I joined the Presentation Guild just over a year ago, shortly after it began, because I wholeheartedly support its aims:  to further the professional development of the people who work in the world of presentations.  I did a blog post on the Guild at the time, outlining its basic goals.  Recently, I had a chance to chat with Sandra Johnson, V-P of the Guild, and a presentation expert in her own right, to catch up some significant news the Guild was announcing:  a salary survey.

Nick:  Let’s remind everyone — what are the basic reasons for starting the Presentation Guild? What do you hope to accomplish?

Sandra Johnson:  Several of us in the presentation industry had been talking about this for a long time. Four or five years ago, Echo Swinford, a PowerPoint MVP and owner of Echosvoice.com, recruited a group of us to start to make the Guild a reality. We set out to create a place where users could gain access to presentation experts and build a forum from which we could elevate and validate our industry and give presentation professionals more clout in the design world.

After a lot of groundwork, we launched officially in 2016 at the Presentation Summit, a longstanding annual conference for people like us. One of the things we hope to accomplish with the Guild is to replicate the learning and engagement we enjoy at the Summit every year, but all year long and online 24/7.

We also hope to be the voice of our group to the world at large. Too much of the world’s time, attention, and opportunity is wasted because of poor presentations. Ours is a legitimate field of practice, filled with experienced professionals who have unique expertise and tremendous value. We really believe we can help change the world in how presentations are delivered.

Nick:  That’s excellent.  And tell me about the results of the current survey — what have you learned?

Sandra:  A bit of background: we conducted our first salary survey in 2016. It was 18 questions long and we heard back from 133 respondents from the USA. It served as a good baseline, since no one had ever polled presentation professionals before. It gave us some great data, but we knew we could do more.

In late 2017, we conducted the second annual survey. This time, it was 24 questions long and distributed internationally. Again, we designed it to reveal the compensation characteristics of the average presentation professional or “presentationist,” as some of us like to say. We also asked about demographics, education, work environment, and other things. Many more people responded – 204 to be exact.

So, we learned a lot about presentationists with this second survey. For instance:

  1. 56% of us are between 36 and 55
  2. 55% of us are female
  3. We average 16.5 years of experience
  4. Almost 34% of full-timers (employed or self-employed at 35 hours per week or more) earn US$50,000-75,000 a year
  5. 31% of full-timers earn US$75,000-150,000 per year
  6. Among the self-employed, most of us bill an hourly rate in the US$50-150 range
  7. We are a fairly educated lot – three fourths have a bachelor’s degree or higher


A top takeaway is that things are looking good in our world. Unlike the graphic design world, the presentation world exerts little or no bias in annual earnings across gender. Our basis of comparison is the 2011 National Endowment for the Arts survey on Artists and Art Workers in the US.

Presentation professionals will want to see these numbers and graphs. They’ll be able to see how far they’ve come, where they can go, and who is with them on their journey. Members of the Guild receive the Annual Salary Survey Report for free. Nonmembers may purchase a copy for US$69, but we are offering a combination of one year of membership plus the survey for only US$99.

One member wrote to tell us she successfully negotiated a pay raise after sharing with her leadership the data from our first survey. We hope many others find similar success.

Nick:  What can Presentation Guild members learn from each other? What are the benefits from belonging?

Sandra:  We think that few things can strengthen an individual as much as a good support network. It can stoke your creative passions and cultivate valuable skills. We are creating a place where our members could gain access to presentation experts and resources regarding design, tools and skills, business webinars , jobs and opportunities, etc.

Often, those experts are simply other members. Those resources are in various members’ heads and hard drives. Our 12-member board of directors has a total of nearly 300 collective years of presentation experience, but we as a group know that the best tools and practices are to be found out there in the membership. It’s our responsibility to facilitate the exchange within the group so that the benefits may be enjoyed as widely as possible.

Another benefit of belonging will be to get certified. We’re working hard right now to implement a standards-based certification program for our industry. (We published 375 standards last year; you can read them here.) We’re starting with PowerPoint certification, which is currently under development. We also want to survey those who hire presentationists so we can be better armed, better trained, and ready to deliver more value.

Nick:  How are you specifically pushing the art and science of presentations forward? Do you have a philosophy of presenting?

Sandra:  We are implementing standards-based certification programs for PowerPoint as mentioned above, plus Prezi and Keynote at later dates. Since nearly 98% of those surveyed use PowerPoint as their primary design tool, we’ve started that effort with PowerPoint.

We’ve also launched an online book club in which we feature leaders who push the art and science of presentations forward. Not surprisingly, we began the club with Nancy Duarte’s Resonate. Her book guides us through leveraging techniques normally reserved for cinema and literature, helping presenters and designers transform any presentation into an engaging journey. Nancy helps us discover how to understand our audience, create persuasive content, and elicit a groundswell response. While the bi-monthly Facebook meetings were open to the public, the capstone meeting with Nancy was held for Guild members only.

Our next Presentation Guild Book Club pick is Beyond Bullet Points, 4th edition, by Cliff Atkinson, another luminary in the world of presentations. Now in its 4th edition, Beyond Bullet Points changed the way many of us think about presentations and storytelling, giving practical advice and techniques for storytelling to help us craft presentations.

As far as our philosophy of presenting goes, we recognize that while there may be competing schools of thought on the particulars; we generally prescribe the following: 1) know your audience, 2) know why you are presenting, 3) create your slides last, 4) your slides are not the presentation, YOU are the presentation.

Nick:  And finally, tell us about you and the leaders of the Guild — what keeps you excited about what the Guild is doing?

Sandra:  I am the owner of a certified Woman Owned Business Enterprise and have been creating presentations for corporations and individuals around the globe since 2001. I serve as vice president with the Guild board of directors. This volunteer team is composed of Microsoft MVPs and other champions of our industry, including Echo Swinford, Steve Rindsberg, Charles Cranford, Rick Altman, Geetesh Bajaj, Ric Bretschneider, Stephy Lewis, Marshall Makstein, Tony Ramos, Glenna Shaw, and Julie Terberg.

And of course, we have the support and encouragement of industry thought leaders: Cliff Atkinson, Nancy Duarte, Garr Reynolds and Jerry Weissman who sit on our Advisory Board.

What keeps me excited is how far we have come and how far we can go from here. There is truly such a need for raising the level of presentation practice and lifting all boats.

Nick:  Thanks, Sandra!


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