8 Keys to Developing Great Training Presentations

It’s that time of year in which most of us student affairs staffers are presenting training for our student employees. Training should be a fun and insightful process for everyone involved. However, there are various tactics that should be used when putting together a training program so that it can be as impactful as possible. While you do not need a degree in educational psychology to be effective, you do need to put some time and thought into your training presentations.

Here are some keys for developing great training presentations:

1. Appeal to Both Doers and Thinkers – Make sure that you are balancing your presentations with both lectures and hands-on activities. A training schedule flooded with only PowerPoint presentations will lose the attention of many. Likewise, too many hands-on only activities will quickly prove tiring for those who learn primarily through lecture. For an hour long session, I recommend 20 minutes of lecture / skills teaching, 20 minutes of an activity, and 20 minutes for discussion and questions. This recipe generally appeals to everyone’s learning style and attention.

2. Share Video Clips to Illustrate Ideas – Find video clips online that are pertinent to the topic you are presenting, and show them to your audience. Many video illustrations will remain in the minds of your students long after training is over. For example, I show a scene from the movie “The Skulls,” in which there is a collegiate rowing race. One of the rowers’ oars breaks thereby making him dead weight. He’s compelled to toss his oar and jump from the boat in order to help the team. This clip demonstrates teamwork and self-sacrifice for the team. I’ll show this clip and discuss how this applies to our own team. Search YouTube for videos related to topics you may be teaching and share them during your presentations.

3. Preview, Teach, Review – Educationally it is a best practice to preview, teach, and review or evaluate. This approach will also help you to structure your presentation and pre-plan your thoughts up front. The first 3-5 minutes of the presentation should be dedicated to sharing the lesson goals, assessing what the audience knows through quick questioning, and either asking the audience what they want to learn or simply telling them what you want them to learn in the next hour. After you have delivered your instruction and facilitated the learning activity and discussion, it is important that the last 3-5 minutes is is dedicated to revisiting the lesson. Review the lesson goals and question the audience so they can share what they have learned, what the practical applications of the learning are, and how they plan to use the content to improve their job performance. As the presenter, you want to be certain that the session met the learning needs and the trainees walk away with a good grasp of the subject matter.

A trusted resource I recommend is McKeachie’s Teaching Tips: Strategies, Research and Theory for College and University Teachers. This was required reading for a “College Teaching” course I had during my doctoral work, and I have found it helpful when putting together my own training sessions.

4. Utilize Previous Feedback – Typically I will present on a particular topic a few times a year to different audiences. After each session, I hand out an index card and ask them to write the most important thing they learned and, on the other side, one remaining question that they have (this is called the “One Minute Paper.”) Armed with this information, I can see if they have learned what I intended them to learn plus I can tweek my presentation to add or delete content thereby making the presentation better. For example, I presented on using Twitter in student affairs. Afterward, I received a “One Minute Paper” / index card from an attendee that stated, “How do you sign up for a Twitter account?” At that point, I knew I needed to dial back my presentation to take into account those that wanted a very basic “step-by-step” explanation of how to use Twitter before getting into more advanced concepts.

5. Concentrate on the Content, Not the Technology – I often attend presentations in which a colleague gets hung up on attempting to incorporate too much technology into the presentation, which defeats the purpose of what they are trying to teach. It then becomes more of “look-at-this-shiny-object” rather than presenting the actual content intended. Additionally, participants then start to ask questions related to Google+, Twitter, Mindmeister, WordPress, or whatever rather than on the topic at hand. If you want to focus on a particular technology-related platform, do that as a separate session rather than mixing learning objectives for your audience.

6. Use Stats Sparingly – Statistics can help set the context for the topic you are presenting, but do not overdo it. One or two slides (if using PowerPoint) can be appropriate, but any more than that and you will lose the attention of your audience. Also, keep the stats appropriate for your audience. While this should be a no-brainer, including complicated statistical concepts like multivariate analysis will certainly kill your presentation. Save that for presenting research papers at conferences, not for your student staff.

7. Take It Easy on the Literature / Research – Students simply are not interested in hearing a dissertation defense (nor are most people) so spare them loads of research citations when attempting to teach your content. Granted, conceptual frameworks and citations have been burned into our brains from our graduate work, but keep your presentation practical and applicable for your audience.

8. Have a Backup Plan – This is targeted more toward those who are presenting nationally, but it also applies to those of you who are simply presenting on your own campus. Internet connections fail, projectors refuse to turn on, and the IT support guy may be elsewhere on campus. So have a backup to combat those types of issues. I always carry my own laptop with the presentation saved in case a laptop is not already hooked up for me. I also keep the presentation saved on a USB thumb drive and uploaded online as an extra precaution. Lastly, as a worst case scenario, I’ll carry copies of the presentation with me to hand out and one or two dry erase markers to present on a board in case there is a total tech failure or the school fails to provide what was requested.

Good luck with your training schedule, and remember that we are always here to give advice and help you with resources that you may need. So feel free to drop us a line or Tweet me at @studentlifeguru.

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