Stephan Kuhnert is an experienced tech entrepreneur who founded empower® with his business partner Fabian Willebrand in 2009. Stephan is the Managing Director of the company now, and presentations and elegant, intuitive software are two things that he is enthusiastic about. empower's product can save you a lot of time and effort - the suite add-in for Microsoft Office, and notably PowerPoint.

For the second year in a row, Stephan was one of the speakers at Present to Succeed, and he and his company were one of the event’s awesome sponsors. They have helped us make the conference a reality in the first place.

Stephan is a two-time guest on our podcast now! This time with him, we discussed what the empower® suite add-in for Microsoft Office is, his Present to Succeed 2022 session, the formatting challenges that everyone encounters while creating presentations on a regular basis and how to solve them with empower®.

In this episode, we also talked about the yearly study, which he and his company conducted in partnership with Nielsen around the world, and its most fascinating insight: around 40% of presentation preparation time is spent on repetitive, formatting work that could easily be saved and spent on better things!

Stephan’s Present to Succeed 2022 session was a hands-on session showing how the world’s most used PowerPoint add-in can revolutionize how your organization works. In this episode, you can also hear how his company’s software – the empower® suite add-in for Microsoft Office – works and helps some of the biggest brands in the world and how you can become even more productive with PowerPoint.

Listen to the full podcast episode to learn more about what is coming next for empower® suite as Stephan revealed some details about what you can expect from their product in the future!


Check out the empower® suite add-in for Microsoft Office here, or take a look at their research with Nielsen here. You can also connect with Stephan Kuhnert on his personal LinkedIn.

Watch the full episode

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Boris Hristov:
Hey, everyone and welcome to yet another episode of The World of Presentations podcast, brought to you by us at presentation agency 356labs. My name is Boris and I’m the founder and the host of this show for the last 100 plus episodes. And today together with me, I have someone that’s… let’s just name a few things. He was a speaker at Present to Succeed twice already. He and his company supported Present to Succeed from the beginning by being one of the one of the sponsors.

So, this means that without companies like his company this event wouldn’t even happen. So, let’s keep it there also. And the third thing that probably I need to mention here is that Stephan and his company are building a tool for PowerPoint, but not only. But because this is a presentation podcast, we need to talk about PowerPoint in this case. If you believe that PowerPoint is a powerful tool, my opinion is that you don’t know anything. And I’m not even exaggerating when I’m saying this. So, welcome to the podcast for a second time, Stephan, how are things going?

Stephan Kuhnert:
Thank you very much for having me. It’s a pleasure.

All right. So how was… wait, before we talk, a little bit, like one minute, for your experience at Present to Succeed 2022. Tell our audience who didn’t listen to the first episode, a little bit about yourself.

Mm-hmm. Okay. So, in a nutshell, I’m… That’s the toughest question, right? So, in a nutshell, I would call myself a PowerPoint geek. I founded Empower as a company 12 years ago. And we always did, like, you know, development based on Microsoft Office. And although we have a solution for the entire Microsoft Office Suite, we really come from the PowerPoint world. I mean, I was, I was a former strategy consultant, so I used to do like 100 slides a day, at least 16 hours. And there was always this idea to improve the way presentations can be built. And I think that’s, that’s me or us in a nutshell. So, we’re only doing that. We’re developing software for Microsoft Office and we’re now 100 people doing that.

And when I started, it was just my co-founder and myself and we weren’t sure whether there is an entire business for it that would actually pay our bills. And now we’re at this stage and without any investors, which is great. And it just shows the and the importance of presentations.

Yeah, absolutely. I was about to ask how large the team is today. But you already answered that, which means that the product is going great. And a lot of customers and a lot of companies are looking for it and extracting a lot of value from it. Before you kind of and before we jump on to the report that you also talked a little about at the conference, which has some very, very interesting insights in it, I would say, and that is something that we can point out afterwards in the show notes. Everyone, make sure that you go to the show notes, and you download that report and just take a look at the research that empower and, who was it, Nielsen? It has some fascinating, fascinating data. I think in it. I will ask you for your favorite insights, all of it. But how was Present to Succeed for you this year? 2022, I mean?

