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How to Turn a White Paper into a Trade Show Presentation

by | Dec 6, 2017 | Collateral, White Papers, Trade Shows, Technology Marketing, Content Marketing | 0 comments

Big trade show on your 2018 calendar? Want to increase exposure for your brand and your solutions among prospects at the trade show conference?

Why not answer the conference “call for papers” with a recent white paper and create a presentation from your white paper’s content? Not only will you promote both your solution and your white paper; you’ll also create a new, versatile content piece you can use after the show – in a variety of applications.

Now, for reasons we’ve discussed in an earlier article, it’s a generally a bad idea to repurpose a conference paper as a marketing white paper. Fortunately for marketers, however, the converse is not true! It is entirely possible to create an effective industry trade show presentation from a white paper. All you need is the right strategy for:

  • Choosing the right white paper
  • Creating effective presentation slides from your white paper’s content
  • Compiling your slide deck to cover your white paper’s scope

Let’s examine each of these three subjects in detail. We’ll start with your choice of white paper.

Choosing the right white paper for your presentation

As mentioned in my previous essay, organizers of industry conferences – even those attached to trade shows – normally frown upon overt marketing in speaker presentations. They want talks that focus on major industry issues: problems, trends, visions of the future, and the like. So, if you’re going to repurpose white paper content in a trade show presentation, you’ll need to choose the right type of white paper.

Fortunately, there are two species of white paper that lend themselves to this task: (1) the problem/solution and (2) the numbered list.

The problem/solution white paper focuses on a nagging industry problem and proposes an innovative solution. A best practice for problem/solution white papers is to discuss the solution mostly in generic terms rather than focusing on one’s own specific product or service. This makes the problem/solution the best type of white paper for lead generation and other situations where most of your audience isn’t ready to hear about your offering just yet. Trade conferences are one of those situations.

A numbered list white paper covers a specific number of points on a chosen topic. Numbered lists can also be repurposed for trade conferences, but here you need to be choosy. You still need a white paper that focuses on an industry problem or issue; not all numbered lists do that. Select a numbered list with a title like 6 Things Every CTO Needs to Know About Powering Remote IoT Devices, for example, over one titled 6 Things to Look for When Choosing a Solid State Battery for a Remote IoT Device.

Finally, you want to avoid the third main species of white paper, the backgrounder, for trade show presentations. A backgrounder normally presents the features and benefits of a specific solution. Thus, it’s a poor choice for conversion to a trade presentation, for reasons already given.

That said, a backgrounder can easily be repurposed as a sales presentation for prospects who are ready to hear about your offering.

If your white paper is recent, informative and well written – in other words, if your solution is innovative and not yet well known, and your white paper is not a sales pitch in disguise – your white paper will likely be accepted for the conference. You can simply submit your executive summary as the abstract.

Creating individual slides

An interesting aspect of repurposing white papers as slide presentations is that the two media are so different. Consider this table of key differences created by That White Paper Guy, my colleague Gordon Graham:

Table 1: Key differences between white papers and slide presentations [i]
[table id=1 /]
The important point to remember here, when creating your trade show presentation, is that slides are primarily a visual medium, not a text-based medium like white papers. They’re meant as visual aids to the spoken word. You should use them to illustrate the points the speaker is making.

So, make liberal use of graphics in your slides while limiting text. Focus each slide on a major point you want your audience to take away from the presentation.

If a page of your white paper looks like Figure 1[ii], for example, the corresponding slide covering the major point of that page might look like Figure 2.

 Figure 1:

A white paper page

Figure 1: A white paper page

Figure 2:

A presentation slide created from a white paper page

Figure 2: A presentation slide created from the white paper page in Figure 1.

Limiting the amount of text on slides will help your audience remember the points you most want them to remember. You can always list secondary points in the speaker’s notes – both for your speaker and for prospects who want copies of your slide deck after the presentation.

Compiling your slide deck

How many slides should it take to create a white paper presentation? We can get an idea by looking at the typical structure of a problem/solution white paper, as shown in Table 2.

Table 2: Planning slides for a presentation based on a problem/solution white paper
[table id=2 /]
If you’ve ever received instruction on how to give a speech or presentation, you’ve probably learned this three-part presentation tip handed down from the great Greek master of rhetoric, Aristotle:

  • Tell them what you’re going to tell them
  • The them
  • Tell them what you told them

All good white papers lend themselves perfectly to this presentation structure, because they contain an Introduction or Executive Summary at the beginning and a Conclusions section that at the end. The former tells ‘em what you’re gonna tell ‘em. The latter tells ‘em what you told ‘em. What’s in between is what you tell ‘em: the bulk of your white paper content.

You should also include a final slide which (1) thanks the audience for their attention, (2) provides contact details for your organization, and (3) most importantly, includes a call to action with the download URL for your white paper.

Thus, from Table 2, we can identify some good rules of thumb for creating slides for a white paper presentation. These will work for numbered lists and backgrounders, as well as problem/solution white papers:

  • 1 slide each for the executive summary, conclusion and call to action sections
  • 2 to 3 slides for each of the major sections of the white paper
  • 1 to 2 slides for important minor sections

About a dozen slides (10 to 14) overall, should cover it. If you’re working from an especially long numbered list or backgrounder white paper, you’ll probably want to limit your presentation to just the most important points.

Don’t forget: your audience can always download the white paper if they want further detail. You can also leave a copy behind following a sales call. So, there’s no need to cram every, last bit of information onto your slides.

Reusing your presentation

A great thing about slide presentations: there are so many ways to repurpose them! This, in turn, creates many opportunities to further publicize both your white paper and your solution.

Following your trade show, consider turning your presentation into your next webinar or online video. You can then post the recording to your website or YouTube channel.

Even easier is to upload your slides to your website, solution portal, or a presentation sharing site like SlideShare.

Once you have your presentation online, you can promote it through your blog, newsletter, LinkedIn, and emails to your house list.

And remember: when you’re promoting your presentation, you’re also promoting your white paper. So, don’t forget to include a link to your white paper download page on that last slide!

Take-away Points

  1. Unlike using a conference paper as a white paper, turning a white paper into a trade show presentation is a great idea.
  2. A slide presentation makes great complimentary content for promoting a white paper.
  3. For trade shows and webinar presentations, it’s best to work from a problem/solution or numbered list white paper.
  4. Backgrounder white papers should only be used for sales presentations.
  5. Emphasize graphics and limit text in your slides. (Show. Don’t tell.)
  6. Make secondary points in your speaker’s notes.
  7. A dozen or so slides should cover a white paper
    • Two to three slides for each major section
    • One slide each for:
      • Intro or executive summary
      • Conclusions
      • Thank you and call to action
  8. Include a link to your white paper download page on the last slide.

Next Steps

Need help crafting a white paper, or converting one into a trade show presentation or other content? Call CopyEngineer at (+39) 011 569 4951. Or email me at



[i] Graham, Gordon, How to repurpose a white paper into a slide deck,, October 2015.

[ii] Cole, John, How to Eliminate Over Half of All Design Errors Before They Occur, QRA Corp, November 2016.


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