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updated 7/6/2013 12:16:09 PM ET 2013-07-06T16:16:09

To promote your business and support your customers, you often have to provide lengthy explanations. But few people want to read wordy reports, and videos can be costly and time consuming to produce.

That's where online slide presentations come in. They can be both an effective and user-friendly way to explain and market your products and services. Even better, if you put your slideshows online in a mobile-friendly, linkable, shareable way, they can make it especially easy for people to find and recommend your business. Slideshows published on popular online platforms like SlideShare and SpeakerDeck often get high placement in search results and can drive a considerable amount of traffic to small-business websites that otherwise might not have strong search visibility.

Here are some tips for producing engaging slide decks:

  • Use presentation tools to create the slides. While most slide publishing tools will convert PDF files to slide decks, you can use PowerPoint, Keynote or HaikuDeck to make your slides. These can offer superior capabilities for including video and multimedia, as well as better visual design.
  • Present lots of images. Use your best photos, charts and illustrations. Choose images that work well on small smartphone displays and don't reduce the size of your text too much.
  • Include hyperlinks. When you post a slide deck online, always include hyperlinks that lead back to relevant pages on your website. Put the hyperlinks directly in the slides, not just in the description of your slideshow. And once your slide deck is online, be sure to embed it on your own website, as well as share it through social media.
  • Optimize for search. Use tags and other kinds of "metadata" to make your deck easier to find in searches. This helps not only for internal search on a site like SlideShare but also for search engine optimization.

Beyond those basics, you want to create slideshows that will help you achieve your business objectives. Kit Seeborg and Andrea Meyer, authors of Present Yourself: Using SlideShare to Grow Your Business (O'Reilly, June 2013), offer the following tips for using slideshows to build your business.

1. Tell your company's stories.
Storytelling is one of the most compelling forms of communication, and sequential slide decks can be a powerful tool for providing a visual and auditory narrative about your company. Slideshows can include pivotal moments for your business or customers, success stories and lessons learned.

IT management consultant Robert Star provides some practical tips on organizational storytelling: 

2. Create an online catalog of products or services.
If you've already created a print or web-based catalog listing everything your business offers, this content can easily be repurposed as a slide deck. Most online slideshow tools can take a PDF file and convert it to a slide deck. One example is Absolute Office Interior's catalog. But to create a better user experience, try to rework the content of your catalog into slide format rather than simply upload the PDF file.

Seeborg notes that this approach lets people download and run your slide deck offline -- especially handy for your staff or clients who might be in the field with limited Internet or cell network access. "Real estate brokers are doing this a lot," she says. Also, on SlideShare you can link to a specific slide in a deck, which can be useful in directing people to the information they need most.

3. Demonstrate your expertise.
Whether it's a primer on buying real estate in Hawaii or negotiation and bargaining skills for coffee business owners, slideshows based on your professional expertise can help promote your business and build your reputation.

If you keep hearing the same questions about a topic you know well, you might want to assemble a slide deck that offers some answers. Then, you can post a link to the deck whenever that topic arises in social media or in blog comments. If your deck is brief, helpful and even fun, people will likely recommend and share it -- the most effective form of marketing for any business.

This is why it's important to post your slides using a tool that allows both embedding and analytics, so you can track how much it's being used, and by whom. This can provide business leads and other useful connections.

4. Find investors.
Meyer notes that creating an online "pitch deck" explaining the value of your business or startup idea can attract the attention of venture capitalists and other funders.

"Often, startups create these for pitch events, but if you post it online where it can get indexed by search engines it can attract a wider audience," Meyer says.

Former venture capitalist Ryan Spoon offers tips for making a pitch deck:

5. Discover collaborators, partners and advisors.
Slide decks also can help you connect with other professionals and organizations that may support and enhance your work.

Seeborg and Meyer recommend searching SlideShare for relevant presentations and following users with complementary expertise. You also can embed their presentations on your site or share them via social media -- activity they will likely notice through account analytics.

You also can use your slide deck to connect to others by quoting them in your slides and offering hyperlinks to their websites. If they're watching their site analytics, they'll see the inbound traffic from your deck. You also could send them an email to let them know you've quoted or promoted them, with a link to your deck.
 

Copyright © 2013 Entrepreneur.com, Inc.

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