Non-linear training using Action buttons and Tabs in PowerPoint

So I saw a great post last week on showing images of a Tabbed Training presentation they made for a client.  Put simply, it inspired me to create my own!  It turns out it’s actually pretty simple.  I just needed some action buttons (graphics with actions / hyperlinks on them) and then to set up the presentation as a Kiosk presentation.

You can download my sample here.

Set up the PowerPoint as a Kiosk presentation

First create your training presentation, remembering that you are going to create tabs.  Add images for each of the different tabs, with one page for each tab as shown in the pictures above.  The image relating to the current page should be one colour, the others a different colour.  You can use PowerPoint’s picture color correction tools to adjust the colour based on your color scheme.  The image relating to the current page in my template is white, on the other pages, it is grey.

picture color correction tool

Incidentally, to save time only add the pictures to one page first, copy and paste the images to the other pages once you’ve added the actions / hyperlinks.

To add the actions, simply click on an image and then click on Insert > Action. Check the Hyperlink to checkbutton in the action settings pop menu box.

action settings

Click the drop down menu box, select slide… and then navigate to the slide you wish the user to navigate to when they click the image.  Repeat for the other images and then copy and paste the images to the other slides, adjusting the colour as necessary.

Once your presentation is ready, you need to remove other methods of navigation. To do this, click on Slide Show > Set Up Slide Show.  The pop up menu box as shown below will appear.

set up slide show

Ensure that Browsed at a kiosk (full screen) is selected and then click on the OK button.  Finally, save your file.

Now when someone starts the presentation, they can:

  • Click on hyperlinks or action buttons to navigate through the presentation ONLY – they cannot use the keyboard or the mouse!
  • Press the ESC key to end the presentation

And that’s it!  You can download my sample here.

+Alesandra Blakeston

Building a PLN

Loved this presentation by Sylvia Rosenthal Tolisano.  I have a Personal Learning Network and have had one for many years.  I learn from those both younger and older than me as well as via blogs, SlideShares, videos and images.  As Sylvia says:

Your PLN is no longer tied to your zip code and you no longer work in isolation. Collaboration no longer just means to work with a colleague in your building. You are able to connect to educators from around the world who are ready and willing to teach beyond the walls of their own classroom.

The internet has made learning so much easier and allowed me to personalise my learning experience, making it more efficient.  What about you?  Do you have a PLN?  Who do you learn from?

+Alesandra Blakeston

How to persuade learners with stories, emotions and more

Found this great presentation on eLearning by SHIFT eLearning on Slideshare:

The secret recipe to a truly persuasive eLearning course is simple, at least in theory. Professionals in the fields of psychology, advertising, marketing and copywriting, have talked about some “rules” on how to persuade people. But all these rules lead us to two things: the human brain and human emotions.

Great stuff!

+Alesandra Blakeston

rule 6

Training from the back of the room

SharonBowmanI’ve recently re-read a book by Sharon Bowman entitled Training from the Back of the Room.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend it as being both practical and also full of interesting and thought provoking theory!  It combines our current understanding of how the brain works with practical exercises designed to make any training course fun and effective!

I thought I’d take the time to summarise some of the main points in the book.  Please note,  this is only a summary.  There are some fantastic games and tools in the book and it is well worth a read!

4Cs of training


Trainees learn more and actually remember more of their training when they can connect their past experiences and their current understanding and knowledge of a subject with what they are learning.

Therefore for the training to be useful, the trainee must be able to connect what they will learn with:

  • What they already know
  • What they think they know
  • What they want to learn
  • What you want them to learn
  • Each other


This includes the global learning objectives, their own learning goals, the other trainees.  Ask questions; get the trainees to participate and ask each other questions; review the objectives and goals.  Ideally the trainees should try things out, make mistakes and express their opinions.  Not only will they be more engaged, but they will connect with each other and with the training material.  Trainees learning from other trainees is a much more effective method than a trainer lecturing from the front of the room.  Ensure the work environment is friendly and cooperative rather than competitive!
Concepts are the important facts that learners need to know in order to demonstrate competency.  Often a trainee knows more than what they think, and the parts they don’t know, others in the course will.

