This post was submitted by m62 visualcommunications.
Using a PowerPoint template is so much more than just a background image. A proper template is the easiest way to create a consistent design scheme for your presentations. A well-designed template can make PowerPoint production much faster, and really helps portray a professional image of the presenter.
There are many free PowerPoint templates available to download online, and you even have a choice of standard Microsoft designs from within PowerPoint 2007 or 2010 itself. But if none of these take your fancy, or if you want to use specific company colours, you may wish to create your own bespoke template.
What do you need for a bespoke template?
There are two basic components of a template: title slide and main body slide. The title slide usually contains the name of your company, the name of the presentation, and the name of the presenter. The main body slide should have a contrasting title bar area, which will help differentiate titles from the background information.
The Master Template
Templates are created using a master template. To access the slide master, select View > Slide Master.
When you’re in the master area, PowerPoint provides you with default automated template options. Slide 1 is the master slide. Anything you do on this slide is replicated on all of the slides underneath it. So, while it may seem logical to use slide 1 for your title slide, it should in fact be used for your normal background, for use on all of your main body slides.
Beneath the master slide (slide 1) are the layout slides. These slides take design features from the master, but can be edited individually. Some of the layouts are unnecessary, so rather than complicate things, it’s best practice to delete the ones you’re not going to use. At m62, we delete nearly all of them, as we believe that they can hinder creativity and encourage the misuse of PowerPoint.
To build your own layout, select ‘Insert Layout’ from the Slide Master tab. You can edit the design, and add placeholders via ‘Insert Placeholder’ for objects such as images and charts. These placeholders will hold onto the template design features, and so can be useful for e.g. creating graphs quickly. You can rename layouts by right clicking the layout, and selecting ‘Rename Layout’.
From normal view, selecting Home > New Slide will bring up the list of slide layouts available. Designers can select the most relevant layout for the slide they wish to create.
Selecting the right colour palette is usually the first thing presenters and presentation designers address when designing their template. When in the Master area, select Create New Theme Colours – you’ll be given 8 choices. PowerPoint uses RGB colours; these can be taken from your company branding colours, or you can create your own.
It’s important to select colours that will go well together. A good website to help you select a new colour scheme is kuler.adobe.com. And whether you have an existing colour scheme or not, make sure you pick some opposing colours to help differentiate fonts and certain design elements. We’d normally pick six colours for a palette: three strong colours, and three derivatives. If you don’t have enough colours in mind to fill the 8 possible colour slots, you should fill them by duplicating the colours you have chosen. This ensures that you won’t end up with rogue colours in your scheme.
One great feature of PowerPoint 2007/2010 is that if you select a colour from normal view, the menu automatically gives you different gradients of each of your chosen colours. This gives you lots of options for your contrasting colours.
Set your main body slide background
Set your main body slide design features from Master view. Change the background colour of your slide by right clicking on the thumbnail of the slide and then selecting Format Background. Change the background itself to gradient fill or normal fill, depending on your preferences, and select the chosen colour from your palette. To add a picture to the background, use the same process from the same menu, where you can select picture or textured fill. Remember though that your audience must be able to clearly see content on top of your background image. And be warned: if the image you are using is large, you could end up with a huge file size for your presentation. Make sure you compress your pictures first!
It’s also a good idea to add a title bar to your main body slide by creating a shape at the top of your slide, and adding a text box. This is also the perfect time to add a logo to your slides.
Within the Format Background menu of a layout slide, you can toggle off ‘normal background graphics’ to get rid of the title bar and other additional features, if you don’t want them displayed on that slide.
To create a title slide background
The first slide below the master slide should be the title slide. Change the background colour using the same method as detailed above. The background colour should be a different colour to your main body slides, to get your audience’s attention when the presentation starts.
Some companies also require presenters to use particular fonts. In Office 2007 and 2010, the default font is Calibri. To set a default font for your slide deck, select the ‘Fonts’ button, which is below the ‘Colours’ one. PowerPoint provides default setups for headings and text. We would recommend Arial, as it’s a font every computer has and it’s easy for audiences to read. If you want to add your own particular font, select Fonts > Create New Theme Font. We strongly recommend using the same font throughout all text in your presentation for unity.
If you’re going to add animation to your template, it’s best not to do so on the master. Master-embedded animations won’t work in PowerPoint 2003, or on Internet-based software. Best practice is to create two layout slides for title bars: one that animates, and one that doesn’t. These should cover both needs without any problem.
That said, something important you should also do on the Master is make sure that transitions are set to ‘Fade’, not ‘Appear’ – click ‘Apply to All’. This will keep your presentation flowing smoothly.
Using your template
Now you have this fantastic template, how do you use it?
First you need to save your template as a template, and not as a PowerPoint presentation. Template files are in a .potx (or .pot for PowerPoint 2003) format. To save yours in the correct format, go to Home > Save As… and select the .potx file format from the dropdown options. Voila! You’ve created a template.
And to use your template, simply open it up and get started!
This post was originally written on the m62 blog here.