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How Many Slides Can You Deliver in a 4-hr Training Course?

I had just been promoted into the role of Training Manager for our division and my first task was to redesign the 4-hour Intro to our Company workshop that our sales people presented to contractors.

So, I drove from Atlanta to Louisville, KY to see one of our sales managers deliver the presentation. Yep, I said the "P" word - presentation. Truthfully, this wasn't a workshop nor was it training. It was a genuine, "show up and throw up" presentation. And referencing back to the title of this blog, the presentation did contain 247 slides...delivered in 4 hours (minus breaks). You do the math.

But those were minimal slides, right?

About those slides - they weren't elegant, succinct slides crafted by Duarte Design. No, these slides were crammed with text, bullet points, charts and detailed graphs...with each slide having an on-screen life span of less than a minute.

Which meant that as soon as your eye started tracking the points on a graph, or got halfway through a list of bullet points - [click] NEW SLIDE!

These slides were pretty poor examples of effective slides, but I have seen worse since then.

  • Ever seen a slide with 12 bullet points, with each bullet containing 2 lines of text? I have.

  • Did you know PowerPoint will let you put 17 bullet points on a slide? It will and I've seen it.

As I sat in the workshop, I watched the students and I watched the time. 90 minutes in, the first question came from one of the attendees. 90 minutes! I remember the little voice in my head screaming, "This is just not right." Why weren't the students more involved? Here's why:

  • The presenter was at the mercy of the slides and the clock. As a result, he was simply spewing the information, not unlike a fire hose, to cover everything in the allotted 4 hours. He would turn off the fire hose momentarily to answer a question, but only momentarily.

  • As it turns out, the attendees had a great treat awaiting them at the end of this presentation - an afternoon of golf. All they had to do was persevere through the 4 hours. The best way to do that? Don't ask any questions, apparently. And they didn't.

  • More importantly, there was no effort to consistently engage the attendees since that wasn't built into the timing of the workshop.

Training courses like this are very real

If you are a training professional, you might be cringing right now because you've probably lived this very scenario. If you put on your student hat, there's no doubt you've survived a very similar training scenario.

This experience was in many ways a catalyst for me. First, it gave me a real sense of how we were training our customers. I say "training", but this was nothing near training. It was a presentation, delivered in a fury of way too much content in way too little time.

Most importantly for me, witnessing this workshop tapped into my compassionate anger (a concept beautifully described by Todd Henry in his book Die Empty) over what I had observed during the 4 hours. Things had to change.

My mission became immediately clear: I would lead the change in how we as a company think about, design and deliver training. 9 weeks later, my colleague and I presented our vision and unveiled the brand-new, and radically different, training workshop.

The new workshop, Accelerate!, delivered a learning experience that was engaging, memorable and unexpected - what I call The EMU Experience.

Accelerate! was also an unforgettable experience for the facilitators, as it still comes up in conversation almost 10 years later.

What was your last training course that was talked about 10 years later?

Got a cringe-worthy training story that you want to share? That you want to make better?

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