Toss out that deck and put them to work!

While planning for an upcoming training session with a client, I was asked to send the deck in advance.  “I’m not planning on having a deck,” I told her. 

“Then how are the people going to follow your presentation? They’ll retain more if they can see it as well as hear it.”

“That’s true,” I said, “if I were making a presentation. But I’m not planning on doing that either.  I’m planning to train them.  They’re going to do the work, not me.”

There are two inviolable rules regarding adult learning, and all trainers know them but not all trainers put them into practice as well as they should.  They are:

1)       The evidence of learning is a change in behavior.

2)      Adults learn by doing.

So today’s post is for all of you who are trainers, and although I’m going to repeat some stuff you already know, please consider this as a reminder to recheck your own delivery to ensure you are helping your learners as best you can.

Let’s look at these two rules. Often when you debrief a workshop, some of the participants will say to you, “I learned a lot in today’s session.”  When I hear this I think, “Well, maybe. I’ll know if you learned it if you go back on the job and put it into practice until you are skilled with it.  You haven’t really learned it yet. You have simply been exposed to it.”

So as the trainer, your job is to make them practice as much as they can in the workshop, and then facilitate the transfer of that training to the job.  Remember that the transfer is one of Gagne’s Events of Instruction.

When you think about how adults learn by doing, consider professional golfers. I was in a bookstore last week and saw numerous books on how to play golf.  I began wondering if all those guys on the PGA Tour read books all day.  Isn’t it way more likely that a typical practice session might include hitting a hundred balls out of a bunker?

I’m old enough to remember when PowerPoint was first introduced, and I’ve suffered through too many PowerPoint presentations.  I’m convinced that the decline in skill development in many organizations is in direct proportion to the competency of trainers in using PowerPoint.

My advice, if you insist on using a deck, is to go back and reorganize your program to ensure the presentation doesn’t interfere with valuable practice. Here are a few tips:

  1. Don’t put content on a slide if the same content is in the learning materials.  Direct the learners to the materials.  Get a participant to read the key points aloud and explain the rationale.
  2. Never read the content of a slide to the participants. It’s both insulting and boring.
  3. Use questions and directions on your slides, rather than facts, statistics or other content.  You might have a slide that directs the learners to list 4 common sales objections and write a strong response to each. Then tell them how long they have to do it.
  4. Don’t be a slave to the deck.  If the learners disagree with some key point, for heaven’s sake stop and discuss.  If you ever hear yourself saying, “Just let me get through these next two bullets and then I’ll address that,” you know you’ve gone mad.

PowerPoint is a great aid to a presentation, but it can get in the way of strong, solid training.

 Think Like Your Customer

About Gregory LaMothe
I teach people how to sell things. I own the company ActionSystems. Visit my website at

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