Shaping Perceptions: Marketing with Presentations

Marketing, at its core, is the business of perception. Smaller companies sometimes lose sight of this idea behind the looming shadow of immediate ROI, but the truth is that every interaction someone has with your company – your product, your website, your employees, your ads, your brand – is valuable. Each impression builds incremental trust, awareness, credibility, and understanding that keep you top-of-mind when the right need arises. It is critical for businesses to understand the importance of shaping perceptions.

Presentations are a perfect example of an interaction often undervalued for its perception-shaping power. Presenters tunnel in on content and ignore the other nuances of the experience that can make a huge difference in overall impact. Whether a simple sales pitch in front of a small group or a featured address at an industry conference, every presentation is a new and important chance to mold the way that people think and talk about your business.

The internet is already home to countless articles about how to develop and give a good presentation, but here are 3 tips on how to make sure you are seizing the opportunity to shape the perceptions of potential customers and evangelists:

Keep Things Crisp

It is well known that more than half of communication of any sort can be attributed to factors other than the words actually being said or written. For this reason, keeping your presentations as smooth and crisp as possible is vital for building the your image as a credible thought leader and valuable business partner or seller. Achieve this by focusing on three key points that could quickly cause a poor impression if not done well:

  • Speak Smoothly – Stutters and hiccups in the flow of your presentation will give your audience more opportunities to turn their focus away from you. It is important to speak confidently and fluidly throughout to avoid this and maintain your positive image. Do this by knowing your content and your slides inside and out, as well as putting in some time to practice if you are less comfortable in front of an audience.
  • Focus Outward – Your physical and mental focus should be directed out towards the audience for as much of the presentation as possible. Knowing the content like the back of your hand will go a long way towards doing this successfully, but you can make it even easier by setting up a small screen with notes and a view of the shown slide in front of you, and then resisting all urges to look back at the projection screen.
  • Look Sleek – Design matters. You could have the best content in the world, but if it is poorly displayed in your slides you will not be taken nearly as seriously as you’d like. This doesn’t mean you need a flashy, professionally developed slide deck, but it does mean that close attention should be paid to small things like alignment, slide layout, and simplicity so you aren’t taking away from your message with eye-catching design flaws.

Establish a Rapport

It is tempting to focus on your company and your product during a presentation because, hey, why not? Everyone is here looking at you to hear you talk about your stuff, right? This may be partly true, but deep down everyone really just wants to hear about themselves. The more you can make it about the audience members and establish a rapport with them, the more they will pay attention, see value, and retain information.

To capitalize on this, use a “bookend” strategy to nest the content about you in between content about them. Open with an honest discussion of the needs and problems facing the members of the audience you are trying to reach. Hook their attention by hitting their pain points and showing them you understand. When you know you have their focus, that’s when you can start talking about how you and your business can help. When you have finished the meat of the presentation, rope everyone back in and ensure your message sticks by circling back to the audience, their needs, and the next steps they can take to work with you and solve them.

Anticipate the Story

Any good presentation advice will direct you to tell a story with your content. To increase impact, however, make sure you are telling the story that the audience wants to hear, not just the story you want to tell. This means anticipating their thoughts, concerns, and questions and not only having responses prepared, but also designing a presentation that addresses each one as it arises. Every exchange of

“Hey, but what about…”

“Funny you should ask! If we turn to this next slide, you can see…”

does wonders for your credibility and authority in the eyes of those attending your event.

Slipping into the shoes of your audience, especially for SMBs, is often a question of focusing on practicality. Business owners might get interested and fired up by high level talk and strategic hype, but at the end of the day they need pointed and specific action items to bring them fully onboard. As you develop content for your presentation, constantly ask yourself what each point means for the members of your audience. How can you make it more granular? How can you make it simpler? What exactly would they need to do? What exactly would the outcome be for their business? Keeping questions like these in mind will ensure you tell a story that mirrors the one going on in the minds of those listening.

Keep these points in mind as you develop and present valuable content and you are well on your way to making sure you get the most out of presentations as a perception-shaping marketing tool. Are there other ways that you use presentations for shaping perceptions of how customers and prospects view you and your business? Share with us!