PowerPoint Presentation Design vs. Presentation Consulting

Published on
September 1, 2020
In short: PowerPoint design is about the visuals in the slide deck. Presentation consulting is one step up—designing presentations with a message.

Every PowerPoint designer knows the importance of a good design. People remember visuals. They assign emotions to the things they see. Before a presentation has even begun, the audience is formulating a first impression based on visual cues.

So, as PowerPoint designers, how do we set ourselves apart from the other presentation companies out there who are working to engage audiences with high quality designs?

This is where presentation consulting comes in. A quality design does not necessarily equal a quality presentation, but presentation consulting bridges that gap so that a great design and a great presentation are one and the same.

When it comes to presentations, it is not enough to make something look good. Your visuals also need to tell a story and communicate information to your audience.

As a presentation designer, the scope of your work does not often venture very far beyond what the deck looks like. As a presentation consultant, you have the opportunity for further collaboration with your client. Consulting gives you a chance to influence how your designs contribute to the presentation as a whole in order to tell a story and deliver your client’s message in a memorable and impactful way.

Having the skills and expertise to coach clients through their presentations is more valuable than simply delivering a completed PowerPoint design. The difference between a presentation designer and a presentation consultant can be the difference between a good presentation and a great one.

What is presentation design?

Presentation design concerns itself with the aesthetic appeal of a presentation. It uses colors, fonts, animations, and graphics to attract the audience’s attention and give them something to look at while the speaker presents their information.

A presentation design company might take an old design and update it, giving it a more modern look. But even with the most aesthetically pleasing PowerPoint design, the key messages of the presentation can be lost if the overall delivery of the content is not updated as well.

Presentation designers have the unique and valuable skill of creating visuals that accompany presenters when speaking to their audience; designers carefully curate and create photos, graphs, or icons that supplement the presentation, and help tell a visual story. A designer’s job does not typically venture beyond these visual considerations.

What is presentation consulting?

Presentation consulting takes design a step further. Not only does a consultant create engaging visuals, they also work with their clients to make sure those visuals work in tandem with the content of the presentation to deliver an impactful message.

A presentation consultant looks at the presentation script and builds their designs around it. They are still creating the presentation’s visuals, but they do so with a more intimate knowledge of the content than a presentation designer might. At its core, presentation consulting is designing with a message.

Where a PowerPoint designer will refine a company’s older designs, a presentation consultant will do a full visual audit of any collateral relevant to the presentation. They look not only at the visual design, but also how the content within the presentation is being delivered, as this needs to be considered in the design. Presentation consultants will work with clients to address the difficulties they often have in reaching their audience, examine where the problems are, and collaborate with the client to find solutions that address those problem areas.

Bridging presentation design and consulting: A 4-step process

As a presentation design and consulting agency, we pride ourselves on our ability to provide our clients with services that go beyond designing PowerPoint decks. After 10 years of examining and reworking our methods, we have grown into a well-cultivated team of professional designers who not only design quality decks, but are also able to coach companies on how to leverage their content in a way that makes a lasting impression on any audience. In order to effectively do this, we follow a simple 4-step process.

1. Discover

First, we do what any design agency would do—we find out what the client wants.

Presentation consulting starts with looking at a script. The script contains all of the information to be included in the presentation, and an explanation of the message the client wants to convey through their visuals and with their presentation as a whole. At this stage, the client may not be able to provide you with all the details, but you should be able to get an understanding of the direction they want to go in and how your role fits into creating the final presentation.

In our experience as a presentation company, we’ve found that it is best to read through all the material that your client has provided you with and take notes of any key information that will help you organize your deck at a later time. You want to gain a comprehensive understanding of the direction your client wants to go—not only with the visuals, but also with the overall presentation.

Pay special attention to any examples or references the client provides that will help clarify what they want; this helps take out some of the guess work when you are conceptualizing what elements to include in your presentation design.

Once you know what your client wants, build on it by noting which parts of the presentation would interest you as an audience member. Are there phrases that elicit a strong emotional response? Is there a call to action or an idea that resonates with you? Jot these down so that when the time comes to create your deck, you can give these ideas some extra attention. The notes you take from the script will be essential in guiding you through the process of creating your slides.

2. Develop

Once you have a general idea of the content that will be going into the presentation, start planning the structure of your deck.

The script you received from your client may not have been organized in a way that works for creating the visual components of the presentation. Comb through the content and find the key beats—what parts of the speech give the presentation its rhythm? What are the key ideas your client hopes the audience walks away with? What points bring meaning and importance to the presentation as a whole?

Assign ideas to what draws you in and come up with creative ways to portray common concepts. For example, an image of children might be fitting for the broader concept of looking ahead to the future. Organize ideas so that they start to come together in a cohesive presentation that is easy to follow.

Try not to rely solely on the notes you’ve taken during the Discover phase, but regularly refer back to the script to ensure you are not missing any key points. As you continue to organize both your ideas and your client’s, it will become clear what is important and what drives the message your client is trying to get across.

Learning about the client’s industry

It can be difficult to get a full understanding of what clients want if they are presenting subject matter that is unfamiliar to you. In the early years of our company, a lot of time and effort went into understanding the various industries our clients were coming from. It was difficult to know what our clients needed from us without understanding the intricate details of how their world worked.

We put a great deal of work into becoming experts in various fields and have since grown in our capabilities to tailor presentations to the specific needs of different industries. We have worked alongside our clients to gain a comprehensive understanding of how we can leverage our skills as presentation designers and consultants to help clients stand out among their peers.

