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Many of you have probably experienced this: You’ve been asked to speak at a conference. About 12 weeks before the conference date, the conference organizer sends you a Powerpoint template for you to use.

There are three things wrong with this:

1. It’s too soon. I have a better chance of sleeping with Tiger Woods than I do of having my presentation for the conference ready at that point. Even 12 days before the conference is a stretch for me. But hey, that’s my problem, not the conference organizers. And in the scheme of things, this problem isn’t nearly as bad as the next two.

2. The templates are butt-ugly. No offense (who am I fooling, of course I’m offending someone), but these templates are usually atrocious examples of poor design. The one I received the other day had two huge blue boxes — one at the top of the page, one at the bottom — and a space in the middle for the page header and text. Right, the header was below the blue box at the top. The bottom blue box had the logo and conference name in large font, of course. And I’m supposed to cram my content in the white space in the middle. This was one of the better designed templates I’ve received.

3. Templates are counterproductive. It’s a shame that conference organizers don’t understand this: Clinging to some fantasy of “conference branding” detracts from the attendee experience. Most Powerpoint presentations are poorly designed as it is.  A conference -branded template doesn’t help the situation. The purpose of each slide in a deck is very simple (to describe, not to execute): To communicate an idea. Any extraneous text or graphics on a slide detracts from that goal.

What do conference organizers think? That attendees don’t know what conference they’re attending, and have to be reminded by each of the 600 slides that they’ll be subjected to looking at?

I, for one, will continue to ignore conference organizers’ requests to use their templates. I’m this close to telling them to take their templates and….

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