In the information age there is nothing more frustrating than having the ability to watch full screen high definition movies and surf the internet in the blink of an eye, but when it comes to attending training the trainer uses a set of static bullet points that only an electron microscope can view clearly. The images the trainers’ uses are the same clipart that was used to pitch the original idea for the Great Wall of China.
I am of the belief that when it comes to training that information technology can be used to enhance the training experience and as such should be used to make the trainer, training and ultimately the transfer of learning more effective, this could almost be called the trifecta of training. When it comes to PowerPoint and its alternatives most trainers appear to use the tool as a crutch to support poor preparation or if delivering as part of a large organisation they will be hamstrung by dogma and the “we have always done it this way” mentality.
When you, the trainer (or presenter) has been given your aim for the session the focus should ideally be on your learners/ target group. You should focus on why they are there, once you have decided on that the focus should be on how best to get this across in an effective manner. If you are a trainer you will have a wider range of tools in your bag to get your point across and your PowerPoint will be another part of this arsenal. If you have to make a presentation with minimal interaction then your presentation will have to catch their attention and allow you to get the point over as quickly as possible, to that end I would argue that when you make a presentation then bullet points should only be used as a last resort or to get over a salient point that cannot be found by other means.
Visualisation in Life
In today’s computers we have the ability to display high resolution images, stream and play videos use sound, so why don’t we as instructors, teachers, trainers and facilitators use these technologies to make our sessions more involving. If you examine the article “Children's brand symbolism understanding: Links to theory of mind and executive functioning” you can see that the visualisation of brands plays an important part in children’s development, if that is true of children why not adults, when asked to name a burger chain, do you think of the name or do you get a visual representation of McDonalds or Burger King, with possibly the slogan. If you look at it like this, if you are asked to describe your first bike you will not get a list of bullet points in your head you will instantly create an image/ scenario in your mind that will bring an emotional response and you are likely to speak with passion about that bike, its colour, the wheelies you did, the accidents and breaks you had. When it comes to creating evocative presentations it is worth considering the point that you are trying to make; and think of an image, movie clip, or slogan that will help you tell a story, for your sessions are a story you are engaging your audience and want them to listen, participate and internalise your session, not go away thinking “that was boring” or “that was death by PowerPoint”.
Telling the Story
When you are constructing your “story” it is essential that you sign post the plot (much like a Hollywood blockbuster) and set up each slide. When it comes to you the trainer/ speaker it is important that you remember what the point of the images/ movies/ sound represent and their place in the journey. Therefore it is vital that you bolster the speaker note section (that bit at the bottom that takes up screen space and remains blank) and it is here that you can put all that lovely text and bullet points, after all that is why you had them on screen.
Proof is in the Pudding
One of my favourite stories is from a Health and Safety trainer who was giving a workshop safety talk to a group of people in an engineer workshop, this was part of a larger set of presentations on a training day and the previous trainers had used the standard setup, he had been given the graveyard slot (last session straight after lunch) anticipating that the trainers that would be on before him would use bullets to slay the audience and lunch would just kill off any enthusiasm he took a bold step and completely redesigned his presentation around a Laurel and Hardy sketch (The busy bodies) admittedly it took him a little while to get into it, but once he presented the course and approximately three months later as part of a level three evaluation on the transfer of learning the safety element of the day was the most effective element of the training as the learners were able to relate to the subject, had a laugh (The effectiveness of humour in persuasion: the case of business ethics training, Lyttle 2001) and as a result remembered the content of the session better. By including visual cues like road signs it is possible to create an engaging presentation that can and does effectively meet the aim and outcomes for your session. Probably the best way to think of this is; how many times have you sat through a presentation and thought “when will this end”, when you do think of your own slides and think what can I do to stop that being me.