“Presenting is the art of directing attention.”

Idan Gazit:

Tech conferences can be a hostile environment for presenting. Everybody has four devices, three IRC channels, mail, twitter, and a commit or two in flight while you are doing your thing onstage. Attendees know that the talks are going to be available later online. They can afford to tune you out because they’re here for the “hallway track”. Attempting to harness attention can feel as futile as spooning back the tide.

Every design decision you make, from the talk topic to the slide design, must help you combat this reality by making it easier to acquire and retain audience attention. Learning how to write a succinct talk abstract is half the battle. Know thine audience, and make sure the first sentence or two will pique their curiosity and leave them with a taste for more.

Idan’s full article, Designing Presentations, is wonderfully insightful, even for a speaking veteran like myself.

From my personal archives, see also 20 tips for better conference speaking. Three years after the article was authored, #1 on the list still remains my #1 tip. And it aligns nicely with the advice from Idan above.