Killer Presentations

May 26, 2011

As marketers is our job to create meaningful content that will help influence sales. You will eventually find yourself not only writing copy for an eBook, whitepaper or email campaign but also having to create and deliver presentations. That’s where you can shine. Let me explain.

The Suckiness Factor

Most presentations suck. That’s a fact of life and I think that there are people with genetic predisposition to put together boring presentations. No matter how hard they try, people will not be enticed  by new bullet colors and the almost funny jokes.

Think back to the past few presentations you’ve attended. Either from other departments in your company or even delivered via webinar. Now score them according to the “suckiness factor” below:

  • Zero: Outstanding presentation, didn’t feel the time go by.
  • One: Good presentation, I’ve learned something today.
  • Two: Meh, I’ve seen better.
  • Three: What time is it? Wake me up when it’s over.
  • Four: Ugh! All those bullet points are giving me headaches.
  • Five: Stop! Please make it stop! I can’t take it anymore!
This won’t make you feel better but at least you now have something to do during those presentations.

Creating Quality Presentations

The goal of understanding which presentations suck and why, is so that you can avoid the same mistakes when creating yours. Whether you will deliver them yourself or you are creating them for a sales pitch, a demo, conference, or any other event the important thing is to make sure your presentation won’t suck!

The first thing you should do is watch Garr Reynolds explaining how to create great presentations at this Google Talk recorded session (video embedded below).

After you’ve watched the video above, go buy his book, Presentation Zen. It’s an easy read that can take your current presentation and improve it 10x. I’m not kidding.

Making Website Reviews Easy

October 5, 2010

64/365 - mapping by Jenn Vargas @ Flickr

The website is a few years old, there are some inconsistencies in font and the colors don’t match all that well. On top of that, now you have videos you want to showcase and the home page was not designed with that in mind. In sum, the website needs a complete makeover. Sounds familiar?

When reviewing websites and discussing design elements, you invariably end up drawing all over the whiteboard, asking your designer to come up with some mockups and then annotating those and sending them back. How about using some technology to make things easier? I’ve already discussed the use of PowerPoint for website reviews and if you’re starting from scratch it not only provides you with a grate starting point but is a low cost solutions.

For reviewing existing websites, I have used my tablet PC to make screen annotations and save them as images to the team, but what if you have people remote or if you want them to review and add their own comments about the site on their own time?

Below are a few useful tools out there for this problem.

Website Review and Annotation Tools is an interesting app that gives you the ability to comment on any website using your browser, but others have to have ShiftSpace installed to see them.

Google Sidewiki is an extension for Google Chrome that lets you comment on any website, but falls short on the drawing options (arrows and circles and such).

Diigo allows you to add sticky notes and highlights to websites and share with other people, and they do not have to have diigo installed. Problem is, you can’t draw circles or squares on the site to illustrate changes in the design. takes a screenshot of a site, let’s you annotate, send to other people, where they can add their own comments to it. Requires users to have the sharecopy bookmark app on their browsers, but works nicely.

Notable is a paid app that gives you great tools for annotations and commenting on any site.

Bounce is my favorite so far, because not only is a free version of Notable, but is the easiest to use. No registrations, no downloads required. Simply go to the Bounce site, enter a URL and start annotating. Then save the comments and share the unique link with your team. If there’s one thing missing is the ability to draw on the page.

Any other tools I have missed?

Web Prototyping With PowerPoint

September 27, 2010

Prototyping with PowerpointWebsite re-designs are a common project on the hands of marketers at companies of all sizes. From quick home page makeovers to complete re-design and re-branding,there’s a lot of communication between the marketing team and web developers and designers, a process that involves lots of meetings, the developers spending hours on photoshop mockups that don’t look like what you asked, and a lot of scribbling on paper and on whiteboards.

How can we improve this process? The answer may lie in a tool most people already have… MS PowerPoint!

PowerPoint Prototypes

What I’ve successfully done in the past to help the communication between the marketing team and the designers is to use PowerPoint as a way to visually communicate with the how the new design and functionality will work. Instead of waiting for the designer to come up with a Photoshop or HTML mockup of something that doesn’t resemble what I asked for, the PowerPoint slide can serve as a guideline and visual discussion tool for everyone involved.