Teach only the need to know information

It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking of yourself as an expert when you are a trainer.  Instead, try to think of yourself as a facilitator.  Your purpose is merely to help the trainees to get to the information they need.  Instead of spending 2 hours lecturing your class on everything you know about a subject, get the trainees to teach each other.  You can of course, fill in the gaps, but limit the information flow to only what the trainees need to be successful.

Keep it simple, Keep it short

Everyone’s brain gets tired.  In a world of people raised with TV commercials, we’ve become accustomed to breaks every 10 – 15 minutes.  After this we get cranky and start to fidget.  The brain needs to be refreshed and to be re-stimulated in order to keep the training effective.

conceptsUse graphic organisers

Make it visual, and make it organised to appeal to the creative and the logical trainees in the room.  Not only do people learn what they write, but they remember where they write.  We all have a visual spatial memory that remembers how information is set out on the page, it remembers charts, diagrams and pictures.  Get the trainees to make their own notes, it’s more personal and more likely to be remembered.  Since it’s active, it’s more likely to keep the brain stimulated.

Try using concept maps.  Get the trainees to create their own as the training continues.

  • Basic maps (also called cluster or bubble maps).
  • Flow chart maps
  • Burger maps
  • Free Flow maps
  • Timeline maps

Be interactive

Each trainee in a training session is surrounded by an array of sensory information.  Their brains will be working overtime trying to process what is relevant and useful and what is not.  In addition, often in a training session, the training relies on using only the eyes (to read the PowerPoint presentation) and the ears (to listen to the presenter).  This is highly ineffective as there are many other ways that the trainee can learn:

  • Hearing
  • Seeing
  • Discussing
  • Writing
  • Reflecting
  • Imagining
  • Participating
  • Teaching it to others

Personally I learn best when using a combination of drawing and explaining it to someone else – you could argue that I was a born trainer.  But in fact it’s simply how my brain processes information best.  When I am trying to explain it, my brain is sorting and re-organising the information I have, trying to find the best way to explain, that makes sense to me.  As a visual, that is usually in the form of a diagram.  Other people I know like lists and colours.  Some prefer a more practical hands on approach.  The best training covers ALL of these styles to ensure that the information is conveyed and retained.

One-minute reviews

Used to clarify misunderstandings, misconceptions and confusion.  They also work as refreshers for the brain!  Get the trainees to review the learning with each other.  They will correct each others’ mistakes and helps them form more connections!
Concrete Practice
Regardless of your learning style, until you have put the training into practice, or actively reviewed the information, it is not real.  By actively participating, you have a better chance of transferring the information from your short term memory to your long term memory and therefore of retaining and regurgitating it later.

Concrete practice is not watching the trainer perform!  It is not watching a video, or watching one or two trainees do the task.

concrete practiceConcrete practice is physical!

Mistakes ARE PREFERRED!  However, skill building is the objective of concrete practice, not highlighting shortcomings.  Handling the way the trainees make mistakes during the physical practice is very important. They need to know that mistakes are NORMAL and that the trainer will be there to point them in the right direction.  Not to take over, or to use one trainee as an example of how not to do the task!  Concrete practice must include active participation by everyone.  Each learner should have multiple opportunities to demonstrate and practice the skills

Concrete practice is collaborative!

Get the trainees to help each other perform the tasks.  Get them to encourage and build up each other.  Competition in this case can actually be harmful.  Humans are social we exist in networks.  Collaboration (working together) increases the chances of learning and retention.  Competition focusses on the trainees individual performance, so they stop helping each other.  Often it only helps those who thrive on adrenaline fuelled situations and even then, it only helps them hone what they already know.  Instead down play the competitive aspects and focus instead on group learning.

Individual accountability is key!

The trainees need to know what it is they are expected to know and how they can determine their own competency. Individual goals and accountability helps to keep the learners focussed.  Tie the training in to the learning outcomes using practical activities.  Teach back activities ca be really useful here.  It helps to deepen the trainees understanding as well as make them aware of what they have already learned and how much they still need to learn to attain their learning goals.  It also increases the social connection and gives them confidence to continue as they clarify and strengthen their training.

