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:

ATDTK

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.

 

Why Nicholas Kristof Isn’t Changing Hearts and Minds About Racial Disparities in the US

In a recent series of articles, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof offered statistic upon statistic about the racial disparities that continue to this day in the United States.

Depressingly, when asked if he felt he was changing any minds, he responded: “I wish I could say that yes, it’s having an effect. I honestly don’t know. In general, I think that we in journalism tend to change people’s minds quite rarely on issues they have thought of.”

If you examine how corporate learning and professional development are measured, you could replace the word “journalism” in Kristof’s response with the word “training” and have an equally true (and depressing) statement. It’s why delivery methods such as lecture may raise awareness, but very rarely lead to a change in mindset or lead to new skills being transferred to the job.

I’ve sat through a variety of classes and workshops on “diversity training” and I’ve heard all the statistics. Still, it was easy for me to think of rational excuses for the disparity among outcomes between white people and people of color in America in this day and age… until I attended a workshop created by Casey Family Programs. I was asked to complete a 20-question “white privilege checklist”… and then I was asked to compare my results with others in the room – white people and people of color. The ensuing discussion was life changing for me. I’ve facilitated that workshop many times since, and it’s been life changing for many of the participants. It wouldn’t have been possible if someone had simply shared a bunch of statistics with us, regardless of how striking the disparities were on paper (or on PowerPoint).

I’ve led presentation skills and instructional design workshops with SMEs and experienced trainers alike. The attitude coming into the session is often very similar: I’ve been doing this for years… what can you possibly teach me?

That attitude would prevail if I were to simply talk about the importance of a lesson plan and learning objectives and engaging your audience. When the participants, however, are challenged to work in groups and develop a 10-minute presentation, and deliver that presentation in front of a group using the ideas and skills they’ve learned in the workshop, they can feel the difference between their old way of doing things and the new way they’ve just been taught. “What can you possibly teach me?” turns into “Why haven’t I been doing it this way all along?”

Lecture and didactic delivery might be a useful style to raise awareness. Finding opportunities to involve your audience, giving them opportunities to explore your content and discuss your ideas, can be life changing.

5 Ways to Incorporate More Play into your Next Presentation

“You can learn more about someone in an hour of play than you can in a year of working with them.” Every time I hear Kevin Carroll say those words, I have renewed energy to get creative and incorporate more “play” into my own presentation design.

When I think about incorporating play into presentation design, I’m not thinking about waste-my-learners’-time-with-some-silly-game-that-doesn’t-have-anything-to-do-with-anything type of play. I’m thinking about the-audience-learns-while-at-the-same-time-thinking-this-is-fun-and-oh-wait-I’m-learning-something-too type of play.

If you’re looking for new ways to engage your audience, maybe incorporating some more play can be helpful for your next presentation design. Here are five examples of how I’ve seen play effectively incorporated into presentation design:

In an icebreaker.

Icebreakers are often associated with play. And if they’re done well, there’s a learning component, too. Last year at a big meeting, I watched as my company’s CEO led an activity in which 80 people in a room were broken into small groups, and each group was given a tennis ball. The groups were tasked with seeing how fast every member of the small group could pass the ball from one person to the next. Attendees included prominent surgeons and business leaders. The room was abuzz. People like to play no matter how old they are or how important their job may seem. Our CEO concluded the activity by connecting various strategies and solutions from this icebreaking activity to the overall meeting theme of innovation.

In a room of 2,000 people.

In a recent article on the importance of “priming” your learners to make it more likely they’ll later retain your content, Art Kohn offers the example of having someone say the word “silk” ten times, then asking the question: what do cows drink? (The answer, by the way, is not milk.) I’ve seen a similar strategy – having the audience say or do something from their seats – used in a keynote address to 2,000 people. It was a quick activity. Everyone participated. Everyone laughed when they realized cows drink water, not milk. And the speaker had everyone’s attention.

In a roomful of people not accustomed to participating.

Sometimes I’m asked to design a presentation to be given to an audience that’s not used to being called on to participate and it would be well beyond their comfort zone to get up and move around. Instead of defaulting to lecture, this is a situation in which I like to use some PowerPoint tricks to get people engaged. I’ll set up a Family Feud style board and I’ll ask the audience for responses. Instead of the typical PowerPoint animation that forces the presentation into a pre-determined order, the Family Feud-style slide allows the presenter (and the audience) to decide dynamically what information will appear on the screen next.

Poll them… and keep score.

In a Bob Pike Group training session I attended earlier in the year, facilitator extraordinaire Scott Enebo not only used PollEverywhere to get the entire room participating, he gave points for correct responses on his polls/quizzes. It added an element of (friendly) competition and kept things interesting throughout the 2-day workshop.

