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Converting a PowerPoint presentation is not the end of the world

Simon Perkins Elearning Leave a Comment

Sometimes we have to hold our hands up and take an existing PowerPoint presentation and convert it into a piece of elearning ‘as is’. Sometimes this is because the SME(s) really doesn’t want to commit to anything other than a conversion, or the budget is unrealistically small or the time frame is “We need this like yesterday.” Whatever the reason(s), we need to engage positive mode and get cracking.

Unravel all that ‘trainer speak’

Let’s be honest – not many training presentations make a lot of sense to those of us new to the subject. Let’s be even more honest – they don’t always make sense even when we’re already familiar with the messaging they’re trying to convey. This is basically because SMEs put their presentations together in a way that they feel happy with, often containing; menus that don’t quite correlate with headings, bullet points, non-uniform images, statement and phrases devoid of context, open-ended questions … and more bullet points. This is all well and good if the SME does a great job while standing at the front of the class. And one hopes they do. But it also makes for a fair bit of deciphering on behalf of the designer/developer.

So … read through it. All of it. Grab a pen and some paper and start mapping out how you see everything fitting together. Create a mind-map or a spidergram if you want to get more visual. Either way, the physical process of reading, noting and mapping will help you absorb the material more effectively. You won’t become an expert – that’s not the objective. Instead, you’ll figure out your own big picture. You’ll better identify what needs to go where. And you’ll spot gaps where there should be content buy there is none to fill it with – this is critical and often gets overlooked.

Another way to look at this is to imagine going to a restaurant and ordering a plate of food. You have two choices; to stare at it or to sample it. One of these will provide you with flavour, texture and associated sensations, while the other will provide nothing.

Ask questions

Don’t be afraid to fire off questions to your SME(s). They know a lot of answers, but unless they are asked the questions, they may not see reasons to divulge them. Understanding your audience is something you need to get to grips with early on, so here are some simple questions to elaborate on:

  • Who is the audience?
  • How will they apply what they learn in this course?
  • How will you measure/recognise this?
  • What are the consequences?
  • What are the specific learning objectives?
  • What job aids do they have access to?

Chasing answers to the above shouldn’t make your SME(s) feel like you are bombarding them. And the information you glean should help you shape your course more effectively. Speaking of which, if you can’t get clear learning objectives then at least establish which parts of the presentation are absolutely critical and why. At the very least you can focus on getting these elements spot on.

Fill in the gaps

I mentioned earlier that training presentations often contain gaps where the content has gone missing. Unsurprisingly, your SME(s) probably knows where – usually because it is they who share this with their students in the form of stories, experiences, case studies, questions and answers, role play, etc. Some of this material will probably be key – without it, your course will under-deliver. Convince your SME(s) to share it.

Cut, cut, cut

As you begin to make more sense of the material, you’ll likely figure out that some of it has no place at all. Point this out to your SME(s) and ask where this adds value. They may have a valid reason or they may not.

The bottom line

Converting a PowerPoint presentation doesn’t have to result in a course that fails to deliver. Okay, there may not be much in the way of TNA, nor might there be any real plan for evaluating and measuring changes in behaviour or performance. But you can still produce something that makes a positive difference. And if you have achieved that utilising less time, less resource and less money then that mightn’t be a bad thing.

Simon PerkinsConverting a PowerPoint presentation is not the end of the world

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