We all do it. We begin creating a training class, eLearning course, or presentation by sitting down at the computer, typing bullet points of the important things we need to present. If we are in a groove, we can create five to ten slides pretty quickly in a rough first draft. When we get to a stopping point, we look back and can be quite proud of our first draft.
It might not be perfect, but we got our initial ideas down, and that is progress. It sure beats staring at a blank screen for twenty minutes trying to think of something to write.
Here's the problem. Now we have set a framework of “text on slides” and pretty soon, our entire presentation contains nothing but text bullet points. And once we realize this, we start reducing the text by taking out unnecessary words. We might even adjust a few slides to a two-column format and add a nice looking graphic. “Ah, that's better,” we think.
But it is not better. In fact, you are just masking the problem. Research shows that people cannot handle too many things at once. It is difficult, if not impossible, for us to simultaneously read text on a slide, look at a graphic, and listen to an audio narration. It is classic cognitive overload. So, if you want to improve learning, remove that text from your slide, and put it in the audio script.
Put All Your Text in the Audio Script
When you begin your next set of slides, try this. Put only graphics or tables on slides in your first draft. If you have a strong urge to write bullet points or text, place those in a Word document, and let that become your audio script. If you must use text, try using a SmartArt Graphic in PowerPoint to create a graphic from your bullet points.
I am simply suggesting that you take all of the text that you planned to put on your slide and use it in your audio script. Place a graphic on the slide and record a narration explaining the graphic on the slide.
If you are not used to recording audio, fear not. There is a great feature in Mindflash that makes it easy to record audio right on the slide. So, as you create a new slide, you can record a narration right on that very slide. You can either write a formal script that you will record by reading it, or you can record yourself casually talking through your key points. Either ways works fine depending on your organization and audience culture.
In an age of accelerated product release cycles, rapidly changing customer demands, and tight deadlines, producing eLearning courses quickly is key to your success. It is quite possible that you could speed up the completion of your eLearning courses by applying the process of putting a graphic on your slides and recording audio from the text you wanted to put on the slide.
Bill Cushard, author, blogger, and learning experience (LX) designer, is a human performance technologist (HPT) with extensive, in-the-trenches experience building learning organizations in start-up and hyper-growth organizations like E*TRADE, the Knowland Group, and Accenture. You can follow him on Twitter or on Google+.