Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the lights on at MakeUseOf. Read more.
It’s not always easy to prepare a professional presentation, but one of the most tried-and-true methods is to use Microsoft PowerPoint. PowerPoint is almost a necessity in modern presentations, so you can’t go wrong with it — but you can do it wrongly, and one huge mistake is neglecting the aesthetics.
Sure, most of your effort should be directed towards improving your presentation skills since no amount of visual flair can salvage a dead effort. That being said, the right template can be the difference between a memorable presentation and an average one, so do spend some time finding one that’s appropriate for you.
Installing a PowerPoint template is simple. For both 2010 and 2013 versions, just move the templates into:
…and restart PowerPoint. Then, you should be able to use them by selecting File > New > My Templates.
We mentioned Microsoft Office Templates when we explored these PowerPoint templates for photos and concluded it to be a fantastic resource. Looking at it again, I’m surprised by how beautiful some of these free templates are. Great job, Microsoft.
The selection is broken down into dozens of useful categories, ranging from Agendas to Calendars, Education to Nature, Invoices to Resumes, and so much more. Whatever your PowerPoint is meant to convey, there’s a good chance you’ll find a relevant template to use.
To show you what I mean, let’s feature one of their better options: Ion.
The combination of a soft, dark-ish background with sharp, light text is pleasant on the eyes while the red tab in the top right corner provides a bit of interesting pop. If projecting this template (rather than displaying on a screen), be sure the projector has enough contrast to keep the text legible from afar.
Note: This gallery also includes templates for Excel and Word so feel free to browse through those as well. Then again, if you’re only interested in PowerPoint, feel free to ignore them!
The second best free resource is SmileTemplates. Here you’ll find hundreds of PowerPoint templates that cover the spectrum from bad to good, but most of them lean towards the good side. I think you’ll be happy with what’s available.
Like the Microsoft Office Templates site, SmileTemplates is divided into several categories that include Business, Education, Medical, Nature, Technology, and more. Whatever your presentation is about, you probably won’t have much trouble finding an acceptable template.
Our featured template from this site is: Autumn Leaves.
What I like best about this one is the vibrant colors. A lot of presentations, at least of the ones I’ve seen, tend to be drab and safe because that’s what passes for “professional” a lot of the time. Here, the slides are serious but lively, and it works out well.
While not as comprehensive or organized as Microsoft Office Templates, TemplatesWise does offer a number of awesome selections and, thus, is still useful as a free resource for templates. It just won’t be as convenient to browse.
Templates are divided into six categories: General, Abstract, Business, Finance, Nature, and Travel. The front page has sixteen Featured templates, which appear to be ones that the editor finds particularly good. I recommend checking them all out.
Our featured template from this site is: Lightbulbs On Blackboard.
It’s another light-on-dark template, except a bit more extreme since it’s white-on-black. The lightbulbs and chalkboard theme make it a good choice for education-related presentations obviously, but could also be used in an “ideas symposium” kind of context.
FPPT, also known as Free PowerPoint Templates, is a simple site with a simple design full of simple templates. Not that simple is necessarily bad — you don’t want to go overboard because it might detract from your presentation — but if you’re looking for “WOW!” then it may not be the best place.
Browsing the gallery is somewhat inconvenient since the only way to filter is by category. There’s no indication of ratings or download counts, and each page is limited to twelve items. That being said, the templates are surprisingly consistent — none are amazing, but none are horrible either.
The template we’ll feature for this one is: Diverging Arrows.
Simple and minimalistic without feeling like it’s missing important elements. The color palette is good for a professional setting, but the graphics take the edge off a little bit so it’s not overly serious. I’d choose it for a business-related presentation.
Powered Template is a site full of templates, both paid and free, but they tend to be a bit hit-or-miss. The free section is only a small portion of the repository, but you’ll still be able to choose from between 250 to 300 options, so consider giving it a try.
To be honest, you’ll quickly see why these templates are free: most of them just aren’t very good. However, with a bit of tweaking with fonts and colors, you might be able to redeem them into something great. Think of this as a last resort resource — you’ll probably find nothing, but there’s a small chance you’ll find something.
The template I’ll feature here is: Desert Trees.
Though not exactly suitable for a business environment, the included background graphics are quite nice and the color theme is lovely, if not a bit simple. It would most likely be useful for personal story or creative endeavor types of presentations.
PowerPoint Can Be Beautiful!
There’s no need to settle for a default template, which can be drab and lifeless. Spruce up your next presentation with one of the thousands of free templates above. If anything, it’ll make you feel more confident as you present.
Other visual improvements include embedding videos in PowerPoint and adding cool animations. You could also incorporate a few creative uses for PowerPoint and even start using PowerPoint for non-presentation purposes, such as making a visual resume.
If you got this far and decided that PowerPoint isn’t right for you, consider switching to one of these PowerPoint alternatives.
What do you think of these free PowerPoint templates? Will you be using them? Know of any other website resources that I missed? Share them with us in the comments!