Greetings from #PreSum17!

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My favorite conference of the year – The Presentation Summit – was a week of reconnecting with the amazing presentation industry community, learning more about presentations and PowerPoint, and having fun.  Each year, the incredible talent at PreSum humbles me with all they know.  The entire time, I am learning from presentations, fellow attendees, and even ad-hoc conversations over a meal or cocktails.

One of the biggest benefits of attending the conference is the content but also the collegial feel that this conference has where everybody shares knowledge, challenges, and solutions – just because it is what this group does!

Conference Central was bustling with excitement, and jovial conversations from the first minute I checked in on Saturday through till things ended on Wednesday. The beautiful Sheraton Clearwater Beach Resort, nestled on a beautiful beach, added to the wonderful ambiance already there by the spirit of this conference. The beautiful Sheraton Clearwater Beach Resort, nestled on a beautiful beach, added to the wonderful ambiance already there by the spirit of this conference. I even convinced a few US and international attendees to join me in the bar to watch my alma mater, Penn State beat Iowa in an American football game.

Here are some of the highlights for me:

Shortcuts are amazing.

In the pre-conference workshop with Echo Swinford and Julie Terberg, a fellow attendee, Jean-Gabriel Davy shared my favorite new shortcut – SHIFT + DOUBLE-CLICK Normal View Button takes you directly to the master slide.

The Presentation Guild

I am a proud member of the Presentation Guild and was honored to be a part of their second annual meeting.  At the annual meeting, MVP Glenna Shaw updated us on one of the major initiatives for the Guild – creating standards for the industry.  It is a huge undertaking and I can’t wait to hear what’s next.  I am also now the proud owner of a Presentation Guild member pin.  This group is destined for great things. Make sure you check it out!  Membership is $99 per year and it is a bargain.  Join today!

Tips from the Experts:

I couldn’t write fast enough as the content in all the sessions created a lot of “aha” moments for me. With over 100 pages of notes, there were several sessions and wisdom that stood out.


Setting up your template for PowerPointDon’t just choose page/widescreen – make sure it is 13.33 x 7.5.

All you need to do is check the size Smart Art will go to default theme fonts so make sure you set up your fonts on the theme font not just on the template.               Don’t ever use Algerian as your theme font! Duh!

When you customize your theme, create safe font pairs (heading plus body text) that work together. Choosing a “Safe-font” for your presentation will ensure that it looks the same on all the computers (in open format). An example of a safe font pair is Helvetica Bold for headings and Garamond for text.

Interested in learning about safe fonts and pair combinations – Johanna Rehnvall, Presentitude has a great blog about fonts that I recommend you read.

Your Slide Master needs to have both dark and light options including background color and text color.Use lockable guides to set up the right frame for your content. Use guides to set up text margins. Avoid using the gutters or the far margins for the text.

There was a great discussion about smart guides and adding them to your QAT but I don’t want to give it all away.  You can buy Echo and Julie’s book, Building PowerPoint Templates Step by Step with the ExpertsIt is worth searching for!

Or, sign up and take the pre-conference Template Creation Workshop.  It is an amazing two-hour crash course and worth the investment of both your time and dollars! They really know their stuff!


Printing with PowerPointBusiness

Communications come in all forms. And we often need to print but may not have access to programs like InDesign, Illustrator, or Publisher.  Nolan Haims makes a great point in his session about using PowerPoint as your print production.  I do it all the time.  PowerPoint is more than a tool to create presentations. It is a great design and production tool.

Think about what it will look like as a printed document. Make sure that add the right margins. Change your gutter from 1” to ½”.

Nolan reminded us about the concept of Slidedocs – a term coined by Microsoft PowerPoint MVP, Nancy Duarte.  “Slidedocs are this new medium. A slidedoc is a document created using presentation software, where visuals and words unite to illustrate one clear point per page. They’re meant to be printed or distributed instead of presented.”

Nancy created a free ebook and PowerPoint templates to help you understand how to use it in your organization.  It is a great resource – click here to learn more.

Planning for Remote Presentation

As the description says, “Not Being There Changes Everything” and this is so true.  Ken Molay, Webinar Success, was our remote presenter and Rick Altman was our on-site moderator.  They had a great partnership.  As the “webinar queen” (Rick’s title for me), this was a topic close to my heart.  The session worked well because they planned it, tested the technology, and executed it well.

To make it more interactive, one of the Summit’s sponsors, SendSteps offered the use of their audience interactive technology as a live audience participation tool for the session.  This enabled us to interact with Ken remotely using our smartphones or our computers or tablets. We answered polls, sent notes and questions, and even share creative ideas amongst the attendees.  Making that personal audience connection is one of the keys to having an engaging remote presentation.  It was a fun session.

