Presentation skills: Avoid death by PowerPoint

Too many trainers rely on outdated PowerPoint presentations. Why not dust yourself down and acquire some new techno techniques?

A common ailment widespread throughout the corporate learning and development (L&D) landscape is Death by PowerPoint (DbPP) – a condition any self-respecting trainer hopes delegates will avoid after a session in their presence.

To avoid it (possibly) trainers need to be up to speed with the latest functionality made possible by PowerPoint 2007, the most recent release of Microsoft’s market-leading presentation software. So says Karen Moyse, managing director of communications training consultancy Kinetic Future, which holds courses on how to deliver successful business presentations.

To enhance the look of presentations, she advises downloading reasonably-priced images from one of the many websites offering a range of professional photographic images, such as

Moyse is also a big fan of the ability to show all your PowerPoint slides on a single slide – a function that can be used to offer audiences a choice of which slide they would like to go to next.

“By allowing the delegates to steer the presentation towards a subject that interests them, you stand a much greater chance of keeping people engaged,” she adds.


The importance of interaction with the audience is stressed by Matthew Jingell, group head of training at Promethean, which supplies interactive whiteboards.

The company’s trademarked Activboards act as a large computer screen – the latest product is 64 inches wide and prices start from £2,495 – where presentations can be manipulated by an electronic pen held by the presenter, and weblinks, videos and sound recordings can be integrated. The company offers a range of training for its products, including a six-week distance learning course that costs £195.

Promethean has also developed a learner response system (LRS), which can be used during a session to assess group understanding, gauge opinion or initiate discussion. The system takes the form of an individual keypad, through which each participant can communicate wirelessly back to the trainer.

Jingell says: “This represents a step-change in the way trainers interact with participants. Because it can be anonymous, people feel happier about expressing themselves and the results can be kept for the trainer’s records.”

Web conferencing

Meanwhile, with training budgets tight and companies less willing to pay for their staff to travel to training events, remote online training is growing in popularity, and here too technology can help.

At Cisco, Axel Albrecht, the technical manager for the company’s web conferencing service WebEx, is keen to talk about how easy the product is to use.

“Any user with access to a web browser can access a learning session, meaning a call or a training event can be set up extremely quickly,” he says.

Through WebEx, on-screen presentations can be combined with either VoIP or traditional phones, as well as webcams. Other innovations include the ability to split delegates into smaller groups where they can take control of a meeting to, for example, practise something they have just learnt.

And if a trainer is worried that their remote charges aren’t paying full attention, they can use a tool that tells them if a delegate is running any other applications – such as Instant Messaging or Facebook – on their desktop.

Much of the training for WebEx can be gleaned from a free online resource called WebEx University.

Making movies

Video clips are also becoming more widely-used in training events, and although there are a number of professional digital video making packages on the market, a good starting point is Movie Maker – another Microsoft product that comes bundled with most versions of Windows XP or Vista, or can be downloaded for free.

A quick search on the internet will reveal a number of courses aimed at helping people get the most from Movie Maker, including a six-week, 15-hour course costing £45 at the Peter Symonds Adult Education College in Winchester, which covers skills such as splicing together footage, over-laying music and captions, and burning onto a DVD.

According to tutor Sue Phillips, films can be recorded with a standard digital movie camera or even a good digital camera.

“Movie Maker won’t make you into the next Steven Spielberg, but it will enable you to produce simple training clips, which are good for demonstrating examples,” she says.

Q&A: Are you state-of-the art or state of the ark?

1. The night before a training session, do you:

a) Stay up late photocopying hand-out sheets?

b) Relax in the knowledge that all your information is uploaded onto your interactive whiteboard?

2. You’ve been asked to organise a pan-European training event at short notice. Do you:

a) Start furiously ringing around hotels and airlines?

b) Send out an e-mail invite to all delegates to join a web conferencing training event next week?

3. You want to show delegates the best way to deal with customers. Do you:

a) Call delegates out in front of the group and embarrass them?

b) Run a short home-made video that perfectly demonstrates your point?

4. You want to make your PowerPoint presentation stand-out. Do you:

a) Paste in some clip art images?

b) Search an online photo archive and pay a small fee for some high-quality pictures?

  • Mostly As: Your old-school approach is creating a lot of work and affecting the quality of your training. It’s time to join the modern world.
  • Mostly Bs: You are an avant-garde trainer who is making technology work for you – keep up the good work.

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