my presentation started. Thank God, I was always good at storytelling, but my presentation skills were still far from decent.
Some IT specialists, students, teachers, and bloggers can give an effective conference presentation with no issue, while others feel shivers down their spine just from the idea of standing in front of a crowd of people and presenting their accomplishments to a conference. In my case, it was essential to learn not only how to construct an effective conference presentation but how to deliver it effectively. However, both of these stages are equally important, that’s why I would like to show you how to prepare and present your project at a conference.
Recommendations for Designing an Effective Conference Presentation
The first stage is to compose the presentation. As a rule, conference presentations are put together using Microsoft PowerPoint or Prezi. If you need to include a lot of screenshots, use StepShot Guides for this. Below, you will find a set of recommendations for creating an effective conference presentation.
- Do not procrastinate. Really, procrastination is your worst enemy if you want to prepare an effective conference presentation. Of course, you can spend a few hours the night before your speech crafting a nice presentation and speaker notes, but, honestly, you will need much more than that if you want your conference presentation to be effective. If you start a few days before, your ideas will better flow and align in a perfect and vibrant presentation.
- Think about timing. If you have 15 minutes for the presentation, you can’t go over, so it’s important to design your speech in a way that will not take too long, but still сut across a range of key postulates.
- Define three or four main points you will focus on during your presentation and then complete each of them with specific arguments and evidence. This will divide your presentation into logical chunks.
- Plan ahead. Outline how many slides for each chunk you will make, how you will combine text and visual evidence, when to take pauses, when to ask questions, and so on.
- Use consistency and minimalism. These are the two main principles in making your presentation eye-catching and not eye-exhausting.
- Consider your audience as you develop the presentation. Obviously, an effective conference presentation for students is different from the expectations of professors as well as professionals in the area.
- Start with a hook. It could be a question, a joke, shocking findings, or a fact from your autobiography.
- In the introduction, describe what you will talk about and why it’s worthwhile and helpful to listen to you. Do not spend much time describing a general approach to the research or product development – everyone at the conference already knows about these stages, so it’s better to be specific.
- Use visuals. Whether it’s a funny drawing or strict statistics, visual elements set the right mood. They are like Rafaello – instead of a thousand words. If you need to make and/or automatically describe a lot of screenshots or compose a video, use StepShot Guides to do it 90% faster.
- Think about the kind of interactivity you can devise to attract the attendees’ attention and to help you streamline the direction of your speech.
- Indicate when it is better to ask questions to engage the viewers to listen and discuss key issues. Use controversial claims, unexpected lexis, intriguing promises, and catchy questions to make them curious.
- Save the presentation and speaker notes in several places to make sure that they’re safe and you can access them anytime.
Delivering Effective Conference Presentations: Best Practices
The next stage is to effectively present your project at the conference. To succeed in this, follow the guidelines below:
- Practice, practice, and practice again. Work especially hard on the first few slides, since you need to sound as confident as you can to make the best first impression. What’s next? Practice one more time, it will never be wasted effort!
- Go to the place where your conference presentation will be delivered and imagine you’re the speaker – how will you engage the visitors? Then imagine you’re a listener, how should the speaker move, where should he or she stand to capture your attention? Also, check things like the computer and projector for the presentation, microphone availability, and suitable color palette for your slides.
- Use power posing techniques and body language to make a statement, as this is a scientifically proven psychological approach to an effective conference presentation.
- One more psychological practice: demonstrate how excited you are to share your presentation with the audience, not just to the listeners but to yourself as well, to boost the excitement and interest in everyone.
- Break your presentation into several chunks and leave time for a live discussion after each chunk.
- Make yourself at home. To feel comfortable on the day of the presentation, don’t just visit the place beforehand, but also arrive earlier on the day, communicate with other speakers and the audience, have a drink, and go to the mirror to check if you look okay to be 100% sure you rock the conference.
- Manage your stress and nerves – use some tips & tricks to remain calm so you can give your effective conference presentation better.
- Try not to use speaker notes at all, or at least use them sparingly. This will convince the audience you are confident and competent in your area.
- You have to quickly grab interest at the very beginning of your conference presentation to make people better hear your points. Use a hook, unexpected utterances, and appropriate tone.
- Say less rather than more. Be ready for questions & answers after your speech to explain more details.
- Drink water in two cases: if you need to have a sip or to make a strategic pause in the presentation to let the listeners digest your statements.
- Talk slowly, placing logical emphasis on important ideas. Do not forget that your manner of narrating is one of the crucial aspects of an effective conference presentation.
- Engage people to share their feedback with you. This way they will listen to you more attentively and you will also gain tips to make your conference presentation more effective next time.
- Apart from restating your main ideas, mention the questions which came up during the presentation, as they embody the main interests of your audience.
- In the end, ask your listeners how they would employ the information they gained from your conference presentation.
- Undoubtedly, it’s worth it to leave time for questions & answers at the end of the presentation as well; also be open to one-to-one discussions.
- Sometimes it’s necessary to make a video presentation. Use Microsoft PowerPoint, Prezi, or StepShot Guides and do not forget about voice recording – you can use either your own voice or auto-narration.
Common Mistakes in Presenting Your Project
I believe that if you read and follow all my recommendations, your presentation cannot be ineffective. Still, as I feel your pain, I’d like to make sure you make no mistakes. So, look through the list below and if you still do not consider these instances of sarcastic descriptions of common mistakes, read this article from the very beginning. I’m not kidding!
- Forget that your listeners are also human beings with their own needs, interests, and plans. They can listen to you as long as you want – you’re a rockstar!
- Your listeners have to know everything – prepare as many slides as possible and put as much text on each slide as it can contain. Still lacking space? Make the font smaller and avoid visuals – nobody needs images. They just take up a lot of space while showing little text – what’s the point?
- Never tell your audience what you are going to talk about. To make an effective conference presentation, leave your listeners with a mysterious title and let them guess what your presentation is about.
- The most important aspect in the delivery of an effective conference presentation is speaker script – create notes beforehand and keep looking at them all the time. You should recite your notes word by word so the audience doesn’t think your statements just came out of thin air.
- Moreover, as you have written a speaker script – feel free to have a rest. You do not need to practice your presentation. Doubts? See the previous statement and be sure everyone comes to the conference to see a speaker reading notes.
- Are you nervous? Everyone is! Do not even try to collect yourself or make an effective conference presentation using psychological tricks. Everyone is nervous, why would you not want to be?
- In the introduction, use a standard outline of the research. For example, tell scholars that your research paper includes objectives, methodology, data analysis, and results, or tell startuppers that software development requires design, coding, testing, deployment, and support. I’ll bet everyone will be shocked at such a unique approach!
- Provide all the complicated data and equations. Surely, everyone has been waiting to see those strange letters and numbers. Surely, they will understand in minutes everything you’ve spent months studying.
- Make your presentation attractive – use more colors, fonts, formatting, and so on.
- Do not answer people’s questions, do not follow their recommendations. You’ve worked so hard on this presentation, included all the possible information, read every word from your notes without even stopping, and they still don’t get it? That’s their problem, not yours.
A note of humor lets us assess the situation from another perspective. It’s important to understand not only “how to do it” but also “how NOT to do it.” I hope you’ll find my recommendations on an effective conference presentation useful and do not forget to use the software designed to simplify the process of presentation creation (see above). May your conference presentation be effective! Good luck!