Should you invest in professional development training to make better presentations? 7 things to consider.


I might surprise you by saying that the answer is not necessarily a “yes” for everyone.

And this isn’t one of those super obnoxious blog posts where I’m like “don’t take training if you want to continue delivering awful presentations that everyone hates. lolz! See what I did there!”

No, see, I’m already assuming that you:

Are intelligent.

Are passionate about your work and the topic/s that you teach.

Want to communicate your work with effective and engaging presentations.

Know that the standard ways of presenting aren’t effective or engaging, and you want to do better.

Want to make a positive impression and an impact with your presentations.

I’m also assuming that you aren’t exactly sure what’s the best way to make those happen for you, right now.

So here are 7 questions to ask yourself, so YOU can make the right decision for YOU.

1. How much stress do you feel when you work on or deliver your presentations?

Working on your presentation should not be stressful. Or, at least, not significantly so.

If it is stressful for you, then my guess is it’s probably because you:

  • don’t know how to put all your genius into a coherent and engaging talk.

  • don’t know how to design your slides quickly and in ways that look professional.

  • spend a lot of time, but feel like you aren’t really getting anywhere and your slides still don’t look great.

  • started working on it at the last minute. And if you’re like most people I work with, that’s probably because of procrastination anxietyfor example, maybe your last talk probably didn’t make you feel that great (see #2), which creates a negative cycle of you procrastinating the next time.

  • don’t follow a logical order or workflow when you work on your slides.

If any of that sounds familiar, then it’s urgent you get professional support to change this. You’re communicating something that you’re passionate about, something that matters. The primary emotion you have while working on this should be positive: joy, happiness, excitement.

But it’s hard to feel that if you don’t really know what you’re doing or how to do it efficiently. Most people, when they first come to me, are doing things out of order or spending energy on all the wrong things. The things that make their presentations worse or less engaging.

That’s because there’s a lot of bad advice out there, we don’t know how to implement effective strategies, or we simply don’t know what makes a presentation effective and engaging.

The #1 most effective strategy to reduce the stress you feel when working on your presentations is to invest in a professional development course.

By learning how to make effective and engaging presentations, your confidence will increase (and will be boosted by all the compliments you get). Plus, you’ll gain the skills you need to implement those effective strategies based on your available time and resources. This is a long-term investment strategy to help you break the bad habits and negative thinking that create stress while working on your presentation.

2. How do you feel about yourself when you’re done with a presentation?

If the answer is anything less than “I kicked ass” or #MicDrop then it’s time to get professional support.

If you feel like you ended with a “meh” and it was “fine” or “okay” then it’s time to get professional support.

If you feel BAD about how you did, or got negative feedback from your audience, then it’s URGENTLY time to get professional support.

But what kind of support will help?

Well it depends on how you answer the other questions, especially the one about how much time you have. Any type of professional support would help you have the type of presentation that you feel better about when you’re done.

Any/all (a combination?) of those will help you end a presentation feeling good about yourself.

And guess what: that actually matters. Like I mentioned above, ending a presentation feeling like you kicked ass could help you overcome your procrastination anxiety in the future, therefore reducing your stress.

Feeling like you “nailed it” could motivate you to work on your next presentation earlier, and actually enjoy the process because now you know you’ll feel good afterwards.

That’s not a small thing by any means, and professional support can help you get there.

3. For how long have you wanted to make engaging presentations? What strategies have you already tried and what haven’t you tried yet?

If you’ve been trying to make engaging presentations for more than a couple months, but don’t feel like you’ve achieved this goal yet, then it’s time to get professional support.

If you’re like most people, you’ve already been trying for longer than that. If that’s the case, save yourself the hassle and get support. I know why it’s not working. A DIY approach is problematic in several ways, mostly because it’s a “baby steps” approach which doesn’t work well.

You owe it to yourself to free up all that time and stress, and spend it on other things. There are shortcuts available, so take advantage of them.

But what kind of support will help?

If you want to know how to make engaging presentations, then here are the two options that will probably work the best:

  • A 1:1 video session where we we can narrow down what you’ve figured out already (whoo hoo, well done) and what areas need improvement.

  • No surprise that I’m also going to recommend taking a professional development course. That course is 8 weeks long and will help you stop wasting all this time trying to learn it by yourself.

