How To Create Professional Presentations: Software, Strategy and Presentation Design

Presentation design is a challenge that affects nearly every industry.

Those text-heavy slides and first-result Google images are no longer considered passable for professional presentations.

Your company needs to create compelling visuals for conferences and sales opportunities that engage audiences while communicating crucial company information – a tall order for busy executives and creative departments.

Fortunately, at Puffingston we’ve helped hundreds of clients develop engaging presentations and we want to share those insights with you—from software options to presentation strategy to choosing your presentation designer, we’ve got you covered.

You are going to be miles ahead of the competition. Let’s dig in!

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Presentation Software


The oldest and most ubiquitous presentation software, PowerPoint has been quietly adding significant new features as part of Microsoft’s Office 365 software suite.

3 New PowerPoint Features You Need to Know About

Often considered synonymous with boring, the latest version of PowerPoint offers compelling ways to shake that stereotype—you can leverage the new Designer, Morph and Zoom features to create elegant slideshows on a platform with which you are already familiar.

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If your company already has Office 365, this is probably your path of least resistance when it comes to preparing presentations. We have several tutorials showing how to get the most out of PowerPoint, such as how to use Morph and storytelling in business.

Running an older version of PowerPoint? Sick of slides altogether? If you’re interested in skipping the status quo and taking an entirely new approach to presentations, then let us introduce you to…


Launched in Budapest in 2009, this tech-savvy platform now has more than 100 million users worldwide whose presentations have been viewed 3.5 billion times!

Prezi pioneered the concept of conversational presenting – non-linear presenting where information is categorized by subject and can be navigated through its zoomable interface. Presenters share a single, interactive canvas as opposed to individual slides—allowing them to zoom in to any area of interest and zoom out just as easily.

Prezi’s cloud architecture also offers distinct advantages over desktop-native applications like PowerPoint—you can collect advanced analytics when you share presentations online, easily co-edit presentations with other Prezi users and keep synchronized through integrations with business-critical tools like Slack and Salesforce.

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Still not sure exactly how Prezi works? We’ve created some awesome YouTube tutorials on how to visualize your data and conversational presenting, illustrating how to get the most out of the software.

Prezi is a subscription-based service, much like Office 365 or Adobe Creative Cloud. If you’re looking for a fundamentally different approach to creating presentations, Prezi may be the platform for you!

Google Slides:

Slides is Google’s version of the traditional slideshow tool. While not quite as robust as PowerPoint, Slides offers enough features to satisfy most presenter’s needs.

Like other tools in the G Suite, a key attraction of Slides is its cloud accessibility and collaboration features. If you aren’t familiar, these features allow multiple users to share, collaborate and edit the same document, even simultaneously—making version management across an organization much simpler.

Slides can also import and export PowerPoint presentations, making it a relatively smooth process to jump between the two platforms as the situation requires.


Keynote is Apple’s version of the traditional slideshow tool. Nearly as robust as PowerPoint, Keynote is a Mac-exclusive application that has won fans for its ease-of-use, elegant animations, and graphics capabilities.

Like Google Slides, it has cloud synchronization features that makes it easy to share and co-edit presentations with other contributors. Keynote also integrates smoothly with other Apple products like the Pencil, allowing presentation designers to put a unique touch on their slides.

As for compatibility, Keynote offers arguably the most direct conversion process back and forth between PowerPoint presentations. With that said, some of the elegance users love about Keynote gets lost in the PowerPoint conversion, so the platform generally makes the most sense for organizations that heavily leverage Macs for presentations.

Presentation Strategy

Now that you’ve got some background on which presentation software might work best for you, let’s look at the strategic considerations often forgotten during the presentation planning phase.


How much time is allotted for the presentation? At what pace does the presenter like to advance her slides? The slides-to-time ratio can be critical: too many slides presented quickly can feel overwhelming or distracting, too few slides can feel out of sync with what the presenter is discussing.


Where is the presenter going to be standing? Where will the slides be displayed? The dynamic between a presenter onstage with slides projected on huge displays behind her is different from a presenter standing next to an HDTV in a conference room.

