Does your company use PowerPoint for internal and/or external presentations? Love it or loathe it, PowerPoint has long been the old standby for slide presentations. Unfortunately, it is not always used effectively. What’s the point of learning templates in PowerPoint? Well, templates and themes can save your employees tons of time if used correctly. Here are some important tips to properly create and use a PowerPoint template and theme.
First, know the difference between a template and a theme
These two terms are often confused. This confusion is completely understandable because themes and templates go hand-in-hand. A theme does not include any specific content (i.e., no starter or boilerplate text or charts). What it does contain are brand elements such as color or font information and any set master slide layouts. It also works across Microsoft PowerPoint, Word, and Excel. If you create a theme that contains your brand colors in PowerPoint, you can then load it into Excel to have those same color choices – this helps you to stay consistent across different types of media and save a ton of time.
A theme provides the framework for a slide presentation. Master slide layouts will give you a starting point for each of your slides and make sure that elements like your company logo and slide number placement are consistent throughout your presentation.
A theme file will be saved with the .thmx extension.
A template generally includes content that is specific to your company. For example, you might have an “about the company” slide sample that gives your employees some boilerplate text to start from. Or maybe there are a set of charts that your company uses regularly that can be set up in the template. This can save time in the formatting while allowing the user to edit and update the text information as needed.
A template can also (and should) be saved with a theme already loaded. Every PowerPoint template includes a theme whether you create one for your business or not. All default PowerPoint templates start with the Microsoft Office Theme. Including your business theme will help to keep your look consistent and recognizable.
A template file will be saved with the .potx extension.
You’d rather take a nap with fire ants than learn more about PowerPoint templates? We get it. You’d like a custom template to show up on your computer ready to go. Like magic. Permission granted to skip to the last paragraph.
Set your theme colors
Colors are a big part of your brand and you don’t want to be setting each color over and over again as you design your presentation. Once you set your theme colors they will appear in the color selection ribbon along with all of the default palettes. This makes it so much easier to apply to your slide deck.
Setting your colors effectively
Setting your colors can be a bit confusing. PowerPoint assigns colors automatically based on the order that you input them. The first four colors from top to bottom define the colors of the slide backgrounds and text. The second six colors (labeled as ‘accent’ colors) are used for shapes, tables, charts, SmartArt, etc.
Use the default colors as a guideline of sorts. Make sure that colors 1 and 3 are dark, colors 2 and 4 are light, and the accent colors reflect the colors you want to assign to objects. The order is important and will affect the way PowerPoint applies colors.
Don’t go crazy with fonts
Consider both how you are using your presentation and how your audience will be viewing it before you jump in with custom fonts. If you are sending the presentation out as a PowerPoint file OR presenting on a device that is not your own, you could be setting yourself up for a challenge. That’s because any font that is not loaded on the computer being used will default to a “safe” font, ensuring your slides don’t look like you envisioned. If this is how you will be using your slide deck, it’s smarter to stick with the standard fonts that come loaded into Microsoft Office products. If you have a brand guide, you may have ‘universal’ fonts designated for this purpose.
If you are sending your presentation out as a PDF, or presenting on your own computer, you can be more flexible with more specific brand fonts. But keep in mind, if you are distributing your template throughout your company for employees to use, everyone will need access to any custom fonts contained in the file.
Don’t expect your template to do the design work for you
The master slides in your template are meant to give you guidance for where text and images go, what color the headings are, where page numbers are placed, etc. You will still need to put in some work to get each slide looking exactly the way you want.
There is also no need to create a ton of incredibly intricate and specific master slides. If you have a slide that is more complex, assign a simple master layout and design it within your presentation (not in the master slides). Master slide layouts become less useful if they are so specific that they will only be needed once in a presentation. The key is to save yourself time, NOT over complicate your file.
Set up your master slides properly
Many users become frustrated with master slides when they are creating a presentation. Often this is because the master slide isn’t set up correctly.
Use placeholders on your master slides
A common mistake is to add regular text boxes to a master slide. You’ll find that if you do this, those text boxes are not editable when you apply the layout. You must add a placeholder on a master slide to make it editable. The most common placeholders are for text boxes and images, although there are options for charts and other elements.
Once you have added a text placeholder, this editable text box will appear on any slide that you apply this master to. You will be able to click in the box and type or paste your content and the alignment of the box will stay consistent across any slide that uses this layout.
