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Unlock productivity with the Slide Master in PowerPoint

Updated: Dec 20, 2023


If you've ever found yourself wrestling with inconsistent fonts, muddled color schemes, and unruly slide layouts while crafting a PowerPoint presentation, you're in for a treat.


In this article, we're about to uncover the secrets of the Slide Master, which can turn your chaotic presentation into a well-oiled, professional machine. So, fasten your seatbelts, and let's explore the world of Slide Masters!


TABLE OF CONTENT

  1. What is a Slide Master in PowerPoint?

    1. Definition

    2. How to access the Slide Master in PowerPoint

    3. Components of the Slide Master

  2. How the Slide Master boosts the productivity and ensures brand consistency

    1. Standard Formatting for Slides and Content Creation

    2. Easily switching from one theme to another

  3. 7 Best practices

    1. Decide optimal format size

    2. Set up a real theme

    3. Have one Slide Master and just a few layouts

    4. Position the placeholders wisely: think about the users!

    5. Be wary of pictures

    6. Don’t use black and colored pictures in the background

    7. Test and validate the Slide Master with actual users

  4. How to fix your Slide Master: the check-list

    1. Check the Theme Colors and Fonts in the Slide Master

    2. Check the layouts in the Slide Master

    3. Check the placeholders on each layout in the Slide Master

  5. How Power-user can help companies and users comply with their brandings

    1. Optimizing your Slide Masters

    2. Setting up your official theme as the default presentation for every user

    3. Fixing formatting issues after the slides are created

  6. Conclusion


What is a Slide Master in PowerPoint?


Definition


A Slide Master controls the overall appearance and formatting of a PowerPoint presentation. It is used to establish consistent design elements, such as background colors, fonts, placeholders for text and multimedia, and other visual attributes, across all slides in a presentation.


By creating and customizing a slide master, users can ensure a uniform look and feel for their presentations, while saving time and effort in creating and editing slides. Any changes made to the slide master are automatically propagated to all the slides linked to it, making it a powerful tool for maintaining a cohesive and professional design throughout a PowerPoint presentation.


How to access the Slide Master in PowerPoint


To access the Slide Master in Microsoft PowerPoint, follow these steps:

  • Click on the "View" tab in the PowerPoint ribbon. This tab is located at the top of the application window.

  • In the "View" tab, you will see several presentation views in the "Master Views" group. Click on "Slide Master." This action will take you to the Slide Master view.

Slide Master View tab
Opening the Slide Master View from the View tab in PowerPoint
  • Alternatively, you can also access directly the Slide Master View from the Power-user tab

Slide Master View Ribbon
Opening the Slide Master View from Power-user
  • Once you're in the Slide Master view, you'll see thumbnails of layouts on the left, and on the right the selected layout slide with various placeholders, such as title, content, and footer areas.


Remember that any changes you make in the Slide Master view will affect the slides connected to the same Master Slide or layout in your presentation, ensuring a consistent design throughout. This is particularly useful for maintaining a professional and cohesive look for your PowerPoint slides.


Components of the Slide Master


The initial slide within your slide master is referred to as the "master slide" or "parent slide," serving as the repository of fundamental formatting. Any modifications made to this slide will automatically extend to all subsequent layout slides, often termed the "child slides." Hence, it is advisable to set the font, size, and other attributes for titles, subtitles, footers, and logos on the master slide if they should be identical for all layout slides.


Moreover, individual layout slides can also be tailored to specific needs. These commonly used layouts encompass title slides, divider slides, comparison slides, slides incorporating text and images, image-only slides, list-formatted slides, chart slides, and more.


Utilizing a custom master template aligned with your company's requirements empowers you to establish a predefined standard for creating new presentations. This standard plays a pivotal role in shaping your company's corporate identity.


Components of Master Slide or Parent Slide in PowerPoint
Master Slide (or Parent Slide), Slide Layouts (or Child Slide) and placeholders


How the Slide Master boosts the productivity and ensures brand consistency


Standard Formatting for Slides and Content Creation


The Slide Master provides a default format for your slides, with well-placed and formatted titles, page numbers, logo position, etc.


It also offers the option to reset the slide format when needed. If you go to the "Home" tab, under the "Slides" group you will find a "Reset" button. Just click it to automatically reset the slide formatting to match the corresponding layout from the Slide Master. Typically, you can automatically make your slide titles homogeneous with a simple "Reset", as long as the slide master is properly set up.


Reset option in PowerPoint
Reset option

The Slide Master also drives the default format of the content you create on the slide:

  • Whenever the user inserts a new shape, it will automatically be formatted with the correct colors and font. That's time saved!

  • Whenever the user inserts a chart, it will also be already pre-configured with the appropriate color scheme for each series, simplifying a lot the creation of charts that are visually consistent and compliant with your corporate brand.