When working with a client from an industry you are not familiar with, do some extra research and speak with your client to understand how their industry works, what they are focusing on in their particular presentation, and who they will be presenting the information to.

Understand the speaker’s presentation style

If you are given the chance, speak with the person who will be delivering the presentation; this gives you the opportunity to gain additional context and ask any questions left unanswered by the materials they originally provided. For example, if they say they want a slide that focuses on inclusivity, it’s important to confirm that you are both on the same page as to what “inclusivity” means in the context of the presentation.

If the presentation is accompanied by other collateral such as booklets or pamphlets, you want to be sure the content in those materials ties in effectively with the rest of the presentation.

Organizing your slides

Once you feel confident that you and your client are on the same page, you will want to start organizing your workload. As you do, you will see which areas you can start focusing on and what information you are awaiting from your client. In our 10 years of experience, we have found that the design process moves most efficiently when slides are organized into four categories:

  1. Creation/ideation. These are the slides you will design virtually from scratch, based on concepts and ideas the client has given you.
  2. Text slides. These are more text-heavy and contain the bulk of the actual content of the presentation.
  3. Story slides. These are slides that provide a deeper understanding of the message that lies at the heart of the presentation.
  4. Awaiting information from client. These are placeholder slides that will have content filled in at a later time. For example, if there is a video that the client would like to include but has yet to send you, you can designate a placeholder slide so that you know where the video will fit in the deck. This will allow you to keep track of the rhythm of the presentation, even if you do not have all the content.

One thing to keep in mind at this stage is that you are not rewriting the presentation. As one of our presentation experts says, “We are designers, not speech writers.” As you organize your ideas and start to find the flow of the presentation, be careful not to let your personal preferences overshadow your clients’ direction.

3. Design

The design stage is where the visual portion of the presentation comes to life. You are taking your organized ideas and transforming them into something that will capture the audience’s attention. At this stage of the process, having a clear idea of the overall format and aesthetic of the presentation will help you maintain visual consistency between slides and throughout the deck.

An approach centered around emotion and empathy-focused design is an effective way to ensure you are creating an engaging and impactful presentation. As you design, visualize what the presenter will be saying onstage and create visuals that creatively portray those concepts. Consider what images come to mind as you read through the script and consult your detailed notes. What emotions start to surface as you begin to unravel the meaning behind the presentation? What can you do to elicit those feelings from your audience? Understanding the presentation medium

Keep in mind the medium that will be used to showcase the deck. Is it a keynote speech delivered and projected onto a screen? Or will it be printed and handed out for people to read? Lighter colors tend to get washed out by projectors, and this is something you will want to keep in mind as you design.

Keep layouts consistent and balanced Pay attention to the balance between your visuals and your written content. If the words on the screen run from one edge to another instead of in smaller blocks of text, it can make the presentation tedious to read.

The same applies with materials that are printed out. The layout of your images and content should guide the reader through the information, rather than make them search for it. Think about how images and text relate to each other and lay them out in a way that makes sense and is easy for the audience to follow.

Make sure there is variation between the types of layouts you decide to use. Break up dense, text-heavy slides by including images so that there is a sense of balance within your deck. Rather than having four consecutive text slides followed by one full-image slide, consider using layouts that include both text and visual elements to create a more even spread and avoid visual boredom. Give your audience a break from having to read through blocks of content in a single layout.

Conversely, you don’t want to oversaturate your design with images, especially if they do not effectively communicate the intended message. There should be a comfortable balance between text and images so that the audience can gather information, while also being engaged by interesting visuals. If the presentation is not visually appealing to you, it likely won’t be very interesting to an audience.

4. Review

Once you have created the first version of a deck, go through it on your own to see if it makes sense. Utilize the original script and any additional notes you took at the beginning of the process to make sure you have included everything needed. Be sure to note down anything you have chosen to omit and your reasoning for doing so—keeping track of why you made certain design decisions lets you readily explain them to clients. This also serves as the start of the presentation design change log; if the client is not satisfied with your decisions, you will be able to easily find and revert the designs accordingly.

As a professional presentation designer and consultant, you want to be confident in the decisions you make without letting them overshadow what your client has asked for. It helps the collaboration process if both sides are transparent about their expectations and work together to understand how to best depict the client’s vision so that the end result is something that everyone can feel proud of.

In the event that a client is not fully satisfied with a presentation draft, remember that feedback on how to rework the presentation is still positive progress. Once you and your client have been able to talk about what is not working, you as the designer will be more prepared to make the necessary adjustments with a renewed understanding of your client’s vision.


The result of presentation consulting is a design that effectively communicates an important message and looks good while doing so. As a presentation design and consultant company, we have found that diving deep into the Discover, Develop, Design, and Review stages will help you stand out as a presentation consultant. Read more about our presentation company.

At the initial stage of discovery, you will be able to collaborate with your client and get a full understanding of what they need from you. As you venture through the development stage, you have time to organize the information so that it transforms from pieces of data into a story that the audience can follow and emotionally invest themselves in. As you design, you are able to pull together all of the elements you came up with in the first two steps to create a beautiful visual that assists in delivering the client’s message. When the time comes for you and your client to review the presentation together, you can feel confident in the choices you have made and take any feedback as a progressive next step.

When your company transitions from being a PowerPoint presentation design company to becoming a presentation consulting agency, you leverage your skills to be able to not only design a beautiful PowerPoint deck, but to tell a story in a way that impacts an audience and inspires action.

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