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.
Create a Presentation the Steve Jobs Way
“It’s not about the software; it’s about the story”
As a communication and presentation skills coach, I often get asked, “How do I make my slides look like a Steve Jobs presentation?” The first thing I tell them is that they do not have to use Apple presentation software (Keynote), although it’s a beautifully refined program. I’ve seen gorgeous PowerPoint designs as well, especially with PowerPoint 2007. So it’s not about the software; it’s about the story. Steve Jobs treats presentations like theatrical events complete with heroes and villains, a supporting cast, stage props and visually stunning backdrops—slides. I know designers who have actually worked with Steve Jobs at Apple, so I wrote an entire book on how to create and deliver a presentation the Steve Jobs way. While there are about eighteen techniques that Jobs uses, one stands out. I call it “unleashing your inner Zen.” Here are some tips on creating a presentation the Steve Jobs way.
A Steve Jobs presentation is strikingly simple, visual and devoid of bullet points. That’s right—no bullet points. Ever. Of course, this raises the question, would a PowerPoint presentation without bullet points still be a PowerPoint presentation? The answer is yes, and a much more interesting one. New research into cognitive functioning—how the brain works—shows that bullet points are the least effective way to deliver important information. In fact, memory processing is aided by pictures. Scientists call it picture superiority: ideas are more easily recalled when presented as text and images instead of text alone.
Simplicity is the Ultimate Sophistication
When Steve Jobs introduced the MacBook Air in January, 2008, the most memorable slide showed the notebook computer being pulled from a manila inter-office envelope to show just how thin it really was. No words could equal the power and simplicity of that image. The average PowerPoint has forty words. It’s hard to find forty words in ten slides of a Steve Jobs presentation. “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication,” said Jobs quoting from one of his heroes, Leonardo da Vinci. Jobs keeps his slides simple by eliminating unnecessary words, charts and other eye clutter. The influential German painter, Hans Hoffman once said, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” By removing clutter—extraneous features and information—from his products and presentations, Jobs achieves the ultimate goal: ease of use and clarity.
To gain a fuller appreciation of Jobs’ simple slide creations, watch the first few minutes of his keynote presentation at the Macworld Expo, January, 2008. The first several slides have one or two words per slide. When Jobs reviews the new products that Apple introduced in the previous year, the slide simply reads: 2007. Jobs thanks his customers for their support and the slide reads: Thank you.
Confidence, Time and Practice
Creating simple, visual slides requires three things: confidence, time and practice. First, confidence. Slides should not take center stage. The audience’s attention should be directed at you, the speaker. The slides compliment the speaker. That means you had better know your material and have the confidence to deliver your message with conviction. The second thing it requires is time. It’s easy to create cluttered slides—just write everything you want to say on the slide. Thinking visually about displaying information takes more effort, but it’s worth the time to stand apart. And the third thing it requires is practice. Because you’re delivering information that is not on the slide, you can’t read from the slide. You have to commit the information to memory and use the slide as a prompt to deliver the idea. Steve Jobs rehearses for many, many hours over many weeks to get everything just right.
Steve Jobs may be a hard act to follow, but once you start using some of his techniques in your own presentations, you’ll be hard to forget.
Start Your Presentation Right To Save It From Going Wrong
Techniques to get your presentation started fast and eliminate procrastination.
Are you a presentation procrastinator? A PowerPoint put-offer? A stalled sleepless speaker? Let’s face it: most people dread developing presentations. But with computer-based presentation tools such as PowerPoint, it’s easier than ever to start your presentation development correctly- and save it from spinning out of control. A well-planned and organized presentation can save lots of headaches down the road. Try these techniques the next time you have to pull a presentation out of thin air:
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. Use the outline view to get your bullets and main points in place. Talk over the ideas/themes with friends and colleagues. Draft a storyboard on paper. Also, the auto content wizards of PowerPoint are helpful in getting the key messages in place.
