Strategies for keeping time and costs down and working more efficiently on PowerPoint presentations. Great for freelancers and outside agencies.
If you’re concerned that your presentation will take too much time or energy to create, here are some strategies for keeping time and costs contained and working more efficiently.
Often a designer or presentation design firm will be open to price negotiation, especially on a new project in order to win your business.
Aim to work toward a middle-ground that’s fair to your budget, yet respectful of the designer’s time and outside costs.
Some designers will even work on traded services. It’s rare that I do this, but several years ago, I designed a narrated video and PowerPoint presentation for a cruise affiliate. My compensation: A free cruise for two to Alaska.
#2: Do some of the work in-house or on your own.
By doing the initial layout or first draft of the presentation, you can save a lot of time and money on revisions or edits with a Presentation Designer.
Or, if you’re stuck, call the presentation designer for some ideas and strategies. Some of the more experienced presentation experts can listen your goals, and within a few minutes have several inspiring ideas for you to run with.
After you have the core concepts and outline, then turn to the presentation specialists to assist with the complex graphics, template, and hard-stuff.
Updating or redesigning a basic presentation is much more cost effective than hiring someone to do it all from the start.
#3: Build a library of presentation visuals and stock images.
There’s no need to design that chart again. Chances are, you’ve done something like it before.
Where relevant, you can copy and paste and just update the info.
And just because you used that icon or graphic in another presentation, doesn’t mean you can’t use it again.
Share your work- or work that you’ve seen and would like to emulate- with your presentation designers.
#4: Be clear in your communications.
Many presentation projects take extra time because the scope of the project changes.
Do your best to explain- or document – what you need, from the beginning to avoid costly edits and “Scope Creep.“
Ask your presentation professional if the information you’re sharing is making sense. Have him/her echo your concept and strategy. On big projects, a project workplan created by your presentation designer is a good way to ensure a clearly-understood gameplan.
Be a good manager, but not a control queen.
Working together with your presentation specialist can be the most efficient way to produce a presentation.
Your presentation specialist may provide ideas and insight to make your presentation even better and refined.
Also, revisions made on-the-fly (in-person or via WebEx conference call) are much faster than writing and emailing notes.
Why professional PowerPoint presentation design costs what it costs…and how to justify the expense by focusing on your Return on Investment.
Sometime around 400 B.C. the Greek physician Hippocrates declared, “Art is Long…Life is Short.”1
Nearly 2,500 years later, the aphorism still resonates to anyone who is committed to their craft, spending countless hours passionately practicing their profession. Michelangelo toiled for four years painting the famous Sistine Chapel ceiling. J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter over seven years. And the New World Trade Center will be completed 12 years after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001 (although construction on the New Freedom Tower started in 2006).
Yes, Mr. Client, it really does take time!
As a presentation design professional and trainer, I am keenly aware of the time and related costs involved in creating professional PowerPoint presentations. I work efficiently- not hastily- always aware of deadlines and budgets, and work to calculate time and costs with a scientifically-grounded formula built upon years of experience. Yet when I share my price estimates with business prospects and clients, they are sometimes surprised and struck with sticker shock.
Time…Money…Quality: Keeping it all balanced
A colleague once asked me, “How would you like it? Fast…cheap…or good? Pick two.”
The presentation process parallels the creative design process, but with the added component of writing, editing, and assimilating textual content & key messages. To most people, PowerPoint is one of the fastest and easiest programs; most anybody can work with it to create a sipmle presentation. But using this powerful presentation program properly takes a rare blend of time, testing, and years of focused experience.
Creating a high-end graphical presentation can be a time-intensive task. Sometimes the creative juices just flow perfectly and it comes together fast and bright. Other times, it can be a black hole of wasted time, endless edits, and mind-numbing wheel-spinning. Working among others- presentation by committee- can be even more laborious, as people spend more time “talking about it” rather than “acting on it.” Applying effective Presentation Time Management techniques can help produce quality presentations on time and within budget.
