It’s time for a big presentation! You sit down to create your slides, and…open PowerPoint to a totally blank slate.

Where should you start? You know what you’ve got to say, and what data and other content you’ll need to show, but how will you arrange it on a page, and how will you make it visually compelling? And when it comes to corporate PowerPoint design, making slides clearly easy-to-understand while staying on brand is mandatory. This is why we use PowerPoint templates.

But you’ve, no doubt, also heard of PowerPoint Themes. What’s the difference between PowerPoint Themes and PowerPoint Templates? And why do you need them?

Get the Blueprint for Creating PowerPoint Templates for Clear & Convincing Slides

Before we get into it—book a call to discuss holding a custom PowerPoint Template workshop strategically angled toward your business. I’ll work with your team 1:1 to help them get hands-on with creating templates from the ground up so you can communicate your ideas with greater impact, and help your clients more effectively, without any unnecessary PowerPoint 101. At the end of the workshop, your team will have crafted a template with consistent branding, backend stability, and a library of only the most powerful slide layouts.

Built-In Microsoft Themes

You’ve probably used some of Microsoft’s built-in themes before. They can be found on the Design tab of the PowerPoint ribbon on both Mac and PC, or after selecting File–>New.  With a single click, you can update every slide in the deck with the colors, fonts, and bulleted text styles include in the template you’ve chosen. While the built-in themes aren’t incredibly robust, in a pinch, they’re better than starting with absolutely nothing.


Some are better than others…


PowerPoint Themes vs. PowerPoint Templates

But will the Theme change your content? While it might (frustratingly, and seemingly randomly) change the location of some text boxes and images on the slide, the short answer is no. Themes merely tell PowerPoint what color palette to use for text, shapes, and backgrounds, and what fonts and bullets to use–basically, as Microsoft puts it:

Themes give your presentations a designer-quality look, that includes one or more slide layouts with coordinating colors, a matching background, fonts, and effects.

A PowerPoint template is a pattern or blueprint of a slide or group of slides that you save as a .potx file. Templates can contain layouts, theme colors, theme fonts, theme effects, background styles, and even content.

Essentially, Templates tell PowerPoint how to layout various kinds of information on each slide, while Themes tell PowerPoint how to make that information look. Here at Slidedesignr, we tend to use the term PowerPoint Template to mean the combination of both the template (layout) and the theme (colors, fonts, etc.), since, in practical terms, you’ll be simultaneously using both to create your slides.


Using PowerPoint Themes & PowerPoint Templates

There are a variety of sources for templates online, or perhaps your company has had one custom-created for your team to use. Typically, templates can range anywhere from simple blank slides with your company’s logo in the corner, to slightly more useful starting points including a few chart and graph themes, and perhaps a default table that you can copy + paste into your deck, all on top of the default PowerPoint slide layouts for titles, content, and media.

When we begin creating a presentation for a client, we start with their template, or we create one custom just for their brand. This enables us to get both of our teams on the same page (literally), keeping everyone creating consistently-branded slides going forward. And, it helps you avoid re(re-re-re)inventing the wheel, translating into faster turnaround times, going home at a decent hour, not taking work home with you…sure, it saves time and money, but a good template can change your life.


What Are PowerPoint Layouts?

As mentioned earlier, the layout is the blueprint, or framework of the slide. They determine what kind of content will be on the slide, how much of it can be placed a single slide, and how/where it will be arranged. I would also include margins in that definition, though PowerPoint doesn’t explicitly allow you to set them for on-screen slides. The layout determines how the real estate of the slide will be used. A well-designed layout contains lots of room for you to work (fat space-wasting headings and huge logos in the corner are my personal kryptonite 😠), and placeholders that you can easily drop your own content into.

The standard PowerPoint template—what you’ll see if you open a New file—comes with default layouts including full-width and two column text/content layout pages, section breaks, title slides, and those weird Vertical Title and Text layouts you’ll never use. You can change the layout used on any given slide by navigating to Layout on the Home tab of the PowerPoint Ribbon and clicking on the layout you’d like to use on that slide.  Most themes have multiple layouts, some including just text placeholders, while others will have placeholders for multimedia and charts. When you choose a PowerPoint layout, it adds those placeholders to the slide.

Tons of custom layouts have got you covered.


Our custom-designed templates come with 50-200+ built-in layouts with placeholders for a wide variety of use cases you might encounter while putting together presentations for market research reports, pitch decks, and other business communication decks. Ultimately, the goal is to remove as many pain points as we can from the process of creating slides, so that you spend more time on storytelling and insights, and less on worrying about formatting. A well-designed template should have the layouts and placeholders you need to create your slides without having to create them from scratch, but be flexible enough to allow you to do so if needed.


The Content First Approach

Choosing layouts that will allow you to create slides with visual interest is key; however, visual interest for its own sake won’t necessarily keep our audience engaged.  Storytelling, winning buy-in, helping the C-suite make decisions; these are our highest priority. So what strong visuals can we leverage to help facilitate telling that story, making it more memorable, and ultimately, more impactful?


I prefer to take a Content First approach. Starting with your content:


Who is our audience? (a summary of findings for a research manager, an executive summary, analyzing 5-10 questions together on one page for a team ideation wall)


How are we saying it? (prose, 10 data points, 100 data points)


What visuals would best help our audience understand this content? (single column full-width text with strong photography, an infographic, a balanced combination of charts, graphs, and custom shapes)


Going through this process will help you decide which layout you should use within your theme, in order to create slides with maximum impact.


The Final Takeaway

A well-designed template, and its included theme, should help insights professionals take the stress out of creating slides. 

How do you currently use PowerPoint themes and templates? Questions? Shoot an email over to!

Published On: June 11th, 2018 / Categories: On PowerPoint, Process, Templates & Tools /