Presentation Planning: Keep it simple

Capture the WHAT. Blog #4 in a 5-part series guiding you to presentation planning success.

Steve Earl, Executive Director, Product Marketing Practice

Steve Earl

Sep 21, 2023


This is the 4th blog in my series on how to plan a presentation. The series outlines Slide Zero, a framework for presentation planning that encompasses the WHO, WHY, WHAT, and HOW of your presentation - the essential details you need to address before writing slide #1.

This blog explores the WHAT element of presentation planning - the need for simplicity and clarity in the subject you are talking about.

If you haven't already, dig into the previous blog posts to catchup:

  1. Introducing the "Slide Zero" framework - An Overview 
  2. Define your audience (the WHO)
  3. Create clarity in the outcomes that you want to achieve (the WHY)

Firstly, this is not another messaging exercise. It assumes that you, the product marketer, have already crafted your market messaging starting at your vision statement cascading down to your product-specific messages and differentiation. However, you likely require a subset of this messaging to focus on a specific product or a unique persona for the presentation you are planning. Being clear and specific is extremely important, particularly when a design team is building your slides as they speak a different language to you.

Let’s explore the four simple questions that help capture the WHAT.

1) What is your product/offering?

Be clear about the category your product fits into or the type of offering it is. You should have already determined this in your messaging exercise. The design team needs to understand WHAT IT IS they are building a presentation for. Complete the sentence:  is a ”. For example, “ChatGPT is a language model developed by OpenAI.”

2) What does your product do?

Speak in simple terms that anyone can understand. For instance, “ChatGPT has been trained on a vast amount of text data from the internet and other sources, to develop a strong understanding of language and its context. This enables it to provide information and answer questions on a wide variety of subjects while engaging in conversation and generating human-like responses.“

3) What’s the value and why should the audience care about your product?

Clearly communicate the value it provides to your audience. Explain the business outcomes that your customer can achieve when their problems are solved. For instance, “ChatCPT’s versatility and ability to engage in natural language conversations make it applicable across various industries and use cases, helping businesses improve efficiency, enhance customer experiences, and leverage AI-powered tools for their advantage.”

4) What’s unique and why is your product better?

Highlight your points of differentiation compared to your competitor’s products. This information will surface as the “why you” in the final presentation. Without this, your presentation will sound like everyone else. For example, “ChatGPT has been trained on an extensive dataset, allowing it to understand and generate human-like text across a wide range of topics. Its language comprehension capabilities enable it to engage in more sophisticated and nuanced conversations.”

Avoid using buzzwords when defining the WHAT.

In fact, I've discovered that authors often use buzzwords because they don't actually know the answer to the above 4 questions. Buzzwords act as fillers in messaging and are often the same ones used by the competition. Try creating a list of buzzwords for your industry or product, then strive to avoid using them in your messaging. Really challenge yourself on this. Achieving simplicity requires thoughtful consideration, and there is real power in that simplicity. 

Imagine yourself out at dinner with friends describing your product and its function to the group. Does it make sense? Are you using simple English words? Boiling the WHAT down to these 4 basic answers ensures clarity in the message you want to communicate during your presentation. And the answers to each of these questions should only be a sentence or 2.

Clearly and simply articulating the WHAT will bring clarity to your presentation and enhance the audience's understanding of what you're saying. Remember that your marketing and design teams speak different languages from each other. This level of simplicity will help your designers create a slide deck that resonates with the audience and increases the likelihood of achieving your presentation objectives. 

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. —Leonardo da Vinci ”

Make sure to explore the Pitch Planner tool created in collaboration with the team at Ghostranch that puts the Slide Zero framework into action. Pitch Planner is a presentation planning tool and is available on their website to download. The tools empower product marketers to adopt a strategic approach to presentation planning by offering a user-friendly planning workbook, along with powerpoint templates to support the presentation review process.

In the next blog of this series on how to plan a presentation, we will delve into the HOW element of the Slide Zero framework. HOW helps you center your message around the problems you can actually solve and how you do that better than anyone else.

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About The Author

Steve Earl, Executive Director, Product Marketing Practice

Steve Earl is a B2B marketing leader with a thirty+ year career in the technology industry, including over 20 years leading strategy and product marketing teams in developing and executing go-to-market strategies. Steve has held product marketing leadership positions at leading technology companies including Oracle, Kronos, Webtrends and Peoplesoft. His was most recently the VP of Product Marketing at Oracle, leading teams responsible for Oracle Marketing Cloud and their entire Oracle Customer Experience application business. As a product marketing leader, Steve believes in the value of storytelling to engage B2B audiences and has developed and delivered presentations for many different audiences in 14 countries. A strong proponent of frameworks, Steve leads his teams to always make the complex sound simple and to work collaboratively across marketing, product, and sales teams to ensure alignment and consistency in how a business goes to market.

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