Training Workshop helps employees from FedEx, Whirlpool, Dart Container, American Express and Aramark create world-class presentation visuals.
Like her employer FedEx, Valarie Thomas helps companies improve efficiencies and save time and money. But back in April, 2014, Valarie looked inward and discovered inefficiencies in her own process of creating presentations.
“They were taking too long to create and they looked cheap,” the senior strategic sales analyst explained. “Management was satisfied with things, but I wasn’t.”
So Valarie invested $500 of her own money for a four-hour, two-part web-based PowerPoint Training Workshop, focused on advanced PowerPoint techniques and skills. The return on her investment were immediate and measurable.
“My productivity improved, and my manager even commented on how much better my slides looked,” she boasted.
A passion for helping people present
For Presentation Team trainer and founder Kevin Lerner, sharing his knowledge and 20 years of experience is personally and professionally gratifying. “I’m blessed to have a job where Im able to help people,” he shares, adding that, “I’ve had clients hug me after our workshops.”
Lerner founded The Presentation Team in 1995, built upon a lifelong passion for presentation design and communications. Over the years, the firm has worked with some of the world’s largest companies, including Oracle, Motorola, Tyco, and Verizon. More recently, the firm has augmented its presentation design services with PowerPoint Training and Presentation Skills Coaching services, which in 2013 accounted for nearly half of their revenue.
A Popular Program…Poorly Practiced
With over 300 million users and a market-share of 95%, PowerPoint is the presentation standard.1 And yet, most people have a general working knowledge of it. Most people are left to learn it themselves, or take a basic class. Simply knowing how to use the program doesn’t make a person a presentation guru.
That’s exactly what compelled General Electric Executive Vice President Michael Dahlweid to seek the coaching of a PowerPoint Presentation expert. In January 2014, he and a colleague traveled to DC for a two-day coaching program designed to sharpen their skill and expertise in presentation design. By the end of the second day, Dahlweid was creating top-quality graphics with the ease and efficiency of an expert.
To some companies PowerPoint is embedded within their culture; a meeting without PowerPoint is tantamount to a student not doing his homework. And although some companies have dedicated departments or individuals focused on presentation graphics, most employees are on their own for presentation production. Employees who have mastered PowerPoint to support their communications are often recognized as stronger leaders or managers.
A measurable and valuable ROI
And there’s often a great disconnect between a company’s brand image, and a company’s typical internal PowerPoint presentation. Some companies are recognizing the importance of improved presentations, and investing time and money to train their employees.
Katie Farmer, an senior executive assistant at Whirlpool traveled from Benton Harbor, Michigan to work with The Presentation Team, spending two intense days learning the intricacies of PPT, practicing keyboard commands and sharpening her skills. She returned home with a cadre of skills and resources to help her create better presentations in shorter timeframes.
The payoff on presentation training can be immediate and significant.
“If our training can help a client create a presentation that helps win a multi-million-dollar contract, we’ve accomplished our mission,” explains Lerner, who adds that many clients have shared stories of presentation success.
Best presentation practices with hands-on learning
The Presentation Team’s training is more than just a PowerPoint 101 class. The interactive workshop emphasizes effective design strategies and creative techniques to help make presentations more impactful and memorable. Some benefits include:
- More focused headlines with reduced body text
- Greater emphasis on clean design with respect to white-space
- Telling story through bold iconic imagery
- Increased Use of Title & Section Slides for improved flow
- Spanning key messages across multiple pages for greater memory retention
Under the hood of PowerPoint
The PowerPoint Training workshop also gets “under the hood” of PowerPoint, demonstrating technical strategies, and lesser-known features of the program including:
- Use of Keyboard shortcuts control keys
- Development of Themes, Masters, and Layouts
- Customization of PowerPoint ribbon and shortcuts
- Resources for finding graphics and digital content
- Improved development efficiency and better time management
Training that sticks
Most students will they forget the majority of training material. But for students at The Presentation Team’s Advanced Training Workshops, their training is long-lasting. Beyond a program that’s fun and memorable, the classes apply easy-to-recall techniques. Additionally, students have the full 500-page training program to review long after the course. And every engagement comes with a several coaching calls. Clients can check-in to sharpen their skills or gain feedback on a presentation up to one-year after their training.
Kevin Lerner is burning the midnight oil, working at 12am to customize a training curriculum for an upcoming class. He says the preparation has gotten easier, but he still spends time preparing each training workshop for his clients. He says he’s proud of his accomplishments, and has great visions for the future of The Presentation Team. But his happiness for now, he says, is in the joy he brings to his clients helping them do their job better through great presentation skills and design.
1 Indezine Issue 22
The story of how Trevor Franklin of TD Waterhouse created a focused but impactful presentation to support his 20-minute “Building Trust in Financial Services” keynote speech for a local business group.
