Bringing the Background to the Foreground

By Heather Baldwin

Ever give much thought to the template you’re using for your PowerPoint presentations? You probably did when you created it, but haven’t thought much about it since. You should, says Serge Starenko, CEO of PowerpoinTemplates (www.PowerpoinTemplates.com). After all, your slides’ background communicates almost as much about you and your company as the information on the slides. Choosing a background “that does not reflect the mood of the company could easily compromise the audience’s opinion of the presenter,” cautions Starenko. Here are the most common errors Starenko sees presenters make when choosing slide backgrounds, and what he suggests can be done to correct them.

1. Designing a background that doesn’t fit your message. In other words, don’t select a background with classic cars when you sell financial services. Don’t laugh, says Starenko – it happens all the time. “It is quite common for sales reps to select the design they think is the coolest without taking into account the audience and the purpose of the presentation,” he explains. It is critical that presenters select a design that communicates the overall mood of the company and the products or services they sell. The rep selling financial services, for example, would communicate the message more effectively with a template that uses a graphical portrayal of money. So how do you choose from the hundreds of custom slides out there with that kind of image? Again, it comes back to your message and your audience, says Starenko. What’s the message you’re trying to get across? Are you presenting to a group of high-level executives from a Fortune 500 company or to individual couples nearing retirement? Approaching your search with your audience and presentation goals in mind will help you quickly narrow your template search.

2. Selecting a design that does not match your company’s existing collateral materials. If your company has branded its logo, brochures and Website in navy blue and red, your template, if possible, should reflect that color scheme, says Starenko. So if you’ve found several possible backgrounds that reflect the mood of your presentation and you can’t decide among them, pick the one that best matches your company’s colors. This kind of cohesiveness will tie everything together for your audience.

3. Using more than one template in the same presentation. Often, a sales rep will take slides from several previously-designed presentations and merge them into one new presentation. While the text may be spot-on, the look often comes across as a mishmash of slides lacking cohesion, which ultimately undermines the message. It’s fine to slightly modify the background to make room for a large, important chart, for example, by using a small strip of the main graphic along the side. Ultimately, however, the background should have a consistent look and feel throughout the presentation.

4. Sticking with standard PowerPoint backgrounds. Granted, there is nothing really wrong with using one of the templates included in the PowerPoint program, but you might unconsciously be undermining the message by doing so. “While using something basic such as a standard template might be okay,” says Starenko, “usually salespersons’ goal is to convey that they are better than okay, that they are fabulous. Reps should use every tool available to appropriately communicate that message.” With so many striking backgrounds available for a minimal price – sometimes just $10 or so – Starenko points out that “it’s just not worth taking the chance that audience members will leave thinking been there, done that – all for the sake of saving a few bucks.”