Success at any age

One of the keynote speakers was 15-year old, Caleb Maddix.  He is driven to be successful and to make it happen by not settling for average and to be the best that you can be. He has a company – Kids 4 Success – and multiple books. He is earning six figures and he is just 15.  He is inspiring for his age. His content didn’t really have anything to do with presentations but he was engaging.  My son loves his YouTube channel so I enjoyed meeting him and his dad, Matt.

My Geek Fix – Checking out the Sponsors

The exhibit hall was full of interesting Presentation industry products.  Our table was between Logitech and Inscale Interactive.  Both offered products that are appealing to the geek in me.  Logitech introduced Spotlight, a sleek, wireless presentation remote that has a lot of powerful features, including interacting with multi-screen content, navigating content from up to 100 feet away.  

Virtual Reality

My inner geek really enjoyed Inscale Interactive’s immersive presentation technology.  Using a VR headset, you can use virtual reality to engage your audience.  The goal is to immerse the attendees in this world so you can create an engaging and memorable experience for the audience.

The Party

PresentationXpert was honored to host the party on Tuesday night.  It was a great way to introduce Business Watch Network to our presentation community.  They purchased PXpert earlier this year and they were excited to meet our community. Check out Business Watch Network.  They offer eight other newsletters on tech, HR, finance, and more. The newsletters are free to subscribers.Vince Pietrafesa, our very own stand-up comedian, kicked off the party with a quick comedy routine and we had a little fun.  BWN CEO, Mark Ulian and I sent out emoji beach balls to the audience as a way to connect. They were a hit all night and even found their way to the post-event pool party. A good time was had by all.


Next September can’t come soon enough.  Check it out and we hope to see you in San Diego, September 23-26.


Report from the Road at the 2017 Presentation Summit

I am excited to report back from sunny skies and beautiful oceanside at the annual Presentation Summit 2017 in Clearwater Beach, where I spent a few days with some of the leading technical and creative folks in presentations.

Here’s a brief dispatch of what I saw and heard there.

The attendees

Attendees at this event are mainly presentation pros who want to connect and reconnect with peers, sharpen their skills, stay on top of the new technology, and enhance the effectiveness of their clients’ messaging. Attendees include freelance designers, like me. Others have their own design studios. Some run large operations with in-house departments at corporations and law firms, consulting firms, and other professional service firms. I met information architects, educators, trainers, master storytellers, filmmakers, and speaker coaches. Many PowerPoint MVPs were at the event (MVP is Microsoft’s highest civilian honor). Microsoft had its own squad of PowerPoint engineers and reps there. Software and hardware developers exhibited new tools. There were bloggers, authors, and podcasters whose work I had already long admired, like the team from Presentation Podcast — Nolan Haims, Sandy Johnson, and Troy Chollar. There was also a strong showing by the Presentation Guild, the leading membership organization for presentation designers, which also held its annual meeting during the conference.

There is a collegial vibe, with many attendees returning year after year, from around the country and around the globe. This is the fifteenth season Rick Altman has run this event; the first one was in 2003. He is the consummate conference host, and he and his team of staff and volunteers deliver a fun and well-run conference. It was my first time attending Presentation Summit, and as a newcomer, I was delighted to find a welcoming environment of like-minded peers. At one point I met up with Echo Swinford and Julie Terberg, who quite literally wrote the book on building PowerPoint templates, and inquired, “Could I ask you a PowerPoint question?” to which they replied, in unison, with an upbeat “YES!”

General sessions

Presentation Summit featured a varied lineup of speakers and presenters. In her Keynote Address, Dr. Carmen Simon explained her research on the cognitive science of memorability. Nolan Haims hosted the Entrepreneur’s Round Table that focused on the business-side of freelancing and running a studio. In his talk, Dr. Nick Morgan abstained from PowerPoint in favor of a flip-chart, and showed us how presentations can change the world. Fifteen-year-old internet mogul Caleb Maddix explained strategies for entrepreneurship and social media; also on hand was his dad, Matt Maddix. Sam Horn taught us her approach to designing brilliant 10-to-20 minute talks.

Dr. Carmen Simon’s advice for presenters: 1) Be yourself, 2) Be your best self, 3) Be your best self in the service of your audience.

A wide-ranging panel discussion with Carmen Simon, Nolan Haims, and Sally Koering Zimney (of the This Moved Me podcast) considered issues facing the industry. On the topic of speaker authenticity, I will never forget Carmen Simon’s advice: “1) Be yourself, 2) Be your best self, 3) Be your best self in the service of your audience.”


