Want to achieve presentation success in-person or virtually?

Want your audience to pay attention and engage with your talk?

Of course, you do!

Regardless of venue, real life or virtual, ever notice how certain speakers always deliver a great presentation while others only read their slides?

At a major industry conference, I attended a presentation by a highly paid speaker. This bestselling author paced back and forth and rarely looked at the audience for the entire talk. Occasionally he dropped the sponsor’s name as if his talk was a fill-in-the-blank Mad Lib. As I listened, I wondered how many times he had given the same exact speech.

Regardless of where and to whom you speak, your presence is an integral part of the experience. To succeed, your audience must grasp the knowledge you impart within your timeframe. So they leave feeling smarter and emotionally moved by your presentation.

As a form of leadership content marketing, the goal of your presentation is to establish you and your organization as an expert and influencer. So make it a promotion-free!

Use these steps to create and deliver a killer presentation to support and achieve your content marketing goals.

How To Create Memorable And Effective Presentations

Conferences and events cater to 3 distinct audiences, each with different motivations and goals. They are:

  • Show organizers create the event and make money by gathering attention-attracting speakers to attract targeted attendees and paying sponsors;
  • Presenters increase their influence and build their reputation to attract new leads and, depending on the situation, get paid; and
  • Attendees expect to learn about new trends, build their networks, and find new suppliers.

Whether you’re giving a speech, presenting a case study, engaged in a panel discussion, or a combination of these options, use these tactics to create a memorable presentation. As a result, conference planners will want you to talk at their events and companies.

Presentation Proposals: How To Get On Track to Success

Presentation success consists of more than stepping onto the stage either live or virtual. So follow each of the steps outlined to get the most out of each speaking opportunity.

Since many conferences ask speakers to submit proposals, presentation success depends on aligning your session description with the organization’s goals and your expertise. Otherwise, attendees feel you didn’t deliver on your promise.

To succeed, pay attention to these initial presentation activities.

1. Select a presentation topic that excites you

If you feel excited, your audience will pick up your enthusiasm. So understand what the conference is about and how your presentation fits into their overall program.

Realize some event pigeon-hole speakers into specific topics. If this doesn’t fit with your expertise or goals, turn the opportunity down.

2. Create an attention getting title and/or tag line

Make your title sexy to lure people in.
As David Olgivy famously said, “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.”

For example, on July 6, 2010, The Influencer Project presented 60 speakers in 60 minutes. Note the repeated use of the number 6! Its tagline was “World’s shortest marketing conference ever”. How will anyone be able to beat that?

Actionable Presentation Marketing Tip

  • Check session titles from past events to understand what the audience seeks.

3. Write the presentation brief

Create a short description about your presentation aligned with the event’s objectives and your business goals. Give your audience red meat information they seek, not buzzwords.

Don’t write a brief just to get selected! While you may gain a coveted speaking slot, you’ll wind up spending more precious time researching and putting it together.

Actionable Presentation Marketing Tips

  • Offer 3 key takeaways attendees will find useful. Make these take-aways tangible. Worksheets and checklists work well.
  • Check your final talk against what you promised to deliver in your presentation as well as what’s published on the event’s website. If they differ significantly, contact the event team to clarify what’s expected.
  • Outline your talk. While these ideas are fresh in your mind, create the outline and related notes for your presentation. Where appropriate use charts and illustrations. BUT don’t recycle past talks you’ve given.

4. Draft your bio relevant to the event

Strategically use this space to promote your authority and ensure it’s aligned with the theme of the conference. Keep it short and relevant.

Too much information communicates that you don’t have much experience.

Also include your photograph and relevant social media handles.

5. Check the dates and location to make sure you’re available

Also, make any related travel and hotel arrangements. Allow a cushion of time to ensure you can arrive on time.

How Do You Create A Memorable And Effective Presentation?

Want to create quality content for a successful presentation? Then follow these steps.

1. Know your audience and focus on their needs

Before developing your presentation, understand the information attendees seek from you.

Your talk must be relevant to their business

While it may be the same strategies and tactics as you’ve presented before, update the language, reference charts and case studies to tailor it to meet their needs.

Also know who your audience will be, why they’re attending the event, and what their pain points are. To succeed, focus your presentation on communicating information, not promotion.

If you don’t know who the attendees will be, talk with the show planners.

Marketing Mary Persona

Sample of a marketing persona via Hubspot

2. Put red meat information into your presentation content

Without divulging confidential data or results, provide real value to your audience. This means useful advice they can take back to their office and implement. If your presentation also entertains them, that’s a bonus.

Include these elements attendees like:

  • Data trends and charts but make sure to spotlight the key take-away visually;
    Your brnd must serve a higher purpose
  • Offer how-to’s, tactics and tips attendees can easily put into action;
    Presentation success: Example of offer how-to advice
  • Integrate stories into your presentation. Stories enhance the value of your presentation because they put your information in context so attendees remember it. Also, they help your talk hold your audience’s attention as Chip and Dan Heath point out in their book, Made To Stick.
    Made to stick success model
  • Provide real life case studies to support your key points.

