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5 ways to turn company slide decks into marketing weapons

Heidi Jackman
5 ways to turn company slide decks into marketing weapons Heidi Jackman

Every marketer creates company presentations on a regular basis, but do you see slides as a chance to boost branding, drive customer engagement, and increase sales? More likely, you think creating presentations is a chore. Yet when done right, slide decks can be the ultimate weapon in your marketing arsenal.

Whether you're developing a presentation for your worldwide sales team, putting together a few slides for your CEO's upcoming presentation at a conference, or presenting a new messaging framework to the company, a set of engaging, brand-consistent slides is one of the strongest assets you have to build your business and boost revenues.

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As ever, your slides should be engaging and exciting; boring slides will dampen, even damage, customer interest in your brand. Thankfully for those of us on the hook to create slide presentations, there are several web-based applications available that allow you to incorporate rich media, social features, real-time feeds, video and photos, and other interactive elements into slide decks. The trick is to make presentations interactive using social features so you can invite audience feedback before, during, and after you deliver your message. Social presentations allow you to engage your potential customers in a conversation instead of boring them into a coma. The result is deeper brand engagement -- now and over the long term.

What's more, in today's share-everything, web-based world, ensuring that every slide deck you create presents a unified message is crucial to maintaining brand integrity. Your slides might get shared far and wide, so make sure your company message is clear, concise, and consistent.

Here are five tips to make your marketing presentations more social, engaging, and interactive:

Set the real (or virtual) stage
You might be creating a slide presentation to deliver in front of a live audience, or you might simply be creating the deck to distribute to potential customers via email or the web. Either way, start by creating anticipation around your presentation. Reach out to your intended audience using social media channels to get them excited about your presentation. Online community tools like MeetUp  and Ning, as well Twitter hashtags or a dedicated Facebook page, allow you to spread the word about your upcoming presentation. As the creator of the presentation, make sure to participate in these communities by soliciting feedback on your proposed topic and networking with key contacts before your presentation.

Be social-friendly
The days of pushing marketing messages out to your audiences and hoping they notice are long gone; today's marketing world is social, two-way, and based on the constant flow of real-time customer feedback. Likewise, your presentations should leverage social tools to create an interactive dialogue between your brand and potential customers. To make presentations "social friendly," add short sound bites to your slides that your audience can quickly absorb and share with their larger social networks (think 140 characters). Also, include links to Facebook, Twitter, and blog entries that customers or partners have written about your brand. Add widgets from Yahoo or Google that display real-time stock tickers, RSS feeds, and other streamed information. Lastly, don't forget to list personal and/or company social media links prominently at the beginning and end of your presentation. Inviting people to keep your message alive can be very powerful.

Invite feedback
Whether you're delivering the presentation live or sending it to your intended audience to view later, make sure your slides include interactive elements that allow people to provide their feedback and opinions. If you won't be there to deliver the presentation in person, include clickable buttons in your slides that say things like "Click here to share your opinion," as well as urge people to visit your Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms to share their thoughts.

Backchannel basics
Inviting your live audience (and those watching your presentation from afar via the web or participating through other's tweets) to comment in real-time on your presentation via a live Twitter feed is a powerful way to turn your presentation into a two-way conversation. Of course, it can also invite disaster if the audience begins posting negative or inappropriate comments while you are speaking. The way to manage the backchannel is to make sure you can see all comments as they come in, and better yet, incorporate these comments into your presentation. This takes a bit of multitasking, but by addressing feedback directly, you'll avoid the torrential "pile up" of comments that can quickly turn negative. Today, there are tools (like SlideRocket) available to import backchannel comments directly into your presentation, so both you and the audience see them in real-time.

Keep talking
Like any marketing campaign, an interactive presentation is just the start of a longer and deeper conversation with your audience. The social nature of the web today means people who like your presentation will want to comment on it and share it with friends and colleagues. Make sure your presentations include "share this presentation" buttons, and also post the presentation, or parts of it, on the wider social web. You can put the presentation videos on YouTube, post the slides on your company's Facebook page or intranet, and include a link to your online slide presentation in email campaigns, websites, or other marketing materials. By getting your presentation out there, you'll invite continued feedback and build a larger social network of interested customers or employees.

If you think like a marketer when creating slides and make them social and interactive, you're well on your way to attracting new customers and a loyal brand following with every presentation.

Heidi Jackman is CMO of SlideRocket.

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