Starting your slides with a template (whether it’s one of those that come with your presentation software, one provided by the company you work for, or by the organization for whom you’re going to speak) can help save you time and effort by making some of your design decisions for you. But keep in mind that no single template is appropriate for every presentation and that some of the templates you’ll see are poorly conceived in the first place. Don’t use a template– or elements of a template– that are going to undermine what you want to say.
We’ve been given templates that contained clipart that we thought wasn’t appropriate, design elements that cluttered the slides, font and color choices that made them hard to read– and decided to change the template or not use it altogether. So far we haven’t gotten in trouble for making this decision, and you probably won’t either as long as you’re able to explain why the template doesn’t work for you and the decision you’ve made not to use it. Some organizations (and especially their marketing departments) are very attached to their templates– others couldn’t care less. It’s up to you to figure out which situation you’re in when you’re going to give a presentation.