Exactly four weeks from today I will be on a plane bound (eventually) for Los Angeles, and Blog World Expo. I’ve already started getting ready for this trip, and we’ll be doing a Live #Blogchat there on Saturday the 5th. As I’ve been prepping for this trip, I realized that for some of you, this might be the first social media event you’ve ever spoken at. Don’t fret, the first Social Media conference I ever spoke at was South By Southwest in 2008, and I survived! So I wanted to write this post to give you some pointers (along with lessons learned) to help you ace your first presentation at a social media conference.
1 – Get started early. If you’re reading this and thinking “Hey that’s right, I guess I do need to get started on my deck for Blog World!”, then we’ve hit our first Red Flag. There is no substitute for prep time. If I am creating a brand new deck for a presentation, I start working on it 6-8 weeks before the event, 4 weeks if it’s a session I have already delivered before.
2 – Devote half your time to creating the deck, half your time to rehearsing your delivery and always give yourself at LEAST two weeks for each. That sounds like a ton of time, but it isn’t. And when I am working on my delivery, I spend the first week delivering the presentation from a script. I make an outline of the presentation, and make sure to know the main points I want to hit on. That’s in the first week of rehearsing, for the second week, I lose the script. After a week of rehearsing, you’ll have a general understanding of what you want to talk about, but you won’t have the exact words memorized. Which is ok, because when you lose the script, it will force you to talk about WHAT you know, versus simply reciting. You don’t want to give a speech, you want to share your knowledge. Spend the second week talking through the deck with no script, and you’ll be ready!
3 – As far as actual deck creation, I start out by making myself an outline. It helps to do this to give yourself a sense of direction. Write down the main points you want to hit, and it always helps if you can work this into the start of your presentation. Within the first few minutes of the presentation, I like to tell the audience what we’ll be covering, so they know how the presentation will flow.
4 – Start connecting with and getting a feel for your audience BEFORE the event starts. If you will be presenting at Blog World for the first time (or even if this is old hat to you), you should be following the #BWELA hashtag on Twitter. That’s where you will find Blog World attendees discussing the event, and you can talk to them about their expectations. And it is especially beneficial to follow this hashtag AFTER the event starts! I always do this because I can get feedback from attendees on both the sessions, and the speakers. It gives you an idea of what speakers are doing right and wrong, so you can adjust and improve your session!
5 – Figure out where exactly your session will be beforehand. When I arrive at the convention center for Blog World, one of the first things I will do is go find the area where we’ll have the Live #Blogchat. You should do the same thing figure out what room your session will be in, so you can become familiar with it. You’ll want to know how big it is, what the setup is, will you be presenting from a stage, a podium, or can you move around? Being familiar with the space where you will be presenting will make you more comfortable, and that will make your session go more smoothly.
6 – When you delivering your presentation, remember two things. The first is talk slowly. Nothing screams ‘I am nervous!!!’ more than talking too fast. Plus, it makes it harder for your audience to understand you and your points. The second is that the audience does NOT know what you are about to say. So if you flub up and make a mistake, there is a 99% chance they will have no idea that you did. Just relax, collect yourself, and move on.
7 – THANK everyone for coming! Seriously, it is a gift to have people listen to you speak, especially at an event like Blog World Expo, which has several tracks going at once. And keep in touch with them after the event, that will only help generate positive word of mouth for the NEXT time you speak!
But in closing, prepare, prepare, prepare. If you have a solid and engaging delivery, your presentation will go SO much better and be much better received by your audience.
PS: If you want a great post on attending a social media event, check out Lisa Petrilli’s introvert’s guide to attending conferences.