training blog - why off the shelf powerpoint doesn't really work
We often get asked what we mean by ‘off the shelf type presentations’ when delegates are about to attend our PTT Train the Trainer course so I’d like to share an excellent example of what it is and why we tell people never to bring them, especially PowerPoint ones!
So, what do we mean by ‘Off the shelf type presentations’? - Something that has been pre-prepared by you or someone else in a format that doesn’t take account of the type of session and audience. Here is an excellent example of what happened on a recent PTT Train the Trainer course:
On the evening of day one, I was asked to review the session a delegate was going to deliver the following day. The session had been made in PowerPoint and was on a somewhat technical subject which isn’t ideal. However, I was confident from day one that the delegate had the skills to be able to deliver the subject in a way that was engaging and appropriate to the audience. I was also confident that the advice given for using PowerPoint would be followed as the delegate had previously told me that the delivery would be in that format, so I was keen as always to point out that we didn’t want to end up in a ‘death by PowerPoint’ session.
That evening, the presentation was delivered to me by email, and I was shocked to see 27 slides with lots of writing, information and jargon. I wrote a detailed action plan back detailing the reasons that 27 slides for a twenty-minute session wouldn’t work and that in its present form, it was just a session that would be the delegate in tell mode; yet another ‘Death by PowerPoint scenario. A little later, another version came back with just four slides removed and the content largely unchanged so I emailed back to say that we would look at it together the following day as it needed a 1:1 focus.
The next day we went through the slides again, and we discussed the problems that they were facing with the session the way it was presently formatted, and I gave another detailed action plan. Some further changes were made which did improve the session significantly. However, some great key learning points came out in the debrief:
As I had suspected, the PowerPoint had been written before attending the course in a format that wasn’t in compliance with what was covered in day one of the course. The delegate stated that they felt disappointed with the final session and had seen how sticking with the pre-prepared PowerPoint, had been detrimental to the last session and that they had delivered better sessions in the previous activities. This is the most common failing of ‘Off the shelf’ solutions; the planning and writing of the session have been all about telling lots and lots of information in a way that doesn’t promote learning (death by PowerPoint). They were focussed purely on the information and the words so when I asked them to cut this down; they had no idea how to do it as the first thought was ‘but I need that, and I need that’ and it becomes very, very difficult. Little or none of the focus was about the best means to deliver ensuring engagement and learning and all the great techniques that had happened on day one were completely overlooked. The good news though was the delegate had done enough to pass the course and at the same time had learnt a very valuable lesson.
Scott Fraser is a Master Trainer at Target Training and delivers our PTT Train the Trainer courses and our Advanced PTT Train the Trainer courses. You can read more about him here.