Marketers are good at visual communication, but not necessarily experts with the design tools. PowerPoint is something everyone knows how to use, though. So why not take advantage of this free (your company is likely using MS Office suite which comes with PowerPoint) tool and use it for some brainstorming? Mockups or prototypes created w/ PowerPoint are not supposed to replace professional wireframing tools such as Balsamiq, Justinmind, or Sketchflow, but should rather be used to help non-programmers and non-designers communicate their ideas. Plus, if you are discussing elements of the website design with other management team members or the CEO, the ability of quickly changing something on the slide will help you get approval faster.

Although you can make interactive prototypes using PowerPoint, my suggestion is to keep it simple and focus on key elements you’d like to communicate to the designers such as overall layout, placement of objects, and so on. You can get so deep into making sure your animations work if you’re going for a full interactive prototype that it will cost you many hours that will be just thrown away since it won’t be used again.

The key is to keep it nice and clean. A good starting point on how to do this is Travis Isaacs presentation “How to Wireframe Like a Ninja“. It talks about Keynote (a presentation tool for the Mac), but 99% is transferable to PowerPoint.

It also helps if you download something like this PowerPoint Prototyping Toolkit from Long Zheng, which gives you some nice tools you can start using right away.

So what are you waiting for? Start prototyping today! 🙂

How To Practice For A Killer Presentation

June 21, 2010

Whatever your presentation style there is one thing that can make or break your presentation: practice. Unless you practice your delivery of the material, shinny flying slides won’t matter. The question is what is the best way to practice? And is there a right approach?

My Kung Fu instructor usually says that “practice doesn’t make perfect; perfect practice makes perfect”. That’s true for martial arts (no matter how much you kick, if you are not doing it right you won’t be effective at kicking your opponent) and for life in general. I have done my share of presentations to a variety of audiences and groups and have also helped others by giving them feedback about their own presentations. Based on what I’ve seen and experienced, you should get at least one person to listen to your presentation and give you feedback. If you can get more than one person (that friend you helped move his couch should be fair game) is even better. Here’s what you do:

First Round: Go through it without stopping

Ask the ‘audience’ to listen to your presentation without making any comments or interruptions. This first pass will give you a chance to deliver the whole thing live which will give you a good sense of overall timing, the flow, and any major hiccups you haven’t foreseen when creating the presentation. It also helps the audience that will give you feedback to get a good sense of the message you are delivering so that they can later focus on specific details.

After you are done, the feedback should focus on the big things. Was the message clear? How did you do on timing? How were your posture, hands, and voice?

Second Round: Detailed, on point feedback

The second pass will now focus on details of the presentation. You will deliver the presentation again, trying to incorporate that first overall feedback, but now the person(s) giving feedback will stop you at any time they want to give you immediate feedback. So if you are talking about a slide and there’s something wrong with either what’s on the screen or with what you are saying at the time, you will be stopped right there before moving to the next slide or sequence. They will give you feedback about that particular point in your presentation, you will think about it and will deliver that portion again. Yes, this will take time because you will be stopping frequently, so budget your time for this feedback round accordingly.

Third Round: Final, non-stop, full pass

Finally the third round is like the first, where you go through the presentation incorporating all the feedback you’ve been given, without stopping. At the end of this third round, the feedback will be minimum (hopefully) and will give you a chance to present again the full thing without interruption which will give you a good sense of overall flow, timing, etc.

This is not a quick process, and training or rehearsing a presentation shouldn’t be, if you want to do it right. Sometimes is helpful to split each round in different days, although I’ve been through all of them in one day once, which took probably about 4 hours (timing, of course, depends on how long your presentation is). That’s tough on the presenter and the audience, so I advise against it. Besides, when you take a break and review your notes and the slides a few hours after the feedback round, you may come up with other ways of delivering the same message or you may want to tweak the slides a bit before you present once more. And it gives the people providing feedback some time to relax and come refreshed for another round. You  better get them free pizza or beer after everything is all done!

