Avoid Bad Slides with Good Process

Microsoft declared war on bad PowerPoint slides. If you have Microsoft 365 for Windows desktop or Windows Mobile, you’ll have access to PowerPoint Designer (for better slide design) and PowerPoint Morph (for better animation).

Then there’s Canva, which is a freemium design tool that can be used to create amazing visual experiences by limiting the number of poor design choices you can actually make.

There are other tools for interesting ways to present visual information, too. Haiku Deck. SlideRocket. Prezi. PowToon.

Yet, contrary to popular vernacular, the slides actually aren’t the “presentation.” A presentation is the total experience that you offer to the audience. Slides? Yes. And finding ways to engage your audience with your content.

Bad Slides a Slides that Don’t Support Your Goals

What I’ve found most presenters to be missing is Continue reading

Which Would You Prefer: Noise Pollution or Performance Support?

As I was waiting for my luggage to appear at the baggage claim in Delhi last week, a colleague pointed this sign out to me:

performance support at an airport

In a place where honking drivers navigate their way through the crowded streets seemingly by echolocation and sensory overload insights, sounds, tastes, and smells are everywhere, the airport did indeed seem oddly quiet.

If you can’t make out the fine print at the bottom of the screen, it says: “To know the status of your flight, please check the flight information display at various locations.”

It was brilliant. Someone at the airport must have decided that the “training” they were offering – a constant stream of announcements over the PA system – was ineffective. They also must have determined that passengers were probably smart enough that, if pointed in the right direction with good signage, they’d be able to find what they needed.

Continue reading

STOP! Before you open up PowerPoint, read this…

PowerPoint can be a phenomenal tool to help with your next presentation. In addition to the conventional bullet pointed slides that are standard issue fare in most meetings and conferences, you can also do some cool things like create a Jeopardy board or play Family Feud through the magic of PowerPoint.

Opening PowerPoint before you’ve mapped out what you plan to do or say in your next presentation and expecting that your audience will be engaged, however, is a bit like taking out a pan and tossing a bunch of things in, expecting to have some tasty brownies come out of the oven. You may luck out on the quantities of ingredients and the amount of time it will take to bake… but chances are your audience will smile politely to your face and then spit out whatever you tried to force-feed them into their napkins when your back is turned.

Last week, several colleagues attended ATD’s TechKnowledge conference and I was surprised to hear how many presentations failed to meet expectations. Following is an exchange I had via text message with a co-worker:


Curious as to whether others felt this way, I took to Twitter to ask for some thoughts. This was a segment of a conversation I had with another attendee:

To be fair, I heard some very good things about a number of presentations. Unfortunately, there seem to be too many presentations that aren’t up to snuff – whether at large conferences like TechKnowledge, or in smaller, more intimate settings like an in-house training program or a staff meeting. This is unfortunate because any time a presenter gets in front of an audience, he or she has the opportunity to change the world by helping the audience do something new or differently or better. You don’t need to be a high-paid keynote speaker in order to change the world!

There are many reasons that a presentation can flop. One of the most common is when a presenter just doesn’t take the time to be intentional about the way he or she designs a presentation. Too often the default mode for presentation planning is to open PowerPoint and begin to fill in slides.

Over 17 years of designing presentations, I’ve found the most effective, engaging presenters map out what they want to say, how long they want to say it, and specific methods of how they plan to engage their audience – in discussion, in brainstorming, in demonstrations or role plays or individual work – and then they decide what kind of visual aids they’ll use. At this point, I’ve seen many presenters decide creating a PowerPoint deck isn’t even necessary.

If you’re looking for a way to be more intentional about how you map out your next presentation, click here to download a presentation planning template that I’ve found to be very helpful in organizing my thoughts before a presentation.

Presentation Planner 2015

Know someone who might benefit from a presentation plan? Go ahead and pass this article along to them.

Looking For Beta Testers

Organizing your thoughts with a Word document is a good start. I’m envisioning a world in which we can leverage technology in order to organize our thoughts better and eventually rid this world of the scourge of poorly designed and delivered presentations for once and for all.

Want to help? I’m looking for a small group of beta testers for an online presentation planning tool. If you’re interested, please email me at brian@endurancelearning.com. Your feedback could go a long way toward advancing the vision that every presentation will be engaging and lead to change.


