Beautiful.ai is Transforming the Way Presentations are Built
As we’ve shifted to a largely virtual world over the past few months, online presentations have taken the spotlight as conferences and in-person meetings have been put on hold. What does this mean for online content creators? How has the pandemic changed the role of presentations?
We recently sat down with Beautiful.ai President/COO, Jason Lapp, to discuss a wide range of topics, from how AI is making presentations more efficient (and beautiful) to how they’re adapting to common work-from-home challenges.
Tell us about Beautiful AI and what makes it unique compared to other presentation tools?
We’re solving a major pain point for anyone who creates presentations and slides. We’re democratizing design by making the product the designer so anyone can create great-looking content. We’re transitioning the way people create, work, and think when it comes to building presentations.
With the product as the designer, we leveraged AI and design principles that give a user a starting point and constricts the structural and formatting elements on the page. This allows the user to invest more time in the words and story they are trying to deliver.
As a venture-backed company, we’ve been fortunate to have the time to focus on becoming a product-first company. We see this paying off in responses from our customers who are not only seeing Beautiful.ai deliver as an alternative to PowerPoint, but are seeing how a modern SaaS stack can improve their day-to-day lives with productivity and collaboration advances that can only be delivered by leveraging cloud services.
What makes Beautiful.ai stand out from traditional tools?
If you’d ask our users they’d tell you it’s all about speed, ease of use and how the software makes their presentations look incredible. One of the ways we deliver on speed and ease of use is through our smart templates. These leverage the AI and design principles that I previously mentioned, to give you a massive head start on the content you need to create. If you’ve ever built a Gnatt chart, Org chart, Timeline or Venn Diagram in another tool, you’d know how time-consuming it is to get them right, with our software you just need to plug in the headlines and details and you’re done in few minutes versus hours of editing.
Another thing that sets us apart is that the platform was designed to bring multiple people together to collaborate and work on projects. Where most design tools only focus on the author and the individual, Beautiful.ai empowers you to simultaneously create and iterate your content with the people you work with. This speeds up the production of content and makes it easy to work as a team allowing you to comment, view progress and get feedback along the way. While this has become the standard experience for today’s workers using cloud-based software, we see that a lot of users are still struggling with versioning and sharing issues when they’re reliant on a desktop-based tool. The advancements in cloud tech have changed the way people work. There’s no more waiting around for someone to send you something.
One of my favorite new features is the ability to include audio overlays onto the slides. We’re developing new ways to allow our users to provide commentary or present the content dynamically. With the audio feature, you can voice over each slide, present the entire deck or provide verbal feedback to your team. I’ve been using it for an unintended use case, which is to rehearse content before I present it live. It’s amazing how different things can sound when they’re said out loud.
Can you elaborate on the use of AI?
We leveraged AI related to design principles and variables that were at the foundation of creating great presentations. Since it’s built into the software, the product is using design principles to restrict the user from making choices that would take away from the overall look of the content. As an example, as a user adds content the slides automatically adapt, so the user no longer needs to struggle with making the layout work. In a sense, the product is training the user to become a better designer. Over time we plan to continue to use this to improve the product and experience.
How has Beautiful.ai as a company adapted to this work from home to the remote working environment?
We’ve adapted really quickly. It’s been easy for us as we’re still relatively small which means we’re more nimble as a company. We talk a lot about the future of the workplace and how business is changing. A big part of the future is working with productivity and collaboration apps that are reinventing older processes that work better in a distributed environment. For most companies, this is only about communication platforms like Slack and Zoom, but for us, it’s built into almost every aspect of our operations. Being 3 years old, allowed us to build the company around a lot of these tools so we’re already walking the talk and seeing the benefits of those decisions.
Have you seen any shift in the change that the way that people are using it or the role of collaborations in presentations?
Our latest user research told us that 70% of our user base say they are collaborating and we also see an increase in the frequency of which people are creating presentations from seldom to frequent. Prior to the recent move to remote working as a result of COVID, we had seen a more even split between collaborators and individual creators. Along with this trend, we’re seeing a rise in interest and requests around new ways to distribute and present content.
In today’s work environment, the expectations have just gone up in general. It’s table stakes for instant sharing, viewing, editing and live discussions around content. It’s also expected that you can have large files with videos and heavy graphics with little friction
What are some common use cases you’re seeing?
The variation of use cases seems to be endless, the primary use cases are business-related, but we also see a high level of personal and academic as well. On the business side, our customers are leveraging us to help them stay on-brand and to control content.
We’re seeing companies deploy Beautiful.ai as a content management platform for customer-facing departments. It’s providing an edge for sales and marketing teams because it allows for easy creation and distribution of on-brand materials in a really efficient manner. While keeping non-designers (sales) from needing to spend hours in PowerPoint to create sales materials to win new business.
One trend that’s fun to watch is how Founders and CEOs are using Beautiful.ai to raise money. It only takes a few hours to build an investor pitch deck and the product makes them stand out in a crowd. We recently built a presentation example and template to help our users get started if they’ve never raised money before. I like this use case because it has direct ROI and a high impact for our customers when they’re trying to build their businesses.
And we’re not just seeing users pitch their companies, we’re also seeing them pitch themselves. So with the rise of unemployment and people changing jobs, Beautiful.ai gives a very sexy, modern way for somebody to create a visual resume.
What’s the bigger vision of Beautiful.ai? Where are you headed?
In the short term, we’re focused on launching a new offer to help more companies deploy Beautiful across teams and workgroups. Most brands are struggling to control the content, messaging, and brand through their current presentation and collateral management processes. I’m really excited about the launch of our Team offer at the end of August which will introduce new features that help solve all of the issues around keeping approved content up to date and making frankendecks a thing of the past. This new version of the product will also offer more administrative control for the business and more collaboration and productivity features for their teams.
Longer-term, we’re focused on a couple of things that we see as important to the user experience and broadening use cases;
We see a trend of workers using multiple productivity tools side by side to accomplish their daily tasks. With the influx of SaaS tools, it becomes more important for us to figure out how to make it easier for our users to seamlessly switch between tools and have them work together to make things easier. You may have seen our recent integrations with Dropbox and Slack, these are good examples of some of the things we’re doing to extend our platform for users. We have a handful of new partnerships lined up for later this year that will continue to make Beautiful.ai easier to build into everyday workflows. While some of the integrations are about ease of use, we’re also focused on making it easier to manage brand and content as part of your presentations so it’s easier to stay on-brand.
We’re also working on an API integration that will allow Beautiful.ai to work with other applications where they want to be able to seamlessly push data from a reporting or BI tool into a template in their Beautiful.ai account.
Finally, we’re working on broadening the use case to not only focus on presentations and slides but to also focus on other forms of content and not be so singular in the use of the application to create a great deck. We have some new stuff in our product roadmap that we’ll be ready to share soon.
I think as a business we’re naturally being pulled to help our customers become more productive and efficient as an entity, but we continue to focus on being a product-first company and finding ways to deliver better experiences for the user.