I kept track of the phases of a recent presentation design project:
  1. Quickly racing down an existing PPT, checking out the client's web site ("what is it that they do exactly"?)
  2. Break
  3. Listening to the full pitch via screen sharing software: PPT on screen, client on the phone. Asking naive questions all the time, jumping back and forth between slides and web sites, interrupting the presentation all the time (some people might get offended)
  4. Jotting down all impressions immediately after that, to make sure that I do not lose the richness of the discussion (especially comments and ideas that do not appear on a slide)
  5. BIG BREAK including a night of sleep
  6. Putting together the template, setting fonts, colors, spending time on finding a perfect and beautiful image/graphic for the front page (yes, open up the slideware!). Thinking about a style of images, the style of presentation. Most people might embark on some analogue story boarding exercise here, but I find it useful do dive into the detail of color codes to get my mind focussed. 
  7. Break
  8. Start designing a few absolute killer charts that are instrumental in getting the story across without worrying where they exactly fit in the story. In VC pitch presentations, these are usually charts describing the pain that the world-without-this-great-invention is suffering. These will be the most important charts in the presentation.
  10. Going analogue to design the overall story of the presentation on a piece of paper
  11. Filling in the blanks with slides, starting on page 1 and working my way through to the end. Finishing each slide to final quality (i.e., I do not create quick PowerPoint dummies)
  13. Look at the draft again, make some small changes and send it off to the client
  14. Here is where the regular iteration process with the client starts. Feedback, correction, feedback, correction.
Looking back I notice a few things:
  • Lots of mental breaks to give your mind a rest
  • I usually look and study an existing PowerPoint, some people might be afraid to get influenced by seeing previous work. Personally, I do not suffer from this, presentations come out with hardly any resemblance to the original. 
  • I actually open up PowerPoint relatively early in the process before going analogue, against the wisdom provided in most presentation design books
  • The lack of structure despite my engineering background and 10 years of McKinsey
The above is a highly personal work approach, it does not mean it should work for every presentation designers. I just wanted to share a glimpse of how I work through the process from story idea to finished PowerPoint file.

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