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Make Your Point: 5 Tips for Editing Presentation Content

One of the easiest ways to lose your audience is by presenting slides that resemble a wall of text. As numerous experts have pointed out, it’s hard for most people to read slides and listen to a speaker at the same time. A slide filled with text encourages your audience to ignore what you’re saying, since they can read faster than you can talk. If you want to avoid this situation, you’ll need to cut back on what’s on your slides. If you want to keep everyone’s attention, you have to carefully edit your presentation content.

In a previous blog post, we discussed the 4 fundamental qualities of presentation content. To be effective, your content needs to meet the following criteria:

1.) Has a clear and specific message
2.) Streamlined and simplified
3.) Supported by facts and data
4.) Compelling and memorable

As you can see, at least 2 of these emphasize the need for precise editing. How can you make your message clear if it’s buried under so many slides? How can you keep your points simple if there’s too much bullet points on screen? It’s time to take a step back and make sure your presentation content is straightforward and memorable.

Our top 5 tips for editing presentation content:

How to edit your presentation content
Don’t torture your audience with repetitive slides. (Source: Nic McPhee/Flickr)

Tip #1: Review the purpose of your presentation

With your initial ideas drafted out, the next thing you have to do is to figure out how much of it you can use. That means you’ll need to have a clear understand of the purpose and message of your presentation. Why were you asked to speak in the first place? What is the main takeaway that you want people to remember? Who are you expecting to address? Anything that deviates from your premise should be edited out of your presentation content.

Tip #2: Aim to follow a simple structure

The structure of your presentation should be easy to follow. Regardless of what it’s about, your presentation should resemble how stories are often told. It should have a beginning, middle, and an end. Start your presentation with an introduction, where you prepare the audience with context for your main discussion. The body of your presentation should include an in-depth but well-structured discussion of your key arguments. Then end with a conclusion that allows the audience to review and remember your core message.

Tip #3: Group similar points together

After editing your initial list, review what you have left and try to condense those points even further. Identify which of your ideas are related to or connect with each other. From there, group those points together and create main clusters that will make up the body of your presentation. Observe a few of Apple’s famous keynote presentations to see how complex discussions can be simplified into three main points.

Tip #4: Limit your examples

Examples are the best way to bring vague concepts into real life, but having too much might also derail your discussion. Another way to edit presentation content is by making sure you limit yourself to giving only 1 example for a certain point. Whether it’s a story, a metaphor, or an analogy, keep your examples quick and easy to understand. Avoid complicating an already tedious concept by loading it with a long explanation.

Tip #5: Keep it conversational

The language you use—or the way you write something—also plays a role in how effective your presentation content is. Remember, a presentation is not an essay. There are differences between the way we write and speak, so get rid of jargon and complex explanations. In an essay, you have plenty of space to explore details. At the same time, readers can enjoy your arguments at their own pace. But in presentations, you’re restricted by a time limit and an audience’s wandering attention. This why it’s important to keep your presentation content conversational.

 

LEARN MORE ABOUT PRESENTATION CONTENT AND WRITING: 

 

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Why Your Presentations Need Better Slide Headlines

Presentation expert Nancy Duarte suggested a quick way to diagnose bad slides. To check your own work, step back and ask yourself, “will the audience get my point with just a quick glance?”

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Nancy’s “glance test” likens PowerPoint slides to billboard ads. Unless you want to hold up traffic, you can’t stop your car to examine every detail of the ad looming over you. A billboard should catch your attention and tell its story in seconds. Your slides should get to the point just as quickly.

An easy way to do that is to keep your designs simple.

Nancy offers many great design tips to make sure your slides pass the glance test. But apart from manipulating visuals, there’s another way to ensure that your slides immediately get to the point.

Just like a news article or a viral blog post, your slides need descriptive headlines.

The usual slide headlines

Instead of descriptive titles, most slides are headlined by a single word or a quick phrase. At first glance, the first thing an audience sees are words like “Objectives or “Goals and Accomplishments”. If you do the same thing for a blog posts or press release, do you think you’ll get as much readers?

bad-headline-example-chronicle
(Image Source)

These headlines can only share a small part about a particular slide. PowerPoint expert Gavin McMahon more accurately calls them “labels.”

