Preparing to give a presentation at a translator conference 6 easy steps to deliver a great talk

Greater than 4 minutes, my friend!

Hi everybody! I’m sorry I’ve been quite silent recently. After a very busy peak season I enjoyed a well-deserved break during the summer.

Something happened in the meanwhile. In April I was asked by the team to hold a presentation at their annual translator’s conference which will take place on September, 3rd and 4th in Stockholm. I decided to talk about cooperation with colleagues and expert groups. My proposal was approved and… here I am. In less than 3 weeks I’m flying to Sweden!!

Remember my enthusiastic article about attending international translator conferences? Well, one thing is attending a conference as a regular attendees, when the only thing you have to do is lean back and enjoying the presentations, the fringe events, discover the local food and beverages and network like hell (which can be pretty exhausting as well b.t. w.). Another thing is having to prepare a talk to be given in front a bunch of international colleagues who have high expectations. Even the more so, if you’re not the most experienced speaker and translator.

In this article I’m going to tell you how I prepared for the few presentations I gave so far and share a few tips with first (or second) time speakers.  Doing so I hope to encourage more colleagues to step out of their comfort zone and submit their proposals to speak at a conference. Hey seriously, you can do it and we all want to know what you have to tell!!

Giving a speech at a conference can be quite daunting. It requires a greater effort than sitting home and writing a blog post or sharing a few useful links on Twitter. But the added value you’ll provide to the Translator’s Community might be even greater and so the exposure that you’ll get by sharing your ideas and showcasing your public speaking skills in front of an audience.

Let’s start from the beginning. You have submitted your proposal and now, a few days or weeks later, you receive an e-mail from the conference organizer informing you that your topic has been approved and asking you to sign an official Speakers Agreement! The first time this happens you will jump off your chair / choke on your coffee and start walking back and forth like a madman, repeating to yourself “OMG, this can’t be true”. But after this first moment of exhilaration, you might feel intimidated and not feel up to the task.

Keep calm and follow these 6 easy steps:

  1. Take a week to rejoice:

In the first week after my talk has been approved I won’t do any preparation. I won’t even start brainstorming. I’ll just take some time to get familiar with the idea that I will be presenting in front of many people. I will daydream of myself delivering a brilliant speech and of the applause and congratulations at the end. Believe me, it’s a great feeling.

2. Offline Brainstorming

After dreaming for a while it’s time to face the cold reality and accept the fact, that the presentation won’t appear magically on your computer overnight while you’re sleeping. You need to spend some time, energy and thoughts to prepare it. I usually start by brainstorming with pen and paper. On a sunny day, I will sit in my garden or in the park with plenty of paper and try to further develop the idea that managed to convince the conference team. I might start with a spider diagram or an outline and then develop each topic further.

At this stage you need to allow yourself some flexibility and discard any previous idea as soon as you come up with a better one (for example a different outline or structure, giving your talk a more sarcastic tone, showing some pictures etc).

You might even prepare a schedule of tasks that need to be carried out before the “Great Day”. Mine looks more or less like this:

Task Deadline
Create slides 30th June
Write down script July 17th
Add pictures, links, quotations End of July
Polish text and script July 22nd
Send to editor/proofreader July 25th
Send presentation to conference organizers August 3rd
Start rehearsing Mid August


3. Type everything down

After the first offline brainstorming you might want to type down your ideas in your computer and develop them further until they take a more defined shape. Draft a first version of how your slides should look like. Then sleep one or two nights over it and go over it again. In this stage you shouldn’t be afraid to write down too much (you can always scratch it at a later stage) and be open to add any idea you might come up with.

4. Prepare slides and texts

Once you’re sure about what you’re going to say and in which order you want to say it, you can create a presentation using Powerpoint or any other program you’re familiar with. It still doesn’t need to look perfect. You’ll be able to run over it and polish it before the conference. Afterwards you might also want to text your speech, what you’re actually going to say about the slides. Even the more so if you’re giving the speech in a language you don’t feel very confident in.

5. Have your text proofread

While having your text proofread or reviewed by a colleague is a must for non native speakers, you might want to take proofreading into consideration even if you’re presenting in your native language. A colleague might spot some errors and give you valuable feedback on your talk.

6. Do a few try runs

Once you’ve polished your talk and had it reviewed, you can start rehearsing it. You are more likely to convince and impress your audience if you use appropriate body language and intonations ad pronounce everything correctly. I recommend that you rehearse it in front of your spouse, partner or friend, better if they have a good command of the language you’re giving the speech in. Ask for feedback on the content as well as on your presenting technique. If you want to become an experienced speaker it might be worth it to invest a few bucks in public speaking classes. (I joined Toastmasters last year and this benefited me a lot).

That’s all. Keep in mind that you’ll need time and energy to prepare your talk, but you’ll be perfectly fine if you plan everything in advance.

And now good luck!!

Caterina Saccani - Saccani Translations

About Caterina Saccani - Saccani Translations

Italian freelance Conference Interpreter & Translator, living and working in Belgium and Germany. Languages: Italian, German, English, Dutch

5 thoughts on “Preparing to give a presentation at a translator conference 6 easy steps to deliver a great talk

  1. Wishing you luck in nailing the presentation. I know speaking of myself, that I fret presentation, or even strangely, that my 1. presentations are always better than the ones coming after it, even if I speak about the same topic. The 1. counts most, and you are thinking about it until you deliver it. and if you are very critical of yourself, you tend to dwell on it for 4-5 days after it. It entraps you.

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  2. Great article, Caterina, and a big “in bocca al lupo” for your presentation!
    I did my first presentation last year at Language Show Live in London and I had the same reaction when I received the confirmation email 🙂 Except I was in the booth and I had to contain my excitement for 2 hours before I could go YAYYYYY!
    Anyway, I agree with what you write, except maybe writing down the speech. I did it for my first presentation because I wanted to be “perfect”. I didn’t read it during the presentation, but I had memorised most of it. believe I did a good job (the feedback I recevied was really positive), but when I presented again with no written speech it was way better. I felt more natural, more confident, and I had more fun.
    I guess it depends on the audience as well, but my advice is: if you’re a personable person, don’t limit yourself with a written speech. Write down the main points that you’re going to talk about, but don’t write down every word you want to say. In other words: be yourself! 🙂

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  3. Thank you so much, Martina (and “crepi il lupo” :))!! I’m glad you liked the article 🙂
    And I agree with you. The whole point of writing down the speech is rather to give your toughts and talks some kind of structure and make sure you say everything that’s important to you.
    Honestly, I never really managed to learn my script completely by heart, and that’s fine. On the other hand, I don´t feel confident enough to improvise my speech when presenting in English.
    This time I will probably go for something in between and try to memorize some key points, allowing myself to be flexible if I want to digress or change something on the spot 🙂
    I wish you good luck with all your future presentations!

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  4. Hello Caterina and thank you for this great and helpful article of yours! Well done! And good luck in Stockholm! All the very best! 🙂

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