Let’s estimate the time for creating a simple 30 page company overview presentation…
|Researching/Writing/Creating the Core Text Content
|Designing the Graphical Template & Theme + Layouts & Animations
|Researching/Purchasing/Designing 10 Graphics working with Photoshop + inserting in PPT
|Designing/Editing 5 Tables & 3 charts of Financial Information & Analytics
|Company Org Charts and Process Diagrams
Working from scratch, this project would take 40 hours! And that’s assuming everything came together fast and easy. At $100/hour, the cost would be $4,000.
Even at a race pace of 45 minutes average per slide (some faster/some slower), this 30 page deck would take 22.5 hours…or $2,250.
Heck…simply spending 1 minute per page reviewing and looking at this 30 pager will take half-an-hour.
Typical fees for a presentation designer & agency
According to HR specialists, the average hourly pay rate for an experienced presentation designer or freelancer (skilled in Photoshop, business presentation writing/editing), is $50 to $75 per hour. Junior designers work at $30 to $50 per hour.
Creative staffing agencies like Aquent and Creative Circle often bill-out their clients at $70/hour to $100/hour.
Most presentation design agencies prefer to bill by the project, but calculate their costs using hourly rates starting at $100/hour. Some agencies’ top designers or consultants are billed at a rate of over $250/hour. Presentation design agencies often have the advantage of a pool of experienced talent, and large graphics libraries for fore efficient and creative design.
The Presentation Team has several pricing models. Companies wanting ongoing presentation support use a retained-services / contractual working model to save costs.
Justifying the costs and selling the presentation ROI to management
“Why do we need to pay this much for a PowerPoint presentation?”
That question- typically asked by upper management to a middle manager- has killed numerous potential presentation projects at my firm. Senior executives often don’t realize the time involved in creating presentations. They are either too detached from the behind-the-scenes development of presentations…or simply don’t recognize the importance of a quality presentation.
Not just another document, PowerPoint is on the frontline of business communications
To many executives, “The Presentation” deck is viewed as just another document or report. But presentation visuals are often seen by more people- internally and externally- than the average report. From quarterly stock earnings reports, to training presentations, to investor pitch decks…the PowerPoint presentation is often on the front-line of corporate communications.
Poor PowerPoint practices are everywhere!
Yet all too often, the development of these essential presentations are handled internally by administrative assistants or the employee directly. The result: a mosh pit of tremendous text, boatloads of bullets, gregarious graphs, and irrelevant information. Weak presentations subconsciously affect a viewer’s perception of a company. Presentations should reflect the highest standards of any company.
Top companies recognize the importance of “The Presentation”
Indeed, companies who have recognized the importance of “The Presentation” and its reflection on their brand and image (not to mention its effectiveness as a critical communications medium) have a solid edge over their competition. Many Fortune 500 firms have a dedicated presentation design department, often working alongside the marketing, PR, and/or meeting & events departments. They often have established guidelines for their presentation visuals (usage, colors, spacing, fonts, etc.) and a well-developed presentation template/theme.
Emphasize Value for Buy-In from Upper Management
To a presentation project champion or manager trying to sell the value of a professional presentation to management, its vital to emphasize the value that a well-written and well-designed presentation can have on the company’s image. A $10K investment in a professionally-designed analyst or investor presentation is a small price to pay for a communications tool that will generate exponentially higher revenue.
And even if the presentation never gets shown to an outside audience, its design should be no-less compelling. Often, the content that is created for a small internal “discussion presentation” can be repurposed for a more important company presentation.
Outsourcing can save time and money
Outsourcing a PowerPoint presentation to a professional presentation design firm can actually help companies save time and money, by allowing them to focus on their core competencies rather than relying on internal resources. Marketing experts and graphics designers- skilled as they might be- often do not have the same skillsets and as an experienced presentation specialist.
Presentations have a long life span!
Many presentations live-on, long after the show is over. More companies are uploading their key presentations to their websites, or sharing them on SlideShare.net. Indeed, The Presentation is more visible than ever, and should be given the same level of respect and budget as Sales & Marketing collateral, brochures, websites, and corporate videos.
Presentation development is a blend of art and science
If the good doctor Hippocrates was around today and tasked to deliver a PowerPoint presentation at a local college, I’m sure he would recognize the artistry and time involved…and wouldn’t think twice about partnering and paying for a true presentation professional to get the job done right. Art is long.
