… the widespread use of Post-it™ notes and cheat sheets reveals a lot about the way people learn and how they apply that knowledge to their jobs.

This is from an intriguing post by Tom Kuhlman on the Rapid E-Learning Blog: What We Can Learn About Instructional Design from Post-it™ Notes. I have to admit that I recognized myself in the description of a typical e-learning designer, who has a tendency to include “more information than is necessary to learn the task.”

After reading it, I did a quick tour of my office to see how many people had post-it notes scattered around their desks. Fourteen out of sixteen desks had visible post-its or equivalent note scraps. Why is the Post-it note such a winner?

  • Its small size forces you to record the bare essence of a thought or instruction. In Kuhlman’s words, a note does not contain all you need to know, but what you need to do.
  • It can be stuck on things to easily catch your attention.
  • It can be grouped with other Post-its and rearranged as needed.
  • Only the most immediately relevant bits of information stay within view, limited by the area of your desk.

I’m not going to convert all my training materials to Post-it notes, but I could do more to apply the “what you need to do” filter to instructional design. Along the same lines, Presentation Zen tells us we need to choose between deep or wide scope. “How much can I cover today vs. how much can my students absorb today?” Why not think of a PowerPoint presentation as a series of Post-it notes? Pare each slide down to the shorthand essence of what you want to convey.

Think Post-it! This is my new mantra. I have a Post-it on my laptop to remind me.


Working with and watching a trainer as talented as Edmond Otis in action offers lessons far beyond the topic on the table.

Edmond, presenting a recent Infopeople webcast on “Setting Boundaries With Library Patrons,” offered guidance to library staff members on a variety of interrelated topics, including how to deal with library users who are problems because they are so nice. Faced with the nice person who is taking up more time than we have to offer, we are not without options, he reminds us in the webcast. Edmond first suggests that we ourselves are culpable in letting the situation persist, then offers tips on how to professionally—and humanely—resolve the problem: be honest and tell them that we have others who need our assistance; be nice since those who are nice deserve reciprocal treatment; and value the magic of the rapport we can develop and maintain by treating others with respect rather than lashing out in frustration. He emphasizes the need to consistently apply the rules, policies, and procedures we are expected to follow. And he reminds us to be empathetic, attentive, warm, respectful, engaged, flexible, and responsive—which pretty much describes how Edmond himself operates as a trainer.

The presentation, at that level, can serve as a trainer’s manual for other trainers even though it is as far as one can be from the Beyond Bullet Points approach which Cliff Atkinson is so justifiably popularizing among those employing PowerPoint slides in their workshops, webcasts, and webinars. One of Edmond’s viewers, in fact, took the time to write and thank Edmond for effectively incorporating his slides (viewable from the page where the webcast is archived) into his presentation. It’s not, as we can see, just about the way the slides look; it’s as much about the trainer’s ability to engage an audience and leave it with a lesson to be treasured and employed to everybody’s benefit.

A fully integrated presentation—in this case, the sound of Edmond’s well-modulated voice, the sight of him speaking during the webcast, and the presence of slides which provide a simple roadmap to the presentation and also serve as printable hand-outs to be retained and used as a handy cheat sheet—do not require lots of fancy graphics; if it is from the heart and meets the audience’s needs, it’s going to be effective.

The reminder here for all of us involved in staff training is that there are numerous ways to approach learners onsite or online. The wonderfully creative way Atkinson approaches PowerPoint is, in fact, very attractive, and I’m among those who are experimenting with it and enjoying it. This doesn’t mean that any of us need to see this as an either-or, to-bullet-or-not-to-bullet, choice. Bullet points can be effective and attractive if the presenter is as engaging as Edmond is in this webcast, and students will, as we have seen, respond appreciatively. And the more tools we have and employ, the more we’re going to have to offer those who want to learn from us.

Since PowerPoint was first released, there has been a slight backlash to it. It reminds me of a couple of things. I remember in the late 1990’s, people discovered they could put dancing chipmunks all over their webpages and put twinkly lights as their backgrounds. Perhaps worse was when the site would have background music you could not turn off.

