episode 2: Send a Proof, But How?


  • Presentation design is a conversation between designer and presenter. Receiving input from the presenter is vital, but how best to do that? Today, we are talking about our best practices for receiving client feedback and input throughout the design process, along with sharing what format we use to send a proof and stories about why proofing and feedback is important.

How do you work with a client to receive feedback?

  • Nolan: For me, it largely depends on the client and the type of work. Branding and identity is very different from presentation, let’s focus on presentation. For long term clients we have a nice shorthand. They know your style, you know what they need, so there is very little back and forth. With someone I’ve worked with before, I usually send out PowerPoint files. I have my clients make edits on their own. PowerPoint is this democratic double-edged sword that allows non-designers to design and edit content, and I find it’s actually easier for clients to be able to move slides around, make edits and fix typos during the iteration process, which usually has a few rounds, rather than sending back a marked up PDF or sending notes via email.
  • Troy: I tend to go with PDFs, especially at the initial stages. PDFs assure the client sees things as designed, no font problems, file size problems, etc. And if we can use PDF comments for feedback, even better. For most projects, the client receives an editable PowerPoint file after the content and visuals are approved. Everything is dependent on new client vs. long term client, template vs. presentation, and how problematic it will be if an in-process version of a presentation is somehow distributed by the client in the future.
  • Sandra: I rarely send a first round presentation to a client. I introduce the file via a screen share meeting. After that I may send a PowerPoint file or PDF.

Does anyone send video export of presentation for review?

  • Nolan: No, I do very little animation these days.
  • Sandra: All the time. I’ll send video if I’m concerned that animation will not work exactly as I intended.
  • Troy: Yes, this is pretty standard, but usually a video of just a few slides where we want input on an animation sequence. As a side note, using video proofs with Wipster or Hightails’ Spaces online video proofing is really great.

Does anyone send just images of slides for review?

  • Troy: Not a folder full of .jpgs, but very often an image of one slide to get feedback on a specific item.
  • Nolan: Not really.
  • Sandra: No, but it is a great idea for just that one item to confirm.

Has anyone used the built in, or 3rd party, co-authoring tools?

  • Troy: I sometimes use co-authoring for a slide review, but not necessarily for the client to update slides, just for more direct feedback. Often, I am updating the slides on the fly and getting immediate client feedback, sometimes through PowerPoint’s co-authoring and other times using the Skype For Business app share.
  • Sandra: I use GoToMeeting or join.me, but not the built in PowerPoint co-authoring.
  • Nolan: (There are built-in co-authoring tools?)

Philosophies on providing multiple design options to clients?

  • Sandra: I will provide multiple concepts for template designs – sometimes. It depends on how closely aligned it needs to be with other materials. I provide multiple options of a slide when a client insists on something I don’t agree with. So, the first version shows “I hear them” and the second version is my recommended option – 99% of the time the client will go with my recommendation. Showing them a better option creates an “ah-ha” moment.
  • Troy: For template projects, I deliver multiple concepts. This gives us feedback on likes and dislikes. It gives the client control over their project, within boundaries. For slide design, a bit less likely to offer multiple options. When there is an interpretation of the message, I will often have a few options to show how the visual story may be different than the presentation story and I want to assure both presenter and speaker support are aligned.
  • Nolan: I don’t give multiple options on presentation. Branding and identity work is different. At my last agency job, there would be 3 design versions of everything, which I find very time consuming and the client never chooses the best one.

Open forum of pros and cons of proofs and best practices:

  • Nolan: I think compared to you guys, I’m a bit more laissez-faire with my clients, but there are definitely times where you need official feedback rules: new clients, difficult clients, tight budgets, when your contact is not the ultimate decision maker, etc.
  • Troy: PDF comments are my preferred feedback tool for most of our clients. The comment points to exactly what is being referenced and they make a printable action list. Developing a smooth working relationship is not always easy, but it makes presentation design so much better when established, internally we call this “Client education.”
  • Sandra: PowerPoint Comments are a great tool but so few users are aware of them. On the other hand, I am completely happy with a client printing out a PPT, hand marking their edits, scanning and sending it back to me. It may not be as efficient, but if they’re most comfortable with that approach, I’ll go with it.

Wrap up

  • Troy: I would wrap up this episode by saying, feedback is critical in the presentation design process. Working out how you get feedback from your client is also critical – at what stages of the design process do you require feedback, how are the proofs sent out, what is the feedback – written comments, phone call or actual changes to the presentation? Being a presentation design professional is more than just design, it is managing the process, which includes sending out proofs.
  • Sandra: Agreed. No matter which approach you end up using, make sure there is an agreement up front.


 Pro Tips

  • Nolan: My Pro Tip is to use sample colors from your imagery in a presentation. If you have, for example, a full screen image and you want to place a title over it, use PPT’s eye dropper tool to sample a contrast color from the image to use for the text. And if you want to take things even further, there’s a great site called Pictaculous.com which will generate a whole color palette based on an uploaded image. So, if you have an iconic image you’d like to reference presentation-wide in terms of color, you can set a whole color theme from it using a Pictaculous recommended color scheme.
  • Troy: My Presentation Pro Tip is all about viewing a PowerPoint slide deck on a mobile device. If you have Microsoft’s PowerPoint installed on your phone or tablet, it is not always the app that opens a file. On an iPhone, you need to press and hold the .pptx icon, that brings up the list of apps that can open the file. I scroll through the list to open it with the Microsoft IOS PowerPoint vs. using Apple’s default app. Things display much better, like SmartArt, charts and slide navigation.
  • Sandra: My Pro Tip is to spend some time using the PowerPoint Merge Shapes tools. You can create your own vector graphics in PowerPoint (see below for link to a Merge Shapes tutorial on Sandy’s site).


Tech Tips

  • NolaniSky Soft Media Converter is my no-frills go-to program for video. I’m not a video guy and outsource any serious video editing, but when I have to convert formats or downsample or crop or combine video clips, this is my favorite program. I say no-frills, but you can actually download web videos, add effects and set all types of under the hood stuff when converting. The only thing you can’t do is set fade ins and fade outs, but other than that, it’s usually all I need.
  • Troy: SnagIt is one of the greatest apps available, and I talked about it quite a bit in this episode. If you have not used it, you just cannot know what you are missing. It is a screen capture program, which Windows, Mac OS and Office all have built in, but it does so much more. Virtually every image on my blog is created and optimized in SnagIt – it is way faster than Photoshop for that.
  • Sandra: The PPTools Starter Set add-in for PowerPoint. It is free, works with all versions of PowerPoint, and I can’t live without the Hammer Tool.


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