Dissecting a Webinar: The Quest for Interaction in Distance Education

Web conferencing technology can be an amazing way to shrink the distance between a facilitator and the rest of the world. Of course, web conferencing technology is only as effective (and interesting) as the design of the webinar.

There are many blogs and magazine articles and even books that offer tips and suggestions on how to design an engaging webinar. This post is designed to break down an actual webinar and point out actual examples of strategies you may want to incorporate into your next webinar.

In January 2012, I was invited to design and deliver a webinar on how I used LinkedIn to find my dream job. Here is a link to a recording of that webinar:


GW Webinar

If you don’t want to sit through the entire 61 minute presentation, feel free to click on the link and fast forward to the good parts. Below, I offer a time-based breakdown of the various instructional strategies I incorporated into this webinar:

2:30  Sound check (you want to be sure people can hear you!)

2:41  Introduction and attempt to connect to the audience through a shared experience

5:13  Poll questions to get to know the audience better

10:12  Setting an expectation for participation and informing the audience that they will have an opportunity to type their own experiences into the CHAT box

12:00  Framing the presentation as a story

15:25  Inviting audience to share their experiences in this subject

25:20  Pause for questions and an opportunity for audience to share their own experiences

27:50  Pose a specific question to the audience and invite them to use the CHAT box

38:50  Again pausing for audience comments and questions

48:31  Connecting the entire message and offering a coherent conclusion of the entire presentation

Looking for additional ideas and tips to create an engaging webinar? You may find these previous posts helpful:

The Train Like A Champion Blog is published Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  If you think someone else might find this interesting, please pass it along.  If you don’t want to miss a single, brilliant post, be sure to click “Follow”!  And now you can find sporadic, 140-character messages from me on Twitter @flipchartguy.

Organizing a Presentation Outline – Lesson Plan

Being intentional and methodical when it comes to organizing your thoughts around a presentation – whether a 5-minute presentation during a team meeting, a formal training session or even a sales pitch – is such an under-utilized art form.

When I write the words “intentional and methodical,” I don’t mean just having an outline and then spending time on developing your slides to illustrate your point. I use the words “intentional and methodical” to mean an obsessive use of a formula that has been proven effective and successful in producing observable results.

Lesson Plan Templates

And there are a number of people searching for such a formula to use obsessively. “Lesson Plan Template” is one of the most common search terms that lead people to the Train Like A Champion blog. In general, those three keywords (and variations thereof) will take readers to one of the following previous posts that feature a blank lesson plan template:

organizing a presentation outline - blank lesson plan  Modified Lesson Plan - 9

If you’re in the market for a new way to organize a presentation outline and you want to try a formula that has been proven successful (a previous post entitled The Evolution of an SME offers more details on this claim), by all means, please visit one of those previous posts and download the free lesson plan template.

Examples of Organizing a Presentation Outline

Several readers have asked for a sample template that has been filled out in order to get a feel for organizing a lesson plan outline and how much information should be included (ie: should it be a verbatim script, should it simply have bullet points of key ideas to be presented, or should it have something in between these two extremes?). If you’d like to see an example of this lesson plan template in action, please click on this link to view a webinar lesson plan I created using this template.

If you do end up using this format to help organize a presentation outline, I’d love to hear how it works (so please drop a line in the comments section below). If you use a different method to organize your thoughts, I’d love to hear what method works for you (again, please drop a line in the comments section below).

Lesson Plan Template for Adult Learners

Templates are wonderful and the web is loaded with examples that you can download and begin using today. After staring at the latest “Free Lesson Plan Template” you may start to wonder, what am I supposed to do with this? While we cover some more advanced issues about designing versus delivering in Training Lesson Plan Templates: Design vs. Delivery, this article is dedicated to helping you effectively use each component of the lesson plan for adult learners.

blank lesson plan for adult learners

What is in a Lesson Plan Template?

Title of Training Segment

This is a simple field, where the name of the segment can be as plain as “Advanced Sales Training Techniques” or it could be something more creative like “To Train or Not to Train: Why Not Training is Sometimes the Best Training Intervention”.  While the lesson plan is generally for your eyes only, a catchier title can help steer traffic to your presentation if you’ll be facilitating a workshop at a conference.

Date & Time

Sometimes you’ll design a presentation for a specific day and time, and if you’re offering multiple workshops during a trip, this field can help you keep track of which presentation you’ll be facilitating on which day and at which time.  Sometimes you’ll design a lesson plan that will be used over and over again, and you may wish to simply enter “90 minutes” into this field.  Keep in mind that this template is designed to provide structure to your presentations, but should be adapted to best meet your needs.



