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Wednesday, June 25, 2008
  Now Entering the Post-Template PowerPoint Design Era...

If you are still using PowerPoint templates as a presentation design aid, it's time to stop. Why?

Stop Using PowerPoint Templates!Because we've officially entered the Post-Template PowerPoint Design Era.

Why the Post-Template PowerPoint Design Era? With so many options available for great images, you don't need to rely on a PowerPoint template anymore. As fellow presentation blogger Ellen Finkelstein puts it in her excellent post at Slideshare, "White is definitely the new blue in presentation backgrounds..."

Why did PowerPoint background fashion change? Back in the early 1990's, very few people had easy access to compelling digital photography to insert in their PowerPoint presentations. Today, just about everybody who gives presentations has a digital camera. Use it to capture unique and fresh images for your next PowerPoint presentation. Don't have the talent for taking a great photo? You might be surprised at just how good you are! Don't be intimidated -- if you have a digital camera, at least give it a shot! At the very least, it's sure to be an original.

Can't get the shot you want? Again, you have access to a plethora of great photography online -- something you probably didn't have 10 years ago. Consider Flickr, the social photo sharing site. Many photos are available for use in your presentations through the Creative Commons attribution. If you can't find a unique photo at Flickr, try Morguefile or StockExchange. Both of these sites offer totally free photos. Just be sure to check the licensing requirements on each image before you use it in your next presentation.

Pay a little. If you still can't find the photograph you want, you may have to pay for a stock image -- but just a little. I like iStockphoto -- the prices are usually a buck or three -- and the selection is decent and updates regularly. But be careful! With stock photography, you run the risk of picking a photo that many people have seen before -- so it's not unique. Many times, you risk boring your audience with stock photography. Fortunately, iStockphoto shows you which photos are the most frequently downloaded, so you can avoid photos that everyone has already seen. With a little diligence, you can find something newer, fresher, and hipper.

The days of slapping clip art on a blue background are definitely over. That's just so 1990's! And when the audience has seen a background or image before -- the presenter becomes part of a landscape of visual cliches. The eyes of the audience glaze over. The presentation seem hackneyed. The presenter seems trite. The message gets hazy. Lost.

Use unique imagery. Use your creativity. Your audience with appreciate your effort!

PS -- Need help learning to manipulate photos and other graphics? Ellen Finkelstein also writes to remind me that her ebook, 7 Steps to Great Images, is on sale at her site. The book is easy-to-read, and filled with practical instructions for manipulating images in PowerPoint. Perfect for the Post-Template PowerPoint design era! You can also sign up for Ellen's free tips newsletter. Enjoy!

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I agree in full, but believe that the end of the template design era is really just the begining of people learning that there is more to PPT than bullets. When people start to realize that there is much more that PPT can do beyond just echo your words, then we will truely move past the need for templates.

Layouts? That's a whole other kettle of fish. If people used 2007's layouts the way they use templates in the earlier versions, we might start seeing some really amazing work becoming the standard instead of just bullet boredom being the standard.

My two cents, as always!
Did anyone ever use Templates then?

I ask because every one that I've seen used has clearly been written to show off how 'clever' the writer was, not to focus on the content. Only a fool would use an off-the-shelf template these days.

Mind you - some of the customised and self-written templates I've had to traing people out of using have been bloody awful too!

I saw one recently which had the logo of all the project funders (all six of them) on every slide - not good, particularly as they were different sizes, different colour and too up slightly over a third of the screen each time!
Nice post with lots of resources on how to make the change.

How about making it official and remove your downloadable templates from your site ;-)

PowerPoint is not Evil
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