Instead of urging the audience to think, “I want to know more about this,” they see text that they’ve likely seen before from other presentations. By changing labels to descriptive headlines, you can convey a complete and interesting idea. You can inadvertently tell the audience to listen closely to what you have to say.

Writing better headlines

In a study published by the Society for Technical Communication, a group of researchers examined how effective descriptive slide headlines are. The researchers presented two different versions of the same slide deck to several sections of 200 students. The first version had slides headlined with the usual short phrases. The other one made use of short descriptive sentences. Even if the study is focused on education, the results show how important it is to write better slide headlines.

When asked to recall the main assertions of slides, the students in the sections taught with the sentence-headline slides had significantly higher recall… For the 15 questions in the study, the average score for the students viewing the sentence-headline slides was 79% correct, while the average for the students viewing the traditional slides was only 69% correct.

So if you want to make sure the audience remembers your message, you’ll need to start writing better headlines. Here are a few tips to help you out:

  • Highlight the main takeaway. Make sure the key takeaway is clear in your headline. Always ask yourself what you want the audience to remember from each slide you make.
  • Be specific. Try to be as specific as possible. While your headline doesn’t have to be long, it should accurately describe what’s tackled in your slide.
  • Feed their curiosity. Write headlines that say enough to urge the audience to ask, “what happens next?”
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Featured Image: Lena Vasiljeva via Flickr

The 4 Fundamental Qualities of Presentation Content

Most people tend to focus all their energy on creating effective PowerPoint designs. It’s true that well-designed slides can help engage audiences even more. Visuals allow people to remember crucial details, given that vision trumps all other senses when it comes to processing information. Still, those who prefer to start by building slides on PowerPoint are missing a crucial detail. They forget that presentation content is the real focus.

Building a presentation is a lot like building a house. Before painting the walls and decorating with furniture, you will need a strong foundation. You will need to build thick walls and sturdy floors. You will need pillars to hold everything in shape. In presentations, that foundation is your content.

So what does it take to create the best content possible? How do you ensure that your foundation is solid and consistent? These are the four fundamental qualities found in effective presentation content:

1.) Has clear and specific message

Your presentation content needs to have a clear and specific message. This will be the core of your presentation, where all your other points revolve. Every argument you make throughout will be to prove the value of your statement. Determine the purpose of your presentation and define the goals you want to achieve. Are you talking to sales prospects? Are you pitching to potential investors? Do you want the audience to see the advantage of your product over competing brands? Craft a single message that encompasses your objectives. Keep it short, powerful, and descriptive.

2.) Streamlined and simplified

In presentations, less is always more. You can easily lose the attention of your audience if you stray too much from your main point. Even if you have plenty of ideas to share, the only thing that’s relevant to your audience will be those that help your message move forward. Streamline your presentation content with some brainstorming techniques. Once you’ve let your ideas run wild, you can choose the points that are most relevant and compelling. If you’re working with data or complex concepts, simplify your discussion by using analogies and metaphors.

3.) Supported by facts and data

To add credibility to your presentation content, you will need to support your points by citing appropriate sources. Make sure you have the necessary data to show that your arguments are valid and accurate. Look for research papers that can help authenticate your ideas. If you’ve done your own research, include the data from your results. You can also include testimonials or interviews.

4.) Compelling and memorable

Overall, your presentation content needs to attract the attention of your audience and keep them interested throughout. You can do that by crafting your content in the form of a story. According to research conducted by Dr. Paul Zak, the most effective content follows the structure of classical Greek dramas. Presentations with the pattern of exposition – rising action – climax – falling action – resolution are more likely to elicit emotional response from the audience.

All in all, your presentation content needs to have information that is specific, useful, accurate, and memorable. Take note of these key characteristics to find the best way to share the message you want to deliver.

 

Reference

Dr. Paul Zak: Empathy, Neurochemistry, and the Dramatic Arc.” Future of Storytelling. 2014. Accessed October 07, 2014.

