A large client of ours recently commissioned their agency of choice to create a huge set of presentations for them. It was a large project, on a tight deadline, and for political reasons the work had to go to their marketing agency. Not to us, their rather smaller presentation company.

The result was a disaster. We really like this client, so there wasn’t even a feeling of schadenfreude. Instead, I think the problems they suffered might serve to inform other companies before making the same mistake. If you want to work with your regular (marketing) agency for presentation design, please demand satisfaction in these areas:

Presentation design should be in PowerPoint

150 sides designed in Photoshop, with each slide nothing but a large picture copied over from a graphics package causes huge problems. The slides aren’t easy to edit. They can’t be updated.

Even changing punctuation or spelling relies on software most users don’t have and can’t use. If your marketing agency isn’t going to provide slides in PowerPoint that you can edit and update, walk away.

Brand guidelines must be respected

PowerPoint slides typically need to respect fairly strict brand guidelines in any large organisation. Not only is this important because brands are built and reinforced by consistency, but also because if slides are ever to be re-used and mixed between decks, then visual consistency is essential. Nobody wants to present a deck that mixes different visual styles.  It doesn’t matter how “creative” or “cutting edge” an agency thinks it is. If they aren’t going to respect your brand guidelines for PowerPoint you will suffer in the long-run once the complaints start. If you want a clean break from your regular brand, be clear about how and why and how you see new slides being used with old slides (if at all).

Appropriate animation should be used

Everyone should know than over-the-top slide animations and transitions can get in the way of successful presentations. But that doesn’t mean animation should never be used, just that it should be used appropriately. A decent presentation agency will understand how animation can be used to tell a story, show how things work, compare before-and-afters, and help direct attention to what’s important. A marketing agency designing static PDFs won’t.

Accurate pricing from your agency is essential

Agencies that don’t work in PowerPoint a lot don’t appreciate how long things take. If an agency is used to delivering more ‘conceptual’ work, the attention to detail and sheer number of iterations necessary to get PowerPoint right can come as a surprise. Once an agency spends longer than they want to on a project the enthusiasm goes and the quality suffers. An agency that specialises in presentations will be used to these issues.

Creatives shouldn’t see PowerPoint as a punishment

In the agency world, it’s fair to say that PowerPoint design sits somewhere at the bottom of the pile, below Illustrator and Photoshop and InDesign and even origami and textiles and modelling clay. And perhaps just marginally above being hit in the face with a rotten fish. A lot of creatives just hate PowerPoint. We think that’s unfair – it’s just misunderstood, but it can be frustrating and it does take getting used to.

If you are going to work with a marketing agency for presentation design, make sure they have people who love creating presentations. Otherwise, use a presentation agency where you can be sure of it.

So then why not work with a presentation agency?

Given all of these reasons to go with a specialist presentation design agency, why do so many companies just go with their ‘regular’ agency for presentations?  They typically pay more and get less. Often it’s just a desire to have fewer suppliers, and a sense that presentations are easy (and perhaps also not that important):

  • Working with fewer suppliers can be great – but when a supplier is working outside their main area of expertise it ends up taking you far longer to manage them.
  • Some presentations aren’t that important – but when they are how you sell, or launch initiatives, or talk to investors – they often really matter.

Working with a specialist presentation agency (such as BrightCarbon, but others are available) will generally deliver better results, with less effort, and typically at lower cost.

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Joby Blume


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