Allow us to descend into shoptalk for a bit. For those who find themselves personally tasked with the creation of presentation decks, PowerPoint’s or Keynote’s internal design capabilities are all the tools available. That’s fine for the average presentation, and a savvy designer can usually squeeze a lot of capability out of the programs. But when it really counts, when the design has to be perfect or the stakes are very high, you need a set of design tools that can take it all the way.

Typically, this means enlisting the help of a skilled professional–oftentimes a professional with presentation-specific experience–to use design software in the creation of the deck. These files are exported as JPEGS onto the .ppt slides; so far as PowerPoint can tell, the finished product (text, images, charts and all) is just one big photo. Just like you can’t make changes to a photo without a program like PhotoShop, you can’t alter the content of these “non-editable” slides without going back into the program that created them.

If your content and messaging is concrete, that’s no problem. The slides look infinitely better in non-editable format, and many times organizations don’t want the ability to change the slides. We’ve all seen the brainchildren slides of busy salespeople–you can understand why it’s not always great to put the power of the pen in their hands, so to speak. Company messaging is vital to the business’s health; editability is not always a virtue.

Additionally, non-editable slides suffer far fewer compatibility issues. From PowerPoint to Keynote, PowerPoint 2007 to PowerPoint 2010, across webinars and different computer systems, the slides will always display the same.

However, sometimes facts change. Content evolves. Messaging has to keep pace with a changing world, or you have to customize a general purpose deck for a specific client’s needs. In those situations, editability isn’t the lesser way; it’s the only way. It’s a values proposition between form and function; often, there’s a way to strike a balance, but sometimes, function is king.

When you enlist someone to create a deck, this is one of the critical factors to consider upfront before beginning the project. Quality help should have capabilities either way, but you’ll want to make the choice sooner rather than later.

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