Human Resources

Use PowerPoint® for Effective Learning—not Just Effective Presentation

PowerPoint helps trainers organize and present training content effectively, but it “is a lousy tool for learning, at least when it’s used the way most presenters and trainers use it: as a visual display of lecture notes,” says Sharon L. Bowman, MA, a professional speaker and trainer and president of Bowperson Publishing & Training, Inc. (

Bowman offers several strategies for turning a slide show into a learning tool.

First, use half as many slides. “If you use 20 slides for an hour presentation, aim for 10 instead. That’s about one slide every 6 minutes,” she says. “Then get creative with the slides you leave out, using other media to display the information: handouts, charts hung around the room, index cards, or single-typed sheets of paper.”

Second, “use images to teach concepts,” Bowman recommends. “We remember images longer than words. So, whenever possible, use photos, graphics, or cartoons on slides to illustrate the information.”

Third, “only put on a slide what your learners need to know. Put the nice-to-know information in resource packets, or at the back of the handouts, for learners to read later,” she suggests.

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Fourth, “instead of lecturing directly from your slides,” Bowman says, “put only the most important words or phrases on the slides and lecture from your notes instead.”

Fifth, “lose the template,” she recommends. “Attention drops when slides look boringly alike…. If your company policy dictates using the same logo or template on each slide, then vary its location or position, or add graphics.”

Sixth, make sure the font size, background, and text colors are easy on the eye. You’ll know the font size is too small “if you cannot easily read every word on every slide” standing at least 5 feet away from your computer screen, Bowman says. “The rule is to use at least a 30-point font size or larger. Black print on a white background is the easiest to read from a distance.”

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