Learning & Development

What Can Trainers Do to Improve PowerPoint Slides?

How can trainers improve their PowerPoint® slides to promote learning? Bruce Gabrielle points to four principles gleaned from cognitive science. “If you use these things, you will increase the learning effectiveness of your slides. If you do not use these things, you will decrease the effectiveness of your slides. No ifs, ands, or buts about it,” says Gabrielle, trainer and author of Speaking PowerPoint.presentation

First, “write your slide title out as a full sentence,” he says. Citing a Penn State study, Gabrielle says, “Learning is increased 10% using full sentence slide titles.” Using only a few words leaves the slide title open to interpretation.

Second, limit the content on each slide to “three to four chunks of information,” he recommends. “A chunk is anything the eye can see as one group of information.” If you use more than three or four chunks per slide, “people cannot absorb what they’re looking at.” For example, a list of 12 bullet points on one slide can be overwhelming, but breaking down that information into three groups of four bullet points and labelling each group makes it easier for learners to absorb the information and “easier for you to present it.”

Third, use “sign posts”—that is, a large, bold font in certain parts of the text. Generally, when looking at a slide, learners need “landing spots” that you can reference during training, Gabrielle says. If all of the text is the same size, “it’s overwhelming to people.”

Fourth, use pictures. “Study after study shows that people understand better when they can visualize what you’re talking about,” he explains. “Learning is increased an average 36% when you use both text and pictures, according to a Levin & Lentz meta-analysis.”

When you learn to combine all four principles, Gabrielle says, your slides will be more effective, you will get your work done faster, and the process of creating a PowerPoint presentation will be more enjoyable.