As we slowly emerge from the pandemic, it is inevitable that we will be back putting on trade shows and business forums. It has been well over a year since our last Women in Consumer Technology Forum event in New York City. I remember that we had some truly awesome women who spoke about empowering women in the workplace. Behind the scenes, leading up to the event, we were reviewing PowerPoints and coordinating how each presenter preferred to deliver their message – at a podium, with a hand-held mic or lavaliere so they could walk and talk. And as I saw the day unfold, I could tell that each presenter was prepared. They had rehearsed. They had memorized and had given that speech in the shower a hundred times. Here are a few recommendations I use whenever I’m asked to teach, lecture or sit on a panel.
The Big Picture. Regardless of whether you are giving a lecture or sitting on a panel or giving a radio interview, investigate and understand the Big Picture. What is the overarching theme? For our forum, it was emPOWERing women. I had most, if not all of our presenters ask me specifics about what message(s) we wanted to deliver. Understanding where you fit into the grand scheme of things will give you a firm base upon which to structure your presentation.
Share your topic early with trusted friends and colleagues. Start by discussing your talking points with your group of advisors. Get as many viewpoints of what others think your central topic(s) should include. Listen to what your friends think they would like to hear discussed. Then you can truly narrow your talking points.
Preparing for a panel. You might think with the stomach-churning prospect of giving a lecture that presenting on a panel is a cakewalk. After all, you just have to sit there and answer direct questions. Au contraire. Make sure you contact the panel’s chair and find out exactly what questions will be directed to you and why. Then, do your research. I always google search the panel chair and the topic extensively, because I don’t want any questions coming out of left field.
Practice and rehearse. It’s not just enough to memorize your lecture. You also have to present to a live audience before you hit the road. Many times, I present at industry events. The night I get into town, I’ll invite other presenters to our hotel suite and we’ll all take turns presenting to each other, with everyone making comments on what’s working and what needs improvement. I always feel the exact amount of pressure doing these informal presentations as I would being up on a stage live. The more you present to an audience, the better you get, the more comfortable you feel.
Be yourself. This is the most important advice I can give you. Look, it’s just a speech. You’re not standing in front of the United Nations for heaven’s sake! Loosen up and let some of the real you shine. Audiences love personality and honesty. Audiences don’t like robotic monotones. So imbue your lecture with personalized talking points that people can relate to. You’ll feel more comfortable talking about something you know innately, and your audience will give you the positive energy that drives a great narrative.