Confessions of a conference speaker
I managed to attend as many sessions as possible. I wanted to see how other people presented their ideas, how they would transition between topics and how they managed their Q&As. You start to notice how everyone has their own presentation style; some people are quite comical, breaking up their talk to keep the audience engaged, while others focus on more technical subjects and jump through vast amounts of information.
Of the talks I liked the most, Jason’s talk on responsive typography, Senongo Akpem’s take on building non-linear digital narratives and Stephanie Rieger’s keynote on the emerging global web, all stood out. All three talks were on very different subjects, but their passion shone through.
Finally, it was the day of the talk and I was still tweaking my slides and rehearsing.
I got ready thirty minutes before hand so I had some time to calm my nerves. Slowly the room started to fill up. I was prepared and I even had a timer to make sure I didn’t run over each section.
Then I began my talk and I didn’t start screaming. In fact, it went really well. Much better than I had expected, with lots of positive feedback. I was nervous but apparently it didn’t show at all. Twitter went crazy with lots of quotes from the talk, which was incredibly flattering. But afterwards I was completely exhausted from the adrenaline rush.
Doing something like this was completely out of my comfort zone, which was great as it forced me to try really hard and beat that “imposter syndrome” that we all get from time to time. Speaking at an event was a responsibility and an honor, on top of that, I enjoyed myself and learnt so much.
Here are some takeaway top tips for preparing for an important talk:
- Start out with a bullet point story narrative, a bit like a script. That would be the template of the talk.
- Revise and draft your talk. Ask yourself do all the subjects relate?
- Create a draft slide deck and demo it.
- Iterate based on feedback and present again. Each time the refinement and practice will get better.
- Make sure you break your talk down into blocks and introduce each section.Remember you are the subject matter expert, not your audience so you do have to be a clear and concise as possible.
- Watch as many people present as possible and ask yourself why some were better than others.
- Oh and lastly don’t stress too much – your peers are not there to heckle you, they are their because they are interested in what you have to say.
Overall, this was a very challenging experience. I really appreciated the serendipitous opportunity that was thrown my way and I have learnt the hard way. Armed with this valuable experience, I am very much looking forward to my next talk.