One of the most frequent obstacles for freelancers and consultants is leveraging expertise and knowledge into authority without sounding pushy or obnoxious.
That’s especially true in presentations. Getting up and talking about marketing numbers is hard enough, even if you’re an expert on the subject matter. But a good presentation can help you stand out, whether you’re a contracted freelancer or a marketing manager.
The most effective marketing presentations combine good visuals, interesting topics, and just enough details to hold an audience’s interest. And learning how to do this yourself can give you a big advantage the next time you find yourself facing down stakeholders, clients, and supervisors in a boardroom or digital meeting.
We’ll split this up into five tactics that you can (and should) incorporate into your presentation planning sessions:
- Share stories, not just information
- Find common ground with your audience
- Set clear expectations
- Keep your customers in mind
- Generate and maintain momentum
Start With A Story
The best marketers are good storytellers. And we tell stories because they offer a fast, natural way to catch someone’s attention, regardless of the topic.
The secret of TED’s success isn’t incorporating famous names — it’s knowing how to educate an audience through the lens of engaging storytellers.
But stories aren’t just interesting conversation-starters. There’s a reason why most ads, films, and videos start with energy, action, or intrigue. It’s because stories are also easy to remember, and that makes them useful as marketing and educational tools.
Here’s an explanation of why storytelling carries so much weight in any public speaking scenario: “No matter how interesting the information, you’ll run up against the limitations of the brain and quickly overtax your audience. If instead you tell your audience a story, you get to jump right into the deeper parts of the brain, where emotion and memory work together.”
Keep that in mind, and start your next marketing presentation with a story or anecdote.
Talk To The Room
Get the focus away from yourself and your goal for the presentation. You’d put the audience first when writing a sales email or designing an ad. So why not take the same mentality with presentations?
As a general rule, the audience of your presentations should be somewhat invested in the information you’re covering. (After all, a successful marketing team impacts every other facet of the company.) Your job is to translate that information into a you-focused perspective.
You’re selling information, so prioritize the audience’s needs and interests. In this case, your audience might be marketers, stakeholders, or team members from different departments. So think about a shared struggle, or something everyone in the room can relate to.
If you can sprinkle that kind of point at key moments during the presentation, you can help steer the audience’s attention instead of trying to keep them engaged.
Be Upfront About Goals
The hard truth is that no presentation ever has 100% audience attention, and that’s okay. But if you present the goals for a presentation — and maybe even split them up into subsections — you give everyone an opportunity to see what might interest them.
Starting with an agenda does more than help you organize your presentation — it also helps your audience set expectations for the content you’re about to share.
Think about this as expectation-setting. It can seem fun to keep surprises for later on, but if no one is paying attention, your big moment could fall flat. (An added bonus is that thinking about your goals early on will help you structure your presentation more effectively as well.)
Expectation-setting is a golden rule for public speaking, because people value their time more than almost any other resource. It’s your job as a presenter to respect your audience’s time; if you do it early on in a presentation, you’ll establish some rapport with everyone in the room.
Have you noticed a trend so far? Your marketing presentation will live and die by the rapport (or lack thereof) you can build with your audience. Entertaining stories, relevant examples, and clear goals are all ways to be open with people.
Oddly enough, being transparent is something we value in leaders. And when you give a presentation, your subject matter knowledge puts you in a leadership role. Learning how to use that to your advantage gives you better control over how people engage with your presentation.
Focus On Your Customers
While we’re on the topic of goals, you can probably remember presentations that hit you with slide after slide of numbers. A lot of marketing reports consist of endless charts, sales numbers, and KPIs. But even other marketers will tune out those things, either because they are familiar with some of the numbers or because they don’t apply to their particular niche.
Charts provide a simple way to visualize lots of data, but relying too heavily on them can dehumanize your presentation and decrease your audience’s retention rate
Charts still matter, of course. Statistics and numbers provide accountability as well as create a baseline to measure efficiency. But if your entire slideshow is chart after chart, you’ll have a hard time presenting it in a way that people will actually retain all of that information.
Instead, put on your customer care hat for a minute. If you can present something that highlights how things affect the customer, you’re not just leaning into marketing lingo — you’re calling attention to something everyone on the team should, in theory, care about.
Avoid The Info Dump
We haven’t spent any time on the best practices for marketing presentations, but it’s worth noting a big one here. Slides are meant to accentuate or support your words, not to provide a word-for-word outline that people read instead of listening to you.
It’s all too common to pair a complicated chart with a 1:1 translation in bullet point form. At that point, why would your audience need to listen to you?
An easy fix for that is to only share one specific point per slide. That limits the amount of data you include, and also creates a more focused experience for your audience.
More importantly, it makes each topic seem shorter, and a snappy presentation with momentum has a better chance of holding someone’s attention. (Half of Inc. Magazine’s tips for presenting talks about keeping things brief.)
Craft Better Marketing Presentations
Presentations play an important role in building a business. So important, in fact, that pretty much every employee, contractor, and consultant will have to prepare and deliver one at some point in their career.
So whether you are trying to pitch a new idea, secure a new client project, or impress a board of investors, knowing how to build effective marketing presentations is a skill you need. And you can develop that ability by keeping five specific goals in mind:
- Start with a story: People pay attention to stories, so use them to draw your audience in and reconnect with them at key moments during presentation.
- Talk to the room: You aren’t presenting for your own health, so find common ground with your audience and engage with them.
- Be upfront about goals: Set expectations for what people can expect to cover and learn during your presentation.
- Focus on your customers: Show your audience how it will improve their lives (and the overall customer experience) to boost the likelihood of them paying attention.
- Avoid the info dump: Bullet points and charts are great, but use them carefully. If you saturate your audience with information, they’re going to lose interest fast.
By remembering these strategies, you can set yourself up to consistently impress and inform people every time you present. You can use a tool like Mozart Data to get data from multiple sources for you to present the information that's most valuable.