As the Cheater of Death by PowerPoint, Laura Foley provides training and presentation design services through Laura M Foley Design. Her clients include The Optical Society, Procter & Gamble, Nestlé, General Dynamics, Juniper Networks, EMC, TE Connectivity, and VMware. She has given training sessions at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, Simmons College, the Central Mass Business Expo, and the Isenberg School of Management at UMass Amherst. A graduate of the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Laura has over two decades’ experience in presentation design, marketing, and copywriting. She lives in Central Massachusetts with her husband and two sons.
In this conversation, Laura talks about PowerPoint templates, themes, and branding.
Geetesh: You speak about PowerPoint templates and themes that look like an extension of a company’s existing branding. Can you tell us more about your work in this area?
Laura: I think of PowerPoint as an extension of an organization’s brand because it’s a visual representation of information coming from that organization. A presentation should be consistent with the other messages an organization transmits through its social media outlets, marketing collateral, advertising, signage, etc. If a presentation uses different colors or typefaces than what is specified in the branding guide, then it looks unprofessional.
Speaking of branding guides, PowerPoint directions are usually included as an afterthought, if they’re there at all. Which is a shame, really, because when you think about it PowerPoint is the one of the most democratic marketing tools an organization has. What I mean is that when you look at a website, advertising, video, etc., they’re generally created by an external design agency or within the marketing department. These people are trained to make everything look great! But PowerPoint presentations are made by everybody else, and people need guidance so that their slides look as good as something the ad agency or the marketing department creates.
I help to bring PowerPoint back into the marketing mix by creating templates and themes that share the same colors, design style and similar typefaces to those specified in an organization’s branding guide.
Geetesh: For a prospective client that needs a PowerPoint template or theme, what is it that they must expect from a designer, and what would a designer expect from them?
Laura: Many times, designers with no PowerPoint experience create templates and themes that are practically useless. Some designers create all of the slide layouts in the slides themselves rather than in the Slide Master. They might include graphics that look great but which are uneditable in PowerPoint. And I’ve seen a lot of tiny text and slide numbers that work great for a book but not onscreen. A designer really needs to understand how people are likely to use the template and theme so that they will be useful.
In my experience, most graphic designers hate PowerPoint. I don’t know what it is…it’s like hating a pencil because you can’t draw. So a prospective client needs to find a designer who will happily work with PowerPoint! The ideal designer will have some presentation experience and understand how designing slides is different from designing for print or for the Web. The designer also needs to understand how to create a template or theme that the average user can work with.
As a presentation designer, I would expect that the client would trust me when I make recommendations based on my experience. I suppose that’s what any designer expects, really!
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