4. How much time do you have? What type of presentation are we talking about?

If you have a specific and important presentation coming up (like a job talk, keynote, or defense) then starting with a professional development course might not be the best route to take.

Professional development is more of a long-term investment and, like I mentioned, my course takes 8 weeks to complete. If you have a job talk in 3 weeks, then the course is NOT going to be your best option to have a stellar slide deck in time.

Plus, for really special presentations like job talks or keynotes, that’s when having tailored support is highly beneficial.

But what kind of support is best for an important presentation coming up fast?

The two options I recommend for this are my 1:1 video sessions (at LEAST 90 minutes, if not more) or my slide design services. Which one you choose depends on how much time you have, what your slides look like, how they’re formatted, and your budget.

In a 1:1 video session (or multiple sessions) we will:

  • Strategize your content and frame it in a way that resonates with the audience.

  • Create an organized, easy-to-follow presentation that showcases your unique professional skills and work.

  • Customize your content to speak to the department you’re presenting to and show how your skills and background are a good fit.

  • Create a professional design style for your slides that appropriately matches the audience.

I also edit your slides during the call and send them back, so in a sense it also includes my slide design services. But ultimately, this is still training which means you will have to do a lot of design work on your own, after the call.

That’s why some folks choose my slide design services, because even though it’s more expensive, they’re so swamped that they just cannot put the time into the design.

If you aren’t sure which one is best for you, then send me your slide deck with a little bit of info on what you’d like help with and when the presentation is, and I’ll give you a quote and help you choose.

If you DON’T have a specific presentation coming up, and just in general want to learn how to make effective presentations, then a professional development course is perfect.

5. How many presentations do you design and deliver?

It’s important to consider how many presentations you tend to design/deliver in a given year because that will help you decide which option is best for you.

But what kind of support is best based on how many I give?

  • If you only design presentations for others, but don’t deliver them yourself, then none of the options I’ve mentioned so far would be appropriate for you. Instead, having me do professional development webinars for your team (i.e., the people who would be delivering those slides) would be best.

  • If you rarely give presentations—like only 1 per year or something like that—then 1:1 sessions or my slide design services would probably be the best fit.

  • If you give more than a few presentations each year, then any of the options above would work for you, but professional development training would be the best fit.

Why would training be the best fit if you give a lot of presentations?

Because then you’d learn all the best strategies to design your own presentations in the most efficient ways for you. It’s by far the most cost-effective option when thinking in the long-term.

Plus, it’s the best of both worlds.

In my course, you learn how to create excellent first drafts from scratch, quickly. If you give a lot of presentations, but with new content each time, this is basically a dream come true. You’ll learn how to choose the appropriate level of design, given that it’s a “one off” presentation, but it will still be effective, engaging, and professional.

But you’ll ALSO learn strategies to create excellent first versions of your presentations, and how to improve that presentation each time you give it. Basically, you learn how to build on your design, over time. So, taking training is also perfect for course lectures, workshop trainings, and things like that.

6. What’s your budget?

We all have limited financial resources, and I totally get that. It’s important to choose the option that won’t create significant financial stress for you.

But what kind of support is available for my budget range?

7. What do you think about the comments below? What would it mean for you to have that, too?

Before you go, I invite you to glance through the comments below. These are what my clients/online course students have said about how taking my course, Blast Off to Stellar Slides and how, ultimately, creating more effective presentations helped them.

If you read through them and STRONGLY feel that you want these results for you, then the best option is to take my professional development course. My 1:1 training services and slide design services are more for very specific & important presentations (e.g., job talks) or for temporary fixes until you can take training.

No one was paid for their review. These are organized and selected portions of the full reviews that I’ve posted elsewhere or from case studies by Dr. Jennifer de Beyer, Becky Miller-McGrath, Dr. Kathryn Klement, and Dr. Rebecca Stone.

ALL of these reviews are from people in the academic, scientific, research, or evaluation fields.

If these outcomes sound like something that would help YOU meet YOUR goals, then it’s likely that investing in your professional development would make sense for you.