I have a lot of respect for Microsoft for being present at this event and for listening closely to its power users. Dan Swett of Microsoft led the deep Ask Microsoft “guru” session with his team, with hosting duties played by Ric Bretschneider. My impression is that Microsoft is taking a constant process improvement approach to PowerPoint, and is doing a good job actively seeking feedback to root out bugs and consider ideas for new features. Microsoft’s new subscription model has been a game changer for keeping users on a consistent platform, and in the last 18 months or so they have rolled out some exciting new features, including zoom, the morph transition, and 3D capabilities. Thanks to Dan and the rest of the PowerPoint team for your tireless work over there.

There were also many terrific vendors on hand. Logitech exhibited a super-cool presentation remote, the Spotlight. Sendsteps showed off an interactive polling technology that lets audience members send real-time survey data through their mobile phones and can feed that data into a live presentation. Shufflrr demonstrated its presentation management technology that’s loaded with features. Inscale Interactive demoed some impressive augmented and virtual reality technology. There were also some nice exhibits from EcosPrez, Made in Office, PresentationXpert, GetMyGraphics by eLearning Brothers, Indezine, and Poll Everywhere.

Morning sessions and afternoon “tapas”

Morning sessions were divided into Build, Design, and Deliver tracks, and I tended to steer toward the Build sessions. Afternoons were for rapid-fire 20-minute “tapas” sessions. Echo Swinford showed, over multiple sessions, XML hacks for PowerPoint, speaker ready techniques, ways to design templates that provide instructions to users, and some neat tricks using PowerPoint’s background styles feature. Mike Parkinson (Billion Dollar Graphics) demonstrated quick and easy methods for building infographics in PowerPoint. Taylor Croonquist revealed how to unlock some of PowerPoint’s hidden features and dazzled with wickedly hot keyboard shortcuts, hacks, and tricks; I can literally perform certain functions in PowerPoint 1000% faster after watching Taylor’s breathtaking moves. Lia (“P-Spice”) Barnakova, whose great YouTube channel I recommend to everybody, showed off some of PowerPoint’s incredible new 3D capabilities, as well as ways to spice up slides with ultra-chic effects. John Rahmlow of Vanguard talked about how to make presentations that work for diverse audiences. Heather Ackmann showed advanced techniques for animations for Hollywood-like effects. Rick Altman himself performed makeovers on real-live presentations.

Hurricane Irma

The event also raised awareness of the devastation of Hurricane Irma that is still being felt for many Floridians. As part of the event, Rick raised money for the Florida Keys Relief Fund.

Next year

Presentation Summit 2018 will be held in San Diego, September 23-26, 2018.

About TJ:

TJ Katopis is a freelance graphic designer and presentation designer based in New York City. He is a member of Presentation Guild. He is preparing a book on how to manage presentation design projects. Follow him on Twitter @tj_katopis.


Top 5 Takeaways from the Presentation Summit 2017

Ah, the Presentation Summit!

by Sally Koering Zimney Presentation Coach, Speaker and Podcast Host

I’ve had the most exciting September… sharing about the top 10 essential speaking lessons from the STORY Gathering in Nashville – and I went straight from Nashville to Tampa. I was met with gorgeous beaches and weather. Not bad for a work trip. 🙂

But here’s the deal: I wasn’t sure I was going to like this conference.
Last spring, I got an email from this man named Rick Altman, the creator of this conference and CEO of Better Presenting. He said, “Hey, you should come to this conference I put on!”

Now, I had HEARD about this conference as a great conference for PowerPoint users and designers, but because I’m not a PowerPoint designer, I thought it wasn’t for me. Not only am I not a designer, I’m not a huge fan of PowerPoint. I recognize it is a powerful tool – and a tool that many, many of my clients use. But I really wasn’t sure there’d be much for me at this conference.

But Rick said – HECK NO – it’s for any presentation professional. Well, ok!

So, off I went! I had no idea what to expect, except that a few people I had connected with online couldn’t stop talking about how excited they were for it! Well, that’s a good sign…

And can I say?

I loved it.

It was FULL of insight, powerful tools that I need to be aware of for my clients and that might be useful for YOU, and AMAZING PEOPLE. So, win-win-win. And, it was the most fun I’ve ever had at a conference, ever.

So – here are 5 of the most important takeaways from The Presentation Summit:
#1: Memory is Emotive

Dr. Carmen Simon from Memzy, the first keynoter of the Summit and a cognitive neuroscientist, was someone I had heard a lot about. Before the conference, she and I had exchanged some emails because we were going to sit on a panel together, and were feeling out differing viewpoints on several topics.

She had written, “It’s a myth that we remember stories better than facts.”

Well! I wasn’t sure I agreed with that, and I couldn’t wait to hear her speak…

And guess what? She’s right.

Well – sometimes we remember stories better than facts – and sometimes facts better than stories. And the reason is emotion.

Now, this is not news to me – it’s why I think stories are more easily memorable because they more easily have emotion baked in. But, it was a powerful reminder of how our brains work.

