Presenting at a Conference? Three Tips for a Successful Presentation

June 17, 2014
Kelly Mendoza Director of Professional Development
Common Sense Education

CATEGORIES Professional Development

Summer conference season has begun! I know I’m looking forward to presenting and learning at ISTE, iPadpalooza, and the Digital Literacy Institute. If you are presenting at a conference, you might feel excited or stoked. But it can also be nerve-wracking, whether it’s your first time or you’re a seasoned pro. Having presented at many conferences and taught public speaking courses, I've highlighted three quick tips to help make your presentation stellar.

Prepare, Practice, and Refine

Do you procrastinate and wait until the day before your presentation to create it? Not the best move. The more time you have to prepare, practice, and refine your presentation, the better. First start by considering who your audience will be and outlining your goals for the session. What are the key takeaways you want to convey to your audience? How will you organize your talk -- from the “hook” in the beginning to the “call to action” at the end? What supporting materials do you plan on using? Once you’ve developed your presentation, take time to practice and refine it. Practice speaking in front of a mirror. Practice in front of a colleague. Refine your presentation accordingly. You will feel more confident and ultimately give a better presentation.  

Incorporate Multimedia and Audience Engagement

If you are presenting at an education conference -- especially an edtech conference -- it should be a given that you incorporate multimedia into your presentation, whether visuals, videos, audio, or examples of tech tools. And while I'm not anti-PowerPoint, if you do use it, remember PowerPoint best practices like limiting each slide to one key idea, not loading the slides with bullet points, and using powerful visuals. Also, audiences love it when you encourage them to participate. If you’re in a more intimate setting, ask participants questions and invite them to share perspectives. Or have them pair up and do an activity or share ideas. For more ideas on engaging with social media, check out social engagement tools you can use as a conference presenter. Just remember, if you plan on incorporating multimedia in your presentation, always have a plan B if technology fails. 

Use Visualization Techniques

Athletes close their eyes and envision themselves scoring a goal. Sales people imagine themselves closing a deal. So why shouldn’t you visualize, too? Using visualization techniques as a presenter means that you visualize each and every aspect of your presentation exactly as you want it to happen. For a couple minutes here and there, in a place without disruption, close your eyes and visualize yourself as a confident presenter in front of the audience, heads nodding and people interested, and inspiring people with your message. The key is to visualize what you want to happen, not your fears about what could possibly go wrong. Taking time to visualize will help lessen feelings of anxiety, increase your confidence, and get your mind prepared for the actual presentation. 

Closing Thoughts

Remember, people attend your presentation because they're interested in your topic, and they’re interested in what you have to say! Your goal is not to be an entertainer but to inspire people with your ideas. I hope you find these tips helpful as you prepare for your next presentation.

What tips can you share for successful presentations? Share your ideas below!

Photo credit: NASA Godard Space Flight Center