To help communicate the risks and rewards of investing in today’s uncertain financial market, Trevor Franklin of TD Waterhouse turned to The Presentation Team to create a focused but impactful presentation to support his 20-minute “Building Trust in Financial Services” keynote speech for a local business group.
Our mission: enhance his short PowerPoint with a limited budget and short time-frame. Our “Speedy Presentation Package”, was the perfect solution: a quick and easy approach to transform a basic PowerPoint into a get-noticed masterpiece.
Trevor was speaking to over 30 executives and potential clients at a local business seminar. The visual design needed to be bold, graphical, and easy-to-be-read from the back of the convention room. Our design strategy focused on creating a look-and-feel that reflected Trevor’s professionalism and TD’s brand and identity, while involving graphical elements of finance, and customer service. The 2 hour project involved…
- Integration of a stock template (title and body masters), that reflects Trevor’s professionalism and TD Waterhouse’s company brand, while integrating his existing content.
- Re-working the overall look-and-feel of the presentation (colors, fonts, layout) for a more polished look.
- Clean and professional imagery/graphics
- 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.
A quick fix and perfect presentation! After just two days and three rounds of edits, the presentation was success! Trevor presented to his business audience to applause and praise, and has generated several new business leads…in part thanks to a smooth delivery and great graphics from The Presentation Team!
The Inside Story of how a 700 Page PowerPoint Presentation was completely redesigned in 3 marathon days for a large healthcare company meeting.
“To achieve great things, two things are needed; a plan, and not quite enough time.”
I have a hard time saying “No”.
Always the optimist. Always the affirmative attitude. “Yes! Yes! Yes!” is my mantra.
So when the phone call came in on Wednesday morning from a harried physician in New York needing a PowerPoint redesign for a medical conference he was organizing in partnership with a large pharmaceutical company, “Yes!” was my automatic reply. “Of course we can do it!”
AN EASY PROJECT…UNTIL THE DETAILS EMERGED
At first it seemed like a slam-dunk project. Simply insert the client’s logo on each of the 10 separate PowerPoint presentations submitted by the doctors and health care experts speaking at the conference. In my mind, it would only take a few hours to get the presentations cleaned up, and integrate the logos onto each presentation’s slide master.
“When do you need this?” I casually asked.
“Our conference starts Monday; and we need to have it to the printer by Saturday,” was Dr. Paul’s blunt reply. “And we need all the slides to have the same look and feel with a new template,” he added.
“Oh.” After several seconds of awkward silence I replied, “That changes things a bit.”
As Doctor Paul apologized to me for waiting to the last moment- thinking his team could handle the design- I opened three of the presentations he had emailed. They were hideous. Crazy graphics. Animations from hell. And each presentation had its own tragic look and feel. Was it too late to say no? Yes!
ONE PRESENTATION WAS BIG ENOUGH….BUT TEN?!
Transforming just one of these presentations would be a big task. But Ten?!
With the clock ticking down to their deadline, there was little time for negotiation. I needed the work, and wanted their business. And, most importantly, I knew I could do it. “Yes!”
With only 30 hours of available development time for one person (me!), I estimated the price at $3,000. They agreed, and we had a deal. Yes!
I made a few conciliatory phone calls to my other clients, asking for their blessing for me to change my deliverable date for their presentations. And then I took a deep breath, and enjoyed my last full hearty meal for the next three days.
A VERY LATE NIGHT
The presentation transformation began at 9pm ET on Wednesday evening, as I politely locked myself in my home office and warned my partner, “It’s going to be a late night. Sleep well.”
I initiated a GoToMeeting.com web conference with the client to discuss the three presentation template options I had drafted earlier in the day.
“Let’s go with Option 3. It’s the cleanest and most corporate-looking,” he decreed. I agreed. Yes!
PRE-DESIGNED TEMPLATES MODIFIED IN PHOTOSHOP FOR A CUSTOMIZED LOOK
The template was based on a background image from the late great Digital Juice’s Presenter’s Toolkit and some elements from Presentation Pro’s collection of 20,000 templates and presentation images. Pre-designed templates are an efficient and professional source for great presentation images.
In Adobe Photoshop, I worked to modify the background into a light grey-scale theme with blue horizontal bars for title text. Many of the original presentations featured light text against a dark background. HCN’s new unified presentation template/theme featured dark text set against a light grey background. Studies show that many presenters prefer a lighter background, promoting their connection with the audience, and aiding the audience to take notes or see their PDAs.
WORKING TOGETHER ONLINE LATE INTO THE NIGHT
Dr. Paul and I worked online collaboratively for nearly 90 minutes to refine the templates and discuss the presentations. I set up a Dropbox and we reviewed the other seven speakers’ presentations. And when we hung up at 11pm, I was just getting started.