I mean, this year it was less of a surprise, right, because it was the second edition and that the first year was of course, exciting for us and in a way that we didn’t know what would happen. And we were overwhelmed by what you guys and pulled out there And of course, this year there were high expectations, right? And I mean I mean, without flattering you of course. And over and achieved those high expectations one more time. So, I think for us, it was I mean, being there as is as a sponsor, of course. And it was amazing how many people showed up and how many people were interested. And, of course, something that we on purpose called a this is a product pitch, right?

Because you have so many great speakers and they are all bringing so much content. I think, you know, I personally believe that there is. I mean, those are great speakers that deliver awesome insights, which is great. And then there are those tool providers, those companies. And if you ask me, I don’t believe that those two we always you know, tried to deliver content and meaningful stuff. But at the end of the day, of course, we were a company trying to sell our software. So, we this year said, let’s make it very explicit. Let’s provide insights, but let’s talk about this is a product and this is, you know, very quick pitch, not like a five-minute show. And now you see, what are you interested?

Because otherwise you always trying, you know, to do the content marketing thing. And I think you had so many great speakers and we would never be able to compete with those people in terms of insights from a storytelling or design perspective. But where we can compete is just showing off a really cool product. So that was our approach this year. And we got amazing feedback. So, it was really cool.

Brilliant. Really happy to hear that. And I saw what you did for the audience there to release some kind of a secret version for Empower for everyone at the conference was crazy. I think there were quite some people that downloaded that. I’m not sure that you saw the data. I sent it to the marketing team already to explore and see. But there was this was I think of like I also mentioned it throughout the session that even if you guys are listening to this podcast, and watching it on YouTube, these types of episodes or our sessions are all about you just, just how can I say it’s like – widening your horizon of what’s possible on the market.

And maybe even if you are not the decision maker who takes the decision for whether or not to have this new software installed in our company, maybe you are the person that can tell your manager, “Hey, wait a minute, there is something that exists out there that can save us a ton of work. Can you take a look at this?” Can you please do that? Because it may be something that we really, really need. Anyway, the report, that report is incredible. There are so many interesting things. By the way, a secret here, we are always quoting you on that one, but we use, I think, one or two of the numbers in one of our trainings.

So, thanks for doing that. This is a really nice, really nice one. There was. What is your favorite? What is the craziest insight that you got? Like was the report was up? What was the one inside that when you found it out there in the data, you are like, that is crazy. So, there was a little bit of all the report, by the way, very quickly and then let’s go to the insights.

So, I mean, yeah, so maybe about the report so it’s I mean, we’ve done it we’re doing it on a regular basis, and we chose Nielsen, it being the market leader was wide in terms of research. And so, we focus on enterprise. That’s right. 50 people or more in the corporation that is part of the of the panel. And we are asking I think 2000 people across the globe. So, we have a pretty good understanding of differences between the US and Europe or Asia and between some even different industries. But what is important is so for example, things like there are a higher market share of Google and of Google workplace in the U.S. versus Europe, which is something we also would probably from a feeling and confirm.

And while Microsoft Office is still like monopoly, like market leader with 85% still but. And so, this is the report, and the report is pretty extensive I think I don’t know like 60 or 70 questions around how people work with office and a lot of questions around PowerPoint, or I have to say presentation software because it’s about how presentation software is used but again as 85 to 90% is using PowerPoint. I’m just making this a synonym right now. But yes, I mean the most interesting fact is of course it depends on the audience I am speaking to, but I think for me it’s always shocking in a way that it we roughly so we always ask that question. When you think of the overall time you work on a presentation and it’s very explicit, you work on a presentation, it’s not like you’re reading stuff or so.

So, when you work in a presentation, what’s the share of the formatting versus the content like? The content part is you noticed that the storytelling there, how can I really engage with the audience, this kind of stuff. I mean, we as a tool company, we cannot change that, right? This is something there are great speakers on your conference. People will give you great advice for it, but we are staggered by the fact that 40%, nearly half of the time people spend creating these presentations, it’s just super stupid formatting work, right? Like work where they have to align boxes, cut out and crop images, create diagram with some arrows on top. And it takes them so much time.

