Sometimes All You Need Is A Fresh Set of (Non-L&D) Eyes

I spend a lot of time looking at the training lesson plans of subject matter experts, giving them feedback and suggestions on how to make their presentations more engaging.

About a month ago, I was preparing to deliver a segment of new hire orientation introducing my department’s work to a group of new hires. Before I began, I asked what the new hires thought of some of the other new hire sessions they’d attended. One woman said: “I’ve been impressed. There have been some presenters who have taken what could be very boring, technical topics and they’ve turned them into very interesting and cool presentations through interactive case studies, simulations, demonstrations and other activities.”

It made me feel good. Some of the things I’d worked with our subject matter experts on had been integrated into their lessons and apparently well-received.

Then I delivered my presentation. It was slated for an hour, but fifteen minutes into it I got a sinking feeling. The new hires were politely listening. And that was the problem. They were simply listening to my information.

I had been able to provide feedback and ideas to others, but I hadn’t actually used my own advice to make an amazing presentation with my own content.

I took my lesson plan to some (non-learning and development) colleagues and asked for some thoughts. With their fresh eyes on my lesson plan, we were able to come up with several stories to frame the work of our department. We came up with a case study. And of course, we ended with a short “pop quiz” just to see if people were paying attention.

For learning and development professionals, sometimes all of our theory and education and experience can’t stack up to simply getting a fresh set of eyes on our work.

Want more information about lesson plans? Try these other posts:

Know someone who could use a lesson plan template to help them organize their thoughts? Pass this post along.

Want more articles like this delivered directly to your inbox several times per week? Click FOLLOW at the top of the screen.

3 Steps to Communicate WITH PowerPoint

There comes a point in every presenter’s life when he (or she) must decide: is this presentation about me or is this presentation something I want the audience to leave thinking: “wow, that was really helpful”?

If the presentation is about the presenter, there’s no need to spend much time or effort preparing for an engaging experience.

If the presentation is about the audience, if the presentation is intended to help them be better or do something better, then the following three tips can come in handy to ensure that you can communicate with PowerPoint.

Tip #1: PowerPoint is not a lesson plan

What should the audience know or be able to do differently as a result of the presentation?  What kinds of materials (handouts, visual aids, mementos for the audience to remember you by, etc.) might you want to bring for your audience?  How much time should you spend on any particular area of the presentation?  How should the presentation flow?  It is very difficult to map the answers to these questions using PowerPoint, even if you’re an avid user of the notes section.  Using a lesson plan template to map out your presentation will help you to pull together a coherent and engaging presentation.

Tip #2: Avoid templates like the plague

Once you have your plan in place for how you’d like your presentation to flow, and if you’ve decided that PowerPoint slides are necessary (because, frankly, slides aren’t always necessary for every presentation), then it’s time to open up PowerPoint.  And when you do, you might come face to face with a pre-loaded template, perhaps even a slick-looking template with your logo.  Templates reduce the amount of space available for your visual aids and audience members consciously ignore logos on slides anyways (unless you’ve somehow made your logo a relevant piece of your presentation).  99 times out of 100, your starting design choice for PowerPoint should look like this:

Blank Template

Tip #3: Embrace the time it takes to work visual magic

The downside to using a blank design is that presenters need to spend some time figuring out what to put on the slide.  The upside: presenters have the freedom to be extremely creative and to put together slides that capture the audience’s imagination, make them smile, perhaps even garner an “oooo” or an “ah” from the audience.

The design can be kept simple by just changing the color of the background…

Blank Template (Black)

…and maybe a contrasting font color to capture the audience’s attention…

Blank Template (Black w Yellow font)

…and then perhaps spend a few minutes playing with the font, something a little more “exotic” to set the right tone…

Blank Template (Black w exotic font)

…and perhaps I want to change the background, using one of my own photos of an iconic site…

Blank Template (Taj)

…or a free, royalty-free image from a stock image site

Blank Template (Clipart)

One last point about the “visual magic”: take out your bullet points, they look silly on a slide.  And economize on the number of words in each slide.  I guess that makes two last points.

Yes, it takes significant time to put together a visually attractive PowerPoint presentation.  So the question then becomes: is the point of the presentation for a presenter to slap a few slides together as quickly as possible?  Or is the point of the presentation to provide an interesting, perhaps even unique, learning experience that the audience will remember and talk about long after the presentation is complete?

What else are you doing to improve how you communicate with PowerPoint?