Crafting Your Lecture and Materials...
• Here’s one thing that I’ve done… not only did I do several run-throughs of my presentations, I recorded video of myself doing these presentations – several times. This not only gives a good time-frame average, but it lets you pinpoint parts of the presentation that just don’t sound right or don’t run smoothly.
• If you go through your session once to practice you’ll have a good idea if it’s too long or too short. I usually practice in my basement or garage. Just fire up PowerPoint and talk through your slides with your notes.
• Prepare your demos using Camtasia or another screen recorder, so you can prepare it at your leisure and then play it back -- with your comments -- during the class. This will be smoother and less error-prone than doing your demo live.
• Bring a spare copy of your PowerPoint presentation with you on a flash disk, in case your laptop gets coke'd on the airplane.
• Know how fast you talk. Most people talk faster than they realize, especially in front of a crowd. Try hard to talk slowly and clearly.
• Despite what it says above, assume that the class will go slower than your test run -- and plan so that you don't end up rushing through half the slides in the last five minutes.
• Make sure the slides you submit will print out well in black-and-white on a standard laser printer. Realize that a printed or PDF copies of your slide deck won't have "builds" or effects, and that screen shots may be blurry.
• When preparing your curriculum, don't spend much time telling people "why" to do something. They already know why. They've come to your class to learn "how."
• Fill your PowerPoint presentation with bullet points and short statements that support your points -- not long paragraphs that the attendee must read. The PowerPoint is there to enhance your "live" presentation. The focus is on what you're saying! Too many speakers think that their job is to read their PowerPoints aloud.
• Review what’s covered in your session description or abstract in the conference materials. Be sure to cover what your session is advertised to present. If your session description says you’ll discuss x, y and z, you should discuss them. If not, attendees will complain that your session didn’t match its description.
• Ask a friend or colleague to proof your PowerPoint deck and handouts for typos and things like that. Careless mistakes like that make you look unprofessional and unprepared.
• For every one person who complains that a session is too technical, there are 10 who complain that it was too fluffy. In case of doubt, be more technical and go deeper.
Before Your Session Begins...
• Go to the bathroom almost immediately before you go to the room to setup. You don’t want to start rushing, crossing your legs, and hopping because the bathroom break got missed.
• Get set up in your room and then start talking to the attendees as they wander in. They’ll feel more connected. You’ll feel more relaxed (because you know who they are where they come from and what they want.) DO NOT try to run through your presentation. You’ll feel rushed, stressed, pressured and out of time.
• Show up in the classroom ten minutes before the class, so you can test the microphone and projector.
• Put business cards out on the table for attendees who want to touch base with you after the conference with business opportunities. It's amazing how many speakers "forget" their cards at home. How about keeping some cards in your laptop bag?
During Your Session...
• Stay out from behind barriers as much as possible. Don’t hide behind a table, the podium or anything else to create barriers between you and your audience. Attendees should feel like you’re approachable – and barriers don’t do that.
• Engage the audience. Ask them questions, and look at them instead of just looking down at the computer, at your notes or at your watch.
• Ice-breaker questions -- "How many of you are using SharePoint 2007? How many of you have built your own index routine?" can help you gauge the audience, as well as engage the audience.
• Start on time, because attendees who ARE on time get annoyed at having to wait for stragglers. Apologizing for starting late gets you off on the wrong foot.
• Let the class out two minutes early, so that attendees an get to the coffee and restrooms before the other classes get out. They'll love you for it.
• A lot of people get upset when classes run long, and they miss out on snacks, don’t have time for a restroom break, or have to rush to the next session. Plus, if you run late, you’re keeping the next speaker waiting for his/her setup.
• When you're teaching, don't complain about the conference, your room, how hard it was to get to the city, how crappy the projector is, how bad the food is. To your students, you are PART of the conference team. Certainly, if someone brings up a legitimate issue, you can acknowledge it, but nobody likes a whiney teacher. If something isn't going right, take it up with the conference organizers off-line.
• As you’re doing demos, keep talking! Even when I’m clicking around on the screen or (heaven forbid) troubleshooting something, I keep talking and explain what I’m doing. I try to avoid “dead air” during demos.
• Smile and appear to be relaxed, even if you’re not. Look like you think you know what you’re doing. ;-)
• If there is a problem with AV, or it's too hot or cold in the room, and there's nobody there from the conference team, ask an attendee to go get someone for you, and then keep going best you can while waiting for the problem to be fixed. Don't leave the classroom yourself at any time.
• If you have some material to be read out loud, pick out attendees to read it for you. Get attendees engaged and participating in the class whenever possible.
• When you plug your company or your products, attendees will immediately categorize you as a snake-oil marketer, and trust goes out the window. "The session was a marketing pitch" is one of the top complaints that the organizers hear. When the conference team hears that about a presenter, that presenter won’t be invited back.
• If you don't know something (like the answer to a question), admit it. Nobody is expecting you to know everything. Candor is king.
• If something went wrong during your class, tell the conference organizers immediately after your session. It would be nice if they hear about it from you directly, instead of being blindsided by disappointed attendees.
• If you are given announcements to read by the conference organizer, please read them.
• Have fun. Make sure that you’re happy to be there – so that your attendees will be too.
This reference was created by David Rubinstein and Alan Zeichick. We would like to thank Robert Bogue, Todd Klindt and Laura Rogers for their contributions. Send your comments to email@example.com.