Masters, Layouts, Slides, etc. – getting it right in PowerPoint

PowerPoint presentations are the standard in business communication. But PowerPoint is often used sloppily, even in the world’s leading companies. Tens of thousands of employees are not using the software properly, creating huge amounts of additional work. And it’s quite likely that the results don’t have much in common with corporate design guidelines, either.

In fact, using PowerPoint correctly in your company is not very difficult. This blog post explains how to structure a professional PowerPoint master, and what to look out for when using it.

The slide master

The slide master is the basis of every PowerPoint slide, and lays down the basic elements of corporate design, e.g.

  • the slide layout – margins; positions of heading, subheading, body text and footer
  • design elements such as logos or coloured bars and lines
  • the company colours and fonts
  • text style – text levels, font sizes, bullet point styles, line and paragraph spacing.


Whereas the basic elements of corporate design are laid down in the slide master, layouts show with the help of placeholders, the places on the slide where text, diagrams or tables are to be inserted.
This is how it works in the program: in the ‘View’ menu, select the ‘Slide Master’ view. The slide master is shown at the top, and underneath the various layouts, e.g. for title slides, section slides or slides with whole-page content (for text, diagrams, tables, etc.). These layouts should include all the standard slide types in the company.
In the ‘Start’ menu, click the lower half of the ‘New Slide’ button to choose from the available layouts. Selecting one of these opens a new slide based on that particular layout, into which you can insert your content.

Templates and presentations

PowerPoint masters and layouts are saved to a file with the extension .potx (PowerPoint 2007 onwards). The current version of this so-called PowerPoint template should be made available to all staff. If you double click on this .potx file in Windows Explorer, a new presentation is opened (with the file extension .pptx), in which you can work. The template itself remains unchanged.

Master and Layout

Practical tips for marketing and communications professionals

When a new or changed corporate design is implemented, sooner or later your PowerPoint master will have to be revised. While branding agencies generally know a great deal about corporate design, they usually lack expertise in PowerPoint. It is therefore advisable to use specialists such as Strategy Compass to create the PowerPoint master, as they can implement the design concept within PowerPoint in a professional manner. It doesn’t cost much and saves thousands of users a lot of trouble.
Most employees who use PowerPoint don’t have much experience in design matters. They haven’t the time to learn detailed style guides and often find them difficult to implement. When creating a PowerPoint master, it’s advisable to find a workable compromise between faithfulness to the corporate design and its practical application. If the design specifications are difficult to implement within PowerPoint, they will simply be ignored. It therefore pays off to make the PowerPoint master as user friendly as possible, and to provide key slides and ready-to-use elements (e.g. diagrams, icons and images) in corporate design.

Practical tips for PowerPoint users

Using PowerPoint correctly makes producing your own presentations much easier. It also pays off when slides from several colleagues are compiled into one presentation. If everyone uses PowerPoint correctly, many of the typical revisions can be avoided.

  • Always use the current master. Preferably the .potx file that you use to create a new presentation. This prevents mistakes being duplicated.
  • Use the correct layouts. With layouts, you don’t have to think about where your content should be positioned on the slide. Furthermore, the placeholders already contain the correct formatting – especially for text. If a placeholder gets moved, you can easily get it back to its correct position using the ‘Reset’ function in the ‘Start’ menu.
  • When you insert text into the placeholder, it will be formatted automatically in line with corporate design. Each text level has a prescribed format. You can change the text level using the functions ‘Increase List Level’ and ‘Decrease List Level’ in the ‘Start’ menu. Don’t use the ‘Bullets’ function, as this ignores the predefined text formatting laid down in the master.
  • Often slides from old presentations are required. These may have been created using an old template and might even come from PowerPoint 2003 or earlier versions (sometimes still recognizable from the file extension .ppt). If you want to use slides from such presentations, it’s usually best to redo them. Otherwise there is a risk that defects could creep into your presentation without you noticing. Create a new slide based on the relevant layout and copy and paste the individual elements from the old slide into the new slide (don’t copy the entire slide). You can paste diagrams or pictures into the relevant placeholders to position them correctly. Text is best pasted into the relevant placeholder using the option ‘Keep Text Only’, and the correct text level selected as described above.

If you need help creating a new PowerPoint master, or want to check an existing master, ask us. We are professionals – both in design and technical know-how. And we’re happy to advise you how to deploy PowerPoint to its best advantage in your company.


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