Public speaking scares people. It doesn’t have to, but it does. Despite the fact that no one is yet to die while giving a talk in public, millions of people are still terrified of the prospect. It’s for this reason that I congratulate you for having the courage to accept the opportunity to present to your industry. Speaking at a conference is a great way to advance your career, showcase your expertise and stand out in your field. If you do it well. If you don’t do it well, you will just be another hour that someone wasted between drinks. How it ends up is completely on you and your preparation so before you fire up your Powerpoint, let me share with you my advice to Rock A Conference Speech.

Prepare As If Your Career Depends On It

Because it does. It should go without saying that preparation is king when it comes to giving a talk. The more seriously you take your preparation, the better the entire presentation is going to go. I’ve often joked that the last thing heard before every bad presentation is the words “I’ll just wing it!” To rock a conference speech, your preparation needs to be on point. That means knowing what you’re going to say, how you’re going to say it and what you want your audience to walk away with. 

Before you write anything or open your mouth, take a moment and answer this one big question:

What Do I Want My Audience To Think, Feel, Or Do Differently, After Hearing Me Speak?

It’s a simple question, but the answer will drive everything from your words choice, vocal tone, and slide deck. If you’ve ever watched someone bore the crowd into an early slumber, chances are good they never asked themselves this question. When you’ve established this much, you have a theme that can be hit on, again and again, to leave an impact in the minds of your audience. 

Write Your Speech Word For Word

Don’t read it, but write it word for word. I’m a big believer in this for two reasons: 

1. You can count your words

2. Writing forces clarity

If you know that you have an hour to fill and you know how fast you talk, counting your words will put you in a position to time your presentation perfectly. The people running your conference are working on a really tight schedule. If you go over, it throws everything off. If you don’t go long enough, there’s a huge hole to fill. Do them a favor and take your allotted time. No more and no less. 

As for clarity, writing your talk out will give you time to think about the best way the phrase your message. It’s also a great way to internalize what you want to say. Most of the time, after writing a major keynote, I can delete the file because once I’ve written it, it’s been burned into my memory. Not everyone can do this, but if you write it all out, your chances of remembering it go up significantly.

Design Your Slides Last

Too many people believe that their slides are their presentation. But as the late Roger Ailes wrote: You are the message. Not your slides, your handouts or any other visuals that you might use, it’s you. 

Once you’ve answered the big question and know what you want to leave your audience with, writing your talk gets pretty easy. If you wait until you’re done with that task to design your slides they’ll make a whole lot more sense to your audience. 

When you design your slides, they should be full of images. In fact, I like to think of slides as the illustrations in a book. They’re there to reinforce what you’re telling your audience and deepen your message. Words get in the way of that. Keep your words off the screen and use as many images as you can tell your story.  

There’s so much to cover that it’s going to take another post, but this is the beginning. Take your preparation seriously. Know what you want your audience to walk away with and design a presentation around that. In my next post, I’ll cover using the room, building rapport with your audience and leaving them with a wow. Until then, get started on your prep. Your career depends on it. 

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