By Jim Harvey
As a guy who works with lots of big corporates, writing speeches, rehearsing speakers for big pitches and presentations, I’m forever coming up against the “Template Trial”. The corporate PowerPoint template which everybody must use when creating presentations but which creates real problems for the speaker who wants to use them in support of their speech.
Of course, the corporate template provides “brand synergy across all communications”. I respect and understand that, but the problem is that most of them are rubbish as visual aids. Most of them are designed as templates for written documents, and as Nancy Duarte or Garr Reynolds, or me might say:
Good hand-outs always make poor visual aids, and good visual aids always make poor hand-outs…
If you want to present a written document, why not just hand it out and let the audience read it for themselves, at their own pace? Then your presentation will consist of 3 lines:
- Here’s what I want you to read…
- Any questions
- Have a safe journey home
But you couldn’t do that, could you? Instead people tend to do “supervised reading”. Project the written document, read out the slides to the bemused listeners, who simply start reading for themselves and ignore the speaker if they can.
I’ve nothing against the corporate template. Just rubbish ones. So here are two arguments for the idea, and two against. I’ll let you make up your own mind.
For Corporate PowerPoint Templates: Time Saving
Presentation planning and design can be an enormous time drain. It’s understandable that businesses concerned about easily distracted staff would want to save time by giving them a template to work with. Having set color schemes, layouts and fonts also means that presentation designers will have to spend less time re-designing presentations in line with their managers’ vision of how things should look.
For Corporate PowerPoint Templates: Branding
Branding recognition is hugely important for businesses, and presentations to external parties benefit from using the corporate colors, fonts and themes. Undoubtedly, ensuring everything which a company is released has the same look and feel helps to build their brand identity and give the business a sense of unity, no matter what it’s size.
Some companies believe that branding their presentations also provides them a level of protection from anyone who would attempt to steal their slides.
Against Corporate PowerPoint Templates: Limiting Creativity
No matter how many variations and options you give them, template users will feel restrained in their creativity, and uncertain of the kind of changes they are allowed to make. It’s impossible to provide a template for every possible slide idea a person may have, and if they don’t see an example like the one they have in mind within the template, they may assume their design is off-limits.
Hampering the creativity of your presentation creators might save hours in the preparation of slides, but it will cost you hours of staff time if it results in presentations and pitches which are so unimaginative nobody gets anything out of them.
Against Corporate PowerPoint Templates: Boredom
If every presentation given within and by a business looks exactly the same it won’t be long before the audience switches off, zones out and ignores what the presenter is saying. This becomes a vicious circle; as presentation makers become more lazy and reliant upon the basic PowerPoint template, their presentations become more boring, audiences pay less attention and so presentation makers feel more lazy.
Remember this — you can make presentations look branded without creating a prescriptive template. Sure, get everyone to use the same color schemes and fonts. And even brand certain slides if you don’t want them copied. But leave enough flexibility so that when you present to the same audience twice, they get two entirely different presentations.
Whatever way you choose — make sure you have different templates for the visual aid than for the hand-out. The visual aid should have a minimum text size of 32 points. A maximum of 3 bullet points per slide (preferably presented as boxes not bullets), and only 3 types of slides: Title, Image alone and Image with bullet.
Jim Harvey is a presentation skills coach and blogger. He’s been a professional speaker for more years than he’d like to remember — and he can help you to craft more successful memorable speeches, pitches, and presentations. Find out about his Fit, Focus and Flair model.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of any other agency, organization, employer or company.