The DIA US Medical Communications conference is huge. Huge in reputation and huge in attendance figures (~350 people). All the key people come here to learn and network. But it’s also got the young blood of the industry pharmacy residents.

One session got me thinking,

“What’s all those things you really shouldn’t do when you’re presenting at a conference.”

Yes, you got it, I was listening to a presentation, completely lost what the speaker was talking about so got bored. Now you may think I’m being harsh (and I probably am) but we have so many distractions these days, any communicator is competing against Blackberries, emails and Twitter/Facebook, let alone daydreaming or even sleeping! The collective cost of the audiences time was frightening.

So, for what it’s worth, heres my Top 10 list of what not to do when you’re presenting at a conference.

  1. Have lots of lovely, colourful, pretty slides using SmartArt graphics but what the heck does each one mean?
  2. Have 30 slides for a 15 minutes talk, unless they all just have 1 photo on them!
  3. Only put the busy slide up for less than a minute so I’m still trying to read the middle part when you whizz onto the next one
  4. Make it really hard for the audience to know what is the overall message you are trying to get across
  5. Have no clear call to action.
  6. Be so boring that your fellow speakers are texting and we can all see them doing it
  7. Speak like you’re about to gasp your last breath yet have to recite Tolstoy’s War & Peace
  8. Try to be Steve Jobs. You can’t. He’s dead. Be yourself
  9. Introduce yourself by saying that the booked speaker couldn’t attend so you will do your best and you hope it’s not too bad. If you don’t value yourself, why should I?
  10. Spend most of your allotted time selling your company and it’s shiny toys. If we want to know more, we can Google you.
  11. What you’re talking about doesn’t really relate to what your slides say. My brain is frantically trying to find the message. Make it simple as I’ve got another 5 hours of this stuff!

Oh sorry – I couldn’t resist the last one to snook it in.

And yes, I have definitely done these at some time or other. But just because I occasionally do it, doesn’t mean that’s good.

So what should you do?


  • Practice what you are going to say
  • Test it out on someone and ask for constructive, specific feedback
  • Have a wow opening; a provocative statement, a stunning fact or how you want them to feel about your topic
  • Have a wow finish – see above
  • remove at least 30% of your slides but make sure you haven’t lost the message
  • Get feedback on the day from someone you trust who will be honest
  • SMILE! You will instantly win over 50% of your audience.

Public speaking is often the No 1 thing people fear doing. You probably know the basics already, but

“Further training or specific coaching will be an investment we will all get return on!”