This section is intended for you to design learner-centered, action-oriented objectives.  Put differently, what should your learners be able to do by the time you’re finished with your session… and how will you, as the facilitator, know that your learners have accomplished this objective?

Well-crafted learning objectives will basically write your lesson plan for you.  Do you want your learners to be able to explain a concept?  Then be sure to make room in your lesson plan for an activity that allows your learners to actually explain the concept.  Want them to demonstrate something?  Then you may need to design an activity that involves role-playing or some other simulation of a skill.

Well-crafted learning objectives will basically write your lesson plan for you.  Do you want your learners to be able to explain a concept?  Then be sure to make room in your lesson plan for an activity that allows your learners to… Click To Tweet
completed sample lesson plan for adults

Download the lesson plan for adults template or the Design vs. Delivery template.

To see how you can jump straight from objectives to a polished presentation, sign up for a Soapbox demo today!

Assess Whether Learning Objectives were Accomplished

As I alluded to earlier, you want to design activities by which you, the facilitator, can determine whether or not your learners are able to do what you set out to teach them.  Going back to your traditional school days, some may call this a “test”.  And a paper-and-pencil, multiple-choice exam is indeed one way to assess whether or not the learners get it.  Take a look at the verbs you’ve used in your objectives, and then be sure to craft an activity that allows your learners to demonstrate those verbs.  If you have a learning objective such as “by the end of this presentation, learners will be able to demonstrate the five phases of coaching,” then you’ll need to have an activity in which the learners can show off the coaching skills they’ve learned.  And you may wish to have an observation rubric to provide feedback (or even to provide a score) on the skill your learners have attempted to demonstrate.


Do you need a blank flipchartMarkers?  Are you going to prepare flipchart prior to the session?  A PowerPoint presentation?  Handouts?  Sticky Notes?  Tape?  Name tags?  Name tents?  Be very specific about the materials you’ll need and when you’ll need them.  In the event you’re in a hurry to get to the training room, a complete list of materials you’ll need can be a very good reminder for you.  Showing up unprepared for a session is a good way to lose credibility with your learners.

Estimated Time

It’s helpful to break your session down into smaller segments in order to be sure to keep a good pace and to keep on time during your presentation.  How much time do you want to devote to the welcome/introduction?  Icebreaking activities can be fun, but if you don’t have a plan, they can run way over time, which means you’ll be playing catch up for the rest of your presentation.  How much time do you want to allow to introduce a topic?  How much time should your learners have to practice a given skill?  Don’t forget to leave time to wrap up and tie everything together.

Content/Key Points

Here is where you want to describe, in some detail, how each section of your lesson plan should be facilitated.  While it’s not necessary to write a verbatim script, it may be helpful to be fairly specific in your instructions.  If you have to give this same presentation a year from now, you’ll be happy you took the time to write out specific instructions for each section.  And if you’re stuck in traffic and need a co-worker to cover for you, they’ll need a fairly detailed explanation of how to facilitate your activities.

Instructional Technique

Here you should simply describe how you plan to deliver your content.  Will you use a lecture? Small group activities?  Large group de-brief?  Roleplay?  Simulation?  Will you show a video? For more awesome activities to engage your learners, check out these great ideas.  When you describe how you plan to deliver your content, you’ll be able to see, at a glance, if each instructional technique field relies too much on one technique (such as lecture), you run the risk of a monotonous, boring presentation.

Overwhelmed by lesson plan creation? Ever wish someone could create your lesson plan for you? Someone can – Meet Soapbox. The all-in-one presentation creator. Soapbox will not only create you a ready to print lesson plan, but will also create handouts, a facilitator guide, and slide deck in under 5 minutes! Ready to make your life easier? Click here.

Training Lesson Plan Template: Design vs. Delivery

A lesson plan is an essential tool for designing a high-quality learning experience.  When it comes to delivering a high-quality learning experience, you may need something a little different.

I recently wrote a post about this free lesson plan template.

training lesson plan template

If you tend to use PowerPoint or other visual aids to guide your delivery, it’s not always convenient to try to flip back and forth between your lesson plan and your slides.  Making a few modifications to this lesson plan format can help to make your delivery smoother.  Here is an example of a way to combine your visual aids with your training lesson plan in order to ensure nothing falls by the wayside as you facilitate and advance through your visual presentation (you can download a full-sized sample lesson plan to see the lesson plan in use).

 training lesson plan template completed

I’ve worked with my colleagues at Endurance Learning to build these same concepts into Soapbox. Give it a try for free!

