I have had the opportunity to attend different notable events in the meeting planner industry during my time at EM, including Pharma Forum just a few weeks ago.
Being new to the live meeting world, and even newer to the pharmaceutical world, I’ve done my best to hide my deer-in-the-headlights expression more than once. I have found a place of comfort though - content.
I’ve heard in multiple sessions that arguably the most important element of any live event is the content. Yes, flashy, bold, and pristine venues contribute tremendously to this, but meeting planners who attend these events come for one primary reason - to learn.
After being in way over my head with discussions about investigator meetings, compliance issues, and meal caps, I was glad to have this unlikely common ground with my peers.
I won’t pretend to be an expert on meeting planning, pharma, or finance, but I do know a thing or two about creating content.
So, I wanted to share my basic laws of content, namely presentation content.
Law 1: Content must be valuable.
The purpose of marketing is to add value to a company, product, or service. Because this truth has branded my vision, I always look at content through this lens.
Just because something is interesting doesn’t make it valuable. Just because something is informative doesn’t make it valuable. So what does valuable content look like?
For me, I look at a piece and ask, “why would my audience care about this?” If the answer is a disheartening, but simple “it isn’t,” then you need to remove it. Remember, what is valuable to the speaker is not necessarily the same as what is valuable to the audience.
Law 2: Content must be purposeful.
Some speakers haphazardly present rich information to the audience without giving thought to their ability to absorb it. In these situations, the attendees are left feeling like someone dumped a bucket of water on them and they are stuck in wet clothes with no towels around.
That is why this vital law exists. Informative content is only as effective as the setting it is being presented in. For everything you or your speakers plan to present, ask yourself what the purpose of each statement is. This doesn’t mean that you are limited to the torturous reading of bone-dry slides. The purpose of some content might be to add humor, while others may be to entertain. Just keep in mind that you must be deliberate in having a goal for each statement.
Law 3: Content must be concise.
I’ve always been a fan of brevity, as I started my debut in writing with poetry. I believe wholeheartedly in only saying what is necessary for a message to be successfully transferred from the speaker to the attendee.
How long should my slides be? So many of my organized, detailed planners will ask. I could give you a word limit (probably somewhere around 50 or less, preferably in the 20 range), but I’ll tell you what my eighth-grade language arts teacher told me. Any given piece of content should be like a skirt; long enough to cover the important parts, but short enough to keep it interesting (at the time I was mortified, but it's really stuck with me).
As you’ve probably heard a thousand times by now, do not drown your audience in text-heavy slides. It is both unnecessary and ineffective. While being thorough and accurate is imperative, you or your guests are speaking for a reason. They aren't writing a book; they are presenting slides.
Law 4: Content must be relevant.
Content is not a one-size-fits-all. While you shouldn’t be reinventing the wheel, you should be upgrading the quality, tread, and materials. Meaning that while any given speaker may give a hundred presentations a year (if so, kudos), each one will require some amount of content tailoring.
Integrating current events is a great way to stay relevant, but if there are too many references to pop culture, you may be foregoing value for trendiness.
Another way to stay relevant is to have real-time feedback from your audience. Let your attendees decide what topics are important to them by sending out snap polls. This makes relevance simple, straightforward, and customized without much effort.
Creating great content is no easy task, so if you're guilty of not abiding by or not keeping an eye out for speakers breaking these laws, it's understandable. Though these are only the four basic laws of presentation content, they are difficult to fully integrate and balance. As you are evaluating presentation content, look at each slide and ask the four simple questions associated with these laws:
- Is this valuable?
- What is the purpose of this?
- What can be removed?
- How can the audience apply this?
If the answer to any of these is unclear or is unanswered, then your speaker might have some work to do. At the end of the day, speakers don’t present for the heck of it (usually), they do it because they want to educate, inspire, or motivate the listening audience. Abiding by these four laws is critical in producing effective, engaging live meeting material.