In sucking them into case studies.

In the movie Tron, Jeff Bridge’s character gets sucked into and becomes part of a video game. In Ruth Kravitz’s training room, learners get sucked into the world of child welfare, becoming part of her case study activities. Different from role play, learners are given small bits of information and need to use their previous knowledge on the topic and the information they’ve been given in order to determine what additional information they need and to make recommendations on the next steps of a given foster care case. If anybody in her training class is checking their smart phone, it’s not because they’re reading their email or watching cat videos on YouTube… it’s because they’re frantically searching for additional information that could help them on their case study.

How are you incorporating play into your presentation design?

Case Study: The Power of Training Preparation

Last week I had an opportunity to facilitate a session at the LINGOs annual member meeting. After the presentation, my co-facilitator, Shannon Cavallari from PATH, shared her observations about what helped her most in the days leading up to our presentation. Following are her reflections, written immediately after our presentation:

It’s a wonderful feeling; this mixture of excitement, nervousness, and RELIEF because I had prepared. I had a plan A and a plan B should it not unfold in the way I hoped it would.

I’m a learning and development professional, but my skill set lies more on the learning technologies side. Basically, I do put together eLearning programs and projects. Rarely do I get invited to stand in front of a group with the intent to inspire, teach or change behavior.

Training Preparation

With my Lesson Plan template in hand, Brian and I started mapping out the presentation.

Objectives identified? CHECK.

Activities designed? CHECK.

Engagement with the participants? CHECK.

Opportunities for questions and lessons learned? CHECK.

The Lesson Plan allowed me to think through and assign specific blocks of time to each of these steps, from the start of the presentation to the finish.

Then we did a dry-run and more light-bulbs went off. This step – the dressed rehearsal – is such a crucial step in preparing for a presentation and yet most of us skip it or don’t give it the attention it deserves. In my dry-run, I practiced what I would say AND I practiced where I would stand, and it revealed questions I would need to ask my co-facilitator along the way. The Lesson Plan allowed me to capture these questions and my thoughts on the “choreography” for each section of my presentation. I felt more at ease; I felt prepared.

I reviewed my lesson plan the evening before and the morning of our presentation. “I got this,” I thought. Then, of course, came the need for Plan B.

Results of Doing Training Preparation

The audio failed on our computer and we were unable to use a video we wanted; we had planned for this to be integral to our initial 8-minute introduction to the session. But that was ok because we had rehearsed with a Plan B in the event we might experience such a technical difficulty. I learned how essential it is to assume things can and will go wrong and think through ways to mitigate such unfortunate circumstances.

Through some anecdotal feedback at the end of our session, our participants claimed that they got what they came for. We delivered on the objectives we identified and they were happy and engaged.

Regardless of being a trainer is your full-time gig or if you’re a subject matter expert sharing your vast knowledge, I can say with certainty that it pays to practice. Not only did such preparation create a better experience for our learners, but it also put my own mind at ease. I was a better presenter because of the process.


What do you do to prepare for a presentation? Has your training preparation evolved with experience? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section below.

Why Can’t We Still Present Like We’re 8 Years Old?

A few weeks ago, my daughter was “Star of the Week”, which meant she had an opportunity to make a presentation in front of her class.

This is the third year in a row she’s had to put together a Star of the Week presentation. It happens every year. Yet it hasn’t gotten old for her.

Star of the Week

She was excited and proud of the presentation she had put together. In my (un-biased) professional opinion, she rocked that presentation.

Here are the facts:

  • She kept to her time limit.
  • She used powerful images (family photos) and never thought about PowerPoint or bullet-pointed lists.
  • Somehow she held the attention of 20 other 8-year-olds for the entirety of her presentation. Maybe it was her enthusiasm. Maybe it was the stories she told. Maybe it was because her classmates weren’t allowed to bring their smart phones to school. Just look at the photographic evidence above – she has her audience wrapped around her little finger!

What happens between the time we’re 8 years old and the day we get up in front of some type of professional audience – whether in a team meeting, at new employee orientation or at a conference?

Where does the enthusiasm to get in front of an audience go? Where does the impulse to immediately open up PowerPoint come from? Where does our ability to keep our audience on the edge of their seats for the entirety of the presentation go?

I’d been asked to deliver several presentations this week. Amidst all of my other job duties, I found myself going into “automatic pilot” mode as I developed this week’s presentations… until I reflected on the lesson my daughter taught me in her Star of the Week presentation.