And I think we all notice, right, we all get this feeling when we are working on a super important presentation. We, we realized this is now really a lot of annoying work for us, right? This is a lot of steps, a lot of clicks, and it just consumes and eats up so much of our time. And I think it’s crazy if we think about our lives and all these apps and all these amazing helpers that save us so much time and then we’re still doing such a stupid I mean, stupid work in a way. I mean, we’re not educated to do it and we don’t do it very efficiently. And then we are a highly paid knowledge workers that align boxes right. And then say, oh, doesn’t look good because that’s the results, that it doesn’t look good when you do it to yourself and then you redo the slide and you are still not happy, but you have to move on because you’re making late hours again.

So and so it’s like nearly 50. It’s 40% to be precise. 40% of the time. But people on average spend like 5 hours a week. There are many people who spend much more time but 5 hours a week on PowerPoint. So, if you think about it, that’s two wasted hours every week, every week, again and again. And it’s not one person a company, it’s thousands. And this is I think it’s crazy. It’s crazy that there are people accept that as a fact and don’t change it. And of course, for us we are. And I think it’s still a young market in a way. It’s still a market that’s just evolving. But it’s a lot about education making this explicit because of this, I think. What was it last year? It was 30th birthday. I think oh, yes, I know.

I think this year is 35.

Okay, something like this. Like it’s so long out there that I think there is this people don’t even question whether there are tools for a right. I mean, every now and then we see a new company that is trying to get rid of PowerPoint hardly every five years. We have that, but there’s I think no, there is no question about it. Can we improve that? It’s not good. Yeah, we have Office and now it’s Office 365. It’s oh I mean I love the software. I think it’s a great software, but we live with all the inefficiencies and that’s, that’s our mission. And I think that’s from the report like that proves it, right? It’s not this. We always have this feeling we’re losing time now. It’s proven there is, I mean so much time.

It is crazy if you think about it, like for everyone that’s listening, just imagine you probably you can, you can associate yourself with this like 2 hours per week in formatting in PowerPoint. I personally know a lot of people from our customers that spend way more in just the formatting part. Just try to get it from the business perspective. That will be like, let’s say eight or 10 hours per month. Multiply that by 12, that’s 120 hours. Now multiply that by the rate, the hourly rate of that person, of one person, as you mentioned, of one.

This is not one person anymore. It is hundreds if not thousands of people that are using this on a daily basis. And just think about the losses. It is crazy bonkers. Yeah, it is insane. So that being said obviously again to everyone download the report, you will find it extremely, extremely interesting. And I think the report was free, right?

Yeah. Not for us, I mean, for us it was highly expensive research, but no, of course, we share that. And I think it’s there no such thing, no such insight. And it’s funny, although there’s three parts for everything and so that’s why we decided like the way to go to do that on a regular basis. And the next one is probably coming out probably next year.

Hopefully, hopefully the guys at Nielsen are making a discount here. Okay. So anyway, I know by the way, quite some people from Nielsen, I need to ask them what’s going on in there with empower’s account. Who’s taking care of them? All right. Anyway, then being set over the formatting issues, all that stuff, obviously, empower works on both PC and Mac. You can install the bolts on PC and the Mac. Now, your focus is mainly you will probably say the corporate world.


But what about like if you look at the product today, like 2022, what is that feature? One feature that you would point to in empower that is going that is already the most, let’s say used feature probably because you know how people use it. What is the most use feature there by all the customers that you work with? Because if people go to your website, they will see some very, very, very, very, very big names and global brands. What is what are they using mostly there?

So, I mean there I have to mention to because it’s really dependent on the on them on where our clients are coming from. So, one thing that everyone loves is having this central slide library. This one place in the organization where all the important slides in the latest version, very important in the latest version are available. And you can just use your you stay in PowerPoint; you just launched a library, and you have access to thousands of slides that are. They’re searchable right now and searchable. Exactly. And what have we now added, which is for us pretty amazing. And because that was something we dreamed of a long time ago.

Now we can actually index all the SharePoint and all the teams channels, everything in your organization. And if you do a search, you can literally find all the slides that ever made in there have ever been stored in SharePoint, in Teams, in a second. So, it’s really cool because now you don’t have to look, oh, in which channel was that? That I did and saved that file? You have all these channels, right? So many new data locations and the same for SharePoint. So, so that’s one feature like having access to that content. The other one and it’s a very different use case. I mean we know and clients working with you, what they probably always get is a new master template, not always, but quite often.

