How to be the Perfect Speaker

Somehow this year I found myself wrangling speakers for three conferences. It was a good challenge, and I now know how to identify my perfect speaker.

The perfect speaker gets deadlines, is respectful and is engaging. Here how they do that —

Submit your bio, photo and workshop description on time. Conferences have many speakers and if everyone is late with their details, it throws off the entire schedule. The information is needed to post to the website, to send a “Save the Date” card and to develop the program. Speakers should also adhere to the required content lengths. If I have to edit someone’s bio, it may not be to their liking, and I’m inevitably stuck in a back and forth email volley until it’s the right length.

Confirm your presentation requirements at least two weeks in advance. Conference organizers want to ensure that they have everything speakers need for an effective presentation. Usually organizers will reach out and ask, but as a speaker, if you have a special request, let them know. Many years ago, we had a speaker who requested a bar stool for her presentation. Knowing that ahead of time prevented last-minute scrambling.

Remain on point. The session description provided to the conference is in many ways a contract. When attendees read it, they are expecting to hear that content. Don’t disappoint the audience. When creating your presentation, make sure it fits within the allotted time so the session does not run long. Ideally, the conference will provide a time keeper to keep everything moving, but if it’s a small conference, do your part to stay on time.

Repeat the question. It’s challenging to hear in rooms. When you take audience questions, repeat them so others will know what was asked. It also means that your answer will make more sense.

Decide on your equipment. Some speakers like to use their own equipment. If that’s the case, be sure you have all of the necessary adapters and power cords. Just in case, have your presentation on a thumb drive. If you don’t want to bring your own laptop and will be using the conference equipment, provide your presentation in advance so it can be loaded and tested on the equipment that will be used. And again, bring a backup copy on a thumb drive.

Connect. Audience members are looking forward to learning from you. They may have more questions following your presentation. If your schedule permits, take the time to connect with audience members who rush to the front with their business cards. Some who rush to the front may simply want a selfie with you because you inspired them. Talk about a great reward!

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2 thoughts on “How to be the Perfect Speaker

  1. Kay Stephens says:

    Cynthia…This is a good column and it reminded me of something that I’d like to get some advice on. For our NFPW conference, I approached approached three potential speakers who seemed to ignore — or maybe they just didn’t get — my inquiries. I completed speaker request forms, contacted them via email, tried to get to them through people I know who know them and left telephone messages. Perhaps they get too many inquiries to field but how do you deal with: “No response” when you’re trying to sign up a speaker? Feel free to answer in future blog if you like.

    • You did all that you could do. You completed forms, used email, and reached out through others who know them. Since you did not hear back, it suggests the speakers were either too busy or did not consider the request a good fit. That is when it’s time to move on to others on your list.

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