I love speaking at conferences. It’s an opportunity to meet new people, challenge myself with new ideas and to travel.

Wherever possible I stay for the day so I can listen to the speakers before me. I love hearing and seeing other people present and understand how nerve wracking it can be to speak to a room full of strangers. But a keynote requires some special preparation and there are rules you need to adhere to.

Here are 5 things you should ever do in your keynote to enhance your presentation skills.

1. Make it all about you

Let me tell you how faaaabulous I am!

Some speakers remind me of a bad first date – you know the ones when all they want to talk about is their house on the beach and the car they drive? I recently saw a keynote speaker show a rah rah company video and then proceed to talk about himself for a full 20 minutes. He did not start on his topic until 30 minutes into his presentation. The audience was not impressed.

Solution: Focus on the audience’s WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) and your credibility will speak for itself.

2. Deliver a report instead of a presentation

This is a mistake I see a lot of novices make. They have done some research that has had some great outcomes and as a result they’ve been asked to present their findings at a national conference. They then proceed to deliver their research in its entirety and bore the audience until they are catatonic.

Solution: Deliver a ‘Persuasive Executive Summary’ and relate it to the audience. Those who want the detail can read the paper.  This is a great presentation skills to have.

3. Let me show you the spreadsheet…

Keynotes and PowerPoint abuse seem to go hand in hand. Here’s a quick tip. Open your PowerPoint make the slides full screen and stand six feet away. If you can’t read the detail on your slide, neither can your audience. It’s time to escape PowerPoint purgatory.

Solution: Have a look at the blogs I have written on how to “Escape Powerpoint Purgatory”

4. You MUST do this!

There is a saying in sales: ‘Telling is not selling’. When I’m in an audience I take off my evaluator’s hat and enjoy the moment. But every now and then something will punch through that causes discomfort. I was listening to a speaker recently and I thought: “Maybe it’s just me…” but when I noticed the person on my left checking her emails and person on my right playing solitaire, I thought “Maybe not!”

I asked them after why they were disengaged and they said:

  • “She came across as preachy and a know it all”
  • “I don’t appreciate being told what to do”

Solution: Tell stories. Share your challenges and what you learnt from them. Use inclusive ‘we’ language rather than ‘you’. Pose questions to the audience and increase interaction.

5. Go over time

Several years ago I spoke at a conference where the two previous speakers went over by 20 minutes each. I was the last speaker before lunch and you could see the audience was getting testy. I checked with the conference organiser first and then I stood up and said:

“I’m going to tell you what you need to know about delivering a persuasive presentation and I’m going to do it in 20 minutes” I received my first standing ovation when we broke for lunch on time.

Solution: Franklin D Roosevelt’s advice to his son on public speaking was “Be sincere. Be brief. Be seated.” Conferences are planned down to the last minute – if you want to be invited back, you’d better be on time!

This year I have delivered keynotes across Australia and overseas on topics ranging from persuasion and making your message stick, through to presentation skills and “escaping PowerPoint Purgatory’.

My audiences have consisted of accountants, lawyers doctors, CEO’s, HR professionals, trainers and managers. I love helping people with presentation skills.  If you have a conference coming up I’d love to have a chat to see if what I deliver can meet your needs.

Sharon Ferrier
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All Good Presentations Start With a Confident Speaker

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