I may have given a variation of these presentations multiple times in the past, but it’ll be this week’s audience first time seeing these presentations. I owe them all the 8-year-old enthusiasm and excitement I can offer.

How do you stay motivated to keep your presentations fresh? I’d love to hear it in the comment section below.


Is the Joy of Presenting Missing from your New Employee Orientation?

New Employee Orientation programs can often be delivered on “automatic pilot”, which is a serious buzz kill for new employees who are excited to start a new job.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Join phase(two)learning’s Michelle Baker and me in a 2-day public workshop where you’ll be able to re-visit, revise and refine your New Employee Orientation program.

Sounds interesting? Click here to go to the registration page.

Want more information? Send me an email at bpwashburn@gmail.com for more details.

Facilitation Lessons from a Drum Circle

Drum Circle

In the summer of 2001, I was introduced to the concept of a drum circle. As I reflect on that experience, I realize it exposed me to three key elements of effective meeting facilitation.

I was visiting my friend’s mother, Susan Bauz, at her home in Newport News, VA. All afternoon, people were talking about going to a drum circle. They weren’t sure if I’d enjoy it. They gave me the opportunity to stay home. I had no idea what a drum circle was or why they thought I wouldn’t like it, but I insisted that I’d like to go.

I thought it would be a performance where I could sit and passively listen. I had no idea that it was a participatory activity.

Everyone present was given their choice of percussion instrument and we were welcome to exchange our instruments at any time. Then someone said “go” and the drum circle was off and running. I wasn’t sure what was happening, but I was quite sure that I didn’t like this at all. There were no instructions. There was no structure. Just people beating drums.

I sat for 30 minutes, beating the same staccato cadence from the minute it began to the minute it ended. There was a moment, about halfway through our session, in which another drummer found my cadence and repeated it. Eventually everyone was repeating my cadence.

Ha! I thought. I’m doing it right! They’re all following me. Finally!

And then as quickly as they found my cadence, they moved on to their own beats once again.

Lessons for Facilitators

A drum circle, like meeting facilitation, involves a lot of improv. To be sure, meeting facilitation will often have objectives, maybe even a lesson plan and some structure, but in the end, skilled facilitators are willing to move away from their planned lessons depending on the needs of their audience.

I’ve been told that there are 3 rules to improv:

  1. Listen
  2. The answer is always “yes”
  3. Make the other person look good

Can you imagine the consequences if we violated any or all of these rules as we facilitated a meeting? What happens when we don’t listen to our audience? What happens when a participant asks a question and our immediate response is “No!” or “That’s wrong!”? What happens when we don’t attempt to make our co-facilitators or our attendees look good?

In the drum circle, there was one brief instance in which my fellow drum circlers humored me and marched to the beat of my drum. And I felt like I was a part of something. For a brief moment, this was fun!

But I never gave anything back in return. I kept to my own beat.

I violated all three rules of improv and this turned out not to be a great experience for me. I’d like to think I’ve learned from that experience and am able to better adhere to these rules when I facilitate in order to create an amazing experience for my audience and my co-facilitator(s).

As for Susan Bauz, the one who introduced me to this whole drum circle business? She passed away this weekend. I’ll be forever grateful to her for inviting me to come out of my comfort zone in order to get a life lesson in improv.

DevLearn 2014: How to Lose a Guy in 10 Hours

A week and a half ago, I was very excited to head to Las Vegas for the eLearning Guild’s 10th annual DevLearn conference. I wrote a blog post wondering if I could find the equivalent of a soul mate when it comes to a single presentation that could capture my heart and set my imagination on fire.

I wanted a presentation that could “show me the ring” (because I really, really wanted to be engaged by this presentation). I wanted a pacifist type of presentation where bullets wouldn’t be used in the PowerPoint slides. I wanted a fearless presenter – confident in delivery and willing to take some risks, maybe even get the audience involved (and no, just saying: “I want this to be highly interactive, so make sure you raise your hand if you have a question” does not mean you’ve designed an interactive presentation!!).

