3 Things I Learned from Speaking at Conferences, in 2017

Speaking wise, 2017 was a great year for me. I’ve been fortunate enough to speak at various community events in Toronto, and this this year I was able to take take my speaking chops on the road. From the west coast to the wild rose province, to the home of Queen Elizabeth herself, I’ve gotten to grace new stages and present to new audiences.

While for some speaking may be about tweaking a deck and getting ready for the usual song and dance, this year I challenged myself to find new ways to keep audiences engaged and make my slides even more memorable.

With these new speaking experiences and a helpful dose of coaching from Lauren Ferraro, I’ve learned some new strategies for making presentations more engaging, and some pitfalls to avoid.

Engaging Slides: Simplicity and Stats

For this reason, instead of weaving stats in the stories I shared, I gave impressive stats their own slide. When I employed this strategy at Social Media West, these stat slides were the parts of my deck that audience tweeted about the most:

Although this was a win, upon further examination I probably could have done an even better job of highlighting the specific stats. In the online deck I bolded the specific numbers, but in future I’d probably make better use of font sizing and weights.

Inspiration for improvements:

The Google team did an excellent good of stat treatment in their slides at Google I/O this year. By using a bigger font size and intentional placement for the numbers, these stat slides are very easy to read.

Phone capture of slides at Google I/O, 2017

Roaming with a clicker: Beware of walking into your presentation

Problem is, when I employed this method at DevRelCon London, I accidentally walked in front of my own slides.

Lesson: If you suspect you’re in front of your slides, it’s okay to playfully ask the audience if you are. As well, although I usually don’t like to see the speaker before me because it gets me away from my speaker headspace, in this case I should have popped into the room ahead of time to get a better sense of the audience’s view of the stage.

Panels: Have good transition vocabulary up your sleeve.

I’ve done a couple of panels in the past, and my prep is typically the same:

  • Research my fellow panelists and pre-introduce myself electronically
  • Understand what unique perspective each of us brings to the conversation
  • Prepare three to five talking points that are unique to my role and experiences

After speaking at CIMC 2017, I asked a colleague for feedback on my panel, and he told me he noticed that we were all using similar transitions. By the end of the panel he had heard “to build on your point” a dozen times. Also, he pointed out that all though we were all polite Canadians, a bit of friction or opposition could have our discussion far more engaging

Lesson: For future panels, I’ll come equipped with new transition phrases up my sleeve, such as:

  • “I think I come at it from a slightly different perspective …”
  • “That’s really interesting. For me, this experience has been a bit different …”
  • “I’ve actually been in a similar situation and choose to take a different approach”
  • “I think that’s a great point. I also think it’s really important to look at the other aspect of …”

Or really anything other than “to build on your point.”

Another year of speaking, another year of helping to make conferences more engaging.

Product Marketer, avid reader, fitness enthusiast. @LizCouto | lizcouto.com