Right. And the new mass attempted could be the reason because there was a relaunch of your brand. But sometimes what we see quite often there’s just a new template, not an entire relaunch, but we just want to present in a more modern way. And here’s the thing, and this is similar to the formatting part. This is mind boggling. If you think about it now, you have those hundreds of thousands of slides and presentations that are already at a company, and now there’s this new cool looking shiny template how to get content, existing content to the new template. There is no such thing as a convert function from PowerPoint. Applying a design is not doing the job. We know that, right?

It’s not doing the job. So, the best advice and we could probably talk about this whole session, the best practice, I would say, is if you don’t have any tool, you just ideally put it one by one, copy the text. Ideally, and you do it like a horrible copy paste job with thousands of clicks to get it and presentation properly converted it. And this is something that we automated with a convert function. And again, it’s like it’s super. I don’t want to bore anyone. It’s super fancy with a lot of logic that is very a style, the way you try to get the best shit because layouts change, colors change in the mapping of the color scheme right so there’s all this logic that is applying it, getting rid of all layers.

And this is one reason why clients say it’s the one. So, for example, BioNTech, the and the and the COVID vaccine, the company in Germany, they bought empower just for this reason. They said, we got a new master. We, we have thousands of existing slides. We don’t let our people who are busy these days, we don’t let them apply that manually and with their label work. Right. We just want to have one click and it should convert. And so, these are like, let’s say two of those killer features, as you call it, in the software world. Yeah.

This is, by the way, for everyone who was listening to this one. I think that like today I was in the, in a training with an IT organization, super core organization that has an office here in Sofia, Bulgaria, but also in the US. And these guys were well I was pointing them to is because they use SharePoint and OneDrive and, on the Mac, the Microsoft stack, by the way, they were at the event, which is very important. So, and they were also in 2021 at the event in a large like a lot of people came from their organization in 2021. But in their case are salespeople probably you know, better than me, their salespeople are constantly building presentations that are slightly different because of the customer.

You know, your audience adapters that audience and they’re constantly searching for some slides that are already done. But the way they search the slides is just it’s so painful to watch that stuff. It’s just brutal. They send emails to each other, and they wait for that email to arrive. Then whoever sent it says, Here is the presentation that you’re looking for. Turns out that’s not the one. Now you’re meeting with the customer is coming up and your presentation is not ready because you are like, No, Adam will send it over for sure. So, it is just such a painful process. And I can also imagine the conversion of the slides. This was always a problem in PowerPoint, and you actually demonstrated it in your session at Present to Succeed, how an old template becomes a new one and you just sit down and watch and you are like… How is this even possible?

Wait, is this really happening in front of my eyes? This is crazy. So, everyone that if you have those issues, senior organization make sure that you at least know, right? At least know there is something.

It could be a pain reliever and it just didn’t want to comment on what you just said. With the salespeople searching for slides, I think you just made this very explicit. There’s once you search for that stuff and it’s painful and that’s the right word because and even if there is search in SharePoint and stuff, you don’t get the visual result of the slide you get. Oh yeah. We find in 1000 PowerPoints we found your keyword. Okay, so I click on the first one. It’s loading. It’s, it’s all web based.

It’s loading, loading, loading. It’s 100 slides so it takes me one minute to go through it at first, such as that two to find out, oh, it’s not the right one. So, I am losing any fun I had. So, searching for that because it’s so frustrating. And now I’m asking colleagues, so now I’m actually killing their time as well because they start looking. They want to help me ideally, right? So, I spend like five people searching for my slides, five or 10 minutes. So, it’s multiplying and it’s just going crazy. How much time is, is lost in such a simple task of I just want to get that slide right? And Google normally takes me 5 seconds to find the right thing and four PowerPoint slides, it’s like, yeah.

What about one last thing here because I told you that we’re trying to keep it like 30 minutes max. It is completely fine for you to say, I won’t comment on this one, but we didn’t touch on the topic during the event, and I was like, What’s next there? Like, are there any obviously there are a lot of things that you are working on right now, obviously because you update, and bar how often is how often are the updates? The updates now.

