Tips for making a presentation that will help improve the state of security programs and reflect favorably on the presenters and their companies
Lately, I’ve been fortunate enough to attend a few different in-person professional events and conferences. After a hiatus from these events due to Covid-19, I was reminded of a few observations I had made and lessons I had learned prior to the pandemic. Based on my experiences (both recently and prior to the pandemic), it seems that it might help some presenters if I let out a few secrets around what, in my opinion, makes for a good conference presentation. These tips will also help make a good virtual presentation, such as a webinar, as well.
Here are five tips for making a presentation that will keep the audience engaged and off of their mobile phones and laptops:
1. We get it: I’m always amazed at how many presentations recount the same problems we as a community have been aware of and discussing for 5, 10, 15, or even 20 years. Yeah, we get it. We are familiar with these problems – maybe more so than you are. We know that the sky is falling – or at least you aren’t the first person to tell us it is. We see your high-level, broad stroke, general industry numbers – they are most likely the same numbers we’ve seen in countless other places. By speaking to and preying on our fears during your presentation, you are not helping to advance our knowledge or to improve our security and fraud programs. The best presentations offer new insights, interesting and specific data, and/or practical advice that the audience can take back with them.
2. We represent our companies: When presenting, it is important to remember that we represent ourselves, yes, but also, the companies we work for. Thus, if we aren’t adding anything to the dialogue or to the overall state of knowledge in the security and fraud fields, we are not representing our companies well. Why? In my experience, companies that have what to add to the discussion send people to conferences who will represent them well and arm those representatives with the right insights, data, and key takeaways to make a great presentation. We should not underestimate the impression of our companies that conference attendees take from our presentations, and we should prepare our presentations accordingly.
3. Show me the data: In my experience, customers, peers, collaborators, and other presentation attendees are often wowed by specific, relevant data. Never underestimate the value of the right data. Not high-level, broad-stroke, general industry data, but rather, data based upon your company’s specific findings and/or research. This can really help our audience. It could be the case that several audience members are grappling with an issue or a decision, and our data can help them decide the right way forward. Or, it could be that there is a commonly held misconception that our data can disprove. Or, perhaps one of the attendees had not considered the angle we are presenting and will take their security and/or fraud program to new heights by adjusting course.
4. Show me practical advice: Ultimately, most of us are judged on our professional performance by the actions we take, the accomplishments we achieve, and the milestones we hit. As such, most of us are always looking for new and practical advice that we can learn from and implement in our daily work lives. It is precisely because of this that providing a number of actionable takeaways that a person can take with them from your presentation goes a long way. The best presentations are those that provide actionable advice that security and fraud professionals can experiment with and implement in their respective work environments soon after returning from the event.
5. Don’t be an ambulance chaser: Did you choose your presentation topic based on what is “hot”, “popular”, or “in the news”? If so, that is a poor choice in my opinion. Most people enjoy conference presentations where they learn something and/or can take something back with them from those presentations. That means that as presenters, it is our job to share expert knowledge that we may have in a given area. Can we tie that knowledge to current events? Sure, but current events cannot be the entirety of the presentation. Our audiences are actively seeking knowledge and advice that they can take with them and act upon. If we regurgitate recent headlines and hype, we aren’t helping them achieve the goals they most likely have for the event. No one will recall the presentation of an ambulance chaser next quarter. But people will talk about the best presentations for years.
It seems strange to me that I should need to explicitly state what seems somewhat obvious to so many of us in the security and fraud fields. Yet, if it is obvious, it certainly isn’t widely implemented based upon the in-person professional events I’ve attended over the course of my career. By considering the tips above, among other tips, presenters can more effectively engage their audience and keep that audience interested in and learning from the material. This, in turn, will help improve the state of security and fraud programs across the industry and will also reflect more favorably on the presenters and their companies.