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  • Writer's pictureTraci Pate

It's Not About Your Slides

Instructional designers can sometimes be perfectionists when it comes to presentation and slide design...ourselves included. That said, when it comes to training slides, we need to remember that slides are a side dish, not the main event.

Although beauty is in the eye of the beholder, some of the most engaging presentations we’ve ever seen included lackluster slides. Meaning slides that left something to be desired when it comes to design and consistency. And guess what? We didn’t care. We were too busy focusing on the speakers and what they and to say.

Similarly, if your learners are motivated and engaged in your training event, they are not going to waste energy critiquing your slide design. If your learners are not motivated or engaged, beautiful slides will not change that, and you my friend, have bigger fish to fry. (Same goes for eLearning. A beautiful design on irrelevant material will not make it engaging to learners.)

So in short in a typical training event, no one cares about the slide design because it’s not about your slides.

What makes a great learning experience is relevant content, presented in a clear and direct manner. Slides are only a visual aid for that purpose..

Before you stress yourself out creating a powerpoint masterpiece, just follow a few basic guidelines.

  • If you don’t have access to a designer, use a template. This will create consistency so people aren’t left wondering what is going on if sections of your presentation are wildly different.

  • If you do have a designer, don’t micromanage. People are there to see you, not your slides. Spend your time preparing appropriately. This likely means it’s not a value add for you to worry about the color, font, or exact placement of things like your footer text for example. Focus on your content, and trust a professional with the design.

  • Select graphics that illustrate concepts. Too many graphics, or graphics used solely for aesthetic reasons, could muddy your messaging and distract from key points.

  • Keep the word count low. People can’t effectively split their attention between what you say and what you’ve written. If you want to include more detail, consider adding it to a handout for learners to take home.

  • Get someone else to proofread it. It’s challenging to proofread your own work because your brain fills in typos and even content gaps with the version of the information in your head. Your presentation doesn’t have to be a graphic design masterpiece, but you should spend time ensuring that the content is error free.

Those are the basics. You don’t need a graphic design degree to create a good visual aid. That time and effort is much better spent on planning the content structure and flow, as well as activities and questions to engage your audience.

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