PowerPoint for the Classroom

You know the phrase, “Death by PowerPoint”. Today we’re talking about what can be done to make our presentations more effective so we don’t subject our audience to this slow form of torture.

One of the many tools available to the training Instructor is presentation software such as Microsoft PowerPoint. When used effectively, PowerPoint can help reinforce the message, build instructor credibility, and increase the students’ retention of the topics. As with all forms of media used in the classroom, PowerPoint is there to guide the instructor, not distract from them. A well-made PowerPoint will give a professional feel to the overall classroom environment. I see people spend a lot of valuable time trying to make flashy PowerPoints with lots of animations and sound effects. What ends up happening is the students become focused on the screen and not on the instructor. If the students are distracted by the PowerPoint because they’re waiting to see what exciting thing will dance around the screen next, they’re not paying attention to the instructor. In this article we will identify some key aspects of creating a PowerPoint that will enhance the message and not distract from it.

PowerPoint – Making a Professional Standard

PowerPoint design can be part of your personal brand so take some time and make them your own. I like all my PowerPoints to look and feel the same. If there is a sudden change in the look of the PowerPoint, the students will notice and their attention can be lost.

PowerPoint Template

Microsoft offers thousands of free templates to choose from. I personally like to make my own and that process is covered here. Simple is better when choosing a template. Keep the background light so writing can be easily viewed. Feel free to add your brand or logo but keep is small and out of the way. Use the template to set up a standardized outline format and default text animations.

PowerPoint – Using Bullets

Bullet points should be viewed as a guide to remind the instructor what to talk about. There are many things the instructor needs to manage in the classroom and good bullet points are an easy way to keep lessons on track. Bullet points only need to be a short, succinct summary of what the students will see in their training material or student workbook. If the bullet points are too long, both the instructor and the students have the tendency to read them word for word. The information needs to come from the instructor, the bullet points serve only as a guide. Can you imagine four hours or longer, sitting in a classroom while someone reads long winded bullet points word for word? Bullet points should have a simple, consistent animation. “Appear” and “Wipe” are appropriate. A good instructor will advance to the next bullet, glance at it to make sure they’re on track, and then fill in the details verbally from there. The teaching comes from the instructor, not from the PowerPoint. When the topic has been discussed fully, the next bullet is brought up and the lesson continues. The image below shows how this paragraph can be summarized by bullet points. Notice the “>” symbol after the final bullet. This symbol indicates that we are on the last bullet of the slide.

PowerPoint Bullet Points

PowerPoint Images

Images that are relevant to the topic can help make the PowerPoint more interesting and reinforce the topic. Remember our rule of keeping media from being a distraction. Silly images and cartoons can be perceived as unprofessional and should rarely be used. Be prepared to get student questions regarding ANYTHING you put on the screen. If you don’t want to talk about something, don’t put it on display. Crop images and highlight areas to keep student focus where you want it.

Closing

Keeping your PowerPoints clean, consistent and concise will help project a professional image of yourself. We want the students focused on us and not staring at the screen. These basic guidelines will serve as our PowerPoint foundation. Don’t spend hours trying to make fancy PowerPoints, spend your time polishing your delivery.

What are the ways you customize your presentations to enhance the learning environment? Have you made mistakes in the past that made it difficult in the classroom? What lessons have you learned? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Posted by Josh

I've been a Technical Training Instructor for over a decade, teaching a wide variety of classes across the globe. I have a passion for creating and delivering high-quality training content in a way meant to fully engage the learner. "Planet Speaking" is our version of a Train the Trainer model based on our experiences as trainers and instructional designers.

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