What the learner thinks and says and does is more important than what the instructor thinks and says and does!

In a series of learner focussed closing activities, get the trainees to:

  • action planSummarise what they have learned
  • Evaluate what they have learned
  • Make an action plan
  • Celebrate the learning experience

Conclusions should engage the trainees until they walk out of the room!  They help the trainees to reflect and to make the final connections in their learning.  The action plans help them to cement the training into place with more active practice.
Final Points
Hopefully, you found this summary useful!  Before I read this book for the first time, I was already doing some of the 4Cs, but not all and not systematically or deliberately.  Now years later, I am happy to say that the 4Cs are endemic in my training sessions.  I can proudly say that I teach from the back of the classroom!

+Alesandra Blakeston

Adding characters to PowerPoint

white background character

It’s been a while since my last post.  I’m currently getting ready for a move to the United States, so blogging has had to take a back seat for a while.  I’ve got a few posts lined up and ready though, so hopefully over the next few days, you’ll see me get back up to speed.

This first one is about creating and using characters in eLearning and presentations.  As a trainer who has created a lot of PowerPoint Training and eLearning, I am often creating new characters to put on my slides.  I use them to insert the human element into the training: to ask questions, to improve the look and feel of the slide and even sometimes just to make the slide look good.


The type of character you add though, depends upon the type of presentation / training.  Your character could be cute, life-like (photo realistic), stylistic, clip art etc.  The type you choose should reflect your training.  More business like presentations at a senior level often have photos of people with white / transparent backgrounds.  More informal training often uses clip art, or silhouettes.  the list goes on.

A colleague of mine asked me recently to create some for them, and so I created 15 new characters.  Eventually my colleague chose to go down the more realistic (skeumorphic) route, so I had some characters left over.  The colours are fully editable in PowerPoint, so feel free to use them as you wish!  I’ve uploaded a pdf version to slide share, which you can see below, but you can also download the *.pptx version here.


+Alesandra Blakeston

Introduction to Lean Six Sigma & DMAIC

I’ve been asked to put together a basic (and therefore relatively quick) introduction to Lean Six Sigma & DMAIC.  While it’s not yet finished, I thought I would put it out there for people to comment on.  Since the presentation is supposed to be training material there’s more text on the slides than I would prefer, but there are a few exercises and games to get the trainees involved.

I’ve put the PowerPoint version: Lean, 6sigma and DMAIC here if you want to download it, but as I said, it’s not yet finished!  You should be able to see the slides as images in the gallery below.  You can stop and start the slideshow as you wish using the buttons.  Once complete I will also put the presentation on Slideshare.  But for now, here you go!

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Let me know what you think!
by +Alesandra Blakeston

Training Tool: Bingo Quiz

At a recent “Train the trainers” training session, I was asked to propose and then facilitate a warm up game.  Since the conference was for would be trainers, it seemed appropriate to have a game that revolved around training.  Unfortunately, I only had 10 minutes.  Not a huge amount of time to do anything substantial you would think.  Ideally I wanted to use the time to get the trainees’ brains thinking ahead to the training as well as helping my co-trainer assess how much the trainees already knew.

Impossible, you say!  However, I would like to introduce you to one of my favourite warm up games: BINGO! Yes, I did say Bingo!


In fact, the idea is to integrate the game of Bingo with a fun quiz to get the trainee brain’s thinking and also interacting.  By making it a competition, you already have half of the room engaged – they want to win.  The quiz element allows you to learn what you need at the same time as getting the trainees involved and let them have fun while learning at the same time!

So, how is it done?  Basically you give each trainee a five by five grid as shown in the picture below.  (Note: you can also use a three by three or four by four grid).


Get the trainees to write the numbers 1 – 25 (1 – 9 for the three by three grid and 1 – 16 for the four by four grid) in the smaller squares in the top right corner of the larger squares.  The numbers should be added in a random order.  This ensures that each trainee has their own distinct bingo grid!


