From client to co-presenter: Asking clients to present with you at an industry conference

Chris Behrens
President and Chief Executive Officer

Everyone loves a story, but – let’s be honest here – very few of us take the time to read a case study. I’m as guilty as the next person – if you want to share a story with me about how you created something that worked for your business and your customers, I’m all ears. But if you send a PowerPoint deck with the same information, I might plan to look at it “someday,” but it could easily fall into the virtual crevices of my bulging inbox.  

I know I’m not alone, and that’s why, in this age of relationships that are increasingly virtual-only, we still trek off to our annual industry conferences. We want to see faces. We want to shake hands. And, most of all, we want to hear stories about what’s working out there in the marketplace, and to take back some ideas we can put into practice right away when we get back to the office.

I’m on the board of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and as we began to plan our annual meeting last year, I was asked if I would partner with a client to present a case study of a successful marketing promotion. At first, that sounds like a no-brainer – a chance to worth with my client and share information about what great work we’d done together, and in front of an audience, no less? But as I considered the invitation, I realized there were some factors that could help set us up for success – or failure.

  1. If I chose to present a case study that lacked strong data, or that was not relevant to the attendees, I risked seeing that door at the back of the ballroom open wide for an exodus of bored conference attendees.
  2. If I asked a client to present alongside with me, and didn’t provide the proper level of internal data to support our story, or the proper level of presentation support, then I’d be putting a successful client relationship in jeopardy.
  3. And if the client and I didn’t prepare, rehearse and work together, the whole thing would leave us both with some presentational egg on our faces.


Understanding the risks, I still wanted to move forward, partly because I wanted to deliver the kind of presentation I’d always wanted to hear at one of these conferences, to share ideas that have actually been proven effective, and partly because I was just that confident in the strength of YA’s story. I also knew it would be a great opportunity for one of our clients to get their name out in the marketplace as an authoritative marketing expert. Here are my tips for ensuring a successful co- presentation:

#1 Decide what you want to highlight

Since YA has developed an industry-leading role in the digital promotional space, I knew I’d want to highlight a client story that showed how incremental gains could be made using a strongly integrated campaign that relied heavily on digital expertise.

#2 Ask the right client

Given the parameters I had set, I approached our client Merz, a healthcare company specializing in over-the-counter and prescription creams, ointments and injectables. We had recently wrapped up a successful campaign aimed at repeat utilization in the dermatology market, one that delivered $2.21 in incremental profit for every $1 they’d invested. The scope of the program, and the results, were good examples of the way forward-thinking marketers are approaching re-engagement strategies, so I asked our day-to-day senior level contact if she’d be open to co-presenting with me. Happily, she agreed.

#3 Prepare thoroughly

Conference attendees aren’t there for the sugar-coating, they’re there for the meat. We pulled together as much data as we could, and we were honest both about places we’d met objectives, and areas where we thought we could do even better next time. We presented results in visually appealing, bite-sized chunks that were perfect food-for-thought for attendees.

#4 Rehearse everything, even audience questions

We arrived early to the conference and spent a significant amount of time running through our slides, determining who would say what, and even preparing responses for possible audience questions.

The result? A well-attended session of conference participants who stayed with us to the end and asked questions that indicated they had been engaged by our story. The experience not only gave us a credibility boost among those who saw our session, but it’s certainly helped strengthened our relationship with a valued client. And I have to say that our Merz client really knocked it out of the park!

If you’re wondering about telling your story at an upcoming industry conference, I’d be happy to talk with you. And if you’d like to learn more about how YA can help you acquire new customers, retain the ones you have and encourage everyone to spread the word about your brand, please contact me to begin the conversation.

Leave a Reply

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