Is Speaking At A Conference Really Worth Your Time?
Public speaking is something that many people fear simply because they are afraid of failure and most importantly, getting embarrassed in a room packed with people waiting to cross-examine you like an FBI investigator. This is the time when you start to wonder whether speaking at a conference really is worth it.
Dear friends, most entrepreneurs and professionals find themselves stuck in this dilemma when speaking at a conference. However, have you ever wondered about the benefits for your career once you start speaking at conferences? Even though a lot of hard work, confidence and countless hours of practice go into delivering the perfect speech at a conference, it can really give your career that ‘much needed’ boost you always wished for.
As the topic of this article suggests, we are going to discuss in detail whether conquering your fear of public speaking can actually help you grow as an entrepreneur or sought-after professional in your respective field of work. Without much further ado, let us move on to see the great advantages of attending and speaking at conferences in a snapshot. In the article, we will explore 1) the perks of attending and speaking at conferences, 2) whether speaking at a conference is really worth your time, 3) different types of conference speakers, 4) how to get the most out of speaking at a conference, 5) tips for a better presentation and conference speaking, and 6) conclusion.
PERKS OF ATTENDING AND SPEAKING AT CONFERENCES AT A GLANCE
The monetary reward is not always enough to make you want to speak at a conference, but here are some noteworthy advantages that you may want to consider when deciding on whether or not to participate in speaking at an industry or professional-level conference.
Get in Touch with the Target Audience
Attending and speaking at conferences at a professional level is a great way to get in touch with your target audience and utilize the opportunity to communicate effectively with them. You get a golden chance to assess the audience and get your brand message out in a subtle yet compelling manner. This will in turn do your business good by increasing sales revenues when more and more people understand what you are offering and how it can help them.
The greatest advantage of speaking at conferences is that you can easily target cross sections of people who are most likely to use the products or services you are offering and increase brand awareness.
The Credibility Factor
The credibility factor is an equally important benefit that you get from speaking at a conference. Now you may wonder what credibility has to do with speaking at a conference, so here is what you need to know. As far as industry-level conferences are concerned, speaking at a conference on a particular subject automatically helps in building credibility because it shows that you are well-versed on the topic of your speech.
For instance, once prospective clients and customers attending the conference hear you speak, they will be more likely to buy your product or avail the services that you are offering because they already consider you an expert in that particular field.
Golden Promotional Opportunities
As we discussed above, speaking at a conference presents you with the opportunity to build and increase brand awareness and get your message across to hundreds of prospective clients and customers seated there. But, that is not all; you will also get the golden opportunity to distribute business cards, samples or small giveaways as a token of goodwill that will in turn increase brand recall.
Also, you may publicize your involvement in the event on your official social media page and accounts to reap even greater benefits.
Polish Your Presentation Skills
Presentation skills do not come naturally. You will have to practice many times before you conquer your fear of public speaking completely. However, as time passes, you will become more and more confident and polish your presentation skills simultaneously. Your first presentation may not be as amazing as you expected it to be, but by the time you attend your third or fourth conference, you will speak and present like a pro. After all, practice makes perfect, right?
Networking opportunities are many, especially when it comes to attending and speaking at a professional-level conference. Not only will people get to know you but they will also get to know what you do, and this is critical in the professional world. Once people are fully aware of your expertise in a particular field, your career will soar to greater heights.
Financial rewards are also part of the mix when you start speaking at conferences. You not only get to make extra cash, but you also get a chance to promote your products and services on the side. Did you know speakers can make as much as $20,000 per hour along with other perks like five-star accommodation, food and business-class airfare?
However, you must be a great presenter in order to nab such great benefits because after all, speaking at conferences to make money is more of a numbers game. The more conferences you speak at, the more money you will make as people discover you as a great presenter.
IS SPEAKING AT A CONFERENCE REALLY WORTH YOUR TIME?
There are many reasons why people want to speak at a conference, but it all comes down to one thing: ‘Is speaking at a conference really worth your time?’ Here are some points you may want to consider before you make up your mind.
Most Conferences Won’t Be Worth Your Time
This is something important. Take time to consider if speaking at a particular conference will make a valuable addition to your business or your professional career. Most industry conferences will not benefit you much so take your time to plan strategically on how it will make a difference.
Same goes for professional-level conferences that will help you with networking and gaining insights regarding the corporate world.
Why Blogging Has a Greater ROI Than Speaking at a Conference
Marketing experts believe that blogging yields a greater return on investment as compared to speaking at a conference for obvious reasons. Through blogging, you can reach out to thousands of people while speaking at a conference only allows you to reach out to a limited number of people present at a conference.
However, you can make the most of your conference if you record your presentation and upload it on YouTube which will attract more potential customers than ever before.
Selecting the Right Conference
Selecting the right conference is critical because you do not want to waste your time. Just any conference that you attend is not going to help you the way it should. Therefore, you will have to do your homework well and carry out thorough research to see if the target audience attending the conference is appropriate for promoting your products or services.
