This past November, I had the good fortune of presenting a session at Autodesk University 2017 with my office neighbor Donnie Gladfelter. Our session, Overcoming the Seven Deadly Sins of Corporate Training Programs, was just tagged as one of the top rated sessions at AU this past year.
First off of, I am really proud of the hard work that Donnie and I did and I am so excited that others seemed to enjoy the session as well. It was a topic we are both very passionate about, we feel is very important, and it looks like others agreed.
With that, I thought that I might take a detour on my usual blog topics (which are a little few and far between) and share some tips that helped me out getting up in front of people and speaking. Career wise, speaking at conferences is still new to me, but I am getting a lot of sessions under the hood at this point. Most of these tips you are going to find other places, but I will emphasize the ones that I found especially helpful considering many of my (and maybe your) presentations involve some software demo too.
Do your research
I don’t mean research on your topic, which is a no brainer. I mean you need to watch and attend other similar speakers. You get great ideas on how to present and see how other folks manage crowds, pace themselves, etc.
Prepare prepare prepare
This is the no brainer. Spend the time. Run through your session several times. Ask someone else to look over it. Especially if you are teaching a topic on how to do something in software, it’s always good to walk someone else through it first. You probably know 100% how to do the task, so having another set of ears and eyes on it is very helpful to let you fill the gaps.
Love your topic
Do a presentation on something that excites you. Your audience will see your enthusiasm and be excited by it.
Test your software
Are you demo’ing software? Test it out. Then test it again. Then don’t upgrade Windows or your software or anything at all. I will never forget the first time I presented at BILT Europe and I had a beta version of the Classification Manager on my laptop that it was testing. You know where this story is going. The software didn’t run right. And someone mentioned it in the class feedback, as they 100% should have. I screwed up and I will work very hard to not let that happen again. In fact…
Get your handouts done
You are probably talking about very technical steps during your presentation, and everyone will pay attention, but they are definitely going to need help after to follow the steps.
Think about recording your demo
A recent trend I’ve noticed (see “Do you research” above) is the recording of demos in small chunks and playing the video instead of “doing it live”. I like this idea and am planning on trying it out soon.
Get there early
On the day of your session, get to your room early. Be waiting at the back of the room for the next session to end. When it’s done, your strike! Well, just go up and start plugging your stuff in.
Know how to manage folks
You are the MC for this presentation. You are hosting everyone in that room. If someone starts to take over the conversation, you need to delicately shut that down. Be polite, but be sure everyone knows you are the captain. A benevolent and kind captain, but the captain nevertheless.
Just do it
If you want to share your knowledge with the world, this is a great way to do it. But you have to start doing it. And honestly, you are not going to be comfortable the first time, or even the second. It’s gonna take a couple of these under your belt before you feel like you are in the groove. Luckily, your audience is VERY forgiving as long as you are prepared and enthusiastic. They aren’t going to notice the tiny little things that you will.
So get out there! Spread the word! And have a blast doing it!