So, you're an up-and-coming sales rep, and the important chairman of a popular tradeshow taps you on the shoulder and says, "Hey, you wanna deliver the keynote address at this year's annual Widget Con?"
At first you think it's a joke. And then, when the chairman assures you that he is serious, you blush right down to your argyle socks.
But the flush of honor and self-congratulation quickly fades. And the reality that you are going to stand in front of an auditorium full of industry professionals, all alone, suddenly hits you. You panic.
Following are a few suggestions to get you beyond your nervousness and on the right track.
First off, know who will be attending Widget Con 2007. Will your audience be filled with industry veterans or those new to the widget industry?
And what do they do? Are they salespeople, technology geeks or widget counters? After all, you want to present valuable information to your audience. And that means you need to know the room.
Now, have a theme for your talk. What exactly are you going to talk about?
You may have a general idea, or even a title, but usually that's not enough information from which to craft an entire presentation. Get a clear idea from the tradeshow's sponsor of what the organization would like you to cover.
Do they want a macro analysis of the current financial health of the entire widget industry? Or, do they prefer a micro snapshot of a specific facet of the business, a more detailed presentation that covers less ground, but with more in-depth information?
Before you arrive at Widget Con, find out everything you can about the physical room you will be in. Does it have windows? If so, where are they and will they be shaded?
This is important to know if you are going to give a PowerPoint presentation. On the other hand, if the room is dimly lit, and the focus is going to be strictly on you, the speaker, a poorly lit room is a problem.
Whatever the case, make sure the lighting, and those operating the lighting, can accommodate your needs.
How much time will you have to deliver your presentation? Will there be time for a question and answer session? And, if so, do you want to answer questions during the presentation, or save them for the end?
If you allow questions, keep close tabs on the clock as you speak. Otherwise, you might run out of time before you address your presentation's main points.
When are you scheduled to present? Are you the first presentation of the day? If so, your audience may be sleepy or jet-lagged. Don't expect a lively question and answer session right off the bat.
On the other hand, if yours is the last presentation of the day, don't begin with an apology, such as, "I know it's late." You don't need to remind your audience that they have been sitting uncomfortably in hard plastic chairs for four hours.
Instead, use that to your advantage. Encourage people to interact with you asking questions or even yelling out comments, anything to keep them alert and interested in what you have to say.
Who is speaking before and after you? What are their topics? Is there a chance that you will repeat information another speaker has already given?
If you are duplicating statistics or anecdotes, your presentation might lose its impact. And don't worry if your data conflicts with that of other presenters, or if you offer different perspectives from other speakers. The clash of ideas will foster dialogue and conversation.
Now that you've taken all these items into consideration, it's time to actually prepare your talk.
Many first-time presenters operate under the misconception that presentations must be chock-full of new information; not so. Some people will know certain things you talk about; some will know other things.
If your aim is only to share information that no one knows, it may end up being information overload for your audience. On the other hand, don't assume your audience knows more than you.
Also do not assume you can ask vague, all-encompassing questions and expect your audience to supply the details. They will see right through your ruse and know that you are unprepared.
No one expects you to know the answer to every question. But, an audience does expect you to present information that makes sense, flows and offers helpful advice.
Remember, when you are a presenter at an industry event, you are an expert, even if you don't feel like one.
The audience is expecting you to tell them something they don't know, or explain something they do not understand. Your listeners are hoping you have insight into how their businesses work, so they can do their jobs better. It is your job as a speaker to fulfill that hope.
As you probably guessed, it's not easy being an expert. So do your homework. Get as much information as you can about where you will be speaking and when. Know your co-presenters and what they will be speaking about.
But most importantly, know who your audience is, what they need to know, what you are going to say and how you are going to say it.
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