PowerPoint Tip: Why do presenters change the organization’s template?

I had a conversation recently with a client who is looking to update their organization’s PowerPoint template.  The one they have now is out of date, but of more concern is that everyone seems to be creating their own slide design.  The organization’s branding is getting lost in the variety of looks that have no consistency.

The modification of corporate slide templates is a common problem for many marketing departments.   As presentation coach Richard Petersen has said to me many times, most templates last about 30 minutes before someone in the field changes them.  The question is why this happens when so much work has been put into creating a slide look that is well designed and helps project a uniform image.

As I explained to my client, I think that presenters change the slide template because they haven’t been told why decisions were made.  In my opinion, it is a failure to educate the presenters who use the template.  If they understood the reasons behind choices of fonts, colours, branding and positioning of placeholders, they would know the negative impact of changing the template.

Let’s look at some of the decisions and the reasons that we need to communicate to presenters.  When we select sans-serif fonts such as Arial or Calibri, presenters need to know how research shows sans-serif fonts are easier to read when projected and the dangers of using non-standard fonts when moving a presentation to another computer.  When we select the size of the font, presenters should know that we have considered the rooms they present in and have used visual acuity based calculations to check that text will be able to be read from the back of the room (see this table for the calculations that should be used).

When we select colors for the background and text, presenters need to know that the colors have been tested for contrast (using the Color Contract Calculator) and they are consistent with the organization’s colors.  When we position placeholders and graphics on the slide, presenters need to know that they are placed to allow for two line headlines that summarize the key message of the slide, and room for visual content that illustrates the message.

So how do we educate the variety of presenters who will use the template?  What I’ve discussed with my client is creating a video where I explain the decisions and the reasons why presenters should not make changes.  By having an outside expert give the explanation, we hope it will make a greater impact.  The template and the short explanatory video will be on the same internet page so when presenters download the template, they will be more likely to watch the video since it is right there on the same page.

If you are responsible for the organization’s template, save yourself some headaches by educating the presenters who will use the template.  If they know why they shouldn’t make changes, they will be more likely to leave the template as it is.