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Five sure-fire ways to send an audience to sleep

September 25, 2014 by Richard Edwards

Five sure-fire ways to send an audience to sleep{{}}We’ve all been there — politely sitting through a number of conference presentations mentally compiling shopping lists or daydreaming about the summer holidays instead of actually listening. The topic sounded interesting, and the content is undoubtedly useful, but the presentation itself is making it increasingly hard to keep your eyes open.

So as a presenter, how do you avoid sending your audience to sleep? I have analysed hundreds of presentations and I think there are five key presentation “sins” you need to avoid:

Too much text

You are doing the talking — that’s what the audience should focus on, not the text on the slides. If you add lots of text then you are effectively giving your audience a choice: listen to me or read the slide.

Two or three key pieces of information per slide should be your maximum. Also try to put the most important points at the top of the slide — they will be most remembered and are more visible to people sitting at the back.

Messy media

The great thing about presentations is that you can include pictures, sounds, and video to support your speech. However, lots of mixed styles, tacky clipart, pointless animations and incongruous sounds can actually detract from what you are saying, rather than support it.

Keeping your media consistent will add a level of professionalism to your presentation as well as keeping your audience focused.

No end in sight

The best presentations give audience an overview of what you will be talking about and tell them the order in which you will cover each point. Steve Jobs, arguably one of the best presenters of our time, said that you should only ever focus on the three most important pieces of information the audience needs to know:

  • What is it we are talking about?
  • Why is it relevant and important to me?
  • How will it change my life? (ie demonstrating a practical application).

Keep this “rule of three” in mind when you are preparing your presentation and it will keep you focused and your audience engaged.

You know your speech, not your subject

The truly magical thing about anything live, whether it be a presentation, a comedy show or a concert, is the uniqueness of the experience. But this is only true if you speak naturally, letting your personality shine through. If you simply parrot a rehearsed speech then you may as well have pre-recorded it.

You must know your topic inside out so you can respond to questions naturally and without panicking. It also allows you to speak with your own style, and ultimately, that is what makes a great presentation great.

You always fill the silence

There seems to be an assumption that a presentation should contain no silence. However, silence can actually enhance what you are saying. By taking pauses, the audience can stop and think about what you have just said, taking in the content on the slide and absorbing the message. As the experts say: “Pause ‘till it hurts”.

I am not suggesting that presentations are easy — far from it. But by focusing more on what you will say and how you will say it than what your slides will look like, you will end up with a presentation that is interesting, engaging and memorable.

The quickest way to send an audience to sleep is simply to dig out your old PowerPoint template file and update it with tons of new text, a smattering of stock imagery and then talking over it.

My key piece of advice? Ditch the PowerPoint altogether.

Copyright © 2014 Richard Edwards, director of event and customer experience specialist Quatreus. 

How to add value to your content marketing

September 24, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

How to add value to your content marketing{{}}If you want to get serious about content marketing for brand awareness, it’s time to take off your sales hat. Unlike traditional, revenue-driven advertising, content marketing focuses on creating value-added material; the goal is to establish a voice of authority in the industry, to increase brand awareness, and, eventually, build your customer base.

In short, when you’re thinking about content marketing for brand awareness, make sure you’re focusing on what matters: adding value, not selling your stuff.

Content marketing shouldn’t wax lyrical about a new feature or must-have purchase. It must celebrate the individuality of your company and engage consumers by revealing your personality.

Here are some of the most effective ways to get your branded content marketing off the ground:

1. Create a content strategy

The ultimate goal of branded content marketing is to help you attract your target audience and build a brand by clarifying what’s special about your business. For this reason, it’s important to have a clearly articulated content strategy, which tells the cohesive story of your brand.

Before embarking on a campaign, take the time to consider what story you want to tell, and make sure that all your content has a clear focus, in line with your business objectives.

2. Send newsletters

Regular email newsletters remain one of the most important ways to keep your customers updated and engaged. Again, focus on the content aspect of your newsletter. It should not just be a place to tout your latest product or promote a discount. Carefully-curated content, with little or no mention of the brand, re-affirms the perception of your brand as a credible voice of authority.

3. Build a branded blog

Research shows that 79% of marketers who blog reported a positive return on their investment. Content-driven blogs are one of the best ways to establish your voice as an authority in your field, and they are a vital piece of the content marketing puzzle. They are also one of the easiest strategies to get off the ground. Ideally, your blog should be the go-to place online for your target audience to find out more about your area of expertise and to learn more about your brand.