I set a “hard stop” time for 2am, and over the next three hours I worked with focused precision to refine the template and transfer the old presentations into the new template. My new template included several page layouts, as I created an”intelligent design” featuring pre-defined line spacing, placement for graphics and standard dissolve transitions.
By saving the template as “HCS-Template.potx” allowed me to start a brand new PowerPoint file with same template. I worked to import my slides from the existing presentation into the brand new file (New Slide..Reuse Slide…Insert Slide From…(with Keep Source Formatting un-checked)).
ONE SLIDE EVERY 30 SECONDS
By 1am- just one hour later- all ten presentations were in the new template, each saved its own folder with a logical file naming standard. But a new template can only go far in making ugly slides look better. The hard work was just beginning. Aiming to transform one slide one slide every 30 seconds, I was moving like a courtroom stenographer. Control-C. Control-V (Copy / Paste). Drag and Drop. Right-click…Reset Slide. Zoom Zoom!
When 2am arrived, I was on fire. Unstopable. I could have continued designing until dawn! The presentations were on their way to a magical transformation. But they were hardly in any organized style.
But I needed to settle down and get to bed. So I started wrapping up for the night by uploading two of the presentations for Dr. Paul to review in the morning. I took a Melatonin (herbal relaxer) pill and prepared for dreamland.
DELERIOUS DREAMS OF BULLET POINTS
Just as the ten medical presentations were in a state of organized chaos, so was my mind. I tossed and turned in my bed throughout the night, my mantra of “Yes!” overwhelming my mind, supplemented by abstract dreams of bullet points, templates and text blocks. Madness. Another melatonin at 4am. And then sunrise.
My Thursday workday started at 7am with a quickly consumed breakfast of waffles and a banana, followed by a rapid walk around the block. I called my client at 7:30am, and again at 8. I needed Dr. Paul’s feedback!! Were we on the right track? Is everything okay?
I showered, said a quick “Hi! Bye!” to my partner, and locked myself in the home office for another day of heavy lifting. Dr. Paul finally re-emerged at 10am, pleased with my overnight progress.
After a few edits to some of the presentations (Dr. Paul was also a speaker with an updated presentation), Day Two of the 700-page presentation renaissance officially began. We agreed to not revise any content or radically change any of the speakers’ slides…the new look and feel was shocking enough.
REPETITIOUS AND RAPID. CLEAN BUT HARDLY CREATIVE.
The tasks were repetitive and minimally creative. I moved quickly but with a focused precision to ensure accuracy and quality. Among the ugliest slides were the photos of the nuclear-colored bar graphs. I opted to recreate the charts with a simplicity and cleanliness. Where possible, and when time permitted, I updated or recreated many of the graphics. And for the text heavy slides, PowerPoint’s Smart-Art feature provided an organized look. The text layout was aided by PowerPoint’s “Autofit…shrink text on overflow” which prevented the text from overflowing (at the expense of consistency in size)
Like a drone, I was frenzied and focused, forgetting lunch, and swallowing a slice of pizza for dinner as I continued the ritual. Edit, Review, Email, Text, Talk, Design, Revise.
By 11pm, I felt we were close to the finish line. Dr. Paul and I connected and shared a final review for the day, and I uploaded all ten presentations for him to review overnight. My sleep that evening was easier and relaxed. 15 hours of relentless but satisfying work.
DAYBREAK BRINGS CALMNESS AND CLOSURE
At daybreak, I awoke and enjoyed a more leisurely neighborhood walk, and fulfilling breakfast. Around 10am, Dr. Paul called. You could sense the stress in his voice, overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the convention.
“These look great, Kevin,” he said. “But we still have more work to do.”
And so I spent Friday tweaking and refining the presentations and collaborating with Dr. Paul to add more sizzle and shine to his keynote talk.
By Friday evening, the total project time stood at 27 hours, and we were nearly complete. I enjoyed a fine meal at a restaurant with my partner and enjoyed a satisfied sleep.
COASTING TO THE FINISH LINE…ON TIME AND WITHIN BUDGET
Saturday morning, a frantic call from Dr. Paul at Staples, where he was printing the presentations- but a design issues was conflicting with the printing of the handouts. A quick-fix and the problem was solved. Several additional tweaks and edits, and by noon, everyone was happy and the ten HCS presentations were on the press.
As the speakers assembled for Monday’s presentation, they all praised Paul for the facelift and enhancement he provided to all the presentations. The two day conference was a success, with speakers empowering health care providers with valuable information supported by world class visuals. And this last-minute presentation makeover will have long-lasting major impact locally…and around the world. Yes we can!
Kevin Lerner is a presentation consultant and expert on presentation design and delivery. His firm, The Presentation Team, has helped hundreds of companies and individuals to create world-class presentations.