Learning Presentation Skills From Advertisers

Selling the sizzle, not the sausage.


Advertisers use their words, images and stories to influence you to purchase a product service or solution or to support a cause or person. They often communicate messages to make you believe that some brands are superior, not because they are intrinsically better, but because the brand will make you cool. This branding is reinforced through logos, product placement, and all sorts of messages to convince you that the product is unique. Think of the times you have responded to advertising:

• you’ve applied for a job

• you’ve bought a cool pair of sneakers

• you’ve voted for a particular political candidate.

What effect did the advertisement have on this?

Advertisers are consummate presenters because often their presentation is limited to as short as fifteen second bites, rarely more than two minutes, and are directly measurable through the responses they get.

There are formulas that they use, but remember, creativity is a very big component in what they do.


Stories are a very powerful way to communicate a complex message in a short period. Take a typical cold and flu tablet television advertisement.

A corporate looking but relaxed guy is ill but doesn’t look it. Twelve hour Demazin works really well. His lady neighbour is also sick but has to go to work. There’s no battling on like the sick man in the street , which is a swipe at a competitor whose motto was “soldier on”.

He can play his guitars, LP records and a solo game of chess during the day with no ill effect. His lady neighbour comes home still sick.

There is also a theme “feel better while you get better”.

Taking Demazin when you are sick is like having a day off.

The telling of this simple story makes you start to think, “Now wouldn’t it be good if I had a day off, so that I wouldn’t infect my workmates, but I’ll feel OK and be able to do all the normal things I do on my weekends?”

The alternative presentation is

Demazin 12 hour contains a combination of two medicines:

  • Pseudoephedrine Sulfate – a sympathomimetic decongestant
  • Dexchlorpheniramine Maleate an anti-histamine

Which is the one more likely to get you to purchase Demazin? In the story we can identify with the guy who has taken the product; with the ingredient list, we are no wiser as to the benefits of the product.

Weave stories into your presentations to make your offering come alive. The best stories are those that you or your customers have experienced, not ones that have been widely published.

Powerful Words

Among the most powerful words used in advertising are:

  • You
  • New, and
  • Free

telstraWhile ‘free” has been abused a lot, especially since the arrival of the internet, and may get you in the spam tray if you send an email with that word in it, the others are still powerful today. This Telstra advertisement uses all of the words.

Our presentations aren’t advertisements as such, but they are directed at a specific group of people, who can be grouped as “you”.

“You” adds a personal touch that resonates with your audience. It’s really important that you make sure your message is being received by your audience and the best way to do it is to refer to them as “you”, not “I” , or “we’. If you were selling a car, you wouldn’t say, “What we’re offering is a luxury vehicle, equipped with the latest advanced technology.” You’d phrase it:

“With this purchase, what you’ll get is a smooth and spacious ride in total luxury and you’ll never be out of communication range or get lost again.”

See how the use of the word “you” makes you a part of the picture.

Advertisers know that the best way to appeal to their audience is to use the word “you”.

Take your normal introduction to a presentation and turn it around so that it focuses on the audience by converting all the “I” and “We” to “You” and be amazed by the difference.


You’ll notice in this advertisement that they ask a hypothetical question in the first sentence. Why? To pique your interest. Asking a question, or a series of questions – remember the politicians’ threes? – is a powerful way to focus interest when you are trying to make a point, especially when followed by a pause. Hypothetical questions are a device to involve the audience in exploring options and join in.

It could be at the beginning of the presentation, to illustrate any of the main points you are making, or maybe even to finish off with.

Work on a series of three questions you could ask during your presentation.

My introduction to presentation skills might be something like:

Do you need to improve your presentation techniques?

Do you want to appear relaxed and confident?

Do you really want to understand what it takes to be a great presenter?

Well that’s what you’ll see this morning.

Call to Action

No good advertisement ends without a call to action. You must ask the reader, listener or viewer to DO something, or otherwise they might think to themselves, “Well that was interesting, must make a cup of coffee now.”

The Telstra advertisement is not the strongest call to action, but it does ask readers to visit the site.

Others in the newspapers today include

Call 123456 or visit a branch today.

To find out how we can create value for you, contact 12334546

For further information visit ….

Hurry, the only luxury we don’t offer is time.

A call to action is very important at the end of your presentation. What do you want your audience to do? Tell them!

“You’ve seen how Acme Widgets has the best confabulator on the market and how you can increase production by 17% while reducing costs. If you place your order now you’ll be ready to reap the benefit in two weeks.”

Write down your call to action for your next presentation.

Other Elements in the Telstra Advertisement

There are other elements we’ve seen before from graphic artists.

  • Contrast – the colour of the goldfish, the purple strip at the bottom, the shape of the bowl
  • White space – lots and lots of it to give the eye somewhere to focus.


No, not the Verdi opera with swords, sandals and elephants. AIDA is an acronym used for composing advertisements, especially those for recruitment. Grab the employment section of your newspaper or visit one of the employment websites and see how many follow this format.

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

Grab their attention with a bold headline “Civil Engineer Wanted in Tropical Paradise” –it was, but it was isolated by road for more than six months.

Pique their interest with an offering – maybe the salary or conditions “Ten days on, ten Days off, fly-in fly-out”.

Create desire with other juicy offerings and finish with a call to action!

How will you incorporate this in your presentation? Grab their attention at the beginning of the presentation, maintain interest throughout by being relevant to their situation, create some desire as you explain how their lives will be improved and finish with a call to action!

©2009 ~living-doll07

©2009 ~living-doll07

If all else fails, use the product placement woman! Yes! I want a tin of squid now!


Tell stories to involve your audience

Use powerful words like “you” “new” “free”

Ask questions to pique interest

Always make a call to action

Use the AIDA technique

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *