“PowerPoint presentations”—a term I’ll use to describe any on-screen presentation, be it Google Slides, Apple Keynote, or Powerpoint itself—present unique challenges for lawyers, professional services firms, and marketing departments across industries. They can be time-consuming to create, difficult to present, and, too often, lacking in the power of persuasion.
At the root of this issue is a temptation to accept the software’s perceived limitations—that it’s clunky and inelegant, so slide decks must be, too—rather than challenge oneself to raise the bar and expect more. In fact, with a little applied strategy and expertise, a PowerPoint presentation can truly captivate audiences, inspire action and influence outcomes in your favor.
So let’s address the most common problems we see when it comes to developing impactful presentations and pitches.
Problem: They Take Too Long to Build
Professionals who bill their time do not have the luxury of spending hours upon hours translating their thoughts and expertise into a 30-page slide deck. Their time is better spent counseling clients and billing hours.
Solution: Set it and Forget It
Much of that time is spent wordsmithing, and the rest is spent in the construction of slides. Many slide decks get created from the ground up for each new presentation. Often, busy professionals settle for bullet point-riddled “Frankenstein” presentations cobbled together from prior iterations.
Instead, create compelling visuals once, particularly for core ideas that are likely to be incorporated into most (or all) future presentations. Any customization required for specific audiences can then be minimal, which means that your core presentation doesn’t need to get reinvented every 30 days. As for the compelling visuals, lean on your marketing resources to visually convey your expertise graphically. (More on that later.)
Problem: Too Much Text
To repeat, nobody wants to read paragraphs and bullet points behind you. In fact, they won’t.
Solution: Visual Storytelling
Your slides are meant to complement your presentation, not be your presentation. Stop with the thousand words, and start painting the picture. Research has proven that the mind will better process and longer retain visualized data than it will words and numbers. If you want people to remember the concepts behind your presentation, and to make a lasting impact in terms of establishing expertise and thought leadership, it’s far better to present infographics, pictures, and conceptual imagery, rather than facts and figures.
Problem: Nothing Matches
In all likelihood, your firm has made a considerable investment in its brand—both from a visual identity perspective and a messaging standpoint. Conformity and continuity are paramount to establishing and maintaining brand recognition. This should by no means be sacrificed for expedience or convenience, especially in such an intimate and client/prospect-facing forum as a pitch or presentation.
Solution: Create the System
Think of your PowerPoint as a key component of your firm’s overall marketing ecosystem—because it is. It should extend your brand image and messaging, not run counter to it. Design standards must be adhered to, and brand voice must be congruent. Presentations should look and feel like companion pieces to your firm’s website…and its brochures…and to proposals, business cards, advertising, digital marketing assets, and so on. And every other presentation made by others in your firm should look and feel like system components. This is almost always neglected not out of malice, but rather innocent ignorance. All the more reason to create a “set” presentation once, and avoid modified duplications.
Harrington Client PowerPoint Example
Problem: “I Hate PowerPoint”
PowerPoint is often dismissed as clunky, workhorse software; merely a utilitarian vehicle by which to convey data, facts and figures. In reality, PowerPoint presentations can be elegantly designed, masterfully strategized, and sophisticatedly differentiating. Design tradeoffs are too often made because a presenter isn’t an expert in graphic design or even PowerPoint itself. They don’t need to be.
Solution: Training and Guidance
Once a master presentation has been created and finalized, most of the hard work—but not all—is done. The critical last steps is to train attorneys, marketing professionals, and administrative assistants so that they know how to make the minor adjustments and modifications necessary, allowable by your standards, to finalize each presentation. Provide training sessions. Create user documents. Again, modifications that undermine the firm’s overall brand are almost never done out of malice, but rather are due to lack of understanding or skill set. Give people the tools and guidance to adhere to elevated standards, and they will follow them.
A Path to Better Presentations
Professional services firms invest heavily in their brands. The most visible manifestation of this investment is typically reflected in a firm’s website. A website is critical to spark interest in a firm, but the marketing tools that are typically used to close a deal or secure an engagement—PowerPoint presentations in particular—often lack brand consistency, design sophistication, and ease of use.
We’re seeing a shift, however. In our own experience, more clients than ever are seeking our help to design and build presentations that have storytelling, graphic, and design punch. Their investments are allowing them to make a bigger impact with their presentations—with less frustration and better results than ever before.
Don’t settle for boring, bullet-point-heavy PowerPoint presentations that fall flat. Own the stage and steal the show with a presentation that stands out.
To meet the challenges firms are facing, we’ve redesigned our own approach to help our clients put their best foot forward at the most important stages of the business development process. Check out our new Proposal + Presentation Design page to learn more about our process and view examples of our work for top firms across the country.
Looking for more? Check out these related posts:
We work with professional services firms to develop content marketing strategies, create visual storytelling assets, and build brands and websites that lead to new business.
If you’re interested in increasing the returns on your marketing investments, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 313.432.0287 ext. 6 to set up a free consultation to discuss how we can work together to define clear goals, create a specific plan of action, and implement marketing tactics that will help your firm grow.
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