By Michael Kolowich published March 16, 2012

The New Alchemy: 3 Tips that Can Turn PowerPoint into Content Gold

For many centuries and across cultures — long before chemistry was a science — alchemists pursued a famous quest: to turn common lead into gold. This ancient challenge piqued the interest of luminaries as notable as Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton, Albertus Magnus, and countless others. But except for the brief experiments of a Nobel laureate in the 1950s, the goal of making common materials into precious metals has proven elusive.

Marketers: Searching for nuggets

Today’s marketers are pursuing a different kind of gold: the educated and ready-to-buy prospect. Much has been written here about the critical importance of fresh, original content to attract potential buyers, make them smarter, and move them closer to a choice that favors our products or services.

A common lament, too, is that fresh, original content is difficult to create on a sustained basis.  Sifting through your organization’s applications, customer stories, technologies, ideas to find the nuggets of solid-gold content can be every bit as tedious as panning for gold in a mountain stream bed. Your organization’s best thinkers are, after all, focused on products and revenue — not your lead-generation programs.

That’s why many marketers are delighted to discover a rich new vein of precious content in their organizations. In fact, it was right under their noses the whole time. There’s gold in them thar’ PowerPoints… and online presentations are a way to mine it!

The ubiquitous business presentation

Every year (according to statistics quoted by Microsoft), more than 30 million PowerPoint presentations are given somewhere around the world. That’s 21,000 a minute. PowerPoint (and its cousins such as Keynote, Prezi, and others) is the business communications medium that everyone loves to hate but everyone continues to use. Business presentations are ubiquitous for several reasons:

  • We retain information better when we see it as well as hear it.
  • Presentation hand-outs provide a convenient “memory device” when it’s important to review what was presented.
  • It’s a useful and more accurate way for an attendee to brief someone who couldn’t attend the original live presentation.

Presentations are used everywhere in an organization: for sharing new ideas, proposing strategies, briefing sales teams, educating customers, training employees, and intriguing sales prospects. In large organizations, hundreds of new presentations may be written and delivered every day by someone who’s articulate and passionate about the subject matter. And while many of these presentations are confidential and not ready for “prime time,” some of them are on exactly the kinds of topics that make good marketing content for your customers and prospects.

Online presentations are an easy way to expand your marketing content repertoire. The best content marketers are always alert to the presentations that are being made all around them, and use one of several modern tools to put those presentations online in a way that directly impacts your marketing goals.

Here are three tips that all content marketers should consider in building out their content.

The basics: Make your slides viewable or downloadable online, using SlideShare or Acrobat formats

The easiest and most basic way to use presentations in content marketing is to place a downloadable PDF (Acrobat) file in an article or post, or to use a public slide sharing service to embed the slides into your web pages or posts.

PDF. Most presentation programs now offer a “Save as PDF” option that will produce a ready-to-view file that will work with just about any desktop or mobile device. When saving a file for viewers to look at, use this option rather than uploading the PowerPoint presentation itself, since Acrobat Reader is a much more universal viewing application than PowerPoint.

Slide sharing: A more viewer-friendly way to make your slide decks available is to use a slide sharing service like SlideShare. Simply upload your presentation to your SlideShare account and paste the embed code on a web page. It takes about five minutes.

The example below (from CMI’s Joe Pulizzi) shows both the power and the drawbacks of such an approach. It’s great that you can see Joe’s slides right in the post, without downloading a file. But try flipping through the presentation a moment… aren’t you just dying to hear Joe’s commentary on these slides?

In the end, business presentations are not about the slides; they’re about the stories and logic behind the slides. That’s why, in my view, SlideShare falls far short as a content marketing medium: I want not only to see the presentation images, but also be exposed to the mind behind those images.

Take the next step: Add audio and video tracks to your online presentations

A number of tools — some of them are available for free — let you enhance your presentation with the voice and even the image of the presenter. This gives a much fuller experience of any presentation, and is a way of engaging the viewer much more fully in the material.

The veteran in this arena is Brainshark, whose free MyBrainshark tool allows you to add audio commentary to your slide decks and post them online. But as I’ve written before here, audio-narrated presentations still fall short of the full storytelling experience. An increasing number of people are turning to video-enhanced presentations so that the audience can catch every nuance of the facial expressions, gestures, and body language of the storyteller.

The upstart that can do both audio- and video-enhanced presentations is Knovio, a free product introduced into beta test during the second half of 2011. (Full disclosure: I was part of the team that conceived and built Knovio as a content marketing tool.) Creating a Knovio is as simple as uploading a presentation, turning on your webcam or microphone, and stepping through the presentation to give the full commentary. Knovio offers full editing capability so if you want to mess up on a section, you can go back and re-record it. Take a look at this brief example of thought leadership content, created by marketing consultant Renee Moore.

Brainshark and Knovio are good basic building blocks for content marketing programs, but they still fall short when it comes to offering a fully interactive content experience. That’s where high-powered workhorses like KnowledgeVision’s KVStudio come in.

Move to high-octane content: Make your online presentations engaging and interactive

When they first start making online presentations, the goal of most content marketers is to see how close they can achieve the experience of an “in-person” presentation. With experience, though, they find that online presentations can deliver even more value than live presentations, and that’s where interactive online video presentations come in.

The best online presentations are multi-layered experiences that let the viewer be in control of what they see and how deeply they drill. These aren’t just synchronized slides and media streams; they have navigation that allows the viewer to customize their own experience, footnotes and calls-to-action that beckon them to drill more deeply into the material.  Complement this with powerful analytics that track what’s being viewed and by whom, and you’ve got a much richer, more valuable experience.

Take a look, for example, at this interview on “Innovations in Video Content Marketing” that DemandGen Report’s Andrew Gaffney conducted with me recently and presented on the KnowledgeVision online presentation platform. When enhanced by presentation slides, navigation, and just-in-time footnotes, a straightforward interview turns into a much richer content experience. And when hosted within pages tracked by a marketing automation system like Marketo or Eloqua, you’ve got a whole new variety of trackable, score-able marketing content.

Presentation content is all around you

Remember, every time an executive gives a conference keynote, or a technologist gives a chalk talk at a user group meeting or a product manager gives a briefing at a customer convocation, it’s potential content to be used for online presentations. More often than not, their preferred medium is PowerPoint or a similar presentation package. From there, it’s a small leap to putting that content to work for you online — for demand generation, for lead nurturing, for customer education, and for sales support.

In a future post, I’ll talk about exactly how to recycle, reuse, and repurpose this content. But it isn’t rocket science; the tools, techniques, and technologies are ready now to help turn your dusty old PowerPoints into content marketing gold.

Author: Michael Kolowich

A 20-year pioneer in online content, Michael Kolowich is CEO and founder of KnowledgeVision, a platform for creating interactive video marketing assets from PowerPoint presentations. A former Emmy-winning TV news reporter, he went on to be Chief Marketing Officer at Lotus, founded ZDNet and NewsEdge, led AT&T's new media initiatives, and was CEO of Individual Incorporated, the first internet content IPO. You can follow him on Twitter @MichaelKolowich.

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