40 Quick Tips For Speakers

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I’ve done the “speak for free to five people in a room that holds 100″ thing (proof), I’ve been paid keynote fee’s and everything in between, I figured it was time to share what I’ve learned.

1. Don’t be a “speaker”. Be an expert who speaks. Speakers are a “nice to have” but experts are a necessity

2. The power is not the point – slides are there as navigation points, not to be the content

3. If everything you say is on your slides, you’ve rendered yourself useless. Speak, don’t read.

4. There is a high demand for people that can both provide content and deliver it effectively from stage. Some can do one of the two, most don’t do either and a select few do both. Aim to be great.

5. End your presentation early.

6. What new ideas/skills will your audience have when they leave your session? If the only answer is “they’ll know more about me!” You need to start over.

7. Be prepared to present without slides if something goes wrong. And then do it on purpose.

8. Its not about you.

9. No matter how many times you remind people, someone’s cell-phone will go off during your talk. Get over it.

10. Make sure your own cell phone is off before speaking :)

11. Speakers are their best during Q&A because they’re not handcuffed to a slide. Think about that.

12. Stop walking in front of the projector. Seriously, how do some people not know this?

13. Use a hand-held clicker for slides instead of using the laptop. And when they don’t see the hand clicker, you look like Obi Won Kenobi when the slide progresses on its own. I use Kensington 33374 Wireless Presenter with Laser Pointer (affiliate link)

14. Don’t apologize to the audience about something they wouldn’t know was wrong. Saying “I was supposed to have a video here” doesn’t help. Keep going.

15. Have passion for what you’re saying. If you don’t, your audience won’t either.

16. If you use feedback sheets, there will always be somebody who didn’t like you. If its in the majority, you need to consider what’s said. If its in the minority, ignore it.

17. Be early and stay late. Getting to know the audience beforehand and talking after to answer questions is a forgotten thing that gives the highest value. (Great post by my man Olivier on this)

18. Speaking for free is a great lead generator and a quick way to go broke. Get value one way or another because you give it. Get conference passes for others, barter for product or services or at least a wheel of cheese.

19. Videotape every session you do. Share it on your blog and watch it yourself. Learn from it.

20. Change your presentation every time. Update stats, bring new examples. Own the content, not repeat it.

21. Ask for testimonials, don’t just assume the organizer will send one.

22. If you start every point with “In my book…” you’re doing a commercial, not a seminar. The best way to sell is to teach. I’m not saying ignore that you have a book, just simmer down a bit, we heard you the first five times.

23. It’s not about you.

24. If the conference has a #HashTag on Twitter, start finding people who are going to be there by searching with it. Talk to them, build relationships and then track them down at the event to say hi. It’ll be like you already know them, because you do.

25. Send out helpful tips that have to do with your content by using the same hashtag as above.

26. Watch Twitter for mentions of your talk and let people know you appreciate them spreading your word.

27. You’re not their parent, don’t tell them to put phones away, just ask as a courtesy to put the ringer on silent. I don’t understand speakers that tell audiences they can’t text/tweet during a talk. Make your content so good people feel they HAVE TO tell others right away, but great enough that they don’t want to miss a word.

28. If you’ve done a certain presentation numerous times and you feel it’s routine, either change it up or trash it. It may be the 20th time you’ve told a story, but it’s the first time that audience has heard it.

29. It’s not about you.

30. If you use feedback sheets, create two check-boxes at the bottom. One that says “I would like to be subscribed to your newsletter that provides [insert awesome benefit]” and the other says “I know of a group/association that would benefit from your talk, drop me a line”. Extend the contact past the session.

As always, your comments make the post 10x better! I’ve added some of your tips below, taken from the comments. Be sure to leave your own!

31. Speaking kits and demo reels are all well and good, but in my experience, it is all about contacts, personal brand, posturing and social proof to get booked at gigs. (from Dean Hunt Site / Twitter)

32. When the introducer says, “Please give a warm welcome to Jim Smith,” don’t start your talk with “Hi I’m Jim Smith.” An don’t thank them for the warm welcome or start listing all the organizers you want to thank. You can weave that into the talk. Start with a powerful statement, an intriguing question or other compelling beginning that will rivet their attention. (from Randy Gage Site / Twitter)

33. Tell great stories (your own, not someone else’s), and be funny. Don’t tell jokes, but use humor. (From Ava Diamond Site / Twitter)

34. Know your audience. There is a big difference between talking to 5th graders and mid-level corporate execs. The more that you know and tailor, the better the speech will be. (From David Siteman Garland Site / Twitter)

35. When a participant asks a question, remember to repeat the question for the audience. There’s a chance that others, especially those at the back, didn’t hear it. (From Sherine Clarke)

36.  Ask for a cell number of the conference organizer if you have to travel to speak there and text them when you get in safely. A less-stressed meeting planner/client means a happier one too :) This goes double if you’re the opening keynote the next day.

37. Record a video shout-out for the conference to potential attendees to get to know you. It can be a minute or two, but allows the client to use the clip on their blog/site to help build up buzz for the event.

38. Right before you go on, clarify what time they need you to wrap-up your talk at. If you were told an hour originally, and the previous speakers run over their time, it’s up to you to see if they need you to compress your talk or go the full hour. Nothing is more stressful for a conference than one that is running late.

39. Don’t use video/flash/audio in your slides. Your slides should be able to play on a Commodore 64. Don’t be “that guy” with custom fonts, and dancing babies on the screen unless you’re bringing your own laptop. If you do insist on using your own laptop, then arrive early enough so it can be set-up properly. And for the love of the late Steve Jobs, bring a dongle, MacFanBoy.

40. If you walk in front of the audio speakers, or don’t come early for the sound check, don’t throw the look of death at the A/V people when your mic doesn’t work right away. Those A/V people have seen 1,324 speakers this year already, they don’t need “Mr. Death Stare” throwing them under the bus to the audience when it wasn’t their fault in the first place. My goal is to make the A/V crew enjoy my talk. If you can please them, you can please anybody in that room. Oh, and if they don’t like you, they can make you sound “less” pristine.

41. Be you. When you try to be someone else on stage, it makes you even more nervous. I dress like me, I talk like me and I say what I think. I tell stories. That may not be your style. Don’t force funny. People will try to knock that out of you. Just in the past two days one person said I should have better “hygiene” and wear a tie, because I wear a black shirt and have facial hair. Another person said I was “over the top” with how I speak. What you don’t hear is the silent majority that like you being you, that are relieved that it isn’t nother stuffed-up suit and tie on stage, and for some of us “over the top” means really freaking passionate about what we say. I ain’t changing that for anybody. And neither should you.

And thanks to the awesomely wonderful Pam Slim for this post which contains some of the best tips for preparing for presentations I’ve ever read. (and her book isn’t too shabby either)

On a panel? I also wrote a post about those!

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