Effective PowerPoint Checklist: Is Your PowerPoint Good?

I’ve been working with a number of presenters to help them develop more effective, engaging presentations for upcoming conference or training sessions. While PowerPoint should never be the focal point of a presentation, effective slide design is important for those presenters who choose to use PowerPoint in their sessions.

To help presenters determine whether their slides are any good, I put together the Effective PowerPoint Checklist to help them perform a self-assessment.    Continue reading

Don’t forget the “Instructions” slide

Over the past several weeks I’ve had a number of opportunities to facilitate in-person training sessions. For each of these sessions, I found that I prepared very few slides.

Of the slides I did have in my decks, I realized that almost all of them were “Instruction slides” – written instructions for each activity that could be projected on a screen for all to see.   Continue reading

My Top 10 Tools for Learning

Last Thursday I shared the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies’ (C4LPT) 2015 list of the top 100 tools for learning.

If you want your voice heard for 2016’s top 100 list, there are several ways to do it: 1) you can vote here, 2) you can email your choices to C4LPT’s Jane Hart at jane.hart@c4lpt.co.uk, or 3) you can write a blog post about your top 10 choices.

By way of this blog post, I’m casting my votes for the 2016 list. Following are my top 10 choices (in no particular order):  Continue reading

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

9 ways to get smarter if your bus (or subway) is running late this morning

Bus Stop

I was out of breath, but I had made it. I had just sprinted two city blocks up a (small-ish) hill, dodged oncoming traffic, hurdled a raccoon that just happened to waddle out of a neighbor’s hedge and firmly planted my two feet at the base of the bus stop sign. It was 7:03am, and I was on time. Barely.

Then I checked the OneBusAway app to find out when the bus would arrive and my blood pressure began to rise.

I had risked life and limb to catch the early bus, and it was delayed. Not just delayed… it was delayed EIGHT. WHOLE. MINUTES!

Suddenly a strange, Zen-like feeling washed over me. Instead of getting upset or indignant, I could be thankful for an 8-minute window I could use to get smarter or learn something new.

If you’re in a similar situation this morning as you commute to work, here are 9 articles, resources or videos you may want to check out in order to productively spend your minutes before that next bus (or train or plane or automobile) arrives: Continue reading

Alternatives to Bullet Points

PowerPoint default formatting is begging you to use bullet points in your presentation.

The thing about bullet points is that they’re not attractive. They’re not visually stimulating. But they’re set up as a default way to organize information on your slides, which makes them very easy to use.

If you or someone you know is seeking help to break a bullet point habit, Melissa Milloway posted a great slide deck on Slideshare with some great alternatives to bullet points.

If you’re not quite ready to break your habit, here are two simple ideas that may help you better engage your audience: Continue reading

What Would You Do If This Happened In Your Training Session?

The clock struck 1:00pm and it was time for my presentation to begin. That’s when the first of four text messages arrived on my phone. All four messages began with the same two words: “Oh no!” My friends and co-workers had heard what was happening in my breakout room and they began to offer their empathy.

As the A/V staff frantically worked on the facility’s new projector system (which worked just fine for the previous presenter), I tried to remain calm and professional on the outside. On the inside, Continue reading

5 Ways to Start a Webinar for Maximum Interactivity

A while back I asked: “Why are people checking their email when they should be paying attention to my webinar?!” The answer to that question revolved around engagement and interactivity that can be designed into a webinar. That blog post had several ideas for interactivity depending on your tolerance for risk (the cooler and more engaging you may want to make your webinar, the greater the reward… and the greater the opportunity that the technology could fail).

One thing to remember about interactivity in webinars, however, is that your audience may not be ready for it. Many people still see webinars as little more than glorified conference calls (and by “glorified” I mean conference calls that simply have accompanying on-screen PowerPoint presentations… and maybe a poll or two).

