Conference presentation tips

Most people learn to make presentations in front of relatively small groups of people.

When it comes to presenting yourself, your ideas or your business to an audience of hundreds at a conference, panic can easily set in.

But a few simple measures can be taken to make sure you are fully prepared to give a great presentation. The six tips below will help calm those big-day nerves.

Tip 1 – Choose your topic wisely

As soon as you’ve made the decision to speak, decide on a compelling and engaging topic for your presentation. It may seem obvious but you’d be amazed at how many people go for some wishy-washy subject that won’t appeal to the audience.

Choose a topic in which you have some expertise, as you’ll naturally be more confident speaking about something you know. It should also be consistent with the theme of the conference. Avoid blatant sales pitches, as they may not engage the audience.

Outline your key points to the audience, as this will help you focus and help the conference organisers promote the event.

Tip 2 – Prepare your materials

Ask yourself the following important questions, and use the answers to create a plan for your presentation:

  • What time will your session be and how long will it last?
  • Are you expected to take your own handouts, or will the organisers provide them for you? In which case, in what format should you provide them?
  • How many people are expected to attend and who are they?
  • How will the room be set up?
  • When can you have access to the room?
  • Will they provide the equipment you need, or should you take your own?

The more information you can get, the better prepared you’ll be.

Tip 3 – Practise until it’s good

Give yourself plenty of time to prepare your presentation and practise it. If it doesn’t feel right, you’ll need enough time to improve it. Blagging your way through a presentation rarely works.

Don’t forget to give yourself plenty of time to prepare supporting visuals, and try to be creative – it doesn’t always have to mean PowerPoint.

Prepare handouts to give delegates even more value from attending your presentation.

Tip 4 – Set-up properly on the day

On the day of your presentation, take time to make sure you’re organised and mentally prepared for what lies ahead.
Before you leave for the conference, make sure you have back-up copies of your presentation, so you know your files are safe if you have problems with your equipment.

When you get there, check that you’re happy with the layout of the room and that all the equipment you need is there and working.

Try to attend some other sessions at the conference, to make sure you don’t duplicate what’s already been said. This will also give you the opportunity to find out more about your audience.

Tip 5 – Follow-up questions and contacts

Take note of any questions you were asked, as this is good material for your next presentation.

If you promised to get in touch with anyone – to provide extra information or contacts – make sure you get their contact details and then do what you promised.

This will make you stand out from many presenters who never keep in touch with people they meet.

Tip 6 – The audience are on your side

Speaking at conferences used to scare the living daylights out of me.  Despite being armed with a great story, compelling support materials and hours of rehearsal, I’d be a quivering wreck by the time my introduction onto the stage was being made.

And then a colleague let me into a little secret – the audience wants you to succeed.

They want to engage with you, smile knowingly at your ice-breaking gags and marvel at your visuals.

Simon Morton

Simon Morton

Add that positive feeling in the room to a presentation that has been carefully planned, designed and rehearsed, and you’re onto a winner.

Trust me – it works.

Simon Morton – Eyeful Presentations (


Published On: 4th Jan 2011

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  1. Many thanks for you Mr. Simon
    these tips are really helpful.

    ????? 9 Jan at 6:54 am
  2. Simon,

    Great tips and as for the subject choice- people might like to start off by identifying a question, that if answered would be really interesting and useful for the key audience members (or those you’d most like to impress). Like…

    ‘Which three basic business disciplines, when applied rigorously, could help every SME add £50k to its profits this year?’ Or…

    ‘What are the greatest risks facing businesses looking to source products from Korea, China and Brazil, and how can they protect their business to ensure the move delivers the profit it promises?’

    With this question in mind you can then begin to create your interesting, focused presentation.

    Jim Harvey 9 Jan at 5:59 pm