Easily switching from one theme to another


If the Slide Master has been properly set up, all your slides and presentations can later be automatically converted to other themes.


There are 2 common cases where this can save you hours.

  • If you're a service provider like a consultant, you will be able to copy and paste slides into the theme of any of your clients, and these slides will adjust based on the client's Slide Master. The position and fomat of slide titles, the colors, the fonts, the bullets style, logos, footers, page numbers, etc., all this will magically match the client's visual identity.


  • If your organization updates the brand identity, transitioning from the old to the new PowerPoint template can sound like a challenge. But if the Slide Master was properly set up to begin with, and properly used, then it will just take a copy-pasting to convert a presentation to the new theme, reducing resistance to change and ensuring faster adoption and consistency with the new brand identity.




7 Best practices to create an efficient Slide Master


1. Decide optimal slide size


It's essential to determine the right slide size early in your Slide Master creation process. The most common options include 4:3, A4 and 16:9.


The 16:9 ratio is by far the recommended standard today. It's well-suited for modern-day computers and monitors which are based on the same ratio. This means the content on your slides will be bigger, easier to read, and it will be easier for users to prepare presentations since they will have a large working space on the screen. You will avoid having black areas left and right of your slides. 16:9 slides will also look fine when printed.


The 4:3 format is the legacy ratio, because this is the ratio old monitors use to have. But some organizations still haven't migrated to 16:9 because of the effort the transition would take. This means their presentations will be more difficult to create and to read as only part of the screen will be usable in PowerPoint.


The A4 format is used to optimize the print aspect. Some organizations prefer it to 16:9 since they need to print presentations a lot.


To adjust the slide format, access the Slide Master View, then click on "Slide Size" and choose Widescreen (16:9) or any other option.

Define the slide size in PowerPoint from slide master


2. Set up a real theme


It's crazy, but 50% of organizations don’t formalize a PowerPoint theme. They usually think they have, but they haven't. Then they waste considerable amounts of time when all their users are struggling to format slides!


The theme is the backbone of PowerPoint productivity and consistency. A PowerPoint theme consists of fonts, colors, backgrounds and effects that are defined in the Slide Master.


To define the theme, goes to the "View" tab, and then the "Slide Master" view. Check the menus shown in the below illustration to customize the colors and fonts in your theme.

Slide Master View

Under "Colors", choose "Customize Colors", and the below window will open where you can customize each color and save as a new theme.

Create a new color theme in PowerPoint slide master

See more details in this post on how to set up the color theme in PowerPoint. There are some good practices about which color should go where to ensure maximum efficiency.


Once you've defined the colors, similarly go to the "Fonts" menu and choose "Customize Fonts". You will need to set up a font for Headings and one for Body.



Create a new font theme in PowerPoint slide master


3. Use only one Slide Master and just a few layouts


Keeping the number of Slide Masters and layouts to a minimum simplifies your design process. Typically, one Slide Master with a few layouts for cover pages, content slides, agenda slides, and perhaps one a few options for displaying text with charts and images is sufficient.


Users don't need 100 different slide layouts, when they need something specific they can perfectly position the objects directly on the slide themselves. Keeping the number of layouts to a minimum will help them stick to the corporate style, maintain consistency, and will streamline the editing and maintenance of their presentations.


4. Position the placeholders wisely: think about the users!


The placement and size of placeholders, such as text boxes and images, should be carefully considered. They should not obstruct important content and should be consistent across slides. Ensure they are positioned for optimal readability and visual balance.


Think about the users first! Imagine how annoying it is when you are a PowerPoint user, you need to put a lot of content on the slide but half of it is already taken by a huge title or logo!


Make sure you keep titles, footers, and logos reasonably small. Make sure you leave users with sufficient working space, or they will get creative and overlap them or bend the slide master to their needs. And then you can kiss consistency goodbye!


5. Be wary of pictures!


When adding images to your Slide Master, be mindful of the quantity and size of these pictures. Do these pictures really need to be in the Slide Master?


Large, high-resolution images will increase file size, not just in 1 presentation but in every single presentation created with the Slide Master (so virtually every single presentation in your organization!).


Fun fact: we have seen some clients who had pictures in such high quality in their Slide Master that every single presentation created in their entire company would be already 50 Mo big before even a single slide was created.

With files this big, they just couldn't email any PowerPoint presentation, and saving files took 60 seconds every time!



Don't make the same mistake. People can add images from a pictures library, if they don't really need to be in the Slide Master, keep them out of it.


6. Don’t use black and colored pictures in the background


Using black or colored pictures as the background can make your text and other elements hard to read. It's best to choose a subtle, contrasting background that enhances readability and complements your theme.


Besides, imagine what will happen in real life when users start printing presentations with a non-white background: you printer will be out of ink every few pages printed, and it's going to cost you a lot, not even mentioning the environment aspect.