Why not take the first five minutes of your next webinar – you know, the time that you’re needing to kill as you’re waiting for last-minute joiners to log on to Adobe Connect or download all the stuff that needs to be downloaded in order to hop on to Blackboard Collaborate – and get your attendees warmed up with some of the web conferencing features you’ll be using to engage them.

Here are five ideas of how to do this as people are logging on:

9 Trends in Presentation Skills (And Most of Them Aren’t Good!)

A week ago, Litmos’ Brent Schlenker used Google Trends to ask: “Why is instructional design trending downward… since 2004?

Instructional Design

According to the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies’ Top 100 Tools for Learning, Google Search was ranked as the #5 tool used around the world for learning in 2014. It seems like Google search trends should offer some insights as to what’s important to people when it comes to subjects they want to know more about.

I’m always curious to know what’s on the mind of “part-time trainers” – people who may not have “training” in their title or much background in learning and development but who are asked to deliver presentations. This weekend I spent some time sifting through Google trends on terms focused on what I think would lead to more effective presentations.

Most of the trends are pointing downward, which was a bit of a letdown for me. I figured, why not begin with the term “effective presentations“? Here’s what I found:

Effective Presentations

I figured that perhaps people had heard that adult learning principles would be important for their presentations and would want to learn more…

Adult Learning

Hmmm, maybe people were growing a little less formal and a little more hip in their search terms, so I tried “killer presentations“:…

Killer Presentations

Ok, maybe not (apparently I’m the only person who used that term late last year!).

None of these trends seemed very positive, so I held my breath and sat at the edge of my seat, worrying that people may be searching for the wrong things such as the de-bunked idea of learning styles

Learning Styles

Whew! It was encouraging, at the very least, that people were searching less and less for “learning styles”.

Perhaps, based on Google trends, people were savvier than I gave them credit for and were looking for ways to improve their results. So I searched “training evaluation“…

Training Evaluation

None of these trends seemed to be pointing in the right direction. Based on my experience working with SMEs, they’ll often begin mapping out their presentation using PowerPoint. Maybe there’s been an increase in searches for better PowerPoint design

PPT Design

Not really. Prezi has been trendy over the past few years, maybe that’s what people are interested in, so I searched trends for “how to use prezi“, and this was one of the only growth trends I found…

How to use PreziDespite the upward trend with Prezi searches, this exercise led me to grow quite cynical about just what mattered to folks who were searching for ways to improve their presentation skills. Then it dawned on me, perhaps people were intentionally creating worse and worse presentations! Maybe they were searching for ways to make their presentations terrible. I checked the trend for the phrase: “how to bore people” and this is what I found…

How to Bore People

Ok, maybe people weren’t waking up, looking in the mirror, and wondering how they could bore people with their next presentation. So, that’s good.

One last trend I decided to search for was whether more people were simply looking for help to organize their thoughts, so I tried “training plan template“…

Training Plan Template

That was a fun trend to see, especially because it’s one of the more popular search terms that will land folks on this blog (this post from 2013 on lesson plan templates remains one of the most popular posts on this blog).

I’m curious about your thoughts. If Google Search is such a powerful performance support tool to help people do their jobs better, what terms did I miss in my Google Trends analysis that you think people should care about when they begin mapping out a presentation?




Trick Out My PowerPoint: Episode 2

Every second of the day, PowerPoint is used in approximately 350 presentations around the world. To put that into perspective, there are more PowerPoint presentations born every second than babies.

If you’re planning to use PowerPoint (along with 30,240,000 other people every day), it’ll be important that your slides can stand out and be memorable.

Phase(Two)Learning’s Michelle Baker and I are here to help! In this second edition of our Trick Out My PowerPoint series, we’ve taken a look at an actual slide from a conference I recently attended and put our own spin on the design of the slide.

Episode 2 (Original)

While the presentation itself featured good, relevant information, here’s a sample of how Michelle and I would have “tricked out” this slide deck for maximum impact on the audience.

