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How To Present Effectively At Conferences

How To Present Effectively At Conferences

Business Tips

Imagine your company is attending an industry conference and has the opportunity to present at a breakout session. In preparation, you choose your speaker, create the presentation and promote it to your customers and prospects who may be attending the event. At the actual breakout session, you assemble your team, eagerly anticipating the great response from the audience and the large number of leads that will follow. People file into the room, your speaker is introduced and the presentation is delivered. The only problems are that the audience isn’t impressed and the leads don’t follow.

You don’t have to imagine this because it happens every day. I have attended hundreds of conferences in my 40 years of business and, without fail, most presentations that I attended fell short of their intended result. This amounts to a huge opportunity lost, not to mention wasted resources spent to make the presentation happen. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you pay attention to five key things, you can take your conference presentation from a wasted opportunity to a profitable one.

1. Be laser-focused on solving your audience's problem.

Your presentation should not be about your presenter, your company or your product offering — it should be about your audience. This is where most presentations fail from the start. Almost all companies think they must first introduce themselves, talk about their company and the presenter and set the agenda. In doing so, you have now wasted five or more minutes of your attendee’s time by talking about things they already know and/or don’t care about. They know who you and your company are because it’s in the conference program and they know the topic because it’s also listed in the program.

Remember that conference attendees chose your breakout session to attend. They made this choice because they have a problem they want you to help them solve. It's not because they want to waste an hour of their time or because they need to get off their feet for a while. They specifically chose your presentation as one of interest to them. Since you cannot talk to each person in advance and discover their exact problem, you need to think in generalities about what problems most of these people would have that you can help solve. And then you need to present to that, and only that.

2. Start the conversation.

At most, conference breakout sessions are usually 45 minutes long. If you allow for any Q&A, you then only have 35 minutes to actually share any information. Here’s the key thing to remember: Your goal for this presentation is simply to make your audience want to know more. It is not to sell anything. It is not to share all the information about the subject. It is not even to convince them that your solution is the one to buy. You just want them to want to continue the conversation. 

To that end, there are several ways to ensure that happens. First, start with something interesting and engaging, and let your audience know your presentation will be worth their time. Don't open with a boring recap of your company history and a resume of your team, or worse, your sales VP welcoming everyone. Instead, open with a compelling fact about the industry, a rhetorical question to get them to think or a short customer testimonial video. Remember, it is critical to garner your audience's attention immediately, as they all have other things on their minds.

3. Keep things simple.

The content of your presentation should be simple and easy to grasp. Throw out any charts, graphs or spreadsheets, minimize text and maximize images, limit ideas to one per slide and eliminate any technical or industry jargon. Simply remind them of their pain and introduce possible solutions to ease it. Imagine if you came to this presentation: What would you need to hear to make you want to know more? 

4. Tell stories.

Help your audience understand the connection between their problems and potential solutions through customer or situational stories. Remember, they know you are paid to tell them that your solution is the best. To make a better impression, allow them to hear that from another customer who has already experienced it. Stories help them to place themselves in the context of the problem and to imagine it being solved by a proven solution.

5. Respect their time.

Be respectful of the restrictions of conference time. These sessions happen back-to-back and attendees get really unhappy when sessions start late or end late. They also do not appreciate when presenters waste their time with unimportant information that they do not care about. Your goal should be that your attendees consider their time well spent by listening to your company versus any other session they could have attended.

I always remind my clients to consider how hard it is to get the attention of prospects through marketing and how difficult and costly it would be to gather 10, 20, 50 or 100 people to share your story with. They must understand the tremendous opportunity they have from a captured audience, all of whom chose to come to their presentation. It doesn’t get any better than that, so it is imperative to do everything possible to take the fullest advantage of these golden opportunities.

To read the full article on Forbes, click here.

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John Lowe is an Executive Faculty, Coach and Business Presentations Expert at Ty Boyd, Inc.

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