A Beginners Guide to Speaking at Conferences
I’ve had the honour of speaking at a fair number of conferences and I like to think I’ve learned a thing or two in the process.
In this blog post, I’ll share a few things to keep in mind if you are going to speak at a conference in person.
If you are looking for public speaking tips, check out my blog post on 11 Public Speaking Tips You Might Not Know.
If you are looking to be accepted as a speaker at a conference, check out Rob Lambert’s guide.
1. Feel free to ask the organisers questions beforehand
The organisers want you to succeed as you giving a great talk helps make it a great conference.
If there is anything you want to know, shoot them a message.
If you’re lucky they will have sent you a bunch of information on what to expect, but you may still have some lingering questions.
Here are some examples of questions you could ask them:
- Is there a dedicated speakers room? (I’ve seen it at a few conferences, here you can focus on last minute prep or just use the space to get into the zone before your talk)
- Will a clicker be provided? (Often they will provide one, assuming you don’t have to use a podium microphone, it gives you freedom to move around the stage.)
- Can you see the room beforehand? (This gives you a chance to orient yourself.)
2. Microphone set-up
There are a few ways this can go. It can either be pinned to your outfit, a podium or a handheld microphone.
Ask the organisers before your talk what it will be, I’ll go into each of these in a bit of detail.
Pinned/clipped to your outfit
- Often it will be clipped to your waistline if you are wearing pants. But they can clip it to the back of your dress at your neckline if you happen to be wearing a dress.
- This allows you to walk around the stage.
- Microphone is fixed to the podium.
- You won’t be able to walk around the stage.
- Presumably presenter notes will be visible on a screen in front of you (but more on presenter notes later).
- Allows you to walk around the stage
- But assuming you have a handheld clicker, it means you don’t have a hand free for gestures etc.
3. Presenter notes
I’ve often relied on presenter notes to help me out in certain parts of my talk.
All, but one of the conferences I have spoken at, had presenter notes available.
It helps to double check with organisers that you’ll have a way to view your presenter notes.
Either they’ll be at a podium (or a high table), or they’ll be on a screen in the ground in front of you (visible to you but not the audience).
If you are on a stage, depending on the lighting you may not be able to see the audience and may only see a bright spotlight.
This can be difficult as you won’t be able to see audience’s reactions during your talk.
I haven’t been at a lot of setups like this, but I have found them a bit disorienting because it meant I didn’t know if what I said “landed” or not.
5. Questions and Answers section
- It helps to budget some time for Q&A, especially as it means you won’t go over your timeslot.
- Repeat back the question before answering it.
- In my experience, the first question can be a bit slow to come, but often, after that, more questions should come faster.
6. After your talk
- Plan to hang around for a bit after your talk. Some people may be too shy to ask their questions in front of people or you run out of time to answer all of the questions people had.
- Pat yourself on the back. You did it! Go you!
Edit: Adding a few more things.
7. More Useful Things to Keep In Mind
- Check the connector that they’ll have with the screen/overhead projector. In my experience, it’s mainly been HDMI. Since my laptop doesn’t have a HDMI port, I tend to bring my own . But generally venues should provide this.