5 important tips for conference presentation, even if it's your first time
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5 important tips for conference presentation, even if it’s your first time

People who know what they’re talking about don’t need Powerpoint.
Steve Jobs

So said Steve Jobs, however, PowerPoint or its counterpart, Keynote for Mac is a staple for most conference presenters today. Academic paper presentations are quite the norm in academia and medical affairs.

‘Death by Powerpoint’, is another popular phrase you may have heard about. Sure, no one would want to be the next in line to repeat the boring presentation cycle or sound outright boring.

Effective presentations are a possible, and you don’t have to be a professional speaker to make an effective conference presentation.

Below are some tips for conference presentation that should improve the quality and professional feel of your part at the next conference, even if it’s your first time.

1. Know your conference presentation type

What presentation format is expected from you?

A short brief or a keynote?

Thankfully, conference presentations do not require the Grammy Award celebrity speeches or Shark Tank business-terminology-laden pitches.

Simple presentations that address a primary objective is all that is needed, for the majority of presentations.

Feel free to ask the conference organizers for required presentation formats, ahead of time.

2. Know your audience and adapt the content of your conference presentation

Who are your audience?

Who will be listening?

Would you be talking to physicists, environmentalists, immunologists, or chemists?

Sure, the nature of presentations varies with the audience type. Niche down to the functional units of your audience, reframe your approach, the presentation format and the use of registers.

Simplify as much as possible. For specialty conferences, jargons are expected. However your listeners are at different levels of understanding, from beginner to advanced. Remember to type down the complexity of your presentation and carry everyone along.

You’ll want to be known as the presenter who was the ‘most understood’ and enhance your reputation in your niche. This is important in the academic niche, where everyone knows each other.

3. Timed and advance preparation

The difference between a well prepared and an unprepared presenter is clear.

Record yourself with a timer/stopwatch. Listen to recorded versions and make changes where necessary. Many a presenter succumbs to over-confidence, having gained experience from repeated, academic presentations. However, sometimes they go over time and encroach into the time allocated to the next speaker.

Advance preparation with the allocated time in mind helps reduce this incidence to a minimum. This allows time for audience engagement (questions), which adds to an overall, positive impression on your listeners.

Take advantage of departmental or office meetings/seminars for mock-practice sessions.

4. Build and maintain confidence

How well do you know the topic you’ll be presenting?

Regardless of your status as a newbie, learner, intermediate or an expert, you need a ‘well’ stocked with confidence to communicate better with your audience.

From the occasional blank stares to the drooping faces and even individual exits, self-confidence is critical. Adequate knowledge of the subject and advance preparatiuon are two keys to unlock much-needed self-confidence. 

Advance preparation correlates directly with your confidence bank. The more you practice, the more confident and polished your presentation will sound.

5. Predict and plan ahead for potential questions

Do you shy away from questions?

Or prolong your presentation such that no time is left for questions at the end?

What’s your question-evasion strategy?

It’s comforting to know you are not alone.

Sometimes getting no questions at the end of your presentation is okay. However, this means one of two scenarios – a lack of understanding of your presentation or a well-understood presentation. In most cases, it’s the former.

What could help? Think ahead of potential questions.

Try the generic 5WH (Who, What, Where, When, Why and How) Model to predict questions.

Are there any conflicting opinions or studies on the subject?

Determine ahead of time which side you are on (for or against) and prepare supporting evidence on the subject.

Get a friend to practice and maximize the in-house seminars in your department, if available.

Try to leave time for questions. If behind time, extend an invitation to the audience to ask you questions during the break or networking sessions.

Recommended TED Talks on Presentation Skills
You can benefit from strategies recommended by professional public speakers.
I found these TED talks helpful.
Your body language may shape who you are by Amy Cuddy
Lies, damned lies and statistics by Sebastian Wernicke
Talk nerdy to me by Nelissa Marshall

Asake some time to listen to these presentations. They should help improve the overall feel and general understanding of your presentation.

All the best in your next presentation. If you need help with preparations for your conference presentations (both native and non-native speakers), feel free to contact me today.

What other tips for conference presentation have you found helpful? Do share in the comments below.