So there’s this 200-slide PowerPoint deck… ‘Death by PowerPoint’ or ‘Life by Active Learning?’

– Posted by Pippa Griffin

We’ve noticed recently that more and more clients are coming to us with a PowerPoint-led training programme and saying, “Please can you turn this into something more engaging.”  They then hand over a hefty and often very technical 200+ slide deck and ask, “how can we breathe life into this and make it stick?”

It seems that more people are realising the value to be had in moving away from a tell ‘experience’ – a lecture, a Powerpoint presentation, or even worse – just being handed reading material (and then being told to implement its contents) and instead – moving towards a much more involving, engaging, shared learning experience which creates conversations about important subjects, encourages people to discover for themselves WHY it matters, WHAT the change requires and HOW it will affect them.  Clients are recognising that in giving employees the opportunity to practice by doing, and by learning by exploring topics together, there is a far greater retention of knowledge, a greater understanding of what’s happening and why and winning employees’ increased commitment to doing what’s right to make the difference.

Learning success by media diagram

So is ‘Death by PowerPoint’ (or perhaps Keynote if you’re a Mac user?) as an approach to learning finally dead?  Search the phrase on Google and you find no end of witty cartoons, reflecting situations we’ve all been in – a conference session which you know will be two hours long and where the lengthy bullet point contents list at the start sets the tone and speed of proceedings.  Here are some of our favourites:

Idea camouflage PowerPoint cartoon Dilbert PowerPoint cartoon Cartoon - PowerPoint torture

Searching Google for this phrase also turns up some insights into how to avoid such a terrible fate, inevitably sharing this wisdom via the media of – yep, you guessed it – PowerPoint!   But it seems that more and more people are realising it doesn’t have to be this way (to coin the title of the marvellous 1987 Blow Monkeys single released, incidentally, in the same year that the programme originally called ‘Presenter’ was renamed ‘PowerPoint’!)

Over the years, we have transformed PowerPoint presentations and training materials into active learning workshops, interactive pdfs, games, simulations, video content, cartoons, posters, giant jigsaws – all creating experiences which help people to learn, remember and, most importantly – take action as a result of this learning.  But…we’ve also used – and continue to use – PowerPoint!  Because sometimes, PowerPoint may be the right media for the message.  It can pack a punch.  It can say a lot in a little.  It can be used and viewed by a large swathe of your audience, making it accessible, making it an appropriate choice and it can grab the attention of time-poor senior execs.

At BB&A, we believe in taking a ‘blended approach’ – understanding exactly what mix of tools and solutions will work best for our different audiences.  So, no – e-learning probably isn’t right for our audiences who literally work at the coal face.  And no – four days of PowerPoint probably isn’t going to keep people very interested or engaged in the principles of Risk Management, or Business Continuity or a new Health and Safety standard.  And no – a list of bullet points perhaps isn’t the best way to share the results of a safety audit.  But, yes – PowerPoint might be a good way to show pictures of real situations or to ask thought-provoking questions which can prompt a reaction and start a conversation.  It might be useful to explain in less than ten minutes what employees throughout the organisation will be exploring over the next few months and how people might need your help and support.

That’s why we use a variety of learning approaches to help raise awareness, develop understanding, drive acceptance and ultimately to build commitment and a desire to act in line with our clients’ goal.

Engagement cycle

Getting to grips with the stories, the examples, the scenarios, the technical content behind the message of an existing PowerPoint deck and turning this into new ways of learning is what makes us tick.  So here’s a challenge for you…Show us how you currently ‘tell’ and we’ll show you how we would do it differently.  Let us show you how we’d make it sing, make it stick, make a serious subject, serious fun – with and without PowerPoint.