Part of the Public Speaking Toolkit Series
I started putting myself forward to speak at conferences and events because I wanted to get free tickets to hear other people speak. Yep. It’s as simple as that. Luckily it worked and as an a conference speaker, I’ve been able to have a front row seat at some incredible presentations on a range of topics.
In that time one thing that's become clear is that: you can make a good presentation from almost any subject.
This statement is not to undermine the quality of anyone’s topic selection, but to serve as a reminder that it’s the insights you share that make it interesting for the audience. And you will be most insightful when you choose something you are passionate about and genuinely interested in sharing.
So if you are looking for a topic to pitch or a framework to shape it around, one of the following formats could work for you.
How to solve a problem
Solutions-based talks work well for workshops, instructions, and product tutorials. These types of talks are brilliant because they tend to be highly actionable. Problem-solving presenters will often additional resources like templates or tools to help the audience move forward in new ways.
You might want to use this format if you are sharing a particular method of implementation. This works well for people who share strategies or technical information. Some, like Miracle Inameti-Archibong, include links and instructions for resources in their presentations.
To add maximum value for your conference audience, it is worth sharing a short URL or QR code for users to access or download your resources easily. This help you build long lasting relationships with your audience and may also facilitate lead generation.
Deep dive into research findings
Think about the last time you had to research a new topic, technique or tactic. When you completed your work, it's likely that you had to:
Present it to your team
Distil the findings into recommendations for clients
Choose to make a purchase or decision
Explain and explore a specific hypothesis
Don’t let that work fall by the wayside. If you’ve carried out extensive research on a given topic then this is a great place to start with regard to creating a presentation.
My first talks at Brighton SEO and Search Mastery were both based on research that I had done for client and developer briefings. Paddy Moogan’s talk at MozCon was based entirely on the findings of his State of Link Building report. And this is a common format for academics and symposium speakers.
For these kinds of talks, you can add value for your audience by sharing your research statistics and documents before or after the event.
Simplifying a complex issue
As a member of the audience, this is my favorite kind of talk. When a presenter takes the time to simplify something pertinent but complex they make sure that the audience walks away with a better understanding than before and everyone wins.
Not a presentation, but the best example of this is Albert Einstein's Theory of Relativity. If you’ve ever read the actual theory, the prose is in extremely simple language. It is mostly about trains. Einstein is considered to be one of the greatest minds in history and the fact that he can speak plainly about something as complex as spacetime only serves to further demonstrate this.
At Women in Tech SEO Fest 2022, Roxanna Stingu gave a brilliant presentation on The internet for SEOs in which took something that she had worked hard to understand and distilled it into something accessible to her audience. It has been months since this session, and I think of it regularly.
For talks like this, visuals like diagrams, flowcharts and matrices work really well to add more depth where required. Metaphors can help make concepts more relatable. And concrete examples can help keep those who feel they already understand the concept to get buy-in to your methodology.
Explore something familiar in an interesting way
In a given industry, many things stay, many stay the same. Think about it, how many times has the little black dress been the biggest trend in fashion? How many times have they rebooted the Spiderman film franchise?
No matter the industry, there are concepts which become canonized. These concepts make exceptional source material for conference and event presentations because your audience assumes they know them.
From the SEO industry, one talk that stands out for me was one at Whitespark Search Summit 2021 which asked if local citations still mattered. ‘Local citations’ are a cornerstone activity in the SEO industry, so everyone wanted to know the answer to this question. Whether you confirm what the audience already believes they know or flip the concept on its head, you can have a lot of fun with this kind of talk.
Report on the impact of a technique
This kind of presentation naturally lends itself to, one or a few, case studies. The examples you chose can be taken from your own direct experience from assessment of implementation by others. In either case you should be able to provide some benchmark data or insights to give context to the tactics you’re highlighting.
The value of these kinds of presentations comes from the insights in the before and after stats. Demonstrating how someone was able to ‘move the needle’ can help your audience to see improvements in their own work and demonstrate value to their stakeholders.
Whichever topic you choose, ensure that you approach your ideas with genuine enthusiasm. If you are able to show the reason why you are so interested in the topic, the audience will learn to love the topic as well.