Presentation specialist grows business using virtual collaboration tools
Sydney-based Presentation Studio helps some of the biggest companies in Asia Pacific deliver more memorable presentations. To help its fast-growing creative staff across the region collaborate more effectively, the company upgraded to Microsoft 365. With a rich suite of virtual productivity tools, Presentation Studio can let employees work from anywhere, which helps it attract talent and expand faster. Also, by using Microsoft 365, the company has halved its IT costs and enhanced security for customer files.
As a young graphic designer, Emma Bannister had dreams of working for Disney—designing movie posters, theme parks … maybe even animated characters.
But life had other plans. Instead, Bannister landed a job at Deutsche Bank in London, designing Microsoft PowerPoint presentations for fund managers.
Do I hear a thud of disappointment? Not really. “I found it a strangely satisfying creative challenge,” Bannister says. “Even back then, I found PowerPoint to have surprisingly rich design features, and I got really good at understanding what these financial wizards were trying to say but saying so badly—and helping them say it better.”
After a move to Australia, Bannister saw the same challenges in other industries. When she took maternity leave in 2006, she had the idea to create a PowerPoint makeover business. What was intended to be a side hustle while home with a baby snowballed into Presentation Studio, a Sydney-based consultancy that delivers presentation pizzazz to Australia’s biggest banks, telcos, mining companies, and pharmaceutical giants.
Demolish barriers to collaboration and growth
By 2016, after a decade of steady growth, with content writers, designers, and trainers in the Philippines, South Korea, Ireland, and its Sydney headquarters, Bannister knew that the company needed a new work model if it was to continue growing.
“We have teams working collaboratively on presentations, which means multiple people working on files simultaneously, and version control was getting to be hugely frustrating,” Bannister says. The company stored and shared these files using internal file servers, but remotely accessing these servers involved complicated VPN connections that sometimes didn’t work and forced employees to drive into the office to get needed files.
“With many of our full-time staff working remotely, and a growing number of freelancers located throughout Asia Pacific, collaboration efficiency was becoming a problem,” Bannister says. “We also worried about the security of our on-premises file servers, which frequently failed and were expensive to maintain and replace.”
The company also lacked consistent tools for instant messaging, meetings, and project milestone tracking. Teams primarily used Google Hangouts and other platforms, but the mishmash of technologies led to missed messages and scattered project information. “Our growth strategy calls for more creative teams in more places, but to attract and retain the best employees, we needed to deliver first-class remote work options,” Bannister says.
Wake to new goodies
So, Presentation Studio upgraded to Microsoft 365. This holistic set of cloud-based tools gives small businesses the same IT advantages larger companies enjoy without the deep investment.
Instead of waiting years for a new version of PowerPoint to be released, designers have a delicious drip-feed of new features appearing on their devices. “It’s like Christmas, opening up an app and seeing new features like Zoom or Morph in PowerPoint,” Bannister says. “These features, 3D Models, Dictate, and others, give us tremendous new capacities to create fabulous presentations for our customers.”
Not only does its workhorse application, PowerPoint, bristle with new tricks, but with Microsoft 365, Presentation Studio has access to scores of additional apps that help it do its job more creatively and efficiently. For example, designers use Sway to create digital magazines and other reader-driven content forms. “Not only is Sway incredibly easy to use, but a Sway document can be viewed on practically any device, which we and our customers love,” Bannister days.
Work better together from anywhere
Microsoft Teams has become the longed-for communications hub that pulls the company’s dispersed employees together. Every department and project gets its own Teams site, where conversations happen, files are saved, meetings are held, and project plans are maintained (using Microsoft Planner). Shared files live on Microsoft SharePoint Online and nonshared files on OneDrive. “No one stores files on personal devices anymore, which is brilliant,” Bannister says. “Everything’s in the cloud, where it’s findable and accessible by all.”
Presentation Studio also creates more secure, exclusive Teams environments for client projects, where clients and Presentation Studio teams access project files and work collaboratively in real time on changes and project plans, saving countless emails and delays.