We have the power – with our words – to trigger a sensory memory and emotion. And one of the big takeaways for me is that it’s MORE powerful for our audiences to create an image in their minds than for us to create it for them.

As a speaking coach, I call this the “imaginative connection” – because when our audience can see it in their own heads, they will remember it.

(Now, they may not remember it correctly; and they may only remember the generalities and get the specifics all wrong… but they will have made a connection with it.)

So – whether you’re sharing facts, or data, or knowledge, or stories, or ideas – your job is to find the emotive connection. That’s our way into our audience’s brains!

#2: Be the most important issue, or they’ll take their focus somewhere else.

Dr. Nick Morgan from Public Words – a long-ago guest here on This Moved Me – and a presentation coach I admire greatly – was one of the keynoters at this Summit this year. I got to sit in on one of his workshops, and then also soak in his insight during his keynote.

And one of the things Nick and I have always connected on is persuasion. I studied it in grad school (yes, you can do that), and I think it’s at the heart of speaking. What’s the point, otherwise – yes?

And I love how Nick framed the question I am always asking my speakers to make crystal clear: “What’s at stake?”
Nick put it this way: Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs makes it clear that just above our physical needs is safety. So we have to speak to these needs. You have to make the point of your talk about something that affects their safety – or their attention will go elsewhere.

Not that you make it up – but that you dig deep enough to crystallize for yourself and your audience what really matters. Why might this matter to them? And it’s essential that you speak to this at the beginning so they understand why their attention is better spent here than on the text that is coming in on their phone…

So – What’s the safety issue you are trying to make real for your audience?

#3: There’s power in the push-back.

The third morning was keynoted by Sam Horn, a presentation coach that has coached a lot of TED talks, and the timing was perfect as I work on my own TED Talk (THAT WAS LAST WEEK. PHEW!!)!

One of the most important takeaways from her talk was about the power of the push-back. The moments when someone has poo-pooed your idea, or questioned it, or the moment when your legs were pulled out from under you – and then how you made your way through those questions.

Not only does this make a good story (people love a comeback story!), but it gives your idea grit.

It also helps voice the cynics in the room – and speak directly to them, which is so important because it shows that you ‘get it’ and aren’t naive or overly idealistic… a fair critique of many TED talks!

So – where was your faith challenged? What is your cynic success story?

#4: There are some really cool tools out there.

This was one of the most unexpected and delightful parts of the conference: to be turned-on to all kinds of tools that I didn’t know existed. I thought of many of my clients – but also for you, dear audience. There may be some great tools here for YOU! (Note: I’m not getting anything for including these. Maybe I should? hahaha. But nope – click away and check them out and know that I love you.)

Presentation Management Software. There are EcosPrez and Shufflrr and Empower from Made in Office. All 3 seem to do similar work, and I think it’s so important! It houses the library of slides that a marketing team might create – and allows the sales team (or fundraising/development team!) to pull together a presentation without going too… rogue. 🙂 I’ve seen it happen. You create a slide deck and hand it off to a team to present… and it gets adjusted and the changes never quite get back to the rest of the team, and eventually, everyone’s giving differing talks with crappy slides that don’t represent your brand well. THIS IS COOL, I thought. Check ’em out!

Audience Interaction Tools: like Sendsteps and Poll Everywhere. I’ve seen these types of tools used and honestly sometimes I think it’s cheesy and just a techy distraction. But in the right context? It could be really powerful and cool.

Immersive Technology! I can’t even begin to comprehend HOW to do this, but it’s coming. I heard Lia Barnakova (P-Spice!) talk about virtual presenting on Facebook Spaces, which freaked me out… and I got to play with Inscale Interactive‘s mixed reality presentation tool. It’s CRAZY, and cool, and kind of blows my mind.

Professional Associations: If you’re a presentation professional that supports presentations of any kind – you should join the Presentation Guild! An incredibly supportive group of people who care deeply about this profession and want to raise the bar. I’m with them.

Online Mags and Resources: Presentation Xpert…. how did I not know about this? I dunno, I’ve been living under a rock. 150,000 people read this magazine every month. Do you? (Probably!) And also finally found the Presentation Podcast – very design focused, but with tons of great resources for those who obsess about this kind of thing. 🙂

Design Resources: For slide design – for the professional, as well as the lay-person non-designer to make design easier… there’s Slide Genius, and Nuts-N-Bolts Speed Training and P-Spice’s YouTube channel and eLearning Brothers‘ graphics, led by the kindest human ever, my conference pal Curtis.

Technology: LOGITECH! They gave me a Logitech Spotlight Remote, and I’ve been using it to practice for my TED talk. Awww yeah. It’s reallllly coool.

Other random resources!

#5: This is fun! – and fun matters!

I think one of the most wonderful elements of this conference is that it was FUN. I had heard it was fun… but WOW! It was fuuuuun!

