What’s Wrong with PowerPoint Templates

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Bad-Powerpoint The majority of PowerPoint templates are terrible.  I'm referring to the default templates found within PowerPoint and Keynote, as well as those created by design firms that don't specialize in presentation design.  These are the templates that include a title slide and a content slide.  That's it.  They are often designed with a color at the top and a color at the bottom, with a logo and URL slapped on every slide. 

Typical Templates:
I hate most templates.  In order to create an effective PowerPoint presentation that can keep the viewer engaged, the designer must feel uninhibited, free to express their story in an original manner.  These templates create constraints that more often than not reduce the effectiveness of a presentation. 

  • Templates have text fields for title and content.  This leads the uninformed [of effective presentation design techniques] designer to presume that putting a title at the top of the screen and bullet-points full of text below is the "correct" way to create a PowerPoint presentation.  Needless to say, it's not.  These fields constrain the presenter's creativity.  They will feel conflicted if they want to use a full-screen image but fear the consequences of covering up the company URL and logo at the footer of each slide.  They may put a title on every page, regardless of the necessity.  Simply put, templates send the wrong message. 
  • Many companies pay for templates that are NOT designed by professional presentation design firms.  Many design firms offer PowerPoint design, but those firms also offer other services like web design, marketing materials, etc.  These firms are rarely versed in effective presentation design.  They merely add a logo, the company URL, and a stock photo for the opening slide, but no guidelines are offered for colors, imagery, graphs, and more. 

Templates Designed by Professional PowerPoint Design Firms:
In today's business world, most people are not very good at creating PowerPoint presentations.  Until I made a concerted, personal effort to learn how to design effective presentations, I wasn't very good either.  Neither was Bill Gates (although recently he made a fantastic presentation at TED).  So don't feel bad if you're…well…bad.  An effectively designed template can help guide you towards a presentation that engages your audience.  Here are some attributes you may find:

  • Graphs are designed (correctly) in 2D, with different graph types in order to highlight different types of statistical information. 
  • Effective, on-brand fonts are included to create uniformity.
  • Grids are created to help designers place images/text, etc. 
  • Beautiful imagery is added to title slides, quote slides, and transition slides.
  • Color palettes are included to inform the designer which colors are on-brand and how to use different shades.
  • A notation that full screen images are OKAY

Simply put, be wary when you're using templates.  See if your company template includes any of these attributes.  If not, suggest them!  Be the catalyst more organizations need to start creating more effective PowerPoint presentations.

What are your feelings about PowerPoint/Keynote templates?  Like 'em?  Hate 'em?

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