But when it comes to taking center stage and actually delivering your talk, how do you make sure you get your message across? Here are a few tips we’ve picked up that should help you nail your presentation.
- Set Up Your Story – You want to think about more than the content of your presentation, you also want to think about how you’re going to frame it. For example, you don’t want to just jump in and start talking about your topic. Let your audience know what you’ll be talking about and why, so they can understand how it relates to them. Think about how you’re going to introduce yourself — this will help communicate with the audience why you’re an authority on what you’re talking about and give context for your topic. Lastly, don’t forget about the ending. Make sure you round out your presentation, repeat the main takeaways, and include contact information and social media handles you want to share so that people can get in touch with you after.
- Practice, Practice, Practice – Practicing is important for a few reasons. It helps you set a pace and realize how fast or slowly you’re talking. It helps you know if your presentation is a good length. It lets go through your presentation from beginning to end to find out if your message flows the way you were envisioning. Practice with a friend, a co-worker, or family member. Practice in front of a small group or in front of the mirror. Do all of the above. This will help you identify which parts you know best and which you need to work on. Plus, the more people that you practice for and the more you do it, the more comfortable you’ll be with your content when it comes time to deliver it to your audience.
- Use Presentation Tools Wisely – As Rob Lambert said, “The slides should support the presentation – not be the presentation.” Nobody wants to read a slide filled with text, and no one wants to watch you read word-for-word from your slides. Your slides are a visual aid to help tell your story, which means that you should be using them to drive home your main takeaways. Try to keep them simple and succinct, including the most memorable tidbits of information. Make sure text is large enough to be read from the back of the room, and don’t forget to proofread. Use any images, videos, or gifs that you think will help make your point and further engage the audience. Perform intermittent demos to show your methods. And remember, bullet points are your friend.
- Consider Your Audience – Many tech conferences aim to draw a diverse crowd, which means that people from all over the world will be coming to hear what you have to say and learn from you. This is a great opportunity, but you also want to be mindful that the content your delivering resonates with a diverse audience. For example, some American pop culture references may not be understood by someone who traveling from abroad. For example, Nick Heiner talks about a conference he went to where one of the presenters use a Shakespeare reference that non-native speakers didn’t understand. While this shouldn’t dissuade you from making connections to what you know, be wary that your audience might not be familiar, and be prepared to explain if you’re drawing a connection that you’re not sure will translate. Especially if you’re speaking internationally, this is a good thing to keep in mind when planning out your presentation.
- Prepare For Questions – Learn more about your topic than you think you have to. You’re presentation isn’t done when you reach the last slide. There will likely be a Q&A after, which means you need to be prepared to answer peoples’ questions. Don’t be the person who delivers a great presentation, then stands dumbfounded when someone asks about it. If there are any common holes in your topic that you think could come up, make sure you have a response ready — as part of your preparation, you might even want to encourage anyone you practice in front of to think of a few questions for you. If people want you to elaborate your methodology, make sure you’ve thoroughly researched so that you can you can provide that insight. Consider the tools and resources that you use in case someone is interested. Remember, many of these lessons are ones that people will be hoping to bring back to their team and implement in their organization, so make sure you’ve given them everything they need to do so. If for some reason you aren’t able to answer a question, make sure to follow up with the person so that you can reach out to them once you figure out a response.
- Fake it Till You Make It – You don’t have to be a textbook extrovert to be good at public speaking. In fact, most of the time it’s more about acting confident than being 100 percent comfortable speaking in front of a large group of people. Often it comes down to enunciating your words, speaking clearly, and pacing yourself. Take it a step further by acting positive, passionate, and excited, even if you’re really just nervous. In addition, if you make an effort to connect with your audience, whether that be pinpointing specific people to “talk to” and make eye contact with it or even making your conference presentation interactive, you’ll find it’s a lot less intimidating than it seems. Making a conscious effort to breathe doesn’t hurt, either.
- Don’t Let Imposter Syndrome Get to You – Especially in the software testing and development community, it’s easy to feel like you don’t really know what you’re talking about or aren’t as good as others in your field, otherwise known as imposter syndrome. It’s helpful to realize that everyone feels this way from time to time, including the people you look up to who inspired you to talk in the first place. Remember that multiple people selected your proposal out of hundreds of other proposals because they recognized you have a valuable story to share. The good news is that once you deliver your talk and everyone tells you how amazing it was after, these feelings subside and you’ll be happy you did it.
No matter how great your content is, your topic will fall short if you don’t put on a memorable talk. Whether you’re a first-time speaker or a seasoned keynote, your delivery will make or break your presentation.
The next time you get a proposal accepted, think about these points before you get on stage to make sure you stand out in your audience minds well after the conference has ended.
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