It takes more than a template

Recently, a colleague sent me a template file for a presentation we’re working on together. Meh, it was merely one single slide, with our company logo on it, a title placeholder, and five pre-defined text fields (12-point font each. But, well, I’ve already given my opinion about too small presentation fonts in an older post).

To make things clear, I have no intention to format the visuals I’m creating for this joint presentation with a – or particularly this – single slide layout. A presentation template should provide a common look and feel, NOT a uniform one. It’s a guidance for the author, rather than a prescription. A key purpose (maybe even the most important one) of a template is to create and enforce corporate brand identity. Making sure the audience knows that’s your company’s representative who’s speaking (even without being presented with a logo on each slide).

Another motivation for distributing templates is to keep up visual consistency by giving you and your colleagues a common structure, style, and layout for creating slides. So, when you distribute a template, make sure it offers several alternative layouts: one for the title page, for bulleted text, for tables, for charts, etc.

Finally, there are use cases for spartan templates like the one I mentioned above: e.g. data sheets, financial reports, or project plans. Though I would hardly call these presentations, as their authors are only (mis)using presentation creation software to quickly and easily craft beautifully formatted documents – a.k.a. slideumentation.

But never forget that it takes more than a (even sexy) template for creating compelling presentations…

Here are some of my other posts about using templates and formatting your slides:

Don’t feed the chameleons

Sometimes (I am sure that my colleagues at work would even say often) crafting a business presentation is considered a last-minute job. And when there’s little time left for being creative yourself, it’s tempting to rely upon material that others have created before you. Nothing as easy as making a slide deck by cutting and pasting slides from existing PowerPoints into yours.

Should it be a surprise that 99% of these cut‘n’paste slideshows look like chameleons, that change colors, fonts and layout with every slide transition?


Read my words: look and feel do matter! If you want your audience to perceive you as a professional, then never compromise on the layout of your visuals.

  • Real estate: Don’t overdo. Beware of creating slideuments. Apply the same template to all slides. Use plenty of white space. Limit the amount of bulleted slides as well as bullets per page.
  • Colors should contrast with the background. Don’t put together too many colors on one screen. Avoid using red text on a white or black background. Use tools such as Shyam Pillai’s add-in to select and customize your PowerPoint color schemes.
  • Fonts must be readable from the back of the room. Be consistent in style throughout the whole deck. Don’t mix too many typefaces. Avoid script fonts. Bold and italic are good to emphasize text, underline isn’t.
  • Images are there to complement or emphasize your message. Don’t insert standard clip art that adds no extra value (we all know the man climbing a bar chart, don’t we?) Avoid mixing line art and photos.
  • Vocabulary: Consequently use the same terminology everywhere. Beware of acronyms and abbreviations. Don’t use jargon or slang.

So next time you need to build a business presentation, start well in advance and take your time to tune each slide. Don’t take existing material for granted. Be creative. Be consistent. Be professional.

And if you have some time left, take a look at the blog posts below: