Pitch Q&A Interview with Zach Grosser




September 18, 2023

Pitch Q&A Interview with Zach Grosser

This interview between Pitch and Zach Grosser was conducted in the Pitch Community in Slack on 18 September, 2023.

Pitch: First of all, please introduce yourself and tell us more about Zacht Studios

Zach Grosser: Hi everyone, I'm Zach, the owner and managing director of Zacht Studios, a presentation design focused agency. Formerly, I was Communications Design Lead at Square and Design Education Manager & European Community Advocate at Figma.

We work with amazing clients, of nearly every size across all industries. From 2-person startups to Google, Adobe, Nextdoor, and more

Excited to be here today!

Let’s start off with the basics. In your Pitch Academy lesson, you mentioned that it’s crucial for a team to have a well crafted and effective presentation template. What makes a strong brand template?

This was such a fun video to make, shoutout Maresch for working with me on it! For me, it's all about usability. I think a lot of people are coming to presentation-making without a design background, or on-the-job training—really, the skills they want to make great slides. So, this is where I always recommend putting helpful tips in your brand templates, rather than just any other kind of placeholder text.

How would you encourage clients to start from a template rather than duplicate an existing presentation?

Well, this is tricky, because in a perfect world, all the existing presentations in their workspace would've started from one of their well considered templates first.

There is only so much a tool and system can do alone, at the end of the day you need to be doing some education across an organization to inform them on best practices and workflows. When it ends in a better presentation, and a quicker path to get there, they will start following that education without further enforcement.

Instructional text vs. placeholder text is really interesting though. Good way to nudge people to do things properly. I think education really goes a long way and it’s helpful to share an “approved” workflow within the whole organization when rolling out Pitch too. You've mentioned that a lot of the founding teams and CEOs you work with aren’t designers so the quality of briefs you get is poor. What makes a good brief and what’s the best brief you’ve gotten?

Yeah, I don't mean to make sweeping statements. But as you said, most CEOs aren't coming from design backgrounds. So, they are doing their best, providing information they might think is helpful. However, so many of the briefs I receive don't even include a deadline or a list of deliverables, including the format the final product needs to be in. A great brief is short/easy to skim, organized clearly, and asks for a specific end result. My team gets client briefs, often with a lot of information which I want to emphasize isn't a bad thing, and we create what we call a BriefBrief: a version of the brief organized into blocks of information like, who are the stakeholders, who is working on the project, what are the milestones, where are the brand guidelines, assets, and other resources, and what format is everything needed in.

Thanks for sharing, makes a lot of sense! I really like that idea of a BriefBrief! 79% of designers are saying that pitching remotely has been more challenging. Do you have any tips on how to make a remote pitch stand out?

Not to sound like a Pitch advertisement, but our team leaned into the asynchronous pitch, with the Recording feature. You can check out a public-facing version of it here:

We are able to scale our presentation, much further than we could with a team of our size scheduling calls and verbally presenting to each new potential client. Other than that, my advice is to focus on the goals of your audience—for any presentation—and try to build your storytelling around that.

Love that, and thanks for sharing an example deck! Did you see a noticeable uptick in attention once you added recordings to your deck?

Hard to answer, as we weren't sending non-recording-based decks via Pitch (with analytics) prior to creating this version. So I don't have a directly comparable statistic. But the analytics of this version alone show it's been seen almost 3,000 times, way more than we could pitch it live.

And what are the main things that you consider when designing a deck that will presented live vs. presented with recordings?

There needs to be a bit more density in a follow along at your own pace version of a deck, so there is some more detail here than a presented version. And of course, we love to make space for the videos.

With attention spans seemingly decreasing, how can design play a role in retaining audience engagement during presentations?

I love to joke about making a presentation template with Subway Surfers on the side of every slide.I think it's important to remember that attention spans are changing and adjust your slide strategy. I think a lot of people in the business world are making presentations the same ways they are used to doing for a long time now—maybe several decades worth of habits. As you said, we just don't consume information the same as we used to, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is something to make considerations around. The 'wall of text' was never a successful presentation strategy, but now more than ever we need to be focusing on compelling, impactful, simple slides.

You mean something like this?

YES! Exactly. Great minds think alike.

What are the common mistakes brands make when translating their identity into a presentation format?

For as long as I can remember, maybe this is showing my age a bit, brand guidelines mostly always outline the recommended web font sizes (H1, H2, H3, H4, etc.). I've seen some brand templates applying those same styles to their decks, which is mostly correct, but the font sizes often don't translate properly; they are often different than web sizes.It's also important to emphasize that brand guideline documents are both a moment in time and a foundation. What I mean is, brands are living things—iterative. The brand guidelines aren't supposed to police all new things created, but to be a foundation to be built upon. It's okay if the deck templates you create from it explore visual options for things that haven't been outlined in the guidelines yet. Start from the guidelines and evolve the brand, to fit the content of your presentations. There are helpful constraints in brand guidelines, but don't let them constrain your creativity and the correct format for decks.

Love that and couldn’t agree more!

How does storytelling fit into the structure of a contemporary business presentation?

Storytelling is the most important piece of any presentation. If the presentation isn't successful, I believe it is ultimately a consequence of the story. I think you should be considering how the story is flowing and coming alive throughout the process of making a presentation, and often I recommend starting outside a presentation tool to make sure the story is considered, prior to seeing how the slides are coming together, and getting distracted by the visual design elements. Then, as you build the slides, reflect on the story and how it's coming together, continuing to edit and refine that alongside the way your presentation looks.

I definitely made this mistake earlier this month, so I took your advice and started from an outline and this was a game changer! I was getting distracted by trying to make blocks line up that my story didn’t really work.


I also found that incorporating animations into my deck can help with the presentation as well! It adds this element of surprise and really helps draw attention to the content I want my viewer to focus on.

Yes, that can be a great strategy to help break up important points in your story

Do you think of which animations you’ll use before designing the deck or do you add them after you’re done?

No, absolutely not. Same with slide layout, you should let the content inform the design choices. If you try to squeeze your content into a specific layout or animation choice, you may reduce the impact or de-emphasize the key insights.

Haha, hope that didn't come off too harsh, I just think it's crucial to always start with the story and the content, to inform your visual choices.

No, not at all! I think more people need to think this way when they’re creating their presentations. It’s easy to fall in this trap when you’re starting a new presentation. Maybe we should all add a slide in the beginning of the template with that reminder!! I’m also not a designer, so I’m always so worried about the slide layout and trying to figure out if blocks are lined up. Definitely going to start with the content and then figure out the design choice after from now on!

Given the rise of remote work and virtual presentations, what design elements should be prioritized to ensure clarity and engagement over platforms like Zoom or Teams?

This is a really interesting shift. We came from recommending less text on slides and larger text so that it could be seen from anywhere in an office setting, like a large conference room or at the all hands meeting. With video chat apps, everyone can see the slides at just about the size they would see an email or webpage. So, there was a gut instinct for a moment at the beginning of this shift of more remote work, to make the text smaller and have more dense slides. But I think we've found over the last few years, that still there is a problem keeping your audience's attention—and maybe moreso when they can switch tabs, answer messages, leave to refill their coffee, etc.—and the tried and true, simpler and more visually supportive slides are still the way to go.I also think, if possible, increase the margins around your slide content when using Zoom. I haven't experienced this with Google Meet, but, if I recall correctly, depending on how your audience has their Zoom configured, sometimes there are UI elements overlapping the edges of the shared screen.

Will definitely try this one! I hadn’t considered that before! My tip would be Pitch related and I always recommend hitting the Hide controls button on the bottom right-hand corner of the player when presenting. I think it could be hard to miss, but it allows for a much cleaner view.

Yes! Always consider the audience experience. Hide the controls, resize the window you are sharing to be the same aspect ratio as the fullscreened presentation, etc.

That was so insightful, Zach! Thank you for letting us pick your brain and sharing your knowledge with everyone.

Thanks for having me! Great questions, and always happy to help!

ICYMI, you can find all the pitching insights for designers over on our new content hub! Let us know if any of these insights resonate with you.

Special thanks to Julius Gehrig, Stephanie Leong, James Jacoby, and Sarah Kiefer from Pitch.