Professional conferences can be great learning and networking opportunities. Too often, learning is lost in the presentation. The presenter will make or break the success of the learning that takes place. Here are some observations, recommendations and do’s and don’ts for presenters, instructors, and speakers, compiled from years of attending conferences.

  1. Be animated. The more technical and dry the material, the more entertaining you need to be.
  2. Power Point doesn’t make a bad speaker better. It only enhances the misery.
    1. Slides should be succinct and sparing—3-4 lines at the most.
    2. Fonts should be large enough to be readable from the back of the room.
  3. Be prepared.
    1. Know in advance how much time you will have to present, including Q & A time.
    2. Know your material so that you can present it with or without visual aids. Match the material you’re going to present with the time you have. NEVER say “This is really a four-hour class and I only have 45 minutes….” It’s condescending, telling the audience you didn’t bother to make the presentation specifically relevant for them, during that hour of that day.
    3. Know your audience in advance and tailor the presentation and style for their interests. A luncheon speech to the local Chamber of Commerce membership should be different than a speech on the same topic to the Boys and Girls Club.
    4. Practice! e. Don’t make stuff up! It will bite you in the end.
  4. Avoid lingo and obscure acronyms. Keep it simple.
  5. Unless you’re running for elective office—and even if you are–be cautious about condescending, demeaning or marginalizing individuals or groups who are not in the room.
  6. Use anecdotes and make them short, simple and to your point.
  7. Try your humor out on someone else before your presentation. Sarcasm is not humor, it is passive aggressive behavior and the audience will react accordingly.
  8. Repeat audience members’ questions and avoid too much paraphrasing.
  9. Leave the audience with optimism that they can change, grow, or find the solution—whatever your presentation is about. If you leave them with doom and gloom, don’t expect to be invited back for a long time.