Tips and Strategies to Improve PowerPoint Skills and become a Power User. Focus on mouse clicks, keyboard commands, and trusted tips and tricks.
Microsoft PowerPoint is the world’s most popular presentation program. And yet it is hardly used to its full power. The average PowerPoint user spends hours of wasted time clicking through menus and applying elementary techniques in an effort to create a basic presentation. But like mild-mannered Clark Kent donning his cape as Superman, you can adopt a mighty mix of mouse clicks, keyboard commands, and trusted tips and tricks to become a PowerPoint Power User.
#1 Content First…Then Visuals
When starting a new presentation, try not to become distracted by the desire to make it look good. Rather, focus on creating the content first. Spend time to gather your thoughts, getting a clear vision of what the presentation will look like…and what it will say.
- Work on a plain white screen or word processor to get your bullets and main points in place.
- Talk over the ideas/themes with friends and colleagues.
- Draft a storyboard on paper.
- Once your concepts and ideas are in place, then you can start on the graphics.
#2 Think Efficiently & Use the Keyboard
Don’t get caught by the clock! To improve efficiency and shave hours off your presentation development time, it’s helpful to learn the keyboard shortcuts.
It may only take a second to move the mouse up to the copy and paste icons, but en-masse, those mouse movements take lots of time. Control-C and Control V (for Copy and Paste) are fundamental and universal keyboard commands that can help speed things up.
Pressing F1 will bring up a help window (in almost any program), and most keyboard commands are listed for. Sometimes, you can accomplish functions through keyboard commands that you can’t do any other way!
Become a CONTROL Freak: Pressing the Control Key in combination with other keys will get things moving fast. Dragging an item while holding control will make a copy.
SHIFT into efficiency: Shifting Dragging an item while holding Control and Shift will make a copy, constrained to a horizontal or vertical alignment.
ALTernatives: The Alt (or Option key in Mac) is also used (although not as much) on some keyboard shortcuts.
Here are some of my top PowerPoint Keyboard Commands/Shortcuts. Often, if you hold the mouse over an icon, a keyboard command will be displayed…
And here’s a list of Slide Show shortcuts that can help you look like a polished presenter, and help you navigate through your presentation more efficiently…without having to escape from the show.
#3 The Right Click is the Trick.
By clicking the right mouse button on top of various elements (images, text, icons, etc.) you’ll have a new world of PowerPoint efficiency and functionality. Just like keyboard commands, the right click can help you work more powerfully. You can turn it on in Slide Show mode for a menu of features, or disable it (File > Options > Advanced > Slide Show) for a simple slide-backward function.
#4 Click, Drag, and Drop
No, it’s not a new dance routine. Click, Drag, and Drop, is a simple and straightforward method to import graphics and content into PowerPoint. Sure, you can use copy and paste. Or insert…picture. But for maximum efficiency it’s fast and easy to drag your image directly from the window onto your slide. If you have text you want to insert from a web browser or word document, select the text…and hold the left mouse button while dragging it to your PowerPoint slide.
#5 Make Alternate and Hidden Versions of Slides
Not sure how an effect will look? Want to have some extra detail on a slide that you may or may not use? By making duplicate versions (copy and paste your slides in the slide sorter) you can experiment with alternative versions. Select “hide slide” so it doesn’t show when you’re presenting. You can always enter (on the keyboard) the slide number of your hidden slide and jump right to it.
Also, don’t delete your old slides; move them to the end and hide them; keep them as alternates or backups.
#6 Align & Distribute Images(+ use the Grid)
Don’t just place your graphics haphazardly in your presentation; work to keep them aligned! Graphics that are misaligned can subconsciously send the message of disorganization, and detract from the professionalism of your presentation.
Select multiple objects by shift-clicking on them (or lasso-ing with your mouse)…and then select Format (from the top menu)…Align (or Distribute). Power Users put align and distribute icons on their toolbars for fast and easy access.
Also, Guides and Grids (view menu or right click), are a great way to help keepyour graphics perfectly straight.
#7 Customize the Ribbon & Toolbar
Like a fine artist with a custom workshop and working space, you can customize and optimize your PowerPoint virtual workspace. The Ribbon and Quick Accesss Toolbar can be customized with easy-to-access icons….packed with powerful features. Sometimes features are available that aren’t shown in menus- but simply accessible with the click of a mouse.
