Templates: three ground rules

You probably know them all too well: those presentation templates with each slide displaying the institute’s logo, a dash of color here, a bit of color there.


I can’t stand them.

All they really do is confine you.

They’re boring. That same lay-out, slide after slide. (yawn)

And they distract your audience too.

So am I saying you should simply throw that template provided by your institute out the door?

No, I wouldn’t go that far (wouldn’t want to receive any death threats from angry PR services).

Instead, use a basic template containing your institute’s house-style elements, without drowning out your presentation’s main message.

Three ground rules for creating presentation templates:

1. Focus on the effect, not the tools

Slides are there to support your story. You want to ensure that by the end of your presentation your audience has fully grasped your message. Clear and convincing slides will help you get there. Any distracting elements should go.

2. Place your institute’s logo on your title and final slide

Keep your template’s title and final slide, but create blank and unnumbered slides in between, displaying neither names nor logos of the particular event.

3. Create uniformity

Whereas not every slide should look identical, there should be some degree of uniformity. Take a look at these tips:

  • Use your insitute’s housestyle font

Make sure this is a standard computer font, so you don’t run the risk of seeing your letters jump around (if the computer does not recognize your font, it will replace it with a standard font).

  • Use your insitute’s housestyle colors

Make sure there is ample contrast between your text color and the slide backgound, ensuring your text is nicely legible, even when being projected by a less than powerful beamer.

  • Limit the number of text sizes

All text should be legible, even for your audience in the back of the room. Stick to a text size of 24 points or more. Subtitles can be for example 36 points and main titles 48 points.

‘But we can’t stray from the template’, we hear plenty of researchers comment.

From my years living in Mexico, I picked up this saying: Better to apologize after, than to ask permission before.

After all, it’s all about the effect, not the tools. A succesful presentation will have your institute’s logo stand out far more on its final slide, than a series of logos on many separate slides.

(Photo homepage: Imagine Cup 2012, icon: Projector Screen by Ahá-Soft, The Noun Project)