The presentation tool that made our project manager a designer
By Tobias van Schneider
The best tools are those that make you feel smarter, better or more confident. Like your task came so effortlessly, you might be a prodigy. Pitch is that tool.
The first time we used Pitch (the presentation tool you’ve likely heard about if you’re in the creative world) we knew it was a game changer. That was when it was still in beta. Over the last year, as Pitch released update after update, our creative team has slowly integrated the tool into our workflow. Now we’re using it for reports, for presentations, pitches, marketing decks, onboarding, moodboards and more.
Pitch makes even our copywriter and project manager feel as though they’re designers. They can craft a beautiful deck in less time than it takes our actual designers to painstakingly create a passable presentation in Keynote or PowerPoint. For a design-minded company building products for design-minded people, that counts for a lot.
It’s been – and we never thought we’d say this about a presentation tool – fun to discover new features and little tricks in Pitch with every presentation we build. Until it’s widely adopted by teams everywhere, we thought we’d share some of those pro tips from our creative team to yours.
Presentations (and the process of building them) can actually be beautiful, whether a designer creates them or not
As a team that creates products for designers, our design standards are pretty high. We obsess over every detail of our work, whether it’s going to be seen by anyone else or not. So the fact that our copywriter is now designing our client presentations is still surprising to us. (This is a compliment to you, Lizzy. I know it doesn’t sound like one.)
Pitch is clearly made by design-minded people. But it’s not only made for designers. It makes good design accessible to anyone on your team.
→ You can create styles to use globally in your presentation (including your own custom fonts), save them as your own template and adjust them in seconds.
→ You can add blur, round corners, add a shadow or change opacity of images. You can send items to the back or front. You simply toggle a switch to set an image as a slide background (as opposed to stretching and overlaying it on every slide).
→ Headlines automatically click into the right place to match your other slides, whether you position them there or copy and paste.
→ You can input color values or easily choose one. And, importantly, create gradients.
Things you naturally want to do, especially as someone who values design, just *work* in the same way they just *don’t work* in every other presentation tool. Those other tools may have these features, but they are buried, clunky and dated. Pitch is the opposite in every way.
This not only makes our final product more visually pleasing, it makes the building process more pleasant too. We give our internal DESK reports (only seen by two of us) a different gradient cover every month, just because we can and it makes reporting suck a little less. The clean design of Pitch's UI helps too.
Plus, the built-in templates from Pitch are simple, look good and are easy to adjust. So if you don’t have a designer on your team, or you don’t have much time, your presentation is still going to look professionally designed.
Collaborating on a presentation as a team isn't painful now
The new business team starts the deck with their notes.
They put the files on the server and the accounts team takes over.
The accounts team makes their changes, adding slides, text and making notes. Meanwhile the new business team remembers one thing they forgot from their client meeting. They pull the file off the server, make their update and save it again – right over the account team’s changes.
The accounts team, rather nonplussed, thankfully has an outdated version of the deck on their desktop with about 300 other files. They update the file and put it back on the server with “presentation_LATEST_VERSION” in all caps. The all caps are a passive aggressive jab at the new business team, which the new business team did not pick up on because they title all their files in all caps.
The design team, who has been putting this task to the bottom of their list for weeks, can’t avoid the presentation any longer. They pull “LATEST_VERSION” off the server – only after confirming that “LATEST_VERSION_1” is in fact an old version – boot up PowerPoint with an audible groan and, upon seeing the accounts + new business team’s Frankensteined template, put their head in their hands. They begin “designing” the presentation slide by slide, a laborious and unsatisfying task which they feel is an insult to the word "design" itself.
The presentation is finished. It’s exported as a PDF and passed back and forth between teams about four more times before it’s actually finished.
If you work on any kind of team, this rather long-winded scenario has to be familiar. It’s no longer relevant with Pitch.
In Pitch you edit your presentation live in the browser, so every member of the team can collaborate on it at the same time. And there are plenty of other little touches that make it obvious this tool was created by a team that has experienced the pain of presentation building:
→ Everything is automatically saved as you go.
→ You can add comments to slides and tag teammates, which will appear alongside the slide previews and in a comments section where you can easily reply.
→ You can assign specific slides to teammates and work on them simultaneously.
→ You can set a slide “status” so everyone knows what’s done and what’s in progress.
It’s all simple stuff that shouldn’t feel so revolutionary at this point, but given what we’ve been working with for years, actually is.
And Pitch took it a step further with their live collaboration feature. You can actually talk face to face via video straight within Pitch while you work. Your cursor moves and a live video of you appears inside it, making remote work feel as close to non-remote work as it possibly can.
Sharing and presenting is seamless
When you're ready to share your presentation with your team or client, you have plenty of options:
→ You can simply share a private or public link to your presentation. We've Slacked our presentations, emailed them, even texted them to each other this way.
→ You can embed your presentation to publish in an article, on your site or elsewhere.
→ Someone can join the presentation live in Pitch, as you present it.
→ You can export it as a PDF the old fashioned way.
Compared to exporting a huge file and burying it in an email, or uploading it to Dropbox because it's too big, or putting it on the server with a dozen other versions of your presentation, this is easy.
Moving or rebuilding existing templates in Pitch takes minutes
When we first signed up for Pitch, we put off using it. We’d already built our decks in other tools and the idea of rebuilding them in a new one seemed like too much effort. Finally, a shift in strategy required us to recreate an old deck, so we started in Pitch. It couldn’t have been easier.
Instead of starting from scratch, we were able to easily copy and paste design elements and text from the old deck slide by slide. Everything transferred over seamlessly.
Pitch just recently released a beta feature that allows you to convert your PowerPoint presentations in Pitch, which makes an easy task even easier.
Often, when I recommend Pitch to friends, they say “It sounds cool, but we have to use this sad old company PowerPoint template. Otherwise I’d try it.” What seems obvious to me, but might not be to you until you use it, is that you can rebuild that sad old template in Pitch in less than an hour. And your life will be significantly easier every day after that.
All of that said, what Pitch doesn’t offer is as important as what it does
As product designers ourselves, we know it matters just as much (if not more) to ask yourself what features you WON’T include as what you will. That takes wisdom, big picture thinking and restraint.
Pitch isn’t bloated with bells and whistles that look cool in theory but are useless in practice. The interface is clean and minimal. The features seem focused on the essentials. Week by week, the Pitch team releases updates that seem considered yet simple. We look forward to seeing where the Pitch team takes it from here.
Hi, I'm Tobias, a German designer living in New York. I'm the author of this blog, nice to meet you!