 

Featured Image: Grant Hollingworth via Flickr

Speech Writing Tips: Don’t Forget, It’s Not an Essay

What makes the best public speakers so enigmatic and memorable? How are they able to capture and retain the attention of their audience for so long? Aside from practicing good delivery, their secret is also in the way they write speeches.

Speech Writing Tips
Death to the Stock Photo

We can call a presentation a success if the audience is able to connect and engage with the speaker.

To get there, they need to be able to follow the flow and logic of your arguments. While having a PowerPoint deck can certainly help in that front, the way you share information is just as crucial.

John Coleman of the Harvard Business Review reveals most speakers make the mistake of reciting an essay for their audience. Instead of working on a speech that’s concise and straight to the point, they tend to overwhelm audiences with a laundry list of information.

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For a successful presentation, don’t forget that a speech and an essay are two different things.

With that in mind, here are three speech writing tips to help you out:

Keep it short and simple

When writing a speech, be mindful of the difference between our ability to learn information orally and visually. As Coleman puts it,

The average adult reads 300 words per minute, but people can only follow speech closely at around 150-160 words per minute. Similarly, studies have shown auditory memory is typically inferior to visual memory, and while most of us can read for hours, our ability to focus on a speech is more constrained.

It will be easier for your audience to remember what you’re saying if you practice brevity and simplicity. Don’t complicate your speech by going into details. Stick to the points that is crucial to what you want people to takeaway. Start by outlining all your ideas and slowly trimming the list down as you begin writing your speech.

Constantly review previous points and use ‘signposts’

Remember when you would have to read an essay for class? If there were things you couldn’t understand, you can simply reread a certain passage as many times as you want. Unfortunately, that won’t be possible for the people listening to you speak. Apart from keeping it brief, your speech also needs a structure that the audience can easily identify and follow. Divide your key points into three main segments and introduce them right away as you begin your speech:

In your introduction, state your thesis and then lay out the structure of your speech ahead of time (e.g., “we’ll see this in three ways: x, y, and z”).

Coleman also suggests using what he calls “signposts.” Words like “first of all,” “next” and “finally” signal to the audience that you’re transitioning from one idea to the next.

Focus on telling a story

As we’ve discussed in the past, storytelling should always be an integral part of any presentation.Coleman suggests that it’s better to stick with a story, especially when you have to data to share. Instead of reciting a list of statistics, it would be better if you zeroed in on the narrative behind the numbers:

Neuroscience has shown that the human brain was wired for narrative… Lead or end an argument with statistics. But never fall into reciting strings of numbers or citations. Your audience will better follow, remember, and internalize stories.

It will also help if you stick with language that’s highly visual. Make use of metaphors and analogies to perfectly illustrate what your data or statistics mean.

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References:

Coleman, John. “A Speech Is Not an Essay.” Harvard Business Review. 2014. Accessed September 12, 2014.
Nelson, Brett. “Do You Read Fast Enough To Be Successful?Forbes. Accessed September 12, 2014.
Widrich, Leo. “The Science of Storytelling: Why Telling a Story Is the Most Powerful Way to Activate Our Brains.” Lifehacker. Accessed December 5, 2014.

 

Featured Image: Marijn de Vries Hoogerwerff via Flickr

What Poetry and Presentation Content Have in Common

You might think poetry and presentations are in completely opposite planes. Both are just different ways of communicating and expressing new ideas. While poetry focuses on artful interpretation, presentation content requires you to be concise and straight to the point. You’ll be surprised that despite this obvious conflict, there are ways that poetry and presentation content overlap with each other.

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Here are ways presentation content can mirror poetry in other ways.

Strong images

Like poetry, great presentation content contains strong images. It’s not enough that you have images in your slides. You also need to integrate powerful imagery in your choice of words. Consider how the poet Ezra Pound perfectly set up a familiar scenario in just a few words:

 In a Station of the Metro

The apparition of these faces in the crowd;
Petals on a wet, black bough.

Similarly, your presentation content should be able to ignite the imagination of your audience with more descriptive and active words.Pair these words with powerful pictures in your slides and you’ll surely keep your audience engaged for a long time.

