How To Present At a Conference (From Three People Who Have Never Done It)

By Kara O’Halloran, Jordan Eakin & David Sloan on Apr 26, 2019

Three tips to keep the crowd engaged.

The One Club for Creativity 's Creative Week is just around the corner, and with it, the Creative Summit, a full day of inspiration in the form of presentations and panel discussions. This year we reached out to the creative community at large, and crowdsourced a collection of over 50 speakers presenting more than 25 sessions across six different tracks.

While some of this year's presenters are well known for their oratory flair, and have spoken at many industry conferences, others are just stepping up to the stage for the first time. Our friends at McKinney, however, has advice for both types of presenters. Hot on the heels of their experience at SXSW last month, creative directors David Sloan and Jordan Eakin, and senior integrated producer Kara O'Halloran offer tips on how to craft presentations for maximum impact.



Recently, three of us from McKinney headed down to Austin to attend a certain conference you may have heard of. It’s known for music, technology, film…you know, those sorts of things. But when we arrived, there was something in the air. Something wonderful. And that thing was brisket. The whole town smells like brisket. It’s amazing. But the OTHER thing that was in the air, besides brisket, was change. 

Which is kind of the point of any conference, really. You go to see what is and — more importantly — what’s going to be. To put your finger on the pulse of our industry and realize the possibilities brought about by the convergence of technology and culture (and free swag and free drinks and maybe even…brisket). 

So if you want to present or lead a panel or moderate a discussion at a conference — if you want to add value to the lives of the attendees, to your industry, and to the world at large — here are a few pieces of advice on how to do just that…from three attendees who, total transparency here, have never done such a thing. 

1. Tell us what to do, not what you’ve done. 


Or at least not JUST what you’ve done. Tell us what you’ve done and what you’re going to do. And what we should do, or could do, if we want to help you do what you’re going to do. We didn’t suffer flight delays, deal with crowds, and wait in line for two hours to see your reel. We want to arrive woke but leave woker.

The best sessions include things like a shared, bold plan to make change happen. They show us ways to behave responsibly and use our powers as creators to better the world. We’re here for this kind of awesome all day long.

Conversely, don’t deliver glorified case studies of some very good advertising/content that got views and moved units (which is fine) and then tack on session titles with the trappings of social responsibility to pull attendees in. 

2. If you can’t tell us what to do, teach us. 


You’re a company. Or a creator. Or a researcher or a writer. You’ve been doing a thing we haven’t been doing. And we’ve come to hear about that thing.

But we’ve also come to hear what you learned while you were doing that thing. Because we didn’t get to learn that thing, since we weren’t doing that thing. You were. Make sense? 

You would think so, but too many presentations, again, skip that part.

And that, remember, is the most important part. We know change is needed. But it’s going to take our collective efforts — and collective knowledge — to effect change at a meaningful scale. So we need you drop that knowledge. We need you to teach, not just talk.

3. Okay fine, if you can’t tell us or teach us, amaze us. 


Look, we’re not too good for a demo, a reel, or even a brag-fest. But if you’re going to do that, bring your A-brag. If all you’ve got is what you’ve done, it better be worth waiting in line for. You’re backstage, so maybe you’re not seeing the lines? The ones that are not only longer than those for Space Mountain but don’t move at all for a couple of hours? Make it worth it. 

You’ve seen a need and you’ve met it. You’ve made change happen. You’ve kicked ass and blown minds. So if you’ve got a demo, a reel, or story that so-explodes our concept of what’s possible we’ll be inspired to go up against impossible obstacles (like, you know, the systemic discrimination and prejudice that pervades our entire society), go for it. That’s the bar. If that ain’t what you’ve got, please see numbers 1 and 2. 

So that’s it. Follow the three simple rules above and you’ll have the chance to not only enrich lives but to earn the respect, admiration, and endorsement of three people you’ve never heard of. And isn’t that what life’s all about? That, and brisket?


Creative Week takes place May 6–10 in New York City. The One Club Creative Summit is on Thursday, May 9.








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