4. Engage your professional community

It’s important to remember that you are a small fish in a very, very big pond. Rather than swimming alone, think about ways to engage others in your community. Consider participating in online industry forums where you can establish yourself as a problem-solver and thought leader. Create tutorials, “how-to” articles, or Q&A whitepapers, and offer these resources for free.

5. Think viral

While it’s essential to ensure the content is in keeping with your brand’s message, the most frequently shared content is fun, dynamic, and playful; so even if your brand is quite serious, play with the human element and show you can have fun with your community.

Copyright © 2014 Miko Levy, VP, Customer Acquisition, Outbrain.

What’s the best location for your exhibition stand?

September 22, 2014 by Richard Edwards

What’s the best location for your exhibition stand?{{}}If you want to get the most form your exhibition stand then you need to choose the right location and layout.

1. Get a floor plan

If possible, it is a good idea to gather any previous years’ floor plans for the exhibition. You can then identify patterns, such as certain industries grouping together, or recurring refreshment areas that will help to guarantee heavy footfall.

2. Side, corner or island?

Each of these locations has benefits and drawbacks. Most stands at an exhibition are at the sides, making it easy to design a reusable stand for this space. However, this position can make it more difficult to get noticed as other stands will inevitably block the view. Corner spaces can help deliver a greater footfall to your exhibition stand. Island stands can be very effective in delivering footfall. However, you will need to anticipate the main entry point so you can angle branding and other features to greet new visitors.

3. Neighbours

Your neighbours will have an impact on you. If all of your neighbours are from the same industry this might detract from your stand, overwhelm visitors and create “industry swamp”. Being near an industry leader can help attract people to visit your stand though. Being near a complementary stand can also have benefits as you can both refer visitors to each other’s stands.

4. Your own space

If you have multiple arms to your business, it could be worth allocating each division its own exhibition space in different areas of the exhibition. This can create greater brand awareness. In addition, by separating the different arms of your business you can position each in locations that will attract the most relevant footfall.

5. Don’t limit your creativity

What are your stand’s limitations — position, power supply, height and floor space? The only way to stand out is to get creative within these limitations — not to limit your creativity.

When BT came to us for an exhibition stand that could fit within a very tight floor space and with limited power supply, we looked at what could be used in the design — height and soft light. We designed and built a canopy of stretched material, which refracted low-wattage lighting to create a spectacular result visible all the way from the exhibition entrance.

The key is planning. Think about what you want to achieve and who you want to attract. Above all, design around your limitations — don’t give in to them.

Copyright © 2014 Richard Edwards, director, Quatreus.

How to create a marketing plan that pays for itself

September 18, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

How to create a marketing plan that pays for itself{{}}Do you believe the following?

  1. Marketing is a big cost.
  2. We should market to as many people as we possibly can.
  3. We should “get our name out there”.

If you answered yes to these, then it could be that your mind-set is preventing you from effectively marketing your business.

The fact is that you can create an unlimited marketing budget— or a marketing plan that pays for itself — in seven steps. Here’s how:

1. Set measurable marketing objectives

Put a number to it and get as specific as you can about the who, where, what and how.

2. Tightly define your "who"

You don’t need to figure out your target market but rather your target person. Who is the ideal person for you to sell your product to? What does this person like? What are the common problems this person faces? How does this person communicate?

3. Define how you'll solve their problems

You need to step inside your ideal target person's shoes and figure out what their problem is. To help you do this, draw a large box and divide it into four quadrants:

  • Immediate away — their frustrations
  • Immediate towards — their wants
  • Imagined away — their fears
  • Imagined towards — their aspirations

Fill in each box with at least three problems per quadrant.

4. Work out the acquisition costs

Calculate your allowable budget to acquire a client. You do this by taking the price that you're selling your product for and deducting the variable costs involved in producing it. That gross profit then becomes the absolute maximum that you could spend in acquiring your customer.

5. Choose your channel, offer and cost

Your primary focus needs to be on brand activation — every piece of marketing you do should have a clear call to action (CTA) with a strong reason. Now decide how much you're spending and what channel you're using. Use your allowable acquisition costs and compare it to the actual acquisition costs (the conversion rate of that channel).

