Building a Great Travel Conference Presentation

After speaking at the Wisconsin Fall Tourism Conference last week, I was greeted with several dozen emails on Monday morning.  Some wanted a copy of the presentation, or simply to exchange contact information, but most wanted to know how I pulled together the presentation.

Where did I get the graphics, the flow and how did it all come together?

Frankly, I don’t usually think about how my process might differ from other speakers…honestly, I assumed most people build a presentation in a similar manner…but after a few email conversations it was clear my process is a bit different.

So, I decided to do what any good writer would do…blog about it…a behind-the-scenes look at how I developed my presentation for #wftc10.

Building a Great Travel Conference Presentation

Step 1: Don’t start in PowerPoint or Keynote.

PowerPoint or Keynote should be the last step in the process, not the first.  If you start your presentation, speech or keynote by opening PowerPoint you are doing it wrong.  Period.

Step 2: Storyboard

Regardless of the presentation…10-person board meeting or 400-person keynote…I always start with a sketch / storyboard of my thoughts.  In my case, I am addicted to Moleskine, but feel free to use any notebook.  Start developing your thoughts…what do you want to say…what do you want the audience to walk away with…if your peers were to discuss your speaking appearance 4 days later, what would they talk about?

And remember, this is just the rough draft, at this point every idea is a good idea…even if it gets left out later.

Here is what my storyboard looked like for the #wftc10 presentation.  In my case, only about 30% of the sketched slides were actually used.

Step 3: Write the Story

Like any great storytelling experience, you need an actual story.  Beginning, middle and end.  Again, most speakers simply push a few slides together, hit save and head for the airport.  And, most presentations suck because of it.

Take a moment to think about your presentation from the audience perspective.  They have been sitting through presentations all day, can’t read anything smaller than 30pt type and are either checking their phones or thinking about the upcoming happy hour.

As the storyteller, you need to give them a reason to listen to you, not read your PowerPoint.

The secret is to develop your presentation as an actual story.  Write it out and read it back.  Does it make sense?  Is it interesting?  Does it follow basic story development structure?

For the #wftc10 talk, this is the story I developed…complete with misspellings, photo notes (Flickr!) and again, more pieces that did not make the final show.

Social + Mobile x Website = Success

Telling Your Story Across Any Blog, Site, App, Network or Phone. (

You don’t need a social media strategy, or a mobile strategy or a website strategy.

I need you to clear you mind and take a step back in the planning process.  Let’s change our perspective on what is our interactive strategy, so that you can walk back into your office on Monday morning and say ‘I got it.’

Before we go much further, let’s have some fun with the next room.

I was at a Starbucks the other day, sitting next to a group of teens and an older gentleman.  Suddenly a woman burst into the door asking fantically if anyone knew how to get to this local dude ranch.  Everyone, including myself, had never heard of the place.  Then, from the back, a seasoned voice said ‘two blocks west, then down the dirt road.’  As I turned, I saw the older gentlemen, wearing a cap that said Korea Vertern place his iPhone back into his pocket and continue drinking his coffee. (

So, how did this happen to us?  How did we go from a brochure, radio ad and perhaps a billboard to spending every waking moment worried about Facebook, mobile phones and GroupOn? (

And more importantly, how can you, the destination recapture your rightful place in the travel planning process?

It is tough and difficult.  Agencies don’t have a good grasp on your needs.  A new social site launches everyday.  Facebook continues to evolve, you have little to no staff or budget to get this done and you are already working 12 hour days.  Honestly, how the hell is anyone spending 8 hours a day on Facebook? (

First things, first…there is no going back.  Fragmentation is here to stay.  Social media, YouTube, Twitter.  That box cannot be closed.  Stop waiting for one of these mediums to fail, they won’t, accept it.  (

Second, atticipate the consumers need at each step.  Right message, right place, right person, right medium. Period.  (

Third, focus on the message, not the medium.  You don’t need a social media strategy.  You don’t need a mobile strategy.  You need an engagement strategy.  An activation strategy.  A consumer-focused, upfront, honest, tell me the damn story strategy.  You don’t need a social strategy. (

So, what is the common thread?  How do you create interest across any of these mediums, regardless of social site or app?

With a strong story, including an emotional appeal, integrated (planned!) across all mediums.

What is your story?  What is your destination good at?  Why should I visit?  (

Change your focus to answer the question why first, instead of how?

One final thought on the changing media landscape and why you need to change your thinking.

In 2 years, the majority of consumers will encounter your website by mobile device 1st.  Before a PC. (

5 years from now, you won’t be planning your website, you will be planning your content strategy and then building mediums around it.

The website of 2010 is quickly becoming the brochure of 1999.  Antiquated, outdated and reduced usefullness due to new methonds of delivery.

The medium will end.  The story lives on forever.

Remember: (

Change your thinking.

The new normal is difficult.

There is no going back.

Message, not medium.

Anticipate the consumer.

Find your emotional appeal via a strong story.


Troy Slide.


Step 4: Graphics

You have heard it before, from people far more qualified than I, but people don’t like reading bullet points.  Never use them.  And use as little text as possible.

The conference attendees could read your presentation from the comfort of their office, the reason they came all the way to Anaheim was to be wowed by the best damn social media / airline / distribution / whatever speaker on the planet.

Use slides to support you.  You are the presentation, not PowerPoint.

Two tips and techniques I use.  First, you can find every photo / graphic you will ever need on Flickr, just attribute the work correctly via Creative Commons.  Second, if you know Photoshop, use it.  Each and everyone of my slides is build in Photoshop.  Why?  Control, creativity and a common template.

And you can even spell check in Photoshop too.

Step 5: PowerPoint / Keynote

Save, assemble and review.  Add presenter notes.  Review again.

Here is the completed presentation from the Wisconsin Tourism Conference:

Review: 5 Steps to a Great Presentation

  1. Storyboard
  2. Write
  3. Create
  4. Assemble
  5. Review

That is how I assemble my presentations.  Is it the only way?  Certainly not, but it has proved to be an effective way to create a unique presentation for each speaking appearance.

So, what do you think?  Crazy or inspired?  Let me know in the comments.

And, thanks to everyone who attended my session at #wftc10, truly a great group of CVB / DMO marketers.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.