First Time Speaker? 9 Tips For Giving A Better Presentation

One of our goals for 2018 here at WPMU DEV is for more of our team to speak at WordCamps, Meetups, and other conferences.

Half the battle is around choosing topics, creating compelling speaker applications, and just building up the courage to give speaking a try.

But once that part is done, and your speaking date gets closer, it is time to start thinking about how to organize and present all that knowledge that you have floating around in your head. To help with that, we’ve put together a list of what we have seen work well. Incorporating even a few of the following tips into your presentation will have a first-time speaker looking and sounding like a seasoned pro.

Here. We. Go.

Here’s a throwback to our team living’ large at WordCamp US. Always great connecting with the WP community!

The Slide Deck

There are quite a few posts out there with recommendations on how to build your slides, but the best advice is to keep your slides simple. We tend to prefer using Google Slides because with it, slides are easy to edit from any device and even easier to share a link to the attendees. Here are 3 things to consider with your slides:

  1. Contact Info – Place your contact info (at least name and twitter handle or email address) on both the first and last slide. Your audience will thank you!
  2. Color Contrast – The most off-putting thing about slides is when they are hard to read. Look for as much contrast between text and background colors or images as possible.
  3. Share Slides BEFORE Your Presentation – One idea is to schedule a tweet out just a few minutes before any presentation that includes a link to the slides. Then, you can just ask people to look you up on twitter and grab the link as you start your presentation. Time after time we see a session interrupted 10 minutes or so in with someone asking, “Are we going to get a copy of these slides?”. It can be distracting!
Strong contrast and well thought through slides will help engage your audience.

Giving The Talk

The time has come. You got a good night’s sleep and had a light breakfast. You made a pitstop to the restroom, and your time on stage is just about to begin.

Take a few breaths, and then:

  1. Connect Before The Presentation – Show up to your room at least 15 minutes before you are set to begin. Make sure the slide deck is ready, but then, spend several minutes going up to individuals in the audience, shake hands, and introduce yourself. Maybe ask a few people what they do and what they hope to get out of your talk. This will help you get a feel for the room, but more importantly, those people you connected with will almost certainly pay closer attention and be more engaged now than if you hadn’t interacted with them. Everyone will notice, and this sets a tone that can make a huge difference in your session.
  2. Don’t Just Talk – This is particularly true if your presentation is scheduled to be 30 minutes or longer. Do you and your audience a favor and work in an opportunity for attendees to talk to each other. If nothing else, just ask everyone to turn to their neighbor, introduce themselves, and answer a question that you provide about your topic. Spend 2 or 3 minutes on it tops, gather everyone back, and continue the talk. This helps break up the session which will keep your attendees more alert, and it gives you a chance to re-group and be at your best to finish strong.
  3. Add Humor And Personality – Not all of us are standup comedians or engaging storytellers, myself included. But make a deliberate attempt at adding something funny or unique to your talk. It can be as simple as placing a meme in your slides, and don’t be afraid to be corny or a little over the top.
  4. Go Deeper Than You Think You Should – One of the hardest parts about giving a presentation on any topic is that those in the room will have a wide range of expertise and experience. The easy (and most common) way out is to treat everyone like a beginner, as you don’t want to lose your audience. But, regardless of the topic, make sure to include one or two points or examples that go way beyond the scope of the little blurb summary that you wrote for the conference schedule. Sure, only a handful of attendees might be able to fully follow, but everyone will appreciate it. This alone can really set a presentation apart from others. You want everyone that attends to leave with at least one thing that they didn’t know or hadn’t thought about before. It’s a real challenge, but one worth taking on.

Wrapping Up The Session

  1. Crowd Source Questions – There’s nothing worse than at the end of a talk when one person in the audience steps up to the microphone and asks questions that are either too unique and specific to that person, or turns into a little “one-up-manship” game trying to out-do the speaker. That one person can easily monopolize an entire 10-15 minutes. One way not to let this happen is to plan ahead and crowdsource questions, rather than just let people line up and ask away. You can use something like slido.com or even just a twitter hashtag unique to your session. This way, you pick the questions that you want to answer, and it keeps it moving. You can even cheat just a little and ask people to submit questions before your talk or have a few in mind that you can use if nobody is really asking anything.
  2. Be Available And Make It Known – At the end of your session, remind everyone how they can contact you and let them know where they can find you immediately after the talk. For example, maybe you have a side of the room in mind during lunch or the next break. The point is that you want to be available, hear questions and feedback from as many people as you can, and then keep the whole experience in mind to improve the next go around.

So that’s it! Speaking at a conference can be a great way to give back to the community, and is a solid way to build trust and relationships with your customers and potential customers.

Your voice adds a unique perspective and just preparing for a talk can give you valuable experience. And don’t forget to let us know how your talk goes.

 

Ronnie Burt
If you have any additional tips or advice, share it in the comments. We look forward to hearing you speak in the near future!