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An Interview with Joye Argo

Joye Argo Joye Argo spent a number of years in corporate marketing and advertising for the education and healthcare sectors. She was a national account executive for a Fortune 500 firm before starting her own company providing research consulting to large direct marketing firms. Joye is a principal and Vice President of Business Development at Studio F Productions.

Geetesh: Tell us more about yourself and Studio F.

Joye: In 1993, a video production company specializing in cable commercials and a software company that developed and implemented advertising tracking and analysis brought their respective talents together. The new company combined an experienced sales and training staff with a wealth of artistic talent. Studio F began life creating digital graphics collections for its clients to sell under their respective brand names.

In 1999, due to frustration with the tools available for presenters, we began development of the PowerFinish™ brand. As experienced presenters and artists, we knew we could do better than the PowerPoint add-ins that were available. To ensure the very highest quality and originality, we use original design, photos and illustrations created in our own shop…no sublicensing of other content. We set out to create the best PowerPoint templates and backgrounds on the planet. A lofty goal, but 6 years later, our customers agree that we achieved it!

The product line continues to grow and is used in a variety of settings. Over half of the Fortune 1000 use PowerFinish products for their presentations. You can see our designs in sales presentations, trade shows, training seminars, in school computer classes, church services, university lectures, government and military presentations. We also continue to be a major supplier to other PowerPoint template providers.

Geetesh: How do you choose the designs for creating the backgrounds and templates.

Joye: In addition to great creative talent, the designers at Studio F share an important credential that sets them apart from most template designers - every one of them has significant experience actually making presentations.

We may develop a thousand images to create a new volume of only 50 templates. That’s because we believe that beautiful design is not enough. Every design included in our products must also pass functional testing…is it easy to read the text you add? does the design look great on a screen and a monitor?

Another standard for our collections is to include a broad range of colors and design styles - from edgy to elegant. We create unique designs - not the same designs in different colors. Most presenters don’t just make one presentation over and over. Why would they want a template collection with the same design over and over?

Geetesh: Why is it so important to select the right PowerPoint template or background?

Joye: Most people dread giving presentations. Sure, there are a few natural speakers with incredible charisma who relish the thought of an audience, but most of us don't fall into that category. Public speaking is the most common fear among adults. So we all need every confidence builder we can get. Using professional slide graphics is a confidence builder in two ways. You're more confident because your presentation looks great and your audience has more confidence in you.

When I get up to make a presentation, there’s an unspoken agreement - the audience will give me their attention as long as I am credible. And every component of my presentation will contribute to or diminish my credibility. I know my audience will recognize professional design, because we all get constant visual stimulation...from TV advertising and movies to print ads. That's the kind of visual stimulation our audiences are used to. And that's the standard for design we are measured against when we ask for someone's time and attention during a presentation.

Most of us have read or at least heard about the “Dress for Success” book. Think of buying high end graphics for your presentations as an extension of the dress for success concept, but in this case you are dressing your presentation for success.

Presenters may say “content is king” and that’s true, but think about the last time you visited your favorite fine restaurant. You went there for food, so why was so much attention paid to the decor, the waitperson's dress and manner, the arrangement of food on the plate, the lighting? It didn't change the actual taste of the food...but great presentation makes the experience memorable.

I would like to ask your readers to do an experiment over the next couple of days. Really pay attention to presentation - on TV, in print ads and at retail stores they visit. Notice the graphic design, use of color, layout and arrangement. I believe they will be amazed at how frequently presentation affects the decisions they make in everyday life.

Geetesh: Why do you feel PowerFinish has been so successful.

Joye: We promise the best, and we deliver it. The desire to be the best weaves throughout our organization from our artists to customer support to shipping. It sounds corny, but it’s truthfully the way we do business.

We claim to have “the best PowerPoint templates and backgrounds on the planet”. That’s a big promise, especially since we offer a money back guarantee. But our customers agree that it’s true. We introduced the first volumes of PowerFinish over 5 years ago, and virtually no customers have ever returned a product.

We get a lot of repeat business because people find out the product is even better than it looks on our website and that our support is personal and extensive. So many companies doing business on the internet have little or no customer support, or the hold times are long when they do have a phone number to call. At the end of the day, we want to know that our customers are not just satisfied but amazed by the quality of our products and our support.

Geetesh: Tell us more about your new products, Template Design Sets and Presenters’ Choice.

Joye: What we all ideally want is a presentation that looks custom, professional - like a lot of time and thought has gone into it. Your audience sees that effort as a reflection of your respect for them, and that builds your credibility. But realistically, most people don't have the time, budget or skills to create professional custom designs for their presentations. And the people who make presentations range from beginner to expert. One thing they all have in common is they want their presentations to look better. That's why we thought it would be a great idea to give the average presenter easy access to above average design.

Based on our own experience - actually standing in front of an audience - we concluded that a great way to add variety and interest to a PowerPoint presentation is to use more than the standard pair of title and text background designs. So we created a new kind of template. Template Design Sets are PowerPoint templates with more…each template also has 18 coordinated alternate slide designs that can be added to a presentation. It’s really easy to insert alternate backgrounds and just a few clicks provide great results.

We all operate on a kind of "auto pilot" level for most of our daily tasks. But our brains are wired to notice change. A visual change alerts our brain to pay attention. So when you use a variety of changing slide backgrounds in a presentation it helps keep your audience actively engaged.

Many presenters create lengthy or complex presentations and they asked for a way to get a custom look without the big bucks. So we created Presenters’ Choice, a collection of 100 style sets, each with a huge array of slide design choices. But just having a big collection with a lot of choices isn't enough. Most of us aren't graphic designers, so deciding what goes with what can be confusing. Making professional presentations easy is the basis of our newest products. When you pick a style you like, you can be certain that every one of the designs in that set were created to work together. And you can be certain that each design works...we test with text and charts to ensure that the backgrounds support your ideas, not overwhelm them.

Geetesh: Why does PowerFinish focus on abstract designs rather than conventional photo based templates?

Joye: We think they offer more value to our customers. When you purchase a photo-based collection of templates and backgrounds...ask yourself - how many of these am I really likely to use? You may buy several thousand photo-based templates and find only a half a dozen that fit your needs. You can easily add a photo or illustration to an abstract background, but if a template design is based on a photo of a construction site and you are in clothing sales - you won't ever use it.

By the way, if you are considering licensing a template that includes photos, make certain that the company selling the license has the right to re-license that content. Many large stock image companies do not allow resale of their images. The safest thing to do is to use an image your company owns or to personally license the specific image you need. For limited use - like a presentation - the cost is generally very low. Then you know you don't have any copyright issues.

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since November 02, 2000