No matter who your audience was during the feedback sessions, after three rounds of presentations you will certainly be in better shape than before. Practice, practice and practice. This is the only way to sharpen your presentation skills.

Explaining Social Media

May 7, 2010

If you need to explain what social media is and the impact it can have in your company or industry, the slideshow below might help. The presentation is not only funny is also engaging.

Rule 1: Listen

Rule 2: Engage

Rule 3: Measure

And my favorite quote is “Don’t assume social media is the answer to everything”.


Choosing an Email Marketing Software

January 11, 2010

Who’s the best email marketing company/software?

This question on a recent LinkedIn discussion thread for the Technology Marketing Community reminded me of when, a couple years ago, I delivered a presentation at the 2008 MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Summit. Titled “Managing the Vendor Selection Process”, it talked about my experience in selecting a new email marketing software for my company. Slides can be seen below.

Slideshare link:

The Selection Process

As the Director of Marketing, I had been pressing the company to replace our internal, archaic email system with something that was web-based (an “ESP”, or Email Service Provider, as the industry calls it) and that would reduce the time it took us to prepare, send, and evaluate email campaigns. The process we went through is not necessarily the best or the only way to do it, but it certainly helped put some metrics in place that we could use to evaluate each vendor. With so many options out there, having some kind of analytical basis to back your final choice can help get approval for the new system.

The Vendor Selection Matrix

I created an Excel file to consolidate all info from the vendors we selected so that we could do an analytical evaluation. The matrix helped us focus on how vendors compared on each feature and also gave us the ability to rank vendors based on weighted scoring. Why? Well, because there were some features we considered more important than others and so should you. Just because a vendor has a great way to create dynamic content for newsletters, it won’t matter if you don’t usually send out newsletters. You get the point.

Excel Template for vendor comparison: you can download and use my template as a starting point.

Note: if the download link doesn’t work for you, contact me and I’ll email the file to you.

How to score vendors using the comparison matrix spreadsheet:

  1. List features
  2. List vendor names
  3. Decide on a numbering system for each feature evaluation (if you have multiple people helping you select and evaluation vendors, make sure everyone agrees on what constitutes a “meets feature fully” versus “meets feature partially”). This is to help you differentiate between vendors that offer a similar way to accomplish something but one is clearly better (because it’s easier, or gives more options, etc.)
  4. Decide which features are more important (here’s where the weighted score comes in… give higher numbers for features that are more important)
  5. Score vendors

The best email marketing vendor?

Ha! Good question! This is a question that only you can answer:

  1. Decide what is your goal with the email marketing software
  2. Define key features you really need
  3. Score vendors
  4. Chose the one that most closely matches your needs

How about “soft” qualities?

Yes, the excel matrix may help compare features vs. features, but falls short on so-called “soft” features like technical support, quality of service, and the all too common “gut feeling”. Make sure you take those into consideration, especially on tie breakers. Vendors that score very closely may have some clear differentiators that are not easily measurable. The important thing is to lead with the analytics side before throwing the qualitative evaluation into the mix.

Good luck in your email marketing selection process!

The Six Minutes Challenge

November 16, 2009

Presentations can be boring. Yes, I believe you are nodding as you read this. You have sat through your fair share of hour-long PowerPoint displays that were accompanied with a not so good speaker. What if you could change all that and have the message, whatever is was, delivered to you in six minutes and forty seconds?

Welcome to the world of Pecha Kucha.

I recently attended the Business of Software conference where I participated in a Pecha Kucha competition. The rules are you have to present 20 slides with 20 seconds for each (total of 6:40). Sounds easy and I thought so too when I signed up for it, but is far from a walk in the park.

To present well in this kind of format you have to rehearse very well. More than your typical “and in this slide I will talk about X”, because since the slides are automatically timed, your delivery has to be on time all the time. What if we could change the way our companies treat presentations and just give everyone six minutes to tell their stories? We would certainly have shorter meetings and maybe better content.

So next time you prepare a presentation, think about how you’d do it if you had only 6 minutes. What is essential? What is just fluff? How can you present in a way that will engage the audience? Less is sometimes better.

Are you ready to present? 3…2…1… Go!

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