I am a big fan of Garr Reynolds’ Presentation Zen philosophy. In fact, after reading the book years ago I changed all my PowerPoint / Keynote presentations so they are mainly pictures with just a few words or a quote. Presentation Zen has been on my recommended reading list ever since and I have put a number of fellow trainers on to the book and the philosophy.
We often talk about how this style of presentation is more enjoyable and engaging for the audience, which it is. What we need to embrace is that another equally important, or maybe more important point is the benefit to you as the trainer. When you no longer have the Teleprompter (standard text filled slides) to read and teach from, it forces you to learn the material at a deep level.
Simply having a picture or quote to cue you requires you to spend a great deal of time in reflection and active retrieval of the material, which we know from the research helps to make learning stick. This slide format also allows you flexibility regarding the stories you tell, the points you emphasize and the methods in which you engage the audience. That flexibility however, requires a deep understanding of the foundational principles and concepts for that learning point(s) and require you to have a variety of stories, analogies or metaphors to draw on to support the material.
Now you might be thinking, “But wait Brian. Guiding Principle #3 in the Excellence in Training philosophy is “It’s Not About You””. You are absolutely right. It is not about you, it is about the people you have the honor and privilege to teach. When you learn the material to the point where you have a very deep level of understanding, the programs you teach will be more engaging, enlightening and fun, all of which will help to foster learning making it about the participants, not you.
If you have not yet read Presentation Zen, read it. If you are still using PowerPoint slides filled with too much text, often in font sizes that make it hard for the audience to read, then change your slide decks. This will take time to do properly. While you are updating your slide decks, put in the time to learn the material to a level where you can teach the class without notes. It will enhance the experience for both you and your students.
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