Customize it either by right clicking on the ribbon or toolbar…or by setting it up in File > Options > Customize Ribbon (or Quick Access Toolbar). Some Power Users setup a second monitor just to display their custom ribbons and toolbars full of functional icons. Take the time to customize your PowerPoint workspace while learning its newfound features, and be amazed at what you can now do.
#8 Save Often, Locally, and With Backups
By saving every 30 minutes and with different versions (draft1.pptx, draft 2.pptx, etc.) you can save yourself headaches when the inevitable computer crash comes. Also, don’t trust the networks. Save your presentation to your local PC and copy it later to the network.
And at the end of the day, I’ll save the whole folder- or back it up- to the network. In other words, work locally- on your drive C. It’s faster, and probably more reliable than the networks. Either just copy the files there or use the Backup tool that came with your computer.
#9 Allow Enough Time for Output and Practice
Don’t get caught by the clock! By stopping even 20 minutes before your actually deadline- or showtime- you can significantly enhance your message by taking time to practice and rehearse. Also, consider the time needed to print/copy/upload or email the file.
#10 Don’t be Afraid to Try!
Like a hiker exploring a new trail, look at PowerPoint with a sense of curiosity and adventure. Check out all the menus. Explore it…try it! Your computer won’t crash, and you won’t delete your files. This is the way we learn. Right click everywhere and see what you can do. Set a goal of learning (and applying) a new keyboard command every week.
With an open mind and a positive attitude for discovery, challenge and accomplishment, you’ll be a PowerPoint Power User in no time.
Senior EVP and presentation trainer exchange Flu Virus during coaching
Call it coincidence. My Thursday afternoon appointment with Dr. Wong had been on my calendar for months. Just a routine checkup the young physician liked me to have…as a requirement to renewing my asthma inhalers. Now I’d conveniently have him quickly restore my voice, now barely a loud whisper following two days of focused presentation coaching and training.
So when the good doctor told me that I had The Flu, I could barely believe it. He counseled me, reassuring me the Tamiflu he was prescribing would be helpful since we caught it early. I went home and proceeded to descend into two of my grimmest weeks, as the virus tightened its grip. But not before I picked up the phone to call my client with a message of warning and concern over this surprising and grim news.
My most prominent client to-date
Two days earlier, I had been coaching and collaborating with a Senior Vice President of General Electric Healthcare. He and his senior business analyst colleague, a charming younger woman in her 30s had traveled from Chicago to my Washington DC-area office on a mission to improve their presentations. He was the most prominent executive I had ever worked with; finding time on his busy schedule took weeks of planning and scheduling.
We greeted each other on Tuesday morning with a warm and gracious welcome, toured our office, chatted about the weather, and then settled in the conference room to get started on creating magnificent PowerPoint slides. I shared ideas and strategies on how to improve their charts, create focused headlines, and working more effectively with Master Slides for greater efficiency. They ate it up.
The VP emanated brilliance; his questions were targeted and relevant. As we all worked, he multitasked, responding to emails and texts, yet maintaining a sharp focus on our training.
The obvious warning
We should have seen it coming. Or at least he should have; he himself was an esteemed medical doctor. By the middle of our first day of training, my voice was turning hoarse. I struggled increasingly for my small audience to hear my words of presentation wisdom.
They both commented on the immense value and depth of information. And we all mentioned on how we felt tired. The older man and I also mentioned that we felt warm; we were both starting to break a sweat. By 5pm, my voice was almost gone. I rattled out how great they were doing, and we broke for the day with a satisfied sense of accomplishment.
I returned home for a silent evening of sipping hot tea and honey. Simple laryngitis, I thought.
The second day we returned. More in-depth presentation training, collaborative PowerPoint design and coaching. They commented how this will transform the way GE does its presentations. My typical high-energy style was more subdued. The woman commented how we both looked pale. The older man listened and worked, with an increased level sneezing and wheezing. My voice was softening and I struggled to stay professional and focused. The man and I joked that we’re “getting sick of this!” as our energy steadily diminished.
