Earlier this week, I went to the Digital Marketing Show in London. I didn’t have any big ahas that I can share unfortunately… (Did you know that content was important?) To be fair, the organisers had explicitly said that the show was for marketing professionals and not digital experts, but I went anyway, what a rebel I am…
Instead, I focused my attention on the style and format of the presentations, rather than the message.
- Create the right setting – As our friend Maslow will tell you, people are not going to be concentrating on your great conceptual debate if their basic needs are not being met. In this case, there weren’t enough seats and so most of us were more concerned with back pain and manoeuvring into prime position when seats were liberated between presentations, than with listening to the speaker. It also meant that a lot of people couldn’t see the screen. This is really down to the organisers but it’s something you at least need to be sensitive to.
- Know who you’re talking to – This is such a fundamental requirement of tailoring your presentation to your audience. Normally, as a presenter, I would try to get a detailed list of attendees from the organiser with information on their function, their seniority, their business focus. While such detail isn’t possible at a large conference, you can at least get a basic overview of the type of attendees. You can also ask a few quick questions in the session: Hands up if you consider yourself an SEO expert. Who has heard of Google’s Venice update? How many of you work in B2C?
- Get the tech working – Such an obvious one, especially in digital (- it’s particularly embarrassing when you’re presenting on online marketing and you can’t get the presentation to work). Find out about the set-up and test everything in advance. Will you be presenting directly from your own computer or do you need to put it onto the main PC? Is there an internet connection? In a noisy hall like this, you probably shouldn’t rely on videos where the sound is important. Better to keep it simple than to plan lots of fancy stuff that doesn’t work.
- Choose a clear title – At a big conference, where attendees can choose among different presentations that are happening in parallel, you need a catchy headline that will make them choose you. Catchy, but also meaningful: you may come up with a sexy-sounding name but it’s useless if it doesn’t give your potential audience an indication of what you’re going to cover. And then you actually need to cover it! The title must reflect the content of your presentation, or the audience will be left disappointed and confused. And you don’t want that, now, do you…?
- Focus on a key message – Half an hour is not a lot of time but the solution is not to speak quickly and click through text-heavy PowerPoint slides in order to cram as much into the slot as you possibly can. It’s both exhausting and counter-productive, as your audience will never retain it all. Decide on three key points, or even better one, that you want people to walk away with. What should they do when they get back to their desks? What should they change in their marketing plans? Why should they remember what you said over all the other things they’re being told today?
Now I don’t think these presenters were chosen for their public speaking skills, rather for their technical expertise. And we’re not talking about an inspirational keynote speech in front of thousands of people here. But it’s still in the presenters’ interest, and in that of the companies they represent, to package that expertise in a way that it will be understood and remembered. Something to think about for next time…