These placeholders have default ‘prompt text’ that will appear automatically. You can change this to give clear instructions to your users. For example, you can edit the prompt text to say “Slide title goes here” or “Client First and Last Name” – the clearer you can make the prompts, the easier it will be for your employees to consistently create the presentation that you are aiming for.
Format all of the text levels in your placeholders
When you add a text placeholder, you’ll see that it defaults to five levels of bullets. Even if you don’t think you’ll need that many, it’s a good idea to format them all. That way, moving forward, you have the option when the need arises. You can set text size, indent, etc. They also don’t have to be bulleted! Maybe the second level is just a smaller text size and the third level is where a bullet begins – it all depends on how you use your slides.
When you are working in your presentation (not the master slide), the best way to change the text level is to use the promote/demote indent arrow buttons in your toolbar. This will ensure that the formatting is applied at each level.
Use photo placeholders
A photo placeholder can be created in any shape. When you apply the layout, it will show as a shape with an image icon. Once you click in the shape, you will be prompted to browse for your image. PowerPoint will default to placing the image centered in the shape, but what if the position doesn’t work with your image? If you click on your image, you will see a crop button in your toolbar (or you can navigate to Format > Crop in the menu). You will see that your image can now be moved and/or sized within the shape. Position it how you like, but remember to keep an eye on the edges – if your picture no longer fills the entire shape, it can look odd. When sizing an image, remember to hold down shift as you grab the image handle (the black handles, not the small boxes – those are for the frame itself) – this will keep the proportion. No one wants their presentation to be remembered due to awkwardly squished images!
Learn the difference between the ‘parent’ and the ‘child’ master slides
The first slide (and biggest in the view) you see is the parent slide. This is where you should include high-level elements that you want to see on the majority of your slides. This could include things like your company logo, a footer, or a page number.
The rest of the slides below this one (the smaller ones in your view) are considered child slides. These are where you will customize the individual layouts. They will have the characteristics of their parent slide but you can then edit them to reflect specific pages that you may need on a regular basis. For example, you may have a title slide, a section divider slide, a 2-column text content slide, and a contact information slide.
If you are unsure of what slides to include in your master slide layout, take a look at past presentations. Make note of the slides that are used frequently – those are slides that should have a master. Keep in mind that your template will likely be fluid; you will add to it and make changes as the need arises. Just make sure your users always have the most up-to-date template!
Save your template or theme correctly
To truly be a template or theme, you need to save it as the correct file type. Let’s start with a theme.
A theme is saved from the master slide view. In the Slide Master ribbon, there is a Themes drop-down menu with all of the standard themes, plus whatever you have created and saved. At the very bottom of this menu, you’ll see “Save Current Theme.” That is how you save everything you have set up as your custom theme. Give it a name that you will recognize. PowerPoint will automatically save your theme in Microsoft’s default theme folder, but if you’d like to save it in a different location, that works too. Remember, this will have the .thmx extension.
When you start a blank presentation, you can load your custom theme and the colors and other items you have set up will be there for your use.
A template is saved from the normal presentation view. Instead of selecting ‘save as’ like you would to save a completed presentation, select ‘save as template.’ Again, this will save with the .potx extension. This is the proper way to distribute a template to your employees and will ensure that the theme and slide layouts are kept intact. Each time your users want to create a new presentation, all they need to do is open the template file and save/rename it as their slide deck.
Apply your slide layout right away
Before you start adding content and designing your slide, make sure you have applied a layout to your slide. This will ensure that you start with the correct spacing, fonts, etc. It isn’t impossible to apply the layout after, but it will often cause changes in your layout that you are not expecting.
Use ‘paste and match formatting’ to minimize trouble when copying content from another source
We’ve all seen it – you need to copy content from an old presentation and paste it into your new template. But when you do – ARGGH! – it doesn’t look right! PowerPoint retains some or all of the formatting from the previous presentation (or wherever you are pulling text from), which can cause major visual issues and cost your team a lot of time revising. The key is to use the paste and match formatting or use destination theme feature (the wording varies based on your version or whether you are working on a Mac or a PC). This will paste your content BUT use the designated formatting of the text box you are pasting into (i.e., your most recent template).
Getting a headache? Hire a professional to create your PowerPoint template.
If you are in need of a branded template, but don’t have the expertise, time or desire to create one, find someone to do it for you!
At Annatto, we work closely with our clients to learn what your presentation goals are and how best to reach them. We’ll design a complete template based on your specifications and branding and hand off the proper file for you to distribute to your team. Or if you’d rather keep your team focused on what they do best, we can continue to customize and format your presentations as you need them – it’s one of our many valued services.