Training without a Trainer – Designing Fool-proof Job Aids

When someone can learn how to do something without having to complete a training course, it saves them time. It saves you time. Everyone is happy. Unless it’s done poorly. Then it’s just frustrating. Unless, of course, you design fool-proof job aids.

Last week I wrote about how our IT guy devised a way to reduce the amount of “help” calls and emails he received simply by putting two photos on the LCD projector in our conference room. It turns out, this idea was actually the brainchild of our office manager, not our IT guy – this goes to show that learning can come from anyone and happen anywhere. It goes back to the idea that 70% of learning doesn’t happen through a training course or an elearning course or even through conversations with a manager or mentor… it happens on the job.

What Doesn’t a Fool-Proof Job Aid Look Like?

And this sort of “on the job training” can be all around us – at work and in life in general. This past weekend I went Christmas shopping with my 3-year-old son and when I went to pay for parking, I used this machine:

Training without a Trainer (2) Continue reading

Using PowerPoint? Here are 3 more examples of amazing slides for you to copy!

In the past 5 years, I can’t remember the last time I attended a presentation that didn’t include PowerPoint. If you’re using PowerPoint (or Keynote), take a look at the following 3 presentations:

These presentations have obviously been put together by people with good graphic design sense. They’ve put a lot of time, thought and effort into creating these. If you don’t have hours and hours to put together your next slide deck, you can at least copy the following lessons from these amazing presentations:

  1. Not a single one of these slide decks is using a template from the Design tab in PowerPoint. Start with a blank page (as in NO BACKGROUND at all) and build your story from there. Speaking of stories, the second thing you can emulate is…
  2. Each presentation tells a story. None of these presentations dumps data on the audience with a seemingly endless string of graphs and charts and tables. When you’re putting together your next presentation, start with a question or a declaration of how you’ll solve a problem. And then build to the solution.
  3. Each presentation uses powerful imagery. I challenge you to find a single element of clip art in any of these presentations. When you’re putting together your slide deck, you can tap into your audience’s emotions by finding images and photos that go with your content. After all, when was the last time you saw a graph (or some clip art) that you remembered for years (or months or even days)?

One note of caution: each of these presentations was posted to Slideshare in order to stand alone. There’s a lot of text in these presentations that wouldn’t need to be there if you were presenting in person.

Looking for some more ways to create amazing visual presentations, check out these recent posts:

Think someone else could use some help with their slides? Pass this post along!

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Flowchart: Is Your PowerPoint Any Good?

Want to deliver a killer presentation? You’re going to need top notch slides to accompany your delivery.

Have you put together a deck of top notch slides? I’ve put together a little flowchart (click here to download a pdf version) to help you check your work.

Is Your PowerPoint Any Good

Is there anything missing from the flowchart? Let me know in the comments section below.

Want some ideas of what an amazing PowerPoint (or Keynote) presentation might look like? You may be interested in these previous posts:

Know of someone else who’s in need of killer PowerPoint design skills? Pass this along!

As for you, if you want access to a steady stream of articles to help improve your presentation skills, be sure to click “Follow”!

What In The World Was Seth Godin Thinking??

In 2003, he gave a talk in which he used many, many slides. But where were the charts? And the graphs? And the statistics? How could this possibly have been effective?

If you have twenty minutes, I encourage you judge for yourself whether you might be able to take anything away from such a presentation.  Even if you only have a few minutes, click on the link to see what a presentation might look like without the use of PowerPoint templates and facts and figures and bullet points.



Whatever he was thinking, I appreciate his presentation style. He makes his point (if you want your idea to spread, you don’t have to be first, but you do have to be creative, be different and stand out) very effectively through his passionate 20-minute monologue, and his points are supplemented through simple imagery and very little text on his slides.  His point about, and the image of, the purple cow will stick with me for quite some time. And I didn’t need charts or graphs or bullet points to help me digest it.

In his book How to be a Presentation God, Scott Schwertly calls this The Godin Method. “The slide images, as used in the Godin method, are your trusty sidekicks. They allow you to focus on deep, meaningful content without scorching your audience’s cerebellums.”

The fact is, if you have 20 minutes to present, then you need to accept the fact that your audience will not have the time to master your content. At best, they’ll have the time to be intrigued by your content. If you can ignite their interest and curiosity and passion, then maybe your audience will want to do something with your content. I have a feeling that this is what Seth Godin thinks about every time he presents.

The next time you have a presentation to give, what in the world will you be thinking about?

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.

Training Tip: When You Can’t Tape Things To The Wall

Some hotels and other meeting space venues don’t allow you to use tape on the walls, which generally rules out the ability to post flipcharts around the room.  Several years ago I stumbled upon a solution to this.

Plastic Sheets

Flipchart-sized plastic sheets that can serve as a cross between a white board and a flipchart have been a savior for me on several occasions.  They stick to the wall using the power of static cling – no tape, no irritated conference facility staff.