Trick-out Artist #1: Brian Washburn

All the information is there on this slide, and I would have broken up the bullet points into four separate slides (when you list all your bullet points on one screen, your audience will be too busy reading the text on your slide to pay attention to what you have to say… the brain can’t read and try to listen at the same time).


To me, the word “goal” lends itself very easily to a sports metaphor. One way to trick out this slide deck, at least this particular section revolving around goals, would be to turn the slide into a stadium scoreboard, complete with jumbotron screen for the image.

Episode 2 (V1)

Option 2: This Is Only Made Possible With Your Support

The word “goal” also reminds me of the old “fundraising thermometer” whereby reaching one goal is a small victory along the way, but the ultimate destination is to reach every single goal (filling up the entire thermometer).

Episode 2 (V2)

Option 3: Work Within The Template

Finally, there are times when someone at a higher pay grade insists that a slide template must be used. There are so many reasons I don’t like slide templates, but the biggest one is because the slide template eats up valuable slide real estate. Nonetheless, if a slide template is required, it doesn’t prevent the visual imagery of your PowerPoint slides from being powerful. I might put together a series of slides that looks like this…

Episode 2 (V3-1)

Followed by a series of slides with text that is crystal clear. During the delivery, I’d make the point that without all four of these goals being achieved, millions of people would remain corneal blind and those blurry slides represent all they would be able to see.

Episode 2 (V3-2)

Trick-out Artist #2: Michelle Baker

Well, I took the challenge in another direction. Ordinarily, my gut reaction would have been to take the same approach as Brian, to divide the content among multiple slides. But as I looked at the slide, I couldn’t help but wonder if I could actually communicate the point of the slide on one individual slide, without looking cluttered or forced.

I transformed this slide three ways:

Option 1: Simple and Straightforward

Episode 2 (vA)

On this slide, I specifically called out the two goals of eye banks, using a simple “bullseye” graphic for participants to identify these goals with the importance of achieving the goal. Using a callout box in a contrasting color, I added the additional talking points. The box and color breaks up the text, and allows the participant to focus on “zones” in the slide, rather than looking at many text rows. You could also utilize PowerPoint’s animation/transition features to have the text box float in after discussing the two goals, to make the slide appear even cleaner.

Option 2: Let SmartArt Do the Work

Episode 2 (vB)

When used properly, SmartArt can be a very effective way to visually convey information on a slide without using too much text. It’s a wonderful, easy-to-use feature for non-graphic designers (like myself!) to add to their PowerPoint design arsenal. For this slide, I used two converging arrows. This particular graphic clearly shows the relationship between the two goals of eye banks, and why they are so important to work in conjunction with one another. The ribbon-tied finger graphic at the bottom adds a bit of personality to the reminder of why this is important, particularly for new eye banks.

Option 3: A strong graphic can make all the difference

Episode 2 (vC)

Leaning on the participants’ perceived passion around healthy eyes, I used a strong graphic of a stunning blue eye as the focal point of this slide. By adjusting the image size, the eye appears to fade directly into the blank, white canvas of the slide, which provides an ideal space to add my text – simply stated and clean. Again, using subtle animation/transition functionality, I would add the “What does this mean?” subtext after discussing the two primary goals.

On all three slides, I made sure to call out the source information, but notice that I used a subtle gray color for the font in a smaller size – it is visible, but does not compete with the primary message the slide coveys.

Another point of consistency is the use of animation/transition functionality – subtle is key; avoid crazy twirls, spins and checkerboard effects! A simple float or fade will suffice, and use the same effect, speed and direction throughout your entire slide deck for a polished, professional look.

So, there you have it. Between each of our approaches you see 6 very different, tricked-out approaches for the same PowerPoint slide. Give one of these styles a try the next time you’re faced with a text-laden slide full of content!

What say you?

How would you trick out this slide? What is your preferred approach? Share your creative ideas in the comments below!

Need some help Tricking Out Your PowerPoint?

Let Michelle or me give it a shot! Send us a slide, and we might just feature it in an upcoming blog post on Train Like a Champion and Phase(Two)Learning!