Presenting at a High-Stakes Industry Event: Your Peek Behind the Curtain

Every industry has them – gatherings like conferences, sales meetings or trade shows, often filled with high-profile speaking opportunities. Ever wonder what it takes to present at one of these events? Let’s find out…
Over the past decade, I’ve worked with executives and members of the Association for Convenience & Fuel Retailing (known as NACS) as they prepare for their annual trade event, which draws on average 20,000+ attendees. As the top destination for learning what’s new in the convenience business, the show features a mix of dynamic general sessions, workshops and training classes.
Though each NACS executive I work with may be prepping for a different type of presentation for this event, they all have one thing in common – an extraordinary commitment to being confident and inspiring when they take the stage. In reviewing my notes from 12 years of NACS coaching, I found three common elements that stood out as the keys to a successful industry presentation.
1. Identify your core message.
 The theme of the 2011 NACS Show was, “One Industry, One Voice.” When we met over the summer to begin preparing for the October event, the NACS executive team had taken the time to develop draft presentations that complemented one another and reinforced the “One Industry” theme. Knowing that stories and examples make information much easier for listeners to digest, each presenter planned to use personal experiences to illustrate main points.
 The takeaway: A clearly defined message – told via powerful stories, examples or simple props – adds human interest and depth to your presentation, while making the message memorable.
2. Make the message your own.
Though the NACS executive team was delivering a presentation based on the same theme, each of their presentations reflected their unique personality as well as their role within the organization. The result was a cohesive, highly effective presentation – one that took advantage of each speaker’s strengths and point of view while maintaining a collective focus on the core message.
 The takeaway: Shaping basic content to make it your own increases your comfort level, making your presentation feel more authentic to listeners while helping to keep you engaged and in the moment.
3. Maintain a meaningful connection.
Integrating stories into their presentations paid clear dividends for all these high-stakes presenters. Why? It allowed them to engage emotionally with the audience. Another way to encourage engagement is the judicious use of image-heavy slides – rather than reading loads of text, your audience’s attention remains on you – maintaining that connection. Slides should always be considered a supporting backdrop, not the main event. That’s you!
 The takeaway: Solid eye contact with memorable stories and carefully chosen supporting visuals helps you to emotionally engage with your audience and transforms a so-so presentation into a showstopper.
So that’s our behind-the-scenes look at being a presenter at a high-stakes trade event. As you can tell, a tremendous amount of preparation goes into making a great presentation look effortless. Apply these success secrets and you just might find yourself on stage at your industry’s next big event!
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