How to make a good slideshow

A great slideshow presentation

Step #1 in planning training and development is to create good learning aids. The pesky PowerPoint presentation is one of the biggest barriers for learners and facilitators. To be crystal clear, in this trainer blog post, I’m not going to talk so much about PowerPoint (as a program) and how to use it. So, if you are wondering how to make a good slideshow, I’ll share with you what I do as an experienced trainer with over 30 years of training experience.

Enough people are doing that on Youtube, in my opinion – I’ve even posted one of my favorite YouTubers below.

Instead, I’ll discuss why I think using a slideshow can be a tool to cultivate learning outcomes and I will also share some of the PowerPoint best practices that have worked for me and how you can use them to reinforce your training delivery.

You’ll find these tips helpful if you’ve ever wondered how to make a good slideshow. If you’re training online, be sure to check out my tips here in this post!

A STRANGE example…stay with me…it will make sense.

Before I go further, allow me to give you a sort of “crazy” example or a way to think about what I’m talking about here. As a woman of color, I have very curly hair.

In my culture, a term exists for a style that maximizes our beautiful curls and swirls – a technique called “wash-and-go.”

The funny thing about this technique is it suggests simplicity when the style is anything but! It’s HARD! By its name, you’d think all you have to do is “wash” your hair, “go” from your home, and you have tons of bouncy, springy curls.

Hey, NO!

The wash-and-go styles are much more labor-intensive than that and are different for every woman.

My curls are distinctive from other women, so my wash-and-go technique will also be different.

No one size fits all approach exists with this temperamental hairstyling technique.

Thinking so will result in tears and lots of wasted time.

Or even worse, you’ll leave the house looking like I did many times – looking like Mr. Snuffleupagus from Sesame Street.

Anyhoo, I had to realize a wash-and-go was not just shampoo and jet. It needed to be adapted for me and included some customization to work for my curls.

PowerPoint is the same as a wash-and-go. It is not ready “out of the box.”

It doesn’t work that way.

For training, it’s going to look totally different than it would for a sales presentation. Recognizing that fact will go a long way toward improving slide shows during training.

Using powerpoint for training
Per that remark, I’ve finally figured out how to do wash-and-go techniques for my hair.

One more thing: I’m using the label “PowerPoint” rather universally. Within this universe is Prezi, Google’s slideshow, or any other platform you use as a focal visual aid during your training session.

A good trainer presentation engages adult learners intellectually by delivering cognitively -challenging content supported by a solid visual aid. PowerPoint is among the most popular. It also removes learning barriers to ensure participants are able to absorb and retain the information presented.

Why use a slideshow in your trainer presentation?

Before I go much further, let’s talk about the entire purpose of your training presentation.

This is clearly a no-brainer, right?

Well, for one thing, the purpose of your training is to deliver information. (Duh!)

You use lots of things to make this happen; in terms of slideshows, you use those for your visual learners or those who learn best by seeing concepts on the screen.

Gone are the days of droning on and on without any visual support.

That’s so nineties – like a floppy disk or baggy jeans. Wait, the latter is coming back. Anyway…let’s continue.

Training techniques for trainers

Your slide show can help your learners remember information because it lingers in front of them longer than the words you speak.

It can also present images that evoke emotion or trigger existing knowledge or experience.

Learners should be able to connect the “dots” – visuals help.

To make the fullest impact, you need to hit the jackpot of retention and the benefit of learning transfer.

For instance, regardless of what I’m training, I’m consistently trying to “connect the dots” for my learners.

In other words, I’m trying to help them link the value of the content to varied parts of their lives or even to their memories – all so they can remember it.

If I’m training True Colors in Kansas City with a workplace team (at least prior to the pandemic), I try to correlate the advantage of what they are learning to other relationships.

It takes some work and intention to make this happen; visuals play a role. But, they are not the main concept at play.

So much more than creating slides is involved in crafting your training presentation.

A learner-centered presentation

From the onset of your planning, consider how your learners will perceive your presentation and how it might help them connect the current training content to past experiences or common societal pieces of knowledge.

It also never hurts to get some feedback from someone else.

Remember, a slideshow can be a tool to eliminate learning barriers and drive home what needs to be learned and remembered.

