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How to Successfully Speak Last at a Conference

How to Successfully Speak Last at a Conference

Speaking at a conference can be a nerve wracking experience at the best of times. But when you have to go on last it can be even more daunting. Unlike the headliner at a music festival, many people consider going last as one of the most difficult time slots. After all, we’ve all been to conferences where by the end of seven hours of lectures everyone in the audience is completely out of energy for the final talk and raring to get out of the room and go.

But don’t look at your position as a negative – this is your opportunity to leave a lasting impression on the audience as your talk will be the last thing that they hear at the conference. It’s just worth understanding that you may need to use certain techniques to ensure it goes down the way that you had hoped. Here are some practical tips you can use if you’re the final speaker of the day.

Don’t try your sales pitch

It’s inevitable that after many hours of sitting through presentations, the audience needs something to grab their interest and keep them listening. That’s really not going to happen if you simply roll out what is effectively just a sales pitch disguised as a relevant and helpful talk. While it might have worked earlier in the day it definitely won’t work now. The moment it becomes a pitch for your product, the audience will switch off. If you need to include your products or services, allow them to spring up naturally and if the references always sound forced, drop them. An interesting talk will show off your company in a far better light.

Don’t worry about previous sessions

One of the advantages of going on last is that you can watch the talks that have come before yours and find a way to integrate some of the most interesting points (more on that in a moment). But it does come with a problem as well. It’s natural to sit through amazing presentations that go down very well with the audience and to believe that yours is no good in comparison. Perhaps there is a very funny speaker who draws in the crowd or maybe there’s an exceptional piece of research that is hugely insightful. But don’t worry – everyone has their own presenting style and their own reason to be there. Don’t let it affect yours.

Keep things simple

At the end of the day draws near, crowds at conference can be restless and attention spans can be short. So don’t try to be too clever or complicated. Keep your talk simple and to the point. Feel free to be funny or tell stories, but try not get too far away from the subject matter. Doing so will help you keep your audience engaged.

Use attention-grabbing technology

One of the best things you can do to keep a wavering audience with you is to introduce interesting technology to your talk. For example if you want to get your audience to provide feedback or answer questions, you can use an audience response system (ARS). ARSs use handheld keypads to allow audience members to give their response and feedback to question that you pose. Their answers can then be displayed as data in a PowerPoint presentation. It’s amazing how much an audience can become engaged with a discussion when they are a part of the results. It might seem a little gimmicky but it can be used to make interesting and insightful analysis.

Connect your talk with other presentations

In speaking last at a conference, it’s highly likely that you are going to be repeating some of the ideas and themes that have been brought up in previous talks. So here’s an idea: incorporate those relevant talks into yours. This stops you from contradicting, or alternatively, boringly repeating the same point as someone who has spoken earlier. Find a way to reference those previous talks – a little like a call back in a comedic performance – linking those two thoughts makes for a stronger memory that people in the audience will take away.

Frances Masters

Frances Masters is a BACP accredited psychotherapist with over 30,000 client hours of experience. Follow her @fusioncoachuk, or visit The Integrated Coaching Academy for details about up coming training.