Dear fellow speakers ...
Lists of tips for presenters seem to be popular these days, so I tried to come up with my own, both from a speaker's point of view as well as from that of a visitor, i.e. what do I expect from a speaker? While preparing this (short) list, I realized that it all boils down to one simple rule: Respect your audience.
- Prepare and rehearse. At conferences, I often hear speakers excuse themselves some time during the evening because they have to give a presentation the next morning and "need to work on it" (or sometimes even start(!) on it). Now, I have no doubt that if you know your material really well, it's possible to whip up a presentation in a couple of hours. But no matter how good you are, it will always only be a mediocre presentation. You are passionate about your subject, aren't you? So why don't you try to evoke some of that passion in your audience by delivering a great presentation? But that, of course, requires time and effort well in advance.
- Arrive early. This is for your own benefit as much as for your audience's. If you arrive at the venue / room early, you still have a chance to make changes, e.g. to the layout of the room, or find out about things that aren't working (and have them fixed in time). Be ready to start on time. Your audience didn't come to watch you booting your laptop.
- Finish in time. Yes, you have a lot of stuff that you want to tell your audience about. But does it really make sense to cram it all into one presentation? Concentrate on a few really important items and provide pointers so that those who want to learn more about it can look it up themselves. Also keep in mind that - at a typical conference - your audience will probably want to move on to another room and they need some time for that. As does the next speaker after you. If you rehearsed your presentation (see above) you'll know how long it takes and you will also know what to skip to make up some time, e.g. if there were a lot of questions. Nobody's ever complained about a presentation that ran a few minutes short.
- Oh, and since that came up again recently: Refrain from inappropriate remarks or slides. This really isn't something that should have to be pointed out explicitly, but for some reason, some fellow (male) speakers seem to fall into that trap again and again.