Pick a Subject That You Are Well Versed In
Before signing up to speak at a conference, make sure that you know the subject matter like the back of your hand. If you don’t know much about the subject, it’s better to stay home because you do not want to embarrass yourself in a room full of people when they bombard you with questions and queries in the Q&A session at the end of the speech.
Also, you will be able to give better real-life examples and speak from experience when you are well-versed in the subject.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF CONFERENCE SPEAKERS: WHICH ONE ARE YOU?
Presenting style and skills usually vary from person to person and conference speakers are usually classified into three different types: sponsors, practitioners, thought leaders/professional speakers.
- Sponsor conferences are conferences sponsored by a company with an agenda in mind – marketing. The focus of the conference is to create brand awareness, educate people about the company’s products or services and promote them in the best way possible. In such conferences, the whole conference is carried out in such a way that the VP of Marketing gets a chance to get the keynote across to the attendees.
- Practitioners are a different kind of conference speakers and often speak to inform people what they have done with respect to the various projects they have worked on. The focus is certainly not on discussing strategy but on specific outcomes, results, and challenges. However, practitioners are quite reserved and do not have much experience when it comes to giving extempore speeches to large crowds of people.
- Thought leaders, also known as professional speakers, earn their bread and butter by speaking to large crowds of people. Thought leaders are good at engaging their target audience by bringing enthusiasm to the table. They know exactly how to draw the attention of hundreds of listeners toward them by keeping their speech crisp and interesting. Since thought leaders speak to the public in order to earn, they charge a steep fee per hour.
HOW TO GET THE MOST OUT OF SPEAKING AT A CONFERENCE
Let us suppose that you have signed up to speak at a conference but you are not exactly sure how to prepare for the big talk. Have a look at some of the points that will help you get the most out of speaking at a conference.
- Yes, it is perfectly understandable that you want to capitalize on the opportunity to promote your product or service when you are up on stage, but remember that hard selling will only make you look bad and taint your credibility. The top two traits of a good speaker are adding value and sharing insights with their listeners. Once you get the flow, you can use subtle promotional techniques if you want.
- In order to engage your audience, it is best to analyze their level of understanding and then speak to them. For instance, if your audience already knows the basics related to the topic, just give a very brief overview in the beginning and cut to the chase. Engaging the audience is critical.
- Once again, when you are preparing your speech, remember to do some research on the type of listeners who will attend the conference so that you can tailor your speech according to their needs. After all, the listeners want to hear something that will add value to their knowledge and give them some takeaway points to ponder.
- Practice on giving a flawless presentation weeks before the big day, so you are well prepared when you are on stage. Also, remember to create engaging slides and use visual aids to keep the audience engaged from the beginning until the end.
- You must have full command of the subject that you are going to present on because you will have to answer the queries of the listeners once the Q&A session begins. In fact, always pick a topic that you know like the back of your hand, so it is easier for you to explain and reduces the need to cram notes that you are most likely to forget.
- If you have never presented in front of a large audience before, it is best that you take some time to learn breathing techniques. This will help you to deliver your speech more confidently and keep you from getting tongue-tied or nervous when you forget a few lines in between. Presenting on stage is no child’s play because hundreds of pairs of eyes are trained on you.
- Do not spend so much time explaining one topic in the presentation that you are left with no time in the end. Good presenters always prepare their speech in such a way that it finishes within the stipulated time. Always remember, time management is a key factor when it comes to delivering flawless, engaging and interesting presentations.
- If you are going to be up on stage for a long period of time, it is best that you add some jokes or something fun from time to time so that the presentation doesn’t seem too boring or serious.
TIPS FOR A BETTER PRESENTATION AND CONFERENCE SPEAKING
Here we have got some interesting tips lined up for you so you can give flawless presentations and speak at conferences comfortably without getting nervous ever again.
1) Prep like a Boss
The 51-49 Rule
As a conference speaker, you are responsible for keeping everyone in the room entertained, and you can only do this successfully if you are equipped with superb presentation slides. Not only should the content of the presentation be strong and insightful but your delivery should also match up to the expectations of the audience. Hence, the art of successful conference speaking relies upon the 51-49 rule; 51% entertainment and 49% meaty content.
Focus on the Key Takeaway Points
Put yourself in the shoes of the listener and think, ‘Is the presentation going to have enough key takeaway points that will help me later on?’ Your speech should be prepared in such a way that you can give the listeners some key takeaway points to think about and use later on. The lengthy discussion should give the listeners something they can take back to work and incorporate into their daily routines.
Use Intellectual Quotes
People look forward to hearing something that will pique their interest and compel them to think about. Use a few intellectual quotes here and there so that it keeps your listeners engaged and at the same time, makes them want learn more. There is no reason why you should have to ‘dumb down’ the presentation. The audience is here to gain further knowledge on the topic – make sure you give them what they want.
Prepare 1-2 Slides for Each Point
Presentations at conferences usually last for an hour, but setting the pace of the presentation depends upon you entirely. However, if you are not too sure on how many slides you should have in order to explain a point, try to prepare two slides at the most for each point. In this way, your presentation will remain crisp, and it will not begin to bore the audience.