Learning in [and for] the moment is not nearly as fruitful as retaining what is learned and then applying it in real-life situations.

This traditional format won’t do it.

Slide #1

Maybe try something like this:

Slide #2

In slide #2, you provide content the learner can relate to on some level. This will surely help them remember it.

A good trainer presentation will make the best use of PowerPoint

Again, determine how to use your visual presentation as a tool.

You are the “gold” in the presentation equation – not the slideshow.

Talk over it, but don’t rely too much on it.

Cycle through it as your present. Avoid making eye contact with it. Just let the slides follow your train of thought if you can.

It’s a tool. So, you don’t need to be confined to the traditional template. Use one-word slides that highlight key points.

For instance, I used this slide to reinforce the “commune” element of communication.

I said something like, “The concept of “commune” illustrates the two-party exchange of communicating with someone. Commune is not rushed – it involves “cooperation,” “living” and “sharing” just as communication does.”

Leverage it as a resource.

An idea for continued development

I consider my slideshow(s) as a living document. This means I’m always changing it and always amending it. It’s never finished.

In your post-training evaluations, ask specific, open-ended questions about how the learners perceived the slideshow.

“What was your impression of the slideshow?”

“How did the slide show help you understand the content?”

What about PechaKucha? 

I’m not a PechaKucha purist, but I do a version of it with visuals. Essentially, it is similar to what I’m talking about here, but there are more rules involved.

PechaKucha is a way to present in which images are used, and the slides are limited to 20 total. Each slide only last 20 seconds, which means you must know your topic and keep things moving.

Rather than going into detail, let me share some PechaKucha resources, and you can design who to make it work for you and your slideshow:

What is a Pecha Kucha Presentation?
https://www.cedarville.edu/insights/computer-help/post/what-is-a-pecha-kucha-presentation

Millions are using this Japanese-inspired technique to improve their presentations radically—here’s how it works
https://www.cnbc.com/2019/04/29/pechakucha-japanese-inspired-technique-will-radically-improve-your-powerpoint-presentations.html

Mental Scaffolding

Did you ever see the movie, “First Wives Club?”

In one scene, Bette Midler, Diane Keaton, and Goldie Hawn escape something by climbing onto a window washer scaffolding. The hilarious shenanigans ensue.

Well, in adult education or during a good trainer presentation, you can use a sort of scaffolding too.

In New Directions for Adult and Continuing Education, I found a paper by Jeffrey M. Foley and Leann M. R. Kaiser called “Learning Transfer and Its Intentionality in Adult and Continuing Education.”

In the article, scaffolding a learning experience is defined as:

“ensuring that the learning environment, instructional plan, supporting resources, and instructional delivery are structured in a manner that best supports learning.”

You can clearly see your visual aid’s role in this process.

It sets the stage.

It makes the learning more elevated, and although it may seem wobbly at times, it’s a sturdy way to ensure the work is done.

To be transparent, scaffolding also includes many other elements, which I won’t take time with now.  

But, for fun’s sake, I’ll touch on a few.

The climate of the training is a part of scaffolding, as is the room set up, handouts, and even the activities you choose.

Ignoring these elements can produce [mental and even physical] barriers to the learners’ ability to absorb the information.

If they don’t absorb it, they certainly can’t use it in other settings, and all is a total waste of time for you…and them too. 

I’ll say it one last time: if your slideshow or PowerPoint is thrown together in a way that makes it clumsy and unpleasant to look at, it can interfere with learning.  

Ok! You’re sold on the value of utilizing your visual aids as learning tools, right?

You understand it supports your learners’ experience, right?

Great!  Now it’s time for the best practices of a good trainer presentation – for PowerPoint, anyway.

Let me share with you what works for me. Take what works and leave what doesn’t.

Tips to have a good training presentation

Some of these mistakes I’ve made, and others have been victims of them in my and various other training settings. Either way, here is what I think you should avoid:

  1. Too many words on your PowerPoint is always a bad idea.  Why do some people try to use the visual presentation as a handout? No one wants to see paragraphs on a PowerPoint slide! That is utter foolishness, and it hurts my head every time I see it done!  Here is an example:
How to have a good training powerpoint

It’s simply illogical, to begin with.

If you have a room of individuals, they can’t read all those little words on the screen.

