Many of you will be familiar with the idea of using a template to give your slides a common look. A Master Slide (in combination with a Theme in PowerPoint 2007 and later) sets the background color, text colors and fonts and any branding on the slide. This way, every slide has a consistent look and the audience is not distracted by changing slide appearances. Some organizations take this idea one step further and create a style guide.
Your template is one part of a style guide, but it goes further than just the look and feel. A style guide can contain elements such as:
1) Guidelines on when to use different slide masters
If you are creating presentations that have distinct sections, such as a workshop, seminar or longer session, you may want to create multiple slide masters so that the graphical look indicates to your audience what this slide is about. For example, you may have one slide look for the start of a section and another slide look for introducing an exercise. This type of graphical cueing can increase the engagement of your audience.
2) Guidelines on the use of notes
The Notes section of a slide can be used for speaking notes that you print to keep yourself on track. There is another use for the Notes section. When you are creating slides that people with disabilities will view, the Notes section is a great way to add descriptive text that can be read by screen reader programs. I wrote a white paper for my publisher that goes into more details on this usage. They will be distributing the white paper to those who create the slides for their introductory textbooks.
3) Handout Guidelines
If you print handouts from your slides, you can also set guidelines on how the handouts should be formatted and used. Just like there is a Slide Master for a common look to your slides, there is a Handout Master that can give a common look to your handouts. In a handout master, you can set the header, footer, copyright notice, and page number. You can also specify the number of slides per page - I use four slides per page to allow space for notes.
If you haven't created your own custom professional looking template, I suggest you do so . Then, think about how you can create a style guide that will speed up slide creation. By making decisions up front on how all of your presentations should look and feel, you are free to focus on the content that your audience needs to hear in each individual presentation.