Make Sure Your Slides Are Legible
Your listeners will be reading the slides off the screen from time to time and to make sure people in the last row are able to see everything clearly, test the legibility of your presentation right from the start. The best way to do this is to de-clutter the presentation, use bullet points and one-liners instead of lengthy paragraphs. Also, sit six feet away from your laptop screen to ensure the fonts are readable and clear.
Select the Right Typeface
Yes, the typeface you use in the presentation will definitely make a difference. In this area, let your creativity take charge and use serif or sans fonts in different sizes, colors and styles to make the slides look readable and presentable. Some popular typefaces used by professional presenters these days are Helvetica, Museo, Archer, and Gotham. But like we said earlier, the sky is the limit when it comes to deciding the typeface, theme and design of the presentation.
However, if you are presenting in front of a large crowd for the very first time, it is best to keep things simple yet engaging.
Have Realistic Expectations
Good presenters are those who understand that they are only human and mistakes are unavoidable. Do not pressure yourself into giving flawless presentations right from the start. If you set the bar too high with unrealistic expectations on your very first presentation day, the chances are that you will be disappointed when you are not able to achieve your set goals.
The best way to curb your fear of public speaking and anxiety is just to practice, practice and practice until you become a pro.
2) Have All the Right Equipment Handy
If you are really serious about speaking at conferences and giving presentations, then there is no reason why you should use anything other than Keynote for making presentations. Keynote offers a wide range of tools for canvas placement, typographic control and aesthetics as compared to basic presentation software programs like PowerPoint.
You can easily download this software and use it to make stellar presentations on Mac as well as Windows. Once you start using Keynote in place of PowerPoint, you will see just how much you can do with presentations by getting in touch with your creative side.
For screen casts, there is nothing better than iShowU. It is an inexpensive app that offers a wide range of innovative features that can be used for creating flawless presentations effortlessly. You can use iShowU for adding video snippets as well as video screen captures to your presentation for which downloadable files are not available.
Logitech Cordless Presenter
You may find a variety of sleek and light presenters on the market, but they do not seem to work as well as the Logitech Cordless Presenter. This presenter is slightly bulkier than its counterparts, but it will not let you down as far as reliability is concerned. Apple remotes are usually not that durable and the range is short, so you may want to consider splurging on a cordless presenter that is all but the industry standard when it comes to the professional conference-speaking business.
3) On Stage
Let Your Personality Flow into the Presentation
Do not try to be someone you are not when you speak at a conference because when you stray from your true personality, mistakes are bound to happen. Now, for instance, some presenters have a conversational style while others have a more formal style of presenting. All presentation styles are a unique reflection of the speakers themselves, which is why it is pointless to deviate from it.
Whether your presentation style is casual, conversational, snarky, humorous or matter-of-fact, it is important that you embrace it so you can shine on stage and keep your listeners engaged for longer.
Establish Your Presence in the First Minute of the Presentation
This one here is kind of a deal breaker so pay attention to what you need to do in the first minute to create a strong presence on stage. The best conference speakers usually bank on the first minute of the presentation to mesmerize the audience and keep them engaged till the end.
You can do this by staying strong and confident. Also, try not to bore your listeners with dry topics pertaining to history, be it industrial or personal. All you have to do is dive right in and don’t look back until it is over.
Remain Cognizant of Audience Interest
Another golden quality of seasoned conference speakers is that they can tell when their listeners are engaged in the presentation and when they are not. As soon as they get the slightest hint of disinterest, they switch things up to a faster pace to get them up and active. This is something that you will develop once you start speaking at conferences regularly.
However, if you are a newbie in this regard, you need to pay attention to certain things:
- Ask questions or elaborate on certain key points for better understanding
- Pause deliberately from time to time
- Add some sense of humor in the presentation
- Skip content when you feel that your listeners are bored
4) Keep Your Audience in the Loop – Q&A Session
Always Repeat the Question
Repeat the question at least twice. There are two main reasons why you should do this: to get the attention of the listeners and give them time to think, and so that those listening to the recorded or videotaped version are aware of what is being asked if the question is not very clear.
Make Sure You Give a Legit Answer When Asked a Question
Okay, now this is extremely important in terms of increasing your credibility. Elaborate on your answer in such a way that the person who has asked the question can have a clear understanding. Also, try to give a few examples, if applicable, to make it easier for the person to relate. If you are not sure how to answer the question, do not linger on it or waste time. Request to get back to the question later on.
Don’t Linger on Answering One Question for Too Long
You are inevitably bound by time when you are onstage. You can extend the presentation for 5-10 minutes, give or take, but not more than that which is why you need to practice time management. The Q&A session is important, but you cannot let it go on for too long which is why you must try to give legit, but brief, answers. This will allow more people to ask questions and give their feedback once the presentation is over.
Whether you have flair for public speaking or not, if you focus on the points given above, you will be able to give flawless presentations with lots of practice and determination. Public speaking is not rocket science, and once you get the hang of it, the benefits will follow automatically. So do not be afraid to try speaking at conferences to get the right exposure you need to enlighten your career and grow your business exponentially.
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