by | Dec 10, 2020 | Inspiration

In the first part of this series, I shared some great tips on how to prepare your first ignite talk. In this article, I will offer a few tips that will help you put your best foot forward in delivering a presentation that your audience will enjoy.

1. Attend Dress Rehearsals

Whether you believe it or not, dress rehearsals play a huge role in the success of your presentation. They provide several opportunities to polish your talk, address any issues ahead of time, and get the feedback you need. The last thing you want is to have your time and effort go to waste because you showed up to the live event unprepared.

Use dress rehearsals to:

  • Practice in front of a smaller audience
  • Ask any last minute questions
  • Perform tech checks
  • Get comfortable with your surroundings

*Tip: If you aren’t able to attend dress rehearsals due to schedule conflicts, try to work with the event organizer or other participants so you can still get some formal one-on-one practice time.

Group dress rehearsal. (Photo: Black Designers Ignite)

When I gave my first ignite talk back in August of this year, I was a nervous wreck. In addition to being the first speaker, I was also sharing my story in front of 700+ people for the first time ever. Since I had practiced in the space before and used our dress rehearsals to simulate the real event, it was easier to relax and get into the flow of my talk.

2. Pace Yourself

During the main event, try not to let your nerves or excitement cause you to rush through your speech. Remember that you are using a timed format which is connected to the slides you are speaking to. Rushing through your presentation will only cause long, awkward pauses as you wait for the slides to catch up. The key here is to stay calm and pace yourself just like you did during practice.

Take your time and speak to your slides. (Photo: Nappy Stock)

3. Use Images as Cues

Your slide images should act as visual cues that help guide your talk and keep you on track. After enough practice, you will know exactly what point you should be speaking to according to the photo on display. It’s totally normal to fall behind or get ahead by 1-2 seconds, but it’s important that your words and images match up so that you don’t confuse the audience. If you slip up, keep going! It’s not the end of the world and we’re all human at the end of the day. 🙂

Images used as cues in my slideshow. (Photo: Jess McKenzie)

Another image from my slideshow. (Photo: Screenshot from “Spider-Man” copyright of Sony Pictures Entertainment)

4. Control the Silence

There will be moments where you might pause during your talk and the silence will seem so loud. While this isn’t always a bad thing, there are several scenarios where this might occur and you will need to know how to best handle it.

Here are a few ways to work with silence:

  • During virtual presentations, there may be a countdown until your first slide begins. You could use this time to greet the audience (like I did during my own talk) or just breathe and prepare yourself mentally before you begin.
  • If you happen to lose your place while speaking, don’t freak out. Keep things light and tell a joke, or graciously wait until the next slide to pick up where you left off. Whichever route you take, the goal is to have the audience focused on you and not the error you made.
  • When there are a few seconds in between slides don’t ramble to fill the space. Catch your breath and allow the audience to soak in and digest the points you just made.
  • At the end of your presentation, re-introduce yourself and thank the audience for coming to the event. This is a great way to wrap things up and show your appreciation for their time.

Be prepared for brief pauses. (Photo: CreateHER Stock)

5. Trust Yourself

The single most important thing to remember when delivering your ignite talk is to trust yourself. There is a reason that you chose a particular topic to educate people on, so stand confident in the fact that you have a unique perspective to share with the world and get out there and do your best. 

(Photo: Prateek Katyal / Unsplash)

For the last part of this series, I will teach you how to analyze your performance and apply all that you have learned to your daily routine. 

What are some other ways to deliver a successful ignite talk?  Share your thoughts with me in the comments!


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