6. Measure the return on your marketing investment

Measure the actual return from your marketing investment on each channel and campaign. Importantly, find out what the final net position is. Is it positive? If so, then do it again and again and again. You have just created an unlimited marketing budget.

7. Automate your unlimited budget spend

Now that you have found a strategy that works, it's time to systemise it. Use automation tools and train your team so they can maintain the process with minimal input from you.

Copyright © 2014 Shweta Jhajharia, principal coach and founder of The London Coaching Group.

The hidden benefits of networking

September 16, 2014 by Marc Duke

The hidden benefits of networking{{}}The internet is full of “how to” articles on networking, with many tales of success as well as examples of cringe-worthy failures. There are networking tips for intraverts and for extroverts, advice on speed networking and online networking, meet-up groups, referral networks and much more.

Frankly, as a small business, the options can be bewildering. I work in the B2B start-up sector and I could easily spend morning, noon and night networking. But what about what the return on time spent networking?

At its simplest level, either networking generates business or it doesn't. However, there are some hidden benefits that can be easily overlooked and may well change your approach to it. These include:

Goodwill. I am a firm believer that if you help others two things happen. Firstly, those you help will be inclined to help you when you ask. Secondly, although the positive feeling gained by helping others can't be measured, if you work on your own or as part of a small firm this goodwill can sustain you when times get tough.

Human interaction. Business is done between people and there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. Networking gives you the chance to see the whites of someone's eyes and decide if they are a person you wish to work with or buy from. The value of that should not be overlooked.

Knowing someone who can. When you run your own business, the chances are that you have to do tasks yourself or they won't get done. One of the great bonuses of networking is that you build a network of people that you can turn to when you need help. Knowing the right people means you get things done faster and better than when you're starting from scratch.

Validation. When you work on your own it's not always easy to know if you’re on the right path. Having a network of people that you can bounce ideas off means you can save yourself a lot of time, trouble and money. Naturally, you may not want to share your plans with a potential competitor. However, speaking to another small business owner in a different field can help as you often find that a lot of the issues you face are similar.

These benefits may be hard to quantify compared to the hard metric of business generated but they are still absolutely relevant and valuable to any small business owner that wants to build a supportive network.

Copyright © 2014 Marc Duke, marketing consultant and founder of Marc Duke Consulting.

How to make your exhibition a strategic success

September 15, 2014 by Marketing Donut contributor

How to make your exhibition a strategic success{{}}Exhibitions are hard work but done well, they can deliver substantial rewards. Here are seven ways to help you maximise your return on investment:

1. Brief your team

The people you choose to represent you on your stand are of paramount importance. Never let anyone turn up to your stand that doesn’t know why they’re there and what their specific role is. It doesn’t have to be complicated — give them key points about your products and services and guidance on the best way to approach visitors.

2. Set targets

Your exhibition targets can be anything from the number of leads scanned to orders processed. It is only by setting objectives that you can measure the success of your strategy.

3. Choose the right space and make the most of it

Exhibit in a space that is relevant for your both your budget and audience, then maximise it. Use graphics to grab attention, lighting to enhance product displays and (perhaps most importantly) don’t overcrowd the stand with your own employees.

Stands often blend into a sea of printed graphics, white vinyl and displays. Demonstrate that you value the environment — while standing out from the crowd — by using natural materials on your stand.

4. Engage your audience

When it comes to attracting visitors, it pays to think outside the box. Games, seating areas, food and drink and innovative spaces can offer visitors a welcome retreat from other exhibitors — giving you the chance to strike up a conversation in a relaxed setting.

However, visitors can be wary of stopping at exhibition stands for fear of being stuck with a salesperson who won’t let them escape. Ask questions and listen before you speak.

5. Promotional items

Everyone loves a good give-away. But most end up in the bin or with the children of visitors. Give them something they’ll want to keep and use time and time again.

6. Check your information

Always check your literature! You’d be surprised just how often old brochures are taken to shows full of out-of-date or even irrelevant information. If you can, produce something bespoke for the event.

7. Follow up

Follow up those who’ve been keen enough to hand over their details. If they ask for information, send it as soon as you possibly can. Don’t give up, even if you don’t hear back after the first, second, third or the fourth time of following up — 80% of prospects say "no" four times before they say "yes”.

Copyright 2014 Chris Bardsley, marketing executive at Unibox.

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