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81 Points To Help With Presenting At Conferences

Conference speaking or keynoting is often seen as a key milestone for many people in their careers.

Over the last 15 years, I have spoken at a number of Marketing, Growth, transformation and business conferences.

I have experienced a number of technical issues including a full AV meltdown, a laptop I was presenting on breaking down, a full power cut, numerous microphones breaking and having to shout my talk and a couple of trolling events. I’m told, it’s all in the name of a conference speaker 😉

Despite all of this, I have since, spoken at good conferences, keynoted two conferences, hosted panels and thought I should condensed down my lessons and learnings into a complete list.

Below are the 81 points (and hard lessons learnt) to help you with conference speaking, the questions to ask, the things to know, and the things to train for.


  1. Know the subject – don’t speak on topics you’re not an expert on (experts attend conferences and love to say you’re wrong)
  2. Know the presentation – creating the slides is not enough, know the flow and how you will engage the audience (& where) 
  3. Know you will get questions from engaged audiences 
  4. Know that some won’t want to ask questions in front of an audience 
  5. Know you will be asked to help for free or no money post-talk (the emails come in after the event) 
  6. Know it is ok to be nervous before speaking (and during and after – it’s natural) 
  7. Know there is a chance you will get questions you won’t know the answer to 
  8. Know there will be buzzword bingo (and many words you won’t have heard of) in questions and follow-ups  
  9. Know the audience won’t always agree (sometimes this is actually great for follow-up emails or potential work) 
  10. Know if you are going to be giving away free resources you will be asked questions 
  11. Know you can always take a deep breath and a snip of water if you forget your line or make a little mistake, take a beat and go again 
  12. Know the audience is there for free advice 
  13. Know Google Slides, PowerPoint, Keynote, Canva (Tome, gamma etc) all work differently and don’t play great together 
  14. Know if the slides or PDF will be shared by the organisers after the talk – this can then be a way to reshare your details or content to those who couldn’t make the talk etc 
  15. Know you may have an adrenaline dump (speaker highs can last for hours) 
  16. Know if the font will work – many are custom, especially on Keynote and PowerPoint 
  17. Know if you need to run past any slides (if you work in-house – you can hear from them post talk and it often means they didn’t approve the numbers or use of the brand etc) 
  18. Know the licences for images, and use links to image sources if unsure (use AI is probably the easiest way around it or use pexels, unsplash etc for free to use)  
  19. Know if you can swear – some organisers hate it (as do some business leaders) 
  20. Know if you want to take notes – you’d be surprised how many end up reading a script
  21. Know that a Post-it note can make all the difference (with a note, a message or a drawing when you speak) 
  22. Know you should re-use the content on other channels – make the most out of hours of work 
  23. Know the deck will take you hours to create, many more hours than you expected early on — know that is ok 
  24. Know that people are visually driven, words driven or gestures driven – you can bring them all together or if you are better at words than visuals
    (a well-known VC firm told me that my slides were very pretty when presenting at their internal conference & then commented again before I presented)
  25. Know if you are going to say something controversial – you will divide an audience or will receive questions afterwards 
  26. Know you could receive some negative feedback – I was trolled on my first keynote on Twitter – when I went to speak to the person in question they wouldn’t have a face-to-face conversation on it 
  27. Know where you want people to connect – LinkedIn, Twitter, or other 
  28. Know if you hear no feedback after the event it doesn’t mean you didn’t change someone’s mind or informed their plan for the year ahead 
  29. Know you can become a clip on someone else’s social media 
  30. Know that people take pictures of your slides – be comfortable in knowing you will have phones pointed at you 
  31. Know if you are representing yourself or representing your brand 
  32. Know that often many attendees won’t have ever thought of what you have
  33. Know that colours and certain features don’t come across as well on large screens especially if you have a brand-new mac 
  34. Know to get someone to listen to a run-through if you are earlier on your journey 
  35. Know that organisers use speaker brands and logos to gain attendance, you might also be speaking on a different track at the same time as a CEO or someone really well known, make the title appeal 
  36. Know you might present to a room full of people or to a few people, know that this is ok (some of the best most engaged audiences and presentations are in front of 12 people, not 1200) 
  37. Know you can go back to someone with an answer 