7. Test and validate the Slide Master with actual users


Before finalizing your presentation, it's essential to test it with your intended audience or colleagues.

This step helps identify any design or formatting issues and ensures that your Slide Master and layouts work well on screen and on print, and that they are well accepted by the users.



How to fix your Slide Master: the check-list


By following the checklist below, you can effectively optimize your Slide Master and have a positive impact on all the PowerPoint users in your organization!

Slide Master Check-list

Check the theme Colors and Fonts in the Slide Master


✅ Check that the Slide Master really contains your theme colors, not just on the slide but in the actual theme.

There is an easy way to check this: select any shape on the slide, and look at the color palette when you want to recolor it. The theme colors are shown at the top of the palette. If you do not see your corporate colors here then your Slide Master is awfully wrong!

Theme colors in PowerPoint


✅ Do the same for fonts. There should be a Heading and a Body font defined in the Slide Master, and those fonts should be used appropriately for titles and text placeholders across your entire Slide Master.


Check the layouts in the Slide Master


✅ There should be just 1 parent slide in the Slide Master, with multiple layouts. If you see multiple parent slides, something's wrong and you need to do some clean up.


✅ Make sure that there are layouts for the common slides such as a Cover page and a Content slide at least. But you may have many more.


✅ Remove any layouts that are not needed in your presentation. Having too many layouts or duplicates can clutter the interface and drive users to use the wrong ones.


✅ Name your layouts descriptively to assist users in easily identifying the right layout for their content. Clear layout names enhance efficiency in slide creation and editing.


Check the placeholders of each layout in the Slide Master


✅The title should be an actual title placeholder, not a regular text placeholder. If the "Title" checkbox is not checked, then it's not a real title and this will have negative consequences (the "Reset" will not reset the title, Power-user's Pipette will not detect your titles, etc.).


Title placeholders in slide master layout

✅There should be a slide number placeholder, and maybe a footer placeholder. If you put the placeholder on the "parent" slide instead of the individual layouts, this will ensure the position remains the same everywhere for all layouts.


✅If you use subtitles on your slides, make sure there is a layout with a subtitle placeholder in the Slide Master so that each user doesn't define their own substitle's format and position.


✅If your presentations are usually in English, make sure that English is set as the Autocorrect language for each placeholder.




How Power-user can help you ensure the right template is used in PowerPoint (and Excel and Word)


There are 4 ways that Power-user can help you maintain brand consistency.


1. Optimizing your Slide Master


We have years of experience helping hundreds of organizations with their Slide Master. We can provide advice to make sure your Slide Master is efficient and makes every user's life easier.


2. Setting up the official theme as the default presentation for every user


It's great to have a beautiful Slide Master, but if users just launch PowerPoint with a blank presentation and start working in it, it's not of much use.


Power-user can set your Slide Master as the default presentation that people will see when they launch PowerPoint and start a new presentation. It doesn't sound big, but people always go for the least effort solution, and having a default presentation already there will require more effort to deviate from the brand. So this alone can make hundreds of people suddenly use the right theme without even realizing it!

Roll-out default templates for PowerPoint, Excel & Word to all users in the organization


3. Everything you create with Power-user will be based on your theme


When users work with Power-user, every object they create or insert will be inserted in your theme colors. This is true for charts, templates, icons, maps, diagrams, tombstones, etc.


This means that presentations will be properly formatted with your corporate theme, without the users even having to think about it.


4. Fixing formatting issues after the slides are created


The extensive capabilities of the Power-user add-in offer multiple features that will help users apply formatting consistent with your corporate guidelines:

  • The Clean menu will proof the slides by spotting and fixing font inconsistencies, missing page numbers, a Slide Master overloaded with layouts, etc.

  • The Replace Colors functionality will allow users to convert entire presentations from a set of colors into a new set of colors, without having to format each text and shape manually

  • The Pipette will allow users to make all slides titles, all bullets and other elements look consistent across all your slides in just a few seconds




Conclusion


The Slide Master can make a huge difference in your organization. It is your key to uniform design, saving time and effort. It streamlines content creation, maintains a cohesive corporate identity, and ensures brand consistency. It's a productivity booster, simplifying content creation and enabling easy theme switches for different clients or brand updates.


If the Slide Master is a mess, every PowerPoint user will have their life more difficult, and they will waste hours on formatting things that should have been consistent with your brand from the very beginning.


And if the Slide Master is properly set up, users will more way more efficiently without even realizing why. The presentations will be faster to build, and will be more consistent. Mastering the Slide Master will turn jumbled presentations into sleek, professional masterpieces.


For this reason, optimizing the Slide Master is arguably one of the single actions that can have the biggest impact on the efficiency of your organization.

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