This week I had my fingers more in the dirt of presentation generation (see what I did there?) and it got me thinking about the very nature of training presentations. Just like the very nature of training itself we should start with the user in mind. What are the messages that we need to deliver to them? What is the clearest way to deliver that message?
I learned three major things in my business degree that I carried through the rest of my life. How to spend money, how to read, and how to make a PowerPoint presentation. Looking back this actually should have been a class, and I mean that seriously. How often have you been in a presentation and seen confusing and difficult to read slides? Or worse, every single word that is on the slide is read, READ, out loud. How engaging is that? Not very.
This may be a design issue. Trainers should not exclusively rely on a slide presentation to get the information from the session across. We’re not any smarter than any other group of people (I think), so we shouldn’t be required to memorize each point in a three day session. We should use some sort of trainer’s aide to provide context and talking points in addition to the words that are on the slide. If Microsoft named the program PowerParagraph I might be able to forgive it but it’s not called that, it’s called PowerPoint. By limiting the amount of text on a slide you’re able to engage the learners more. They will see the point on the screen with serves as a catalyst for conversation. If all of the information is on the slide why do you need a trainer to read it?
I have never really been excited about clipart in a slide. They usually don’t add anything to the story, they look crappy, and they take up space on the slide. By having white space or negative space on the slide is allows the viewer to focus on the important information, so take all unnecessary images out. Now that they are out and the text on the screen is limited to essential text only you’ll be able to get the font to a size that allows everyone in the room to read it. Want to make an executive feel silly? Make him ask the person next to him what the screen says.
So I’ve suggested you take out extra text and value-less images which leaves you with some very basic stuff on your slide. If we treat slide presentations as an aide (like it should be) and not a centerpiece of learning than we don’t need the bells and whistles that some of these programs come with. Apple’s Keynote does have some nice features, like a timer and remote control capabilities through your iPhone but does this improve learning? Nope. I’m a bit of a minimalist and you don’t need bells and whistles to execute training. Of course, if you’re a corporate trainer you’ll want to have complete customizability of your slides so you can input your logo and tweak the heck out it but when you get down to it, you can give almost the same presentation using something like Google Docs’ Presentation. We are lucky enough to live in a time of free software that will do the essentials. Save a few bucks and keep it simple.