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

By Heather Ackmann, Microsoft PowerPoint MVP

“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

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