Ground your content in who you are and give it wings to be dispersed. —Ann Handley of MarketingProfsClick To Tweet


Where appropriate, footnote the source of any images and data that isn’t yours. You don’t want to get attacked by the IP trolls.

Focus on audience needs. Organize your points so they make sense and are easy-to-grasp. Ensure your presentation storyline is clear to your audience. Does the structure of the talk make sense?

Actionable Presentation Marketing Tips

  • Use the conference’s presentation format. If it doesn’t work for your talk, only use the first slide and any must-have information. Personally, I find pre-formatted presentation slides difficult to modify to meet my needs.
  • Develop the easy parts first. Build the easy slides first and fill placeholders later. If you use information from another presentation, change it to make it feel fresh to people who may have seen it the first time.
  • Create slides easy-to-consume with images and examples. Translation: Provide enough text to convey your message. But don’t make your talk unnecessary.
  • Add your business’s branding to your presentation. Use colors, typeface and other elements to represent your business. While many conferences prove a template, at least add your company name or hashtag and your Twitter handle.
  • Insert the conference hashtag and Twitter handle to ensure your content is findable on social media. Also add your own Twitter handle.

3. Edit and Improve Presentation Content

Face it–No one’s first draft is ready for prime time.

Further, your audience can tell when you wake up hungover from the previous night’s parties and are winging it. So the audience will express their disappointment in their session reviews.

Streamline your talk to make your main bullet points standout by:

  • Using charts and/or images instead of text wherever possible. This forces your audience to listen to you speak.
  • Avoiding the use of tiny types. Keep the text large enough with enough contrast to be read from the back of the room. Use a minimum of 24 point typeface. Your slides need to be readable from the back of the room;
  • Editing and shortening commentary to as few words as possible; and
  • Only making one point per slide or viewers’ eyes glaze over from too much text. Alternatively, create a build slide where you add one new point at a time. So one slide becomes 3 slides.

Presenttion Success: example of Build Slide

Simplify your message to meet time constraints. During The Influencer Project, speakers only had sixty seconds to talk.

Only present a few concise ideas and edit them into memorable sound bites.

Also check facts, grammar and spelling. Then eliminate redundant points and slides.

Stop talking about yourself and provide valuable information. —David Meerman Scott – Author of The New Rules of Marketing & PRClick To Tweet


Actionable Presentation Marketing Tips

  • Edit your slides. Check for copyediting, data reliability and timing.
  • Encourage social media sharing. Make them stand out and readable. Also, create pre-formed tweets with shortened URLs.
  • Schedule tweets of your presentation content during your presentation. This helps others to share your information to a broader audience.

How Do You Prepare For Presentation Success?

Your presentation success depends on what you do before you get to the stage.

You only have one chance to make a good first impression; don’t mess it up!

Invest the time in preparing your presentation properly. Be professional and confident to show to your audience that you respect their attention and time. Don’t advertise your business in your presentation.

To this end, practice giving your presentation aloud and timing yourself. This doesn’t mean reading through your slides an hour before you need to go on stage!

Block out your presentation like an actor prepares. Don’t hang onto the podium for dear life! Rather make full use of the stage area. Where possible check out the room before your presentation so you can make any necessary changes to adapt to the space.

Use your slides as a secondary source to illustrate your points. Plan what you want to say for each slide but, they aren’t the focus, you are.Take Tamsen Webster’s advice, your actual presentation will take about 5 to 10% longer.

Plan what you’ll wear when you present. Wear comfortable clothes and shoes so you feel good. This is where clothes make the (wo)man. At Content Marketing World, I substituted my leather biker jacket for my conventional suit to be in line with their rock and roll theme.

Bring your own technology and a backup of your presentation on a thumb drive, even if you sent a copy in advance. Don’t assume that your host will have the appropriate dongles and clickers. At a recent closing keynote, my husband had to act as my clicker to move the slides since I forgot mine and the host only had one for a PC.

Actionable Presentation Marketing Tips

  • Be prepared to adapt to the actual conditions. While no one plans to have problems, real life conditions may have factors beyond your control. So consider how you’ll respond to hurdles while you’re giving your talk.
  • Check your slides to ensure accuracy. Make sure images project in the appropriate dimensions and don’t stretch and look funny. Also proof text and double check data points.
  • Eliminate slides that provide redundant information. Or your audience may think that your presentation isn’t worth their time.

How Do You Make Your Presentation Memorable To Build Relationships?

Your audience is there to gather your unique nuggets of information!

To that end, keep housekeeping brief and set expectations for audience participation.

Where possible, get permission to see the room where you’ll be presenting. Get the lay of the presentation stage. If possible, check out the venue and stage the day before.

Arrive early for your presentation since event organizers may need to switch around talks at the last minute. Allow time in case of traffic or other delays.

Watch the presentation before yours. This allows you to get a feel for the audience and to reference other information in your talk. See how they use the platform.

Actionable Presentation Marketing Tips

  • Limit level setting questions. But it’s better to learn this information from your host in advance so you can start your talk as soon as possible. While it helps you get a feel for the audience, don’t let these questions take over for your presentation or people will start tweeting about how bad the talk is.
  • Create a special offer at the end of your presentation. Give your audience another piece of content or other useful reference.
  • Share your presentation.While I appreciate your desire to maintain control over your content, the reality is with smartphones and tablets attendees will take images of anything they want to remember. Of course, make sure the show doesn’t keep your presentation behind a password protected site.

