Avoid the Snoozefest: Invigorate Your Conference Presentation


B. Jean Mandernach, Grand Canyon University
OLC Innovate 2019 Presenter Services Chair

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Presenter Services

Your OLC Innovate presentation has been accepted, your work-vacation to Denver is booked, and it’s time to finalize your conference presentation. No problem, right? You are an expert and passionate about your topic… so, what could go wrong?

According to frequent conference attendees, a lot.

A quick Internet search about conference presentations reveals a common theme: academic presentations are characterized as being… boring. Actually, really boring. Not because the content is uninteresting or fails to educate, but because the delivery of information impedes the ability to convey the message. Rather than facilitating intellectual discourse, conference presentations are often viewed as academic monologues. At best, a yawn festival… at worst, death by PowerPoint.

Fortunately, your conference presentation isn’t destined to be a snoozefest. With a little advanced planning, you will be ready to engage and inspire.

To begin with, avoid common presentation pitfalls:

  • Monotone delivery – Use your voice. Literally. Vary your speed, volume, and intonation so that your voice conveys your enthusiasm for your topic.
  • Filler noise – Embrace silence and resist the urge to fill all pauses with ah, uh, and um. Stop. Breathe. Move on with your content.
  • Reading – Talk, don’t read. Trust your expertise and use visuals as reminders of what you want to talk about. Avoid reliance on a script or attempts to memorize your presentation.
  • Bad slides – Too many PowerPoint slides, too many words, too many bullet-points… avoid “too-muchness” by utilizing your slides as a visual guide rather than the heart and soul of your presentation content.

Once you have avoided these pitfalls in your presentation, integrate strategies to engage your audience:

  • Ask questions – Questions encourage the audience to think (even if they aren’t willing to speak up). Include rhetorical questions to create the appearance of an interactive conversation.
  • Tell stories – While you don’t want to waste time, a quick story about a relevant example or personal experience can elicit interest and attention.
  • Use visuals – Integrate relevant memes, props, graphs, infographics, and images… they don’t say “a picture is worth a thousand words” for nothing. Save some words and make a bigger impact with visuals.
  • Show your enthusiasm – Excitement is contagious, so don’t hold back from showcasing your passion for the topic.

Clearly, this is just the beginning. There is more than one approach to creating a good presentation and countless strategies for engaging your audience. With this variability in mind, OLC Presenter Services is here to help {insert superhero music}!

Whether you are seeking guidance on the logistical factors that may impact your presentation, suggestions on your slide deck, feedback on your presentation style, or anything in-between, we are your one-stop-support-shop. OLC Presentation Services offers:

  • Presenter Guides – One-page overviews of essential details and best practices relevant to each presentation type.
  • Webinars – Interactive sessions to learn from master presenters, ask questions, and share strategies for maximizing the impact of your presentation.
  • Essential Videos – No time for a 30-minute webinar? These quick-hit videos provide the most essential information in 5-minutes or less.
  • Coaching – A range of opportunities to work with seasoned presenters via pre-conference mentoring, cohort-based interaction, or onsite feedback. Schedule a coaching session for one-on-one support for your presentation.

Check out all the resources and support available via OLC Presenter Services!

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