If you consider yourself to be a top digital marketing expert along people such as Ryan Deiss and Gary Vaynerchuk, then you are probably being asked to speak at some of the major conferences around the world. Many of these gurus have different styles and approaches to their presentations. Some use slides while others do not. The debate rages on – should a marketing speaker use slides during their presentation?
Whether we like it or not, slides are here to stay as a visual aid. The tools to create compelling slide shows are improving – from Microsoft PowerPoint to Apple’s iWork Keynote, software packages provide ready-to-use templates, graphics, and easy ways to embed animations, photos and even videos.
If you are preparing for a presentation about different marketing tactics or the future of marketing, first take a step back before you spend too much time creating your slides. Ask yourself whether or not slides are the most effective way to present the information.
Avoid Slides in your Presentations
Many speakers feel that there is a perpetual need to show slides during a presentation, as if the constant use of slides is an unwritten rule. The trend is actually the opposite – with the popularity of TED: Ideas worth spreading, which showcases ideas and stories, most speakers use either no slides, or very few at strategic points in their talks – typically photos – to convey their message.
Slides should not be used as a tool to remember your speech; this will undoubtedly cause you to read the presentation to your audience. Instead, work on your message, become an expert on your content, and hone your presentation skills.
“If your purpose is to persuade, convince, or motivate your listeners to take action, you need to appeal to the emotions of your audience” suggests business coach Chris Stevens of The Coaching Institute. “Slides may actually detract from the power of your delivery.” Exaggerating only a little, you don’t need a slide with a bullet stating, “my turning point.”
Use Slides Sparingly to Augment your Presentations
There are cases, though, in which slides can augment your presentation if used to strategically support your points. What are ideal situations for using slides?
- To present complex information. Examples of detailed data include market segment breakdowns which may include maps, and financial trends such as revenue and cost forecasts which are best shown by graphs. Providing a simple visual representation helps the audience understand your main point and still pay attention to your recommendation; if there is no visual, they will simply get lost in trying to remember that there is Y% drop in revenues for product H in regions N and W, versus a Z% increase for product A . . .
- To provide a take-away for educational conferences. Many conferences are mini-training boot camps, featuring hundreds of sessions, which typically delve into a low level of detail. The attendees will not be able to remember the details of an individual training session without visuals. In addition, conference organizers often require speakers to provide slides so that they can print out hand-outs for attendees, or burn a DVD of conference material. In these situations, make sure that you add value as part of your presentations, with talking points and stories that go beyond the slides.
- To visually support your message. Some scenarios are difficult to describe without a visual anchor. If you state that you have hundreds of customers, don’t reel off a list; instead, show a slide with sample logos to support your statement, then speak about one or two case studies in detail. You can also visually demonstrate a concept; to describe how an aperture setting of a camera affects the focus, or depth of field, show sample a photo with the subject up-close in focus (short depth of field), then one in which the background is in focus (long depth of field).
If you do choose to use slides during your next marketing presentation, make sure they support your message and do not detract from you as a speaker. Slides cannot make eye contact and connect with an audience. Slides cannot respond to questions. You, as a speaker, must convey your message with your expertise, stories, voice and stage presence, not with words fluttering into place on a slide.