The woman, later priding herself on her daily intake of vitamins and health elixirs, just sat on the sidelines watching us slowly slide into sickness.
By the middle of Day-Two my voice had all but disappeared. I shared a few more techniques, and then encouraged my two clients to apply the techniques to improve their PowerPoint presentations, as I acted as a mute one-on-one coach. By noon, their presentations looked amazing. Feeling tired and filled with valuable information, we all decided to wrap-up early. They caught their flight back to Chicago, and I made the short drive back home.
It’s hard to conduct business and training without a voice. So I fell asleep early, around 7pm, confident my doctor would cure my laryntitis in the morning.
Worse than I thought
The next morning, I whispered my story to Dr. Wong. “I fried my vocal chords from two days of speaking!”
The doctor suggested I take a Flu Test. I scoffed. But I willingly complied, as he gagged me with a half-foot skinny swab down my throat.
While I waited for my results, my phone chimed with an email from my younger GE client, thanking me for the great training, and sharing how her presentations are already looking better.
Doctor Wong returned. “I have some bad news,” the doctor shared. “You have The Flu.”
Where or how I got this nasty bug it isn’t clear. I can blame the GE guy. He can blame me. I feel I did a good deed by warning them of my diagnosis and encouraging them to seek treatment. For two of us it was too late; he and I descended into a deep and dark convalescence.
For me, my work came to a grinding halt, made even more grim by the cold, dark, and snow of a wintery January. My voice- and health- steadily recovered throughout late January and February. The GE guy also took off several days.
The GE team and I can now look back with relief, and the knowledge that these two days of PowerPoint training could help us make one terrific presentation about our shared experience. But that’s the past. It’s now time to focus on presentations about a bright bold future. Spring Forward.
10 of the world’s scariest slides and pathetically bad PowerPoint presentations…and a few PowerPoint makeovers and redesigns just in time for Halloween.
Bullets kill. And so do bullet points…sucking the life out of audiences, who stare like zombies into the abyss of the grey and heartless projection screen while a mummy-like speaker recites mind-numbing paragraphs of text. So as the cool autumn winds blow, let’s open the crypt of ten of the world’s scariest presentations…and share a few magical potions to bring them back to life.
#1. Is it a car? Or is it an essay?
This full-screen muted photo of a Lamborghini is cluttered by five sentences of text explaining the definition of a car. The audience doesn’t know whether to look at the car, the text, or the speaker, Or simply look away in fright.
A fundamental fix is to eliminate the text completely- let the speaker talk about it- and create two slides. Slide 1 features a simpler image of the car (a Lamborghini) while the speaker shares a basic definition, as explained in paragraph one. Slide 2 features an illustration of the basic components of the car, as explained in paragraph two.
If the speaker didn’t want to eliminate the text entirely, the photos could be offset to the left, with the text offset on the right.
#2. Strong Brand…Scary Slide!
Hopefully, this company’s business strategy is a lot better than their presentations. In the early days of PowerPoint, someone created this curdling mix of arrows, text and a target to explain how 10 elements could target 6 key audiences.
Granted, this image is nearly 15 years old, created long before the ease of Smart-Art graphics. This was one of my very first slide redesigns…and I saw the immediate need to simplify and minimize. I started by creating a simple template using the company’s brand colors of red and black. In the center, I placed a photo of an actual bullseye. And around the bullseye- instead of angry arrows- I worked in Photoshop to create iconic ovals with superimposed text. The slide’s text and message remained the same.
#3. A Potpourri of Praise
This potpourri of praise may turn a few heads…away! Letters of reference can be helpful in winning a project…but cramming them all one slide is hardly helpful when showcasing success. This construction company’s slide features a mauve/purple gradient background blended with a faded group of schoolgirls. Two recommendation letters in opposite corners are impossible to read…so they’re transcribed in text. But the Times New Roman font is hard to read, even with key words emphasized in yellow. The skinny arrows are meaningless in connecting the letters to the text.
In the redesign of this reference slide, we scanned the actual letters and placed them on two separate pages, angled for depth and improved positioning. A magnified section of the letter showcased the key phrase or message, eliminating the need for manually-entered text.
