Guide to Presenting at a Conference

Category: Guides| Conferences |

Are your speakers well versed in presenting? Regardless of their expertise, it may help to go through this checklist for making a conference presentation, if only for reassurance.

Presenting Tips for Conference Organisers

Conference audience

Getting conference delegates attention and presenting in a reasoned way will help the audience focus and retain what is said. Brief speakers on who is attending and what delegates need to hear/learn. what they are expecting and how much they may know already.  There are presentation companies who can assist with this, but if it is down to you make sure each conference speaker has a structured presentation and support materials.

Copies of presentations

Knowledge that everything is in place will avoid unnecessary distractions and last minute panics.  Have the presentations on the desktop of your laptop, as well as a backup on USB and forward it on to the AV team in advance.

Technical support

As a conference organiser you need to understand how the slides will be controlled. Will there be a AV team to assist you?  If there is no support, a presentation remote control with spare batteries will help.  If you are using a MAC have a VGA cable. Above all test the technology, regardless of what devices are being used.

Delegate expectations

Think about how speakers have been billed at the conference and any information you might wish to be circulated either before or after, or perhaps made available in the break or online. It helps for continuity if you can link from any proceeding talks and also to any that follow.

Conference venue

Make sure speakers know exactly where they are going, not just the name and address of the conference venue, but the meeting room and the room location, if it is a large conference venue.  Conference organisers need to have contact numbers to hand. Know who to call in the event of speakers running late and ask them to keep you posted if they do.  Advance notice, even if you think there is a slight chance of running late, allows the opportunity for meeting planners to take action; such as rescheduling the running order.

Rehearse and practice

If speakers are not experienced rehearse and practice. The read and spoken word are not the same, so practicing aloud helps to keep to the specified time frame and as a conference organiser flag up if they need to allow time and be prepared for questions.  Rehearsing will help combat nerves and give a relaxed delivery.


Tips for Slide Design

When it comes to the presentation design, be it PowerPoint and Keynote, there is plenty of advice,  no hard and fast rules, so use common sense. Make sure your message is not distracted by the design.  Your template should allow for logos, images and ways to display technical data.  Look online for conference presentation template providers.

Colour & clarity

Limit template colours for maximum impact and ensure there is a good contrast between your text and background, so it is legible.


The easy to read fonts are Arial, Calibri, Tahoma or Verdana.  When it comes to font pitch a rough guide for a conference slide is 44pt for headers and 30pt for text.  Avoid upper case body text and remember italics can make it look messy, as can too many different types of fonts.


A margin helps text to be easily read, giving the eye somewhere to rest. Wording should support what you are saying, rather than act as a script.  Condense wordy sentences to brief statements for speakers to expand on. Limit to a few statements on each slide.

Graphics and images

One concise large image is better than lots of confusing ones.  Keep the messaging simple and clear.

Some say have more images then text. What is certain is only use them if they serve a purpose to reinforce a point.  Keep in mind copyright. Image libraries such as iStock, Getty Images and Shutterstock provide great inspiration.

Special effects

A good illustration can assist understanding, but skip distracting effects that serve no purpose e.g. fly ins.

Tips for your Speakers

Be confident and be yourself

Be confident and relaxed when presenting. Easier said than done sometimes. Don’t try and be something you are not.  An audience will warm to a speaker they feel is being true to themselves and will see through if you are putting up a front.


Bombarding with facts and figures leads to information overload.  Relate your talk to true life experiences that can be easily understood, are interesting and relevant. Humour and a light hearted approached is always welcomed if you can carry it off.

Know your subject

The more you can look up and engage your audience and the less you refer to notes the better. This will give you confidence to add passion and enthusiasm to your subject matter.  It will make your presentation come alive and stop you rushing through content in a panic.

Watch your body language and dress

Pacing, swaying, tapping and continual fiddling or the wrong outfit are a distraction.


Finally, find a role model…

Watching the news and searching around YouTube will show the do’s and don’ts.   Sir Ken Robinson TED talk isn’t a bad place to start.  He will hold you for 20 minutes and you will feel better for stopping and listening, without a single PowerPoint.