Speaking at a conference: Five essential tips

So … you’ve been invited to speak at a conference. Perhaps it’s one of the many essential industry events organised by Key Media each and every year.

Whatever the case – if you’re new to this, you’re probably nervous. Don’t worry! This is only natural. Just take note of our five essential tips and you’ll be wowing audiences in no time.


Sounds obvious – but you can never get enough preparation. Once you’ve on stage in full flow, nothing should surprise you and everything should have been rehearsed to perfection. Seems daunting? Just imagine the opposite. In fact, it’s a good idea to anticipate at least two hiccups that truly terrify you – a tech breakdown, missing slides, etc – and prepare specifically for them. Piece of mind is priceless.


Facts and figures are all well and good – but if you want your presentation to have a true emotive kick, you need to think in more narrative terms. Is there an engaging personal story you could tell that relates to your topic? If not, is there someone else’s story you could adopt? A good tale makes for good teaching.


You’ve got a lot to say, right? And you’ve only got a limited time to say it? The temptation is to pack your slides with more information than a Wikipedia page – but hold back! Keeping things straightforward and simple will do far more to engage your audience. If there’s extra information they really need, you can include it in hand-out material.


You need to make certain points stick. You need to make certain points stick. You need to make certain points stick. You need to make certain points … oh, you see where we’re going with this. Repetition may be redundant in print, but when it comes to the spoken word – at a conference, where your audience might well be tired, distracted or both – it can be essential. Make sure the crowd takes home your take-home message.


Should you leave some time at the end of your presentation to answer audience questions? Of course. But if someone raises a question midway through, don’t be afraid to divert for a moment and answer them – or, even better, think on your feet and link the answer directly to the subject at hand. It’s the sort of fluid, interactive process that will make the audience really engage with you.