Why you shouldn’t use PowerPoint for training!

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PowerPoint is an amazing tool. Since it’s release in 1987, it’s been used by employees in organisations all over the world as an easy-to-use and valuable way to transfer knowledge. However, you shouldn’t use PowerPoint for training.

When PowerPoint was originally conceived, it was as a presentation tool.  It was a way to help people visualise their thoughts and, when discussed and presented, to offer the audience to two mediums of information – visual and auditory.

Training is more than just the presentation of knowledge though. When a presenter and audience are using Powerpoint, only one side is actually involved and engaged – the presenter. The audience are passive participants in a presentation, often sitting with their arms crossed merely observing the work being done by the presenter. This low level of interaction falls well below the bar required for training to be successful. Let’s consider why.

PowerPoint is a passive experience

First and foremost, PowerPoint is a passive experience for learners. The most active person in a PowerPoint presentation is the presenter. The level of interaction and engagement by participants is then determined by the skill of the presenter. Are they in engaging? Do they involve the audience? Is the material presented in a way which is easy to follow?

Since PowerPoint is a blank template, and the skill of presenters is highly variable, the quality of information shared via PowerPoint is also unpredictable. In the hands of a skilled facilitator, PowerPoint can be a useful way to present information to a large audience. By now, though, we are all familiar with the concept of ‘Death by PowerPoint’. This is because most presenters are not skilled and they overuse or misuse PowerPoint to create confusing, complex or disengaging presentations.

Meanwhile, participants are not active. This is a huge barrier for learning. Learning requires activity. This is particularly true for adults, who may have barriers to learning or need to change old behaviours. As the saying goes, you can’t plough a field by turning it over in your mind. The transfer of new knowledge and behaviours requires participants to be actively engaged. To be testing ideas, reflecting on their thoughts and confirming their understanding. None of these things can be achieved by participants who sit passively watching a series of slides.

PowerPoint views everything as a rectangle

In the world PowerPoint, everything starts with a white rectangle. Every idea must be presented within that white rectangle. This makes sense when the purpose is to create content to fit another white rectangle, like a piece of paper or a projector screen. It is, however, incredibly limiting for training purposes.

The overuse of PowerPoint as a training tool has inevitably led to many online learning modules consisting of nothing more than white rectangular slides with next and back buttons. The experience for participants is simply browsing through a slide deck. Not surprisingly, many participants find online learning repetitive and disengaging.

Consider how participants engage with other content on the internet. Websites do not look like white rectangles! Websites take on many forms, shapes and navigation styles. This variety provides a high level of engagement as well as allowing and a wider range of interactions and ideas. If you begin and end with PowerPoint, however, you must conform to the white rectangle!

PowerPoint is hard for others to repeat

A key goal of creating training is permanence. There’s little point expending time and effort to develop training which cannot be repeated again in the future. PowerPoint slides do not help with this.

Typically, PowerPoint slides are created by one person who is an expert in the content. They understand how and why they created the slides in the way they did and they are able to deliver a presentation based around those slides.

However, it is often very difficult for other people to effectively deliver that same material. They lack the context behind the slides. As a result, those PowerPoint slides are only used while the original creator remains present in the organisation. Even then, the original creator can forget some of the rationale behind those slides as time passe and the slide deck becomes unusable without a complete rewrite.

In the end, PowerPoint slides require a presenter. They’re not a stand-alone training solution which can reliably used in the future. So, despite all of the effort in creating them, PowerPoint training slides have a very limited long-term value.

PowerPoint doesn’t track training enrolments

A simple problem with PowerPoint is that it lacks any tracking capabilities. It’s impossible to know who has viewed a PowerPoint. If there are multiple versions of that PowerPoint file saved in different directories, then managing those versions and information becomes an impossible task.

While it may seem a benefit that PowerPoint files can be emailed, this is not a benefit for training where version control is often important. The result is different versions of PowerPoint slides existing through-out the organisation, simply creating confusion and misinformation.

PowerPoint doesn’t confirm training outcomes

The final nail in the coffin for PowerPoint is its inability to relate to training outcomes. PowerPoint slides represent a one-way flow of information. Nothing is captured by your organisation in return.

For the time it takes to create a set of PowerPoint slides, the same person could create a fully interactive online learning topic within Tribal Habits. Unlike like a PowerPoint slide deck, a topic within Tribal Habits can…

  • Provide a fully interactive learning experience
  • Track enrolments and report on completion data
  • Capture a wide variety of participant feedback
  • Capture a wide variety of training outcomes, including online assessments and offline activities
  • Manage version control within a single location
  • Be accessible to employees in any location 24 hrs a day
  • Add value to the organisation even after the original topic creator has left

With Tribal Habits, you can digitise training materials – like PowerPoint slides – with very little effort and for a far greater return.

Ultimately, training is about providing participants with the ability to change. This might be to improve their knowledge around a product, change their behaviours in dealing with customers or improve their abilities as a manager. These valuable objectives are well out of reach of white rectangular PowerPoint slides.


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