Focus on branding.

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In the world today every person, every product, every service has a name. It is what distinguishes and differentiates each on from numerous others available. It is what we base our choice on, be it personal, professional or social. Even NO NAME products have a name. A name and a reputation.

The dictionary[i] definition of brand refers to a “make or kind of a product usually indicated by a stamp or a trademark”. It also refers to “any mark of disgrace or stigma”. Businesses invest significant amounts of resources towards building their name and reputation: their brand. They need to be recognized and appreciated, they need to be special, they need to be unique.

Products are built in the factory, brands are created in the mind.Walter Landor

The same is true for presenters. Every time they stand in front of an audience they create – or need – a brand: A name and a reputation that distinguishes them from other speakers competing for attention. Whether this distinction is the result of serious content, brilliant ideas, exceptional organization, prestige, or personality traits, your audience believes you offer something incomparable. That is why they are sitting patiently, waiting for you to deliver your speech.

In other words[iii], “your brand” is your image as seen from the outside. Your brand is who you are — your strength, your integrity and your reputation. It’s not simply how your logo is displayed, but rather the emotional and intellectual response your logo elicits from your target audience. What your audience experiences during the presentation is primarily the person and what that person has prepared. The presentation needs to be desirable, distinctive and credible.

Here is the catch. As a presenter you are unique. Your content is unique. However, the way you dress it up, i.e., the presentation template you use is not. It is one of those exceptional templates that have been prepared by the software program developers, which are used by thousands of presenters the world over. So when you are presenting what the audience see is the result of their efforts, not yours. To make matters worse, as a presenter you choose a different template for different presentations simply because you have a wide choice. As a result, even your most enthusiastic followers cannot see the real you.

This is where branding becomes important. This is not a decision to be taken lightly. It is not only placing attractive images and striking graphics on slides to create new templates. Branding is a structured and principled process. The goal is to make the presenter stand out. The goal is to guarantee that the next time the time this particular presenter’s name appears in a conference programme, a business internal memo, or during a peer meeting, it conjures up the true qualities and abilities of the speaker.

Write down a definition of your brand.  

Basically write down a description of who you are. Use adjectives or verbs throughout. Give this description to a friend or colleague and ask them to add or delete from it anything that they think is not accurate. It can be an enlightening experience. They will definitely provide you with feedback that you do not expect.

Single out the defining characteristics. 

Basically, what are the qualities that make you stand out as a presenter? Is it your experience, your background, your methods, your personality? These are the ones that you need to focus on. Many others may possess the same qualities. However, you – and only you – possess this particular combination. This is what distinguishes you.

Find the insight. 

Basically, find out what drives you You know who you are. Now it is time to focus on what motivates you, the forces behind your thoughts, actions and behaviours. Again, how visible are they to the people around you? How transparent are they? People appreciate integrity and reliability. They will appreciate you further if they can read you loud and clearly.

Keep it simple. 

Now it is time to start designing your brand template. It is important to remember that there is a place and time for everything. So focus on the one aspect of your personality and thinking that will attract your audience’s attention. Do not confuse them. It could be your humour, it could be your trustworthiness. Use those and only those. Search for graphics and layouts that you feel comfortable with. Again, show them to your friends and colleagues. What do they think?

Let your emotions show.

You are trying to create a connection between yourself and the psyche of your audience. This is link will be unique. You need to speak to their heart, not just their minds. This way your presence – and your presentation – will be memorable. They will identify with you and, most probably, with what you have to say.

Be consistent and patient.

Rome was not built in a day. You are not the first person to walk the halls of conferences or the first person to deliver a presentation using their own templates. You need to persevere. With a lack of consistency and a lack of focus you cannot build your own identity. Afford your design the same time and effort you are affording your content and vice versa. No opportunity is too insignificant.

Own your media.

Remember that the presentation is there to assist you as a speaker, to enhance the participant experience. The design of your templates should not cloud your message. It should increase understanding and appreciation. You are a speaker with a mission: to deliver a message. You are not there to prove that you can become a graphic designer.

Keep your promise.

After you have designed your first templates, after you have experimented with, agonised over, rejected and edited different versions, go to the definition of your identity, your “brand” you wrote in Step 1. More importantly, after you have delivered a couple of presentations using your own designs, especially those you feel most comfortable with, revisit your brand definition. How true are these templates to the ideals and qualities you outlined there? If you can still see yourself in these designs, chances are you are on the right track.

In conclusion, the significance of content and organization is not to be underestimated. You cannot build a solid brand if you do not deliver the product. However, the packaging is important too. It must be based and serve the same values and principles that the product creation is based on. As a presenter, you cannot argue about the soundness of your arguments, the reliability of your findings and the validity of your data if your slides are sloppy, unreadable and incomprehensible.