What’s the first thing you should do when you sit down to create a deck? What should come second? What should you do last?
When it comes to running a company like Slidedesignr, where we’re helping some of the brightest researchers develop some of the best slides their clients have ever seen, it’s good to reach out to our clients periodically to see how things are going. Specifically, to make sure we’re meeting their needs—and to see if there are any other opportunities to offer new services catering to as-yet unmet needs—I’ll occasionally send my clients a survey or have a colleague interview them briefly, asking them a few direct questions about how things are going.
Two questions that have guided how Slidedesignr’s services are designed were crafted to unearth our clients’ pain points with PowerPoint, and with the deliverable creation process as a whole.
The Two Questions
1) What’s the most frustrating thing about making slides in PowerPoint?
2) What’s your step-by-step process, from start to finish, for the way you create research deliverables in PowerPoint?
Do me a favor and answer these two questions before you go on. No need to write War & Peace, just spend 5 minutes jotting down some notes so your top frustrations and your process are clear to yourself. Use Word, email, or whatever you’re most comfortable writing in.
Then, email your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ok, now that you’ve done that, here are typical responses I get back from your colleagues (in their own words):
“It doesn’t seem to work to create a ‘presentation’ and a ‘report’–so figuring out how to create both in one document is always a struggle. A report is where you put everything in, and a presentation is concise, while still being able to standalone.”
“Amount of info frustration: Increasingly I leave data out and then attach in an appendix. I really want to keep the core story simple so that it is understood–but there is an expectation and need that ‘the rest of the data from the question’ is there somewhere.”
“Our materials are by nature complicated—find ways to deliver them visually and with text in a way that minimizes the complexity. No more than a couple of comments at most below the headline. Here’s the BIG IDEA. Here’s the visual that helps bring it to life for you. Here’s the value. Right now our slides are packed with text. How can we explain our insights and technical expertise in a simple way?”
“It’s time-consuming to think about how to lay this stuff out, digging for pictures…there’s writing it, then there’s designing it. Writing and editing and designing at the same time slows me down. And I have to stop and think—what’s the best way to say this and illustrate it on a page?”
“The hardest thing to do is: figure out my story in Word, what objective did we try to reach? what are the recommendations?”
Some of these frustrations are due to the limitations of PowerPoint (which are actually pretty easy to overcome), and some are due to the sheer volume of information that must be synthesized, but largely, they are the result of an inefficient process.
When it comes to the process, what I hear typically looks something like:
Make bullets of key ‘ahas’ as I am in fieldwork or doing data analysis.
Draw out an outline (visualizing things is important to my thought process)
Start charting or getting qualitative thoughts down
End up with a deck which is just a brain dump of thoughts
Print it out
Group and organize
Write the structure
Do the conclusions
Do the clean up and detail stuff
Executive summary (sometimes I jot this down as I go as well)
🗨️ Small Insights Company CEO
bullet pt out
what I’m seeing Q by Q
come up with recommendations
🗨️ Medium Insights Company Senior Analyst
Do these processes look anything like yours? Here’s what I notice:
- There isn’t enough time to execute on these steps as well as you could. “But I have a tight deadline”, you say. Believe me, I feel you. By cleaning up this process and making it more efficient, you can reclaim days of your life.
- Some of the right steps are there, but in an order that inefficiently wastes time and limited resources (one of which is your brain power).
- Some very important steps are missing.
This all makes creating deliverables in PowerPoint much harder than it needs to be, and makes them take longer to create, while making the deliverable nowhere near as impactful as it could be. In an upcoming post, we’ll look at each, and talk about how to fix them ([spoileralert]downloading a cooler PowerPoint template with some whiz-bang effects is not going to fix it.[/spoileralert])—because there are some things you can do right now, today, to begin making your deliverable creation process a lot stronger than your competitors’.