So major updates like three to four per year that’s written right before per year.

Which by major update you don’t mean one feature, but like I said, the full set of.  Yes. Yeah. So, all this so make us wonder let’s just played like that. What is that one feature that is coming up, let’s say in the next six months or in the next one, one year. Don’t say it if you don’t want to say it. But just tell us, hey, you have this problem, maybe we can do something here.

No, I’m happy to very openly share our roadmap, which is something also we publish. So, we don’t make any secret here. So, what I think the big for us, the big thing is and I just mentioned the slide library concept finding slides and what we I mean, what we now achieved is that we can index and find slides everywhere in the organization. And, but what we now will work on is that you can literally harmonize all these old versions with a click of a button. So, for example, if you think about old reference slides for example, and it’s all happening just in SharePoint, right? And somebody is actually updating this reference slide with the logos. And now you can then through SharePoint, you just you don’t need to do anything. You can just actually distribute that slide and to all the instances where it was used and magically. That means that there’s this whole problem of all the various different versions that are around in the organization can be entirely eliminated.

So that’s, that’s one big thing because that’s what we hear from clients all the time, right? They want to have this one version and they don’t want that people go out with wrong or outdated stuff and like this is one, it’s a big thing that we’re trying to do. We went literally trying to I mean, we are Microsoft partners and I mean, we are not connected to Microsoft in any way. But as long as that market is so much dominated by Microsoft, we really focus on the Microsoft stack, as you mentioned. So, we want to make that experience and even smoother. And I think from a corporate design perspective and our vision also is that every presentation is on brand once you’re done with that. Right. And we have built all these tools around checking the presentation.

And see, I think we really want to go further into having more intelligence and of fixing language to convert, like making you stay on brand without pain right. Yeah. To make it very easy to and to fix issues and still like the result because I think eventually that in today’s world brand consistency is king and it’s very important in presentations because that’s where, you know, it’s the last mile of your brand, right? I mean, TV spots and website is fine, but I mean say it’s happening with PowerPoint and training happening with PowerPoint. So, they should be on-brand as well. No, no exception.

Yeah. Absolutely. All right. Let’s wrap it up here. I’m not going to ask you, who do you think we have to invite on our podcast? Because I already asked that one before, so we’ll catch up on that part. Oh, we are still catching up on every single person that our guests recommended. So, it’s like a long journey there. But one final thing, too, where can people find more about empower, the report and what is the best network social media network, I mean, for people to connect directly with you?

So, yes, I mean, we are pretty active on LinkedIn. Yes, some sharing power on LinkedIn or of course our website And that’s the two places where you can interact with us the most efficient way. I would say and on LinkedIn, we try to share a lot of stuff also on, you know, and best practices, tricks, tips, and all that stuff. So, there is quite some stuff posted regularly. But yeah, otherwise of course feel free to reach out to me personally on LinkedIn as well.

Brilliant. So it will be, it will be LinkedIn all in on LinkedIn for everyone. Yes. All right, everyone, you heard it here. Stephane joined us for a second time. If you don’t know about the bar and there are what they’re doing there and if you missed both editions, which is a shame of content succeed, you now at least have a glimpse of what happened there and at least you now know what embarking on for you and for the organization. So, take a look at it. Take a look at the reports. Download that report that you’re going to find in the show notes for sure. Look at the data there. And see what empower can do. Because what they showed and once watched the fund showed this for 20 minutes at present, Succeed was, yeah, it’s like magical to see the old brand in the old template, just converting to the newer one without anyone doing anything.

Just don’t touch it. Leave this open. It stinks and is it is crazy. Is crazy. Thanks for joining and yeah, thanks for this. Very short that but I believe very insightful conversation for a lot of people that are going to listen and watch this one.

Awesome. Thanks for having me, Boris.

Absolutely. Everyone, thanks for listening. Subscribe to the podcast. If you still haven’t likes like comments, you know what to do. So that we cheat the algorithms nowadays and yes, sure. Absolutely. Thanks for listening to everyone again and see you in the next one.