Analogies and metaphors

Poets take abstract concepts and liken them to more concrete and relatable things.  For example, in William Shakespeare’s famous sonnet, he describes a beloved by comparing her to a “summer’s day.” While your presentation content doesn’t have to be as lengthy as a Shakespearean sonnet, you should also make sure that your ideas are as clear and digestible as possible.

You might as well talk of the abstract when you discuss complicated data without simplifying it. To help your audience fully grasp a complex topic, use common metaphors and analogies in your explanation. Use something you know they’ll be able to relate to, like a scene from a famous movie or rules of a popular sport.

Structure

Poems follow a specific structure that helps reader follow its internal rhythm. Even if a certain poem is written in free verse, it still has specific patterns that allow readers to see the natural flow of words.

The same thing should be present in your presentation content. Structuring your presentation content makes it easier for your audience to follow what you’re saying. Determine the logical flow of your ideas by starting with a storyboard.

Like presentations, poems can take on different forms. Sonnets typically tackle love and romance. Epics follow the adventure of a hero. Some poets prefer to write in free verse. Similarly, the type of presentation you’re going to prepare for will depend on the topic and context.

Your presentation can be a sales pitch, or it can be informative and educational. It can also be a report that’s driven heavily by data. In all these scenarios, your presentation won’t look and sound the same, just like a poem would.

Embrace your inner presentation poet with these tips and craft a winning pitch and deck to match!

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Featured Image: Martin Pettitt via Flickr

Occam’s Razor and Simplifying Presentation Content

The simplest explanation tends to be the correct one.

I’m sure it’s something you’ve heard before. It’s the phrase we know as Occam’s razor, a line of reasoning that guides scientists as they wade through questions and empirical data to arrive at a conclusion. Surprisingly, it’s something you can also apply to your presentation content.

Less is More

When your presentation involves a complex topic, how do you make sure your message is received properly? How can you guarantee that your audience can remember the details beneath the tables and line graphs? The answer depends on the two principles that formed the basis of Occam’s razor:

  • Principle of Plurality: “Plurality should not be posited without necessity”
  • Principle of Parsimony: “It’s pointless to do with more what is done with less”

Basically, your presentation content should follow the idea that “less is more.” When you’re presenting complex information, it’s better to keep your explanation brief and straight to the point. It’s your task to relay knowledge to your audience and a lot could get lost in between unnecessary details and complications. The fewer words it takes, the better.

Simplicity in Complex Details

Presentation content - Einstein quote
Wikimedia Commons

Albert Einstein is often credited for saying, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Before you begin working on your presentation, ask yourself how much of your subject matter do you truly understand.

In the business setting, presentations are mostly collaborative. It’s likely that the data you have was compiled by someone else. Take the time to review the materials and peruse every detail. If you can, reach out to other people who can help you. There’s no shame in asking questions that may seem obvious.

Simplifying your presentation content actually involves a lot more preparation. It takes no time to paste data from an Excel file, but it takes effort to discern which parts are the most important to your presentation’s goal. There’s no way to know what to exclude unless you understand every detail.

Analogies and Metaphors

Presentation content - baseball
Wikimedia Commons

We often use different analogies and metaphors to make sense of new information. Just think about the idiomatic expressions we use in everyday conversations. Why not do the same with your presentation content?

Consider how your subject matter relates to concrete objects or situations. After you’ve laid out the information, think of similarities it has with things your audience will be familiar with. For example, if you’re trying to explain how a certain software works, you can liken each step to the rules of baseball.

Another example was provided by Christopher Bingham and Steven Kahl. They wrote about how Apple introduced the first Macintosh computer operating system:

 “When users booted up their computer, the screen they stared into was called a desktop, with small icons labeled ‘trashcan’ and ‘files.’ It was really not a desktop in the physical sense, but Apple was helping people transition from what was familiar to them in the physical world to what was new in the digital world.”

Consider that analogies and metaphors usually involve symbolism and imagery. Give them more impact by complementing your presentation content with illustrations.

Consult with a professional PowerPoint designer. A presentation deck is a visual aid. Use it as another vehicle to explain and simplify your presentation content.

