Mark Heaps is а Professional Creative and the Executive Director of Heaps LLC. He has been in the presentation world for over 15 years and has worked with companies like Apple, Nokia, Google, and HP. He has also been working for the biggest presentation agency in the world Duarte Design as a Designer, Senior Development Specialist, and then the Director of Development. He now runs his own agency based in Austin, Texas with his wife and is responsible for a wide array of services such as creative solutions for specialized client projects for companies like Capital One, Dell, Intuit, LinkedIn, Facebook, E&J Gallo, and many more.

In this episode, we talk about Apple, Duarte Design, advice for non-designers, best practices for presentation wireframing, success stories and how charm is not enough, how the future of presentations is in live streaming, and how being live, real, and credible is the most important for success nowadays.

How he ended up in the presentation world

Mark says that people who work in design, always have made presentations but that there is a difference between making presentations and knowing presentations. He has been a Senior Imaging Expert at Apple, and he considers his true dive in presentations his work at Duarte afterward.

He had been connected to a particular team at Duarte that ran the Apple account as Apple suggested him. When working there he was floored by this genre of design and the quality as he had not seen anyone focus on presentations before – an entire agency dedicated to this craft.

In the beginning, he wondered why they did not use InDesign or other industry-standard tools, but as PowerPoint has hundreds of millions of users and Mark says he would call that an industry-standard tool now.

Some advice on good design

Mark says that good design does not mean decoration, but focus.

He tells us about the assumption exercise, which is to start with the topic you are presenting on and make assumptions about it. Then you check if those assumptions are in line with what you are going to deliver.

According to Mark good is not what you think it is, it is what the audience thinks it is. Using the assumption filter go through and test against the quality of your presentation.

Content first, design later

Mark says that people tend to jump into polish mode immediately and then start populating it with content. He shares that he makes his clients work in the default black and white “wireframe” without worrying how it looks yet, as to get the flow down first. Because if you start with bad content, you are just polishing the bad content afterward.

Some people are so intimidated that they are not a designer that they stress over the design quality first – and then they never actually focus on the content and if the content’s not good, the design won’t make it much better,” Mark says.

Virtual presentations

Mark tells us that audiences do not feel like they are part of the experience, and all presenters need to understand that they have to start a conversation with their audience.

You can ask the audience to answer a question and when you do that you ask them to focus. Ask them to assume and then you can recalibrate and correct the assumption. That technique is used to move passive audiences to activated audiences. It also builds tension, and “when you get tension, you get the attention“.

Success Stories

Mark tells us about cases where charm is not enough, but meticulous preparation brings even more results than expected. After months of rehearsing one company saves itself months away from bankruptcy by getting 28 million dollars in investments. A presentation is an opportunity you are given and to be able to gain trust and faith comes from being able to execute that message correctly.

Salespeople are very charismatic, but winging it doesn’t equal polished work. So, how do we get from sound to good, and then to polished? Mark mentions a lady who worked on her presentation hard and how now everybody wants her slides to use as a template, but nobody is that good at delivering it. These slides were tailored to her, not to others. If you buy a good camera, that doesn’t make you a good photographer. But if it’s something you tailor to yourself, then you can become great at it.

The Future of Presentations

Mark says that presentations are not going away as they are a communication vehicle, it is not about the programs you make them on. The future is going to make them more dynamic and integrated with the audience.

Twitch and YouTube are full of kids streaming and striking millions of views already and they have great engagement response with their audiences. They are not businesspeople, but people who speak the language of the audience.

They have figured how to prove that they know what they are doing and how to stream and get good content. According to Mark, this is the future, and we have to look at them and learn from them. They are watched across the world and they are being live, real, and credible.


Check out Mark Heaps’ websiteLinkedInTwitter, or Facebook. You can also find him on Behance and at many conferences.

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