Presenting at industry events: a success guide for first-time speakers

Cropped shot of a businesswoman delivering a speech during a conference

With the help of industry experts, we’ve written up a guide for fledgeling lecturers and those preparing to present for the first time.

Speaking at a public event

As an opportunity to build authority and credibility, speaking at industry events is a superb way to make a positive impact both personally and professionally. Whether you’re selling something or speaking on a topic you’re passionate about, the benefits are worth the planning and preparation that goes into public speaking.

As a first-timer, however, it’s likely that you’re feeling a touch apprehensive about speaking to a room of people you don’t know. That’s OK, even the most seasoned of public speakers get the butterflies before a big presentation, and luckily, there are some tried-and-true methods you can use to make sure you’re presenting like a pro. With the help of industry experts, we’ve written up a guide for fledgeling lecturers and those preparing to present for the first time.

Key planning and preparation

It should go without saying that you’ll be experienced in your presentation’s subject matter, but part of keeping your cool during the preparation knowing your material like the back of your hand.

Know your topic inside out

She advises using every chance you have during your prep to boost expertise so that you can confidently share your insights, experience and know-how. Proper preparation on your topic will help out if things go slightly awry too:

Build up your confidence

Naturally, you’ll be nervous (more on this later) but another way to boost confidence is to get into the habit of greeting others with a smile. It may sound too simplistic, but the benefits are perhaps more plentiful than you may have first thought:

Understand the reasons behind your speech

It might help to contextualise your preparation, and more fully answer what’s expected of you, by making sense of why it is you’re giving the presentation. Martin Brooks, a professional coach and conference speaker, has a great analogy in which to ground your speech:

Perfecting your presentation slides

Obviously, part of your presentation will involve making a suitable PowerPoint presentation that’s going to capture your audience’s attention and give you a launching pad with which to elevate your points and arguments. However, it’s something that a lot of people tend to slip up on. If you’re struggling to make your presentation, Lucy offers the following:

Calming the nerves

One of the biggest reasons people tend to put off public speaking is the fear that comes with talking to a room of strangers. It can be undeniably nerve-wracking, but it’s important to let it get the better of you. Andy Baxter, a public speaking expert and MD of Internet Gardener, offers the following tips and advice that you can use in your preparation and before the day itself:

Andy Baxter

Keeping the audience engaged

Martin swears by three tips to keep audiences fully involved in your presentation:

1. Don’t assume your audience will be engaged just because they’re present. That’s actively something that a speaker has to do, and it starts right at
the start. So, the first thing to actually think about is what I would refer to as your opening hook. How do you grab your audience? It could just be simply asking the audience a question and getting them engaged that way.

2. Be aware of personalising your presentation. This comes from knowing who your audience is. What do they care about? What are they interested
in? What are their problems? What are the things you could say that they might be interested in? And personalising it to them, showing that you’ve done some research, you understand where they’re coming from, you understand what their issues are, and therefore you can have what I call ‘targeted value’ and talk about things that they would go, “oh yeah, that’s really interesting, but I’d like to know more.

3. The third thing about engagement is the style of delivery; everything from eye contact to body language to vocal inflection and making sure there are appropriate pauses. The use of speed, speeding up to denote energy and passion and enthusiasm or you slow down to talk about serious things that are maybe regulatory or a major problem that needs to be solved. It’s all important when engaging your audience.

The day of the presentation

On the day of your public-speaking engagement itself, there are a few last-minute things you can do to make sure you’re fully prepared and everything goes off without a hitch. By now, you’ll know what you want to say inside and out, but don’t forget about the small things that could make a big difference if you forget about them. Lucy offers these all-important last-minute tips that you can do to make sure you’re comfortable before you speak:

“Know where you need to be at certain time points and what you’ll leave out if you are running short on time, things start late – often
conferences start late – or you find out just before you start that the sponsor is going to speak for 10 minutes.”

“Get there early – walk the room, check and double check that the tech works, and do a sound check if you have a mic. If you are a pacer (like
me) have a lapel mic – don’t get stuck behind a lectern speaking into a mic. Ask for all this way in advance – not on the day.”

“Wear clothes that you feel comfortable and confident in – if you tend to sweat wear black so it won’t show. Wear something that you can attach your mic to – the last thing you want is the tech guy grappling to put the battery pack on your bra strap or another item of clothing because you don’t have pockets.”

“Be there when your audience arrives. Chat to them and find out a bit about them, as this helps to reduce nerves and put you more at ease.”

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