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Why does it matter how long it takes to design a presentation?

The answer is simple: time is money. What to do about it, however, is not so simple.

When it comes to designing an effective presentation or training program, there are some fundamental questions that need to be asked.

  1. What will success look like? (Specifically, what will success from the participants’ perspective look like?)
  2. How much time will it take to put together the presentation?
  3. Will investing more time to put together the presentation mean that it will be a better presentation?

A recent ATD study suggested that it takes between 28-38 hours (on average) to develop one hour of training. The amount of time spent on presentation design matters for several very important reasons.  

What else could people be doing instead of presentation design?

First, who is designing training? Typically subject matter experts are called upon to design and deliver training sessions.  And many SMEs are paid pretty good money to do what they do best – sell stuff, code stuff, set strategy.

If an HR exec at Walmart who makes the equivalent of $145/hour decides to spend 28 hours developing talking points and ancillary materials and a slide deck for a session on employment law, that means it’ll cost the company over $4,000 just for the design of the 1-hour presentation (which may consist of no more than a bullet-laden PowerPoint deck). If he delivers the session himself, the costs go up further. And those are just the direct costs.

What could that HR exec be doing instead of designing a presentation? The same question goes for a top sales manager, an innovative computer programmer or a nonprofit CEO. When they’re spending time putting together presentations, they’re no longer increasing sales, no longer building new features and no longer bringing in much-needed funds to the organization.

Of course, if they’re able to design (and then deliver) a training program themselves, perhaps their title and reputation will lend gravitas to the topic at hand, but…

Are your Training and Presentations Good?

There’s a difference between good information and good training or presentations.

Subject matter experts often have very good information. A lot of it. And they like to put a lot of good information into their presentations. This investment of time (and money) on the part of an SME offers good information to people, but it’s not a good learning experience, nor is it the most effective way to transfer information.

Is the experience learner-centered? Has there been any consideration given to supervisor support prior to or following the session? Will learners have an opportunity to practice skills and receive feedback? Will they be inspired to do anything new or different or better following the session? Will they be held accountable?

How Can Companies Improve Presentation Design?

Expose presenters to basic instructional design concepts

Many larger organizations and even some conference planners try to do this. The problem here is that if the presenters aren’t putting their instructional design learnings to use each day, they’ll always be amateurs at instructional design and their presentations will reflect this.

presentation design roi quoteVery few organizations pull aside a finance manager, give her a few pointers on how to code, and then expect her to build the organization’s finance system. Why then is it ok to expect someone to take a few pointers in adult learning or instructional design and expect that they’ll be able to deliver an engaging presentation?

Partner with instructional designers

While there are some tools out there that claim to help people put together better-looking slide decks, there is nothing on the market (currently) that actually helps people put together effective training programs. Having presenters team up with instructional designers is one way to support presenters in putting together engaging presentations without the presenters giving up too much control over what content is shared.

I worked for one organization in which I would work with each presenter for up to 6 weeks prior to a training session in order to identify what they wanted to accomplish and figure out how best to put the information together in a format they were comfortable delivering.

It was labor-intensive and time-consuming and perhaps not extremely scalable for larger organizations. But the time we did invest in working together resulted in a better training program for both the presenter and the participants.

Division of labor

Again, absent a magical software tool that SMEs can use to easily transform their ideas into an engaging training module, this may be the most scalable option.

When presenters allow themselves to trust their own content and then let go of the presentation design process, putting it in the hands of in-house or contract instructional designers, the training can be developed fairly rapidly while allowing SMEs to get away from slide design and spend more time continuing to do what they do best – sell more stuff, program innovative features for the organization’s products or bring in much-needed money from donors.

At the end of the day, developing training can be an enormous and costly time suck if it’s not treated seriously. The amount of time executives, high performers, and SMEs spend designing presentations can be spent more wisely if an organization has an effective learning design strategy.

At least that’s what I think. How about you? Does it matter how much time executives, high performers, and SMEs spend on presentation design?



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