This is especially true for people sitting in the back of the room or catercorner to the screen. Boo!

Instead, use very few words on your PowerPoint.

As I illustrated above, you can use one word to represent thought. Then verbally explain in detail what you’re trying to teach. Don’t put it all up on the PowerPoint slide.  

You may think verbal is not enough for learning.

You’re exactly right! That is why you use a handout. Takeaway items are terrific for trainings!

People love them and value them – if done right.

So put your content in your handout instead of up on the slide to make everybody’s eyes cross.  

Ideas to use powerpoint in training and what makes a good trainer presentation.
This is the same slide as above (with all the text)

Salty animations. You already know about animations. Anyone who has been a trainer for more than five minutes understands animations in a PowerPoint are like salt in a dish. Each should be used sparingly.

Too much salt in a dish will kill you, and too many animations in a PowerPoint or visual presentation will put the entire experience in the pooper.  

I’m not saying you can’t use them. But don’t overdo it. 

Secondly, keep the animation simple. Animations flying around, turning upside down, and spinning in from the left of the screen during a training presentation can be just a bit much.

On the regular, I recommend you use the animations that fade in or the one that only appears.  Some of the others will give your learners the sensation of being on mushrooms, acid, or some hallucinogenic drug. Ha!

Don’t get me wrong!  

Movement is fantastic for a good training presentation! Just use temperance, that’s all.

Consider finding ways to keep the brain woke as often as you can. Animations are good for this purpose.

You can also use gifs or even videos (with or without any sound) to support thoughts and ideas.

Bored To Death Reaction GIF

Another good resource is to use the “emphasis” animations to spotlight specific and important words on the slide.

Again, movement is good, remember you’re highlighting important concepts, not creating a cartoon with your training PowerPoint presentation. 

One big image says a thousand words! 

If you follow me, you’ve heard me say this on other platforms. But it never hurts to say it again. One big image can communicate so much and reinforce learning transfer.  

The key is to pick the right image.

The image must align with the concept you are “driving home.”  

If you’re talking about teamwork, you’re not going to pick an image of a paper clip unless you can connect that paper clip to the concept. 

I love using photos of people because it strikes emotion and builds a sense of humanity or connection at the moment.   

For example, if your training topic is the frustration that results from feeling lost, You can include an image of a forest …like the one below. 

You see, it doesn’t need to be a complicated or “literal” image.  Just something that conveys a sentiment and evokes an emotional or cognitive response.

Don’t be a slave to the “template in your training presentation.” Templates are exactly what they are called templates or samples.

They are meant to stimulate your creativity – not to be something you must follow and use exactly how it’s designed.  

Sure, you can use it, but maybe the next slide is a huge pic, or a quote, or a blank slide to give them a visual break. Do whatever you have to do to foster a good trainer presentation.

It’s a template, not a rule!

Along the same lines, use different colors too.

You’re not limited to the colors included in the template. I’m a big advocate for keeping the brain awake (I said that before, didn’t I?)

This means that each slide should be distinct and maybe even visually shock the learner from time to time.  

For years now, I have been using a specific website for my color combinations.

See, I’m no artist, but I’m smart enough to know that some colors work better together than others.  

Since I don’t know on my own, I’ll visit https://www.colorcombos.com/.

There I will find a host of combinations I can use for specific slides or even for room decor in my home, but that’s another subject altogether.

PowerPoint wasn’t designed for training or adult learning

Remember, PowerPoint was designed for presentations.

Still, it’s a resource and a tool useful to you as a trainer. However, don’t feel as though you must “color within the lines” as it pertains to it.

Make it your own and do whatever is necessary to keep your learners visually engaged and on the edge of their “mental” seats.  

In Conclusion

Well, I hope these are useful tips for you.

As you know, being a trainer is not as simple as just saying you are one or being “assigned” one. Training involves tips, tools, and techniques to ensure you’re successfully transferring learning. Adult education is a science.

If you have any questions or comments, post them below.  I always say in adult learning, we learn from one another. Do you agree? 

Leveraging the four personality styles to help you when working with different personalities in the workplace.  I also often discuss how business personalities affect how you approach work and manage work personalities. I also answer the question” “how does personality influence communication at work?” Your temperament plays a role in everything. I love talking about it and exploring exactly how!