3 Reasons You Should Take the Time to Fix Your PowerPoint Decks

We’ve all been there: a presentation, a training, a sales pitch, something. The presenter sets up the projector and blasts a bare bones presentation (or worse, crazy fonts and no contrast). It looks like this:


You groan, and wonder if anyone would notice if you checked your email on your phone. The style of your PowerPoint matters as much as your content, and here are three reasons why:

1. Engagement:

How much effort does it look like I put into that slide? Not much, right? It looks like I don’t care about this presentation. Whether you are presenting to investors, your board, new staff, the community, or the local rec center, people won’t care if they don’t think you care. Best case, if I present very enthusiastically, they think I am lazy or don’t know how to use computers. Worse case, they tune out (or leave) because they don’t want to waste their time on a slipshod presentation.

2. LeaRning Enhancement:

Why even have a PowerPoint? It’s to give your audience a visual representation of your main points, and thereby help you message sink in better. Does the slide I presented at the top of this page help you know what I am saying? No. Is it memorable? No. Does it draw you in? No. So why even have a PowerPoint?

3. Professionalism:

A well designed PowerPoint shows that you take pride in your work. It shows competency, detail-orientation, and knowledge about presenting. Just like a lawyer doesn’t go to court in sweatpants, you shouldn’t present with a presentation that isn’t professional.

So what could that slide have looked like? See it here, along with some of my other slide designs. Good design makes a big difference.


Does Your Training Need a Key Narrative?

One of the biggest problems with orientation programs (especially long orientation programs) is that it is unclear how all of the information fits together. If your learner has to make up their own connections, they will waste a lot of their limited memory space doing so, and learn less. Or they might not bother, and remember very little.

One easy way to help them pull it all together is to pick a key narrative that links your blocks. Key narratives are example families, clients, situations, or staff members (depending on who your learners will be working with) that are realistic to what they can expect on the job. Pick an example that is in the middle of the spectrum – not too difficult, but also not too simple.Key Narrative

For example, when teaching wraparound practitioners how to do wraparound, we used one example family for explaining how new points or skills worked, and one activity family for the learners to practice on. They became invested in these families – remembering their details and have a richer learning experience. They also had a common narrative to help them remember how strengths-based planning, the SNCD, and transition indicators all fit together.

A consistent example/activity family or client is a great tool if your learners will be working with clients or families. If not – who or what will they be working with? It is worth the extra effort to make one well rounded, realistic unit to work with.

Want to know more about building an orientation program? Check out my free ebook.

Making an Orientation Program: Selecting Skills

Once you have identified your guiding values and given your learners a decision making framework, it is time to start listing out what it is they need to know how to do.

A lot of people make the mistake of thinking trainings are about acquiring knowledge. That doesn’t really work. Instead, we focus on what we want people to do, and give them the background and theory that they need to support those actions.

This is an area that a lot of programs get wrong. They front load their orientations with theory and background, and hope the skills will take care of themselves. This is backwards. Learning theory and personal experiences tell us that people remember things that they plan to use. People use skills that they believe are important. They will remember theory and background best in the context of skills.

I don’t mean little skills like filling out forms and procedures for setting up appointments – those come with time on the job (and hopefully a structured on the job coaching system). I am talking about big skills. The second step is to make this big skill list – and make it comprehensive.

I go on about this topic, and the other 10 including examples, in my free ebook.  If you are interested in making orientation programs, you should check it out.

Making an Orientation Program: Identifying Core Values

11 Steps Orientation Banner

Step 1 in my guide to creating an awesome orientation program is to identify your core values.

Whenever you are training new staff or volunteers, you have to keep in mind the fact that they will encounter situations for which they haven’t been prepared. Someone will ask them to do something borderline, or they will have to make a quick decision about resources. At a minimum, they will be individualizing their work to the family/child/adult they are working with from minute to minute, because everyone is different.

Given that, the most important thing you can give your learners is a framework for making decisions.

  • What are the core values of your organization?
  • What are the guiding principles of the work?
  • What questions should your learners ask themselves to help them make decisions?

Make a list, and discuss it with your colleagues. This list will form the backbone of your orientation program, so it is critical that you get it right.

