PowerPoint is Not the Problem
Reading through postings and comments in training forums one cannot miss the inference that PowerPoint (along with its Apple version Keynote) are the bane of the training development effort. They tend to blame PowerPoint of Keynote for all the ills of too much text, too little content, and failure to engage the learners in any meaningful way. Having designed and developed lessons for web-based (WBT) and instructor-led training (ILT) efforts for topics ranging from leadership development, to tactical combat operations, to making casualty notifications I knew they were blaming a manifestation of something much bigger on the medium used to transmit the message. They were taking it out on the messenger.
What I observed was training developers were relying on the slides to convey their intentions. They would provide detailed definitions, go through painstakingly long dissertations to convey points, and use up all of the space on the slide with text, perhaps throwing in a gratuitous image or graphic for eye candy. The result was a bone-dry presentation leaving the trainer (for ILT), or the institution (for WBT) with little room to navigate and improve the product.
The problem was not Powerpoint/Keynote, the problem was developers who were not appreciative of the role trainers and facilitators play in the learning process. This resulted in the solution of “more is better.” However, there is another solution.
ILT and WBT have many of the same characteristics. Besides WBT not normally having an instructor in the loop, they share the template of content delivered to the learner, a vehicle for that delivery, and handouts necessary for the learner to complete the lesson successfully. With that in mind, the training developers can use this process, which I have used in both ILT and WBT lessons.
- Outline your lesson as you normally would.
- As you gather your information for each area, copy and paste the information into your outline (including the source information)
- When you have completed gathering your information, begin building your slide deck according to your organizational style guide (you do have one don’t you?)
- Once you get to the content pages use the highest level of the outline for the slide or page title and go one level below that for the bullet points on the slides. Be very stingy with the number of bullet points you use on each page. I generally limited by designs to 5-7 depending on the size of the font. BULLET POINTS not complete sentences, and certainly not multiple sentences.
- If the information is critical for the learner to pass the end of course examination, put it into a handout for the learners (download for WBT).
- If the information is important background information for the trainer or facilitator, put it in the facilitator’s guide (ILT), or a download for the institution.
This process keeps the slides free and clear of distracting text, provides space for appropriate instructional graphics and allows the trainer to focus tailoring the content to the specifics of the audience. It allows for better knowledge transfer and a more engaged audience.