Thoughts on writing a conference talk

At the moment I’m working on my talk for the Soton Digital conference, entitled ‘Isn’t Ajax a football team? How Developers and Non-Developers can work together more effectively’.

It’s thrown up some interesting ideas on the nature of speeches, presentations and conference ‘talks’.

I want to give my audience something of value. It’s unlikely that I am the biggest or best expert on any one area of Web marketing in the room and so by simply preaching the facts on a topic I won’t provide anything that my audience couldn’t read or learn about themselves online.

So what should I look to give my audience?

I’ve settled on the idea of ‘food for thought’.

When it comes to speeches, presentations (and it appears conference talks too), it’s natural to look to inform, or preach about what you know and prove what an expert you are.

This is great if you really are a world-renowned expert, and if your audience are willing to be taught. But surely, giving your audience the tools, ideas and theories to do their own thinking is much more valuable to them in the long-run?

After all, an audience is much likely to accept an opinion or theory if they can conclude or produce it for themselves, using the tools and evidence that the speaker provides. An opinion or theory that is simply stated to an audience by the speaker holds less substance, less foundation and less weight.

Based on this thinking, what will I be providing for my audience at Soton Digital?

I’ll be demonstrating the key players in the developer/non-developer relationship…providing theories on the types of motivations they may have…looking at how similar relationships have worked throughout history…how those relationships have been resolved…and then… I’ll be asking the audience to take all of the information that I have provided and produce their own thoughts, ideas and theories to discuss in the bar afterwards.

This might seem lazy, but I’m happy to admit that 100 people in a room will come up with better ideas than just me alone, and I am sure that ultimately, it will provide more value for everyone, including me!

So, the next time that you speak, look to empower rather than preach and see how much more engaged your audience are when they are being asked to use their brains, rather than just their ears!

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

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