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Creating Better PowerPoint Slide Decks, Faster

PowerPoint can be a very powerful visual aid and important tool for training... if it's done well. Creating a better PowerPoint Slide Deck is about organizing your thoughts before you even open PowerPoint on your computer.
Better PowerPoint

It’s so easy to simply open up PowerPoint and start cranking out a deck for training. It’s also a little too easy to make a poor training session that way. My colleague, Erin Clarke, has spent a lot of time recently on projects requiring PowerPoint presentations, and in today’s post she shares some helpful hints (and a template) for how to organize your thoughts before throwing those slides together.

Sometimes it’s helpful to get a “peek behind the curtain” and see what other people’s internal processes look like. In my many years as a one person training department, I often found myself googling things like “storyboard example” or “sample script” to get an idea of what best practices were out there. In the end, someone else’s exact processes don’t matter much, as long as what you are doing works for you. Of course, borrowing some things that could be useful from someone else and then leaving the rest is what all sorts of creative people have been doing since time began. So in that spirit, I want to share what we’re doing at Endurance Learning to organize our thoughts when it comes to creating PowerPoint decks and invite you to find what’s useful (and discard the rest)!

How Do You Start Putting Together Your Presentations?

Raise your hand if you do this. Be honest. You need to put a presentation together, so you open up PowerPoint and start adding content.

Are you raising your hand? I am. My general process had always been to open up a slide deck and start creating slides. Sometimes I’d write all the speaker notes first and then add a few corresponding key words or images to the slides themselves. Sometimes I’d write an outline in a Word document and then use that to create slides. It seemed like this was the fastest way to create a presentation, but I always ended up doing lots of editing in PowerPoint after the initial draft was created. In the instances where there were additional people involved in building a slide deck, working without a script made it tricky to track edits and easy to lose requested changes.  

At Endurance Learning, we have a tried and true method for how we script and storyboard an eLearning module, which got me wondering: could we just use a similar process and create a script / storyboard for a PowerPoint Presentation? The answer is yes. So here is your “peek behind the curtain” at what creating a script / storyboard for a PowerPoint looks like for us.

5 Steps for Creating a Script and Storyboard for PowerPoint

First, we identify our topic and learning objectives and then write a high level outline. The learning objectives and outline inform the script. The script includes everything that will be on screen and everything that will be said by the facilitator. And once we add images or directions on visuals, we call it a full script and storyboard.

erin smaller file

 To create a script / storyboard for a PowerPoint Presentation, here are the steps we follow:

  1. Create a table in Microsoft Word with five columns – “Slide #”, “Facilitator Slide Notes”, “Time”, “Notes”, and “Slide Text”.
  1. Write the content for the “Facilitator Slide Notes” column. This includes all the words that will be said by the person facilitating the session. If there are notes or open questions for a client or a developer, they are noted in the “Notes” column.
  1. Add slide text in the “Slide Text” column. This is the content that appears on the slides. It is generally a few words or sentences or images that complement the facilitator speaking notes.
  1. Add timing in the “Time” column. We have found this is easiest to do as you proofread your script after it is all written so you have a general idea of flow and where you may need more or less time in a presentation. The timing column is where we note how long the slide or section will take. Sometimes a slide is a transition slide and will be less than a minute. For this, we found it best to merge vertical cells within the time column and note time for a series of slides or a section.
  1. Finally, add the slide numbers in the “Slide #” column. The goal is to have your script be easily editable so that you can add or delete a slide and not have to re-number from the beginning. We found the “trick” is to add a “numbered list” (like you are numbering an outline) in this column. Doing this will populate a “1”. Then, you can add another “numbered list” number to the cell below. (This will add another “1”), but since you want it to say “2”, you can right click on the last number and select “continue previous numbering”. This should change it to “2.”. Repeat this process throughout the column. Voila! Another way we have found success is to use the format painter to continue your numbering formatting. The beauty is, if you delete a slide or add a slide, it will update the numbering accordingly and you don’t have to start over with your numbering sequence.

Do I Really Need to Follow This Process?

We’ve found, when collaborating to create a PowerPoint Presentation, taking the time to create a full script / storyboard helps save a lot of time and hassle in the long run because:

  • It forces you to think through the content as a whole before developing it which can create a more fluid and thorough presentation.
  • It puts the focus on the content and not the visual design. You can always “make it pretty” later, but ensuring the content is solid and meets the learning objectives is really important. This can also save time because you don’t have to stop to think about how it’s going to look—the focus is on what is being communicated.
  • Edits and requested changes can be tracked in the script using “track changes” which makes them easy to spot and update in the PowerPoint during development and reviews. (To turn on “track changes” in a Word Document, select the Review ribbon and then select “Track Changes > For Everyone”.)
  • Tracking the requested edits can be helpful if questions such as “why was that change made?” or  “who made that change?” are asked later in the process. When we just make changes in a PowerPoint, we don’t have a record and without a record, it’s really hard to answer those questions. 

Perhaps this method will help you too!

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