Lee Odden

20 Plus Tips on How to Optimize Your Presentations & Public Speaking

Optimize Public Speaking PresentationsWhat does it mean to “optimize” your presentations? Keywords in your speech? Including your Twitter handle on all slides? Repurposing the slide content through Slideshare, Flickr, Visual.ly and on blogs? The answer is yes – all of the above. And more.

More marketing and communications pros are getting on board with the idea that public speaking is fuel for content marketing. The problem is, the focus on creation and promotion centers around individual content objects or presentations.

An optimized presentation strategy means having a narrative or story that includes your brand’s key messages and how the live presentation is connected to other content objects.

A live presentation can be connected to other content objects like a research report which might be connected to a series of blog posts which are connected to individual digital assets like images, polls, influencer interviews, infographics, press releases, podcasts and so on. You get the idea.

Wherever it is that your audience is looking for the answers you are qualified to give, presentation content can help you be the “best answer”.

Optimizing your speaking skills or your presentations is a worthwhile endeavor. Think of all the hours that go into researching, creating and preparing for a presentation that lasts only 15-45 minutes. Plus there’s the time it takes to pitch and the time to promote.  It seems a waste not to make sure a presentation is a great experience for all involved.

I’ve given my share of presentations over the past 8 years and have gone from “nervous out of my mind” and blank audience stares to being asked to keynote conferences and paid speaking engagements at Fortune 1,000 companies. Besides those personal benefits, optimized speaking and presentations have been the most efficient, high impact content marketing we’ve ever experienced with our 13 year old agency.

While this post is focused on optimizing presentation reach and performance, the most important lesson is stop selling yourself or your brand, and sell useful information that connects with the audience emotionally and intellectually. Keywords and social media don’t make a great presentation. You do. Once you have a great story, optimization will help elevate the performance of that story and connect with people that are interested.

I know there are many, many subject matter experts and executives at companies that could benefit from optimizing their presentations. Here are a few tips:

Key questions for optimizing public speaking as a content marketing tactic:

1. How does the presentation fit your overall marketing or messaging objective? How does it further your goals?
2. What is the objective of the presentation itself?
3. What is the objective of the audience that will be exposed to the presentation?
4. What is the story? What is the hook? What is the creative angle, metaphor of aesthetic?
(And does that tie back to your overall brand or messaging?)
5. How do you want people to feel after experiencing the presentation? What 2 or 3 key concepts should they associate with you and your brand?

Answering these questions should help you define your approach and how the presentation connects with both brand and audience objectives.

If a presentation isn’t a win for the audience, it isn’t a win for anyone. 

The best investment of your time with presentations is in the planning. Make sure your story is solid before you start hunting for clever full screen images and fonts to use.

The style of presentation should match your objectives. Inspirational presentations should connect emotionally with the audience. Instructional presentations need to provide practical, easy to understand examples.  No matter what type of presentation you give, it needs to be entertaining or you’ll never connect and keep audience attention.

Presentation Deck Optimization Tips: 

Here are a few of the steps I follow when creating optimized presentation decks to improve the presentation experience during the event and boost the search and social exposure afterwards.

  • Create a presentation template that includes a linkable logo, twitter handle and hashtag as appropriate at bottom middle or bottom top. At minimum, include a twitter handle.  
  • Write a creative title for the presentation. Also write a keyword optimized title for use with a blog post.  
  • Create a structured outline of the entire presentation
  • Write a paragraph summary of the presentation. One that is 12 – 25 words, and one that is about 50 words long. Focus on what the viewer will get out of the presentation most. Use these with meta description fields, on Slideshare and as an annotation to the embedded presentation in a blog post. 
  • Make a list of “tags” or keywords that represent key concepts. You’ll use these when promoting the deck online. 
  • Write (tell) the story of your presentation in text like a script. This guides your flow and can be repurposed as blog content before/after the event. 
  • Add images or examples that support the idea of each slide. When it comes to text, KISS. Keep it super simple.
  • Write optimized headlines for each slide (whether viewable or not). This shows up on Slideshare and aids findability. 
  • Cite sources (statistics, quotes, images) Organize these efficiently and you can  more easily use them in an infographic later.
  • Write short descriptions for each slide using the outline and story – put them in the notes of the PPT deck. This will be useful when reposting the deck to Slideshare and related sites. It also reminds you what you’re going to say on that slide. 
  • Include “Tweetable” quotes, statistics throughout the presentation. Check them for length to ensure they are Twitter friendly.
  • Link images to related content on your blog or website. Not useful during the presentation, but plenty useful to viewers online afterwards.
  • Include short URLs in the slides where appropriate for downloads, resources and more information.
  • Identify the images, statistics, quotes and other elements within your presentation and how they can be repurposed in other media and on the social web.
  • Upload your presentation online before or immediately after you give it. Make it available to all attendees or broadcast a short URL to your networks if you want everyone to see it 

Optimization Tips for During the Presentation

I’ll finish this post with a few optimization tips for use right before and during the presentation. Employing these tactics can help you better engage the audience that is present as well as extend the reach of your message to their networks during and long after you’ve left the room.