#4. Bombs bursting in air
This speaker was hell-bent on grabbing his audience’s attention. His stark black background was juxtaposed against a fireworks explosion and an outdated restaurant. The blood red text with yellow shadows made the audience feel as if they were in a McDonald’s war-zone.
Taming this terror is relatively simple. A quick fix is applying a light beige gradient and inserting a photo of a restaurant with an angled picture style effect. The text becomes black and moves to the top of the slide, with keywords emphasized in green.
Another approach to subdue the shriek of the slide is to deviate from the template and filling the background with a full page image of a restaurant interior. Image blur and desaturation effects applied. The message is prominent and dominant, with the critical “Inside the Four Walls” message showcased with a 3D text effect to illustrate depth and dimension.
#5. Toxic Snake. Toxic Slide.
Like the venomous Viper snake, this slide the Veterans In Pursuit of Educational Readiness (VIPER) program for Warren County Community College is also toxic. Teeming with text and pouring over with patriotism, the three key bullets on this slide are little more than a script for the speaker or a handout for the audience.
A refreshing redesign of the slide splits the three bullets into three separate pages. The patriotic flair is conveyed in a subdued, red and blue bottom arc created in Photoshop and set against a sandy-white textured gradient background. The VIPER logo is integrated in the top right, and three square academic images carry the iconic military-academic theme. The three slides each feature a prominent image of a student or service member, providing an ardent amount of breathing space.
#6. As boring as the subject
This insurance company’s gloomy slide might as well feature a decrepit homeless person. The ominous navy background with its heavy black text against a fuzzy pie-chart does little to inspire someone to purchase their plan. The red title sends a subconscious message of warning!
The presentation’s redesign is a breath of fresh air. A light and flowing light green and white background features a green subtle element from the company’s logo. All four major bullets have been converted to iconic graphics featuring bold white text with a black border and shadow.
#7. Scary surgery…and slides
Blood tests and surgery can be frightening…and so is the uninspired layout of this slide. Five unequally-sized rectangles all linked by anemic arrows to an oval in the middle showcase the role of diagnostic testing. The images are busy and hard to see, as are the tiny Arial subheadlines. The flat blue background may put the audience into a trance.
The redesigned PowerPoint slide features five equally sized rounded-rectangles with clear dominant images, defined by Larger-sized subheadlines in Calibri. A transparent clipped PNG graphic of a scientist on the bottom left sends a message for the entire slide of science and medicine. The background is a textured blue angled-line image from Crystal Graphics and edited in Photoshop. A White rectangle block at the top adds contrast and provides space for a concise title and logo.
#8. NSA Security Breach reveals holes in PowerPoint design
There were many harrowing things about the National Security Association PRISM leak – but to Paris-based designer Emiland De Cubber, the most horrible revelation was how awful their PowerPoint design was. Breaking nearly every fundamental rule of presentation design blended pastel colors, tiny type, and overwhelming amounts of information on its plain white background.
DeCubber stepped up and redesigned several PRISM slides. His philanthropic feat was showcased in Fast Company, as well at http://www.digitaltrends.com/web/whats-with-prisms-awful-powerpoint/#ixzz2hA3kvrsl
#9. Simply complex
This PowerPoint slide is the winner of the InFocus 2011 Worst Slide Contest. It features a mix of text, headlines, arrows, schematics, and directions. Normally, a viewer can grasp the core message of a slide, but this complex and convoluted message spooks the audience.
Even if we could even understand what this slide’s core message was about, the slide could be split into at least 3 or 4 separate pages. A textured background, a clean and simple headline and plenty of white space would help simplify the core message and make this presentation more pleasing.
#10. The enemy is…PowerPoint
Featured in the New York Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/27/world/27powerpoint.html?_r=0) in October 2010, this PowerPoint slide became a catalyst for change in the presentation industry. Designed to portray the complexity of the American military strategy in Kabul, Afghanistan, this scary PowerPoint slide prompted General Stanley McChrystal to wryly remark to laughter and applause, “When we understand that slide, we’ll have won the war.”
The slide demonstrated the mind-numbing strategy of PowerPoint, encouraging many to think outside the box and create more dynamic and compelling messages.
So the next time you see an ugly presentation, consider these opportunities to rise it from the dead.