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8 Reasons Your Training Presentation Isn’t Working


You know your content inside-out. You’re a good presenter – you know how to work the room, and encourage your learners. But was that a sigh you heard as you transitioned to the next slide in your presentation deck?

Here are eight mistakes you’re probably making if you get that sneaking suspicion your training presentation just isn’t working.

Too. Much. Text.

First things first. If you’re standing up next to a slide that could give War and Peace a run for its money, then chances are your learners are going to be turned off your content before you even open your mouth. Trouble is, readers can read far faster than a presenter can narrate; teamed with the fact learners assume the important information is all on the slide anyway, and you’ve got yourself a recipe for audiences tuning out pretty quickly indeed.

Okay, but what’s the answer? Creating explanatory visuals that help you tell the story of your training is absolutely key. Audiences come away retaining far more information from a presentation where the slides are visual and work in complementary harmony with the presenter than when they’re crowded with text.

But how? Well, visualisation is a dark art, and I don’t have enough time to go into it here, but try this for a handy how to, to see how it works in practice.

The Kitchen Sink Approach

A lot of training decks are given the ‘just-in-case’ treatment. ‘My learners might need to know about this, so I’ll put a slide or two in about it…’ But you only have to do that four or five times and suddenly you have 20 slides that aren’t 100% necessary to your training session. Unless you know your learners are particularly conscientious and don’t mind giving up their time to learn more than technically they need to, then you’ll want to keep things to the bare minimum, or you risk learners not even taking away the essentials.


Often the kitchen sink approach happens because the training deck you’re using is appropriate for a number of audiences, levels, and situations. But think about it: if you’re doing a 30-minute training session at a conference will you want to use the same slides you use for a whole day of intermediate learners? Unlikely.

Spend some time tailoring your content so that it’s audience-, and context-appropriate. This means creating learning objectives for each group you train – and sharing those objectives at the start of your session – so everyone know exactly what it is they need to come away doing. Once you have this, it becomes really easy to see what content in your presentation is relevant, and what just isn’t necessary.

No backbone.

But even if your content is nice and trim, and you’ve made it relevant for your audience, it might be that it isn’t working because it’s actually pretty poor in terms of structure. In his excellent book The Four Hour Chef, Tim Ferriss bemoans the way cookery books for beginners are structured. ‘Who is going to cook six chicken dishes in a row?’ he cries.

This is a great structure if you’re making a reference tool, not so great if you intend to take someone from barely boiling an egg to soufflé. You need your book to build on skills and experience. You need take your learner step-by-step, not assume they’ll be able to put all the skills together around the topics you’re teaching them. All too often we structure our learning around themes and topics, rather than aptitude and application.

This could be happening if your learning objectives are based around knowledge-acquisition instead of practical application: essentially, what does the learner need to know, versus what do we want the learner to do (or what behavioural change do we want to bring about).

Learning focused on knowledge-acquisition tends to be a whole series of ‘things’ – facts, quotes, statistics, insights, instructions – the learner is expected to remember. Learning focused on application, teaches the students what they can do with the information they’re acquiring, helping to a) solidify it in their mind, and b) give them practical use-cases for why they need to sit through the training in the first place.

Complex Visuals. No Animation.

Moving on. Remember this slide that came to light during the Iraq war? Yeah. Good luck interpreting that. Often really complicated diagrams and visuals creep into training decks with any number of the following consequences:

  1. The presenter doesn’t explain the diagram, but leaves it there ‘for reference’.
  2. It all comes up at once with no animation and the learner embarks upon an elaborate game of Where’s Wally to try and find the bit the presenter is referring to.
  3. The presenter spends an inordinate amount of time on every little detail until everyone has resolved to count the ceiling tiles instead.

Visuals and diagrams are great – in fact we think they’re absolutely necessary in any kind of presentation. But complex visuals that don’t use animation to pace what’s happening just end up confusing and disengaging the learner. You don’t need a complex understanding of animation in PowerPoint to do this, simply masking areas of your diagram and having the masks disappear on fades could be all it takes to make things much easier for your learner to understand.

“My slides make a great handout”

…Said no great trainer. Ever. There are two main implications of this:

  1. If you essentially give your presentation out at the start of the training session, it’s like handing your audience a big sheet of spoilers. If they get bored they can read on ahead. And then they know what’s coming next. And then they get even more frustrated that they have to sit and listen to it.
  2. But to make matters worse. For a handout to make sense as something the audience can take away with them, it needs to make sense on its own. And if this is your presentation – which makes complete sense without a trainer in the room – then your audience probably don’t want you in the room explaining something to them that they can read in a fraction of the time.

If you use handouts they shouldn’t give away some of your best lines (if it’s a summary you may want to consider giving it out at the end of the session); and this should be made bespoke. Trying to hybridise your slides and your handout leads to a mightily disengaged audience.

“Before we start, can I tell you a bit about our company…”

And suddenly everyone stops listening. I don’t want to see a slide with logos of companies you’ve worked with; I don’t want to know who founded your company and when they did it; and I don’t care what your office looks like. Anything that makes your training presentation too ‘salesy’ is just  huge turn-off to audiences.

You have their undivided attention, but don’t abuse it. The best sales pitch you can make is to deliver some excellent training: that will be proof enough of what you and your company can do.

Playing Second Fiddle

Now my last point ties together a lot of what we’re talking about into one main reason. Oftentimes, you see all the mistakes above happening, is the presentation plays second fiddle to the trainer. That’s understandable when the presenter is the one with all the expertise and the human brain, but the slides are more important than you think. If slides are just summarised speaker notes thrown together at the last minute, with a bit of clip art and stolen stock photography, then they’re undermining whatever expertise the presenter might have.

Think about it like this: if your second fiddle suddenly starts playing a really bad rendition of ‘Three Blind Mice’ during your concerto, then it’s going to distract your audience, and undermine you and what you’re doing. Prioritising your presentation, and even using it as a tool to structure your content means your slide never play a bad second fiddle to your expertise.

Making a good training presentation isn’t just a ‘nice-to-have’, it’s an essential. It doesn’t mean you should stop doing things like role plays and discussions, but when you have something to show, that’s when your slides become your best friend: especially if you want your learners to stay engaged and retain your content longer than the number of ceiling tiles in the training room. It does take effort, and you might need to improve your PowerPoint skills, but investing time will be rewarded with more effective training. 

2 Responses

  1. here described about the tips
    here described about the tips for training presentations.this is very useful for a teacher in ssc center in trivandrum.the training based informations are very helpful for me.thank you. ssc trivandrum


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