Presentation templates: You've been using them wrong this whole time

This article is part of our Slidebean Academy series, a weekly digest of presentation tips and skills. You're welcome to subscribe here. 

This article is part of our Slidebean Academy series, a weekly digest of presentation tips and skills. You're welcome to subscribe here


But, worry not, for it is not your fault! Most tools that include templates make you jump into using them without properly explaining the basics on what they are or how to use them.

And for some inexplicable reason, presentation templates are amongst the most confusing ones. So, to set things right, I’ll briefly walk you through the basics on presentation templates, and how to use them the right way!

What is a template?

“A preset format for a document or file, used so that the format does not have to be recreated each time it is used” -

In other words: You (or someone else) create a document with predefined parameters, which can later be used to provide format to new copies of that same document, without the need to start everything afresh.

Newsletters, for example, are created using templates that are updated for every release. Not only does it speed things up from the publisher’s standpoint, but it also helps the user familiarize with the way information is given to him. So it’s a win-win situation.

Three editions of a weekly newsletter using the same template.

Three editions of a weekly newsletter using the same template.


Graphic Templates vs Content Templates

One of the main reasons why presentation templates are terribly confusing is that they’re usually a mix-up between a graphic template with a content template.

A graphic template…

dictates the design of your slide in visual terms, regardless of what content it holds. It establishes the overall aesthetic of your presentation, and how the content is arranged within your slide; the singularities that provide the looks of any presentation (lines, dots, shapes, gradients, borders, space limitation, etc.)

To give you a quick example, here’s a quote slide built in Slidebean. I’m using the exact same content but trying out different graphic templates:


Related read: Presentation Design 101


A content template…

on the other hand, is a predefined structure to write the content of any given document. It can be used to build something as simple as a letter:

Content template
The problem with traditional presentation tools is they normally provide scattered templates, instead of a complete storyline.

A ‘short bio + photo’ slide template is not of much use if it’s detached from a contextual narrative to support it.

And so what usually happens is that you end up with a visual template you don’t really like, and by which you are significantly limited, while at the same time figuring out how to tell your ideas in pre-built slides that have no relation with your content whatsoever.


This is when tools like Slidebean become extremely useful. Not only does it separate graphic templates from content templates, but the latter are pre-filled decks with a full presentation outline to follow. So if for example you’re in the marketing arena, or you’re founding a new startup, you can skip starting your presentation from scratch, and start building upon any of the presentation templates available.

Here’s a few examples of the templates it provides:

Slidebean templates

Simply fill in the blanks with your own content, switch placeholders with your own images, and you’re done.


Each presentation has a use case indication, making it easy to understand when and how you can take advantage of it. Make sure you check it out!


Once you’ve created your content (replaced it with yours, that is) you can then play around with the graphic templates to choose the final style of your presentation.

A few things to Remember:

  • Templates represent guides, not restrictions. They should be flexible enough to be adapted to your needs!
  • Remember there's a difference between graphic templates and content templates.
  • If possible, start with a content template before jumping into a design one. This will help you stay focussed on the most important element of your presentation: your message.