 

 

References

Bingham, Christopher B., and Steven J. Kahl. “How to Use Analogies to Introduce New Ideas.” MIT Sloan Management Review. 2013. Accessed July 31, 2014.
Clark, Josh. “How Occam’s Razor Works.” HowStuffWorks. Accessed July 31, 2014.
Determining the Goal of Your Presentation Is Hard.” Think Outside The Slide. September 18, 2012. Accessed July 31, 2014.

 

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Presentation Storyboarding: How to Create Solid Content

Walt Dinsey-inspiration for presentation storyboarding
Walt Disney refers to storyboards during a meeting. (Image from Keys to the Kingdom)

As we mentioned previously, the secret to great content is storytelling. Once you’ve identified the story behind your core message, you can move on to the next step: Presentation Storyboarding.

We’re taking a cue from one of the greatest storytellers in history. In his own article on storyboarding, presentation expert Garr Reynolds cites Walt Disney as someone who perfected the art of storyboarding to create and pitch some of our most beloved stories.

The quirky and funny adventures of Mickey Mouse all started as pieces of paper with rough drawings posted on a wall.

In filmmaking, storyboards are an essential step before movies go into production. Similarly, you can’t begin to build your presentation deck or practice your delivery if you haven’t properly organized your ideas into a comprehensive and structured narrative.

Through storyboards, you can easily visualize your presentation and draft how you want your PowerPoint slides to look. It also allows you to see your presentation as a whole, allowing you to see unnecessary details you can trim out.

Before you begin your presentation storyboard, you need to have a basic idea of where you want your presentation to go. The very first step is to create a working outline and try to identify your main points. Once you have it, you can begin with the storyboarding process.

Here’s the rest of what you need to know about presentation storyboarding:

1. Bring out your post-its

You don’t need fancy tools to create a presentation storyboard. All you need is a pen and a few sheets of paper. The idea is to draft each of your points into a piece of paper and tape them to a wall. In technical terms, each piece of paper is called a panel. If you remember your presentation design lessons, it’s important to limit yourself to one concept per slide.

While you don’t have to stick your storyboard on a wall, we still suggest you do it. It’s a great way to see how your presentation is progressing. And if you’re not happy with something, you can easily move some parts around. You’ll save a lot of time if you use post-its.

2. Don’t hold back

Create as much storyboard panels as you think you need. In this initial stage, you can easily cut out the things you’re not happy with. If you’re collaborating with someone else, presentation storyboarding is also a great way to help you work out each other’s ideas.

3. Keep your core message in mind

While you shouldn’t stop your ideas from flowing freely at this point, it’s also important to keep in mind the core message that you want to share. This is why creating an outline before you start storyboarding. It’s a guide to help you maintain focus on the story your presentation is trying to tell.

The important thing to remember during the presentation storyboarding process is to keep an open mind. Let your creativity flow naturally. Let your collaborates comment on your ideas, and bounce off from theirs. It’s all about swimming through different concepts to find the ones that tell your core message best.

If you need more information about creating custom storyboards for your big presentation, we’ll be happy to help. Contact us for a consultation and we can make solid content for your presentations.

 

Featured Image: Death to the Stock Photo 

Storytelling: The Secret to Great Presentation Content

Everyone loves a good story. Everyday books are read, movies are watched, and events of the afternoon are shared over the dinner table. Stories are an intrinsic part of our experience as people. It’s a vital part of how we communicate with one another.

Remember this fundamental truth when you’re set to give your next presentation. Your presentation content has to be more than just a barrage of information and numerical data. Make your presentation interesting and relatable. There is nothing more compelling than a good story. It’s the secret recipe you’re missing in your presentation content.

Keep these things in mind when you’re working on your presentation content:

1.) Every story has a beginning, middle, and end

Your presentation content should follow a clear and organized structure.

Just as Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, had a great fall, and was unable to be put back together by the King’s men, your presentation content should be presented in a pattern that’s familiar to everyone.

Start with an introduction, delve into the issues after that, and then end with a summary and conclusion.

2.) Introduce your topic with an anecdote or two

Let your audience see that there’s a genuine and relatable story behind what you’re presenting. Don’t just settle for being informative.

Show your audience why the information you’re presenting is important to them. Tell them a few stories that will allow them to relate your topic to their own experiences.