Here is the World’s Worst Website. Don’t look at it too long though – it might hurt your ears or your eyes. My how times have changed.

Skip to today and MySpace profiles look much like the early webpages of yore. Ok so I had it wrong – they were hamsters. Whoops. Anyway – if you are missing those hamsters, you can get a little taste here – though for the love of your co-workers, turn down the sound! Oh my. I just looked again at the page and started to drool.

Then we have PowerPoint. PowerPoint turned 20 this year! There are plenty of bad PPT designs out there, and I’m sure we’ve all had our experiences with them.

Some best practices for using PPT:

  1. PowerPoint is not a teleprompter. Don’t include every word you plan on saying on every slide
  2. It is meant to be a compliment to a presentation
  3. Use sans-serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica (easier to see) – I like Verdana because it is similar to Arial but a bit more spread out
  4. General guidelines:
    • Titles 44 pt
    • Subtitles 28 pt – 34 pt
    • Bullet points 24 pt
  5. Don’t include too much text
  6. 6X6 rule – no more than 6 bullet points and no more than 6 words per bullet point
  7. Check your spelling – people will notice errors and start looking for others
  8. Don’t go crazy with colors – test your presentation on a projector before you go live
    • Colors can have cultural connotations and even increase or decrease respiration and mental stimulation
  9. keep your background and graphics simple
  10. Use sounds, animations or transitions sparsely (an example was a presentation I saw in Phoenix once for PLA where there was a blooming cactus on each slide – very distracting! I don’t even remember what the presentation was about…)

You can upload your presentations to SlideShare and then share them – also people can comment on your show or subscribe to your shows.

Zoho has had a presentation component for a while now. It’s called Zoho Show. Here is what I found about it:

  • You can have presenter notes
  • You can add shapes
  • There are more choices of fonts in Zoho than in Google Presentation
  • You can use “Public Gadget” to make it available as a side panel listing on your blog or website
  • There are more choices of slide layouts (including one with title and bulleted list which Google does not currently have)
  • You can add tags to your show
  • You can add symbols and shapes to it as well like arrows or boxes etc.
  • You can customize the background colors
  • The themes available: Plain, Dark Cloud, Simple, Professional, Casual, Fusion, Brushed Metal, Midnight, Royal Blue
  • Can set timing
  • Can export to HTML
  • This is my example

Google Documents and Spreadsheets now have a sibling. They just added (drumroll please) Google Presentation to the brood. These are my findings from testing it out:

  • There are numerous themes available: Blank, Gradient White, Gradient Black, Graph Paper, Grass, City, Bubbles, Pink n Pretty, Liquid, Shelley, Sparkling, Rustic, Plain Jane, Texturized, and Chalkboard
  • Four slide layouts: Title, Text, Two-Columns, Caption, Blank
  • You can move slides up and down
  • You can add new slides but you can’t change the layout of an existing slide
  • You can duplicate slides
  • You can insert new text boxes and images
  • You can share and publish your presentation and see revisions
  • You can subscribe to your presentation or others presentations via RSS
  • When you start your presentation, there is a collapsible box on the right that lists people in your presentation at the same time – Very nifty!
  • It can be saved as a Zip file but I don’t see how you can export it as a PPT.
  • Here is a link to one I played around with: Good Food
  • though it seems currently you have to create a Google Docs login to view it

Check ’em out!

I know this is probably making the rounds to all of us who use PowerPoint, but since this is so funny and unfortunately accurate I thought I’d share.

– How NOT To Use Powerpoint By Comedian Don McMillan

While on the subject of PowerPoint…I don’t necessarily love it, but it is a helpful tool…two things that I’ve found that have helped keep my PP Presentations fun (at least for me (which is important too)):

  1. Create my own custom templates/slide designs
    (I just can’t take Dad’s Tie anymore )
  2. Use nice graphics/artwork…Microsoft has their clipart site: http://office.microsoft.com/en-us/clipart/default.aspx?lc=en-us , but I’ve really enjoyed using sites like stock.xchng: http://www.sxc.hu/index.phtml to get great quality images…(I’ll re-size in Fireworks or PhotoShop Elements to keep the file size down)

What do you all do?