Have you attended a conference session because the speaker was an expert in his or her field, only to be bored to death once in the session?
Or perhaps you read a compelling session description so you decided to check it out, only to be underwhelmed by a speakers stage presence.
The two above scenarios are all too common for event attendees. While event planners can try to select speakers who have a proven track record of engaging audiences, they should also provide speakers with a quick how-to guide to ensure that speakers will dazzle those in attendance.
Even the most experienced speakers will be grateful to receive a few tips before going on stage. After all, delivering a killer presentation will serve them well too.
Speakers should follow the ultimate trinity - audience, speaker and content. Everything comes down to successfully carrying out those three aspects of presenting.
1. Make Sure Speakers Understand Your Attendees
Unfortunately, some speakers tend to deliver the same presentation at every event they attend. While using fundamental pieces of one presentation at multiple conferences can be fine, using the same exact one should be avoided.
When we talk about audience, the most important tip you could give your speakers would be to learn everything they can about your audience at the event.
It seems pretty obvious right? Well, not quite. You would be surprised how small oversights like failing to tailor examples to the experiences of attendees can ruin an otherwise good presentation. Referencing things that the audience is having a hard time relating to creates disconnection with the audience and can lead to their distraction and loss of interest.
Understand what makes the audience unique at the event you’re about to attend, and tailor the presentation so that at least 30% of the material is new and just for the needs and interests of the specific audience you’ll be presenting to.
Here’s a great example of how one event speaker, the co-founder of Intuit Scott Cook, extemporaneously gave a presentation for Stanford MBA students based on their expressed interests, talk about a tailored presentation!
Knowing the audience also relates to understanding their dress code, if it’s a full suit attire type of audience, the speaker can’t arrive in jeans. Those are little things that make a big difference.
2. Educate Speakers About Event Logistics
As an event organizer, it’s very important that you educate your speakers as much as possible about the event.
While you’ll have a lot to attend too in the weeks leading up to the event, you must find time to update your speakers about the type of stage, lighting system, sound system, computer system and so on, will prevent potential errors at the day of the event causing the speaker unnecessary stress and anxiety.
If the speaker has all this knowledge in his hands he will come much more relaxed and prepared and as a result will provide a better experience for your audience.
3. Start With A Story
Imagine you just started to watch a movie, how long does it take you to determine if it’s a movie worth sticking around for? A couple of minutes right?
Well, studies have shown that a person’s attention span is approximately 5 minutes long. This is why the first 5 minutes of a lecture must be the most captivating.
There are many ways to grab the audience’s attention. Our personal favorite is starting off with a story. But, and this is the good part, you NEVER start from the beginning.
The secret behind good storytelling is to start a second before the peak of the story. It might sound weird in the beginning, but just remember how all good movies always began right in the middle.
4. Speak With Your Body
Pay attention to your body language because people pick up on these signals. With that in mind, don’t spend the entire presentation behind a podium. Pace back and forth from time to time and use gestures to really convey the point you’re trying to make.
Consider breaking the presentation up into three phases and standing on the stage accordingly. By the time the presentation is over, you’ll have moved from one end of the stage to the other. Signaling to the audience that you’re presentation is winding down in a nonverbal way.
5. Use Images And Short Videos
Don’t over rely on slides, but certainly use them to add a variety to your presentation. As the saying goes, pictures are worth a thousand words, so save your breath from time to time by using images, videos, and GIFs to show, rather than vocalize the point you’re trying to make.
Keep in mind that these visuals can also be used for comedic effect or to elicit a certain emotion.
6. Implement Live Polling
The speaker's’ presentation can show slides of polls and surveys. Better yet, get the attendees involved by having them be a part of the poll. Have them whip out their smartphones to provide real-time feedback related to a question at hand.
The responses can then appear as graph on the big screen, which can become the basis for further discussion. Speakers who incorporate audience opinion will have an easier time engaging with attendees, compared to speakers who ignore the audience.
7. Build Structure With Short Sections
As we’ve mentioned previously, humans have notoriously low attention spans. In order to be most successful, make a recommendation to speakers that they divide the presentation to small sections, each one containing one important lesson.
Having a very defined structure allows the people that zoomed out for a while to check back with you and realize right away what's going on.
Remember that “perfect is the enemy for good”. That means that diving too deep into a particular section is a sure-fire way to lose your audience.
Right before the speaker finishes the presentation, it's important he or she summarize key lessons. This adds a lot of value to attendees, as it helps the audience to better remember the lecture, while making them feel that they just got great value from the lesson packed session.
8. The Art Of Asking Questions
Asking the audience questions creates engagement and allows the speaker to recapture people’s attention.
That said, questions should be asked in a specific manner. If you want the audience to actually engage, make sure the speaker asks the audience questions that the audience can actually answer. As long as your speaker has done his or her homework about the target audience, it shouldn’t be a hard thing to do.
Remember, people don’t want to feel unknowledgeable, asking tough questions that only one person from the audience knows the answer to, leads to one person's satisfaction and discomfort for the rest of the people in attendance.
9. Speak From Memory
It’s ok for speakers to use a script in front of them or a teleprompter if needed.
However, speakers should not keep their gaze fixed on the paper or screen. They should be able to speak at length with their eyes looking at the audience.
Only reading from a teleprompter or script makes the presentation sound stiff and robotic. It also gives the audience a sense that the speaker is not confident being on stage.
10. Make Sure Speakers Are Reachable
At the end of the speaker’s presentation, they should share some form of contact info on the concluding slide.
This will give the audience a sense that they are approachable. You can also encourage the audience to follow speakers on social media to receive further material about the information that was covered.
Most event attendees registered for your event because they want to learn best-practices from knowledgeable speakers. It’s the event speakers job to not only share their expertise, but to do it in a way that is actually easy to follow and engaging for audience members.
The most effective event speakers use ice breakers, speak from memory, are aware of their body language, and ultimately involve the audience.
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