By the end of the first day of the conference, I seemed to have chosen a string of sessions that broke my heart. Were my standards too high? I’ll let you decide. If Composure magazine was writing a “how to” column entitled “How to Lose a Guy in 10 Hours”, these are some of the strategies they would have written about:

  1. Talk about yourself. For an hour. I understand that real-life case studies and stories about how someone has overcome a problem are what make for good conference proposals. The problem is: your actual presentation isn’t about you. It’s about how you can help solve a problem or address a need for your audience. Spend some time setting the stage about what you’ve been able to accomplish… but don’t neglect an opportunity for discussion with the audience about how your lessons learned can be applied to their problems or needs.
  2. Use discredited information. If you’re going to talk about book clubs as a learning strategy, don’t use Three Cups of Tea as the central example for the success of your online program. The book has been exposed for containing lies and half-truths and the author has been thoroughly discredited as a reputable figure in the international development arena, making it harder for those of us doing good work in international development to gain the confidence of potential funders. This was a total turn-off for me.
  3. Take a “do as I say, not as I do” attitude. Several sessions offered “best practices” in elearning design… yet chose a lecture format by which to share those design elements. Why not model some of those best practices in person? One presenter lectured on the three basic learner needs in Self-determination Theory. One of those elements was “autonomy”. Why not model this element by asking the audience which of the three basic needs they wanted to know more about first? And then point out that this was an example of “autonomy”?

To be fair, there were several sessions which already have me thinking about ways to integrate ideas and concepts into my work, but I’d think twice before allocating professional development dollars for me or anyone else from my organization to attend this event in the future.

Anyone who has ever found a soul mate might be able to identify with the idea that they can be found in the most unlikely of places… the places you’d never think to look. At DevLearn, I was looking in the place I felt would be most logical: conference breakout sessions. The aspect of DevLearn from which I left most energized, most wanting to repeat again in the future however, was the opportunity to meet people I’d only worked with or interacted with online.

If you’re looking for some new people to follow via Twitter, I’d recommend these folks: Kirby Crider, JD Dillon, Brent Schlenker, Nicole Legault, David Andersen, Meg Bertapelle, Tom Spiglanin and Learning Rebel Shannon Tipton. Not only are they really smart and have good things to share via Twitter… they’re all pretty cool people, too!

A Nightmare on Training Street

It was a dark and stormy Halloween night in Seattle. Which was fine with me. The rain helps me fall asleep.

I fell into a dream immediately.

I was in a room. No windows. Paisley carpet. Pale green walls. Fluorescent lighting that was not at all flattering to my skin tone. I sensed that I’d been here before.

It was a ballroom at the Paramount Hotel downtown.

I looked around again. The walls were suddenly covered in flipchart. Beautiful flipchart. Mr. Sketch-infused drawings brightened up the room.

Suddenly, the doors flung open. The wind and rain from the outside quickly wreaked havoc on the room. My Mr. Sketch artwork began to run. The drawings were ruined. Handouts were scattered across the room. I tried to get up from my seat, and realized I was tied down.

In walked the facilitator. He introduced himself.

“Good evening, everyone. My name is Fred Krueger. You can call me Freddy.”

Seriously subconscious?! This is the best you can do? It’s Halloween night and I’m going to dream about Freddy Krueger shredding me up with his stupid glove? Not very original.

As he walked toward me, he pointed a finger at me and one of his knife-like claws sprang out. “This is for you, Brian…” and he laughed as he poked the “On” button to the LCD projector.

The projector would be warmed up in 7… 6… 5…

I started to worry about what kind of diabolical lesson he’d be teaching us before he made some sinister joke, then killed us all.

4… 3…

His sinister laugh grew louder, scarier.

2… 1…

I braced myself for whatever wicked tricks were going to pop out of the evil PowerPoint. And then…

Nothing.

The smile faded from Freddy’s face. He looked at his laptop. He pressed a few keys. He hit the projector once or twice.

“Try hitting Function F7,” I said. He tried pressing the Fn key, and then he hit the F7 key. Nothing happened. He looked at me. No longer was he the playful, murderous movie villain we’d all grown to know and love. He looked… frustrated.

“You have to hold the Function key and the F7 key at the same time,” I said. He did. And then… oh, it was worse than any nightmare I could have imagined.

Freddy projected a presentation he had prepared with a standard, pre-loaded PowerPoint template. And clip art. And some swirly font nobody could read. The swirly font was totally out of character for this guy… or was it?

His smile returned. He let out a low, spine chilling laugh. And everyone in the audience began to scream in sheer terror as Freddy read, bullet point by bullet point, every word on every single, text heavy slide. The deck was 93 slides long. By slide 28, many of the other attendees had keeled over, killed slowly and cruelly from poor presentation delivery.

By slide 52, I felt myself slipping.

By slide 81, I could feel my heart racing. My blood boiling. My head was about to explode. I had to keep reminding myself: if you die in a dream, you die in real life! Don’t give in, Brian!

I tried turning away from the screen. Freddy put a brace around my neck so I had to stare straight at the screen. As he was getting ready to launch into the final, fatal 37 slide addendum deck, there was a big explosion.

