RETHINK: Training Materials as In-the-Moment Job Aids

February 7, 2017 in Author, Delivery, Facilitation, Greg Owen-Boger, Preparation, Talent Development, Training

Greg Owen-Boger, VP Turpin CommunicationIn our work, we train and coach a lot of corporate trainers and subject matter experts (SMEs) to be more effective in the training room. Time and again we see them struggle with PowerPoint slides and facilitation guides.

We see similar struggles when they’re using off-the-shelf training as well as when the training has been designed specifically for them. The reason for this is because these training tools, the facilitator guide and slides, have not been prepared in such a way that will benefit the trainer while they’re delivering the training.

The Facilitation Guide Serves Two Purposes
When putting a facilitation guide together for trainers and SMEs to use, it’s important to recognize that they will use the guide for two very different purposes.

First, they’ll use it to prepare themselves to deliver the material. This means that the guide needs to be comprehensive enough so that the SME understands (1) what is to be learned, (2) why the class is designed the way it is, and (3) how content should be delivered. This requires detail and nuance, but not a script. If the training is to be delivered multiple times, especially if they take place over a period of time, it also needs to include enough detail to jog memories.

Second, the guide needs to serve as an in-the-moment job aid.  It’s unrealistic to assume that trainers and SMEs can deliver training without looking at notes from time to time. Therefore, the facilitation guide needs to be clear and its information easily accessible in the moment. This requires recognizable icons, short bullets, consistent layout, and so on.

Facilitator guides need to be laid out and organized to support both purposes. Easier said than done, but necessary if it is going to be useful to the person using it.

Presentation Slides Also Serve Two Purposes
When designing slides or other types of visuals for trainers to use during the training, keep in mind that, like the facilitator guide, slides also have two functions. They are there for the learners and they are there for the trainer. This goes against traditional thinking. But we believe that if a slide doesn’t support the trainer in their moment of need, it’s a lousy visual aid.

Here are common missteps that we see, followed by recommendations.

  • Sometimes a slide’s title is not an accurate reflection of what the slide shows or means. A good slide title should spark the right thoughts for the trainer in the moment of delivery.
  • Sometimes slides are too wordy, making it difficult to read and talk about. Bullet points should always be easily readable and start with the same part of speech (verb, noun, adjective).
  • Conversely, sometimes slides don’t have enough words. This often happens when the slide displays a metaphorical image without context or explanation (think Zen stones showing up out of nowhere). We recommend adding text to images. You may not win any design awards, but that’s not the point.
  • Sometimes information is organized in a way that doesn’t make sense to the trainer. For example, the Instructional Designer may have listed items alphabetically, when from the trainers’ perspective, they should be arranged chronologically. If the trainer stumbles in situations such as this, don’t fight them. Reorder the information and save your arguments for when it matters.

As you put together the content of the training, remember the dual role both facilitator guides and slides play in training delivery and design accordingly.

by Greg Owen-Boger, VP at Turpin Communication and co-author of the book, “The Orderly Conversation”

How much detail should be included on PowerPoint slides? Part 2

August 9, 2011 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Preparation

Part 2 of 2

greg 200x300This is part 2 of an article I posted last week about rethinking how much information you put in your presentation slides. As I said, anyone who champions rules about these things is missing the big picture and leading you astray.

Instead, we need to take a fresh look. I used the GPS metaphor to describe how to rethink your slides so that they help you move your audience from point A to point B.

But as I pointed out, this metaphor only works if you’ve crafted your slides well. Here’s what I meant.

As you prepare:
The first step is to analyze your audience and figure out what they already know about your topic. Think of this as the place you’ll pick them up (Point A). Next select your destination. Where do you want to take them? That’s Point B.

Next figure out your agenda. This will be the route you’ll take. Just like a GPS, you’ll have options. Will you take the freeway, which is a relatively easy trip with just a few turns and requires limited guidance? Or, will you take the street-level route, which will require more detailed guidance?

Whichever option you choose, make sure your trip is logically mapped out and draft your agenda to lead the way.

Once your agenda is crafted, it’s time to work on the body slides. Begin with one body slide per agenda point. Label it using the language you used in the agenda. In other words if your agenda point #1 is “Market Share is Growing,” body slide #1 should be titled the same. As you develop the presentation, you’ll probably need to add more supporting slides, but this is a good start.

