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Scott Harvey discusses do we really need powerpoint templates?

For many the thought of a conference, convention, meeting, or business event spells the opportunity to present a new product, service, or solution.

For others, it can quickly become the dread of presentation paranoia, and in an effort to appear professional, to gain audience attention and credibility, presenters often find themselves decorating and adding all sorts of unnecessary effects to their presentations. But at what point does a PowerPoint template become a liability and create a negative effect?

At what point must we view our presentation and conclude that the PowerPoint template does enough to present our ideas, thoughts and key arguments?

Presentation Article and Advice about Creating Content

Do we really need PowerPoint templates?

Scott Harvey, Managing Director, The Impossible Media Group

Warning!...PowerPoint template in use!

We've all seen them. We've all cringed. We've all screwed our eyes and thought, "Oh no, I can't watch this anymore". But it's not another rerun of Friends I'm referring too, it's a presentation where the presenter has misunderstood the meaning and use of a PowerPoint template, to a degree where their audience could easily become hypnotized if forced to follow every text and object flying in from left and right of the screen. Their fate saved only by the fact that they are already immune from the mind-numbing use of actions and layouts used, due to stunned bewilderment forcing the inability to absorb.

The simple fact is, that like many events in our life, a question that we must ask ourselves isn't always, "Is this enough?" But rather, "Where should I draw the line?"

Every Christmas, we ask ourselves. "Is this enough? Shouldn't I get them something more? A little extra gift?".

Every Thanksgiving, the question of, "Will this be enough food?" arises. Every Halloween, "Is there enough candy for the kids calling around this evening?"

In fact every major holiday presents a decision point. An opportunity to the presenter to begin homing their skills, and the chance to take a step back, and say, "Ok enough already."

Amazingly though it seems people aren't aware of these mundane annual obligations and their significance in our daily lives. Which is again probably why we still attend launches and conventions and see the most appalling PowerPoint presentations.

We had a professional create design our PowerPoint template

No matter which event I attend, at some point, in some dark corner, where poor failed and dejected presenters sit and dream about what could have been, "If only they liked me", you can always overhear someone saying how their company, paid a small fortune for their PowerPoint template design. That they hired some large advertising agency to design a unique corporate PowerPoint template, or product slide.

You'll hear, "We'll not be using them again". Or, "Just wait until I tell the AD what the audience thought of his work!" But hang on a minute...see the finger of responsibility pointing in purely defensive line, and it might not be near the target.

So where should the finger be pointing?

Well on completing the design task, and accepting the template, the presenter decided that they should fill it with content. (A small alarm bell is ringing in the distance), but the presentation doesn't seem to have that "Pazazz", that little I don't know what as the French would say. And so in effort to restore corporate power, the presenter decides to add every slide transition and action effect that PowerPoint allows. (That little alarm is now blowing like a fog horn).

Finally, somewhere around slide 58, the presenter is scrolling through the Slide Sorter View, and says..."Hmm...maybe this is enough? I just need to summarize", and then somewhere around slide 68, the presenter saves, shuts down the PC, and rushes off to pick up the kids. (Forget fog horn, at this point it's best to save yourself. Run to a nearby underground shelter and wait for the damage to pass).

Sound familiar?

A template is so much more than design

Perhaps the main question to ask ourselves is why design a PowerPoint template at all? Why use resources on creating a template that we fill ourselves?

Well the template itself is typically designed with an opening slide, or Title Master. With additional slides composing the Slide Master.

For many this is where the role of the PowerPoint template stops. It's purely design. A shell if you will, to house the content with the company logo always placed in the correct corner. But if we explore the concept of a template, we find that the template actually allows us to format all Font sizes for differing Titles, Subtitles, Headers, Footnotes, Dates, and Slide Numbers.

So if used correctly, the template can actually help you communicate your content to your audience by allowing them to understand that all Titles are this font and this size. All Subtitles, this font and this size etc., so that they quickly and intuitively understand the format of your slide and presentation of your message.

Many presenters still believe in highlighting in large Font sizes, and using bright colors individual words, or phrases within content believing that this helps the audience understand the key points of the slide. This is sadly not the case. It serves purely as a distraction. In fact, more as presentation notes to the presenter than of help for the audience. Highlighting key points or phrases should be done consistently throughout the presentation, i.e. A defined Font Style as simple as Bold, is enough to drive emphasis on a slide.

Slide Transitions and Actions within a template

The real power of a PowerPoint template goes far beyond the layout of design and formatting of text. Defining a consistent Slide Transition, as well as Custom Animations, will ensure your presentation maintains a uniform and structured format, which will again allow your audience to understand the building and presentation of information, and content within your slides.

Nothing is more distracting than slides that suddenly Fade In, or Wipe unexpectedly, or Split Vertically Out.

Whilst I imagine the temptation is there is show to your audience that you are a PowerPoint master, it's not necessary to show them that you know every transition that the program has to offer. In fact just as you have most likely experimented in using each transition and effect, in all likelihood, so has your audience, and their reasons for listening to your presentation are not to see things that have experienced before, but to hear things they have not, to be motivated, perhaps even educated by your content and words, and not mesmerized by the manner in which it is presented.

The PowerPoint template is the presenters best friend. It can be a shield of corporate strength. It can be source of all information. But in reverse, it can also be catastrophic to any brand when used inappropriately. It can be the audience repellent when used haphazardly, and has the power to create good as well as evil.

So why do we need PowerPoint templates?

To conclude, in response to why we need PowerPoint templates? I hope the answer is by now at least somewhat clearer, and with reflection, somewhat evident.

A PowerPoint template can create order. It can also create structure, ease audience perception, and increase content absorption. But it can also mystify an audience, increase tension, impatience and switch off any attentive qualities that an audience were willing to offer on their outset.

Your content is the foundation of your presentation, and the presentation of your content, paramount to your presentations success. Your PowerPoint template is a key to that success, so define its attributes well. You can be aggressive and obtrusive with your content, but you must be subtle in its presentation. Stay within the boundaries of the PowerPoint template, and you will create the balance for your audiences willingness to accept your thoughts, beliefs, and arguments.
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