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.
The inside story of how Weller Pools won a giant contract by transforming their basic PowerPoint presentation into a dynamic visual masterpiece.
Weller Pools has been in the aquatic construction industry for over 35 years, creating some of the country’s best known and loved swimming pools and water parks. However, their PowerPoint presentations didn’t match up to the standards of their pools!
So in February, 2010 the Orlando-based aquatic developer turned to The Presentation Team to help them improve their PowerPoint presentation to win the business of a Florida-based preparatory school. The key objective of the presentation was to effectively communicate the advantages of the Myrtha Pool Technology, a cutting-edge material that is being used in many new swimming pools.
Weller Pool’s existing 38-page PowerPoint was heavy on text/bullet points and lacked a consistent look-and-feel. Weller had a limited budget and short time-frame, so they enaged The Presentation Team using the “Enhanced Presentation Package”, a quick and easy approach to transform a basic PowerPoint into a get-noticed masterpiece.
Weller was presenting to a small audience of five people. The visual design needed to be bold, graphical, yet easy-to-read.Our design strategy focused on creating a look-and-feel that reflected Weller Pool’s brand and identity, while involving elements of aquatics and technology. The six hour project involved…
- Development of a custom professional template (title and body masters), that reflected Weller’s company brand, while integrating their existing PowerPoint content.
- Re-working the overall look-and-feel of the presentation (colors, fonts, layout) for a more polished look.
- Clean and professional imagery/graphics (portfolio, schematics, people, concept art, etc.).
- Clutter-reducing techniques and presentation strategies to create a “cleaner” look with greater effectiveness.
- Clean and conservative slide transition effects (fades and wipe effect).
- Professional fonts/typography to ensure consistent playback on different computer systems.
- Consulting and collaboration to help Weller Pools to further develop and present new ideas.
The original title page featured a flat white background with navy blue titles in Arial Narrow font…functional but ordinary! Logos of partner companies crowded the page, competing for prominence and viewing.This presentation design was good for printouts… but not for projection!
Our makeover included development of a new high-tech blue water-drop image background template image (developed in Photoshop) in 16×9 aspect ratio. This widescreen format has become increasingly popular on monitors and laptops and conference room projectors. The body master template featured a flowing bottom arc image integrating colorful and dynamic photos of two of Weller Pool’s projects. Their partner company logo were offset to the right of the page, and the project was prominently featured in left-justified vertically centered on the page in 40-point Gil Sans Font.
This original showcased the four-step process of Backfilling. The rectangular images were inconsistently sized and did not integrate any elements (typeface, logo or graphics) from the master template. “Backfilling Process” placed on the bottom conveyed the concept of an afterthought rather than a bold title.
The revised slide maintained the four graphics, with a rounded diagonal corner picture style, to add depth and professionalism. By simply shrinking the photos 10%, the slide gained a level of breathing space, allowing the title to be repositioned at the top in a bold bright orange Gil Sans font, and the logo in a consistent bottom right placement.
The presenter spoke for nearly two minutes on thissingle slide, which featured two images and three separate blocks of text competing for space. Additionally, the details of the water activity park photo were small and difficult to see.
To help the speaker express his message more graphically, we “spanned” the single slide across three slides, expanding the image size to fill the page, and giving the audience a more immersive and visual experience…all within the same two minutes. The three graphics were all the same size, perfectly positioned so they did not jump as the speaker flipped pages.
The cost savings of Myrtha is clear and well-documented. But presenting the information in a green and red bar chart incurred images of Christmas! And all too often, red is information. The textwas overwhelming and small, and the costkey message was diffused.
To more effectively communicate the cost savings of Myrtha, we reduced the scale of the bar chart, allowing more space on the top and bottom. The colors were revised to two shades of blue, and the cost savings were posted above the bars as separate text elements (not within the bar chart) more prominently at 28 points.
After just four days and three rounds of edits, the presentation looked great! Weller Pools executives rehearsed and refined their delivery with presentation skills coach David Greenberg….then presented to their audience…and won the job! Weller Pools now has a winning presentation and great presentation skills presentation thanks in part to the experts at The Presentation Team!
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.