Delivering your presentation

Lessons for conference speakers- Snakes and Ladders

Last week I attended my first Independent Publisher’s Guild UK (IPG) Conference. I was there at the recommendation of Antonella Pearce, the excellent Publisher Relations Manager of the Publisher’s Licensing Society who suggested I should attend to learn a little more about the world of publishing.

I love going to conferences.  Particularly those where I have no agenda for being there other than to listen and learn.  I love the crowds, the cakes, the dinners, the lunches and sometimes I love the speeches too.  Any speech at a conference is a bit like a game of snakes and ladders for the speaker.  Do well and you soar in people’s estimation.  Fall on your face and it’s back to square one. So the conference speaker’s art is a delicious mix of risk, test and reward.

Conference speakers generally come in two types.  First, there’s the professional speaker with a book to plug.  S/he’s generally paid to be there and the good ones even change the name of the conference or organisation from their last speech.  There were none of those here.  It was, after all, the IPG, and the attendees tend to have thousands of books of their own to sell. The syndicate rooms were crammed with people wanting to learn, network and develop their own businesses, not looking to buy someone else’s stuff.

The second type of conference speaker tends to be the enthusiast or subject matter expert, whose knowledge is vast and whose ability to communicate that expertise ranges from first rate to ‘Oh my God, has my heart stopped’. There were few of the latter and a couple of the former here, and I’d like to mention Andrew FurlowSales and Marketing Director of Icon Books , who gave the best speech of the day.  His Subject? Marketing on a Shoestring.

Why was his speech so good?  Because he gave a well structured, short, relevant speech to a crowd of people who had chosen to be in his 30 minute session, presumably because they wanted to sell more of their authors’ books, more widely at ‘shoestring’ levels of investment. The audience was well rewarded for their choice.

Andrew’s 29 minute speech delivered 10 practical, immediately implementable thoughts for the greying crowd- they were older than I’d thought they might be. It was designed to deliver on the promise and it covered a lot of ground, without blurring the points that he made by travelling too fast.  He referenced good examples from their industry, told some interesting stories and concrete example of how to attract readers you want, and assumed just enough technical savvy to allow the uninitiated to keep up and the knowledgeable to forgive him.

Each of Andrew’s 10 tips was illustrated by a simple visual or two, he offered the pictures as supporting evidence, and didn’t need them to carry the story he was telling.  He could have spoken without them, but because he had them and used them so well it was a perfect example of the visual and verbal ‘channels’ working in perfect harmony.

We listened to him and we looked at the pictures when he wanted us to, and because the images were simple, clear and emphatic, it helped us ‘see’ the point, and remember it once he was gone.

Once he was gone, he circulated the visuals via twitter, and I re-read them today. They are the model example of the presented slide, though I would have liked a little more of the narrative in the handout ’cause I forgot the term that was most interesting to me.  The one referring to people who review books on YouTube… But I have enough information to find out for myself having been inspired to do so.  Thanks Andrew.

Icon Books

…is an independent publisher of thought-provoking non-fiction. They publish science, history, politics, philosophy, psychology, humour and much else besides. Their imprint Corinthian Books publishes sport, and Wizard Books is their children’s list.

Andrew can be contacted via Icon Books, and is on Twitter @andrewfurlow and his slides can be downloaded here.



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