Screw The Audience | 4 Speaking Tips to Live By

So, you are speaking at a conference? It’s great marketing and it’s not so bad for the ego, either. Since you are getting ready to take the main stage (or perhaps main stage adjacent) I thought I would give you four tips I have learned from every tech conference I have ever attended.

  1. Since you are the subject matter expert, don’t bother preparing. After all, the participants are taking time out of their day to hear YOU speak. Just forget that they could be making money or helping their company be more productive instead of listening to you.
  2. If you are using slides, fill them with facts. This is your time to share everything you know with the audience. And since your really big graph is so important hide your main point in 6 point font so your audience has to squint to find it. ***Folks, if you say “It’s kind of hard to see… but if you look here…” I am talking to you.
  3. Read from your slides. Forget that your audience can read faster to themselves than you can out loud. You didn’t really want them to listen to you, did you?
  4. Don’t share your expertise. Overtly sell your company’s products. Forget that your audience came to learn something.

Okay, I can actually hear you… “I would never do that.”

Oh, but you do. See, you get too busy to prepare. You get too busy to practice. So the night or weekend before the event you put your deck together. But you forget that people pay to attend the conference where you were selected to speak. While you were thinking about how busy you are, you forget that someone will travel half way around the world just to be in the room with you. You forget that your audience’s time is also really important.

Case in point, I just led a two-day session at CompTIA’s ChannelCon in Phoenix, Arizona. During the session I learned that one of the participants came from New Zealand just for the session that I was leading. While the room was filled with other participants, it struck me that this one person travelled half way around the world just to learn from me. What if I had been unprepared? What if I didn’t know the content? (Sorry, other people in the room… I wanted to impress you too.)

Speaking is an honor. It takes me upwards of 8 hours to write a first draft for an hour (1) long session. And then it takes me another eight to edit out all the unnecessary stuff. The stuff I think is so important, but really doesn’t help propel the story… And then if I am using slides, it takes me another 20 to 40 hours to create a really compelling deck that amplifies the speech. And finally, it takes a lot of practice… in front of mirrors and friends. It takes constructive criticism and it takes a willingness to edit and redo and more practice. A great speech takes time to perfect and the best speakers prepare.

So I implore you… If you are lined up to speak at a conference, put pen to paper now, edit your material, learn it and show some passion. I know speaking can be scary… It can be a distraction… but if you signed up for it, which you did when you asked to speak or said yes when you were asked… do the work. Your audience will win, and so will you.

And as a reward for reading to the end, I have linked two of my favorite presentations on presentations.

1. Life After Death By PowerPoint by Don McMillan.

2. Death By PowerPoint by Alexei Kapterev.

P.S. Please share your tips for screwing the audience.

P.P.S. Please share your favorite presentations about presentations.

Through her consultancy, Sales Enabled, Rebecca Rosen helps technology companies improve sales channel performance. Her expertise lies in social selling, sales messaging and onboarding programs. Previously Rebecca oversaw marketing communications and sales training for TelePacific, where she was part of the leadership team that drove the Company’s growth from $20 million to over $550 million. She is an active member of Women in the Channel and the Channel Partners Advisory Board. Rebecca is also a member of the CompTIA faculty.

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