Be a Winner With More Persuasive Presentations

Originally published on the MindTouch Blog.

Who doesn’t like to win? Unfortunately, when it comes to more persuasive presentations, chances are you haven’t earned a spot in the winner’s circle. A survey shared at PulseLocal San Diego revealed that only 14% of presentations actually drive action.

PulseLocal San Diego – presentation survey during Arthur Schwartz's presentation


No one wants to give (or attend) a presentation that inspires zero action. Thanks to Arthur Schwartz, we can do better! Delivering more persuasive presentations was the topic of his talk at the latest PulseLocal San Diego event.

Last things first

The key to preparation is starting from the end. Begin your prep by asking:

What is the ideal outcome of my presentation?

It’s a rookie mistake to get caught up in research, structure, or even worse— your slide design—before you hone in on what the actionable outcome should be. When people leave the room, what should they be thinking and what should their next steps be?

For a more persuasive presentation, start there and work backwards.

A strong foundation

After you have a clear vision of the outcome, you can design relevant and compelling content.

Arthur’s formula works for any type of presentation:

  1. Create a powerful story – Frame your content around a story that builds emotional engagement.
  2. Show up feeling like a winner – Use purposeful body language to reinforce positive thoughts.
  3. Engage and energize! – Connect to your audience through their pain points or personal motivation, then educate and empower them with your content.

More pro tips for A+ presos

After Arthur’s presentation, an engaging Q&A revealed other tips to help make presentations more persuasive. Here are the key takeaways.

  • Eye contact – Take moments to focus your attention on individuals for ~3 seconds. Don’t be too systematic about, though, and organically pivot your gaze around the room.
  • Authenticity – When possible, engage with folks on a personal level with individual conversations before your presentation begins. Be the same person when you get in front of the room. If you take on a different persona in “presenter mode” you’ll quickly lose that connection.
  • Comfortable silence – Allow pauses to become part of the presentation. Your audience needs those moments to mentally process your content and you’ll be less likely to use those dreaded crutch words.

Freelance Business Fundamentals – Key Takeaways

STC San Diego collaborates with SD/PEN every year to host a fall workshop. I think they keep getting better every year and this year’s workshop to Kickstart Your Home-Based Writing and Editing Business was my favorite by far.

The workshop included five expert-led presentations:

  1. Alex Bennett – Legal Basics
  2. Janina Goldberg – Time Management
  3. Martin Ceisel – Finding Clients and Copywriting
  4. Nikkie Achartz – Pricing and Profitability
  5. Allison Mellon – Digital Marketing Strategy

Top Takeaways

I have too many notes of action items and resources to list here, so I’m sharing my favorite takeaway from each session.

Legal Basics

Contracts can use overly-broad language to describe how the work you perform for your client becomes owned by them. Verbiage regarding intellectual property may say something like:

“… all processes, methodologies, inventions, enhancements, ideas, improvements, developments, modifications, derivative works, know-how, and trade secrets.”

That basically describes all-the-things! Agreeing to that type of all-encompassing language sets yourself up for risk, especially if you are pursuing personal projects or working with multiple clients at the same time.

To gain some control, first try to push back and ask for more specific contract language that describes the exact type of work you’ll be doing for the client. If they refuses to modify the language, then insist on itemizing other work to exclude.

Time Management

I asked for the cure to procrastination and learned a great tip! When you find yourself procrastinating for something important, write down the reasons you are delaying a given effort.

Forcing yourself to acknowledge why you are procrastinating identifies the root causes, which you can address more directly to give yourself the kick you need dive in.

Finding Clients

There is no excuse to not have a portfolio with at least a few quality examples of your work. Even if you are breaking into a new field, either as a new graduate or career-switcher, you have options to create a portfolio.

  • Create a Spec Ad (speculative advertisement, an ad you create on your own) or other samples just to demonstrate the specific skillset you need to highlight.
  • Volunteer for a professional association or community organization and offer your talents for something that helps them and your portfolio at the same time.
  • If your work is protected by an NDA or you don’t have permission from the intellectual property owner, create a scrubbed or modified version of the piece as an alternative.

