Lessons: Presentation Slide Templates Are a Tool, Not a Plan

Lessons: Presentation Slide Templates Are a Tool, Not a Plan

Putting together a presentation, especially if you have not done so frequently before, can be intimidating. Templates, whether one you chose, or one dictated by your organization, can give you a quick place to start and the reassurance that you’ll have a consistent look and feel. And for many organizations, requiring specific templates can go beyond giving a helping hand to the presenter – it also helps the audience by making it easy to know what to expect, and eliminates the possibility that design choices will be distracting.

But there’s a trap here, too. It can be easy to start relying on a template to plan the content of the message as well as its format. Rather than considering the specific needs and goals of the presentation at hand, template users just plug the same type of information into the same slides. Will it be coherent? Probably. Will it be persuasive? Probably not.

As one of our clients once told me, “A slide template is not a message plan.”

Instead, follow a few simple questions: What is the goal of your presentation? Who is your audience, and what will they care about? What are you asking for or recommending? What are the main points that you need to make?

That’s your message plan.

A slide template gives you a great way to provide consistent font, color, and branding. It looks smart. But a message plan makes you look smart, by showing that you’ve thought about your information and the best way to share it.

If presentations are critical in your role, consider our Powerful Presenter Course, which distills 20+ years of effective executive coaching inside Fortune 500 firms into a few highly efficient hours of self-paced learning.

Not convinced? Check out the Free Trial of Powerful Presenter. A small investment in these skills can make a huge difference to the course of a career.


– Dean


We believe great communication skills create opportunities, build connections and drive change.

We empower the next generation of business leaders with the communication skills to advocate for themselves and what they believe.

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