How To Create A Killer Presentation Every Time

17 Steps to Live Presentation Success [Case Study]

speaker podium Have you ever noticed how certain speakers always give a great presentation regardless of what they’re talking about while others just read their slide deck, changing a few words to make it appear relevant?

In the pre-powerpoint presentation days I was at a industry conference listening to a top rated, bestselling author present. As he paced back and forth rarely looking at the audience, he dropped the organization’s name into the speech at pre-determined spots as if his talk was Mad Lib. I sat wondering how many times he had given the same tired speech.

While presentation tools have improved, the bottom line is that you’re the presentation. You need to impart knowledge your audience can grasp within your time frame and leave them feeling they’ve gained a few actionable things they can accomplish based on your talk.

Remember as a form of content marketing, your talk should be a promotion-free zone. It’s goal is to help establish you as an area expert. Here’s a 10-step plan to help you create a basic live presentation and 7 tips on making that presentation a success.

10 steps to create the basic live presentation

  1. Determine the presentation topic. Understand what the conference or meeting is about and how your presentation fits into the whole. This includes knowing who your audience will be, why they’re attending the event, and what their pain points are.  Remember a presentation is a communication, it’s not an opportunity to promote your company.
  2. Write the presentation brief. Create a short description of the presentation. Include a sexy title to lure people in and 3 benefits or take-aways. Skip the buzzwords. Give your audience the red meat information they’re seeking.
  3. Outline your talk. Granted we’re all creatures of habit who love to put off doing things until the deadline is upon us, but outline your talk while these conversations and ideas are fresh in your mind. This way you can jot down your thoughts and put some initial organization around them while the topic’s still fresh.
  4. Develop the easy parts first. Don’t force yourself to do slide 4 after slide 3. Instead build the slides that are easiest first and put placeholders where appropriate. If you’re using information from an existing presentation, at a minimum, change the visual image to make it feel fresh.
  5. Fill in the blanks. Go back to create content for the empty slides. Since this requires additional thought and creative time, use this opportunity to develop other content such as blog post.
  6. Build your presentation story. Your presentation must hold together as one entity, not a group of unrelated slides. Stories further enhance the value of your presentation because they put your information in context.
  7. Edit your presentation in line with the story line. This is where you ensure that your story line makes sense and eliminate redundant pieces of your presentation. Aim to make your content tighter.
  8. Go through the presentation with someone else. It can be your spouse or a colleague who has your permission to tell you there’s issue that needs to be addressed. Check for copyediting, data reliability and timing. Think in terms of what you plan to say with each slide. Remember that you don’t need to say the words on the slide. Slides are there to enhance your presentation. They aren’t the focus, you are.
  9. Give your presentation a last edit. Check grammar and other design issues. Does the presentation hold together as a consistent whole?
  10. Practice your talk. While no one plans on having problems, there are always things beyond your control. Often, they’re technology based. You need to keep going and make the best of it because as they say, the show must go on. Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income turned a potential disaster into a major win at Blog World Expo. (Note: This is why I don’t use videos or show the Internet live in my talks.)

7 Tips to Improve Your Presentation’s Appeal

To get your presentation to the next level, here are 7 actionable presentation tips:

  1. Make your slides easy-to-consume. This means providing enough text so that they convey your message but don’t make your talk unnecessary. Keep the text large enough to be seen from the back of the room and provide enough contrast so that everyone can read them. Use a minimum of 24 point type (except for credits and sources.)
  2. Integrate your branding into your presentation. Use colors, typeface and other elements such as visuals that represent your business. This isn’t always possible because many conferences require you use their template.
  3. Dress for the occasion. 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. I was surprised at how empowering it felt.
  4. Make your presentation tweet-friendly. Incorporate the show’s hashtag and your Twitter handle. Place them so that they stand out and are readable. Create tweetable phrases with shortened URLs to facilitate sharing. When presenting at an event that encourages tweeting, schedule relevant tweets in advance using the show’s hashtag.
  5. Use a couple of level setting questions. This helps you get an idea of who is in the room so that you can select examples that are most relevant. It also helps you get a feel for the audience. Of course, you don’t want to let these questions take over for your presentation or people will start tweeting about how bad the talk is.
  6. Create a special offer at the end of your presentation. Give your audience another piece of content or other useful reference. Even better is if you can give away a book or small gift to get people involved.
  7. Share your presentation. While I appreciate the desire to maintain control over your content, the reality is with smartphones and tablets attendees will take images of anything they want to remember. So why not maximize the reach? To this end, make sure that the show doesn’t want to keep your presentation behind a password protected site.

Mini Case Study: Content Marketing World Presentation

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.” Heidi Cohen speaking at CMS 2013

  • Title: I picked the title to grab attendees’ interest during a period where there were a lot of options competing for their time.
  • Outline: I used the basic content marketing cycle as the basis for my structure and filled in the points where appropriate. This helped create a natural story flow. I also included a basic agenda slide to help guide attendees.
  • Slide development. Since I was allocated 45 minutes, I had roughly 2 minutes per slide. I maximized my presentation by incorporating a music related image in line with the rock and roll theme of the show and an example or two. I aimed for a mix of examples since I expected the audience to be a combination of B2C, B2B, not-for-profit and solopreneurs. Where appropriate, I added research and data points. (These wound up being some of the most tweeted parts of my presentation.) I always referenced data points and photo credits. Additionally, where relevant I included links to other articles.
  • Story. I used the content marketing cycle as a structure for my talk. I incorporated section slides that I gave a different look so I could tell where I was in the talk.  Content Marketing Cycle Chart- Heidi Cohen
  • Social media friendly. In addition to adding the hashtag and my Twitter handle, I set up a series of tweets related to my talk. I also let my followers know that I was presenting so that they wouldn’t be surprised by the activity in my stream.
  • Other content creation. Based on my presentation, I wrote a few blog posts including the one incorporating the 21 tips and tricks.
  • Special offer. In line with Content Marketing World’s orange theme, I gave away an orange cowl. The room monitor collected everyone’s card and drew one at random.
  • Sent a post-event emailing. To thank my audience, I sent a post event emailing.

Presentations are a major piece of content that build your credibility in your field and enable you to engage with people in real time. Maximize your efforts by creating additional content and interacting with your audience.

Take the time to create a killer presentation. It takes work to make it look easy but it’s well worth it.

What other tips would you add to this list and why? 

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies. You can find Heidi on , Facebook and .

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Photo Credit:  Podium:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/nirak/6071515104/
Photo of Heidi Cohen at Content Marketing World 2013: Paul Roetzer of PR 20/20

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  • Jenai

    I would definitely agree, I do believe that all of this information would be very helpful in preparing a presentation. I have put together presentations before and I must say that I have put in the time to make it nice and worth while, but I have never thought about me being the presentation and the slides just being a supportive piece. I will admit that during presenting I have fell back on relying on the slides to carry me through rather than the me carry the slides through. I feel this was a great sentence that totally changes the outlook I have had on presenting. One thing I would add is where to channel the extra energy that nerves may bring, I understand that this blog was focusing more on the facts and “content” that goes into the presentation and the prep work behind it, but if YOU are now the presenter than there must be some rules or guidelines that help you through what you are supposed to do. For me, presenting is terrifying no matter how prepared I am. I have read that if you are able to channel the extra energy and nerves brought on through the stress of presenting you will look more relaxed and confident. One thing I do to relax my nerves if curl my toes within my shoes. This is something no one can see and I have found it very helpful.
    I very much enjoyed reading this post. Thank you.