Conferences are a wonderful opportunity to step back, reflect and think about your business, your life and career. However conferences are expensive in terms of taking time out of our busy schedule and attending the conference. So we need to ensure we get the most from those conferences we attend.

I attend many conferences and seminars each year both as a speaker and as a delegate. When I speak at conferences to sales teams and leadership teams on sales, pricing and being a trusted adviser, I want my presentation to be fresh, engaging and most of all leading to a change in behaviour, attitude or thinking.

Some conferences I attend as a delegate leave me fired up and prepared to do some things differently in my business. Others leave me cold with classic mistakes being made by some speakers and conference organisers.

Here are some of the mistakes I see being made by speakers and conference organisers which reduce the benefit the audience receive.

  1. The complete works of Shakespeare in 48 minutes
Speakers trying to cover too much content is a common problem. Speakers shouldn’t tell the audience everything they know. Tell the audience what they need to know. Leave them wanting more, rather than glad you've finally finished! The audience needs time to process the presentations and speeches.
  1. Err, Umm, Err
There is a real skill to speaking so the audience is engaged, motivated and inspired. Examples of poor speaking skills include speaking too fast, mumbling, overuse of jargon, being boring, talking down to the audience and patronising them. Clumsy body language, poor eye contact, not doing your research to understand the audience's hot buttons, poor use of language and poor rhetoric will all irritate an audience.
  1. Powerpoint mortality rates soar
If you are going to use Powerpoint then make sure you have great slides and not too many. Death by Powerpoint is inexcusable.

Poor lighting or inadequate power in the projector can ruin even good slides. Ideally don’t use slides, speak from the heart to really engage your audience.

  1. Same old, same old
The best speakers tailor their content to the audience to ensure relevance. Poor speakers rely on the same old presentation with just the client’s logo changed. Some of the worst speakers are trotting out the same old content they were using 3 years ago or more.

Audiences are more savvy, and more sophisticated than ever. They can see brilliant presentations and speeches on TED so the ‘expectation bar’ has been raised considerably.

By Chris Merrington, author of “Why do smart people make such stupid mistakes?”