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Top Tips for Conference Speakers

I have sat through and given a few presentations in my time so based on my experience of sitting through a conference or two I have put together a few tips:

Preparing For The Event

  • Read the proposed conference flyer and match your points to the theme.
  • The flyers can help on the direction of the content – it is always a good idea to discuss the content further with the Conference Producer before you prepare ‘it’.
  • Cicero over two thousand years ago said a good speaker learns fast and is knowledgeable and expert about the subject – know your subject in depth and provide evidence during your speech that you know what you are talking about.

Content

If you are speaking at a conference attracting senior-level decision-makers from across your sector ask yourself:

  • What do they want to hear?
  • What do you want to say?
  • Where does the crossover lie?

Watch out! – Presentations from speakers who dwell too long on their basic company information are always seen as crude sales pitches – and people switch off.

Be aware of the format of your session

If you doing a presentation and you are using PowerPoint:

  • Use a minimum font size of 18 – better 24+
  • Allow around three minutes per slide (remember no death by PowerPoint!).
  • The Rule of Five – ideally PowerPoint presentations should contain no more than 5 words per sentence and 5 lines per slide.
  • Visuals are often a great way of illustrating your presentation but ‘Keep It Simple’ – too many charts overwhelm a presentation and cannot be read at the back of the conference room.
  • Likewise, avoid over-use of PowerPoint special effects – or flash effects like zooming they distract from the presentation

If you are taking part in a panel discussion prepare:

  • The Chair should contact you approximately 2 weeks in advance of the panel to set the agenda – schedule time to talk to her!
  • You are likely to be asked to spend five minutes setting out your thoughts on the proposed topic.
  • Prepare and memorise this five minute piece and think carefully about what you are going to say (Cicero also recommended memorising your speech).

Practice makes perfect

Rehearse your speech several times preferably in front of an audience who will not fall asleep and who are honest.

And on the day…

…start strong

It is often helpful to memorise the first minute or two of your speech to ease you into it – once you’ve started you’ll find it easier to keep going. Never apologise or spend too much time on inane pleasantries – get down to business. The first minute or two is about establishing the rapport with the audience and setting the degree to which they give you authority to speak.

Think about your body language

  • Style and tone of voice account for 90 per cent of communication so adopt a relaxed, confident pose.
  • Maintain eye contact with the audience – select one or two people from the audience to maintain contact but do not stare!
  • If there are label mics available use them – no Al Jolson impressions and shout at them!

Timings

Watch your timing, never overun and finish a few minutes to ask for any questions

The Project Audit Process

The Simple Steps for a Project Audit

Initiation

The process of carrying out a project audit starts with initiation. In this activity a meeting with the prime stakeholder is held where the scope of the audit is agreed, a list the questions that need to be answered is drawn up and basic facts about the project such as scale, locations, goals, history, and progress to date are garnered. The output of the initiation is a plan of attack of the audit.

Enquiry and reporting

The twin tasks carried out during the audit are enquiry and reporting.

Research tasks

The first step is to understand the project “landscape” (who is who, what are they doing, where are they doing it) and status (where are they up to). This is normally accomplished by reading documents such as the brief, PID and highlight reports, and talking to the sponsor and the current project manager. It is at this stage that the overall context of the project at the organisation is clarified.

The second step is to select interview candidates, and then to carry out semi structured interviews – these will be recorded for ease of transcription. Some interviews will inevitably raise further questions and lead to more rounds of interviewing or follow-up (which can be done by email if there are matters of clarification) – revisiting some people and other meetings. Interviewees may be drawn from both in- and outside the project team (for example from the program office). Simultaneously, I would normally acquire and study relevant project documents and files during this process to see if good practice is in place. The status of the technical artifact as it currently is will be investigated by investigating the operational software and by carrying out reviews of the code – but this is likely to be confined to an assessment by the TDA.

Reporting – report contents

  • Summary
  • Background
  • <sections specific to questions being addressed>
  • Quantified risk assessment, showing for each major risk:
    • Nature of risk
    • Risk likelihood
    • Risk avoidance strategies
    • Outcomes if risk materializes (with probabilities for best vs worst cases)

Royston

What is leadership in a crisis

The Problem with BP is a failure of leadership after the disaster

These days, you get dozens of results by searching for ‘leadership’ and ‘economic crisis’ on Google. The same happens when searching for ‘leadership’ and ‘downsizing’. The general consensus is clear: during challenging times, individuals look to their leaders for inspiration, guidance and reassurance. But leaders are also the first to be blamed when things go wrong and people start losing their jobs.

The Telegraph suggests that the ‘Financial crisis calls for confident leadership’. Similarly, the Washing Post informs that a ‘Financial Crisis Offers a Study in Leadership Styles’ – and we have just seen an example of how we expect leaders to act (or not act) when we look at the recent oil disaster in the gulf.

It seems that Leadership is, yet again, at the centre of anything that is good and bad when it comes to the heart of the business. Lack of courage, reckless decision making, greed and dishonesty are some of the sins that leaders of today are said to be guilty of. It seems that in the good times they take the money and bask in the glory until a problem occurs that seems to overwhelm them.

So what should leaders do in these critical times? The economic downturn was the ultimate test for those in charge and only those individuals that were most equipped with skills could maximise their chance of keeping their seats until the end of the last rollercoaster ride. On the positive side, however, it is known that Leaders need not be responsible for their own demise. Through coaching and the development of self-awareness, leaders can learn how to avoid over-extending themselves and be able to make a conscious decision to not ‘cross the line’ when compromised – the line that takes them to the unpopular side of business. I wonder who on earth is coaching Tony Hayward is beyond me – its not that he could do anything about stopping the oil leak (bar donning a diving suit and taking along a set of spanners) but the management of the image of the company is woefully inadequate – which after all is something he could do something about.

Leaders of today may not be the leaders of tomorrow for sure. Much of the territory we are exploring today is of an unchartered nature. And perhaps, through a Darwinian lens, we may hypothesise that only the fittest, the strongest and the wisest may able to survive and perhaps flexibility and adaptability as essential skills for effective and successful leadership. And ultimately, of course, the building of self-awareness through coaching and development.

So, what kind of Leader will you be?