Identifying your core values and guiding questions is only the first step. Once they are identified, you are going to use them as threads to pull your whole program together.   Want to read more? Check out  my free ebook.

Free Resource: How to Make an Orientation Program

As someone who has created or completely remade a number of Orientation Programs for agencies large and small, I have learned a lot about the process. I have taken my mistakes, learning experiences, and setbacks, and distilled the lessons I have learned from them so that you can avoid making them yourself. After combining that with years of research, training, and evaluations, and I came up with a short ebook detailing the steps in the process. I am excited to share this resource with you.

11 Steps Orientation Banner

Orientation Programs are incredibly important. They set the tone for a volunteer or employee’s entire tenure with an agency. Good orientations increase retention, improve quality of services, feed into the learning culture, and decrease initial coaching needs (saving time and money). Poorly designed orientations have the opposite effects. The ebook (which you can get by signing up for my mailing list) covers 11 topics:

  1. Identify your Core Values
  2. Make a List of Skills your Students Need to Have
  3. Create Knowledge and Theory Groups
  4. Break your Training Time into Blocks
  5. Put a Theory Chunk and a Complementary Skill Chunk in Each Block
  6. Consider a Key Narrative
  7. Balance your Activities for Learning Styles and Activity Levels
  8. Find or Make Powerful Visuals for your Key Points
  9. Look into one or more Expert Speakers
  10. Consider Online or In-The-Field Components
  11. Create a Feedback System

How to Choose Between Live Trainings and eLearning Modules

I often have clients ask me if a given training would be better as an eLearning module or a live workshop. There are a lot of benefits to each approach, and some serious drawbacks.

  • eLearning modules are more convenient for a far flung or busy group of learners, but they lack a lot of the personalization that happens on the fly when a really good trainer has a feel for the room.
  • Live courses create better connections between learners and between the learners and the instructor, but they are inconvenient for some schedules, and require more resources.

The short answer is that offering both is usually (but not always) the ideal solution. Run a hands on class a few times a year (or however often is needed) for those who prefer that style or need extra help, and having eLearning modules available for those who need them. Even courses that need to be in person could usually have an online component, cutting down on in class time.

However, the real answer depends on 1) why they are having their learners take the trainings, 2) the availability of the learners, and 3) what learners have to do to prove their proficiency.

The first point is about understanding your goals for the training. For example, if you are just running a class to meet a requirement, and you don’t care that much about anything else except proving you met that requirement, by all means make a quick eLearning module and move on. No point in wasting the resources on running live class after live class. Similarly, if you need your learners to be able to access the information over and over again on demand, make an eLearning.

The second point is about your demographics. If you live in a rural area and your staff are spread out over three counties and rarely come in to the office, you better save your live trainings for when you REALLY need them. Similarly, if you are working with volunteers, you will have more luck attracting a diverse volunteer force if your in-class training requirements are lower. On the other hand, a workforce that is already in the office all day can really benefit from live classes. They are convenient, and foster team building.

The third point is where it gets a little sticker. Next week, we’ll look at topics that are not suited to eLearning.

Using Trainings to Address a Program Need

I’ve said that Training belongs with Programming, and I had a lot of good reasons for that. Perhaps the most important is that trainings aren’t supposed to be static. A strong training program is constantly evolving to better meet the needs of its learners.

Many people think of needing new training when they introduce a new service or process (and they are absolutely right). However, fewer people think about training when they are having a problem with their current service provision. Consider this:

The feedback you are collecting from clients and stakeholders suggests that many of your facilitators are not really using a strengths-based approach. You can:

  1. Have a meeting where you yell at everyone, or let them complain about why its hard
  2. Have a smaller meeting with the leadership team where you try and figure out why this is happening and what to do about it
  3. Have your staff come to a training designed to teach them how to do strengths-based work, while also getting them excited about the possibilities of this approach

I am not saying that you won’t have meetings anymore (sorry). You probably do need to get together with your team and talk about why this is so important (building engagement before the training), and you probably should talk to your leadership team about how your processes and procedures could be modified to support strengths-based work better.

But the most important step is making sure your staff have the skills and believe they are the better way. And for that, you need training.