3.) Create context for data

Cold, hard facts can seem impersonal at times, and thus a bit alienating. In order to pull your audience into the main part of your presentation content, you have to give them some context.

When presenting any kind of data, don’t focus too much on the figures. Instead, focus on explaining what they mean and where they fall into your storyline.

4.) Try for an emotional response

Don’t be afraid to show some heart. Try your best to evoke the emotions of your audience in a positive way. Illustrate your points with heart-warming examples, or tell a few jokes as you go along your presentation.

Go for what feels natural to you, your topic, and the people in the audience.

Conclusion

Delivering a pitch, no matter how formal, doesn’t need to be boring. Using storytelling as a creative means to leverage your pitch can attract you a wider range of audiences and introduce your brand to a bigger public.

It can also serve a double purpose as something to give structure to your presentation with a solid hook, line, and sinker. Organize your content with a story to deliver in mind, and you’ll be surprised how much easier everything else will follow.

Need help crafting your presentation story? Contact our SlideGenius experts today for a free quote!

 

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Want Positive Response? End Your Presentation with a Call to Action Slide

“Successful persuasion leads to action” –Nancy Duarte, Resonate

The Call to Action is arguably the most crucial part of your presentation. It encapsulates the main purpose of your presentation through a bold statement that urges your audience to act on the ideas you shared with them. After having made your case, the Call to Action puts the ball into their court.

The Wall Street Journal‘s Brian Steinberg explains that CTAs can be extremely helpful in the context of marketing and advertising. But at the same time, a Call to Action is also useful for different kinds of presentations. Whether you’re giving a seminar, lecture, an investor pitch, or annual report, it’s important that you engage your audience with an objective they can act on.

Here are two things to remember when applying CTAs to your pitch:

1. Before you design a Call to Action slide, you need to work on its content.

Keep your message consistent

Think about the main goal of your presentation and refer back to your storyboard. Is this goal clear and present in the rest of your presentation deck?

Your Call to Action will feel out-of-place if you haven’t been subtly pushing your goal throughout your presentation. Highlight your presentation end-goal with key points throughout your deck.

Be brief and straight to the point

After reviewing your presentation, start writing your Call to Action by following the KISS rule: Keep it Simple, Silly. Short, simple sentences are easier to remember. Being brief will also encourage you to be as specific as possible. The message you leave with your audience should be straight to the point.

Tell them exactly what you want from them in a language that is direct, active and urgent. Make use of verbs that invoke a sense of command, and show how their action can lead to a positive effect. For example, if you’re giving a healthcare presentation on dehydration, you might say: “Drink eight glasses of water a day and your body will thank you for it.”

Provide tools for concrete action

Follow the statement with proper tools that the audience can refer to after the presentation. Offer up a website, Facebook page, contact information, and the like.

Aside from food for thought, give them something concrete to takeaway.

2. Work on a design that adds impact to your statement.

Be big and bold

Translate your Call to Action statement into visuals that are eye-catching and memorable. Draw the attention of your audience immediately by using large font sizes. Your statement should have the largest font size. We won’t give you hard-and-fast rules, but make sure it can be easily read until the very back of the room. You can follow up with your links and other tools below in a smaller font size, but still no less than 30 points.

You can then begin illustrating your Call to Action slide. Use images that are cohesive with your statement and the rest of the PowerPoint deck. Be mindful of the color scheme you’ve been using, and be wise about when to use accent colors.

Be mindful of white space

While aiming for impact, make sure your Call to Action slide isn’t too overwhelming. Maintain a balanced aesthetic by being mindful of white space.

Make sure there’s still enough room in your slide to give your content focus and impact. As you’re designing your Call to Action slide, step back every once in a while to check if there’s too much going on. You can also ask someone to check your work after you’re done.

The Final Word

Don’t say “thank you” without showing your audience a Call to Action slide. It’s important that you end your presentation with a strong statement that urges for direct and urgent action.

When done correctly, the Call to Action slide will lead your audience to reflect and decide on a positive response.

 

Reference

Steinberg, Brian. “‘Call to Action’ Ads Give Clients Results They Can Measure.” WSJ. Accessed July 15, 2014.
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