And aside from the fact that fun is always fun – here’s why I think it’s important: because it builds community. This is a smaller conference – with only 180 or so people. And so you do get to know people.

Case in point… my first night there – the night before the conference – I met this lovely woman named Judy. Turns out Judy is also a presentation coach, and we quickly bonded over a glass (or two) of wine.

After dinner, I was exhausted and ready to head to bed – and she said, “No you don’t. Come on, let’s go to the beach!”

I am not one to turn down an invitation – don’t want to be rude!

I stood on the beach with my new friend Judy and soaked in the sounds of the ocean. We couldn’t see a thing, but it was beautiful nonetheless. Thanks for the memory, Judy!

I heard about a scavenger hunt (I got tired again but no one stopped me from going to bed this time) that included Twister in the elevator, doing an impromptu speech in the lobby to strangers, jumping in the pool with your clothes on… and more. (Wish I would have stayed up for that one!


There was basically a wedding reception – minus the wedding – that included dancing and food and more happy hours. I love to dance. It made me so happy to dance with all those wonderful strangers that became friends. Until we got kicked out.


And then about 50 of us jumped in the pool – until we got kicked out. And so walked across the beach to the ocean where we stood knee-deep in the ocean and talked for hours. It was one of those nights that you know is rare, and so I will remember it.

(I also got bit up pretty badly by something in that ocean that left me itching for days – but I don’t care!)
I’ve always been a proponent of playing. We, adults, need to play more! That the Summit encourages play says so much about the joys of this work – and the people who care about it.

Honorable Mentions:

There’s more good stuff that’s worth mentioning –

  • Taylor Croonquist from Nuts & Bolts Speed Training is a freaking genius. I don’t really ‘get’ PowerPoint, but watching him work his magic literally made the audience go “whoaaaaaa!!!” Me too.
  • Tom Howell from Synapsis Creative is not just a super smart expert on presentation design, but he can also carry a tray of 30 beers out to the ocean (not a short walk)! TALENT. Thank you, Tom!
  • Mike Parkinson from Billion Dollar Graphics was my favorite presenter of the conference! He has so much joyful energy, I loved watching him. I missed his session on 3 Ways to Engage the Audience, so I’m hoping to have him on the show to share them with all of us…
  • Stephy Lewis – a kick-ass problem solver (check out her awesome website) – who will be on the show next week! –  is my new bff.
  • Nick Morgan says there are only 5 stories worth telling: The Quest, The Stranger in a Strange Land, the Revenge story, the Rags to Riches story, and the Love story. (I think I need Nick back on the show to explain more of this!)
  • Did you know that the “Tell ’em what you’re going to tell ’em, Tell ’em, and Tell ’em what you told em’ comes from WWII military strategy, so that the soldiers would remember their orders? (Thanks, Nick!)
  • There’s a way to have a stellar Speaker Ready room! Who knew?! (Thanks, Echo!)
  • In Doug Thomas’ awesome session on authenticity, he reminded us to “try the dark side.” Anger taps into something real!
  • And to Tony and Stephy and Echo and Julie at The Presentation Guild – thanks so much for the warm welcome!
  • And… I could share more…but this is already too long. 🙂

Thanks to the unending energy of Rick Altman, this conference comes to life. I am so excited to be bringing some of these voices to you on the show over the next few months.

Until next year, Presentation Summit!


About Sally
Sally is an award-winning speaker and a presentation coach/consultant with two decades of experiencing helping people create talks that move the world.

Join her for This Moved Me, a weekly podcast about the art of public speaking – or across social media to stay inspired and inspire.


[2017 Presentation Industry Annual Salary Survey] Money Makes the World Go Around

Penny for your thoughts? Or rather, much more cash per year?

The second annual Presentation Industry Salary Survey is now open. This is our second survey of the presentation creation/design/support world, and this time around we welcome responses from all nations. This link will take you right to the survey. (Go ahead and click if you’re in a hurry. If not, read on.)

Why should I answer this survey? Why should I care?

Great question. And we have a great answer in the form of an anecdote: not long after receiving her copy of the survey results, one Guild member was able to then take the report to her management and successfully negotiate a raise. True story!

What about you? Is your income above the average? Below? Whether you work for a large organization, a small one, are self-employed or freelancing on the side, you’ll want to see where your compensation places you relative to the rest of the field. Regional, national, international comparisons will be made. Age, gender, experience level, and company roles factor into our data analysis, too.

What are the questions I will be answering? Will this take me long?

It’s short. The survey has 24 questions. They are uncomplicated – no essays or stories required – and only a few questions ask for estimates or averages, such as hours worked per week or percentage of work hours spent on presentations. Most people will complete the survey in about five to ten minutes.

Will this survey respect my privacy?