As much as I love Mr. Sketch markers, they actually are one of the worst things you can use when you write on these plastic sheets.  You’ll need to use either dry erase markers or something extremely permanent (like chisel-tipped Sharpies).

Bringing a package of these along takes a little extra space in the suitcase, but they’ve helped me look prepared on several occasions.  I’ve used these sheets in training sessions and with team members and executives during last-minute strategy meetings while on the road.

The Train Like A Champion blog is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  These brief “Training Tip” posts are a series of quick reference tips that are published while your beloved Train Like A Champion blogger is currently enjoying a little vacation.  The more in-depth posts will resume again in August.

Training Tip: PowerPoint as a Photo Editor

When Tom Kuhlman recently posted his 7 reasons why PowerPoint doesn’t suck, I was skeptical.  But as usual, he’s right.  Using tips from his blog post, I was able to quickly turn this image…

I Am Not A Role Model

…to this image in order to remove the background and create the look and feel I wanted…

I Am Not A Role Model (no background)

…with two clicks of the mouse.

I Am Not A Role Model - PPT

PowerPoint is actually an amazing tool… I’d love to see more presenters take advantage of its features to create amazing presentations.

Related Posts:

The Train Like A Champion blog is published on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  These brief “Training Tip” posts are a series of quick reference tips that are published while your beloved Train Like A Champion blogger is currently enjoying a little vacation.  The more in-depth posts will resume again in August.

Flip Chart Examples: The Art of the Flip Chart

Before you read this, you may want to check out 9 tips for better flip charts. This is a great introduction to improving your flip charts and also includes some great flip chart examples.

As I wrapped up a day-long training session, a participant came up to me and said: “I don’t know why we don’t do more of this kind of thing.  Such little changes make a world of difference.”

She was talking about my flip charts.

I like using flip charts because they can stay on the wall for an entire session (with PowerPoint I lose my image as soon as I advance a slide), I can add to them at any point (with PowerPoint, I’m mostly stuck with the slides I’ve created in advance) and anyone else in the room can add to them at any time. Here are three major factors I’ve found to good flip chart design:

Advanced Preparation

When participants walk into the room and see flipcharts prepared and hung in advance it sends the message that I’ve invested some time in preparing for the session.  I find that my handwriting is much neater when I can take my time, so preparing the flipcharts I plan to use in advance creates a better visual experience and just seems more professional than last-minute, ad hoc creation of flipcharts.  In addition, having flipcharts prepared in advance allows me to go right into the next topic without having to use valuable class time to (sloppily) create the next flipchart.

As a participant, which kind of visual imagery would you prefer to have hanging around the room?

flip chart created on the fly

Flipchart created in the moment

flip chart prepared in advance

Flip chart example prepared in advance

Continue reading

PowerPoint Slide Design: Too Simple?

All of the books, all of the blogs, all of the top Slideshare presentations on  PowerPoint slide design make this common plea: simplify.  But how simple is too simple?

I had this conversation with a non-training colleague of mine a while back.  “Yes, watching someone read off of their text-heavy, bullet-pointed PowerPoint slides is a waste of time,” he told me.  “But so are these artistic slides that replace all words with pictures and images.  I have a tough enough time interpreting poetry.  I don’t want to have to work that hard to interpret what you’re trying to represent on your slides.”

Applying This Principle to Slide Design

During a recent presentation, I attempted to apply the simple-but-not-too-simple principle to my slide design on the key points from Malcolm Knowles’ adult learning theory.  Below is the content I wanted to turn into a slide (click here to download a Google doc of this information):

06142013 - ALPs

I know enough about slide design to know that just copying and pasting this document would certainly not be the way to go.  While this is a nice handout, it’s not appropriate to drop into a slide.  I also wanted to turn some of Knowles’ key points into questions that presenters should be able to answer.  So I simplified the information and designed these four slides:

06142013 - Slide Evolution A  06142013 - Slide Evolution B

06142013 - Slide Evolution C  06142013 - Slide Evolution D

Can Simple PowerPoint be Distracting?

When I practiced the presentation in front of several co-workers, one colleague noted that he liked the simple presentation of these questions.  But he was distracted by my attempt at simplicity.  As I advanced the slides and went on to the second and third and fourth questions, he stopped paying attention to the new questions because he was trying to remember what the first question was.  I modified the presentation to include all of the information on one slide through a series of animated text boxes.  The final product looked like this:

06142013 - Slide Evolution 1  06142013 - Slide Evolution 2

06142013 - Slide Evolution 3  06142013 - Slide Evolution 4

06142013 - Slide Evolution 5

Why Rules are Not Enough for Effective PowerPoint Slide Design

Effective PowerPoint slide design is all about experimenting, reviewing, asking whether or not a particular visual aid will really aid the audience, then if necessary refining the design.  Effective slide design certainly takes time and effort and at times can be tedious, but the end result is an amazing experience for the learners.  And without an amazing learner experience, there’s not much reason to actually give a presentation in the first place.

