If you’re like many modern companies today, you probably use PowerPoint to a range of ends. One of the best and most effective is as a learning tool for your employees. Perhaps you use it in a group setting, where a leader lectures to listeners with the aid of slides, or maybe you employ it to enable self-directed learning. Whatever the case, upping the engagement level of your PowerPoint Presentations can significantly increase the amount of learning that takes place.
That being said, most people assume that making PowerPoint more interesting involves super-fancy graphics or crazy slide structures that would take a genius to unravel … not to mention put together. Luckily, that’s not the case! Below we offer 10 simple strategies for making presentations more interesting, more accessible and more learning-oriented.
1. For Goodness’ Sake, Edit
Nothing kills concentration faster than bad editing. Misspelled words, improper use of punctuation and poor grammar bother a lot of folks, and if someone’s spending all their time thinking about your subpar command of the English language, they’re not thinking about the topic at hand. Here are some handy tips on editing if it’s always been a sticking point for you.
2. Use Graphics
Pictures, sketches, charts, graphs, tables and other graphics all enhance the power of a presentation or course, but it’s surprising how few people use them. Do it!
3. Stop It with the Bullet Points, Already
They’re insufferably boring, they’re not how our brains naturally process information, and they have a terrible reputation for signaling tedium. Just stop.
4. Give up the Clicker
Handing power over to employees for their own knowledge is a powerful way to up both motivation and the amount of material retained. Self-directed learning is just what it sounds like, letting people be in charge of their own education. In this case, put the presentation in their hands and let them click away.
5. Go Non-Linear
Although it sounds so much harder to make your PowerPoint non-linear than linear, it’s actually quite simple. Instead of linking to outside content, instead you merely link to different slides in the presentation. Think Choose Your Own Adventure, different links depending on the answer to a question, or letting employees select what to do next.
Giving people the choice of where to navigate is a fantastic way to up their engagement, because suddenly instead of just following along, they have to choose and decide. Just remember when you link to other parts of the presentation that you provide a good path back, because you don’t want people skipping large portions due to poor road-mapping.
6. Link to Outside Content
In addition to inside linking, outside content can provide powerful resources and underscore your points, so use it liberally as long as it will not distract from the learning.
Turning your content into a game is a powerful way to engage learners by triggering the reward center of the brain, which is addicted to positive reinforcement such as earning points, getting prizes and moving on to the next level.
8. Stick with a Color Scheme
Following a crazy color scheme hurts our eyes, so choose a palette of 3-5 colors and don’t veer off.
9. Use the 10/20/30 Rule
This one’s simple: For verbal presentations, don’t use more than 10 slides, go longer than 20 minutes, or use font smaller than size 30. Boom. Effortless effectiveness.
10. Don’t Read the Dang Screen
Nothing bores someone to tears more quickly than showing a slide with information on it and then reading the slide. Chances are excellent that your employees can read (or why would you bother with slides in the first place?), and reading to them at a slower rate than their brains process is a sure-fire one-way ticket to Dullsville.
Instead, if you are giving a presentation, use slides to augment what you’re saying, not repeat it. Offer charts and graphs that visually represent your words, use images that illustrate your points, and embed videos to make a case better than you can. Of course, in the case of self-directed learning, the slides will necessarily be more in-depth, which is a good argument for using different presentations when talking to a group and when expecting people to learn on their own.
When it comes right down to it, the secret behind interesting PowerPoint content is the same as the secret behind interesting video, radio, books and other forms of learning and entertainment. A little editing prevents learners from breaking out of their train of thought, visual appeal makes them want to look, and giving up on the old, dry, bullet-pointed model makes employees feel both more in control and more invested in learning the content.
With so much to gain, it’s easy to see why you would want to put such simple steps into action right away! A note of caution, however: it can be easy to get overwhelmed trying to update your course materials and presentations all at once, whereas instead you should try to slowly incorporate a new approach. Try one thing at a time, waiting until it works, and before you know it your PowerPoints will rock. Guaranteed.
Helping learners get more out of your PowerPoint presentations doesn’t have to be high-tech or super complicated.