Absolutely. All information is collected anonymously and we do not share the data with anyone. At the very end, you may choose to give us your email address if you want to receive a copy of the results. As before, this report will be made available not just to all Presentation Guild members, but also survey respondents who are not (or not yet) members. It’s our way of saying thank you to all who participate.

Sounds good. I’ll fill it out.

Thank you in advance for your time and effort. Whether you run your own presentation business, create presentations in an administrative role, coach speakers, or deliver your own presentations, your contribution to this survey will help make presentation professionals even more valuable to our community and the organizations who hire us. Win-win.

P.S.: We’d be thrilled if you shared this with colleagues who do what you do. Click here to start the survey. Thanks!
About Tony Ramos

Tony Ramos is a founding director of the Presentation Guild. He has been using presentation software since 1993, when he started making terribly wordy slides for the world’s largest management consulting firm for nearly a decade.

Since then, he’s learned a bit about the art and science of it all. He began writing about what he and others were doing with presentation software. That now-defunct blog earned him four consecutive years of Microsoft’s MVP Award for PowerPoint.

Today, Tony tweets as The Presentationist (@tonyramos), volunteers time and labor for the Presentation Guild, and earns a living using PPT, Photoshop, and Illustrator for Fortune 500 clients, government agencies, and neighborhood garage sales. If you see him outside running with the dogs or biking with traffic, please honk and wave hi.


Dishing on Presentations with the Presentation Guild’s Echo Swinford and Sandra Johnson

Happy First Anniversary, Presentation Guild!  It has been a year since the Presentation Guild was launched at the Presentation Summit.  And what a year it has been.  Watch my “Dishing on Presentations” conversation with Microsoft PowerPoint MVPs, Echo Swinford and Sandra Johnson.  Listen to how it started, what they have accomplished and what the future plans are.

Behind the Scenes Look Of “PowerPoint: Designing Better Slides”

“Take care of my baby!”

Those were my parting words to my LinkedIn producer, Christen Beck, as I left beautiful Carpinteria on the way back to Chicago following a busy, cram-packed week recording PowerPoint: Designing Better Slides. I wasn’t trying to be funny or dramatic. I was dead serious. That course was my baby.


I’ve been making computer training courses now for over 10 years and for ten years I have wanted to make a course on PowerPoint slide design. But for many reasons, it just never happened (to say I am thrilled this course is out in the world now, is an understatement).

In the last decade, I’ve worked for a lot of people, some full-time as employee relationships, some as contractor gigs. I’ve seen it all, and not all of it is good. It seems I am contacted weekly by some “company” looking for some naïve contractor willing to work for peanuts, like a full-time employee but without any of the benefits, rights to their work, or royalties after the fact—all for the “exposure” it will bring to their name or a byline on their résumé.

Lynda|LinkedIn is not that way—they are the rare good guys in the business, willing to pay their instructors fairly and to make a course that enhances the learning experience for their learners.

As an instructor, I never heard my course referred to as a “product” or my students as “customers.” I had a message to communicate in my head and Lynda|LinkedIn wanted to help me with that task.


If you’ve heard the African proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child,” then so it also takes a village to make a quality video course. I’m not saying a solo act can’t do it (of course it might take a heck of a lot longer), but everything that goes into the process, to do it right and timely, takes a team of people.

My course, I’m glad to say, had a wonderful team. After my LinkedIn Content Manager, Marjorie Page, helped whittle down my lengthy outline (anyone who knows me knows I can talk for days about PowerPoint), I was paired with a skilled producer, someone who had a great interest in my course subject and a background in instructional design: Christen Beck.

Christen took on the roles of project manager, instructional designer, and my main contact within LinkedIn. Anything I could possibly need to create my course she’d connect me with the right team within LinkedIn to make sure I’d get it for recording day 1. It sounds like a crazy job, right—a lot to keep track of, and a lot of work? But she was completely awesome!

There was one clip in particular that I was having a really hard time getting right. I was on draft number 10 and almost to the point of tears when I hopped on a call with Christen and asked for her help because I was just out of ideas and couldn’t figure out what I was trying to say anymore. It was this introductory clip on color, (which is one of the unlocked videos you can view for free on and incidentally now one of my favorite clips).

The original draft was a random, rambled mess. I read it out loud to Christen once, then she read through it herself a couple of times and pulled out what she saw as the key main ideas or “takeaways” which we then began to rewrite it together.

Afterwards, I reorganized and rewrote the script around those main takeaways. In the final video, here are the three main color takeaways we present to viewers:

(1) Color should attract viewers; (2) color should contrast between other slide elements; and (3) color connects important elements on the slide, as well as throughout the presentation.

Without Christen’s help, I don’t think I could have communicated those ideas so succinctly, or organized a video that demonstrated what I had in my head in both a fun and “me” way that still made sense. But I do think we nailed it on this one clip.