No excuses!

Pricing and Profitability

When marketing yourself, focus on the reasons and motivations of your potential client. People are motivated to make decisions based on one of three things:

  1. Fear
  2. Pain
  3. Desire

Weave in specifics about how you can save the client time, money, aggravation, etc. If your proposal directly addresses the problem you work will solve and why you are the best person to solve it, it will be received better.

Digital Marketing Strategy

My favorite takeaway about digital marketing is something I already knew, but it’s worth repeating. Don’t over-focus on keywords for SEO gains when publishing marketing content. Search algorithms continue to evolve towards ranking based on searcher-intent and context rather than exactly matching keywords.

Google cares more about relevancy than other factors. Create content that is valuable for users—what I call effective content—and engagement will become your biggest SEO boost.

Event Follow-Up

To see parts of the workshop that were recorded, check out the YouTube playlist: 2017 Workshop – Freelance Business Fundamentals.

To be notified of future events with STC-San Diego, subscribe to the mailing list.

STC San Diego Workshop 2017

Top Content Experience Strategist 2017

It’s a great time to be a content professional. With changes in consumer behavior and advances in technology, content has a more important role than ever.

Sara Feldman Effective Content

This is a fun space to work in with tons of reasons to keep upping our content game:

  • Effective content fuels intent-based moments, which Google coined as Micro-Moments, where consumers seek information to make a decision (know, go, do, or buy).
  • Rapidly evolving smart devices and AI-powered conversational user interfaces are dependent on new formats of effective content.
  • New data about customer effort, which is heavily influenced by effective content, shows that reducing customer effort has the strongest measurable correlation to customer loyalty.

As Patrick Bosek called out in a recent easyDITA post, these trends in consumer behavior and new technology “demand content to properly interact with us.” I love how he phrased that.

Content Influencers and Strategists List

I’m pleased to be included on a 2017 list of Top 200 Content Experience Strategists and proud to see so many familiar names from my network included on the list too!

The Top 200, as described by MindTouch:

Nominated and voted on by you, the people, this list was simply too extensive and close to keep it confined to the TOP100 as originally anticipated. This list is 100% voted on by the public and offers insight into who the industry feels are implementing an incredible Content Experience through strategic and tactical use of their self-service materials, delivering best-in-class support for their current customers and prospects alike.

The Top 25, voted on by a panel of Content Experience leaders, is a stellar list of influencers to follow. Check out the full MindTouch list of 2017’s TOP25 Content Experience Influencers and TOP200 Strategists.

Content expectations

Does your content meet your own expectations? Mine doesn’t, yet.

“Be the content you wish you found!”

One of my favorite takeaways from attending #MozCon 2017 came from a candid preso by Wil ReynoldsI’d Rather Be Thanked Than Ranked.

Google’s AI is learning to favor content that most effectively fulfills the searcher’s intent. It’s more important than ever to be the right answer to the queries you seek to rank for and to be the content you wish you found.

Wil Reynolds MozCon 2017

Effective content framework

I’m working on an #effectivecontent framework to help elevate my content to my own expectations. I’ll present the full strategy at the upcoming LavaCon, but here’s a sneak-peek at the five main components:

  1. Intent
  2. Usability
  3. Findability
  4. Timeliness
  5. Efficiency

I’ll be sharing more about it soon.

Image credit: Adviso Blog

MozCon 2017 Takeaways

I’ve been a technical writer and editor for 10+ years and never imagined I’d attend a content marketing conference. Then, just a couple months into a new role with SEO and lead-gen as an important part of my responsibilities, I was lucky enough to attend MozCon 2017.

I love that my career has focused on technical support content and online self-service because being good at my job helps my company and customers at the same time – that’s still true with my new focus.

I was excited to bring back new insights to my team, which would ultimately benefit our MindTouch customers too.

Sara Feldman at MozCon 2017


My notes of takeaways took up 8 typed pages, but I can summarize the information-dense week with two main themes.

