Congrats on being a part of the ER&L program! We want presenting at ER&L to be a fulfilling and fun experience for you and your session attendees. Whether you are presenting for the very first time or this is “old hat” to you, we’ve compiled some tried-and-true tips to help ease any stage-fright jitters and to ensure your presentation is well received.
Framing Your Presentation
Focus on what your audience wants and needs to hear. What message do you want your audience to walk away with?
The presentations that are memorable start strong and tell a story. Grab the audience’s attention right away with a useful image on your opening slide or an intriguing story. Think about the story you want to tell and create your presentation to tell it.
Give a brief introduction, but don’t spend too much time on it. You have a set amount of time to talk and (most likely) have more content than will fit in the given time frame. Briefly introduce yourself (maybe include an image of your library or organization) and jump into your story.
Building Your Slides
Make your presentation accessible to all attendees. Many attendees download the presentation slides for a session to take notes or follow along, particularly if they will be using an accessibility tool on their own computer. We’ve prepared some Accessibility Guidelines for speakers on how to make your slides accessible to screen readers and other accessibility tools.
With text, less is almost always more. Give your text room to breathe, don’t crowd too much content on a slide. When there is too much information on a slide, the audience will focus more on reading your slides than listening to you. Text on the slide should complement what you are saying and not be a script of your exact words. Read more about making the text accessible.
Images and other visual aids should speak strongly to your message. The images in your slide deck should support what you are saying or give a deeper dive into the actual data. If it’s an image, it should be clear why the audience is looking at it. If it’s data, remember to include a key. Images with data should also include alt-text as noted in our Accessibility Guidelines.
Keeping an Attentive Audience
Relax and have fun. Once you’re “on stage” and the center of attention it’s completely normal to clam up. Take a deep breath, smile and make eye contact if you can. It will keep you calm and build rapport with the audience. The audience will be emotive if you are and will follow your lead. Show your passion and enjoy yourself!
Pace yourself. Keep your speech at a steady pace and speak slower than you think you need to. It’s natural to speak fast when we’re nervous.
Plan for pauses. After a particularly complex part or after delivering a few minutes of meaty information, force a pause to give the audience time to digest what you are saying (and possibly think of a question to ask you). Plan these forced pauses within your talk and make a note of when to take them.
Engage your audience! Changing up the delivery every 9-10 minutes will keep it from becoming monotonous. Ask a question that a quick hand raise can answer. Use tools like polleverywhere.com if you’re confident.
Give the audience a few moments to collect their thoughts before starting the Q&A. Once your presentation is almost over, it will be time for some Q&A. Tell the audience that you are going to give them a moment to collect their thoughts and think of any questions they’d like to ask. Sometimes the brief, calm silence can curate interesting questions.
End on a high note. Hold back 30-60 seconds of your content to wrap up the session post-Q&A. You want your audience to leave your session remembering your message.
Include your email or Twitter handle on the final slide. Some attendees may have questions but may not be comfortable speaking up during the session or they may think of a question post-conference. If you would like to keep the dialogue going, give them an opportunity to engage with you after the session by providing contact information. Keep the slide up long enough for them to write down the information you include.