Then once that is done, explain that you are going to call out questions.  They should write the answer to the question in the large square marked with that question number.  If they get the answer correct, they can mark the square with a large tick.  If not, the square gets marked with a large cross instead.  The first trainee to achieve a row or column full of ticks should shout out BINGO!  Incidentally, you can also reward the trainee with the most ticks at the end.


A word of caution: Getting the difficulty of your questions right is essential to make sure that firstly someone wins, but also that it’s also not too easy.  If no-one wins, the confidence in the room will diminish and this will affect the trainee’s motivation and ability to learn.  Moreover, if the quiz is too easy, there is a danger that the trainees will find the warm up exercise (and by extension the training course) too easy and therefore beneath them, again decreasing the motivation in the room!


Well, what do you think?  I’ve uploaded the full warm up session we used for the train the trainer course we held, including the explanation slides and the hand out as a complete PowerPoint presentation.  The hand out is the last slide (which is hidden to prevent it from being displayed during the presentation).  Feel free to download it here and use as you wish. You can of course alter the questions to match the needs of your own training courses.  You can also use this for non-training events, such as before a conference or innovation session.

In summary, why do I use this training tool / warm up exercise?

  • It engages the trainees’ brains in a fun way
  • It doesn’t take up too much time
  • The competitive element sparks the trainees’ interest in the subject
  • When they get an answer right, it gives the trainee a sense of achievement
  • You can quickly learn the current level of each trainee
  • The trainees learn or at least are introduced to new information (when the correct answers are revealed) without them realising that the training has already started
  • The trainees start to make a connection with you while they are having fun

If you have any questions on this, don’t hesitate to get in touch…

Alesandra Blakeston

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Awesome training tool – thumballs

Imagine that you want to improve customer service within your team or sales – just as an example.  You might put together some training exercises based around helping your customer service team to improve the way they dealt with customers and customer complaints.  You might introduce some role-playing games to really embed the new training techniques you have taught your team.  Well, what about this toy?


The idea is to basically toss the ball around the team.  When a person catches the ball, they have to read out the complaint written on the ball underneath their right thumb and you either brainstorm the way to deal with that, or and this is harder, the person holding the ball has to explain how they would deal with that complaint.

What the thumball says:

  1. Your people are so rude.
  2. I can’t get anyone to help me.
  3. You’re not listening.
  4. I’ve explained my problem to 10 people!
  5. This is made so cheap.
  6. Why is this so expensive?
  7. That’s not what your colleague told me.
  8. You’ve kept me waiting for SO long.
  9. Why isn’t anyone getting back to me.
  10. This isn’t what I thought I was getting.
  11. You just don’t care about your customers.
  12. You sent the wrong thing.
  13. This is too complicated.
  14. You’re so slow!
  15. Can’t you give me a discount?
  16. No one told me the return policy.
  17. It’s your fault.
  18. I need it NOW!
  19. You don’t know your own products
  20. I was told they are in stock.

Once you’ve got the ball rolling, so to speak, you could then add on different scenarios etc.  The thumball simply helps you to break down the initial barriers by turning the role playing into a game.

Of course you can also use the same technique for brainstorming innovative ideas and solutions.  Perhaps you have a team working on identifying problems (opportunities for greatness) within your organisation.  Once you have identified them, write them on a blank ball with a sharpie and then let the game begin.  Once again, the person holding the ball has to come up with a new idea to solve the problem underneath their right thumb on the thumball.  The large blank thumball has 30 panels to write on, so plenty of space for inspiration!

For example:

  1. How can we improve customer product awareness?
  2. How could we lower the lead time to meet the growing customer need?
  3. There is a growing trend towards online ordering, how can we grab this hidden opportunity?
  4. How can we involve our operating teams in the innovative process?


