As designers we’re taught to distill our client’s message to its essence and then communicate the benefits visually so their audience will take action. And that goes for video, websites, social media, print, and yes, even PowerPoint.

To most designers, PowerPoint is like a whiff of expired Limberger cheese, which is precisely why we at Afstudio Design like it. Does PowerPoint have quirks and flaws that sometimes make us want to tear our hair out? Yes, but hair grows back.

Just because your clients have PowerPoint doesn’t mean they know how to use it effectively. Yes, they can type in a text box and they can drag shiny new graphics onto the screen. But who is going to save them from clashing colors and trying to spice things up with a little “hobo” font? You, that’s who! You are the lion tamer. Get in the ring and own it!

Ok, let’s admit PowerPoint doesn’t have the panache and ease of use of the Adobe Creative Suite, but if you look under the hood, there are some pretty powerful features. I guarantee that if you took a client’s PowerPoint, limited the color and font palette, cut the content down by 50%, and told a coherent story with a beginning, middle, and end, you would immediately achieve super-hero status within whatever corporate boardroom you enter.

In fact, some of our clients have said our presentations have literally sold their most complex products and services in a matter of clicks—purely on the merit of clarity and visual engagement. 

I know what I’m talking about. Only a few years ago a client from a Fortune 500 company came crying to my studio doorstep with a bloated PowerPoint jam- packed with spreadsheets and multiple charts and graphs. Per slide. “Just breathe,” I said. Clearly his MBA from a top university did not cover the basics of design. The old cliché “Less is more” applied in this case and provided me a roadmap to a much cleaner, more engaging presentation with very little technical knowledge of his project.

I found out later that this project manager was selling a $100,000 software solution and his presentation (that is, my presentation) was the key sales tool to seal the deal. This led to several more projects with him and his colleagues.

So, do you want to impress people at a cocktail party by telling them that you create “Sick PowerPoints?” Probably not. In fact, don’t do that… but between you and me, your clients will love you forever—and pay you a living wage—if you can give them engaging presentations to sell their products and services.

Andrew Faulkner is creative director at Afstudio, with clients including Adobe, Intuit, eBay, Oracle, and Deloitte. When Andrew is not at the studio, he is either painting landscapes or hunting down rare vinyl at one of the Bay Area's vintage record stores.

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