Heuristic for a Conference Presentation

For more successful writing, answer these discovery questions before you begin!


  • What’s the conference theme or topic?
  • What’s the idea in a nutshell? (one simple sentence)


  • Who’s my audience? Who’s coming to this conference?
  • What level am I pitching this to? Is there a range of levels of understanding in the audience?
  • Do I anticipate any audience issues? (e.g. expectations, preconceptions, hostile, disinterested…)
  • If they have options at the conference (e.g. Stream A vs Stream B) then what would make them want to show up to my talk?


  • What information do I want to impart to my audience? Prioritize the key pieces of info.
  • How does that differ from audience expectations?
  • What do I have to offer that’s new?
  • How much material have I already got that I could recycle?
  • How much new research is required?


  • What’s the most appropriate format? (e.g. PowerPoint, video, Prezi, etc.)
  • What info can I pull out of the presentation? (e.g. handouts, web references, etc.)
  • What’s an appropriate tone for the talk? (e.g. inform/persuade, lecture/entertain, etc.)

Sanity check

  • There’s always too many slides and too much text in a presentation.
  • Leave time for questions.
  • Seriously, what possessed me to submit this abstract/proposal?

(back to the Heuristics page…)