"The best friend that an SEO can have is Excel" is a comment I've heard several times. While it's true that Excel is an important tool for data manipulation, trending, planning, etc., increasingly presentation tools like PowerPoint are proving their worth.
Why presentation tools? Because they're hands down the best tools for educating the masses.
In the span of one week, I've delivered five different PowerPoint training sessions to five different groups, ranging from editors on one of our sites to all of AOL Media. PowerPoint provides a visual mechanism to explain the concepts, demonstrate the feature sets of tools, and show results.
Education and Sales
These presentation tools are useless, though, unless you have the passion and skills to convey the ideas encapsulated within your presentation to the audience, whether it's a group of peers or executives. If you want to be a successful in-house SEO those presentation skills are going to be vital to getting buy-in within your organization for your ideas.
In organizations where SEO wasn't a primary focus, it was generally because their in-house SEO wasn't able to make the case, or someone else within the organization was able to make a better case for investing resources elsewhere.
If you're a consultant/agency, you better know how to make your case to a potential client or they'll never move past the potential phase. Not only do you have to be able to present your skills effectively, you also need to be able to present your findings, results, or training in a manner that will please, and hopefully delight, the client.
Improving Your Presentation Skills
If it feels like your presentation skills aren't up to snuff, supportive organizations can help (i.e., Toastmasters). Some of main points you'll learn from a presentation program are to:
- Practice, practice, practice: With practice you gain confidence. This doesn't mean that you can't adjust your presentation on the fly, but as long as you keep close to your prepared speech you'll be able to stay on message.
- Tell your story in a sequential fashion: Have a beginning, middle, and end. It's amazing how many presentations just peter out somewhere in the middle, and don't remind the audience of key points or takeaways at the end of the presentation.
- Know your topic inside and out: Chances are you're going to get asked questions. If you know your topic, that shouldn't be a problem, but if you don't...
- Be prepared for a change to your schedule: One client presentation I gave was only eight slides long, but close to the end of the two-hour meeting, we were only on the second slide. The client had lots of questions that went off on different tangents, all related to the project.
- Know your audience: Tailor your speech to their expectations and level. A presentation on the benefits of SEO to a group of executives may focus on the traffic and ROI opportunities, whereas a presentation to a group of writers will focus on basics or tools to use.
- Be confident and feel confident when speaking: You're the subject matter expert, so why shouldn't you be confident? As you display that confidence it makes your audience fall in step with you, trust you more, and listen more attentively.
- Listen and watch other presenters: Watch how others present topics, see how they use their voice, their body language, facial expressions, eye contact, hand gestures, etc., and adopt those that work as naturally as possible for you.
- Seek feedback and identify your weak areas: If you have crutch words (e.g., "OK," "aaand," "erm," "soooo"), work to eliminate them from your vocabulary.
- Don't apologize: If you mess up, take a deep breath and just pick up from where you left off.
- Don't make it up: If someone asks you a question that you don't know the answer to, admit that you need to find out the answer and get back to them.
- Use visual aids if it makes sense: Not all presentations have to use PowerPoint.
Some people are born presenters; others have to work at it to give the pretense that they belong to that first group. It's a great feeling when you're done with a presentation and you get the vibe that the audience got it, which makes the work to prepare and deliver it well worth the effort.
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