This is the first in my series on what I learned in my last job as training specialist at a small high-tech start-up.
I picked up the book Beyond Bullet Points and wanted to give the new presentation paradigm a try. I was able to make some minor modifications to the corporate template to meet my needs, and I had complete control over content creation. I wasn’t giving the presentation, I was just writing it. The presentations would be presented by instructors that where knowledgeable on the topic.
I created what I though was an amazing PowerPoint presentation, that used full sentence titles. If you looked only at the slide titles, you could follow the presentation’s “story”. The slide content itself was mostly graphical. As a general rule, the slides avoided bullet points. Some slides did have a key statement that supported or provided additional information relating to the slide title.
So, I setup a review meeting and asked one of the instructors do to the presentation for the review. I was really excited about the new graphics and the new format. I thought that everyone would find the presentation easy to follow and would be impressed by the ease with which the instructor presented the material. Unfortunately, that is not what happened
I did not brief the instructor, and the instructor did not really look at the slides in advance. As a result, he struggled to present the material. He would open a slide and look for the bullet points to help him figure out what to say next. Of course, there were no bullet points. Also, the new template had the unfortunate characteristic that the slide titles were faded out, so they were not obvious. The instructor struggled through the entire presentation without reading a single title! The entire presentation was build around the idea that the first thing that the instructor said was the slide title.
So, what did I learn?
First, when you are trying out a new template, make sure you preview/test the template on a projector (not just your screen) prior to the presentation. The titles which looked OK on my screen became washed out and almost invisible when they were projected.
Second, when you are trying something new and having someone else doing the presentation, make sure you brief the instructor on the new paradigm. It never occurred to me that the instructor would need to be “re-trained” on how to view and present the material. All I needed to tell the instructor in advance was to be sure to read the titles. (I did this with a different presentation and different instructor and it worked brilliantly). When titles are topic based, you often don’t read them. However, with this new paradigm, the titles were a critical component of the story.
In the end, I think the new paradigm that uses full sentence titles really does help communicate the intended message. It also helps ensure that the instructor knows what the instructional designer intended with the particular slide. However, the instructors do need to be re-trained on what to expect and how to present the material. Without bullet points, the instructors need to be more knowledgeable on the subject and more familiar with the presentation itself.