Tips for Speakers

Posted on July 25, 2015


Most of us cringe at the idea of standing in front of an audience of strangers to speak, but there are a number of things to keep in mind that can make the experience more bearable and possibly even enjoyable.

The most important tip: The audience is on your side.  They want you to do well.  This is your party and these are your guests – enjoy yourself!



    • Have a beginning, middle and end to your talk. Preferably make the end the same as the beginning. In other words start off by saying something, expand on it, exemplify it, give further examples of what you did, quote what other people said about it, what they thought, what you thought about what they thought, how this changed your /their behavior, then go back to the beginning and restate your topic.
    • Be prepared. Know your material, know your PowerPoint/presentation and know how much time your presentation will take.
    • Speak for slightly less time than you have been allocated.
    • Never go over the time you have been allocated.
    • Your notes can be visible, but don’t read aloud. Reading aloud separates you from the audience, creates an impersonal distance.
    • Slow down. Almost everyone speeds up when they’re nervous. But to be understood, you need to slow down just a little. You worked so hard on every word in your presentation, so take your time and let them sink in for the listener.
    • Be yourself.  Figure out what presentation style is most natural for YOU.  Think about the presentations you’ve seen and consider which aspects you like or dislike.
    • Drink water 15 minutes before you start talking. If you tend to get dry mouth — that scratchy feeling where it’s hard to swallow — start drinking water 15 minutes before you start your presentation.
    • And again … remember that your audience is on your side – they are willing you to do well; they are your friends; they have nice smiles on their faces and they are waiting to applaud you like mad at the end of your talk. Smile back: this is your party and these are your guests – enjoy yourself.



    • Don’t let your presentation get derailed by slides that are unnecessarily complicated, busy, or text heavy. Remember that your slides are only there to support, not replace your talk! You’ll want to tell a story, describe your data, or explain circumstances, and only provide keywords through your presentation.
    • Minimize the number of slides. Keep the number of slides to a minimum – it offers a clear message and will keep your audience interested.
    • Use a font size and style that is easy to read from a distance. A quick rule of thumb to check the size, put your presentation at full screen: a two inch letter is readable at 20 feet, a three inch letter is readable from 30 feet, etc.
    • Keep your text simple. No paragraphs.  Use bullets or key phrases and try to keep phrases to a single line. You want your audience to listen to your presentation, not struggle to read a screen. Use key words, not sentences.
    • Use art or pictures to help convey your message. A picture is worth a 1,000 words, but don’t overwhelm the audience with too many images per slide.
    • Label charts and graphs clearly. Use just enough text so the chart or graph can be read clearly, too much in the label becomes unreadable.
    • Check your spelling and grammar. The easiest and most overlooked tip of all.
    • What do you like in a presentation?  Think about what you like and dislike in presentations and make yours the best of what you’ve seen.



    • Be in contact with your Chair. Keep in contact with your Chair. Your Chair will be working with the Conference Committee to ensure a smooth session, so be sure to ask them if they have any questions about your presentation. Make sure you know the date and time of your presentation. Give your Chair a short bio so that they can introduce you properly.
    • Meet Your Fellow Speakers. Arrange to meet your with other session speakers early in the conference.
    • Have a Session Plan. Be familiar with the session format, what AV is in the room, and the plan for your session.
    • Confirm who is bringing the laptop. If you are not bringing your own laptop, make sure the Chair or another speaker will be bringing one. Ideally, all of the PowerPoints are loaded on a single computer. If the laptop is a Mac, bring a connection cable: some are proprietary and it isn’t guaranteed that the AV technician will have a spare.



    • Bring a backup. Send your presentation to the Chair prior to the session, but always, always bring a backup with you.
    • Get there 20 minutes early. Arrive in the room at least 20 minutes before your scheduled start. There will be an AV tech in the room and an AMIA staff person waiting for you, along with your session Chair.