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Tuesday 24 July 2012

Be a thought leader: Get on the speaking circuit & deliver awesome presentations

This is the second in my series on how to be a thought leader in digital. My first topic was about finding great content to share on social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn. This blog post looks at what really builds your credibility as a digital thought leader: public speaking.

Speaking at leading industry events, being involved in panel discussions or doing webcasts/webinars are critical in establishing your reputation with your peers and the industry. It’s certainly not easy though – if you get it wrong it can be extremely career-limiting. But if you get it right you’ll receive ongoing invitations to speak again or to share your knowledge. Getting it right can catapult you into the elite of the digital industry.

What to present? “What vs. How”

If you want to be a digital thought leader, you need to talk about digital! Anything in digital marketing, e-commerce, social media, mobile, website development or emerging technology is in hot demand. The difficulty is finding the right topic and content that’s going to resonate and engage the audience.  The biggest mistake I see most presenters make is focusing on only the “what”. It’s easy to do and the default setting for most presenters. When speakers talk about the “what” they usually discuss things like online platforms (e.g. Creating a Facebook brand page, the microsites/websites they’ve built or the fact that they’ve used search marketing to drive leads). For most of the audience, even those who are just starting out as marketing or technology professionals, already intuitively understand the “what”. The “what” quickly becomes “so what?”

Truly engaging presentations focus on the “how”. The “how” may start off discussing the “what” (the platform used, the marketing channels, etc.) but then digs a few levels deeper into the business problem. They then discuss the specific steps taken to address that problem, talks about the strategy and tactics used and then systematically deconstructs the campaign/initiative/plan for the audience. The best-of-the-best presentations are honest, open and transparent about the risks, pros and cons of what they did. “How” presentations are most often case studies from brands that have either wildly succeeded or failed badly, so it’s not always easy to be totally transparent. My advice on this is to try to be as open and honest as you can be without giving away confidential information. You may feel uneasy presenting your plans and case studies - “they will steal my ideas!” and “my competitors will copy my strategy” are common concerns. The reality is that this just doesn’t happen. So be bold, discuss your projects openly and transparently, and have the courage to stand by your ideas (and your brand). You will definitely inspire others, attract the best talent to your brand and build yourself as a thought leader this way.

Here are some tips on developing a great case study or “how” presentation:
  1. Set the context. Introduce yourself and explain why you’re presenting this, and why this project was important. Try to do this quickly in the first few minutes. Don’t waste too much time here and certainly don’t use this to do a long and boring sales pitch - everyone hates that and you lose credibility.
  2. Tell a story and get emotional. Setting the context and discussing the plan shouldn’t be dry or boring. You’re not presenting a sales report or the quarter’s revenue, you’re presenting something cutting edge and exciting. Act that way! Bring passion and emotion to the discussion and tell your story with heart.
  3. Present insights and data. Sure, you need to offer your opinion and your own analysis but what really makes a spectacular presentation is powerful data and customer insights. Examples include: Who are your customers? What is the state of the market? What’s the internet penetration rate? How many people are buying via mobile on your e-commerce website? How are 18 – 25 year old women using mobile to help make purchase decisions when at a fashion store, etc.? Wow the audience with data but don’t drown them in it.
  4. Discuss the clear business goals you had. If you wanted to drive more sales, state how much and by when. If you wanted to drive more marketing leads, be specific and present the actual number. If you wanted to engage your customers, don’t refer to them as “users”, present them as real people and talk about the effect your campaign/project had on their lives.
  5. Show the audience the framework and plan you used. Use one slide to present the specific steps you used. Use this as the set up for the bulk of your presentation.
  6. Breakdown the steps and explain how you achieved each step. This should be the majority of your presentation, as you take the audience through each stage of the project/campaign and how you achieved your win.
  7. Present tips, advice and talk about who helped you. Give credit where it’s due – mention the agencies and partners that made your project happen by name. The name of the company, and the names of the team. They will definitely appreciate the pat on the back and your thanks. Also, specifically mention each software program, free tool or platform you used. Importantly, tell people how much it cost. I don’t mean that you should give exact figures or give away confidential information, but present a ball park figure (did it cost hundreds of dollars, or hundreds of thousands of dollars?).
  8. Talk about your success and the results. This is straightforward. Just talk about how much revenue you made, how many leads you generated or the other specific measure of your success. If you failed, talk about the lessons learned and how you’re now applying them.

Where do I find interesting and relevant data and content?

In my previous blog post I mentioned a lot of different digital, tech and marketing resources you can use to find great content. That’s a great place to start for getting broad information and industry trends (with a specific focus on Asia). Here are other information sources that I find incredibly useful:
ADMA Yearbook 2012
  • ADMA Digital Marketing Yearbook – This has all the digital facts, figures and statistics for all countries in Asia. If you ever wanted to know the internet or mobile penetration rates, top e-commerce sites and how each country engages in social media, it’s all here. It’s an amazing resource.
  • SocialBakers have a lot of useful reports on social media and Facebook.
  • Slideshare is a wonderful resource where you can browse a huge library of PowerPoint presentations. Search by any topic to get inspiration and case studies for your next presentation.
  • is a great eNewsletter service filled with valuable information. In particular, I love the IAB’s SmartBrief.
  • The Asia Digital Map is a collaborative group blog authored by all parts of Ogilvy Group across the Asia-Pacific region
  • If you’re looking for great charts and statistics, eMarketer has everything you need.
Where should I present?

There are many big digital marketing, e-commerce, tech and social media events in the Asia Pacific region. Here are my personal favourites:

You can also talk to the great people at,,,, (and others) for more digital, tech and marketing events.

Good luck with your presentations and I look forward to seeing you speak at one of these events soon.

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