Focus on intent

Google AI is trying to answer questions better and quicker. It’s more important than ever to be the content you wish you found and be the best answer to the queries you seek to rank for. If you’re not the right answer to the question, Google will 86 you.

Conversely, content that doesn’t guide users to the right answer is the most disruptable. Those are your easy-target opportunities. The best strategy is to attempt to understand user intent and deliver what they need, instead of playing SEO games.


User behavior and adaptive technology is evolving rapidly, therefore you should operate as if your biggest lead-gen source(s) could disappear tomorrow. At the same time, it’s essential to be hyper aware of resources vs. reward for each of your channels and prioritize accordingly. Users are increasingly expecting personalized experiences AND they often have different expectations on different channels.

Staying agile (and successful) requires constant testing, measuring, and tweaking. Experiment with different media types and delivery methods and don’t be afraid to take risks or be bold.

A Beginner’s Guide to Content Analytics

Originally published on the MindTouch Blog.

One of the most appealing aspects of technical writing is that, unlike other types of writing, there is arguably a best way to present technical content to users. That’s because the best presentation is whatever makes users most successful, which also likely aligns with your business goals.

It’s a fun challenge to constantly strive to optimize content to best meet user needs. Expert wordsmithing, thoughtful organization, and strategic delivery are important facets of successful technical content. However, incorporating content analytics is a necessary effort to achieve the most effective content.

What is the Definition of Content Analytics?

A popular definition was coined by Avinash Kaushik, the author of Web Analytics 2.0:

Web analytics is the analysis of qualitative and quantitative data from your business and the competition to drive a continual improvement of the online experience that your customers and potential customers have, which translates to your desired outcomes (both online and offline).

It’s a hefty definition, but we can unpack it by looking at the three most important components.

1. Qualitative and Quantitative Data

As you embark on a content analytics initiative, take the time upfront to understand everything you can measure. That includes identifying all your web-based assets and confirming they are being tracked properly through your analytics tool. Is your content still in PDFs or long-form articles that make it more difficult to measure user engagement? It’s time to consider a microcontent strategy to deliver the right content to your customers at the right time.

For your qualitative data, take inventory of all the ways your company collects customer feedback. Be sure to check with every department because there could be a survey or isolated feedback channel you’re not aware of.

2. Continual Improvement

How do you incorporate content analytics into your processes to achieve continual improvement? Consider a framework of two strategies that create a positive feedback loop:

  1. Metrics to optimize your work – Incorporate analytics that allow you to do your current job, but armed with data. Search terms, view counts, and click paths are some metrics that can help you prioritize efforts and drive changes.
  2. Metrics to measure impact – Measure trends that feed into organizational KPIs and show how you moved the needle. These metrics should reflect how your content influences key conversion paths.

Over time, as you use data to optimize your work, you’ll see that reflected when you measure the impact of your effort. This will continue to feed your optimization strategy.

3. Desired Outcomes

Your analytics efforts will enable continual improvement to achieve desired outcomes, which align with your main business objectives. For example, maybe you are interested in behavioral and search analytics. When you prioritize what you measure in the strategies outlined above, make sure the focus is to find actionable insights that can directly improve your conversions and desired outcomes. You’re essentially working towards a data-driven system with your content as the mechanism to achieve company goals.

Tips for Getting Started with Analytics

  • Be consistent when trending – When collecting metrics to track changes over time, use the same data drilled down the same way. This may seem obvious, but even the same filters applied in a different order can alter the same metric.
  • Benchmark and establish baselines – Then, look for anomalies or changes in trends over time or across dimensions. Finding an anomaly early on can uncover an issue before it amounts to additional costs.
  • Include content analytics processes on your next performance goals – This will commit you to the effort and can help you obtain needed resources.
  • Be aware of your assumptions – When you think you’ve drawn a reasonable conclusion from the data, ask the golden question: What else could this mean? When you finalize your conclusions, record your assumptions so you can revisit them if needed.

Don’t be afraid to not gain clear insights right away. It takes time to find the right way for content analytics to help you achieve the most effective content. Pursuing content analytics may lead you to ask more questions than provide clear answers at first, but that’s part of the fun and value of it.