When I tell people that I make computer training videos, they think it is the coolest job in the world. But when if I tell them I teach people how to use PowerPoint, they look at me horrified and respond, “Oh God! Why?” while slowly backing away. That is why I wanted to create a course that DIDN’T teach people how to simply USE PowerPoint; I wanted to make a course that taught people how to use PowerPoint better.

This isn’t a course for designers or master PowerPoint users. This course is for non-designers and introduces business professionals to beginning design concepts, to teach them to begin to see slides and space the way designers do. This course touches on time-tested, key design components and principles like space, unity, similarity, contrast, and hierarchy—all of which align to what I identify as three key presentation “pillars,” or three things that you just can’t ignore when designing effective visuals: your audience, your presentation environment, and your message.

And sure, there are some things that looking back I’d wish I’d phrased differently or added to the course (there always is). But I am glad that in the end this course, my baby, is alive and well, and published at and LinkedIn Learning.

Heather Ackmann is a PowerPoint MVP, an instructional designer, and author. She has written over 200+ hours of video training for Pluralsight,, ClipTraining, and other private companies, and is currently working on a master’s degree in Human Computer Interaction at DePaul University in Chicago. Her book, Conversational Office 2016, is available for free download compliments of

Throwback Thursday – Our Favorite Presentation Summit “Dishing on Presentations” Conversations


It is our favorite time of year…the annual Presentation Summit conference is coming up in about two weeks.

At the New Orleans conference, we interviewed speakers and presentation experts about the conference and other hot topics. So, I thought it would a good chance to go back and listen to some of our favorite conversations from that conference.

Let’s start with our host, Rick Altman of Better Presenting. We caught up with Rick on the last day. He shared some thoughts on the conference and its community.

Keynote Speakers

Dr. Carmen Simon

We chatted with Dr. Carmen Simon, who is one of the keynotes this year in Florida. I also interviewed her last month for Dishing on Presentations.  In the first conversation, we ask the brilliant Dr. Carmen Simon, a highly respected cognitive scientist point she made in her #PreSum15 keynote. She said that people only remember 10% of a presentation and they forget 90% of a presentation. Listen to what she says.

They also talk about what presenters to counter the power of the unexpected to enhance memory at #PreSum15

We asked Dr. Carmen Simon to share her most memorable presentations based on exceptional memory-based techniques. Carmen states she is always on the lookout for where she can find memorable presentations. She found one in a salt mine in Poland. Listen to her story!

Keith Harmeyer, Author, Smart Storming

Keith Harmeyer is a recognized thought leader on the topics of innovative thinking, creative problem solving, idea generation and advanced presentation and communication skills. An accomplished speaker and writer, Keith is the co-author of the book, SmartStorming: The Game-Changing Process for Generating Bigger, Better Ideas. He has shared his insights with an international audience of thousands of corporate professionals from a wide range of industries. In his interview with #PresentationXpert – Sharyn Fitzpatrick, Keith shared his own game changing life moment.

Nigel Holmes

The brilliant Nigel Holmes, known as the creator of infographics, was the morning keynote at the 2015 Presentation Summit. He wowed the audience with his humor and fun graphics and a tremendous knowledge base of what works and what doesn’t in creating informational graphics. He chatted with Sharyn Fitzpatrick after his keynote.

Our Community of Presentation Experts and Microsoft PowerPoint MVPs

Mike Parkinson, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP

We had a great discussion at #PreSum15 with Microsoft PowerPoint MVP, Mike Parkinson, about sales presentations and how to do them effectively.

Nolan Haims, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP

We caught up with Microsoft PowerPoint MVP, Nolan Haims at the 2015 Presentation Summit in New Orleans. Listen as they talk about the importance of imagery and how to use it like a pro.

Julie Terberg and Echo Swinford, Microsoft PowerPoint MVPs and Best Friends

#PresentationXpert ‘s Sharyn Fitzpatrick talked to these two amazing MVPs about their book. “Building PowerPoint Templates: Step by Step with the Experts,” a one-of-a-kind guide to building templates that work well beyond your desktop. It is easy to see how their camaraderie has really resulted in a great partnership – in business and in life.

Geetesh Bajaj, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP

We talk to Microsoft MVP Geetesh Bajaj about design trends in presentations such as “flat” designs.

We asked Geetesh to talk about how to manage expectations about managing your slides – either as too much info or not enough.

He talks about number of slides vs length of presentation.

Shawn Villaron, Microsoft

It was great to catch up with Shawn Villaron, Microsoft’s Partner Group Program – Analytics and Presentation PM – US. He chatted with #PresentationXpert’s Sharyn Fitzpatrick and shared what he and his team learn from the #PreSum15 attendees, what they will take back to their software team and more.

