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How many times have colleagues worked with you to create slides for a sales presentation? How many times have you wasted hours trying to format the slides? I mean, all you want to do is create a cohesive, high-quality presentation yet everything seems so fiddly. If only there was a smarter way. There is: placeholders.

The Nielsen company and empower recently surveyed employees who spent more than half their time on a computer and 24 hours per week using MS Office. Nearly a third of those interviewed wasted their time on formatting.

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Placeholders are anchored containers

Such situations are often a result of elements floating on a slide, unanchored. Anchored elements – placeholders – are out-of-sight containers sitting below the surface of the slide. Think of them as a constant companion: you always know where to find them and they’re always there when you need them.

Key placeholders on a slide layout master: Title, Text and Footer
Key placeholders on a slide layout master

Placeholders live in the Slide Master

PowerPoint’s slide master and slide layouts contain these pre-formatted containers. Pre-formatting styles, sizes, color within, and location of your placeholders make it easier to format slides consistently. So, if you modify your text/bullets but prefer your original settings, simply click on the reset button.

Default Master Layout slides
Default slide layouts in the Slide Master

Where is the reset button?

The reset button is on the Home ribbon

Click on the Home tab and under Slides, you will see the Reset button

How to use the reset button

  • How to use the reset button to reset placeholders
  • Original example of styles in a text placeholder
  • Modified example of styles in a text placeholder
  • Click the 'reset' button on the Home ribbon to reinstate original placeholder style
  • Three key elements that reset the original placeholder style

For example, here is a slide with its original placeholder style. We then see how the slide is modified and how, by clicking the reset button, the original format is reinstated.

Stop wasting time

Understanding the full benefit of placeholders and how to work with them will save vast amounts of time on formatting.

As we saw earlier, most PowerPoint templates provide a number of layout slides. However, you can create as many custom-made master layout slides as you wish. Also, each layout slide can have as many different placeholders (although you’ll rarely go beyond three).

Placeholders: harnessing not hindering creativity

Naturally, you’ll want the freedom to be creative with your slides. By anchoring common elements in consistent locations, you help to reduce viewer fatigue and maximize engagement. Placeholders help you achieve this.

Applying this approach makes all the more satisfying those moments in client meetings when you present key slides to convey key messages – edge, investment process, idea generation, portfolio construction, etc.

These are the moments and these are the key slides that no placeholder should or could contain.

Penny for your thoughts?