If you want to see the source of the prevailing PowerPoint paradigm today, look no farther than your own corporate PowerPoint template.

If you don’t have corporate template handy, it’s pretty easy to find the PowerPoint template for many organizations — just Google the phrase "(insert company name) PowerPoint template" and you’re likely to find a publicly-available presentation that contains the template. 

To examine the template, open the PowerPoint file, then choose View, Master, Slide Master, and you’ll find out exactly what kind of thinking underlies that organization’s PowerPoint approach.

IbmFor example, if you follow these steps for IBM and review their PowerPoint template, you’ll see a set of very specific guidelines that tell people in the organization what they can do and cannot do.

At the top right of the Slide Master is the statement, "IBM logo must not be moved…"  Well here’s a question for the keeper of the template: What if a salesperson is selling a $10 million piece of technology and the presenter wants to remove the logo to make the presentation "All About the Audience" instead of all about themselves?  Sorry, because the IBM logo must not be moved.  What if the best approach to sell the technology is to use a blank screen with only an evocative image?  Doesn’t look like that’s possible.

Another guideline is "Background should not be modified…"  Well what if a corporate trainer is explaining a critical engineering concept and decides it’s important to have visual variety to prevent boredom and reduce the risk that message would not be understood?  Sorry, because the background should not be modifed.

Yet another guideline is that the body text should be 18pt in size – a sure sign that this was set by someone who does not actually use PowerPoint in large meeting rooms because no one in the back of the room would be able to read a font size that small. What can a presenter in this company do? Looks to me like the options are limited.

It turns out that much of our collective thinking about PowerPoint is based on a branding misunderstanding, a lack of awareness of the research related to multimedia presentations, and a general idea that our work in corporate communications is done when we’ve designed a template and have thrown it over the fence for people to use.

This line of thinking guarantees that everyone in that organization will be put into a literal box and constrained from doing things that help them get their job done.  As much as people might blame Microsoft for enforcing a bullet-point culture, it is really organizations that enforce it through their templates and lack of an organizational strategy for their PowerPoint-based communications.  The solution here is to throw out the template approach altogether and adopt a better methodology that aligns with both research and the organization’s communications strategy.

The PowerPoint situation is changing at organizations like HP, GE and even Wharton business school, all of whom are taking a more enlightened look at the potential of this powerful tool sitting at all of our desktops. As organizations like these begin presenting the way to a clearer and more flexible future, we can all look forward to the day when organizations replace "LOGO MUST NOT BE MOVED" with "AUDIENCE MUST BE MOVED" instead.

Tip:  Take a look at your own corporate PowerPoint template.  Does it constrain your communication possibilities, or open them up?  Share your thoughts by adding your comments below.

This entry was posted in Business Strategy, Communications, Media, PowerPoint, Presentations, Web/Tech, Weblogs. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to “IBM LOGO MUST NOT BE MOVED”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hello Cliff,

    I just completed an Extreme Blue internship at IBM in San Jose. Delivering presentations is a major component of the program.

    I removed the IBM logo from the each slide of the powerpoint presentations except the first slide. The IBM logo just wasn’t cool enough. Over the course of the internship it became an eyesore. I used the more appealing Extreme Blue logo instead. My managers weren’t happy with my decision because of IBM policy. Nevertheless, my mentors and teammates (who are techies) appreciated the lack of the IBM logo on every slide.

    I completely agree that the audience must be moved. If that requires removing the company logo then I’m all for it.

  2. cliff says:

    Dear Anonymous,

    Thanks for sharing that story. Some people may call what you did a minor act of “corporate disobedience”. At the same time it may be a major act of courage to call attention to a situation that stands in the way of you doing your job.

    The unfortunate situation at many organizations is that corporate PowerPoint templates are designed as an afterthought, with little serious thought or analysis. Yet they have huge ramifications that impact everyone’s daily lives, and can impose an oppressive and unyielding communications culture even if that was not what was intended.

    For better or for worse, the bulk of the intellectual assets of many organizations now reside solely on the PowerPoint platform. If that is the case, I wouldn’t think it would be unreasonable for an organization to invest at least .01% of the value of its intellectual assets to make sure it gets PowerPoint right.

  3. John says:

    Here at Philips they are using a PPT template which consist of a white background with a blue bar at the top. The company’s logo is in the top bar. At the bottom there’s some text like the name of the organisation, the name of the presentation and the date.

    I’m still not sure whether this layout is restraining creativity or not, I guess the white background with only a small bar at the top still leaves room for evocative pictures etc.

  4. PowerPoint: Evil, Doom and Desperation

    Cliff Atkinson points out how the PowerPoint Nazis rule corporate life. [here]

    Cliff’s message in Beyond Bullets is simple: escape the drudgery of a point-by-point breakdown your ideas. Tell a story. May it evocative, descriptive, invigorating, or e…

  5. Move Your Logo and Move The Audience

    Does your organization have lots of rules about how a PowerPoint should look — a corporate template that can’t be changed?

    If your company is more worried about moving logos than moving an audience emotionally, you’ve got a problem.


  6. cliff says:

    Hi John,

    A good way to judge is by applying the “evocative media test” at

    If people in the company are faced with a high-stakes communication challenge, do they feel free and encouraged to strip away everything on the slide and present only an evocative image? In the example from the blog post above, including the Philips logo on the slide would significantly detract from the communication, because it calls attention to itself rather than to the information being presented.

    Part of the underlying issue here is that “the corporate template” needs to include training and guidance on how to use it in a range of ways to achieve business objectives. Usually it’s the case that the template is uploaded to the branding area, and that’s the last thought that company puts into it.

  7. Branding misunderstandings…

    Even at “cool” Apple, they decided to place the Apple logo at the bottom, center of *every* slide for their external PPT (now Keynote, of course) sales presentations while I was still there. A pity. Before then, the logo would appear on the first and last slide only, which made perfect sense to me and showed good taste and restraint. To me, having a logo on every slide is like speaking to someone who repeats his name before beginning every new thought. That would get pretty annoying after a while (unless his name was Denny Crane, I suppose .

    And good point about branding. Even Tufte got this wrong. Who said branding is placing your logo here and there? Logo placement *is not* branding.


  8. Shade says:

    another easy way to google specific powerpoint template:
    companyname “powerpoint template” filetype:ppt

  9. I worked at a Big 5 consulting firm for more than 12 years. We had several corporate templates, designed for use in various situations (print, projection to a large group, projection to a small group, etc.)

    Like most things, there are advantages and disadvantages. The advantage of using a template (and using it properly) is re-use. It becomes very easy to create compelling research-based presentations when a knowledge search returns consistently formatted, ready-to-use slides. It also makes it easier for the new author to understand what the original author was driving at.

    The disadvantages, of course, are a lack of creativity and a sense of boredom in the audience. The solution there, of course, is to *NOT USE THE TEMPLATE.* The templates are only required in very specific circumstances (e.g., when speaking to the media). After that, it’s typically up to the best judgement of the executive in charge.

  10. cliff says:

    Thanks for the tip, Shade.

  11. cliff says:

    Good points, Brian. It’s good to hear that some firms offer options and flexibility. At other organizations there’s no veering from the template line.

  12. Powerful Point

    Do you find it hard to keep up with all your RSS feeds?

  13. gmtPLUS09 says:

    Corporate PowerPoint templates and branding issues

    A keep perspective into the corporate PowerPoint ‘user manual’ and its branding implications. A point Cliff Atkinson brings up is with the IBM master slide with specific instructions:

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