Presentation Planning: The power of Why

Learn your WHY. Blog #3 in a 5-part series guiding you to presentation planning success.

Steve Earl, Executive Director, Product Marketing Practice

Steve Earl

Sep 13, 2023


Yogi Berra, the legendary American baseball player and coach, famously said, "If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else."

This quote serves as a great introduction to the third blog in my series on how to plan a presentation. My prior blogs introduced a framework for presentation planning called Slide Zero. Slide Zero encompasses the WHO, WHY, WHAT, and HOW of your presentation - the essential details you need to address before writing slide #1.

Similar to that famous Yogi-ism, this blog delves into the WHY part of the framework, highlighting the significance of beginning with the outcome in mind. Being clear on the finish line and success will increase the likelihood of your presentation achieving its goals. Once you determine what you are trying to accomplish, only then do you proceed by working backwards from there. The WHY element presents the greatest challenge and sparks the most disagreement among all the elements in the Slide Zero framework.

If you haven’t already, make sure to read blog 1 for an overview of the framework and blog 2 that delves into the WHO.

WHY starts with defining the OUTCOME you aim to achieve through your presentation.

How will you measure success? Are you striving to generate a future sales meeting? Do you seek a specific amount of media coverage, or do you aim to influence a key analyst to attain a higher position in their research? Alternatively, do you aspire to inspire the audience as a thought leader?

Be as specific as possible in defining the outcome, as it is crucial in constructing your story and providing it with a clear destination. Prepare for diverse opinions. Your stakeholders need to provide input, and you must strive for alignment among them. Initiating the development of your slides without a clear understanding of what success entails would be pointless. 

After having clearly defined the desired outcome of your presentation, it is now time to focus on the audience’s CHANGE IN THINKING.

The goal of a presentation often revolves around altering the audience's thinking about a subject. Changing the audience's thinking is essential to accomplish your stated outcome. Therefore, describe their thoughts BEFORE they listen to your presentation and articulate what you want them to think AFTER they have heard it.

This change in thinking helps define the journey you are guiding them through to attain your stated outcome. For instance, there may be a prevailing perception in the market that your company has ceased investing in a specific product you offer, leading potential customers to hesitate in purchasing it from you. In such a case, the change in thinking you are striving to achieve is for the customer to leave your presentation with the knowledge that you are actively innovating in the product they are seeking. Alternatively, the audience may be unfamiliar with you or your product, and your objective is to alter their perception to recognize you as a viable alternative in the market.

Every presentation ought to include a CALL TO ACTION —a clearly defined set of next steps that the audience should take.

This compels you to think beyond the presentation itself and consider tactics that will facilitate ongoing engagement with the audience. These actions are linked to your defined outcomes but are more tactical, specific, and presented at the conclusion of your presentation. Examples of a call to action may include downloading a whitepaper from your website, signing up for next month's webinar, or visiting your team at your conference booth. Neglecting to include a call to action means missing out on an opportunity to continue the conversation with the audience.

By defining the OUTCOME, CHANGE IN THINKING, and CALL TO ACTION, you will establish the WHY of your presentation.

It is crucial to obtain stakeholder agreement on the WHY before embarking on the development of your slides. As Zig Ziglar, an American motivational speaker, once said, "A goal properly set is halfway reached." Investing the necessary time upfront to ensure these aspects are properly addressed will guarantee that your presentation resonates with your audience and fulfills your business objectives.

Make sure to explore the presentation planning tools created in collaboration with the team at Ghostranch that put the Slide Zero framework into action. Pitch Planner empowers product marketers to adopt a strategic approach to presentation planning. This tool offers a user-friendly workbook for planning presentations, along with a templated executive summary slide (the Slide Zero) for the presentation review process.

In the next blog of this series on how to plan a presentation, we will delve into the WHAT element of the Slide Zero framework. It emphasizes the significance of maintaining simplicity in your message because product marketers and design teams often communicate using different languages.

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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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