Taylor Croonquist

Taylor is an amazing wealth of knowledge about the nuts and bolts of PowerPoint. He has learned to push the technology to its limits. We asked him to share his tips on how to maximize pictures in PowerPoint. He shares his advice with us in three video conversations.

John Ramhlow, Vanguard

John Rahmlow shared his thoughts on the #PresentationXpert webinar series with Sharyn Fitzpatrick and Dave Zielinski.

I can’t wait to see what the conversations are this year.  So stay tuned for more “Dishing on Presentations“.   See you in Florida later this month.



Sharyn Fitzpatrick

[Webinar Recording] Our Experts Answered YOUR PowerPoint Questions!

They came to save the day! We have experts from The Presentation Guild who answered your questions – the easy ones, the complex ones, and the tech questions.  

Watch the webinar recording and learn from our amazing rock star panelists – Stephy Lewis, and Microsoft PowerPoint MVPs – Ric Bretschneider, Steve Rindsberg, and Sandra Johnson.

Remember. If cartoons and comics taught us anything during our youth, it was that a team of cape-wearing superheroes was more powerful than anything. One could fly, another could shield, and another could wrangle the truth from a bundle of lies. They did their magic, but by the end of the hour, they left you as a better kid, helping you see the power within you.

Today, as a presentation pro, you might still long for a bright red phone with one button that summons your team to save your project from disaster. We don’t have that, but we have the next best thing.

Introducing our new series — Ask the Experts. We’re assembling panels of experts just for you, made from top talent in various specialties, and focused on your questions and needs. Your benefit will be immediate and direct.Fair warning — there may or may not be panelists wearing capes and masks.

 The Presentation Guild has created a great resource list for you – Download it.

Ask the Experts Panel Bios:

I Hate My Company’s PowerPoint Template! What Can I Do?

In a recent Billion Dollar Graphics class I was asked, “What happens if I’m railroaded by my company’s PowerPoint template?” Meaning, “What happens if I’m forced to use my company brand standards and templates even if I don’t like them?” My answer may surprise you. However, before I share my solution, let’s conduct an experiment.

Question 1: How many of the following 40 logos do you recognize?

Question 2: What package delivery company do you think of when you see this (brown) color?

Question 3: Which color is associated with Home Depot’s brand?

Question 4: Which row of logos are colored correctly (i.e., are the correct brand colors)?

For this reason, when making a presentation, I recommend picking one of two paths:

  1. Use your company’s brand, because it is either building mindshare or already has, which elicits feelings of trustworthiness.
  2. Use your audience’s brand, which is known, and similarly, elicits feelings of trust.

Mixing the two results is a watered-down version of each. It is often unidentifiable as either brand because of brand elements conflict. Mixing is only acceptable when done judiciously for a specific, clear purpose (e.g., to identify roles). Be consistent and make professional choices.

If your company’s brand standards and templates are unprofessional, politic for a change. Show examples of good company-branded PowerPoint templates. Share the benefits of making the switch. In the meantime, unless your company’s template is egregiously bad (I mean really, really unprofessional), use it.

Your personal bias for or against your company’s template and brand (assuming you are not the target audience) is eclipsed by the power of mindshare. Mindshare builds trust and trust is needed for almost every presentation to be successful. Even if you fail to achieve your goal after presenting, you are still building mindshare and improving the odds of future success.

So, my short answer to presentation professionals who don’t like their company’s PowerPoint templates is to use it, because you want your company to become a recognizable brand. It takes time to build mindshare and it’s absolutely worth it.

About Mike Parkinson, Microsoft MVP, CPP APMP Fellow:

Mike is one of 16 Microsoft PowerPoint MVPs in the United States. He is a PowerPoint and visual communication expert, a professional speaker, an educator, and an award-winning author. He regularly conducts workshops and creates graphics, presentations, and content for companies like Microsoft, FedEx, Xerox, Dell, and Boeing, as well as at learning institutions and small organizations. In 2015, Mike sold (a PowerPoint graphics product) so that he could focus on helping others achieve their presentation and educational goals.

Mike owns Billion Dollar Graphics ( and 24 Hour Company (, and authored a successful visual communication book (Do-It-Yourself Billion Dollar Graphics). Contact Mike at to learn more.


[Video] Dishing on Presentations with Dr. Carmen Simon

Dr. Carmen Simon is an accomplished cognitive scientist and author. Her book, Impossible to Ignore: Creating Memorable Content to Influence Decisions, showcases a groundbreaking approach to creating memorable messages that are easy to process, hard to forget, and impossible to ignore using the latest in brain science. She helps businesses use brain science to create memorable messages. Editor, Sharyn Fitzpatrick spoke with her about her book, her new company – Mezmy – and what her keynote speech at Presentation Summit will be.

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