One of the biggest barriers for learners and for facilitators is the pesky PowerPoint presentation. To be crystal clear, in this trainer blog post, I’m not going to so much talk about PowerPoint (as a program) and how to use it. Enough people are doing that on Youtube – 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 share some of the PowerPoint best practices that have worked for me and how you can use them to reinforce your training delivery too. If you’ve ever wondered what makes a good trainer presentation, you’ll find these tips useful. If you’re training online, be sure to check out my tips here in this post!
Before I go further, allow me to give you a sort of “crazy” example or 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 – it’s 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 it’s name, you’d think all you have to do is simply “wash” your hair, “go” from your home and you have tons of bouncy, springy curls.
The wash-and-go styles are much more labor-intensive than that and are different for every woman. See, my curls are distinctive from other women, so my wash-and-go technique will be different too. 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 as I did many, 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. It’s not a tool that works one 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.
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 is one that 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 information presented.
Why use Powerpoint 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.
Additionally, you use slideshows to help you do your facilitation “thang” as skillfully as possible. The entire reason you are going to facilitate a training presentation is to deliver information participants can utilize in their lives – be it in the workplace, community, or for personal enrichment. This is noble work and should be handled as such. Your work impacts lives.
Think about that for a moment.
To make the fullest impact, you need the jackpot of mental absorption 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. By this, I mean I’m trying to help them connect the value of the content to various parts of their lives so they can use it there.
If I’m training True Colors in Kansas City with a workplace team (at least prior to pandemic), I try to correlate the advantage of what they are learning to other relationships. If I’m teaching conflict resolution in workplace environments, I’m doing so in hopes of enabling the learners to connect those “dots” to the other spheres of their lives.
In short: whatever I train, I try to empower my learners to transfer those skills to any – and all – areas of their existence.
It takes some work and intention to make this happen and yes, visuals play a role. But, they are not the main concept at play.
You know, a training facilitator has to go to some great lengths to incorporate the proper instructional strategies into the training presentation itself. So much more than creating slides is involved in crafting your training presentation.
It’s also your job to help the learner find the relevance, the transferrable benefit and arrange the process in a way that facilitates knowledge acquisition.
This is a lot to accomplish, right?
Sad to think your training process could actually get in the way of the learner being able to absorb or even retain what you are presenting?
Is a daunting and scary thought, isn’t it? Think of it: you spend all of that time constructing information, organizing its schema, learning activities and processes only to find you wasted your time because you didn’t factor in your learner. The end result: no one learned anything. Makes me sad just to think about it.
You can avoid this as a training facilitator!
From the onset of your planning, think about how your learners will perceive your trainer presentation and how they can carry the learning with them. As for the slideshow, ask how will it look to them? Is it trying to do too much or too little? Remember, a slideshow can be a tool to remove learning barriers as the participants are trying to grasp. It can also drive home what they need to learn.
As for taking the learning with them, consider closed Facebook groups, Communities of Practice, learning communities, encouraging journaling and even mentors. Again, that’s another subject.
One last plug: being able to memorize or recall is not success for a trainer. A puppy can do that. Sure learners can “learn”, but that’s not all there is to the party. The party is learning content that travels out the door with them.
Learning in [and for] the moment is not nearly as fruitful as being able to retain what is learned and then apply it outside the training setting. Maybe that’s why “recalling of facts” is lowest on Bloom’s Taxonomy? Hey, I’ve learned many things “in the moment”, only to forget it when I left the training environment. Haven’t you?
Maybe your PowerPoint can help you reinforce learning so people can use your work to the fullest! I mean until the rails fall off! Now, THAT’S fulfilling work for a trainer!
A good trainer presentation will make the best use of PowerPoint
Again, determine now to use your visual presentation as a tool. Consider How it looks, how it is organized, and how it can be used during the training. This awareness is the first step in designing it to be a resource and not a hindrance. I consider my slideshow(s) as a living document. This means I’m always changing it and always amending it. It’s never finished.
As you review your post-training evaluations, you’ll find ways to use the presentation visual as a means to meet the needs of the learners based on their feedback – or even based on ideas that come to you as you continue to master your content.
A mental scaffold
Did you ever see the movie, “First Wives Club?”
In one scene, Bette Midler, Diane Keaton and Goldie Hawn escaped something by climbing onto window washer scaffolding several floors in the sight. 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.” Clearly, you can see the role your visual aid plays in this process. It sets the stage. It takes the learning higher and although it may seem wobbly at times, it’s a sturdy way to ensure the work is done.
To be transparent, scaffolding includes many other elements as well, 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 PowerPoint is thrown together in a way that makes it clumsy, unpleasant to look at, it can interfere with the 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 myself and others I’ve been victim of in various training settings. Either way, here is what you should avoid:
Too many words on your PowerPoint is always a bad idea. Tell me: 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 makes my head hurt every time I see it done!
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. Honestly, just use one word to represent a 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 verbally 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.
Training PowerPoint Tips Time!
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, 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 fades 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.
Another good resource is to use the “emphasis” animations to spotlight specific and important words on the slide. Movement is good, just 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 find a way to connect that paper clip to the concept adequately.
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. Don’t feel imprisoned by the whole “heading” and bullet point layout. 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.
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 nor 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.
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 that you’re successful in 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?