Outcome 1: Better presentations in LESS TIME than you’ve spent before (making ineffective ones)

“Here’s the thing, though: I can make my presentations so much more quickly now. With a well-stocked collection of photos and icons and Echo’s tips on managing workflow, I can whip through slides for a lesson or a research talk in no time at all. (My partner is so jealous!)” - Dr. Rebecca Stone


“Echo’s course taught me how to make my presentations more focused and interesting, and in less time than in the past.” - Gerda Zonruiter


Outcome 2: Get compliments about your effective, engaging, and visual presentations

Not only do I get complimented after every academic presentation I give, I also get positive feedback from community members where I share handouts and materials from my presentations with them. I’ve had numerous people tell me that using such a visual style (which is not the norm in my field, although it’s starting to catch on) is compelling and that they want to adopt it for their own presentations.” - Kathryn Ringland

“Teaching from BOSSified slides hasn’t just been more fun for me. For the first time, my teaching evaluations explicitly mention the slides and handouts – and the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.” - Dr. Jennifer de Beyer


“Since starting her class, I have gotten at least one compliment after every presentation I have given on everything from color choice, to slide design, to content. BOSS is a multi-faceted approach that has elevated communicating my work to a level I didn’t know existed.” - Dr. Ana Maria Porras

“Since taking the course, my presentations are far more dynamic and engaging. My audiences have offered comments such as: “Wow, great presentation”, “Love the visuals”, and “Compelling presentation.” - Lesley Allen


“When I presented the first draft of my webinar to my boss and project director, they were wowed. My boss said “There is nothing like this in the field.” … According to my boss, I have also set a new standard for presentation design in the organization.” - Dr. Hirah Mir

“When I launched the webinar, a national advocacy organization who also does a lot of development and training for the field, emailed me: “Thank you for making direct support professionals’ access to important educational opportunities highly accessible and apparent.” Another comment from a retired and well-known leader in workforce was: “[Webinar] was engaging, instructive, effective, powerful in communicating respect and informed decision-making, and practical...” - Dr. Hirah Mir


“As registration for the next semester courses began, I had several students approach and ask, “what classes do you teach next semester? And will you have the same types of slides?”  Another student said, “I came into this semester thinking this was going to be my least favorite class [not their major area], and it has ended up being the only classes I want to come to each meeting.  I love seeing the funny pictures and GIFs you are going to use!”  Explicit validation that it is absolutely worth the effort I’ve exerted (note: It IS going to require effort, but well worth it in the end.)” - Becky Miller-McGrath

“I get a lot of compliments on them, too – my partner (also a college prof) told me today “After seeing your materials, I can’t suffer through bad PowerPoint presentations anymore.” He has started redesigning his own teaching materials to make them more effective, too.” - Dr. Rebecca Stone

“Does achieving tenure or promotion in your institution require evidence of “excellence in teaching,” “teaching effectiveness,” continued pursuit of improvement, community outreach and engagement, or invited talks? Then the BOSS course will advance your career. I plan to frame my completion of BOSS as a professional development activity and show the change in my slides as evidence of my growth as an educator – the positive feedback in my student evaluations of teaching (SETs) will help with that!” - Dr. Rebecca Stone

Outcome 3: Enjoy giving presentations more, again, or for the first time!

“Until recently, though, my mindset toward public speaking was always Ok, let’s just get this over with. I work in public health, and I’m very passionate about improving people’s lives, but every presentation I had was its own special kind of torture. I would stammer my way through a boring, info-heavy slide deck and watch my audience visibly lose interest, then sit back down feeling defeated and disappointed in myself for not being able to do justice to what I feel is a very important topic. BOSS changed ALL OF THAT… Public speaking isn’t torture anymore—it’s becoming one of my favorite parts of the job. I’m excited to share my work, and I feel like I’m finally doing it justice.” - Sarah Hellesen


“Signing up for BOSS has been the most fantastic decision! My slides are more much fun to teach from. I’m spending more time facing the audience and interacting, as there’s no temptation to read from the slides anymore.” - Dr. Jennifer de Beyer


“Things have changed so much since I took Echo’s course, and not just my slides – although they have certainly changed a lot! I feel a lot happier when I give presentations because I know my slides look so good.” - Dr. Rebecca Stone


“I pride myself on being a good teacher.  I have funny stories, good examples, a load of enthusiasm for what I teach.  My evaluations were good, great even, but I knew I could do better.  BOSS has helped me get to a place of pride for my slides that I hadn’t realized how much I wanted and needed.” - Becky Miller-McGrath

Outcome 4: Know how to tailor your presentation content to multiple audiences

“I do very community-based work and I wanted to be able to make my research more accessible, not only to people attending my conference talks, but also to the community that my research is with and about. The BOSS program has allowed me to reach both audiences much more effectively. I have been able to think critically about my core message and then create the slides and overall presentation that best supports it.” - Kathryn Ringland