  38. Know if the presentation is being recorded – this adds a different feel to the talk – concentrate those in the room 
  39. Know if the presentation is going to be hybrid, those in the room and attending virtually – it’s very different to present to a room full of people and then to people at home 
  40. Know most conferences aren’t TED so big ideas might not land or only a few images might not land 
  41. Know that some people attending might not speak your language natively, this has happened to me a number of times and I learnt to add more words like subtitles 
  42. Know the time of the day can matter when presenting, mornings people are engaged, before lunch it can be a struggle, late afternoon and many people leave 
  43. Know what your big takeaways are for the audience – share them throughout and share in a roundup or actions to takeaway slide 
  44. Know if something goes wrong you have it, a slide might skip, a screen might power down, a clicker might stop working, a mic might turn off 
  45. Know if this is a paid engagement (decks take hours to create, and you will spend hours to days to get there and be there) 
  46. Know what drink will help you present, is it water, is it a Pepsi Max or a coffee, water often helps most as its neutral 
  47. Know people make notes on their phones, on notepads or on supplied paper, it’s not people being rude 
  48. Know that you can share URLs for downloads – I am a fan of offering QR codes as everyone has a smartphone and easy to track clicks, downloads, emails etc 
  49. Know memes have a place but if unfamiliar they might not land 
  50. Train yourself to know you might have a slide that doesn’t land or might make people’s reactions change, if you look for reactions know you can’t know what their internal reactions is  
  51. Train yourself to tease the big takeaway at the beginning 
  52. Train yourself in storytelling methods – some people have real charisma and the slides are secondary – most don’t, train yourself to make it a performance 
  53. Train yourself on questions you could be asked 
  54. Train yourself to know your topics might not have been considered 
  55. Train time management 
  56. Train… pauses
    – dramatic pauses are really powerful 
  57. Train yourself to let a big point you are making land like a comedian does with a joke – it comes with reps but consider a signal on the slides to remind you 
  58. Train yourself into knowing you aren’t other presentations, 
  59. Train your own style – I am someone who learnt that I have to have loads of slides and offer numerous resources after the presentation 
  60. Train yourself to know you will have an off day 
  61. Train yourself to know you will need a mind frame to get up or come down for a presentation, I know many people in speaker greenrooms who have hype music, who do exercises and like me often need to take a rescue remedy or herbal remedies to calm the nerves 
  62. Train yourself to project your voice – mics have broken on me – 3 in fact in one talk 
  63. Train yourself to find people in the audience you will speak to 
  64. Train yourself if you are going to tell a joke and it doesn’t land it doesn’t mean it wasn’t funny
  65. Train to know swearing divides opinions, I had a slide #2 in fact that said – if you are offended by swearing fuck off now 
  66. Ask for two screens – speaker notes help if you are inexperienced or like to have them just in case 
  67. Ask for tickets for friends and family – it can really help certain personality types to have familiar faces 
  68. Ask how the mic works – switch on and switch off – no toilet mishaps 😉 
  69. Ask for the format the organisers and tech people will need for the presentation. Keynote can cause issues as most conference tech use PCs, Canva is web-based and can cause issues 
  70. Ask if there will be Q&A online or in real-time in person – often in real-time it can be distracting if they use them live on the screens around you 
  71. Ask what the audience make-up is – see if you can ask for attendee’s titles and places of work – this helps to tailor to the audience 
  72. Ask where the presentation will end up after the conference, on their website, on their social, on speaker platforms etc 
  73. Ask yourself is this talk for me or is the talk for the audience 
  74. Ask yourself if this presentation was shown internally what reception would it get – many presentations are 
  75. Ask if video can be played with audio often cannot 
  76. Ask if you can play audio or audio snippets – often this isn’t supported 
  77. Ask if you can present on your own laptop, you are familiar with it, not other laptops 
  78. Ask how the clicker works – most have the same, and some have two, three or even five buttons 
  79. Ask if there will be a timer so you can manage your flow 
  80. Ask the audience what questions do they have – not if they have any questions (it’s science-backed)
  81. Ask if there is going to be Q&A or time for Q&A – this can be awkward if you don’t have time or you have prepped for none 

Good luck with your conference talks and if you’d like to discuss or book me; you can send me a note on LinkedIn, email or on Twitter.

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