Getting on the Agenda

I recently had the opportunity to serve as the interim Program Manager and Experience Designer for Venture Cafe Philadelphia. During that time, I worked with speakers with varied experience presenting from novices to seasoned pros. I also talked with many people in my personal network about why sharing their expertise would be beneficial to them. Across these experiences, I realized that part of the reason the same handful of people appear on event agendas is not because they are the only experts in a particular field, but because many others need a little additional guidance on how and why they should share their knowledge.

Who should present?

I think everyone has the capacity to share meaningful content in at least one presentation format. For the purpose of the rest of this post, I will be focusing on presenting in the context of speaking to a group of people in a formal setting (e.g., live or virtual event). However, you may thrive by presenting in a 1:1 meeting or by giving an informal elevator pitch.

What should you present?

You should present anything that you can either provide expert guidance on and/or share a unique perspective. Expertise can range from a specific academic topic or tactical execution. A distinctive point-of-view can spark dialog on important social topics or it can showcase you as a thought leader. Presenting in a “problem – solution – result” way can provide a way to connect with prospects in a more meaningful way than a traditional sales pitch.

Why should you present?

  • To build relationships that can lead to business partners or customers
  • To support your community with useful information
  • To market yourself as a thought leader or influencer (online or offline)

When should you present?

You should present regularly or as often as possible. The more you do it, the better you get at it. Also, if you want to establish credibility as a speaker, it is helpful to have a variety of events on your speaking resume. However, as with everything, be sure to be selective on your speaking engagements. Consider speaking if it is part of a paid sponsorship, if you’ll receive an honorarium, if the event audience is who you’re trying to reach, and who else is on the agenda. Or simply if it benefits the greater good.

How should you present?

It’s up to you and your style. Some people are great presenting live to an audience and riff off of facial expressions and head nodding. Others prefer presenting virtually without the worry of someone interrupting their flow with a question or even a cough. If you aren’t sure which is best, try both and see what works for you. Oftentimes, I’ve gotten the question, do I need a deck? Maybe. A deck can helpful for both you as a speaker and for your audience. It can help you keep track of the top points you want to cover without needing to write a full script. It can also help visually explain with what you are sharing. Another common question is what program to use (e.g., Google Slides, Keynote, PowerPoint, or Canva). It depends on different factors such as shared editing needs, devices / OS being used, other data integrations, and ultimately your own comfort level.

If you’re notorious for going off script or running long, you may need to actually create a script whether it is just for practice or one to refer to during your presentation.

A final note on presentations and speaking engagements

If you’re interested in learning about building a marketing app stack, then join us virtually at Venture Cafe Philadelphia on Thursday, October 1, 2020 at 3 pm ET.

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