Russell StannardIt’s that time of year when lots of people start attending ELT conferences and giving presentations. 

ETpedia asked some well-known presenters, trainers and authors for their tips on presenting at conferences. We received so much good advice, that we needed two blog posts to include it all! Here’s the first on planning and preparation. The second set of ten tips will follow soon.

1. Start with the main aim - Russell Stannard

“Ask yourself what the main point of the presentation is and build around that. Never try to present too much material. Less is more.”

2. The content - Jon Hird

“Be 100% comfortable with what you’re delivering. Believe in it and understand it and any pertinent background. Don’t present something that you’re not sufficiently knowledgeable about to back up your claims, don’t believe in, or in some way aren’t comfortable with. (I speak from experience when having been asked to deliver someone else’s talk!)”.

3. Know your audience - Louis Rogers

“Many events will have organisers who know the audience’s background well. Make contact with the organiser and use their expertise to tailor your talk to the audience. This kind of local knowledge can help you to build a better rapport with the audience.”

4. Tailor your talk - Bob McLarty

“Make sure you include a reference or two to the place you are making the presentation (city, country, institution) and include locally appropriate wording or images on the slides (e.g example sentences, names, places)”.

5. The structure - Lindsay Clandfield

“If you have a main outline you will be going through (let's say three or four main points) then put that outline on a slide. Plan to repeat that same slide throughout the presentation, highlighting the point you are now talking about or going to talk about. This will give a sense of progression throughout your talk (both for you, and for the audience). It also comes in handy at the end to recap what you have talked about.”

6. Brief introductions - Adrian Underhill

“Presenters can easily spend too much time on the introduction and then rush the main content. So try to minimise the introduction. You need to set a context, and then get into the main story.”

7. Variety – Nicky Hockly

“It’s extremely difficult to engage an audience in a 60-minute lecture, no matter how talented the speaker. Audiences have short attention spans so plan to provide a variety of focus by including video or other media, or pair work, or a Q&A, or a story/anecdote part way through.”

8. Preparing your visuals - Penny Hands

“When preparing your visuals, I’d recommend putting the minimum amount of text on each slide.”

9. Timing – Vanessa Esteves

“Plan your session for 5 minutes less than your scheduled session duration. Remember that you take longer to give a speech than to practise it on your own. Think ahead and decide on what you can leave out if you fall behind your time deadline. Remember - you know your speech but your audience doesn’t so it’s perfectly ok to take something out. They will never be any the wiser!”

10. Rehearse the presentation - Sue Kay

“One approach to preparation is to write out exactly what you want to say (even though you're not going to read it out) and practise and rehearse. You may think that you risk losing spontaneity, but in my experience, the more rehearsed you are, the more spontaneous you can appear.”