Frankenstein Presentations: Best Practices to Avoid Chaos In PowerPoint & Keynote Presentations Created from Multiple Sources


You have your main presentation deck, designed and formatted, just so. And you are tasked to take slides from several different decks and incorporate them into the main presentation. So you copy & paste them, wholesale, into that presentation you’ve labored over for hours or days. But these foreign decks likely have a different design & formatting from your main presentation. The result? Chaos! You end up with a “Frankenstein” presentation, infected with several different or conflicting styles, unexpected formatting, etc., making a muck of your original design & formatting. Unity is destroyed. And the clarity of your messaging is at stake. If you’ve had to add these slides at the 11th hour just before having to send it off or present to a client, good luck!

Combining slides from several different presentations into one? Has the result been chaos? Are you left with a “Frankenstein” presentation, infected with several different or conflicting styles, unexpected formatting, etc., making a muck of your original design & formatting? Fortunately there is a way to avoid this nightmare scenario! Here are some best practices 🙂

PowerPoint and Keynote are set up in such a way that when you simply add slides wholesale to your main presentation from another disparate source, you end up adding an unintended whole new master to it, and the design & formatting styles that came with it, from another presentation. If you want a tight presentation, you don’t want foreign design & text formatting to co-opt the original look and feel of your presentation. And if you send off the presentation to another collaborator, you don’t want them thinking this rogue master and formatting is acceptable to use. Have you added slides from several different sources this way? Then you’ve multiplied the horror ten-fold. The original design aesthetic and formatting falls apart.

But what is the best way to proceed? Instead of copying slides, wholesale, from the source presentation into the main one, endangering the integrity of your slideshow, it is a much better practice to copy just the title & content out of the source presentation and paste it into a new slide in main presentation.

Does that sound laborious and way too time consuming? The answer: short-term convenience copying & pasting whole slides, but long-term formatting pain to bring order to the resulting chaos. If you make proper use of the placeholders provided by the software when copying & pasting only the content out of source presentations rather than whole slides, however, you will avoid introducing alien design & formatting and save yourself a lot of time and heartache in the end.

Note: This process will only work efficiently if your master slides were set up with the correct formatting. If you create a new blank slide in the main presentation to copy in content and it looks radically different that the other slides, the likely reason is that the original creator of your presentation did not set up masters properly and merely designed the look and feel of your main presentation on the slides themselves (rather than on the master slides). If your new blank slide looks radically different from the design you were expecting, your master slides likely do not reflect the intended design and were not properly set up, which will add an even greater level of mess when you add the content of slides from other presentations. It will be necessary to conform the masters to look as they should to prevent further formatting nightmares when combining content from numerous presentations.

Now that we are hopefully agreed upon as a best practice the copying & pasting content, not whole slides, from source presentations into the main one, we will first copy the title out of the source presentation and paste into the main. If the pasted title looks as expected, great. If it doesn’t, this may mean that the placeholder in the main presentation may not have been set up accurately (see Note above and adjust masters if needed).

When pasting content (of the body copy variety) out of the source presentation into the main one, this can be a little more tricky. Sometimes the original creator of the source presentation will have executed very sloppy or inconsistent formatting, which will unfortunately carry over when copied. Or worse, they will have deleted the placeholder for body copy and just slugged in their own, irregularly-formatted text box. Fortunately, with the copy & paste method of adding content from source to main presentation, this can be overcome. Go ahead and copy the source body text and paste into the placeholder provided in the main presentation. Now in Powerpoint, with the HOME tab selected, select the RESET button on the far left. (In PowerPoint 2011 for Mac, select the LAYOUT pull-down menu and then select reset at the bottom of the window that appears). PowerPoint will automatically force errant formatting to comply with the formatting on your master. You may still need to do some housekeeping after that (for example, sub-bullets improperly created with a return and a typed-in dash (-) etc.), but you will be close. In Keynote you can reapply master formatting by right-clicking (or control-clicking) on the object and selecting “Reapply Master to Object.”

When pasting non-text content out of the source presentation into the main one, if that content is merely a picture, then nothing more needs to be done after pasting. However if it is a chart, graph, table, or other object created with native PowerPoint colors, the results may be unexpected. You will often see an unwanted color shift. (Not so in Keynote: objects created with native Keynote colors do not change when copied from one presentation to the next). But there is a solution here as well. When you paste in an object created with native PowerPoint colors, a little icon that looks like a clip board & paper will appear. Ever wonder what that was? If you hover over the right side of this icon, a small down arrow will appear. Click this arrow and a menu will appear that gives you two options: “Keep Source Formatting” and “Use Destination Theme.” If you want to maintain the colors of the original (you just might), choose Keep Source Formatting. But if you want to maintain the color scheme of your main presentation (more likely), you’ll want to choose Use Destination Theme.

If you follow these best practices, you’ll look good to your boss, good to your company, be more likely to win that new business, and you won’t be staying late at work to fix a mess that was not necessary in the first place!

Lastly, let’s say the damage has already been done by someone else, and you are tasked to clean up the mess. Don’t despair. There is a way out! First, identify all the slides in your presentation that are obvious rogue slides that do not fit into the design & formatting scheme of the main presentation. Select the slide just before the first of the offending slides. Insert a new slide. Copy & paste the content out of the rogue slide and paste into the new, correctly-formatted slide just as you’ve seen how to do it here. Do this with all the other rogue slides. Once done, if you are savvy working with masters, go into Master View and delete all of the unintentionally introduced masters that are not consistent with your presentation. You now have a clean, tight slide show with consistent slides and no rogue masters. How awesome is that?

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