Keeping in Touch

Speaking at a conference

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We told her not to read the audience evaluation forms from her last conference speech

As a professional, perhaps with a valuable technical expertise, the chances are that you are going to use conferences as a marketing tool to convey to the market that you are innovative, approachable and available for hire.

If you are going to a conference then, get a speaking slot. You won’t get one if you don’t ask – then invite your clients and do a lot of self-publicity.
My experience tells me that there is not much point going to a conference unless you can address everyone in the room. If you do get a slot, push to get on during the first day or even the first morning – it makes a difference as drink-sodden conference audiences tire quite quickly on the second day.
Conference papers are normally so dull and badly expressed in speech that it is not difficult to stand out from the crowd. This is why you want to get to talk early on in the proceedings, provide the audience with opportunities to approach you…. Ah!! That is selling heaven. A person coming up to you in the bar or foyer and saying ‘I really liked your speech….!
Your presentation has to be good though. And most aren’t even competently done. There are plenty of books, courses, experts on how to do exceptional presentations and in fact, my co-author on this blog/book is a bit of a presentation aficionado so I’m not going to go much beyond the Golden rules: As a minimum standard
  • Aim for no text except titles, not always possible but a target!
  • If you read slides you should, in my opinion, be shot
  • 15-20 slide max (ALWAYS)
  • Tell them your message at the start, tell them again in the middle and remind them at the end

It is UNBELIEVABLE how bad conference presentations usually are. Tell a story – show some passion and emotion and WOW! What a difference that makes.

Conferences are hard work and can sometimes be a little soul destroying if your expectations are too high. You probably won’t make a sale, but you can make 3-5 good drinking buddies who might, over the next year, turn into fee paying clients. So if it still seems like a worthwhile investment-

Get the delegate list, identify targets, invite clients or lapsed clients and book meetings, breakfasts, golf, lunches for while you’re there. Practice your coffee break patter; your ‘glimpses of value’ and during the course of the conference take every opportunity to reinforce the contacts you make. This is particularly useful at smaller conferences where you can quickly get with the in crowd…

Conferences for professionals are a bit like weddings for single people, you might not get a snog from the bridesmaid, but she’ll happily dance with you all night. What happens when the confetti’s swept away rather depends on your sincerity.

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey

Managing Director at The Message Business
Jim is the MD of The Message Business, a company which helps FTSE 100 companies to sell themselves, and their products better. Speech writer, Prezi trainer and designer, coach and consultant, Jim also finds time to be a proud father and husband.
Jim Harvey
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