Read This If You DON’T Think You Need PowerPoint TrainingBy Kasia Lorenc
PowerPoint has become the standard presentation tool, mostly because it’s so easy to use. So why would anyone need PowerPoint training?
This is one of the questions I asked Heather Ackmann, the instructor for our brand new PowerPoint 2007 Training, in my interview this week.
Heather explained what her new training is all about and what most people don’t know about the popular presentation tool (I bet you don’t know it either).
What I learned from talking to Heather is that PowerPoint is more than a presentation tool, and Heather’s PowerPoint training is more than PowerPoint training.
So whether you use PowerPoint or not, and whether you do presentations or not — check out my interview with Heather Ackmann.
More Than PowerPoint Training …
Kasia: A lot of people would say you don’t need training to learn PowerPoint because it’s so easy to use, what do you say to that?
Heather: I would have to say that that very attitude is why PowerPoint has gained such a bad reputation as a program, earning the pithy phrase “death by PowerPoint.”
The PowerPoint team at Microsoft has built an absolutely amazing tool with limitless potential and possibility; however, the average user to PowerPoint isn’t aware of PowerPoint’s hidden potential because they’ve never really seen it used beyond what’s available through the stock templates.
Don’t get me wrong — templates are a great timesaver. But if your goal is to create something that is unique, something that will wow your audience, then you will have to get more creative, step out of the predesigned PowerPoint box, so to speak, and spend a bit more time playing around with some more advanced features.
Kasia: What’s one important (or cool) thing that the average user doesn’t know about PowerPoint?
Heather: PowerPoint isn’t just for speaker-led presentations anymore. There are so many things you can create with it: certificates, timelines, count-downs, information kiosks, self-running movie-like shows … the possibilities are endless. In fact, I’ve designed my course around that, demonstrating how to create four different kinds of presentations.
Kasia: How has PowerPoint and presenting with PowerPoint changed in the last few years?
Heather: PowerPoint presentations change right alongside fashion, meaning slides that “looked good” a few years ago simply look old-fashioned, maybe even somewhat cheesy now. So staying on top of slide design is a never-ending battle.
On a program level, PowerPoint has evolved into a more visually friendly application. For example in years past if users wanted to edit a photo a certain way, they’d have to export that photo to another program like Photoshop to achieve the desired look. Now, however, with PowerPoint 2007’s new picture tools and styles many users do not need another photo editing tool. With a little ingenuity and know-how, you can really make those PowerPoint tools do anything!
Kasia: What is the coolest trick you teach in your new PowerPoint training?
Heather: That’s hard to choose. The coolest thing I think we make throughout the course is actually in one of the bonus videos where I show students how to create a “Flash-style” presentation synced to music. That file in and of itself contains a lot of really cool “tricks.”
Kasia: Who do you think would benefit the most from watching your PowerPoint videos?
Heather: Anyone who wants to learn more about not only how to use PowerPoint 2007, but how to use it effectively and efficiently.
The first section of the video “Creating a Rhetorically Designed Presentation” takes students through a bit of theory (rhetoric, visual design, and learning styles) that can be applied to any style presentation. The exercises that follow in later videos put all that theory to work.
So, I think the course is beneficial for both beginning or advanced users to PowerPoint, as I don’t just talk about PowerPoint.
Kasia: There’s lots of training and books on PowerPoint out there, what makes your training different from the competition?
Heather: First, my course goes beyond the basic “how-to” line of training. I try to give students the skills necessary to make good choices about designing a presentation to meet the needs of their audience.
And I don’t pretend that there’s “one method” that will work for every situation either. Instead, I give students a starting point by exploring some theoretical basics and show them how to incorporate those principles through the use of several scenarios, just to show them how it’s done.
Kasia: I know you have years of teaching experience, but how did you become a PowerPoint expert?
Heather: Well first let me say that I wasn’t always an expert. In fact, in preparation for this course, I looked through some of the presentations I created as a beginning teacher — they were just terrible! So let me take the time to apologize to all my students from Waukegan High School; I am so sorry I subjected you to such torture!
I’ve been using PowerPoint for well over a decade, but I didn’t become what I’d call “an expert” until about three or four years ago. Honestly, it took a lot of time and practice mainly because I didn’t have a course like the one I made to teach me. “Trial and error” was how I learned.
I remember I was giving a presentation in graduate school and I couldn’t get the videos to display through the projector even though they played just fine on my laptop. And like a lot of other people, I first blamed the technology. But when the sting of embarrassment wore off, I decided it was probably just human error and decided that I should really learn how to actually use PowerPoint.
And even now, though I know what every button does in PowerPoint, I still don’t know how everything could be used. I’m always learning new creative tricks and techniques all the time, which is one reason why I love the program so much. There’s a lot of creative control to the application, if you are willing and have the time to be creative.
Kasia: Tell us something about yourself, something most people don’t know about you.
Heather: Well, I was born without a sense of smell (congenital anosmia) and blog about my non-smelling experiences over at neversmell.com. It’s a strangely rewarding little hobby. I get emails all the time from people who had no idea that there were other people out there who couldn’t smell.
One teenager emailed me saying that she cried when she found my website. Apparently, her parents didn’t believe that she couldn’t smell (that’s very common by the way) and were giving her a pretty hard time about “lying.”
Kasia: Heather, thanks for taking the time to talk to us about PowerPoint and congrats on the release of your new training.
About Heather Ackmann
Heather Ackmann is an accomplished instructor who has taught over 4,000 students at the high school, college, and adult levels.
Specializing in computer applications, writing, and literature, she holds a degree in English and Secondary Education, an Illinois Type 09 Initial Teaching Certificate, and is a Microsoft Certified Master for Office 2003.
While her energetic and easy-to-follow style is ideal for beginners to computer applications, her knowledge, thoroughness, and foresight in potential problems will satisfy the more proficient user.
On the left you can see Heather in her Halloween costume as “Death by PowerPoint” — and below you can check out her training so that death by PowerPoint never happens during your presentation.
Learn how to design effective presentations that engage, entertain & communicate to ANY audience
Create attractive and professional slides and several different styles of presentations to fit your unique needs
Master special effects — flash-like animations, hyperlinks, hover actions and much more — that will wow your audience!
About the Author
Kasia Lorenc served as the editor-in-chief of the TrainSignal blog from 2007 - 2012. In addition to covering a variety of topics, including IT certification, training and technology news, Kasia was also responsible for the content strategy and website management at TrainSignal. You can connect with Kasia on Twitter @kasialorenc.
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