PowerPoint Templates Are Evil!

Don’t allow a conference organizer to give you a PowerPoint template. They are a bad practice, they destroy your situational power, and they make you look like a novice.

As a public speaker, I have learned to enforce a few rules for my presentations. I do not submit my slides 4 weeks before a conference. I will not use the organizers’ computer. And I tell organizers that I don’t accept PowerPoint templates with logos, slogans, banners, and footers. I will not allow anyone to turn my presentation into the Las Vegas Strip.

I can be a total idiot when it comes to fashion, food, cultures, and languages, and I will happily agree to almost anything you say in those areas. But public speaking is my territory. It is where I need to be the authority. When you see a doctor I hope you don’t tell him, “Here, use my sewing kit instead of your own needles.” When an ad agency creates your new commercial, you don’t tell them, “It is required that you make the videos with my smartphone.” So why use someone else’s ugly PowerPoint template?

Situational Power

The experts call this situational power. As a business transformer, you sometimes have to tell people, in a subtle but firm way, “No. In this very small pocket of the universe, I am the authority. In this area I make the rules.”

There are two reasons for that. First, when you abide by another person’s silly power rituals, you reinforce their authority over you. Your power to influence anyone will crumble, like a European diplomat under a Chinese politician [See Oren Klaff, Pitch Anything]. Second, your status among peers goes down as well. Imagine how doctors would rate a colleague who says, “Yes, it’s difficult working this way, but my patient demanded that I use her sewing kit.”

As a business transformer you don’t claim situational power to be arrogant or to offend people. You do it because, for God’s sake, you’re a professional! Sure, you should allow people to advise you on how to do an even better job. But when the conversation is about your topic, you must have the authority. It helps you to be an influencer, because people are trained from birth that listening to authority is right [see Robert Cialdini, Influence]. And it helps you to be appreciated by your peers, because all professionals appreciate taking a stand against crap. Don’t allow it to seep in.

No PowerPoint Templates

Sticking logos, banners, and footers on slides is considered a bad practice among professional speakers. Open any book on public speaking (this one, or this one, or this one) and you will see that all experts consider it an anti-pattern. PowerPoint templates are evil.

Actually, you know a practice or technique is bad when it's the default setting in PowerPoint.

Conference organizers can do anything they want with their conference, and with their own situational power that can span the whole venue. But for 45 minutes the stage and the screen are my territory. I will share inspiration, pictures, jokes, maybe even a song. But no logos.

p.s. I hope you realize this post is a metaphor for any professional who is trying to do a good job.

Want to hire me for a talk? Without logos? Check out my website.

Also see: How to Make a Presentation

(image by: Patrick Rudolph)


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