So now you’ve got a plan. Your agenda and slide titles mark the milestones for your trip. It’s time to fill in the details. Use words and images that help you stay on track. For example, the GPS doesn’t tell you to “go north.” Instead it recognizes exactly where you are and gives you directions from that point of view: “Turn right.” That’s much more useful when you’re in unfamiliar territory. The content of your slides should be just as easy to follow.

Add just enough detail to support you as you manage the conversation. Remember how Allison Rossett  (from part 1) said that the GPS makes you smarter than you are where and when you need the information? The same is true here. You don’t have to memorize a script or any section of your presentation; you just need to be able to rely on your slides to lead you from point to point.

The best laid plans…
Now, before you present you need to re-familiarize yourself with your plan. If you’re like me, you created your slides a week ago and by the time you have to present you’ve forgotten the logic behind them.

I recommend paging through your slide deck looking only at the slide titles. Do they spark the right thoughts? Does the route you’ve chose still seem logical? If not, fiddle with them until they do. (If you do make changes, make sure you change the agenda to match.)

Next, go through the deck again. This time look at everything on the slides. Again, ask yourself if what’s there is sparking the right thoughts. If not, change them until they do.

Trust the GPS
So now you’re ready to meet up with your audience and drive the conversation from A to B. Trust your slides to lead you. You don’t have to say things perfectly or remember every single data point. Your slides are there to remind you of those things. Remember, they’ll make you smarter than you are, but only if you trust them.

Keep in mind that the presentation is a conversation. This means it might get a little messy. You’re going to say things you didn’t plan, your thoughts will lead you in new directions and you’ll go down unfamiliar streets. Audience members will take you on a detour by asking questions. All of these things are OK and are expected. Think of it as taking the scenic route. When it’s time to get back on track, simply rely on your slides to guide you.

Presenting doesn’t have to be such hard work.
By following these recommendations (instead of following arbitrary rules about numbers of bullets), you won’t have to work so hard when you present. Your slides will keep you on track and help you manage the detours. In other words, they’ll be there when you need them and make you smarter than you are.

by Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President, Turpin Communication

How much detail should be included on PowerPoint slides? Part 1

August 1, 2011 in Author, Delivery, Greg Owen-Boger, Myths Debunked, Preparation

Part 1 of 2

greg 200x300We get questions like this and others about numbers of bullets, numbers of words per bullet and so on quite often in our presentation skills workshops.

There is no easy answer. And anyone who champions rules about these things is missing the big picture and leading you astray.

If you think of presentations as Orderly Conversations as we do, you’ll recognize that the slides are simply there to:

  • Provide information that listeners need
  • Serve as your notes
  • Provide structure to the conversation
  • Keep you on track

How much information you’ll need on your slides should be dictated by your listeners’ needs and how much guidance you think you’ll need once the presentation begins.

I recently attended a conference where Allison Rossett, a thought leader in the informal learning movement, was talking about using a GPS in her car. She said that GPS devices make us smarter than we are because they provide us with the exact information we need when and where we need it. We don’t need to memorize the exact route from A to B. Instead we can rely on the GPS – a sort of modern-day cheat sheet – to keep us on track and get us to our destination.

Ms. Rossett was applying this metaphor to informal learning, but it can be applied to presenting as well.

Getting from point A to point B
If you think about presenting as moving a conversation from point A to point B, the metaphor makes sense. Let’s layer into the metaphor some high-stress traffic, a few streets you’ve never traveled and a detour. When we do that, the traffic represents the pressure you feel during the presentation. The unfamiliar streets are the unknown elements of the conversation and the questions are the detour.

So in this high-pressure, high-stakes presentation environment, what’s your GPS?

Your slides.

They are there to guide you, remind you of what you want to say, keep you on track, and bring you back after the detours

But, and this is a big but, your slides will only function as a GPS if you craft them the right way. I’ll talk more about how to do that in my next post.

by Greg Owen-Boger, Vice President, Turpin Communication

My Presentation Slides are Too Detailed, but I Have to Use Them. Any Advice?

January 18, 2011 in Author, Dale Ludwig, Delivering Your Presentation, Delivery, FAQs, Improving Your Visual Aids, Preparation, Video

This is a common issue we are asked about in Turpin Communication’s presentation skills workshops. You know your slides are too detailed and you have no power to change them. Maybe they came from Marketing, or Market Research, or maybe they were designed by a controlling manager. Whatever the issue, here’s Dale Ludwig offering some advice in this video blog.

What are your thoughts?