What can you share about your experiences with PowerPoint slide design?


Three Simple PowerPoint Tips To Improve Your Slide Design

“Pardon me, is that Prezi you’re using?”

“No.  Actually it’s PowerPoint.”

This was an actual conversation I had with a participant during a recent training session.  Prezi has carried the label of “the next big thing in visual aids” for some time now.  I’ve tried to learn it a few times, but it tends to make me dizzy.  So I’ve stopped playing around with it.

I’m constantly on the lookout to find a better way to present visual information.  I’ve highlighted some amazing Slideshare presentations in previous posts.  Though I’ve pointed people in the direction of some amazing examples, I still can’t design amazing and engaging slides like some of those examples which have been produced by people with a graphic design background.  But, I’ve found that a few simple tweeks to the way I’ve designed my slides can make my PowerPoint presentations a lot more interesting.

  1. Slide Transitions

I first noticed the difference that this element can play when I attended a session delivered by the chief operating officer of my organization.  Instead of clicking the next button and having a new slide appear, he clicked the next button and one slide gave way to the next similar to the way a film strip would advance.  It was a small touch, but it was unexpected.  It was different.  I liked it so much I started playing with the slide transitions element on a few recent presentations, and that’s what led one participant to ask if I was using Prezi.  Be careful though, don’t overdo it on the slide transitions.

  1. Drop Clip Art, Use Simple Shapes

I have a limited budget and can’t spend much on artwork.  Which means that often I can’t find free clipart images that express exactly what I want to express.  Recently I’ve found that I can drop the idea of an image all together and use a simple design by inserting a few text boxes, a few shapes and lots of white space.

Look ma, no clip art!

Look ma, no clip art!

  1. Animate The Screen

This final tip uses a little more advanced PowerPoint design skill; it’s a trick I learned as I was trying to design a Family Feud-style board using PowerPoint for an activity (read more about it here: Survey Says! Creating Training Games Like Family Feud with PowerPoint).  Beyond a game of Family Feud, this design element allows a PowerPoint presentation to be much more dynamic.  Instead of simply animating a bullet-pointed list wherein each click of the mouse leads to a pre-determined order in the way things appear on the screen, using this design element allows a presenter to reveal concepts on the screen in the order that your learners mention them.

You can simply animate bullet points in a static list...

You can simply animate bullet points in a static list…

...or you can set custom animations so answers are revealed as the audience calls them out.

…or you can set dynamic, custom animations so answers are revealed as the audience calls them out.

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.

Great PowerPoint Examples: Get Inspired!

I recently took a colleague completely off-guard.  The meeting was about to begin.  He was apologizing that a projector and screen weren’t set up.  And for some reason, I was very calm.  “I told the hotel staff that I didn’t need any of that stuff.  I don’t have any slides,” I told him.

He thought about my comment for several moments.  “You’re not going to use slides?!”

To my co-worker, it was unfathomable that in this day and age someone would not want to use PowerPoint to supplement his presentation.  PowerPoint (or Keynote for those Mac users) is a great tool that has just been overused, and often abused, in presentations.

In the event that PowerPoint is something you’re planning to use in an upcoming presentation, and in the event there’s nothing I can do to talk you out of using it, then at least click on a couple of the following links.  These great PowerPoint examples offer a glimpse of what can be possible when it comes to creating some amazing visual aids using PowerPoint…

Great PowerPoint Example #1: You Suck At PowerPoint

I like this presentation because, if we all take a good, hard, honest look in the mirror, this is the truth.  The designer of this presentation (who also designed a similar, more gently-named presentation called Steal This Presentation) offers a series of common mistakes we make in designing PowerPoint and how to address them.

Great PowerPoint Example 1

Great PowerPoint Example #2: Introduction to Slide Design

Alex Rister, who has a pretty amazing blog entitled Creating Communication, also designs some amazing presentations.  The Introduction to Slide Design presentation has a dual-purpose: 1) explaining how to put together great presentations and 2) showing you what great slides look like.

Great PowerPoint Example 2 - Slide Design

Not So Great Example #3: The Gettysburg Address

At the beginning of this post, I claimed PowerPoint is over-used, often abused.  I mean it.  PowerPoint isn’t always necessary.  And Peter Norvig does an amazing job illustrating this.  How historic would Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address have been had he chosen to use PowerPoint?

Not So Great PowerPoint Example 3 - Gettysburg Address

Looking for some additional tips on how to create your own great PowerPoint presentation?  You may find these other blog posts helpful:

Have your own great PowerPoint examples? Share them in the comments. We’d love to hear about what others are doing!