Design for your Audience
Select or create a template design that’s appropriate for your audience: are they young or old…colorful or conservative? The colors you use should be compatible with the company’s brand/image. The number of people in the audience affects how large the type should be on screen and how much information should be crammed together. Look at the presentation through the eyes and ears of your audience.
Use Master Slides
The slide master’s purpose is to let you make a global change — such as replacing the font style — and have that change reflected on all the slides in your presentation. By creating a master slide (or multiple masters), you can make revisions to the presentation quickly, rather than page-by-page. (Select View…Master…Slide Master).
Plan ahead of your Deadlines
Before starting your presentation, it’s important to have an idea of how much work is involved in developing the presentation…and how much time it will take. Set benchmarks and goals throughout the development period. Aim to finish the presentation a day ahead of schedule.
Know your Presentation Venue and Output Medium
Are you presenting in a large auditorium or in a small group? Will your presentation be shown on paper, 35mm slides, or laptop-based? These questions are vital to help determine the appropriate fonts, sizing, and spacing. Try to preview the presentation venue beforehand to get a better idea of how your show will look.
Ten Simple Tips to clean-up those boring PowerPoint slides
You’ve worked and worked on your presentation…but it still looks cluttered and ugly. Here are 10 quick and easy methods to improve busy and ugly slides, reduce on-screen clutter and improve boring boring presentations.
#1: Simply provide more breathing space.
Rather than cramming all the graphics and text items together, taking up all the available space on a slide, bring the items into the center a bit…shrink them down to a reasonable size…and provide at least 80% “white space” around the items. It creates a more clean and inviting look.
#2: Group bullets and objects into shapes (SmartArt).
Rather than having a whole page of bullets or graphics, try grouping the points into a few colorful rectangles or squares. That way, they’re psychologically percieved as a collective entity. Also, we remember graphics more readily than text, so work to find a graphic from a stock photo collection or a scanned photo that will support the bullet and make it come alive with graphics.
#3: Eliminate the template.
On slides where there’s no way around the busy-ness (like an organizational chart), simply place your graphics or text on a pure black background. Though templates are great for creating a consistent look, there’s nothing bad about deviating from it once in a while with a non-competing image to get the point across.
#4: Span Bullet Points Across Multiple Pages
It’s a good idea to limit your bullets no more than 6 per page. But this may not be practical in all cases, so rather than cram them all on a single page, split them over 2 or 3 pages. You may consider creating a separate page for each bullet point with related graphics. Though it can add many pages and take longer to develop, the fast-moving graphical pages work to maintain a strong level of interest with the audience. And don’t get worried that you’re adding so many pages to your presentation…it’s virtual! With this method, it’s not uncommon for a 30-minute presentation to have more than 90 slides.
#5: Create a video montage of your graphics.
Instead of a single page comprised of many images, edit a brief video in Google Picasa or Adobe Premiere,(or any other video editing program that imports still images), with each of the graphics moving and dissolving from one to another. Remember to include this video file if you distribute your presentation.
#6: Print Handouts for Complex Concepts
#7: Use animations to introduce text and elements.
Bringing items in one at a time helps to keep the eye focused. Take the time to add transitions and entry/exit effects to your text (dimming bullets after they’ve appeared is also effective), and they’ll flow easier on the eyes of your audience.
#8: Reduce Text, Merge Points, and Edit your text.
Bullet points should highlight key words…not showcase entire sentences or paragraphs of text. Let the speaker elaborate/expand upon each bullet point rather than having the audience read the whole speech on screen. Work to reduce your text to only the crucial information. And then work at it again.
#10: Drill-Down and Create Interactivity
By using drill-down “hiearchtical navigation,” you can navigate from a high level overview (main menu), to different sections of your presentation, with each bullet, title, or graphic, serving as a link to another page with more detailed information.
Though many of these techniques may add time to your development, it’ll pay off in the end with a more memorable and effective presentation.