PowerPoint Design Shift: Conversation with Julie Terberg

PowerPoint Design Shift: Conversation with Julie Terberg

Created: Wednesday, August 6, 2008 posted by at 8:18 am

Updated: at

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Julie Terberg

Julie Terberg
It is not everyday that an Indezine reader suggests a conversation with a presentation expert, shares some thoughts with her, and then she comes back with such a well explained, balanced response. When you see something of this quality in an email, you know it should reach a larger audience.

This thread was started by T. L. Sanders, and the presentation expert here is Julie Terberg. As owner and principal designer at Terberg Design, Julie develops custom presentation solutions — unique for every client and purpose. Julie also conducts training sessions for those who want to expand their skills. To find out more about Terberg Design, visit her site.

T. L. Sanders: I’m curious about your thoughts as an MVP on a possible design shift in PowerPoint presentations. I’ve watched over the last few years as people like Cliff Atkinson, Guy Kawasaki, Masayoshi Takahashi, and Steve Jobs, to name just a few advocated that the speaker is the storyteller, not PowerPoint. After this de-emphasis of bullet points, complex slides, and animations, did you have to change your business model or skill set to compensate?

I believe there is still a need for well-designed (emphasis on the word designed not built) presentations (Flash or PowerPoint) for demos, kiosks, etc. However, I believe the current emphasis on solid visual design skills and crafting a story makes preparing presentations less about PowerPoint and more about content.

I work in an organization that unfortunately bought into the Microsoft model of preparing presentations. Presenters typically try to cram as much information on the slide as possible, use a single corporate template, and read from the actual text of the slide as a script. Absolutely horrible and boring.

Julie: The “shift” you write about has been happening for longer than a few years and is MOST welcome. Instead of “giving” presentations, deliver a presentation that the audience “gets”. The focus becomes the audience – not the presentation (what do you want the audience to understand, remember, and take away from the talk?). An effective presentation takes all of this into consideration. It’s not enough to clean up poor content and make it look better.

My business model has not changed much over the last 10 years, as I’ve always specialized in custom-developed presentations. I receive scripts, notes, images, etc. from clients on the presentation content and flow – and then I storyboard a presentation from there. I’ve always emphasized simplicity over complexity. Design is my passion (Industrial Design education and 23+ years of experience in computer graphics). I worked backstage in business theaters, observing and learning all about the relationship between a powerful presenter, great visuals, and a grateful, receptive audience.

The key to change at your organization is education and awareness. If you’re responsible for cleaning up or formatting others’ presentations – you could be a catalyst for change. Share the knowledge you’ve learned from experts like Cliff Atkinson and Garr Reynolds (Presentation Zen). Get the book: Slide:ology by Nancy Duarte. The folks at your organization are simply unaware of what they’re doing wrong and keeping things status quo because they don’t realize this method of presenting is ineffective.

Tip: Take one presentation and redesign a few key visuals for better audience communication. Strip out the text on the slide and move it to the speaker notes, design visual concepts to convey ideas. Share this with the presenter and show them how to use Presenter View so they have their notes visible while speaking. Yes, this method requires more preparation and rehearsal for the presenter – the time is well spent and the results worthwhile.

Another idea: get an expert to speak at your company about this topic.

And another: Attend PowerPoint Live this September in San Diego.

I understand and appreciate your frustration. Best wishes to you!

The views and opinions expressed in this blog post or content are those of the authors or the interviewees and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer, or company.

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