User conferences can offer valuable educational and networking opportunities for their attendees. Companies invest heavily to create the perfect atmosphere, offering provocative keynote speakers, big name entertainment and generous amenities, in addition to a multitude of learning sessions.
These conferences can also have high stakes. While a recent study listed education as the primary reason for attending user conferences, customers also rely on their user conference experience to help make key decisions about whether or not to adopt a new product or solution, to upgrade, or to renew.
The real stars of these user conferences are the technical experts. They’re smart, analytical and passionate about their solutions, and they have tremendous product knowledge and expertise to share.
Keeping Conference Audiences Engage
User conference attendees make decisions about the potential value of a session and a speaker’s credibility within the first two minutes. The technical expert at the front of the room needs to be able to first hook, and then continue to engage, the audience with these three elements:
- Content that is credible, easy to follow and focused relentlessly on audience needs.
- Delivery that is authentic, engaging and credibly confident.
- Interaction that includes clear, trustworthy responses to tough questions.
The bad news: Presenting at conferences is not these speakers’ day job. Many struggle with audience engagement and projecting credibility, which can diminish the perceived value of a session and decrease its memorability.
The good news: Companies can do a lot to effectively support their main attraction. Let’s look at nine all-too-common user conference speaker errors that you can avoid by investing in a smart speaker readiness strategy.
Content Is King
Some typical and entirely preventable presentation content-related errors include:
1. Apathetic Openings
If the audience doesn’t see the value of a session in the first two minutes, there is a real risk that they will not pay attention, will leave the room or, worse, will engage in real-time critiques of the session on social media.
2. Too Many Unnecessarily Complex Slides
Science confirms that too much information on too many slides overloads and disengages the audience. Less is more.
3. Lack of Memorable Color Spots
An endless stream of facts and data hurts audience attention and retention. Embedding stories, anecdotes and analogies brings content memorably to life.
Delivery Enhances Credibility
Ensure that conference content is understandable and credible by helping your speakers avoid these common nonverbal mistakes:
4. Using Verbal Fillers Instead of Pausing
Too many ums, ahs and filler words create a host of problems. Speakers may appear unprepared, and the lack of verbal punctuation (pauses) makes listening difficult.
5. Projecting Obvious Anxiety
Closed posture and nervous, fidgety body language can rob even the smartest, most experienced experts of perceived credibility and belief in their recommendations.
6. Lack of Engaging Conviction
Nobody wants technical presenters to come across like motivational speakers, but if they sound like they don’t believe in what they are saying, the audience won’t believe them, either.
Interaction Builds Rapport and Trust
Fielding user questions in front of a big conference audience is stressful. Training and practice can help speakers avoid the following credibility busters:
7. Seeming Unprepared for Obvious Questions
Responding with vague, rambling and/or disorganized answers immediately calls speaker’ credibility into question and can derail even the most thoughtful presentation.
8. Responding Defensively
Under pressure, tough questions can feel like a personal attack, causing some speakers to become argumentative and others to shut down. Either can damage credibility and audience engagement.
9. Going Too Deep Into the Weeds
If presenters use all of their time with just a few detailed answers, they’ll limit the number of questions they could have taken from an interested audience, making attendees feel like the session was less valuable than it could have been.
Investing in a Speaker Readiness Strategy
User conference speakers tend to be naturally driven to do their best, to add meaningful value and to be perceived as credible. That’s why they respond well to speaker readiness training. But a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to be effective because of varying levels of speaker skills and experience.
Instead, it’s important to develop a strategic approach to speaker readiness. Inexperienced speakers may need a comprehensive, practice-driven training experience to build core presentation skills. Experienced speakers, on the other hand, may only require a relatively brief refresher on the best ways to organize content for their session. And one-on-one coaching can benefit particularly high-stakes sessions, like the presentations on the main stage.
It’s All About ROI
Ultimately, people attend user conferences to learn how to do their jobs better and to gain insights that will help them make decisions about adopting, upgrading and/or renewing your solutions. The rewards for doing it well are high; EventTrack’s 2016 report on experiential marketing content found that 47% of brands achieve a return on investment (ROI) of between 3:1 and 5:1 for in-person events. Almost 30% reported an ROI of 10:1! It’s clear to see that ensuring the user conference speaker readiness of your technical talent is a smart investment .