Important tip: Arrange for presenters to have a secondary “confidence monitor” so they can see their slides without having to turn back toward the display – at big events, those are usually installed by the onsite A/V team; in a conference room, a properly positioned laptop can serve this role just as well.

A/V Tech: 

If you’ve been around presentations any length of time, you know they don’t always transfer smoothly from one computer to the next. However, a few important technical considerations on the front end can go a long way toward making your presentation successful:

  • Always check playback machines have the software to run the presentation, including the right version of the software. Newer editions of PowerPoint, for example, have features that get substituted out when loaded on older editions.
  • If your presentation uses non-standard fonts, make sure to embed or bundle those font files with the final presentation deliverables. Many beautiful presentations have been ruined by a computer substituting basic fonts instead of the ones the with which the presentation was originally designed!
  • Double-check any multimedia or special effects in your presentation load properly on the playback machine. Often videos or animations can get blocked by laptops with corporate restrictions on them.
  • Finally, if you have a chance to test your presentation beforehand, take advantage of it! It’s much better to find any technical challenges hours or even days in advance versus minutes before show time.

Aspect Ratio: 

Most presentations are either widescreen (16:9) or fullscreen (4:3). Which aspect ratio makes the most sense for your presentation? Modern displays like monitors, HDTVs and projectors default to widescreen, so that’s certainly a safer bet for ongoing use. However, there are still many older projectors and projector screens that are fullscreen, so if you can find out about the A/V setup beforehand then you can determine the best approach.

If you’re creating a presentation typically shared on a tablet, know that iPads use the 4:3 aspect ratio while other tablets use both 16:9 and 4:3—so once again, doing your homework can ensure your presentation is fully optimized for the screen used in presenting.

Audience Participation:

Do you want your audience to take a specific action during the presentation, such as tweeting and social sharing photos of certain slides? Visual cues like social media icons and event hashtags can help encourage those actions…and allow you to check out what your audience posted after the presentation!

Presentation Designer

Finally, after mulling over presentation software and strategy, you come to the biggest decision of all: who is going to design the presentation?

When it comes to this stage, you have a few options: do-it-yourself, ask (or demand!) a coworker does it, outsource the work to a freelancer or partner with a presentation agency.

Of course, there are benefits and drawbacks to each one—it all comes down to what works best for your company.

Let’s look at some of the considerations for each:

You want to take this project on internally – there’s not enough time or money for outside help.


Knowledge Transfer: When going the DIY route, there’s no need to pitch your ideas and concepts to the designer; project onboarding is much quicker.

Logistics: Presentation collaborations can be time-consuming affairs requiring numerous meetings to conceptualize, strategize and finalize the presentation design. When you’re the one creating the entire presentation, you can hopefully bypass most (or all!) of those meetings.


Quality: If the corporate world has taught us anything, it’s that most business professionals have no idea how to design engaging presentations. You may know the content, but do you know how to visually communicate it to your audience in a way that will be memorable and exciting?

Availability: In theory, as the DIY designer you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to getting the presentation done. However, that can work against you if you have dozens of other projects competing for your time.

Ownership: Being the presentation designer can often be a longer commitment than you were expecting. People may still be coming to you for questions or change requests weeks, months or even years after you “finished” the presentation! Do you really want this presentation following you the rest of your career?

No matter what route you go, here’s a handy article to get you started:

10 Presentation Tools & Online Resources for Your Next Presentation Design

In-House Design

If presentation design isn’t your skillset or your calendar is already overloaded, the next option is usually to pass the project along internally. In some cases that can mean a coworker or intern who “gets PowerPoint”, in other cases you may have internal creative resources that are available to help with the project.


Cost: In most cases, this is the cheapest option from a supplemental expenditure point of view—coworkers are already on your company’s payroll. If there’s no budget available for presentation design, this may make the most sense.

Editing speed: In theory, having someone working on the presentation in-house should ensure you have close access to the designer and can edit the presentation quickly. Time permitting, you can go through numerous concepts and rounds of edits without incurring extra costs.

Onboarding: A coworker should be familiar with your company, its products / services and probably even has background on the content you’re presenting. You shouldn’t have to spend a significant amount of time educating your presentation designer the way you would with an external hire.


