PowerPoint and Canva are making it easy to create amazing slides… but terrible slides are only part of the problem.

Last week, Microsoft “declared war on boring PowerPoint.” If you have Microsoft 365 for Windows desktop or Windows Mobile, you’ll have access to PowerPoint Designer (for better slide design) and PowerPoint Morph (for better animation).

Then there’s Canva, which is a freemium design tool that can be used to create amazing visual experiences by limiting the number of poor design choices you can actually make.

There are other tools for interesting ways to present visual information, too. Haiku Deck. SlideRocket. Prezi. PowToon.

Yet, contrary to popular vernacular, the slides actually aren’t the “presentation.” A presentation is the total experience that you offer to the audience. Slides? Yes. And finding ways to engage your audience with your content.

What I’ve found most presenters to be missing is a way to organize their thoughts, a way to get the audience curious and interested and excited about the topic at hand, and a way to allow the audience to experience the content.

The place I’ve learned to start is by organizing my thoughts using this lesson plan template, and then building slides (or other supporting materials) after I know exactly how I want to engage my audience.

Lesson Plan 2

The thing about PowerPoint and Canva and all the others is: you still have to have some desire to design pretty slides. This brings me to one of my favorite games: would you rather…?

Would you rather spend a bunch of time putting together slides that will never be as pretty as a professional graphic designer? Or would you rather spend a little time figuring out how to engage your audience (even if your slides aren’t going to be that awesome)?

I’ve found that most presenters, when exposed to what’s possible in terms of engaging an audience, choose engagement over slide design.

How about you? Which do you choose? Trying to tinker with your slides to get them marginally better? Or trying to tinker with the design of your next presentation in order to allow your audience to experience your content?

If you choose the latter, here are several resources to get your mind going for what to fill in your new lesson plan template:

Have a webinar coming up? Try using one of these ideas toward the beginning of your lesson plan:

Have an in-person session coming up, here are five ways to get your audience engaged:

Want to avoid PowerPoint all together?

And finally, here is a blog post with 18 additional ideas and strategies to build into a lesson plan in order to engage your audience (most of which require no PowerPoint at all!).

If you do decide to use this lesson plan template and ever want to brainstorm some ideas or have someone with a fresh set of eyes take a look at your next plan, feel free to reach out to me at bpwashburn@gmail.com. I’d love to connect and talk further about engaging your next audience!

2 thoughts on “PowerPoint and Canva are making it easy to create amazing slides… but terrible slides are only part of the problem.

  1. Absolutely love this blog! I stumbled across it today from Melissa Milloway’s LinkedIn post about tweet chats. After digging around a bit, I said ” I like what this guy posts.” I’m definitely subscribing! As a learning and development professional it is refreshing to find current/innovative best practices here. I wasn’t familiar with Poll Everywhere or my other options besides a PowerPoint, but I am now. Thank you so much for posting amazing & relevant content.

    ~Mechelle

    • Hi Mechelle, and welcome to Train Like a Champion! Glad you like what you see (feel free to pass it along!).

      PollEverywhere is a fun tool. Sometimes it’s a little screwy and sometimes people don’t get how to use it right away (so you’ll need to build time into your presentation to allow for a little bit of a learning curve), but it’s truly an amazing and easy way to engage groups – large and small!

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