Warning! Defective “Template!”

scaffolding-incomplete_1274873258Inevitably, when  a client  gives me their corporate PowerPoint “template,” what I get is a default PowerPoint presentation file with, at most, a slide background and a title slide background.  The client has asked the company’s design firm (or department) for a “template” and this is what they got.

So, I spend the first hour or so of the project completing the “template” so I can get on with the assignment.  This is OK with me since these are paid hours, but I can’t help thinking that there are a lot of companies out there that are being treated in this shabby way by their design teams.

So, why does it matter? The purpose of the “template” is to assure that the look and feel (part of your corporate branding) works in your presentations as well as your web presence and printed collateral.  A defective “template’ will allow  the presentation color scheme, fonts and graphics to be all over the place.

The reason you have a defective “template”  is that graphic designers are generally PowerPoint-illiterate.  Certainly, PowerPoint is a poor stepchild as  a design tool and beneath the  contempt of a truly creative graphics designer. Besides, if designers produced their work in PowerPoint, their customers might make small changes on their own, without paying the design firm to do so.  Bad business.

I also believe that designers (and many others) misunderstand the role of PowerPoint in the presentation scenario – for example, that there is usually a presenter, who is primarily responsible for delivering the message.  Designers and marketing types generally seem to think in terms of a printed document.

Oh, but I digress.  Here is what you should get when you ask your designer for a complete “template”  (Microsoft uses the word Theme) :

  • Color scheme – when you select a color for a fill or outline, you choose from colors in the color selection pane.  The colors that show up here are the Theme Colors.  If these have not been specifically assigned, a default palette shows up and these colors (or random ones) will be selected and your presentations will loose your corporate identity.
    I have thoughtfully provided some guidelines for color schemes here.
  • Fonts – you probably have corporate fonts;  specifying these as  your Theme Fonts will make them the default for PowerPoint text rather than Arial or Calibri.
    I have recorded my guidelines for fonts  here.
  • Master slide and layouts – slide backgrounds;  slide title and bullet formats; layouts for the title slide, section title slides, etc., are all determined by the Master Slide and a number of Layouts.
    Slide backgrounds are an area where graphic designers like to exercise their skill, usually at the expense of the actual slide content.  Here’s my rant on bad slide backgrounds.
    I have also provided some details on working with masters and layouts in this amusing post.

So, to assure that your presentations are not crippled by an incomplete “template,” make sure your designer provides the elements noted above.  Or, hire a PowerPoint specialist, like me.


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