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How do I give a presentation at a DAM conference?


With at least six Digital Asset Management (DAM) conferences scheduled during 2011, from both Createasphere and Henry Stewart Conferences, there will be many presentations given.

Many of these presentations will be prepared. Some won’t.

Since I have attended and presented at several DAM conferences over the past several years, I thought I would share some thoughts about to how to prepare and present them.

The conference organizers will often ask you to present on a topic, often one you have suggested to them or something related.

Find out how much time you have to give your presentation. If you do not know, ask the organizers.

Find out who the audience is. They could be:

  • Analysts
  • Business executives
  • College students
  • Consultants
  • DAM practitioners and professionals
  • Engineers
  • Media
  • Novices
  • People who are interested in finding out about DAM
  • Vendors
  • Any of the above and more

Remember they have different perspectives. Don’t know who your audience is? Ask the organizers. They may have a demographics about the audience.

How big is the audience? Does it matter whether you are talking to 30 people or 300 people. Not really. Present the same way as long as you are provided with a microphone. Scan the audience a few times during your presentation. If looking at the audience makes you nervous, scan above everyone’s heads. Relax. Avoid gripping on the podium. Watch your step as you walk to and from the podium for steps, wires and other not-so-fun tripping hazards.

Prepare the presentation well ahead of time. The last thing you want to do is to start brainstorming an hour before or piece it together over a late, sleepless night (the night before) or minutes before the presentation. Most of us are not in college anymore. Plan ahead. Write it down. Mind map it. There is 168 hours in each week. Find the time and use it wisely.

Simplicity is the key. Do not bury the audience with a thousand words per slide. If you can not understand/digest the slide in 10 seconds, your audience will not either. Summarize with quick (bite size) phrases. Clarify. Do not complicate, even when it is complex. Use understandable analogies, if needed.

Practice giving your presentation by speaking out loud and time yourself. Does your pace of speaking allow the time to fit all of your presentation? The last thing you want is to be kicked off the podium for going over the time limit given and barely scratched the surface on the topic. A moderator should kick a speaker off to give the specific time frame to each speaker including the one after your presentation. Every conference has a schedule to keep.

Imagine you are the audience member. Be your own harshest critic. If that is too challenging for you, give the whole presentation (as you would present it) to someone you know professionally who will give you direct feedback (without sugar-coating it). Family and friends will often be too nice to you. Otherwise, record yourself (with audio or video) giving the presentation (you will learn a lot about how you present).

If you have visuals as part of your presentation, have at least two copies of them in case something happens to one copy such as :

  • Putting them on cloud storage (but have no connection)
  • An email (but no connection)
  • On a mobile device (which is lost or stolen or has a  dead battery)
  • On physical media (which is lost in transit or dog ate it)
  • On USB memory drive (but lost it)

Loss can happen. Be prepared. Even if you lost all visuals and notes, hopefully you did not lose your own memory.

Avoid large amounts of alcohol before presenting. No one wants to know how sloshed you got last night either. That is not cool nor professional.

Get some sleep the night before. The last thing you want to do is fall asleep before or during the presentation. Note that the microphone does amplify snoring.

Review the presentation the same day. Do not polish it last minute. Do not gold plate it either. Only update it if (rarely) something has changed since the presentation was created.

Show the audience the topic of what you are going to talk about and explain it. Show samples or/and visuals when possible.

Your slides (if any) should support what you say and not be verbatim ‘note cards’ to read to the audience. Your audience can read. Slides are not the place to write the epic novel nor the technical spaceship manual…or your audience may look like they were just taken over by aliens.

Don’t talk much about yourself. The better known you are in your field, the less you should talk about yourself. You will likely be introduced anyhow. Have some contact information displayed at the end of your presentation along with any links you want to share.

Are you presenting with others on a panel? Plan with them. Have at least one conversation (by phone and/or in person) before the presentation to sync up the topic(s) of discussion and make sure everyone understands what is expected. Put people at ease by listening to them and sincerely answering their questions. That is an art if you are a moderator.

If you the moderator of a panel, do not spend 90% of the whole time talking nor introducing people extensively. Do not read a bio that is 1 to 2 pages long that is meant to be on a conference website. Introduce a speaker with:  “Our next speaker is…”  OR “Our panel includes (from left to right)…

  • First and Last Name (unless Bono or Cher is speaking)
  • Title
  • Organization
  • What they are going to talk about (briefly)
  • Factoid (if you really have have one worth mentioning)

Get the audience’s perspective by sitting in the audience before you give the presentation or stand in the back of the room. Can you see the podium? Can you see the presentation slides? Can you hear what is being said clearly? You should no matter where you sit or stand in the room.

Save your audience from the agony of boredom. You don’t want to hear crickets nor see only tumbleweeds pass through in the room as you speak. Worse yet, put people to sleep. Vary your tone of voice because monotone is very dull to listen to. Engage your audience. Make them laugh/cry/enjoy the presentation. Make them drool in envy, not boredom.

Give the audience something they can use. Provide something useful to them.  I have seen a ‘subway map‘ do this. I have seen laser pens given out to the whole audience to use during a presentation to take a survey (by pointing their laser into a quadrant, corresponding to an answer) which did this as well. I could easily see codes/links to free ebooks do this as well.

If you mention a particular organization during your presentation, realize that someone from that organization may likely be there in the room listening. Do not let that stop you. Share openly.

Know what you are talking about. Really. Do not memorize lines. Write key phases if you need to remind yourself of specific things to talk about and keep yourself on topic. I can talk about Digital Asset Management for eight hours straight. Really. I have. I also watched people cycle in and out of the discussion in a rotation pattern to keep up. Most people can listen to a DAM discussion for one to two hours max, then they need a break. That does not mean anyone should ramble on for that long.

Keep it fresh. Try not to recycle the same presentation you gave over and over again. It gets old fast. People quickly memorize what comes up next and the punchline to each of the old jokes. Remember the  part about boredom.

Keep it real. If you don’t know what you are talking about, you should not be presenting about it. The audience (particularly the more experienced practitioners) will know. They may (rightfully) start quizzing you about it and ask you questions to clarify for the audience. If you do not have the answers…well, take a guess how you would feel.

Keep it fun if you can. I like to keep it light-hearted. Most technology involves a love/hate relationship.

Don’t over complicate. It is okay to show some technical stuff to a technical audience. Do not try to slip in some garbage to pretend you know better than the rest of the world and attempt to confuse the experts. You will not only lose the train of thought of your audience, but people will simply walk out. And they will have choice words for this over complication. Remember the part about simplicity.

Share your knowledge and experience. It does not have to be about how perfect your world is. Your audience may learn a lot more from the mistakes and challenges you have dealt with or are presently dealing with.  Some of the  audience may have solutions specific to your needs to discuss after your presentation or during question time. Do not be afraid to ask your audience to start a dialogue with some questions/poll/survey of raised hands, but depending on the audience and topic, you may not have many answers.

Leave the last few minutes of your presentation to answer some questions from the audience. Your audience will most likely have some questions, unless:

  • the audience is in absolute awe of your presence
  • you have clarified all the world’s DAM issues in that short amount of time
  • everyone is lost and/or is too shy to ask for clarification about anything you just said
  • the room is empty when you finally stopped talking

Don’t give up. People want to hear what you have to say or you would not have been asked to give the presentation in the first place.

Ignore what the audience does as you give your presentation. Mobile devices will likely be present and be in use. Let them. Do not take it personally. That does not mean they are ignoring you. Chances are they can listen to you just fine, but work does not stop just because we are at a conference. They may be taking notes as well. Audience members are normally reminded early on about muting their devices or putting them on vibrate. If you have to stop your own presentation to remind the audience of this after a mobile device rings, you will be understood very quickly as the embarrassed mobile device owner cowers in their seat or runs off.  Just remember to turn off your own mobile devices before going in the room for your own presentation as well as other presentations.

Want to present on a topic about Digital Asset Management? Conference organizers look months ahead, sometimes the year before for speakers with ‘a call for papers’ with your topic already written out or ‘a call for speakers’ by submitting topic ideas, all by email. Submit early and note your experience in the field in this email with your contact info.

Before you leave a conference, submit feedback. It may even get you invited back next time.

How do you give a presentation at a DAM conference?

Author: Henrik de Gyor

Consultant. Mentor. Podcaster. Writer.

2 thoughts on “How do I give a presentation at a DAM conference?

  1. This article made excellent points as it pertains to preparing for a presentation at a digital asset management conference. However, when it comes to “planing and preparing with your presentation panel,” that can often prove to be a daunting task at a conference, especially if you are not acquainted with the other panelist.

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