Inefficiency: High-visibility, high-urgency presentations can be a huge time commitment. These types of projects are almost certainly going to bog down important team members and force them to stop other projects they’re working on.

Endless editing: Having easily accessible team members can be great, but it can also invite an informality to the update process that results in never-ending change cycles that further consume your coworkers’ schedules.

Expertise: Unless your company employs a presentation designer, in-house resources may not have the experience or insights to make the most of your presentation opportunity the way presentation specialists can.

Your team is too busy or doesn’t have the expertise to take the project on, so you’ve decided to outsource the project. Do you go with a freelancer or an agency?


You know this project is outside the scope of your company, but you aren’t sure you have the time or resources to begin a formal agency partnership.


Accessibility: Since freelancers are typically one-person shows, they can often take on and turn out work quickly – useful if you’re in a pinch or have decided late in the process that the work needs to be outsourced. Many freelancers are also available to work irregular hours and are willing to communicate informally via text message or social media.

Cost: Freelancers will usually be more affordable than a design agency.


Uncertainty: There are plenty of qualified, talented freelancers in the world, but it can be a bit of a grab bag if you haven’t worked with someone before. For an important project, you might not have the luxury of taking a risk with someone new and hoping things turn out well.

Availability: Yes, freelancers can be available on short notice, but they can also be consumed with other projects or on vacation just when you most need them. Even when you build a great ongoing relationship, there’s the risk they eventually migrate to a full-time role and can’t be of service to you anymore. Finally, even at their best, freelancers are only one person; they can’t sit in on meetings with you, answer emails, jump on the phone and be designing at the same time the way as a company with a dedicated account manager.

Presentation Agency

You’ve decided a freelancer is too risky for a project of this importance…you need the big guns!


Expertise: Presentation design is a niche expertise and companies that specialize in it tend to have a better understanding of the tools and design considerations to make your presentation as successful as possible.

Professionalism: Presentation agencies understand how the corporate presentation process typically flows – from the early concept stages to the rounds of executive review – and can leverage those insights to plan out your deliverable schedule accordingly. You’ll receive clear timelines and delivery expectations as well as a dedicated point of contact to keep communication flowing smoothly.

Partnerships: Looking for an ongoing presentation partner? An agency can serve as an extension of your company’s design resources – getting a strong understanding of your brand, building an internal library of your brand assets (so you don’t have to source them every time) and providing insights to enhance your presentation based on previous collaborations.

Agencies may also have special access in the presentation space – for example, at Puffingston we are Prezi Platinum Certified, meaning we get early access to new product features, a voice in Prezi product development and prioritized support we can leverage for your presentations.

Freedom: With presentation design off your plate, you and your team can focus on content strategy and other mission-critical projects you’re working on, confident your project is in good hands!

Onboarding: Presentation agencies know the right questions to ask and the right elements to consider. At Puffingston, we take clients through a presentation questionnaire so we have a thorough understanding of our clients and their objectives prior to the design stage. While the process may take longer than working with an internal resource, it often uncovers insights and ideas that our clients would not have thought of on their own and gives us the foundation to create amazing presentations for them!

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None! (just kidding)

Cost: Leveraging the full resources of a presentation agency will likely be more expensive than fees associated with in-house resources or freelancers. The good news is those fees get you the full-service experience: at Puffingston, every client presentation project is advised by our Director, overseen by our Creative Director, designed by a dedicated graphic designer and facilitated by a dedicated account manager.

There you have it! Armed with these insights, you’ll be ready to make informed choices on the presentation software, strategy and designer for your upcoming presentations.

If you’re looking for a presentation agency partner, we would love to help! Our team of presentation designers are ready to collaborate with you on amazing PowerPoint, Prezi, Keynote and Google Slides presentations for your important conferences and sales opportunities. Contact us to setup a free presentation consultation!


Let us know your feedback on this article and whether you’d like to see more like it in the future! If you want additional information on anything we discussed, shoot us a note and we’d be happy to provide further details. We love creating content that helps you get enthusiastic about presentations and feel empowered to better engage your audience!