Many hour-long technical presentations at conferences fail because the speaker attempts to pack too much information into the time allotted. The attendees leave feeling overwhelmed and are less than pleased about the hour they just spent. On the evaluations, they may have marked the speaker as an expert, but they hadn't learned as much as they had hoped. And, sadly, these attendees might not sit in on this speaker's sessions again, and this speaker will ultimately affect the attendees' overall rating of the conference.

As a speaker, your goal for that hour has to be: The attendees must leave better than when they arrived. " Better" means they have grasped the most important elements of your topic, and are motivated to gain even more knowledge, and take action. Hopefully, they will take that knowledge back to their facility, share it, and improve their workplace.

Presentation Design

From the attendees' viewpoint, technical presentations are overwhelmingly about the speakers. Sure, you might have a PowerPoint® slide-show that you refer to as your presentation, but be clear— you're the show. The least important element of your presentation is your slides. In fact, the fewer slides you create, the better your talk will be. Similarly, the fewer words on each slide, the better those words will be.

When I'm speaking of your presentation, I'm referring to the interaction you are allowed with those attendees, not the slides. If you know your topic and your audience, you can sit down with them without any slides, and easily talk for an hour about your topic. The slides are merely a tool to assist with the transfer of knowledge.

A good presentation doesn't just happen. It has to be designed and practiced. Good presentation design starts with the attendee in mind. The speaker has to ask, " How can I help them?" A bad presentation design puts the topic front and center and asks, " How can I get all of it into an hour?" A speaker must have a passion for the topic and must develop a passion for sharing that knowledge.

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