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So You Want to Be a Presentation Designer?

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What’s Your Goal?

When I was pregnant with my first daughter, I had the idea of creating a little business sideline that would bring in some extra cash and afford us some nice holidays overseas.

Ten years later, my vision is in full flight with a team of over 25 people at Presentation Studio, and we have recently partnered with global presentation agency Duarte to provide training throughout Asia Pacific.

If I had thought I would get to where I am now back then, I’m not sure I would have got anywhere – the mere thought would have been so overwhelming I would have fallen off my kitchen bench (which is where I started working from).

At first, I was focused on doing the best work I could for the best people. That worked for many years but, as the company grew and my team needed clarity in direction, I had to ensure they were all on board with that same vision and I had to have future plans so I could share them!

So the advice I have for you, whether you are a freelancer, entrepreneur or corporate, is to ask yourself what your goal is in the future. What help do you need now to get to where you’re going so you can continue doing what you love?

Here are a few tips on what I’ve learned on my journey.


Be realistic

Probably one of the hardest things I found was as a graphic designer (introvert) I had to come out from behind my computer and start focusing on a whole new world of exciting challenges.

The first area I identified I needed help with was administration and client support. I was able to get part time help in this area and it wasn’t until a few years in that I actually took the plunge and hired a full time person. (They cut a wage well before I did.)

As a freelancer I made good money. As a boss I was literally losing money. The long hours and juggle around my baby meant that the money I was making was 100% going back on the support I needed to do it. But I knew in the long run that would balance out.


Stay true

Stay true to who you are and what you love. For a while, I considered offering branding, websites and logos, as well as presentations. But it’s not my area of speciality and I learnt quickly that it was much better to be clear about what I do and be the expert at that. It was tough – turning down work when I needed money most – but in the long run it’s definitely paid off.

If you are a freelance graphic designer and you love spending time at your computer visualising things and creating incredible works of art and infographics, your best plan is to work with an agency or freelance agencies that can supply you with lots of work.

The minute you start providing your service direct to customers you end up splitting your time with business admin, debtor chasing client feedback and amendments – all of which detract from your love of design.


Build relationships

Building strong relationships with a range of clients is important so that you don’t get negatively impacted if one particular industry sector goes belly up. Keep contacts within organisations as wide as possible as people quickly move on.

Also think about where you can collaborate. There is great benefit in sharing the love of what we do – to grow the pie and not squabble over the portions with competitors. That’s why I have joined forces with Nancy Duarte*, a leader in the communication and presentation space. As Nancy herself puts it in this article: Love Thy Enemy: Keep Competitors Close to Create a Global Advantage.


Don’t take it personally

The hardest thing I have had to cope with is that I love my team and treat them like my family, so when people leave it hurts.

It’s hard when they take the knowledge you’ve helped them build and then they set up on their own or go to work for a competitor. But it keeps you on your toes and ensures you are constantly reviewing and doing your best to provide the best possible service for your clients and your team.

And that’s ultimately the end goal, right?

*VisualStory™ workshops help professionals improve storytelling and design in their presentations. Learn more about Duarte’s VisualStory™ programs offered in North America, and Presentation Studio’s delivery of this workshop in the Asia Pacific.

Emma Bannister
Emma Bannister is passionate about presenting big, bold and beautiful ideas. She is the founder and CEO of Presentation Studio, APAC's largest presentation communication agency, and author of the book Visual Thinking: How to transform the way you think, communicate and influence with presentations.
Emma Bannister
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Craig Hadden (@RemotePoss)

    7th April 2018 at 9:25 pm

    Thanks for sharing a bit about your story Emma. As a fellow introvert (also in Sydney), I’m often surprised when public figures of various sorts reveal that they’re introverts too. I’ve really enjoyed the work of Susan Cain in that area, like her talk at Google. (It’s fascinating that she shows how introversion even occurs in other species!)

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