“Overall, Echo has trained me on how to make research, data, and information more accessible to people of varying interests and educational and professional backgrounds, allowing me to become a better communicator, presenter, and advocate.” - Dr. Hirah Mir


Outcome 5: Gain confidence in your public speaking skills

“…it has given me the confidence to allow my presentations, and, therefore, my research, to shine. This has spilled out into all aspects of my career including my mentoring, teaching, and even service work. Thank you, Echo, for creating such a wonderful program and I recommend it to anyone wanting to create more accessible, engaging presentations!” - Kathryn Ringland

“Additionally, all the knowledge I have gained has helped me increase my confidence when delivering presentations. I strongly recommend this course to anyone who is even remotely interested in making engaging presentations that will actually be remembered by your audience.” - Dr. Ana Maria Porras

Outcome 6: Make an actual impact with your presentations

“And this has helped me start to rethink how I provide information via lecture to my students. I don’t want to be another boring professor who talks at their students. I want to be a professor who tells great stories and challenges my students to keep learning and asking questions.” - Dr. Kathryn Klement


“Echo Rivera’s resources, course, and overall approach to effective communication enabled me to…Influence people to change people’s mindset and approach to training and development (i.e. there is more to training and teaching than powerpoint).” - Dr. Hirah Mir

“Getting and keeping students’ attention and focus is my goal.  In the BOSS course, I learned how to help students focus on the content that was the most vital.” - Becky Miller-McGrath

“The after slides are a lot less cluttered and easy to walk through. I also found that lecturing with more, better, slides was easier than struggling to remind myself of what I wanted to say with 7 bullet points of text. Whereas before, I would be confronted with a wall of text (just like my students) that was mostly provided by a textbook publisher and have to stumble through the high points (with occasionally, “you might not be able to see this in the back, sorry!”), now I have to be familiar with the material, because I’m finding new ways to represent the information. I’ve found it easier to cue myself with great visuals or a few words, which helps my students, too.” - Dr. Kathryn Klement


Outcome 7: Succeed at high stakes presentations, such as academic job talks and dissertation defenses

“I also used the BOSS program to help me create a more engaging, interactive job talk (the original reason I joined BOSS to begin with). I’m happy to say that I got a unique postdoctoral fellowship that job cycle and I plan on refreshing my BOSS skills again for this next job cycle’s talk. 😊 I also used my new, fancy BOSS slides for my dissertation defense and it really helped my ethnographic work come alive for my committee and the audience.” - Kathryn Ringland

Outcome 8: Develop your design AND technical skills to make PROFESSIONAL presentations

“My boss also commented on the high quality and crispness of the images I chose and that the overall look of the powerpoint presentation was very sleek and professional.” -Dr. Hirah Mir


“Within the modules, Echo offered technical lessons on the practical aspects such as taking screenshots, zooming in on websites, editing hand-drawn sketches and creating decluttered graphs. These practical lessons were very helpful and sharpened my technical skills immensely.” - Lesley Allen

Totally Unexpected Outcome 9: Embrace or find your creative & storytelling side!

“In addition to making the visual components of my presentations more effective, Echo’s course ultimately changed my life. Echo’s class enabled me to embrace my artist self, I’ve integrated drawing and comics into my life and presentations in ways I never imagined before, and know with her guidance and support I will continue to make meaningful graphics for much more impactful presentations for the rest of my life.” - Dr. Kandace Creel Falcón

“Not only has BOSS allowed me the creative freedom I’ve longed for in my presentations, but it has given me the confidence to allow my presentations, and, therefore, my research, to shine. This has spilled out into all aspects of my career including my mentoring, teaching, and even service work.” - Kathryn Ringland


“So, literally, this course changed my life and my perspective on teaching and presenting my research. I no longer feel trapped by the traditional formula of conference talks, where I go through a literature review, then the methods of my study, the results and conclusions. I tell a story. I give them a “so what?” before getting into how I got there.” - Dr. Kathryn Klement


“BOSS gave me permission to have my slides match my personal presenting style. The tone of voice and expression I was using could be reflected in each slide. And that felt…creative, artistic! … Creating slides that feel pretty and polished, it’s enough to make a person feel positively artistic!” - Dr. Jennifer de Beyer