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Consistently rated as one of the nation’s top 25 business schools, Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University is a great option for students pursuing an MBA.

With the 2017 prospective student sessions debuting in early February, however, school leaders realized their presentation could be a major differentiator in the competitive world of higher education so they turned to a pair of experts to help them create an engaging presentation for Dean Peter Rodriguez.

“Our audience is essentially 22 to 28 year-olds,” explains Kathleen H. Clark, Executive Director of Marketing and Communications for Jones Graduate School of Business. “We needed something that was more image-driven, with color and music—something that would appeal to the audience that we were talking to as opposed to only ourselves.”

To start, the school worked with communications expert Michael Baldwin to develop a message that was clear and memorable—an important factor for students overwhelmed with information from graduate programs around the country. Baldwin helped strategize a presentation featuring four key characteristics of the Jones Graduate School of Business: Rising, Intimate, Change and Entrepreneurial—as well as staff and recent graduate spotlights.

With the messaging in place, Baldwin connected Rice with presentation agency Puffingston in nearby Austin, Texas, to help deliver visuals that were as polished as the script.

Puffingston got to work designing a slideshow with high-resolution imagery, videos and captivating transitions—a significant reversal from the text-heavy presentation the school had relied on in previous years. To ensure an easy handoff, Puffingston used the PowerPoint 2016 platform and its new Morph and Zoom features to produce a modern, tech-savvy slideshow the school could easily update and edit for future presentations.

A screenshot from the Prospective MBA Student presentation developed by Puffingston 

For Clark, the opportunity to work with partners outside of the graduate school wasn’t challenging—in fact, it was helpful. “In my experience, outside agencies tend to do the best work,” she says. “They don’t have their blinders on, so they don’t fall into those traps of saying, ‘This is the way we’ve always done it.'”

The result? “We got a really strong response from people that were in the audience,” Clark explains. “When you walk around a big auditorium and watch people, you can tell if they’re engaged or not. This presentation definitely kept the audience interested.”

While the impact of the presentation upgrade on enrollment numbers won’t be clear until later in the year, Clark and her team are confident it’ll have a positive effect for the Jones Graduate School of Business.

And, as far as what it was like to work with Baldwin and Puffingston, Clark says that things couldn’t have gone smoother. “The involvement was really seamless. They were on time, open to changes and the output was fabulous,” she concludes. “All in all, they were just very easy to work with, and we’ll definitely work together again in the future.”

Dean Peter Rodriguez delivers his presentation at the Jones Graduate School of Business.

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