Ten Commandments for Speakers
I. No Sales Pitches
Conferences are for education, not promotion. The audience is
paying with money and minutes to get your information and perspectives.
Don't pitch your product, promote your company or trash your competition.
The biggest complaint from attendees is that speakers spent the
whole session hawking their wares instead of educating their audience.
If you pitch, you're out. You won't be asked back and your company
will go to the bottom of the proposal list for the next show.
Only about 15% of those who ask to speak are accepted, so you're
part of a very special group of business educators.
II. Read the Brochure
Give the seminar that attendees came to hear. Too many speakers
spew canned material that doesn't fit the context. The conference
brochure is your contract with the audience; it's your responsibility
III. Be On Time
It's most important to start on time, but plan your presentation
so that every important point gets heard before you end-on time.
Don't spend the first 45 minutes on fluff and than cram all the
important ideas into the last 15 minutes.
IV. Be Readable
Make sure your slides and handouts are legible. You know you've
lost when you have to say: "I know you can't read this slide,
but there's important information here."
V. Keep the Energy Up
Shout, move around, gesticulate: do what you have to do to keep
the energy in the room up. If you're funny, tell some jokes. If
you're angry, yell. If you're sleepy, mumbling or not very interested,
VI. Build a Story
Interesting seminars are a series of problems and solutions,
ups and downs that keep the audience on the edge of their seats.
Beginners repeat their key points over and over to fill the hour.
VII. Be Clear and Avoid Cliches
Don't assume attendees know what you know. If you give an acronym,
give the definition. If you mention a person, give title and affiliation.
Keep the inside jokes to a minimum, and keep away from hoary canards
like "Content, etc. is king" and any variation of "If you build
it, they will come."
VIII. Get Out of the Room
Conference rooms can be dreary places. Great speakers project
the audience's attention into the outside world with anecdotes,
slides, photos and videos that make the ideas and stories more
tangible than the gray surroundings.
IX. Dress Nicely
Make the experience special: Always dress better than your audience,
have your shoes shined, your hair cut and your best foot forward.
Show that you care about being on stage and make the day memorable.
X. Follow Up
Leave behind a paper handout or-better yet-a web page link so
that attendees can contact you afterward. Make the link live so
that there's a reason for attendees to click back again. A successful
presentation is only the beginning of your relationship with the
More bon mots from Jack:
1. The best conferences are educational, impartial, relevant
2. Conferences are a validation for who's real and who's not
(on the exhibit floor).
3. A great conference must be created by experts in that business,
not by clerks.
4. Your conference must also present conflicting or unpopular
opinions; the content must represent the entire industry.
5. Make sure presenters know what they're talking about in a
deep and important way. Ideally, use those who invented the subject
or who have written a book about it.
6. Finally, good session descriptions, catchy titles, superstar
presenters and the promise of no sales pitches fills the room.
Jack Powers, President of International Informatics Institute,
is Conference Director for the Internet World shows. He can be
contacted at his web site: