5 years ago I was working at an agency as the creative leader of a design team that specialised in PowerPoint presentations. My mind was drifting one afternoon and I began searching any Award programs for PowerPoint. I found there was no PowerPoint Award, nor was there any award for design in PowerPoint. I did, on that day, find two things:

The Presentation Summit and the Microsoft MVP Award program.

By the end of day, I wrote my goals down.

1. To speak at the Presentation Summit

2. Be presented with a Microsoft MVP Award (Most Valuable Professional) for PowerPoint.


I attended the Presentation Summit in the United States that year and met a group of wonderful, skilled, and passionate people. I had found my tribe and confirmed my passion to speak at this conference – the only one like it in the world. Rick Altman, the Summit Host speaks with clarity, passion, and enthusiasm on the world of Presentations and yearly he gathers over 200 people from around the world to share this passion.


At that Summit, I met a group of the MVPs in PowerPoint. A group whose expertise is paralleled by their openness, friendliness, and willingness to share. This group were the gateway to the development team at Microsoft and were the world-leaders in so many sub-specialties of PowerPoint it would boggle the mind. These were the experts with the passion and the credentials to back it up.


My goals were cemented. However, not finding the support I desired in employment, I set out to start my own agency – Synapsis Creative. This set back my timeline significantly, after all, to be recognised as an expert, you must share your industry knowledge and expertise and to do that, I must first have clients that I work with on innovative and world-leading ways that PowerPoint is being utilised.


Fast forward 3 years of hard work, building a design agency that is PowerPoint-first (which will be an article on its own!) and I felt confident enough to start working on community-based contributions to the PowerPoint community (check out the blog) and to start working on specialisms within PowerPoint that I considered to be gaining momentum (or potential) for use in the corporate world. Synapsis Creative divided its attention to four ways to use PowerPoint – Printed materials, Onscreen presentations, Interactive Presentations, and standalone animated video. These became not only central to the way I wanted to innovate in PowerPoint, but critical to my team to become experts in also. The push-back and negative sentiment I received by Graphic Designers, creative agencies, advertising and media agencies and even other colleagues. Why would I keep using PowerPoint to create these things? Surely there are better program platforms to use! It’s a valid point (however aggressively it’s defended by the clique of creative agencies across the world), but PowerPoint has one advantage that I believe (and still do) is fundamental to its success (and to the success of Synapsis Creative). Everything we produce is editable. We don’t send PDFs, we send PowerPoints (which our clients can create a PDF from). We don’t just send videos, we send PowerPoint files that contain the animation. We don’t just create web-apps and interactive programs, we create them in PowerPoint. And everything is editable. I have worked towards taking the “Graphic Design” out of traditional Design programs and into the most ubiquitous program in the corporate world – PowerPoint.


It’s a new way to look at graphic design that works with, rather than for (or even against) the client. It is the creative agency equivalent of sharing working files with every client, in every scenario and going beyond that to ensure that your clients have the programs to open and the skills to operate, these files. That’s where we are so fundamentally different. We’re still a creative agency, we just use (and deliver files) in a program that our clients can use.


I found myself nominated to become an MVP last year by an industry colleague and one of the founders of the Presentation Guild, an organisation built to assess, support, and engage the presentation community. I still wasn’t ready and it wasn’t until March 2017 that I was ready to submit the required nomination form for the MVP Award. At that same time, it had been 4 years since I attended the Summit and I felt personally ready to share some of the failures, successes, and technical learnings I had accumulated over the past decade of being involved in the Presentation Design Industry. So, I submitted a proposal to Rick to fill the remaining spot on a few of my most passionate subjects – Animation in PowerPoint and Interactivity in PowerPoint.


And on 1st June 2017, I was presented with the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Award for PowerPoint. From what I understand, it’s the only PowerPoint award run by Microsoft. There are just 36 people worldwide in this Award Category and it’s an incredible honour to have my profile up there as part of this very special group of people.


Award, Microsoft MVP Award Winner – Tom Howell of Synapsis Creative

The official Microsoft MVP Award

Award, Microsoft MVP Award Winner – Tom Howell of Synapsis Creative

The Award Certificate – part of the unboxing ceremony for the award


And the Presentation Summit? Will I be the raw enthusiasm, passion and commitment I harbour be unleashed on an audience? Yes. The same day I was awarded an MVP, I was informed I’ll be speaking for an hour on Animation in PowerPoint and a 20min taster for Interactive PowerPoint.


5 years ago I set two goals and the universe seemingly coordinated to have both of those goals completed on the same day.


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