July 21, 2010

Teaching PPT - My color question!

Situation: Asked to give a PPT training to a group of 15 senior colleagues, time limit: 3 hours. Well, although this situation came all of a sudden, I took out some time to think how can I make this training session 'effective'? How can I offer an enhanced learning experience? The challenge was even bigger as here the audience was not younger but elder to me! So, it meant they would be coming with their own pre-conceived notions and adapting to change can prove difficult. But, nothing like this happened, not at all! Why? Read on.

PowerPoint is not just a tool, it's a canvas for me where I can paint my ideas, express my thoughts, etc. I just love working on it so much. No tool has been so effective in exhibiting information in a concise way. Whether it's students, teachers, professionals or even Steve Jobs, everyone uses a PPT to show what s/he wants to convey. When this opportunity to came to me, I knew I was gonna love it. After all, I couldn't create PowerPoint but I can propagate its usage and benefits for sure! ;)

I had to start from scratch for preparing the training deck, notes, etc for the session. It was tough as it wasn't done before, hence I had to rely on my intuition - what would be the best way to teach these guys? How will they imbibe in 3 hours? What would actually help them and serve the purpose of this session? I thought of some simple things, prepared them and implemented. I'll share some of them so that in case you ever get an opportunity, you can consider this approach:

1. To understand my audience's familiarity with PPT:

It's always helpful if  you know your audience well. It helps you in preparing well and remain focussed. I mailed a one page questionnaire in which I asked:
  • 3 difficulties that they face in making a PPT
  • 3 things they would like to learn in the training session
I considered this approach as I didn't want the program to come across like any other theory-types lecture. My aim was to give the maximum in the limited time I had. For the same, I chose to club all the difficulties into distinct groups so that the training would be precise and absolutely to the point. This approach stems from the Six Sigma way. Based on the various responses I received, I made five distinct groups to prioritize what everyone wanted to learn:
  1. Insert - functions, tables, graphs
  2. Formatting - header, footer, slide master
  3. Animation - objects, text
  4. Graphs - excel, picture
  5. Concept - short, concise, meaningful
I framed my slides to address all the above five groups and gave demo examples. Trust me, this really worked well as it was a totally customized deck which was able to meet their expectations.

2. My Color Question interactive game:

From some of my previous good training programs, I've picked up one pattern - theory has to be blended with a little fun to make it more effective. There is a lot of psychology behind it which I wont discuss here, but it's always worked for me and I decided to adopt the same approach. I thought a lot and came up with my own game (some innovation here!), I called it 'My Color Question'

I basically created small cards with a colored star and a alphabet on one side and on the other some blank space to write your name and a question!

I made a pair for each card, i.e. for a Blue-A there was another Blue-A, similarly Yellow-B x 2, Red-C x 2 and Green-D x 2. These cards were kept in order and I gave them to the audience after announcing about the game.

I gave one card to one person in a sequential manner. So, now each person had one part and there was one person in the hall with the same card, i.e. he was his color pair! I asked everyone to write their name and one question on what they still haven't understood in this training session. I gave them 3 minutes to think and write after which I asked them to exchange their color cards with their respective pairs, i.e. the one who had Blue-A was supposed to exchange his card with the other person having a Blue-A. Like this all the cards were exchanged and I now asked them to come one by one, read out the name, the question and attempt to solve it live on the projector. Wherever they got stuck, I asked the audience - if anyone would like to assist? Many attempted to answer and this way we had 15 different questions with 15 answers - all from my audience. I believe somewhere this game really worked as it brought so much interaction and liveliness in the session. If you liked this interactive game approach, go ahead and try this at your workplace!

Finally, it was time to summarize! We learnt that a good presentation is:
  1. Precise and simple to understand.
  2. Good balance of font and color combination.
  3. Appropriate selection of images.
  4. Tables and graphs should be clearly visible.
  5. Proper use of animation, no overdose!
  6. Some creativity to capture attention.
  7. Keeps your audience engaged from the first to last slide.
  8. Conveys the message with clarity.
  9. Generates discussion in Q&A round at the end.
  10. And, doesn't allow anyone to sleep!
Like this 3 hours passed and I can say that the effort was 100% worth. I took some feedback and some of my colleagues really appreciated and said they've really picked up a lot of things and feel more confident. What more could I, 'the teacher' have asked for from 'my students'? I simply smiled back :)

In case you want to read more interesting posts on PowerPoint, click here. If you need to ask anything regarding this post, or in general on PowerPoint post a comment below, or email to me by clicking here. Happy PowerPoint making!


  1. Mr. Khan, you just rock..great game to discuss with audience.

    1. Thank you Sweety, very kind of you to say that!

  2. Great article to read and learn something new about making presentations. The presentation should bear the most basic information. After you define the topic of your presentation, you need to highlight the most important facts. You need to submit only relevant information. Therefore, your presentation could be shorter and more cohesive. These are the basics of creating presentations, I learn it from Power Point Presentation Templates article.