There’s Always a First Time

Intended Audience for this Post: Beginning presenters, trainers or people who were recently asked by a boss (or colleague) to get up in front of people to present something important and need some help organizing their thoughts

Getting in front of people and presenting is something that makes a lot of people nervous.  In 2001, a Gallup poll found that public speaking is the #2 fear among Americans (fear of snakes topped that particular list).  There are plenty of other polls, anecdotes and comedy routines that put the fear of being in front of others even higher on the list.

Top presenters make getting up in front of an audience look easy and polished, but presenting is very much like any other aspect of life: there’s always a first time, and very few people excel the first time they do anything.  In his best-selling book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell suggests it takes 10,000 hours of practice time before reaching exceptional-level performance.  And before anyone can reach that 10,000th hour of practice, they’ll need to complete that first (generally uncomfortable) hour.

In his first pass attempt at the University of Michigan, Tom Brady threw a brilliant pass that went for a touchdown.  Unfortunately for Brady and his Michigan Wolverines, that touchdown was scored by the opposing defense when they intercepted the pass and returned it for a touchdown.  His first pass in professional football nearly met the same fate (but it fell incomplete).  In his first game as a professional, Tom Brady completed one pass for six yards.  Brady has gone on to four Super Bowls (winning three of them and being named Most Valuable Player in two of them).  There’s been a lot of practice between Brady’s first collegiate pass and now.

That same Brady-esque drive to practice, prepare, get in front of people and to keep going in spite of whatever initial foibles or difficulties get in the way is required for anyone wishing to succeed as a presenter. 

So then what goes into the preparation?  Is it as easy as simply picturing the audience naked? No – this is kind of a creepy suggestion that really isn’t helpful.  Should you just write out your presentation on note cards or type it, print it out, and read it?  No – your audience can probably read, so you could save everyone plenty of time by simply emailing them the text of your presentation.

Following are several steps to take in preparing for that first presentation:

  1. Define who your audience is and what’s in it for them to attend and participate in your presentation.
  2. Define the intended outcome of your presentation – what should participants know or be able to do better once you’re finished with your presentation?
  3. Define for yourself what would make this a successful presentation for yourself and for your audience.
  4. Once you’ve defined all of the above (and only after you’ve defined those items), put together an outline of the key points you wish to make and how you wish to make those points (hint: if you want to be able to tell if your audience is “getting it” don’t rely solely on lecture, figure out how to involve them)
  5. Be sure to make a list of the materials you’ll need for your presentation (it’s a bummer to realize you forgot to bring flipchart markers and tape when you’re 30 seconds into your actual presentation!)
  6. Before taking the stage, find some time to practice actually giving your presentation (in an empty conference room, walking down the sidewalk as you’re walking your dog, in the shower, etc.)

These aren’t the only steps to ensuring your presentation will be successful, but they’re some of the most important items to keep in mind as you get started.  Click here to access a lesson plan format that can help you in getting started in organizing your thoughts.

While there’s always a first time, the hope is that preparation and practice will ensure there will also be a second time.  And a third time.  I’m not suggesting you eschew all other personal and professional responsibilities in order to get ready for your upcoming 60-minute presentation.  But I am suggesting that some preparation and practice can go a long way.

Several years ago, I was eager to play a bigger part in my church’s community and I signed up to be a lector during Saturday evening services.  One evening I was struggling through a reading and somehow I proclaimed that there were “flaming brassieres” (I should have proclaimed there were flaming braziers).  I was never asked to read during Saturday evening services again.  Perhaps a little pre-service preparation would have saved me (and the church officials) a lot of embarrassment and grief; perhaps I’d still be doing Saturday evening readings in that church.

The final point I’d like to make in this entry is that it’s not enough to prepare and present and deliver.  If you’re looking to continue to be recognized as a talented presenter, facilitator or teacher, it will be crucial to reflect on and assess your performance, learn from it and make improvements in your style and ability. 

Next week’s post will explore the lessons that can be drawn from the way professional athletes routinely and continuously review and improve their performance.  Next week’s post will also include information and resources to assist you in that reflection and post-presentation review process.