How To Extend The Presentation Connection Post-conference

At a minimum, set audience expectations about post-conference engagement. If you want people to follow up with you, use your last slide to share your contact information and any other goodies you want to offer.

Where possible, your goal is to engage with your audience in-person and extend these relationships online.

For example, I use a QR code so attendees can snap a quick photo. I give them related information to my presentation, my contact information and a request to sign up for my AMG Newsletter with a one step embedded form.

Heidi Cohen’s last page to encourage attendees to follow up

Where appropriate and with permission of your host, if necessary:
Transform your presentation into other formats to distribute your content more broadly.

► Presentation Success Case Study: Content Marketing World

At Content Marketing World 2013 in Cleveland, I presented a session, titled, “21 Tips & Tricks Guaranteed To Make Your Content Marketing More Effective In 45 Minutes.”

As Joe Pulizzi of The Tilt says “Create content that stands for something and is inspirational.”Click To Tweet


How Did I Create Presentation Success?

I made my presentation work within the conference’s constraints to attract and keep attendees interested by:

  • Selecting a session title to grab attendees’ attention at a time when lots of other competing options.
  • Using the content marketing cycle to structure my talk and give it a story. I incorporated music related images in line with the conference’s rock and roll theme. I filled in points where needed to create a natural story flow.
  • Added examples and data points. (These were some of the most tweeted parts of my presentation.) Each slide referenced the data points and photo credits.
  • Used different looking section slides to tell where I was in the talk. This helped me to stay on track in terms of time.
  • Made the presentation social media-friendly. Beyond including the event hashtag and my Twitter handle, I set up a series of presentation related tweets. Also, I let my followers know about the presentation so they could anticipate the added activity.
  • Created related content based on my presentation.
  • Sent a post-event follow up email to attendees who gave me their business cards. Don’t mail an entire conference’s list even if they do it for you. Since people get pissed when you fill their email inbox with information they didn’t request.

How To Assure Panel Presentation Success

Whether you present as part of a panel, make sure everyone meets beforehand to prepare their remarks and how to convey a consistent story.

As with any other type of presentation, don’t just wing it!

Have a panel coordinator to ensure panel members understand their role and plan what they will say. Don’t waste your precious mike time telling everyone about your background. They can look you up on LinkedIn if they’re interested.

Ideally host a practice run-through in the actual space. This allows panel members to get a feel for each other and to check for any potential duplication. Also use this time to deepen your relationships with the other panelists since they’re also influencers.

Limit the length of your response to allow others to talk. Don’t hog the mike. If you’re part of a group, don’t feel compelled to answer every question. Let one person answer each point to cover more material.

► Presentation Case Study: The Influencer Project

Provide a flawless experience for the audience. As an audio only conference, The Influencer Project moved seamlessly from speaker to speaker with two short non-intrusive sponsor sound bites. Billed as the world’s shortest marketing conference ever, The Influencer Project presented 60 social media experts in 60 minutes on July 6, 2010.

The Audio-Only 2010 Influencer Project highlighted how to get your marketing heard (aka: voice marketing). At the time, bandwidth wasn’t strong enough to allow a video version of this event.

The spoken word forces listeners to focus on what they hear to get the more vivid context of voice. Click To Tweet


Give attendees value in exchange for registering, participating and sharing your content. The Influence Project made the event a win for everyone:

  • Participants attended for free to get useful business advice;
  • Speakers gained additional credibility and authority;
  • Sponsors received target audience visibility for their financial support; and
  • The Influence Project garnered attention and built a house file.

Presentation Success Conclusion

In today’s content saturated environment, presenters must always gather information, organize it to add value, and share your expertise with others. In the process, be transparent and let others know the results of your initiatives so the collective whole benefits from your actions. As a result, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Before you present at your next conference take a few minutes and think about your goals for the event and how you plan to achieve them. Consider how you can use this opportunity to expand your reach.

Presentations are major pieces of content that establish and build your credibility in your field. When done well, they enable you to engage with people either in real time or virtually.

So take the necessary time to create a killer presentation. It takes work to make the talk look easy but it’s well worth the time investment. Maximize your efforts by creating additional content and interacting with your audience.

Editor’s Note:

This article consists of 3 prior articles that were extensively updated and combined into one published on September 30th, 2022.  They include:

  • 17 Steps to Live Presentation Success [Case Study]. Originally published on October 11, 2013, it was significantly updated and revised on September 13, 2021.
  • 5 Keys to Effective Conference Presentations, originally published on September 30, 2010.
  • 5 Marketing Lessons From the Influencer Project, originally published on July 7, 2010.

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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Microphone and seats: https://pixabay.com/photos/microphone-it-lecture-entry-sound-2775447/ cc zero
People listening to talk: https://www.pexels.com/photo/people-sitting-on-gang-chairs-2774556/ cc zero
Heidi Cohen at Content Marketing World 2013: Courtesy of Paul Roetzer


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