Freddy seemed surprised. A half-dozen people had burst through the wall. As the dust settled, I saw my co-workers had entered my dream somehow.

“Even though you write about us all the time in your blog, we’ve still decided it would be ok to save you!”

I let out an uncomfortable laugh. “What are you talking about?”

“Don’t play dumb, short stuff,” exclaimed the tall co-worker, “we know who you’re talking about when your blog starts off: ‘The other day, a colleague…’”

They had a point. Sorry guys.

But they were here to save me, anyway!

They unplugged the projector (just in time!) and restored the flipcharts around the room. They began to talk to Freddy about the keys to adult learning.

“Nnnooooooooooooooo!” he screamed as if he was being sprinkled with Holy Water.

One co-worker invited Freddy to do a gallery walk around the room, visiting various stations in order to independently explore the elements of effective instructional design.

And then the coup d’ grace, the tall co-worker made Freddy rehearse his delivery. When he received constructive feedback, he suddenly combusted into a ball of flames. His murderous presentation skills would never haunt another dream.

Happy Halloween from the Train Like A Champion blog!


Is Your New Employee Orientation A Nightmare?

Sometimes a New Employee Orientation program is seen as a “necessary evil,” a series of orientation sessions that need to be dumped upon new employees during their first few days on a new job.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

Join phase(two)learning’s Michelle Baker and me in a 2-day public workshop where you’ll be able to re-visit, revise and refine your New Employee Orientation program.

Want more information. Send me an email at bpwashburn@gmail.com for more details.

Finding my Soulmate at DevLearn

We all know that some conference presentations are spectacular… and some are complete snoozers. I wish there was a Match.com service for conferences and annual meetings. Some type of service that could match me up with great speakers and amazing presentations.

Next week, I’ll be in Las Vegas, attending The eLearning Guild’s annual DevLearn conference. If I could run an online personal ad in order to find the perfect conference session to attend, this is what it might look like:

Profile Name: Flipchartguy

Fly Guy

Location: Seattle, WA

Seeking: A lifetime of amazing learning opportunities… though one amazing fling of a presentation in Vegas will do for now

About Me: I’ve been in the L&D space for 16 years or so, mostly classroom-based but I’ve dabbled enough in elearning to hold my own. I’ve been told I have a one-track mind; all I can think about is how to make learning and development more engaging every day. I hope this little quirk is ok with you. But it means that I also expect you to want to make learning and development engaging every day. Not just in your office. But when you’re presenting, too. Like, when you’re presenting at DevLearn for example.

Who I’m Looking For: I’m looking for someone who can blow my mind and who doesn’t believe in “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” I’m looking for a session that delivers content or builds skills that won’t just be forgotten as soon as I walk out the door of your meeting room. I want to brag about what I did with you, what you taught me, what I can now do when I go back to Seattle and swap stories with my co-workers and other L&D colleagues for years to come.

Interests: Flipcharting, designing learning experiences, playing around with Storyline, geeking out over hot topics in adult learning

Exercise Habits: I’m actually kind of lazy, always looking for keyboard shortcuts to hasten the amount of time I spend in PowerPoint or Storyline or Word or Excel

Favorite Things: I know DevLearn is all about technology in learning, but I still cherish the first whiff of a new pack of Mr. Sketch markers

Last Read: Our Iceberg Is Melting (John Kotter)

Background & Values

Me My Soul Mate
Education M.A. Organizational Psychology Degrees are overrated
Learning Style Visual Kinesthetic
Delivery Style Attempt to be inclusive (as often as possible) Show me the ring (because I want to be engaged by you and your presentation!)
Honesty I may exaggerate from time to time Honesty is a must! What you advertise in your session description in the conference program should be what you deliver in your session!
Risk Taking Nothing ventured, nothing gained! Be fearless.

 

Delivery Style

Me My Soul Mate
Lecture No way This is a deal-breaker for me
Visual Aids Prefer flipchart; PPT if I must Standard templates, lots of text and bullet points are all deal-breakers
Preparation Almost always Must be impeccable (yes, I have higher standards for you; perhaps you’ll inspire me to prepare better)
Delivery Use a lesson plan as a guide, adapt to the audience and their needs This is a big deal. The delivery should seem natural and smooth (not off the cuff and aimless). Reading verbatim from a script or from the slides is an absolute deal breaker.

 

On November 3, I’ll follow up this post and will let you know if I was able to find that elusive conference session soul mate at DevLearn.

Will you be there? If so, drop me a line. I’d love to connect and, as I mentioned above, geek out over adult learning, instructional design and whatever else can be taken away from the conference!

 

 

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).

Option 1: GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLL!

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!