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Production Process Affects Presentation Quality

The process employed to develop a presentation has a direct impact on the presentation's overall quality.As with any project, approaching a task with only the goal in mind seriously jeopardizes achieving an optimal result.Therefore, executing against a plan to achieve a goal raises the likelihood of success.Developing presentations should be guided by a process plan.

Benefits of a process plan

The most obvious benefits of using a process plan to create a presentation are:

  • Staying on schedule.Backward scheduling helps ensure that the correct starting point is identified.Time can be allowed for writing, reviewing, editing, copying and binding (if required), and transmitting the final presentation, etc.
  • Nothing gets missed Executing against a plan ensures that the different types of proofing and edits are included so that the presentation is delivered by "one voice" and that the appropriate people have had an opportunity to provide input.The one-voice principle simply means that a presentation is written in one style (regardless of how many contributors have written text) and is cohesively and consistently formatted (regardless of how many contributors have produced slides with graphics).The one-voice principle also ensures that the company is making the presentation, not a group of individuals within the company – an important distinction if "branding" a message is important to the company.
  • Defined end product.A good process plan will always be executed against a defined end product.Developing a presentation should be no different.Knowing in advance the specifics of what the presentation needs to convey puts you in a better position to actually have that presentation at deadline. Storyboarding is a great way to define a presentation before the actual writing begins.

A presentation process plan

A good process plan can be consistently executed, regardless of the variables affecting the process.Whether a team of one or a large engagement team, the process by which the presentations are developed should remain the same.

Below is a comprehensive basic process plan for developing presentations. When the need for the presentation arises, cycle through the following steps.

These are basic steps that should be taken in sequence during the production process, not an outline for the number of editing iterations for the writing process.For example, the section where the writing process begins may include several iterations until all of the content has been written.Imposing the one-voice principle on graphics may take more than one iteration if the company does not have specific guidelines set (then it becomes a matter of personal choice for the person having ultimate responsibility for the end product – not the best way to develop a presentation).Also, in the event that the presentation message changes direction, the process would restart at the appropriate level.

Variables that affect a process plan

The process itself can be affected by several variables that directly affect the production effort.Usually these variables add time to the process but don't affect the process structure. These factors include:

  • Time allotted for production – less time means efficiency is critical.Fast-tracking development of a presentation is stressful, which makes it even more important to have a plan.If you have to trade away aspects of the process in order to make the deadline, then the decisions are deliberate and thoughtful about what is eliminated instead of simply trying to work fast and stopping when time has run out.
  • Size of team – more team members means more coordination.It is sometimes a misconception that more contributors mean less time is needed to develop the content.Usually more contributors means that a higher level of proofing and editing needs to take place to massage the text and graphics into "one voice," which takes time.

If the team is staffed with a production support person who automatically applies format as the presentation is created, considerable time is saved.In this case, a production "gatekeeper" or point person is assigned to submit work to the production person so that a double (or more) master situation does not arise.Custody of the electronic master needs to be coordinated, tracked, and managed.

When reviews, inputs, and approvals are needed from managers at intervals during the production process, schedule the review time.This way the team can be assured of receiving direction and possibly redirection before it is too close to deadline to react.

  • How long the team has been working together – productive and coordinated team dynamics take a little while to develop.The longer the team has been working together the smoother the process.In newly assembled teams, preproduction and postproduction meetings are essential for establishing and coordinating the activities of the individual team members.Preproduction meetings lay the groundwork for timing (interim and drop-dead deadlines), roles for each team member (expertise contributor, proofer, data checker, production support, approvals, reproduction, travel coordinator, and so on).All activities associated with the production and delivery of the presentation being developed should be identified and responsibilities assigned.A process plan should be established as the blueprint for the process, with backward-scheduled dates and times added.

Postproduction meetings (postmortems) are equally essential for celebrating the aspects of the process that went well and identifying opportunities for improvement during the next process.Conducting this meeting always reduces the time it takes for a team to settle into a highly functioning unit.

The first process is usually a little off the mark; but after about two or three processes, the team will hit stride.Let your team know this and to expect this.Pretty soon, it will take very little time to conduct the postproduction meetings, which might be eliminated altogether and, instead, used only to acknowledge a good effort and set the team direction going forward.

These are the primary variables, but others arise – always.It's easier to handle the unexpected if the majority of the process is under control.

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Whether you are a team of one or a large engagement team, the production process plan is relevant.A team of one just changes hats and moves through the development, review, and editing phases.A large team is guided by a structured set of checkpoints, which keeps the focus of the team uniform.