I’m sure you get the idea.  I’ve used these balls several times in the past to great effect, and there are several different ones available.  When one of my colleagues asked me for some new and exciting icebreakers today – well this is one of the first that I thought of!  I hope you find it as useful as I do.  Just in case, here is the link to the site where you can buy them. Please note, I am not affiliated in anyway – I just find them to be a really cool training toy!  What do you think?  I suspect they could be useful even during presentations and conferences to get the ball rolling and get people involved.  I’d love to hear how you would use them – it might inspire me too!

(Images courtesy of


Alesandra Blakeston

Choosing the right image using lines

file9881303090876I am sure that most of the people reading this already know the saying a picture tells a thousand words.  However, what most people don’t realise is that like all art, every picture touches every person in a different way. What we see in an image is a mixture of our personal likes and dislikes, our personalities and our memories.  For example, red could be your favourite colour, so a picture that is predominantly red, will probably stir you in a good way.  If you have a bad memory where the colour red is predominant, say you lost a job and red was your bosses favourite colour, then subconsciously you might reject a photo simply because there is a lot of red in it.   The choice therefore of a picture is actually not so easy.  This is where design comes in.  Regardless of our likes and dislikes, and despite our past history, some images and themes are universal and as such, evoke the same feeling.  Graphic artists, logo makers, web site designers, they all know a little about graphic design and how to invoke our subconscious memory of these universal themes.

As a trainer, I create presentations and training material with the aim of not just imparting knowledge, but also getting people to retain that knowledge.  Most people learn by either doing, watching or reading, and so I design my training materials accordingly.  I often use blended eLearning, or PowerPoint training sessions mixed with workshops to capture the watching, reading and doing.  However there is a fourth way people learn.  This is through emotion.  Along the way, I’ve picked up a little about design to help me evoke these feelings and help me train people.  One way is by the use of lines in the imagery.  What do I mean?   Well, believe it or not, different types of lines will stir you in different ways.  Allow me to explain.

Vertical lines

Straight vertical lines, often evoke strength, power and majesty.  Imagine tall skyscrapers; tall trees in a forest.  When you think of these, you remember seeing them.  You remember your awe at their power and strength.  This doesn’t just work with tall buildings and trees, it works with all images containing vertical lines.  Imagine a runner passing a finish line, his arms high, strong, tall and proud.  Imagine ancient Greek or Roman pillars thrusting towards the sky.  The same feeling of power of majesty is invoked.  When you use an image with straight lines then, there is a subconscious tug on that universal theme.  Look at the pictures below.  You can click on any of them to get a larger view.  What feelings come to the surface?

Horizontal lines

Horizontal lines on the other hand can convey tranquillity, rest, and stability.  This time, imagine waves on the sea; tiny ripples on a lake; fields of corn; the horizon…  This time you feel peace.  Once again, the lines touch your subconscious memories and pull the emotion to the surface.  Can you feel the stillness evoked by the images below?

Oblique and diagonal lines

Oblique or diagonal lines can convey movement, action, change and dynamic energy.  Again, I’ve posted some images. Look at the dandelion seed head.  The seeds are all pointing in different directions.  One puff of wind and they will be scattered.  A close up of a field of wheat shows lots of wheat stalks sprouting in different directions.  Again, add some wind and you have movement, energy.  What about a bridge the diagonal lines taking you to your new destination; the path of an aeroplane in the sky?  Are you feeling the energy and the change?

Wavy lines

So now that we’ve covered all manner of straight lines, what about wavy ones?  Curved lines or s-shaped lines can convey quiet, calm and sensual feelings.  Think of a silk scarf lying on the floor. Imagine the curves of a rose petal.  Remember the curl of the waves.  All of these images bring up emotions of sensuality.  Depending on the direction and strength of the wave will determine whether that wavy line evokes a feeling of calm or a feeling of energy.

Well, what do you think?  Obviously, you can combine lines in different directions to convey exactly what you want.

As an almost final note, (just to prove my point), I’ve posted some images on the same subject.  Let me know if they evoke different feelings or not!


Lines are not the only way we can connect images with our emotions, we can do that with form (light and dark), with colour (warm and cool, analogous and complimentary colours), textures, unity and coherence.  However, for this post I think it’s enough for now.  Let me know if you want to know more!

Alesandra Blakeston