episode 37: Project Action List To Do BEFORE Opening PowerPoint

Before the design process can begin, it is important for designers to ask certain questions and gather specific information to ensure all needs are met. Today, Troy, Sandy and Nolan discuss their pre-project routines and go over the important info they have on their pre-design checklist.


What is the very first question you ask a client when they say, “Can you design me a presentation?”

  • Sandy: I ask a whole slew of questions, all driven by my Presentation Creative Blueprint. I guess the first thing I ask is, “Tell me about your needs.” Then, depending on how the answer, I dive into completing my blueprint.
  • Nolan: Who is the audience and how are you presenting, specifically, on-screen or print?
  • Troy: Internally, the first question – which I may not verbalize – is, “Is this an established client we can move forward with quickly without lots of business talk (rates, contracts, points of contact, etc.) or a new client (which is always great, but requires conversation outside the design objectives)?”


Do you find “What presentation software and what version?” is a key question?

  • Nolan: Usually we’re talking PowerPoint, of course, but not always. Versioning of PowerPoint has become so important because of some new key features that only exist in Office 2016 for O365, such as Morph.
  • Sandy: I might not ask this question upfront. I don’t think the software should drive how I create the presentation.
  • Troy: What software, what version, and further, what do you use on your computer and what version will be on the presentation computer – which could be an AV company system, an end viewer computer, a web browser, etc. Often, we are helping our client think through the process beyond the design, into how the design is going to be used.


When is the presentation date – and the hidden question is “What is the project timeline?”

  • Troy: I am looking for the reality of the timeline, and what follow up details we need to discuss if timeline is excessively fast or extended.
  • Sandy: I don’t want to waste a whole phone call capturing information only to find out they need the presentation in an unrealistic timeframe.
  • Nolan: The timeline is most important. I always make a point to ask if there are other internal deadlines and approvals that are needed. It’s amazing how a presentation date of 2 months out can mean you might have to deliver something next week.


We also need some details on the technical details: aspect ratio, delivery method – live stage, web, PDF, etc.

  • Nolan: If we’re doing a large formal presentation, I like to talk with the AV people when possible.
  • Troy: I ask the same technical details every project, which is an internal checklist.


Formal timeline discussion

  • Troy: I generally find people are ambitious in their requests and find myself often playing the role of outlining what is practical. Most cases it is the designer. It is the client approvals, content gathering and internal process that create a long timeline.
  • Nolan: The “we have to get started right away” is why I have rush rates and accept credit card billing.
  • Sandy: Many clients do not completely understand what’s involved. As example, the request to create a presentation often means that they need a new template, too, which adds to the timeline.


Do you request a talk outline (email, Word doc, PPT slides)?

  • Nolan: Depends on the project…
  • Sandy: I often get this in the form of old presentations. I generally write a talk outline, which I ultimately export to Word handouts as a practice document.
  • Troy: My favorite project is fully scripted. Second is receiving slides AND a Word outline of the talk message. Third, and this has a wide range of good to frustrating, is receiving a base presentation of slides.


Custom fonts: yes/no (and challenges to be aware of if yes)

  • Nolan: Someone needs to be really serious about wanting to use custom fonts.
  • Troy: I will talk through the pro’s and con’s of custom fonts and for most projects, custom fonts are not something I recommend.
  • Sandy: I usually don’t have a problem helping my client understand why we can’t – or shouldn’t – use their corporate custom fonts. I’m finding more and more that their graphic guidelines include Microsoft standard fonts alternatives.


Visual styling (coordinate likes, dislikes, etc.)

  • Nolan: We’ll always ask for a brand style guide and whether we have to follow it. Asking for likes and dislikes is important.
  • Sandy: I follow a very similar process and ask for the style guide or ask for non-presentation examples – like websites.
  • Troy: I first look to see if we have identified the stakeholders in the presentation or template. Then who has the approval authority. I am going to work to get a group meeting or conference call with that group to not only hear their ideas, likes and dislikes, but have them hear each other so there is a consensus on the client side of visual styling direction.


Animation/transition preferences

  • Nolan: This comes down to how the presenter likes to reveal information. If there are slides of multiple items of content, I’ll ask if they like to reveal them one by one to make it easier on the audience. Some presenters get nervous over having to click too many times, so they just want everything up at once. Not advisable, but it is their presentation.
  • Sandy: I usually don’t initiate this topic, unless I hear phrases like “jazz this up” and I need to know what that means.


IT constraints to work within (ie. access to dropbox, hightail, email attachment limit, etc.)

  • Nolan: It is so frustrating some of the corporate limitations!
  • Sandy: I cover this in my creative blueprint.
  • Troy: For file transfer, I first ask if they have a company option or preferred option, or if we can setup a secure project transfer option. I find it easier to figure out a solution up front than when we have a proof ready for review.


Estimate, contract, etc.

  • Nolan: With new clients, I ask for 50% upfront before we start work, so sometimes that means a credit card payment.
  • Sandy: I don’t have a contract for all off my projects. Sometimes my estimates and timeline are part of an email.
  • Troy: I go back to one of the first questions about project timeline. That helps adjust the discussion on contract and deposit to fit the reality of the project request. I would like to say we always get a deposit, generally 50% of the estimate, but there are a few things hindering that: ability to keep up with paperwork internally, and trustworthiness of client and size of project we are undertaking. We range from ongoing agreements to email agreements – but there is always some agreement in place.


What are any red flags or green proceed items that we look for during the pre-project phase?

  • Troy: For me, stable company, person that can be the point of contact and approve things, and not trying to undercut the project estimate (and there is a difference in clarifying an estimate to fit a budget and belittling the value).
  • Nolan: I’ve mentioned this before, but a red flag is anytime a client keeps saying how much they want a “good” presentation.
  • Sandy: Summer interns (I experienced a rash of them this summer). Their bosses must all be saying, “We need a new presentation, find someone.” A college student is stuck doing price shopping, which is not a good metric, and that’s why I mention my fees very early in the process.




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