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Presentation software has advanced to the point where you no longer need to be an experienced designer to put together a compelling piece of collateral that sells your message in exactly the right way. With the right materials, the right presentation software and a little bit of time, you can visualize any data that you have in the form of a terrific presentation that sells your larger idea better than numbers alone ever could.

However, this does not mean there aren’t few things you need to keep in mind. As both a marketing tool and a way to convey information, presentations are great because they’re malleable – the format can essentially be anything you need it to be at any given time. The flip side of this, however, is that there are certain traps that are all too easy for even pros to fall into that will harm your ultimate message, not help it.

If you really want to learn how to make professional presentations and you want to put your best foot forward as you send your collateral out into the world, there are a number of mistakes that you will do well to avoid at all costs.

Mistakes to Avoid

In the past, we’ve written about the fact that the role of a marketer is primarily that of a storyteller. Whether you’re communicating the story behind your brand, behind the road to release a particular product or service or even just all the ways that your company has been involved in your community, you’re still doing exactly that: telling a story.

Presentations are absolutely no different. Every story has a beginning, middle and end and you need to make sure that the content in your presentation is arranged for proper narrative flow.

Think of it like a piece of music. A piece of music might start out slow, then crescendo and build into something more powerful before hitting you with a “grand finale” and tapering off again.

In many ways, your presentation will operate on exactly the same ideas. To that end, remember that you MUST make sure information is presented not only in the right way but in the right order to complement intent and maximize impact.

If you have three subtopics within a presentation, all of which are related but are still different ideas, don’t mix and match content. Tackle one, then move onto the second, then the third, then bring it all home and show how they’re all related. Don’t jump from one to the other and back again – you’re only going to lose focus and, as a result, the attention of your reader.

Also never forget the most important rule of storytelling – find the spine and never lose focus. If you start building out your presentation and realize that you’re actually kind of covering two distinct and different topics, don’t be afraid to break one presentation into two. You’ll be able to devote more attention to selling each idea and you’ll walk away with two great pieces of marketing collateral instead of one “okay” one.

Pace, Pace, Pace

Another element of your presentation that you’ll want to pay extremely close attention to is length. This goes back to another one of the old rules of storytelling: “whatever you do, don’t overstay your welcome.”

While it’s true that presentations are naturally designed to be longer form than something like an Infographic, it’s important to recognize when you’re asking too much of your reader/viewer. Again: a presentation isn’t just a visualized form of something like a white paper. It’s a unique medium all unto itself.

When you start building your presentation for the first time, feel free to include as many slides or as much information as you want. But also don’t forget that there are three versions of your presentation that will exist – the initial outline, the “first draft” of the presentation and the heavily edited version that you release.

Only include as much information as you need to sell a particular idea and not a bit more. If you have five slides devoted to a particular sub-topic, try to get that down to three or less. Go through your presentation from start to finish and really try to experience it with fresh eyes – the same way your targets will.

Does it feel like the end of your presentation is getting a little sluggish? Does it really feel like it should be over, but there are about ten slides to go? Be cutthroat in your editing process – rest assured that you’ll thank yourself when the end result is much more powerful than it would be if it had remained bloated.

The Power of Presentations

In many ways, presentations are like the natural evolution of visual marketing by its very nature. In one single experience you can have text, images, video and more. When you consider that most consumers are up to 85% more likely to buy a product or service after watching a video, including video content inside the body of your presentations suddenly looks like a very, very good idea.

But at the same time, you need to resist the urge to fall into certain traps that are all too easy when dealing with a medium this malleable. The central message you’re trying to convey – the thesis, if you will – needs to be strong enough to justify the creation of a presentation in the first place.

It needs to be a big enough topic to warrant a lengthy experience and a compelling enough story that demands to be told in this particular format above all others. If you start from that simple foundation and build outward, you’ll be left with the best type of marketing tool – one that does your selling for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week that people can’t wait to share with their friends, family members and colleagues.

Payman Taei is the founder of Visme, an easy-to-use online tool to create engaging presentations, infographics, and other forms of visual content. He is also the founder of HindSite Interactive, an award-winning Maryland based digital agency specializing in website design, user experience and web app development.

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