  • Promote the presentation in a way that creates anticipation. For example: Ask a compelling question and post it as a tip on Foursquare for the event. Do the same on Twitter and to the event Facebook and LinkedIn groups. 
  • Schedule tweets of your statistics and quotes to publish during your presentation using the conference or event hashtag.
  • Use graphics and concepts from the presentation in a blog post or guest blog posts to promote the presentation. 
  • Ask 1-2 qualifying questions with the audience to empathize with them – show them you are prepared to give material relevant to them – not just share what your brand wants to sell. Then actually act on the answers they give you – adjust your focus. 
  • Create incentives for social sharing. I like to give away a book for the best livetweeting or for liveblogging my presentations. Last time I spoke, I gave away a copy of Optimize and a box of Voodoo doughnuts. There were over 275 tweets in 45 minutes. 
  • Schedule a tweet sharing the URL of your presentation at the end for viewing later or download – Slideshare is awesome for this.
  • Offer a slide of tweetable takwaways at the end of your presentation.  Make it easy for them to remember (and share) your key concepts.
  • Offer a link to something that provides next steps – a guide, report, whitepaper, video etc. Also the presentation you put up on Slideshare can include more than what you present live. To see that bonus content, viewers are given the option to provide their contact information.

Events offer many benefits for content marketing and networking. Here are a few other resources that cover optimizing your conference experience as a speaker, moderator and attendee.

What are some of your tips for optimizing presentations and content? What creative ways have you discovered to extend the value of your presentation investment?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Avatar Chris Reich says

    Basically good stuff but there is a more serious optimization problem at hand. A really good presentation isn’t dependent upon the slides and thus, the slides really won’t be of much value without the presenter. If it’s necessary to drown the audience in the foam of marketing, put the Twitter handles and quotes on a handout—and the Facebook connections and all the other distractions can go there as well.

    All presentations should have:
    1. A Goal (Everything else is a sub-piece of this)
    B. A Strategy—Often presentations are collections of facts or “points” stabbing at the goal but are not part of a consistent strategy.
    C. Story — or stories to add stickiness.

    As the website can’t do it all, a presentation can’t and shouldn’t be designed with a purpose and then diluted with broad company marketing.

    • Thanks for the comment Chris. When you say handout, do you mean paper? In this day and age of smartphones and tablets, I can’t remember the last conference where speakers used handouts.

      I agree presentations should have a goal, meaning and a story, no doubt. That’s the starting point before ever getting into optimizing presentation content.

      Using some (not all) of the tactics in this post, I’ve had people leave other presentations at a conference and come into mine. Also, people thank me for including a twitter handle to make sharing easy. I’ve also heard thanks for adding tweetable quotes and for posting the presentation deck for later viewing.

      These tactics generate new business for our agency with no ads, no salespeople. Plus we get media inquiries from them as well, with no PR agency. All without explicit marketing messages in the presentation. That’s the kind of ROI worth optimizing for.

      • Avatar Chris Reich says

        A handout need not be paper. It can be an object or an e-file.

        I tire of the constant bombardment with Twitter and Facebook and commercials and advertising when I want content. So I do understand your point and being an agency, that’s your content. But when I speak to a group about growing their business, I want them to have a content rich experience and not a heavily laden advert for me.

        Now, that said, I too want business as does your agency. So, I provide to those who ask by way of a card or email request, a slide deck that is prepared especially to be read rather than delivered. That way, I can use far cleaner and more spartan slides during delivery and my audience can have a deck with the enriched content which does include those points of contact.

        • I appreciate that Chris. I also appreciate that you’ve never seen me present or viewed one of my presentations as I have not been privvy to any of yours.

          The Twitter and link references I have in mind are almost certainly less obtrusive than what you’re thinking of.

          As an example, this presentation employs many of the suggestions in that regard and was considered by attendees and the conference organizer as highly successful: http://tprk.us/dmarcompr

          • Avatar Chris Reich says

            Hi Lee,

            Circling back to my original comments, I did
            not intend to insult you—I merely wished to broaden the field. When I
            am speaking it is generally to a captive audience and I have a specific
            educational goal.

            I occasionally speak at
            conferences but then again, I have specific material to present. I
            haven’t the need for Facebook or Twitter as my material generates the
            interest. I have no desire to be re-tweeted or Liked. But that’s me and
            we have style differences and that makes the world go ’round.


          • Hey Chris, no offense taken. This blog and all it’s content is about attracting attention, so your perspective of ” I have no desire to be re-tweeted or Liked” sums the difference in perspective quite well.

          • Avatar Chris Reich says



          • Avatar Chris Reich says

            There is attention and attention. I want selective attention and have no use 10,000 twitterers or 100,000 Facebook lovers. I’ve not found either group useful in my upper end of the market. Thus, I tire of being pushed constant “marketing” material.

  2. Thanks for sharing. This is so cool reference documents for me

  3. Avatar Sheetal Sharma says

    Great post Lee!
    Useful tips to bring create influence on the audience using presentation skills and via public speaking. I am glad it will be of great help to me.

  4. Avatar Sarah Green says

    Thanks for the informative post about optimizing presentations. I found it to contain really great information that I can use immediately. I don’t think I ever thought about putting my marketing information on my presentation or sharing the presentation through social media. Great ideas! BTW…I found ALL of your optimization tips to be very helpful.

    Thanks again

  5. Avatar Casey Bisard says

    This is all great informaiton that I can immediately implement in to my presentations. I would never thought to distribute the presentation through social media as I’ve always relied on the event coordinator. While I only mention one tip, they are all useful.

  6. Avatar Arpit Daniel Das says

    This is a wonderful post! Really appreciate these tips you have shared with us. Useful information, would keep these tips in mind whenever I design my next presentation.

    Thanks for sharing these fabulous article with us


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